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Pokémon Fledglings


the cat is mightier than the pen
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Hi, Murkrow! I'm back for chapter one. I thought this chapter did a good job as an establishing chapter. We meet Nida as more than a small child listening to stories, we meet her town, and we meet some of the people in her life. We also get rumblings of future trouble.

Guild logistics aren't the most interesting thing to me, but I appreciated that by the end of the chapter I had a good sense of Nida's position within the guild as a trainee, limited to busywork assignments, and chaperoned by a more experienced explorer.

Nida seems like a fairly typical character type for this kind of story--driven, somewhat bratty, alternately cheerful and sullen, with a chip on her shoulder from having a famous mom. One thing I appreciated was her large family and the responsibilities this saddles her with. One of my favorite interactions was Kiran suggesting Nida stay overnight at the Guild, without thinking about Nida's baby-sitting duties. Over all, Nida feels more rooted in her community than many young protagonists do. This came across well in her familiar interactions with the various merchants and the fact that when they interact with her, they're interacting with her as both herself and as a representative of a larger family. It's been some time since I read the prologue, but I remembered finding the family moments heart-warming there and that sense of coziness and affection continued to be present here in the interactions between Nida and her dad. It was interesting that Nida's mom doesn't show up in this chapter, despite being invoked so frequently! I thought that was effective in giving her a bit of a larger than life quality.

I enjoyed the scene at the end with the sudden storm. You highlighted some nice physical details about the storm's impact on the area. I did think it was interesting that a ground-dwelling pokemon like Nida was afraid of the thunder part of the storm as opposed to the rain and flooding aspect. I suppose that living near the sea they've gotten pretty used to the wet!

While she had largely moved on from watching the stars by night, Nida had yet to move on from these hectic darts through crowds of Pokémon by day.
I found this sentence a bit odd--in the prologue Nida doesn't dart hectically through crowds during the day, so it feels weird to have it mentioned as if it's an established character trait to be contrasted with star-gazing.

A few years later, Nida's dream of becoming a member of Rescue Team had begun to be realized… Sort of. She was still a Nidoran, still in training, but no longer quite as small or young.
... With a navy blue scarf adorned with a solitary white star around her neck, a small glinting badge affixed to it along her throat, and a satchel on her back, the Nidoran was not quite the same kit she had been so many nights ago.
I think these sentences would work better next to each other, or consolidated, since they're two expressions of the same idea.

"Hey rookie, watch it!"

While she had largely moved on from watching the stars by night, Nida had yet to move on from these hectic darts through crowds of Pokémon by day. Today was no exception, as she had just narrowly avoided being stepped on by the passing Rhyhorn that was shooting a frustrated glare at her.

She darted off to the wall of a shack to rest a moment and catch her breath. With a navy blue scarf adorned with a solitary white star around her neck, a small glinting badge affixed to it along her throat, and a satchel on her back, the Nidoran was not quite the same kit she had been so many nights ago.

"Alright! Alright! Sorry!"
The way the dialogue is split here didn't make sense to me. Presumably she says sorry before darting off to a wall to rest. Eg,

[Today was no exception.

"Hey rookie, watch it!"

Nina swerved to the side, narrowly avoiding the hooves of a passing rhyhorn, who shot her a frustrated glare.

"Alright! Alright! Sorry!"

She darted out of the crowd to rest for a moment and catch her breath.]

Why, I wouldn't give a discount to the Protector himself if he was still at your ranking!
I like the name drop of what's presumably a famous adventurer. Makes the world feel lived in.

"Why, between the take that the Company sucks out of Bluewhorl Town here each year and all of the rookies that go off for more mundane work like berry picking after their mandatory stint servicing in the guild or with the town guards…"

"Heh heh, I'd be left with nary a scale left over afterwards!" the Kecleon chortled.
Nice economic worldbuilding--I'm a bit confused by what's going on with the dialogue punctuation, since this all seems to be spoken by the same person.

only be a matter of time before you rose through the ranks!
* rise

"Or wind up dying in the dungeon," a passing Sentret volunteered.

"Or wind up d-Oi!" Calino turned around visibly flustered. "Snark at your own customers, Scout!"
This gave me a nice sense of this being an open air market.

He was a creature with the best of intentions, and a heart after guiding young Pokémon into becoming full-fledged members of Rescue Teams.
"a heart after" isn't quite idiomatic--not entirely sure what this is saying.

Besides, how much energy does collecting apples need anyways?" Nida muttered, starting to flatten out her ears.

"Oh, but plenty of energy! Why, you need to be brimming and up and at them for any trip into a dungeon!"

"Kiran… If the mission didn't ask for the apples to specifically be ones scattered in the dungeon as a training exercise, we could just complete it by stealing from Mildrew's orchard on the south side of town."

"... The Tropius? I mean, well. Um... yes, I suppose that's not completely in-", Kiran stammered, ruffling some feathers to regain composure, before getting interrupted by his small charge.
I didn't understand Nida's point here. Kiran says you need energy for any trip into a dungeon. Nida says that if the mission weren't in a dungeon, it could be completed without expending energy. That doesn't really alter what Kiran is saying.

"Let's… not talk about that, Kiran. It happened, and everything worked out without anyone getting really hurt in spite of it. Let's just leave it at that," Nida said, the topic eliciting an involuntary shudder.
I noticed a lot of very wordy clauses in this chapter. For example, you'd get the same effect here by saying "with an involuntary shudder" rather than "the topic eliciting an involuntary shudder." It's clear from the context that it's the topic that's eliciting the shudder.

"You're almost through, Nida, I promise. I just need to be able to see a little more from your teamwork with Crom that shows you're ready to be guided under less tutoring wings."

"So… if I can definitively prove to you that I can take care of myself as a Rescuer, you'll upgrade my rank?" Nida asked, starting to smirk- much to the immediate concern of the Swellow.

"Now hold on, that's not what I said at-!"

"I think I can live with that, Kiran," Nida cheerfully replied.

"Ah… Nida."

"Whelp, I'm off," the Nidoran said, turning to leave.
Certainly not making the best case for her maturity here.

"Nida!" Kiran called after his teammate.
I was a little confused by the teammate epithet--I thought he was more a team leader/ mentor figure.


Memento mori
  1. leafeon
Hello, I decided to check out Fledglings since it inspired Places We Call Home, which I like. Also, review tag.

The prologue exposition seemed plain to me, but I can anticipate the ways in which the features of this world might be used. One could certainly imagine that some Marked still carry resentment, either for the loss of the war or for being condemned for the actions of their ancestors. And one wonders why exactly they felt dissatisfied with the rule of the gods, and whether it wasn't to some degree justified. Ferals are prohibited from interfering with "civilized" pokemon, but I wonder if the inverse is true, i.e. if civvies can walk all over the ferals without fear of retaliation. All of this being introduced with the Compact concept makes me wonder if there won't be some cross-class compacts forming in the near future, with all the cultural reconciliation that implies. I probably would have exposited this all more gradually as it comes up, but with this approach I do get to speculate more.

Anyway, in chapter 1, it's made clear that Nina feels held back by her familial responsibilities. She also messed up in the past somehow—I wonder if that was because of her overzealousness? Her closeness with Crom is also established, and I think they have a cute relationship. I haven't guessed what the awakened creature might be yet, but you know it's gonna be important when its birth is accompanied by a ferocious storm.

Technical notes: There were places where sentences ran on longer than they needed to and felt clunky as a result. Also some "were"s/"was"s could have been replaced with stronger verbs, I think. I found the clunkiness most notable during the scene in the mystery dungeon toward the end of chapter 1. This is probably less of a problem in new chapters, but I have posted my line-by-line suggestions anyway, plus some commentary, on a googledoc here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O8J5fOVZZ4CvPM5i3WUsLpcC6Gq-XJe1h4HtPnvShYw/edit?usp=sharing.

Oh also there's a googledoc for the prologue https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xlgq6BN2F-NOrBhIqhtwdvfxm1NbqsrkRYq_vj6uwWQ/edit?usp=sharing

I also read chapter 2, although I did not make a doc for it.

"If any outside Pokémon will have been blown in again," Nida finished.


"If they get hurt and no one helps them or lets them get away, well… That's sometimes it for them. So if someone seems scary, and you feel like you have a chance of scaring them off or defeating them, you have to try and do something about it."

Kind of wondering why hiding is not a more common strategy.

Another depicted a strange egg with various nondescript Pokémon gathered around it.

The same egg that just hatched, perhaps...

cuidadoso next time," Kiran sighed, watching the apple bob up and down lazily in the water.

This line shows up in a different text color for me.

She decided to try a more proven tactic, and called out to the Swellow, "Kiran, quick! Give me your bag- Meep!"

I don't know if this is accurate, but I imagine her as making a sound like the Cave Story mimiga squeak
View: https://youtu.be/ppappAA8Yws?t=72

"Crom... Move away from the rock and let it fall off," Nida said in between gasping breaths. Leaving the Druddigon to stare back with a sheepish expression.

Silly dragon.

I think the fight with the krabby shows how incapable Nida's team still is. At this point, I wonder if they were trained at all. Entering a pool of water without checking is something they probably should know not to do, Crom kind of panicked, and Nida barely managed to attempt a sting and ends up getting pinched. And then she falls for a trap shortly after. Maybe Kiran is right to coddle them?

Anyway, I wonder if Nida's going to fall into the room with the egg and end up recruiting the monster into the team. They did mention possibly recruiting some new members, after all.

Anyway, I'll see you folks around, and have fun writing.

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Hi, Murkrow! I'm back for chapter one. I thought this chapter did a good job as an establishing chapter. We meet Nida as more than a small child listening to stories, we meet her town, and we meet some of the people in her life. We also get rumblings of future trouble.

Guild logistics aren't the most interesting thing to me, but I appreciated that by the end of the chapter I had a good sense of Nida's position within the guild as a trainee, limited to busywork assignments, and chaperoned by a more experienced explorer.

And hello back! Though @Virgil134 would also be worth a shout-out in the future, since he is half the team that makes this story what it is. ^^

Though as for the first chapter, yeah. It’s basically the “establishing the baseline” moment of the story. Some of it might hit on familiar themes if you’re well-versed with the PMD fandom, but we’d like to think that our take turned out decently distinctive.

Nida seems like a fairly typical character type for this kind of story--driven, somewhat bratty, alternately cheerful and sullen, with a chip on her shoulder from having a famous mom. One thing I appreciated was her large family and the responsibilities this saddles her with. One of my favorite interactions was Kiran suggesting Nida stay overnight at the Guild, without thinking about Nida's baby-sitting duties. Over all, Nida feels more rooted in her community than many young protagonists do. This came across well in her familiar interactions with the various merchants and the fact that when they interact with her, they're interacting with her as both herself and as a representative of a larger family. It's been some time since I read the prologue, but I remembered finding the family moments heart-warming there and that sense of coziness and affection continued to be present here in the interactions between Nida and her dad. It was interesting that Nida's mom doesn't show up in this chapter, despite being invoked so frequently! I thought that was effective in giving her a bit of a larger than life quality.

Yeah, taking the time to try and make sure that Bluewhorl and Tromba came off as a living, breathing place is definitely one of the strengths of the early story. I mean, the early plot is a little slow as an artifact of it, but eh. I’d consider it a fair trade, since without time to get attached to the names and faces around town, there’s some moments later on that just wouldn’t have the impact that they do.

I enjoyed the scene at the end with the sudden storm. You highlighted some nice physical details about the storm's impact on the area. I did think it was interesting that a ground-dwelling pokemon like Nida was afraid of the thunder part of the storm as opposed to the rain and flooding aspect. I suppose that living near the sea they've gotten pretty used to the wet!

Something something, sensitive hearing and that’s the most immediately visceral sensory experience Nida would have from the storm. I would imagine that if she saw visible flooding in her neighborhood, that she’d also freak out about that, though.

I found this sentence a bit odd--in the prologue Nida doesn't dart hectically through crowds during the day, so it feels weird to have it mentioned as if it's an established character trait to be contrasted with star-gazing.

We switched that one up a bit to make it more emphasized that that was what she was doing ‘now’.

I think these sentences would work better next to each other, or consolidated, since they're two expressions of the same idea.

We opted to put them side-by-side, since you have a point about them building off each other for expressing a shared idea.

The way the dialogue is split here didn't make sense to me. Presumably she says sorry before darting off to a wall to rest. Eg,

[Today was no exception.

"Hey rookie, watch it!"

Nina swerved to the side, narrowly avoiding the hooves of a passing rhyhorn, who shot her a frustrated glare.

"Alright! Alright! Sorry!"

She darted out of the crowd to rest for a moment and catch her breath.]

We played around with this a bit. It’s not quite what you suggested, but the division is closer to yours now.

I like the name drop of what's presumably a famous adventurer. Makes the world feel lived in.

A ‘Protector’ is something a bit different in the story. Don’t worry, you’ll get to meet him within a few chapters of where you’re at.

Nice economic worldbuilding--I'm a bit confused by what's going on with the dialogue punctuation, since this all seems to be spoken by the same person.

We axed a pair of the quotation marks to make it more obvious that Calino didn’t stop speaking, but glad to hear you liked the worldbuilding.


This gave me a nice sense of this being an open air market.

I mean, it kinda is one, so glad to hear that came through.

"a heart after" isn't quite idiomatic--not entirely sure what this is saying.

It was supposed to be “a heart for”, but also fixed.

I didn't understand Nida's point here. Kiran says you need energy for any trip into a dungeon. Nida says that if the mission weren't in a dungeon, it could be completed without expending energy. That doesn't really alter what Kiran is saying.

We played around with this one a bit to make it more obvious that Nida thought that Kiran was being a bit dramatic / of a worrywart.

I noticed a lot of very wordy clauses in this chapter. For example, you'd get the same effect here by saying "with an involuntary shudder" rather than "the topic eliciting an involuntary shudder." It's clear from the context that it's the topic that's eliciting the shudder.

We made an attempt to smooth this one out a bit.

Certainly not making the best case for her maturity here.

I mean, she is still a kid…

I was a little confused by the teammate epithet--I thought he was more a team leader/ mentor figure.

He’s supposed to be a leader/mentor, so this was tweaked.

But thanks for your review! It was a pleasure to hear back from you again, and your tips were really helpful. We’ll be looking forward to what you have to say about other chapters in the future. ^^

Hello, I decided to check out Fledglings since it inspired Places We Call Home, which I like. Also, review tag.

Well, both of those sound like good reasons to get into this story. Though thanks for taking the time to take a look at our sea yarn. ^^

The prologue exposition seemed plain to me, but I can anticipate the ways in which the features of this world might be used. One could certainly imagine that some Marked still carry resentment, either for the loss of the war or for being condemned for the actions of their ancestors. And one wonders why exactly they felt dissatisfied with the rule of the gods, and whether it wasn't to some degree justified. Ferals are prohibited from interfering with "civilized" pokemon, but I wonder if the inverse is true, i.e. if civvies can walk all over the ferals without fear of retaliation. All of this being introduced with the Compact concept makes me wonder if there won't be some cross-class compacts forming in the near future, with all the cultural reconciliation that implies. I probably would have exposited this all more gradually as it comes up, but with this approach I do get to speculate more.

All in due time, since the coming chapters actually answer those questions a bit. Though the Pact very much is not a one-way street in this setting, and Pokémon that break it, both Feral and Civilized aren’t exactly viewed highly for it.

Anyway, in chapter 1, it's made clear that Nina feels held back by her familial responsibilities. She also messed up in the past somehow—I wonder if that was because of her overzealousness? Her closeness with Crom is also established, and I think they have a cute relationship. I haven't guessed what the awakened creature might be yet, but you know it's gonna be important when its birth is accompanied by a ferocious storm.

This is also something that will get answered more in future chapters, though glad to hear that you’re liking Nida’s initial impressions. As for the creature… well, I’d like to think that there’s some hints as to what it might be given the title and the cover art.

Technical notes: There were places where sentences ran on longer than they needed to and felt clunky as a result. Also some "were"s/"was"s could have been replaced with stronger verbs, I think. I found the clunkiness most notable during the scene in the mystery dungeon toward the end of chapter 1. This is probably less of a problem in new chapters, but I have posted my line-by-line suggestions anyway, plus some commentary, on a googledoc here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O8J5fOVZZ4CvPM5i3WUsLpcC6Gq-XJe1h4HtPnvShYw/edit?usp=sharing.

Oh also there's a googledoc for the prologue https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xlgq6BN2F-NOrBhIqhtwdvfxm1NbqsrkRYq_vj6uwWQ/edit?usp=sharing

You actually had the misfortune of posting this review riiiight before we were about to bump the last part of the current multiparter.

That said, thank you for your feedback, and we’ll be sure to take a look over what you had to say. It just will take until the next update that starts up the next arc proper before we make any further tweaks beyond what we made in light of Pen’s feedback a couple days ago. ^^;


Yeah, hold onto that thought there.

The same egg that just hatched, perhaps…

Ding ding ding.

This line shows up in a different text color for me.

Not sure how that one happened or how it got separated from the rest of Kiran’s line there, but it’s fixed now.

I don't know if this is accurate, but I imagine her as making a sound like the Cave Story mimiga squeak
View: https://youtu.be/ppappAA8Yws?t=72

Probably not as high-pitched, but I could see it, honestly.

Silly dragon.

Crom: “S-Silly?! I’m cute, not silly!” >///<

I think the fight with the krabby shows how incapable Nida's team still is. At this point, I wonder if they were trained at all. Entering a pool of water without checking is something they probably should know not to do, Crom kind of panicked, and Nida barely managed to attempt a sting and ends up getting pinched. And then she falls for a trap shortly after. Maybe Kiran is right to coddle them?

To be fair on them, part of it was also them having a bit of an off day. The gang does a bit better than this in future scraps in this story, even if this is why Kiran’s here to have their backs.

Anyway, I wonder if Nida's going to fall into the room with the egg and end up recruiting the monster into the team. They did mention possibly recruiting some new members, after all.

Anyway, I'll see you folks around, and have fun writing.

You’re actually not all that far removed from how things play out, but I suppose that’s something for you to look forward to next time, huh? :V

Thanks again for the feedback. It was a pleasure hearing from you and our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to work with to pick it over.

Alright, and it’s been a week, and with one part left in the current multiparter. And with that, @Virgil134 and I are proud to present the third, and final part of Team Traveller’s turbulent roadtrip through the Aeon Continent…
Last edited:
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen
Bonus Chapter: Turbulent Roadtrip, Part 3


PMD Writer
  1. sylveon
  2. weavile
  3. kommo-o
  4. noivern
  5. mothim
Bonus Chapter: Turbulent Roadtrip, Part 3

About an hour later, Team Traveller found that the directions on Guildmaster Metagross' map brought them to the front of a towering set of falls with a narrow strip of land carrying on behind them. The four followed the rocky spit, slipping down the narrow path past the falls, and continuing on into a space full of curving waterfalls thick with mist in the air, decorated by the occasional sight of what appeared to be eyed glyphs.

"According to the map, this is it," Nida said.

"Blegh… it certainly feels like it," Elty spat. "The water's so damp and gross here."

"I don't know, I think it feels great!" Pleo chirped. The Lugia's commentary at once drew a disgusted shake of Elty's head, along with an annoyed furrow of Guardia's brow. Even so, in spite of the annoying dampness, the Cubone found herself scratching her brow puzzledly.

"It's still really strange, though…" she murmured. "Without the fog, how is anyone supposed to know you're in a Mystery Dungeon or what parts won't shift with the Distortion?"

Guardia's question prompted Nida to flick her ears uneasily, before gawking at the surrounding falls. With no fog like the Mystery Dungeons back in the Cradle, there was little that seemed to evidence the place was a Mystery Dungeon… Even so, there were still things that struck the spike ball as obviously unnatural about the place. Much like the trees back in Dewdrop Woods, the height of the waterfalls also seemed to be impossibly tall, and from what she could see there again didn't seem to be any other entrances back outside of these falls...

"Maybe this place works differently from the Mystery Dungeons back home," the Nidoran mulled. "But let's start the same way we always do, look around and try to get our bearings."

"It would be wise to try and see what yajū are lurking around," Guardia murmured. "But how would we do that with all this mist?"

"Simple," Elty answered. The Puppy Pokémon pivoted and turned back to face the falls, opening his mouth with a sharp bark.

"Oi! Is anyone out there!"

Elty's shout carried on, only to be drowned out by the roar of the falls. The Growlithe waited a moment expectantly, before blinking out of sheepish awkwardness as he noticed his teammates frowning from the corner of his eye.

"Gardie, take this seriously!" Guardia huffed. "That's not going to-!"

"Who goes there?!"

The sound of the bellowing shout made the four Pokémon jolt upright as blank, incredulous looks settled over Guardia, Nida, and Pleo's faces. Had Elty's call…? Did it really…?

"… Work?" the Cubone finished. An uneasy gulp went about the four Pokémon, prompting them to trade looks before Pleo began to crane his head back to answer.

"Uh… Team Traveller?"

The four looked behind themselves, where they saw the form of a party of three peculiar Pokémon approaching. There was an Absol with what seemed to be black crystals encrusted on his chest, a Houndoom swaddled head to toe in peculiar padded cloth with blue fur poking out, and a strange purple creature with blue, crystal-like eyes that floated in the air. Team Traveller shifted uneasily, unsure what to make of the strangers, and most of all the peculiar creature among them.

"Nida? What's that purple floaty thingie?" Pleo asked. "And what is with the other two Pokémon?"

The young Protector's question drew no response other than for Nida to stare ahead wordlessly. Evidently she too was at a loss for what to say back.

"… I… don't know."

"I am referred to as Sticky and my species designation is Poipole," the purple creature answered. "My teammates here are Gallian the Absol and Luxeira the Houndoom."

The Poipole's words drew cautious blinks from Team Traveller's members, and a puzzled tilt of Nida's head.

"Wait, they have actual names too? We didn't run into anyone else in town like that..." she murmured, as her Growlithe teammate cleared his throat and gestured at the Houndoom and Absol in front of him.

"Uh…" Elty began. "You two have got just a little thing on your… er… well, everything."

"Is this some sort of trick?" Guardia demanded. "I've never seen any sort of Pokémon that looked like either of those two! Just look at those crystals crusted over on your white friend!"

"Grr… aren't you two personable ones?" the Absol spat, his eyes flashing a vibrant, aggressive purple that caught his teammates' attention.

"Easy there, rookie," Luxeira insisted. "We're just here to read their auras, no need to get things so riled up off the bat."

The Houndoom's reassurance failed to have its intended effect on the four Pokémon, who visibly squirmed and backpedaled as the three strangers drew nearer.

"Read our… auras?" Pleo asked.

"Yes, we initially tried to find you after we detected you falling out of an Ultra Wormhole back in Dewdrop Woods," the suited Houndoom explained. "As members of the Ultra Recon Squad, our primary directive has always been to analyze the fallers we come across and help them on their ways back home. Even if we're stranded ourselves, we can continue that endeavor."

Luxeira's words drew puzzled stares back from the four youngsters, the lot trading looks with one another. They were watching them? And what did the Houndoom mean by...

"... Fallers?" Pleo asked.

"Fallers are terrestrial Pokémon such as yourselves that have been hurtled through Ultra Space by Ultra Wormholes. Typically, they end up in a pocket of Ultra Space. But, on occasion, the wormhole is powerful enough to breach another world. Which, I suspect, is what happened to you," she explained. "Perhaps tell us a bit about yourselves? It could help us narrow down where you're from."

"Uhh… well…" Nida stammered. "We're Team Traveller, a rescue team from the Cradle. Does that help at all?"

"Captain, I am afraid that does not register as an area I'm familiar with," Sticky mulled. "Maybe things will become clearer with a bit of a closer look."

The Houndoom and Poipole suddenly darted forward, as blue glassy surfaces slid over their faces and lit up with light as they faced Pleo. Sensing something amiss, Guardia held out her bone accusingly, stammering out a startled yelp in response.

"H-Hey!" the Cubone exclaimed. "What are you doing with that thing there?!"

"Oh these?" Luxeira answered. "It's just our visors, nothing to be alarmed abou-"

Before the Houndoom could finish, her visor suddenly flashed purple as a shrill beep went off. Nida and Elty winced and covered their ears at the racket, prompting Pleo to look around in alarm as Gallian's demeanor suddenly became noticeably more hostile.

"See! It's just like I figured… this lot is full of troublemakers!" the Absol snapped, his eyes and scythe flashing red. "That alarm only goes off when something's wrong! Like with that blasted Vulpix!"

"Uh… y-you pointed that thingy at me and it beeped?" Pleo stammered. "What would be wrong?"

"You are registering Ultra Aura levels high enough to signify that you have been exposed to a high dose of Ultra Space radiation. Even by faller standards, these are pretty large readings. Just how far away is your world?" Sticky exclaimed, drawing a low growl and bared fangs from his Absol teammate.

"Bah, that's not it! You two are giving them too much benefit of the doubt! You said you saw large readings? Then that can only mean one thing. This so-called Lugia…" Gallian snarled. "Is an Ultra Beast."

"H-Huh?!" Nida exclaimed. "No he's not!"

"Yeah, I don't even know what an Ultra Beast is!" Pleo protested.

"They are creatures from Ultra Space… like me," Sticky explained. "We find this world alien, and are alien to this world's Pokémon in return."

"B-But I'm a Lugia! I'm part of my world!"

"Hah! A likely story!" Gallian snorted. "I know who Lugia is, and I definitely know I'm not bigger than him! You're just trying to pass yourself off with a disguise, and there's no reason why you'd do that unless you were trying to hide something!"

Pleo opened his beak to protest again, only to squawk out of fright at the sight of shadowy mist beginning to accumulate on the Absol's horn. Gallian lowered his body with a low growl, readying his legs for a pouncing lunge.

"And it's a very poor disguise at that."

"Uh… Gallian?" Luxeira began. "I think this is really something we should talk-"

"I'm putting you down!!"

With that, the Absol lunged forward at the four youngsters, prompting the Houndoom to raise a paw and trail off with a shake of her head.

"… out," she sighed. "Come on Sticky. Looks like the rookie's managed to turn the situation hostile… again."


As Sticky and Luxeira quickly fell back, a pained shriek rang out as Gallian sliced into Pleo's wing with a shadowy swoop of his horn. The slash cut a few feathers loose, prompting the young Lugia to stumble and dart away in a panic as his wide-eyed teammates hastily ran in to intervene.

"G-Get off of him!" Nida cried. The Nidoran was the first to reach the Absol, and quickly delivered a pair of whirling kicks at his side. Gallian skidded back, snarling angrily as Elty and Guardia ran in after him.

"Hang in there, spike ball," the Growlithe yipped. "We're coming-!"

"Gardie, watch it!"

The Cubone hastily yanked the Puppy Pokémon back as a metallic tile sailed through the air and flopped onto the ground in front of them, bearing a star-shaped insignia lit up by purple light. The pair looked over incredulously at Sticky, baffled by what it was that he'd hoped to accomplish with the tile.

"Eh?! What are you doing throwing those metal plates around?!" Guardia demanded, her puzzlement being similarly echoed by her Growlithe partner.

"Yeah, sure seems like some useless items there given that they’re not doing anything to us!" he snapped.

"Just stay away from those!" Nida cried. "They look like triggered traps!"

Elty blinked and squinted at the tiles. True enough, they did light up like a triggered trap back at home… but when was the last time a trap looked anything like this?!

"But- But that's insane!" Elty yipped. "Traps don't come on metal tiles! And since when could Pokémon throw them around?!"

"Hrmm… Captain, if they are unaware that Ultra Beasts can set traps of their own volition, perhaps Gallian's claims are unfounded?" Sticky wondered.

"They're playing dumb to distract you, moron!" Gallian barked, drawing a sigh back from his Poipole counterpart.

"I figured that would be your response."

Elty’s eyes briefly widened as the Poipole zipped over and spewed out a torrent of violet sludge. The liquid drenched Elty's fur, prompting him to shriek as it seeped down into his pelt. In a panic, the Growlithe set his fur alight and launched himself at the Poison-Type with a blazing somersault.


The Flame Wheel found its mark, sending Sticky crashing to the ground, and drawing an alarmed yelp from his Houndoom partner from further behind.

"Keep it together, Sticky!" she cried. "I'll lay down some suppressive fire!"

Luxeira breathed in, and spewed out a gout of fire, swallowing up Guardia. The bone lizard shrieked and flailed on the ground, the Houndoom's flames stinging with particular force, prompting her to stagger up just in time to see another gout sail overhead and take off running.

Team Paradox's members had fallen back into a vaguely delta-shaped position, with Sticky and Luxeira flanking Gallian from the sides as the three spewed shadowy beams and toxins forward, sending Team Traveller scattering in a panic. In his haste to flee, Pleo ran ahead beating his wings to try and get airborne when his left foot stepped down on something cold and smooth. The Lugia heard a click and went wide-eyed, only to shriek as he felt spikes suddenly jut out of the floor and into his feet.


Pleo's cry drew his Nidoran teammate's attention, prompting her to turn and see he had stepped on one of the tiles and a trail of violet fluid was dribbling from his left foot. Nida grimaced, realizing that the metal tiles really were traps. Her own nerves starting to fail her, the Poison-Type called back, hoping to keep her teammate calm and collected.

"H-Hang in there!" she cried. "We just need to get our footing back!"


Nida whirled and froze as Gallian dissolved into a stream of black shadows and zipped along on the floor before gathering around her. Much to her teammates' horror, the shadows suddenly reformed into Gallian as he lunged up with a slash of his psychically-charged horn and sent the Nidoran tumbling with a sharp yelp, leaving her slumped over on the ground unmoving.

"A-Aaah! N-Nida!"

The three stood in a stunned daze, only for a light to glimmer from the bag on Nida's back and her to suddenly get up woozily, coughing and struggling to stay afoot.

"Hrnk… Urgh…"

The Nidoran rose to her feet, similarly reinvigorated from the light, if disoriented from her experience. From their places beside her, Elty, Guardia, and Pleo stared slack-jawed, startled at their teammate's sudden revival.

"What- What on earth was that?!" Elty yelped. "You just got up again like that was nothing!"

"And what was that freaky shadow thing?!" Guardia cried. "In all the lore I've heard, I'd never heard of Pokémon being able to do that!"

"Pah! You four must be the sorriest Rescue Team I've ever run into!" Gallian snarled. "How do you not know something as basic as how a Reviver Seed works?!"

A Reviver Seed helped Nida get back up? Without even being chewed on? But Reviver Seeds don't just magically heal Pokémon like that! … Although it wouldn't be the first peculiar thing about this world they encountered...

"Sticky! Swing around them from the left!" the Houndoom barked.

"On it!"

But that could wait, as the presence of a gout of fire narrowly missing Guardia and stream of sludge brushing Pleo quickly jolted Nida and her teammates back to attention. Even so, when they knew so little about how this world differed from their own, just how would they ever regain the element of surprise?

"Ngah! Just how are we supposed to handle these Pokémon?!" Guardia cried. Her Growlithe teammate clenched his teeth, as he realized that so far, it seemed like Team Paradox had been catching them off guard with one thing after another from this alien world! Bah! If only they could repay the favor somehow!

… Wait a minute, maybe they could!

"If they're going to be giving us such a hard time with moves from their world," Elty began, "then maybe we need to surprise them with something from ours!"

The Growlithe's gaze turned to Gallian—charging forward as the diamond on his forehead crackled with dark energy—then at the other members of Team Paradox. If those two were always dependent on Gallian charging to the fore for them… then maybe...

"We just need to get that Absol to get out into the open! He's the toughest, and if we can't take care of him, we're not going to pull through here!" he yipped. "If we all work together, we should be able to take him down!"

"How are we supposed to do that?!" Pleo squawked. "He's got two buddies with him!"

"Focus on distracting them!" Elty insisted. "I'll handle the Absol! If it worked on those two square-necks at Sormus, it can work here!"

The Growlithe spotted one of the metal tiles lying on the ground up ahead, and bounded ahead. Elty bided his time until Gallian ran past, before turning, and giving a forceful shake of his rump at his Absol opponent.

"Chodź i weź to!" the Fire-Type jeered. "You couldn't hit the broadside of a Wailord with that stupid shadow attack of yours!"

Gallian's scythe flashed dark red in response, his eyes hardening into a fierce glare as he pawed the ground underfoot.

"Is that so?" he spat. "Tell me… how's this for a broadside?!"

His attention now focused on the impudent Puppy Pokémon, the Absol charged ahead melting into the ground as a stream of black shadows. As the Dark-Type bore down, Elty rolled out of the way, leaving Gallian to carry on into the tile and yowl in pain after feeling spikes jolt up into his paws.

"Hrngh!" he winced. "What- What did you do-?!"

"Now!" Elty cried.

As the stricken Absol tried to regain his bearings, he was cut off by a gout of cinders from the side, followed by a spinning blow to his flank along with a second that clipped his hindlegs, his attention turning back to a Cubone who clumsily caught a bone flying back at her.

"E-Eh?! That was a Honebūmeran!" she cried. "It- It actually worked that time!"

Gallian snarled and pivoted to turn his attention to the bone lizard, when a whirling gust sent him tumbling head over heels into a large rock. The Absol hastily righted himself, fighting against his injured paws only to see a blue blur run up, and a nailed foot to come for his face…



The Dark-Type staggered back, his breaths coming out ragged as he pawed at a fresh imprint on his face. Gallian howled in pain and ran off, wheezing as he felt his body shiver and his limbs' movements grow clumsy and laggardly.

"Ngrrr…. I've had enough of this!"

The Absol turned back, black and red energy crackling in his forehead diamond… only for it to suddenly lose its glow, and for the Dark-Type to slump over onto the ground.


Luxeira and Sticky went wide-eyed at the sight of their teammate's defeat, the pair stammering and backpedaling as the color left their faces.


"I- That's- T-Tactical retreat!" Luxeira yelped. "We'll regroup after falling back!"

The two turned and began to run off for dear life, only for a sharp squeak to ring out from behind them.

"Wait! Don't go!" Nida cried. "You said that you could help us get back home!"

At the Nidoran's plea, the Poipole and the shiny Houndoom slowed to a stop, before looking back over their shoulders uneasily. There, they saw Nida's form bounding up, the Poison-Type rearing up on her hind legs to wave for the two to stop.

"This… obviously wasn't how any of us wanted to meet each other," she said. "But you said that you helped Pokémon like us get back to their worlds, right? How does that work, and can you do it for us?"

"I mean, we used to have a machine that would handle it…" Luxeira answered. "But we lost it when we lost our home."

"So we're stuck here, then," Guardia muttered.

"Maybe not. I will admit that we have never done this before…" Sticky began. "But we could attempt to signal the Lightless Black. He certainly would be able to help you get back… Maybe."

"Who is that?" Nida asked, prompting the Poipole to uneasily shift in the air.

"Uh… well… I speculate that he is, in fact, a light-eating Ultra Beast," he explained. "We only know of him because he... destroyed our home."

Sticky's explanation made Team Traveller's members cringe and shift back uneasily. The four watched as the Poipole and Houndoom traded looks with one another, as if a sudden realization had dawned upon them.

"What's that look supposed to mean?" Guardia asked.

"I just realized..." Luxeira murmured. "Considering the Lightless Black's ability to move between worlds, it could be that he brought you here in the first place."

"So if that is true… then maybe you really could convince him to take you back as well," Sticky added.

The Poipole's musings failed to provide any reassurance to the four youngsters. If they'd been called here by such a destructive-sounding Pokémon, who was to say that they could count on him to take him back? Couldn't he just as easily try to destroy them?

"And we're supposed to trust him to take us back why?" Elty demanded. A long silence hung in the air afterwards, as Luxeira and Sticky traded uncomfortable glances with one another, before turning back to their questioners.

"Well, he's most likely the only Pokémon who could send you back," the Houndoom answered. "For all we know, you could've been brought here by accident. In which case, he might be open to sending you back home."

Luxeira's reasoning drew back a sharp frown from the Cubone in the group. Of all the crazy ideas she'd heard before, this was right up there with being dragged from island to island high up in the sky as one of the worst-sounding ones she'd entertained. Couldn't there be an alternative they were missing…?

"And there's no other way back at all other than dealing with a Pokémon that destroys colonies?" Guardia pressed.

The Cubone was answered with a pair of shaking heads, prompting the lot to pause uneasily. After a long silence, Nida sighed, before shaking her barbs and grumbling back a response.

"I suppose we have no choice, then…" she muttered. "Let's call on your Lightless-"

"Urgh… N-Nida? I'm not feeling so good- Nrrk…"

Nida bit her tongue and turned at the sound of audibly sickly squawks to see Pleo had limped up beside her. She'd forgotten entirely about her teammate tripping the Toxic Spikes trap, leaving the Lugia visibly shivering and tottering, apparently having trouble keeping his balance. The Nidoran moved a paw for her bag, only for the sound of a groan from behind to reach her ears and prompt her to freeze with a start.

"Ugh… Sticky? Luxeira?" Gallian wheezed. "Can you make the room stop spinning?"

The gathered Pokémon looked over to see Gallian pawing incoherently at the air, evidently in as sorry a condition as the poisoned Lugia. From their place, Luxeira and Sticky looked at Pleo, and then back at their stricken teammate.

"… Right," Luxeira said. "Let's get you all patched up first."

Luxeira and Sticky's attention quickly turned to treating their wounded teammate and the poisoned bird in their midst, which fortunately was mostly resolvable with a few berries the two teams had between them. After healing Pleo and suitably calming Gallian's nerves, the rest of Team Traveller sat for their turn to be healed, recounting the story of their flight from the Company and the Empire before they found themselves in this strange new world.

"Well, that's certainly quite the tale…" Luxeira murmured. "That said, I think it is time we summon the Lightless Black."

"Wait, right now?" Elty asked.

"Tch, weren't you the lot who were trying to get home faster?" Gallian scoffed. "And I don't want to be around any of you for much longer. You're making my skin crawl. It's not like you have unfinished business here, right?"

"… Point."

Sticky fidgeted, before throwing out a metal tile with a star-shaped icon onto the ground. The metal sheet settled against the ground, before its thrower floated over to Team Traveller, peering down with a waiting gaze.

"Are you four sure you want to do this?" the Poipole pressed. "The Lightless Black can be very unpredictable and we're not gonna be around to help you."

"E-Eh?" Pleo stammered. "You're not?"

The Poison-Type shook his head back in response, making Pleo shift his feathers uneasily. Sensing the Lugia's unease, Sticky hesitated, doing his best to try and pass on an explanation.

"The last time we came face to face with him, it… ended with him attacking us in a fit of rage. We do not want to risk putting him in a bad mood again. That could make things exponentially harder for you all," the Poipole said. "It would be most ideal if we did not have to resort to such extreme measures as summoning the Lightless Black. Unfortunately, given your current situation there is no other alternative if you intend to return to your universe…"

The four youngsters faltered a moment after hearing Sticky's response. They'd hoped that their guides would've been with them to at least introduce them to this 'Lightless Black', and the fact that they didn't want to for their own safety surely wasn't a good portent… On the other paw, they didn't have any other real options for getting back to the Cradle, and surely staying here was as much of a risk long-term as going home through an untested route...

"We'll take the risk," Nida sighed. "Let's go home"

"Very well then. Just understand that, if this trick works, we'll be promptly exiting," Luxeira said. "I wish there was more we could do for you, but we're all that's left of our Ultra Recon Squad. Our resources are too scarce. You have my sincere apologies,"

"That's... understandable," Nida replied. "Though thanks again for the help here."

The Houndoom nodded back before Sticky took off his harness and pressed down on the metal tile with a click. The group watched tensely for a moment, before a bright, white tear opened in the sky and expanded into what looked like a burrow. From his place on the ground, Pleo looked on in startled surprise, gesturing up wildly at the strange new portal.

"A-Ah! There's a hole in the sky!"

Team Traveller stared mesmerized as the hole spiraled into a large white circle, with purple and white lines radiating out in all directions. As the four tried to settle on how to make sense of the strange portal, Sticky slid his harness back on before he and his teammates got up and began to set off, the Houndoom among them digging out a multicolored orb from the center of her harness.

"Good luck, everyone," Luxeira said. "We'll be rooting for you to get back safely."

She hurled the orb against the ground, dashing it to pieces as a pillar of light swallowed her and her teammates up. As the wormhole continued glowing behind them, Team Traveller looked back, staring uneasily at the now inert glass shards dotting the ground as Elty folded his ears back.

"… We did make the right decision... Right?" he asked. As if on cue, a bright flash and loud thud came from the wormhole behind them, along with the sound of a deafening, bloodcurdling roar. The four felt their blood run cold, unable to fight off unnerved shivers that settled upon them as they looked back to see the glowing hole collapse behind the towering form of a blue bat with black, crystalline armor and a set of massive claws jutting out from its torso nearing them.

"… Ulp… I'll take that as a 'no'."

"Heeheeheehee... is that you, my succulent little Poipole? I'm so very flattered! Here I was worrying I'd never get to taste your sweet, precious liiiiight," the creature cheered. "Why, if you'd only given me some advance notice, I'd have brought some mood music for our special little meal together-"

As the crystal-covered bat neared, his vision settled upon the forms of a Nidoran, Growlithe, Cubone, and diminutive Lugia before him… with not a sign of the Poipole he'd sensed to be seen. At once, the Lightless Black let out a shrill shriek, his eyes lighting up with a rainbow-colored glow.

"Skreeeeep! What is the meaning of this? Where is my precious Poipole meal?!" the giant Pokémon demanded, before training a piercing glare at the youngsters below him.

"You... did you worthless little snacks trick me?!" he bellowed. "DID YOU LIE TO ME... NECROZMA?!"

Team Traveller felt the color drained from their face and backpedaled out of fright, their breaths coming shallow and quickly as they suddenly realized that Team Paradox hadn't wanted to stay around for good reason.

"Did- Did he just call us snacks?!" Guardia squeaked.

"S-Spike ball?" Elty whined. "I really think we need to get out of here-"


Nida, Guardia, and Elty went wide-eyed as they watched Pleo run up and wave his wings in front of the massive bat. The three grimaced, expecting the beast to pounce on him at any moment, only to see him pause, and tilt his head curiously at the Lugia.

"Team Paradox said that you were able to help us get back home!" Pleo insisted. "That you were able to move between worlds!"

Necrozma looked down at Pleo and stared at him for what felt like an eternity, as slowly, a smile crept across the bat's face.

"Wait a moment. Heeheeheehee. You're not from here, are you? Tell me… have you slipped between worlds? Are you… just like me?"

From their places, Nida, Elty, and Guardia watched as the massive creature seemed to calm down, prompting them to warily creep forward and rejoin their Lugia teammate, if still glancing over their shoulders uneasily for any routes that could be used to escape.

"Well, we're Team Traveller…" Nida began. "And to the best we've been able to tell, we're from another world."

"… We heard that you might have had something to do with that with some portal you made," Elty continued. "And… maybe you'd be in the mood to help us get back by opening another portal?"

The four forced wide, overeager smiles as Necrozma moved one of his smaller wing claws to his chin. The Psychic-Type paused a moment, evidently deep in thought before turning his gaze to an overlooking ledge.

"So… that little cold did cause problems after all. Well then… this is so very interesting!" he exclaimed. "It just so happens that you are… heeheehee… CORRECT! I can solve your little predicament."

"Huh? You mean it?" Guardia asked. "You're really going to open a portal?"

"Yes, of course," Necrozma said. "It should just be a simple matter…"

The Pokémon turned and his red eyes brightly flashed. Much to the four's astonishment, a crack of light opened and a fresh hole in the air… directly above a patch of land between the tips of the falls. Team Traveller's members traded dumbfounded looks with one another, before Elty uneasily cleared his throat to speak up.

"Er... we can't go through the portal if it's that high," he said.

"Nonsense!" Necrozma insisted. "The little bird can just fly you all up. Well, go on. It's all you, little Lugia!"

Team Traveller visibly hesitated at Necrozma's demand. If he was able to open a portal so easily, then it should have been a trifling matter for him to make a portal they could reach. So why had he gone out of his way to put it up there if he really wanted to help them?

"C-Can't you just create another portal back to our home right next to us?" Nida stammered.

"Why should I go through all that effort when there's a perfectly fine Ultra Wormhole right there?" Necrozma demanded. "I'm not wasting my light on something stupid."

"But didn't you just say it was a simple mat-" Guardia began, only to be cut off by a mocking mimicry from the crystalline bat.

"Nyeh, 'isn't it a simple matter?' Look, just get onto your bird friend already!" Necrozma snapped. "I've got better things to do than hearing you complain!"

The four youngsters backpedaled unnervedly at the sudden souring of the Psychic-Type's mood, with their minds uncomfortably drifting back to how he'd called them 'snacks' earlier… Something stank about all of this, and it felt painfully obvious that this was a trap. In that case, the only thing left to do was to follow in Team Paradox's footsteps, and get out while they could.

"A-Actually maybe we should leav-" Nida began, only to go wide-eyed as she saw a shadowy ball slam into the ground at her feet. The Nidoran hopped back with a yelp, looking up with her mouth agape at the now-fuming Necrozma as his smile promptly vanished.

"What's that? You're spitting on my generous offer?" He bared his fangs at Team Traveller and his arms swung out. "You… you stupid… foolish fools! I am only trying to help here. But no… you're going to ignore me! And walk away! Just like everyone else!"

A low growl rumbled from the Pokémon's throat, as he cracked his maw open wide with a threatening hiss.

"I will make you see that there is no better… more helpful friend… than me. Than Necrozma!" he snarled.

"It sounds more like you weren't planning on letting us go home at all!" Nida exclaimed.

"I guess we'll have to fight our way through then!" Guardia shouted.

At the Cubone's cry, Nida flicked forward a spike at the Necrozma's wings, followed by Elty spitting up a gout of fire at the bat's face. Necrozma screeched and writhed, prompting Pleo and Guardia's faces to light up and for the pair to throw in a glowing ball of light and a Bonemerang, seemingly forcing the Psychic-Type to the ground with an agonized wail.

"Gyyyyyyaaaaaaah! No! Stop it! Stop… hurting me!" Necrozma shrieked.

"I- I think we did it!" Pleo cried. "We're beating-!"

"FOOOOLS! Are you all really that gullible?"

Much to Team Traveller's horror, Necrozma flapped up and took to the air, as if their barrage had never happened. The four felt their blood run cold, looking up to see the bat shooting a cruel sneer down at them.

"I knew it! You all hate me," Necrozma thundered. "So, I… heeheehee… I tricked you. I made you think you were winning. It's something I think I had considerable experience with. And you fell for it. Bwahahaha!"

The blue bat thrust his right chest arm to the side, prompting a small hole to open up in the sky and a shining golden horn to emerge. The horn slid, puffing out a sad-sounding 'wah-wah', before promptly falling back into the hole which collapsed in on itself, along with Team Traveller's understanding of what had just happened.

"… What was that?" Guardia murmured, prompting Elty to stare and shake his head blankly.

"I dunno, but we've got bigger problems right now."

"Precisely! I was willing to extend a hand and help you four. But noooooo! You're repulsed by me. Everyone hates me!" Necrozma seethed. "But you… you all did this to me. YOU MADE ME INTO THIS! Heeheehee… and now you want to ignore it and hope I go away. But… heeheehee… the only ones who will be going away are YOU!"

The Psychic-Type's eyes suddenly flashed blue, and Team Traveller's members felt themselves get lifted off the ground and into the air. The youngsters thrashed desperately, screaming and flailing as Necrozma brought them nearer and nearer to his face.

"L-Let go of me!" Pleo squawked.

"Heeheeheehee, come to me, my pretty little birdy!" Necrozma chortled. "Your liiiiiight... I'll bet it's so soooooft and fluuuuuuffy! Like soft-serve ice cream. Bwahahaha!"

The four continued to struggle in midair as Necrozma brought the lot to a stop in front of him. The Ultra Beast flashed his teeth and a red crescent moon appeared on his forehead, the four screwing their eyes shut and flinching out of apprehension.


Team Traveller cracked their eyes open, watching their captor awkwardly bat his wings and arms in the air. The red crescent moon appeared on his forehead again, but nothing happened. As Necrozma continued to repeat this gesture, they grew increasingly stupefied at what it was the creature was attempting to do to them.

"Nrgh… Come on!" he complained. "Ah! I think I felt a few photons that time!"

Nida raised a brow, watching as the crest on Necrozma's head flickered with rainbow light for a few moments at a time. The Nidoran noticed that little rays of light were flowing into it, looking down and seeing that it was streaming from none other than the light from the sun bouncing off their own badges!

"Wait, so you really do eat light?!" she squeaked. "Then w-what is it that you're trying to do-?"

"Gah! Why isn't this working?!" Necrozma fumed. "Why can't I eat your light?! I've done this a million times before! Even to Pokémon like you! What's keeping you safe? It's like you have no light at all, but I know you have it! I want your light! I want it NOW!"

"You can take this light instead!" Pleo shouted. The young Lugia built up a glowing ball within his beak, before disgorging it and sending it into the face of the blue bat. Necrozma cried out and lost his concentration, sending the four falling back to the ground. The Psychic-Type hissed back angrily as Pleo defiantly took his place before him.

"Whatever it is that you're trying to do, I won't let you get away with it!" the Lugia snapped. "I'm a Protector and I won't let you hurt my friends!"

"Grr, you foooooolish bird! You think you're a Protector?!" Necrozma seethed. "WRONG! I'm the Protector of this world! I brought it out of the darkness. It was me! ALL ME! Witness the power of Necrozma and despair!"

The bat flew up with a shrill shriek, spreading his wings as flecks of light gathered on his wingtips, before coalescing in a giant beam of light that shot forward at Pleo. The blue beam swallowed up the young Legendary, sending him flying and crashing limply against the ground much to his teammates' horror.


The three stared ahead in horror and watched as a light came from the bag on Nida's shoulder and zipped over to the stricken Lugia, at once rousing him with a gagging cough. Pleo and his companions looked up as the sound of malicious laughter reached their ears, looking up to see Necrozma peering down at them.

"Heeheeheehee! See, little fledgling? That's the power of a real Protector!" he sneered. "The sort of power you'll never have!"

Pleo stared up blankly, trembling at the sight of the much larger, and stronger 'Protector'. He- He could just throw him around like it was nothing! How was he supposed to do anything against that?! How was he supposed to be anyone's Protector if there were monsters out there that could overpower him this easily?! Necrozma seemed to pick up on Pleo's loss of morale, baring his fangs back at the four youngsters.

"Lugia turned his back on me! After he called me a friend. After I helped him! He left me to have my light stolen!" he snapped. "Instead of helping me… he let me get thrown into a lightless void of Ultra Space to rot for centuries!"

Pleo craned his neck up wide-eyed, backpedaling out of frightened confusion as he felt a shiver go down his spine. A malevolent smile cracked over Necrozma's face, as a shrill laugh came from his throat.

"Heeheehee… But none of that matters anymore! Mistress Zero… heeheehee… she's going to get my light back!" he exclaimed.

The Psychic-Type's declaration made Team Traveller's jaws drop out of shock. This- This thing was in league with Zero? Then was he the one who caused the Prism Virus? If so, then in searching for a way back home, they'd blundered into exactly the dangerous situation they'd been trying to protect Pleo from!

"She wants every Legendary in this world killed. So, I'm going to ANNIHILATE YO– ACK!"

Necrozma was cut off mid-sentence by a flying bone striking the back of his head. The bat hissed and glared as he pawed at his head, following the arc of the bone back down to Guardia who caught it in midair and swung it out wide.

"Come on, we gotta fight this yajū!" she cried. "We can't just sit here waiting for him to kill us!"

Necrozma screeched and made his eyes glow again, seizing the Cubone and starting to lift her off the ground, only for Elty to barrel into the black, crystalline armor on his chest with a burning somersault, making the bat jolt upright in pain.


Guardia dropped back to the ground as the black arms attached to the bat flailed wildly. Necrozma gasped for air, gritting his teeth and forming a swirling, shadowy ball at the end of one of the smaller claws on his wings. He readied a throw, only to feel a stabbing pain catch him in his wrist, sending the Shadow Ball veering off course from the Growlithe. The Psychic-Type seethed, yanking the spike out of his wrist before directing his gaze down at a Nidoran swiftly hopping away from him.

"Grah! Stop it already!" he bellowed. Necrozma turned to try and follow his latest attacker, only to feel a strong whirling wind suck him up and push him backwards. The bat flew wildly, haggardly stabilizing himself as he saw the four youngsters arrayed in front of him, prompting him to screech back at them.

"Skreeeeeep! Cut that out! You're annoying me!"

Necrozma spread his wings and filled the falls with a blinding flash of light, bathing the whole area with rainbow-colored beams and drawing a chorus of screams from Team Traveller. The Psychic-Type looked down, seeing that the four were strewn about the ground, weakly struggling to get up and shamble around, with the so-called 'Protector' among them lying spread-eagle on the ground.


"Foooooooools!" he hissed. "Did you really think you could fight back against me? I am Necrozma, Devourer of Light! I am the one true Protector of this world!"

"I... I-I will not... let you hurt my friends…"

Nida noticed Pleo struggle back up to his feet, the young seabird fighting with fatigue and against his weakened body to hold himself up. She watched as he paced forward awkwardly, with all the determination his battered frame could summon.


" Is that… heeheehee... supposed to scare me?!" Necrozma jeered. "All this time, you've been running your mouth off about being a Protector. But you are NOTHING! You are worthless! Like every other Legendary in this world… and beyond! You are all fools! And I will destroy you all!"

Pleo stumbled and wheezed, when he heard the mournful voice of a Stufful cry out, wondering where Solgaleo was when his mother needed him most. The Lugia looked around and noticed he and his friends were still alone when the voice was joined by a Minior wondering why Tapu Lele hadn't come back to put an end to the ice that had overtaken Aurora Veil. Pleo's body stiffened as he heard Umbreon's voice wondering if Latias would really be able to help them after what had happened with Dark Matter, making him realize that these were Horizon's Pokémon. Their voices feeling abandoned and alone and wondering where their Protectors were and whether they would do anything for them.

He looked back at his teammates, as they looked up tiredly at him. This was their only chance at getting home again… He… he didn't know if there was anything that he could do, but he wasn't going to turn away here…

He wouldn't leave them to feel abandoned like this…

"I… I am a Protector... and these are the Pokémon that I have to defend."

At once, Pleo's plumes erupted in silvery light, his gait becoming animated and full of vigor. From his place overhead, Necrozma's jaws slackened out of excitement, bringing his arms together out of giddy anticipation of feasting on the newfound light of the little feather duster before him.

"Ooooh! So you do have light inside you after all?!" he exclaimed. "Yes! A little appetizer before killing you and your frie-!"


Pleo brought his wings together, the winds whirling between them as a column of wind shot up and swallowed up Necrozma. The bat fought desperately against the raging gale, only to lose his balance and be swept up with a frightened shriek, sailing further and further away over the horizon much like a great blue kite.

As the bat-like creature vanished, so did the light enveloping the young Lugia, making him slump to the ground exhausted. He lay there for a moment, panting as he heard tired footsteps approach, which prompted him to look up, and see Guardia and his teammates drawing near still shaking from their ordeal.

"Is… is it over?" the Cubone asked. The bone lizard's question prompted Elty to look up and see the hole of light still overlooking the edge of the waterfall and turn back with a shake of his head.

"Not just yet," he murmured. "Come on, let's go home."

"Pleo… I… I know it's a lot to ask, but…" Nida said. "Can you still fly right now?"

"Yeah…" he weakly nodded back.

The Lugia uneasily picked himself up and lowered his body to let his teammates clamber onto his back. One by one they took their positions, Guardia clinging tight and closing her eyes firmly in anticipation of the young Protector's takeoff. Pleo looked up at the ledge and shifted uneasily, turning his head back to face the Nidoran passenger on his shoulders.

"Are we sure that portal will lead us home...?" he asked, only to be answered by a tired paw at his shoulders.

"Only one way to find out," Nida answered. The Lugia looked back at the ledge, and after reasoning that they'd already come this far, ran forward, beating his wings. Pleo felt his body leave the ground, and fought to climb higher and higher, reaching the top of the waterfall where he flopped down gasping for air. One by one, his passengers slid off of him, and began to walk for the portal ahead.

"Oi, Lycanroc! Get a load of this!"

As soon as the four set off, they heard a familiar scratchy suddenly pipe up. The lot grimaced, looking around their surroundings to try and spot its owner...


Right as the forms of a Sneasel, Lycanroc, and Jangmo-o walked up, headed directly for them.

"There's a glowing hole up ahead," Sneasel continued. "And you can see-"

"That our old friends came right for it," Lycanroc sneered. "I knew following them here would be worth it!"

This- This was that blasted team of thieves from earlier! After all they'd gone through with Necrozma, did they really have to deal with them again?

"You again?!" Elty growled. "What are you doing here?!"

"We came to get revenge, but then we heard this big, scary, shouty voice and we went to hide," Jangmo-o retorted. "But now he's gone… which just leaves you dweebs!"

The Dragon-Type's description drew a roll of Lycanroc's ruddy eyes, prompting him to shake his head and glare back at his weakened foes.

"Like Jangmo-o said, we've been looking for the right time to make our move," he growled. "And that time's now."

"But Lycanroc,what about that hole here?" Sneasel insisted. "There's something on the other end!"

"I couldn't care less right now!" the wolf spat. "It changes nothing!"

"Yeah!" Jangmo-o added. "I thought we were gonna get our revenge here!"

Nida grit her teeth and braced herself. They'd managed to best Team Fang the last time they fought… but they were in horrible condition right now! There was no way they could win a fight like this! The Nidoran backed up along with her Cubone and Lugia teammates, though curiously, Elty did little other than to shake his head and fold his ears back submissively.

"Urgh… I know when we're beat," the Growlithe muttered. "We surrender, just whatever you're going to do… don't throw us into that portal…"

"Huh?!" Pleo squawked, his consternation being quickly echoed by his Cubone teammate.

"Gardie, what are you doing here?!" she snapped. "Why do we want them getting involved at all with that?!"

Nida opened her tongue a moment to protest only to catch herself. Elty was doing his best to try and make going through that wormhole sound like the worst thing in the world right now. With Team Fang out for revenge… who was to say they couldn't have their yearnings steered in a bit more of a constructive direction?

"Y-Yeah! Who knows where it could go to?!" the Nidoran added. "Why, it could get a 'mon stuck inside of a strange world or something!"

"Hey! That would actually be a great idea!" Jangmo-o exclaimed.

"Yeah!" Sneasel piped. "We'd never have to see their mugs again!"

Lycanroc moved a claw to his muzzle, glaring down skeptically at the party of runts. Something about this light hole felt far too convenient… but if it really did go off to another world, then there certainly wasn't anything that the little whelps could do to tell anyone about what happened afterwards, and no way that anyone could find them… Why, it was as perfect a crime as one could get!

"Hrmph, you've sold me on it," he grunted. "Toss them into that portal, mates."

The three quickly ringed Team Traveller's members, starting to herd them towards the portal as Elty quietly winked back at his teammates. At once, the four broke out into loud and… unusually dramatic protest and pleading, as one by one, Team Fang threw Nida, Guardia, and Pleo through the light hole until all that remained was Elty being held up by the scruff of his neck by Lycanroc.

"Any last words, fleabag?" he growled.

"Nah, I'll save it for when I'm actually falling," the Growlithe said back.

"Hrmph, whatever," the Rock-Type harrumphed. "Enjoy being stranded out there."

Lycanroc wound up his arm and tossed the Growlithe forward, sending him cartwheeling head over heels, just in time to watch the Fire-Type look back with a smug smirk.

"Thanks for playing right into my paws, idiot!"

As soon as the Growlithe fell into the hole of light, the three members of Team Fang went wide-eyed. He- He taunted them as he was falling in! This was all a giant trick!

"Wait a minute, they wanted us to throw them in?!" Sneasel cried.

"Lycanroc, wasn't this supposed to be a bad thing for them?" Jangmo-o asked.

"Grr! We've been had!" Lycanroc snarled as he motioned for the two to follow. "Come on, we'll follow them through, and-!"

The Rock-Type felt a woosh of air and looked back just in time to see the portal abruptly collapse and fade out into a blip. For a long moment, Team Fang stared and blinked at the vacant air where the portal had been just seconds ago, before Sneasel brushed his ear feather uneasily at the whole incident.

"… Well, even if they wanted to go through, glad they went first," Sneasel murmured.

"Yeah, I doubt we'll be seeing them again anytime soon," Jangmo-o said.

"Hrmph, good enough, I guess," Lycanroc spat. "Though I wonder… where exactly did they end up?"


After being thrown through the Ultra Wormhole, the next thing that Nida, Pleo, Guardia, and Elty sensed was the feeling of hard cobbles underneath their bodies. The four picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, grumbling about their rough sendoff by Team Fang.

"Ow! Would it have killed those jerks to just let us walk through the portal?" Nida hissed.

"Well… at least we're home… right?" Pleo asked. He craned his head up, where much to his surprise, he noticed that they had landed in a cluttered alleyway with buildings that had five or six floors, nothing at all like those in Bluewhorl… or anywhere else they'd been for that matter.

"Eh? Aren't these buildings a little tall for a normal hut-dweller colony, though?" Guardia mulled. "You never said Bluewhorl was big…"

"Then… Where are we now?" Pleo wondered.

"That way!"

The four blanched as they heard the sounds of shouts and rushing footfalls, prompting them to make their way down the alley and turn left. There, they watched just in time to see a Decidueye Araquanid, and Herdier in Indigo scarves rush by on an intersecting street, leaving the group to freeze… only to exhale after the group of guards slipped past them oblivious to their presence.

"Looks like we're Imperial territory," Elty sighed. "Though for now at least, they're not looking for us...

"They seemed like they were in a hurry, though," Nida murmured. "Is something going on-?"

"Ack! Look out!" Pleo cried.

The young Lugia abruptly shoved his teammates aside as the noise of crackling electricity and shouts rang out. Team Traveller flinched, expecting some sort of attack to come their way. They cracked their eyes open, only to see a running blur from the corner of their vision.

"Wait. A baby Lugia?" a yipping voice cried out. "Never mind. Just keep running, Silvally!"

The group turned and watched as a hulking, black-furred and white-feathered creature with talons charged past them. The team stared at the strange being, seeing it had a birdlike head and front legs with a fin-like tail… and a Riolu and white Vulpix riding its back, leaving Guardia to gape slack-jawed and rub her eyes from disbelief.

"What the-?"

"Sorry, we're in a bit of a hurry, here!" the snowy Vulpix yelped.

The four looked dumbfounded as the peculiar party leapt headlong into the Ultra Wormhole, prompting it to abruptly collapse and leave behind the dingy, shaded contours of the alleyway. For a long, quiet moment, Team Traveller's members simply stared ahead, with stunned incredulity at the abruptly disappeared strangers.

"What… just happened?" Nida stuttered.

"They went that way!" a crackling voice buzzed. "After them!"

Nida and her companions froze and hastily ducked behind a small pile of disused crates as a Magnezone followed by a Malamar and Heracross in indigo scarves slipped into the alleyway. The Electric-Type bobbed and scanned his surroundings, spotting a set of tracks that carried on ahead of him… before abruptly vanishing. The Magnezone fumed, before throwing a bolt of electricity at a nearby wall in frustration, whirling back to his underlings with an annoyed hiss.

"Fan out down that alleyway!" he barked. "Those three couldn't have gotten far and I want them paralyzed and in a cell!"

"Yes, Admiral Coil!" the Malamar answered back.

The three Pokémon made their way down, leaving Team Traveller to wait until the coast was clear, and uneasily slip out, glancing about their surroundings with sighs of relief.

"Back to the norm, I see," Elty muttered. "Come on, let's get going."

Team Traveller turned and darted down the alley, hurrying along as the sound of shouts from searching guards behind them rang out. All the while, a peculiar thought kept pestering Pleo about the three strangers in the alleyway.

"Who were those Pokémon? And where did they go?"
Chapter 55: Fish Out of Water

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie

The hours after Team Traveller's defeat at Sormus went by in a darkened, unconscious blur, bereft of even the light of dreams. When Pleo finally stirred, he awoke to a dim glow shining through his heavy eyelids, the sight of rafters above evidencing that he'd been brought into some manner of dark room. He stirred against a hard surface, gritting his beak as a renewed pain wracked his whole body out to the tip of his wings.


The Lugia sat up with a start, still bleary-eyed from his slumber, as he realized that his aches had come about because of that battle that they'd lost earlier. So... just where had he and his friends wound up this time?


Pleo's vision began to clear, and he noticed in the dim light that he had found himself sprawled out on a wooden floor that rocked and creaked slightly… much like the one back on Lyn's ship. The Lugia looked ahead uneasily, and to his alarm, noticed a wall of metal bars ahead of him. Pleo tried to stand at once, only to find that his legs and wings had each been bound together with rope. Worse still, his wingtips abruptly ended at a sudden edge consistent with them having been cut while asleep. The Protector craned his head around the room frantically, a quick glance revealing his friends, still unconscious, and bound up in a similar fashion.

"A-Ah!" the Lugia squawked. "Nida, Elty, Guardia! Wake up!"

The young seabird thrashed against his bindings, craning his neck out and nudging at his Nidoran teammate. The nudging and ruckus drew stirs from the other two Pokémon, who tiredly shifted their bodies.

"Nrgh… no tan fuerte," Nida muttered.

"Gah…" Guardia groaned. "Where's my bone?"

"Couldn't this wait for just a min-" Elty began, only to be cut off by a gruff snort from ahead.

"Oh, so now you get up."

The three's eyes shot open at the sound of a horse's snorts, as one by one they began to notice Pleo's findings. Given their surroundings, they were below deck on a ship, in a brig given the amount of expense that had been sunk into fortifying the metal bars. The group looked ahead towards the source of the voice, where they saw a Ponyta, a Cranidos, and a Sandslash peering at them from the other side of the cell wall.

"For a while, I thought you were going to be out all the way until Tidemill!" Berecien exclaimed.

"What's Tidemill and why are you taking us there?" Nida demanded.

An incredulous look splashed over the Ponyta and his cohorts' faces, the three staring blankly at the young Poison-Type. The Sandslash of the group shook his head before giving a dismissive scoff at Nida's question.

"You're joking, right?" Niilo huffed, crossing his arms. "Even Pokémon that live under rocks know what Tidemill City is!"

"Well, I've been living under a rock until recently and I don't have the foggiest clue," Guardia snapped. "So start talking."

The three Imperials shifted back with stunned looks, staring at their captives as if they'd suddenly grown second heads. Cabot shook his head in surprise, the Cranidos finally spluttering out a coherent, if still disbelieving response.

"It's the Imperial Capital!" Cabot cried. "You and your friend are being brought there because he's the 'mon that can finally reunite the Empire."

The Cranidos' words distracted Pleo from an attempt at nudging an itchy patch of feathers with his beak, prompting him to crane his head up from his preening and blink confusedly.

"Reunite?" Pleo murmured. "You mean like helping them make up after a fight?"

The Lugia's question drew frowning glances from their three captors. Clearly this lot had been living under a bigger rock than they'd all thought.

"He's going to need a bit more debriefing than I expected," Berecien sighed.

"Oi, I don't know what you're trying to pull, Ponyta," Elty growled. "But the only reuniting that's happening once I get out of here is my teeth with your butt."

Berecien briefly flicked his ears in flustered confusion, only for it to sink in that the Growlithe had threatened him. Eager to snuff the lippy mutt's enthusiasm, the Ponyta snorted, glaring back through the bars.

"Keep talking like that, and I'll reunite my hooves with your face right here and now-!"


The source of the noise was none other than the scowling form of their Clawitzer captain. She came hopping down the hall towards them, glaring furiously at her subordinates. After a moment of startled surprise at Nagant's abrupt appearance, the three Imperial underlings hastily composed themselves to more properly greet their captain.

"Ah! Captain!" Niilo exclaimed. "What are you doing down here?"

"Oh, just listening to you all get into childish arguments with the plenniki" Nagant retorted. "So are you going to keep at it, or get out of my way as I check up on things?"

The three Pokémon gulped and backed away, leaving Nagant to hop over to the bars as Pleo looked up, the Protector at once exuding desperation and deep frustration as he fought with his bindings.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Pleo demanded. "If you need help with this 'reuniting' thing, you didn't have to cut my wingtips and tie us up like this!"

"It's not as simple as you think, Protector. There will be plenty of time to explain the matter when you're in safe harbors," Nagant harrumphed. "Until then, just sit tight, and don't struggle too much against the ropes. They scrape."

"Whatever you think you're gonna have us do, you can forget it!" Guardia spat. "We're not working with you, and there's no way you can make us!"

Nagant appeared completely unmoved by the Cubone's protests, her only immediate response being an idle twitching of her barbels and a glowering scowl.

"… Good luck with that," the Clawitzer scoffed. "Get some rest whenever you decide to come to your senses, it'll still be a while before we're in port."

Nagant rapped against the cell's bars with her big claw, prompting Berecien and the others to draw up to it and resume their guarding. The elderly shrimp hopped off, Guardia struggling against her bindings shouting after her all the while.

"Oi, you can't just ignore us!" the Cubone shouted. "We've gotten through worse spots in the past, and you won't get the better of us now! We're getting out of here!"

"Well, you're finally off the ship. Was this what you were expecting?"

Nagant's words reverberated under a sky whose colors were beginning their transition from the day's blue to a sunburnt orange, the sun drifting visibly further to the west all the while. The Vasilek had pulled into a dock facility amidst a group of slender islands crammed with buildings of all shapes and sizes, the stone docks littered with crates and Pokémon in indigo scarves. It was a night and day difference compared to the open sea, but for Guardia, the most important thing had failed to change as she and her teammates were dragged down a wooden gangplank.

"We're still tied up here!" the Cubone protested.

"I'll take that as a 'no'," Nagant harrumphed. "Good."

Nagant glanced over to a crate with its top popped off a short ways away and gestured towards it to some indigo-scarved Pokemon who stood idly by on the wayside.

"Get the Protector in there and over to the palace," she barked. "The last thing that any of us need is for a public scene while transporting."

A Bewear nodded back and lumbered over, scooping Pleo up in his strong arms and bringing him to the crate. The Lugia squawked and flailed against the bear's grasp as he was shoved into the container, desperately trying to break free.

"No, stop!" Pleo cried. "Let me go! Let me-!"

Pleo heard a pop and felt an object strike his head. A mist enveloped him, making him cough as the substance brushed against his throat and nostrils.


The Lugia weakly flapped a wing in front of him, trying to clear the air of the sedating haze, but it was already too late. He tottered in a last-ditch effort to remain standing, only to feel his eyes droop and slump against the box, sleeping soundly as soon as his head hit the floor.

"Pleo!" Nida cried.

"Come on, get up!" Elty pleaded. His Cubone teammate trained her ire towards the yajū in indigo scarves, struggling against her bonds and glaring with all her might.

"Let him go!"

The Bewear hastily slid a cover over the crate, and put it on a cart, and called out to the waiting Aurorus ahead. The Ice-Type carried along, tugging the cart off away from the docks as Team Traveller's members protested and pled with their captors to stop.

"Stop!" Nida cried. "You don't know what you're doing-!"

Nagant glared at the Nidoran as a small group of Pokémon in indigo scarves started approaching the uncooperative youngsters. As the underlings approached, the Clawitzer held up a claw and motioned for a stop.

"… I'll handle them myself," she muttered, drawing nervous gulps from her trio of captives.

"H-Handle us?" Elty stammered.

Nagant began to hop over, her large claw leveled square at the remaining members of Team Traveller. Fearing the worst, a wave of panic sank into the three Pokémon, prompting them to frantically bite and thrash at their bindings. Nida and Guardia's blood ran cold as they heard Elty yelp, the dog being lifted by his bindings by the Clawitzer.


The ropes in between Nagant's claws gave way, sending the Growlithe flopping down, panting and wide-eyed amid a mass of severed cords. The Water-Type made her way over and repeated the same process with Nida and Guardia, leaving the three to uneasily rise to their feet and huddle together. The youngsters rubbed at their sore and chafed limbs, the lot puzzledly eyeing their captor, wondering to themselves what she hoped to accomplish by untying them.

"You're free to leave," Nagant said. "The Empire doesn't have anything against a bunch of lost deti like you."

"Eh?!" Guardia exclaimed. "You can't just dump us out in the middle of nowhere like this!"

"You're right," the shrimp replied. "Blythe!"

Nagant's call was answered by a Pidgeotto flying over, unceremoniously dumping Guardia's club and a tattered bag with Pleo's King's Rock at its mouth onto the cobbles in front of Team Traveller. The Pidgeotto glared a bit at Elty, before flying off with a harrumph, leaving the three behind with his superior as she clicked her claws impatiently.

"Now hurry up and get out of here before I have you arrested for trespassing," Nagant growled. "This is a naval facility, not a beach."

"B-But you took Pleo from us!" Nida shouted. "How can you just turn around and tell us to get lost like this!"

The shrimp stared back in an unmoved silence, and after a little while Nagant motioned with her little claw and carefully began to speak up.

"You're from Tromba, aren't you, Nidoran?" the Water-Type asked. "You of all people should know what a scourge the Company has been. That Protector's help is the key to finally putting an end to them and their perfidy."

"That's what you call kicking us to the pier like this?!" Elty snapped.

"… You'll understand why this had to happen someday," Nagant grunted. "In the interim, take advantage of the slack you've been given and go home."

"Aren't you going to at least offer to let us see Pleo first?" Nida insisted. "We're his friends and he's all alone here."

Nagant started to respond, only to pause after hearing movement. She shifted her gaze and spotted Berecien, Cabot, and Niilo watching. The three underlings traded stares with their superior for a moment, the uneasy pause spurring Nagant to turn her attention back to her audience.

"I'm sure that you two will meet again someday," the Clawitzer answered. "Perhaps sooner than you think."

The Water-Type pivoted on her tail, turning to Cabot and his companions. Nagant's gaze quickly settled on the Ponyta of the group, followed by a sharp chittering order.


The Ponyta paused and looked up at the sound of his captain's voice. The Fire-Type pawed at the ground uneasily, giving a puzzled flick of his ears at the Clawitzer.

"Hrm?" the Fire-Type asked.

"I want you to-"

Nagant trailed off as she noticed Elty hunched down against the ground growling at Berecien, his eyes locked into a fierce glare. The Ponyta's demeanor similarly had taken a belligerent turn, as the fiery horse pawed at the ground and snorted challengingly back at his tubby interloper.

"… Follow after the cart with Niilo and Cabot," she hastily finished. "I'll have someone else show these whelps out."

"Hrmph," Berecien answered. "On it."

The Ponyta and his Cranidos and Sandslash companions turned to follow after the Aurorus' cart, their presence being swiftly replaced by an irritated-looking Lickitung and Parasect who sidled up to flank Team Traveller's remaining members.

"If you have some time before looking for a transport home, I'd encourage you to enjoy the sights here in the city," Nagant offered. "Most visitors don't have nearly as much freedom as you to look around."

"Alright, tourists," the Lickitung barked. "Time to get going."

The two guards brusquely shoved Team Traveller along, marching them past crates and shabby warehouses to a stone gate facing a collection of ramshackle shacks and multileveled buildings. As the three crossed the boundary, they were shoved past the gate with a yelp and tumbled onto the ground. The youngsters uneasily propped themselves up, turning back to see the passage to the naval docks blocked off by the glaring Parasect and Lickitung.

"And don't get any ideas about trying to break back in!" the Parasect hissed.

The pair slammed the gates shut, leaving Team Traveller to stare ahead blankly at the strong doors ahead as the enormity of their current situation sank in. They were now strangers on an island they barely knew anything about… their friend currently being brought to gods-knew-where right now.

"… What do we do now?" Guardia murmured.

Nida said nothing in reply at first, failing to find words or even ideas that seemed adequate to start tackling their current mess. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't think of any way that the three of them could get Pleo back. On one side was a whole Empire with ships and forts and legions of Pokémon... On theirs, a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone, with precious little else beyond their tattered and half-emptied bag to work with...

"Ni… Ni idea."

As Team Traveller despaired outside the naval docks, at the other end of the city, the form of a brigantine with white sails with blue sun designs pulled up against the docks. At its railing was its Samurott captain, clenching a seamitar in his paw as he scowled out at the sea of shacks and buildings piled onto canal-lined strips of land further inland. Had he only had his Argent Aviso, his chase would've ended hours ago just offshore of Sormus. Unfortunately, along with his lower rank, the hull of Ellsberg's Nektar Weide had been built for lower speeds, which quickly frustrated any attempts at keeping pace with the Imperial frigate. His crew had picked up on his unsettled demeanor, and murmured among themselves as Lyn turned back to face them with an exasperated grunt.

"Listen up everyone. This is it, the bird is here," Lyn barked. "But this isn't some romp through some hick island like last time. We're in Tidemill City, the biggest city on this side of Anyilla and the Pyroar's den of the Empire. As such, we're going to need eyes on the ground before we can even think of making a move here."

He looked around for a suitable Pokémon to entrust with the task. His instinct was to handle the matter himself, but there was no telling whether or not the Clawitzer had been informed by a late-arriving escort of the disturbances he'd caused in Copperband. So then, it made sense to pick out someone who could be trusted to be reasonably competent and maneuver easily through the canals and tight streets of Tidemill's sprawl. Someone like...

"Ellsberg, you have a mind for administrivia, and cities have no shortage of that," the Samurott said, gesturing with a seamitar. "I want you out there to scout what's waiting for us."

"Wh-What?!" Ellsberg exclaimed. "Why on earth would you need me for that?!"

"Because we're in the Empire's capital, Ellsberg," the Water-Type snapped. "This mission is important and I need someone I know I can trust, and your rank makes you better for it than a random grunt."


"Chop chop Elmer," a Weavile's voice sneered. "Time for you to get to work."

Lyn watched and narrowed his eyes as Ketu slid off a barrel and grinned smugly at the startled Mothim. Now was not the time for this sort of petty bickering. Perhaps it was time Ketu was reminded of that.

"And you are accompanying him," the Samurott added.

The Weavile paused and blinked at his captain's words, taken aback by the sudden demand.

"I what...?"

"You've clearly been running out of meaningful tasks lately, so I think that this is just what you need to put your skills to use," Lyn insisted. "Besides, Ellsberg will need backup if he gets into a tight pinch."

Ketu frowned back sourly at the Samurott. Scouting with Ellsberg of all Pokémon was right up there with cleaning the ship's heads on things he'd rather take a beating over than do. Even so, he couldn't afford to blow his cover over something like this... so for now at least, it made most sense to play along.

"Ugh, fine," the Weavile groaned. "Come on Elmer, we're going!"

Ketu shook his head and clambered down the gangplank, his assigned Mothim partner fluttering after him. The two reached the end of the docks where they sized up their surroundings, seeing that the city district they'd entered had been built on strips of land separated by canals. The buildings were a crowded collection of wooden shacks and stone buildings with clay tiles, most having three or four floors with some towering above with twice as many.

Much as things were in Canalhouse, the ground level was the life of the district, with Pokémon swimming through the canals and passing crowded ground-level shopfronts hawking trinkets and snacks to Pokémon of innumerable shapes and sizes. Along the way, a few of the more characteristic places of the settlement stood out. There was a building with a Greninja head over the entrance with barred courtyard windows crowded with gawking sailors. A cursory glance revealing the place to be a dojo built around a sea-filled courtyard with a wooden battlefield built on it, the sounds of a Horsea and Venonat sparring with each other ringing out from within.

A little further on, the pair passed a building with a Beartic being fawned over by a large crowd of admirers, the large signboards behind the Beartic revealing him to be the main star of a overwrought play depicting action and romance on the high seas. The pair's course eventually took them past a blocky stone building emblazoned with the Merchantry's red-and-gold logo, with a suspiciously large amount of Kecleon milling about. Ellsberg's patience started to wear thin, grumbling to himself about why he hadn't insisted to Administrator Elilan that he'd work alone…

"Ugh," the Mothim complained. "Of all the 'mons to be stuck with as a partner, it just had to be you."

Ketu turned back to face the Bug-Type, giving an unamused glare all the while. After everything the little interloper has put him through, he was complaining about being stuck together?

"Trust me, I hate this way more than you do," Ketu growled. "Let's just hurry up and get to the district wall."


"Tch... are you this out of it, Buzzy?" the Weavile scoffed. "Any reasonably sized settlement has a visitor's district to keep out the riff-raff, like Andaku in-"

"I know that!" Ellsberg fumed. "But why are we going there?"

The pair carried on down a lane which led to a dead end cut off by a solid stone wall. The blocks were weathered, with posters and scrawls splashed over their lower portions. Noticing the top seemed unguarded, Ketu quickly scanned his surroundings before bracing his feet against the ground.

"To hop it, obviously."

The Weavile jumped up and planted his feet against the wall, springing to and fro between the wall and the side of a nearby building until he reached the wall's ledge. Ellsberg buzzed startledly, flying up just as the Dark-Type had reached the top.

"What are you doing?!" the Mothim cried. "Get down before someone sees you!"

Ketu rolled his eyes at the Mothim's protests and vaulted himself over, much to Ellsberg's alarm. The Bug-Type waved frantically and called after the Weavile, who gave an exasperated growl from the other side.

"So we can stay stuck in the one district we know doesn't have a frigate at the docks?" Ketu countered.

The Mothim paused, flitting in place a moment as he stared back blankly. This all felt like such a risky idea, though when Ketu put it that way, it was hard to really argue his point. The Weavile evidently had picked up on his conclusions, giving an impatient shake of his head.

"So are you just going to sit there and flap around, or are you coming?" the Dark-Type asked.

"Alright, alright!" Ellsberg replied. "Just be careful..."

Ketu waited, watching as his partner fluttered over the wall and joined him in the alleyway. The pair gave a quick glance around their surroundings, before weighing it safe to press on, continuing their progress deeper into Tidemill's sprawl in search for leads for the frigate and the Protector within.

Unbeknownst to the Pokémon on the Nektar Weide, in the harbor directly adjacent, the Siglo Swellow had similarly moored against the docks. The crew was hard at work finishing the last steps of tying the ship down and folding up the sails when Crom and his companions made their way down the gangplank. All the while, the young Druddigon stared in awe at the sea of buildings all around him, peering out onto the kaleidoscope of shops, homes, and monuments and the Pokémon who shuffled to and from them.

"It's so… big," he murmured.

"Heh heh, well that's Tidemill City for you," Pladur chuckled. "I've heard that there's actually bigger cities out there in the Cradle, but this is about as big as you'll get around here."

"You mean to say now it's the biggest," Ander corrected. "It certainly wasn't in my grandfather's day."

"It wasn't?" Crom asked. "But then what was it? And what happened to it?"

Pladur clicked his tongue, mulling over the best way to present his answer to his son. Faltering somewhat, he threw an uncertain glance to Kiran, who fluffed out his feathers uncomfortably and stepped forward to answer.

"It was Middleguard City out on Conntow," Kiran explained. "When the great Great Calamity happened, Middleguard was swept up with the rest of the island."

The Druddigon gaped out at the surrounding city, wondering what Middleguard must have been like to have been even larger... and what could have laid such a place low. He heard about the great island of Conntow and how it was destroyed when he was younger, but he had never given it much thought. No one seemed to be able to agree on what had caused the Great Calamity, simply that it had come in the blink of an eye and left naught behind on Conntow but ruins and dead stone. The dragon sank deep in thought only for a loud buzz from behind to snap him back to attention.

"Hoy! Still standing around?" Beatrix called out. "You didn't forget what you all were supposed to do already, did you?"

"Nope," Dimitri said, an air of confidence in his voice. "We're finding that frigate, and then trying to pick up Pleo's tracks from there."

"Yeah, we'll get moving now," Pladur sheepishly answered. "Come on, let's move!"

Crom and his companions paced down the dock, peering around at the sea of masts and sails around them. With so many ships around them… where would they even start looking for the frigate from Sormus?

"So… I take it we should start by looking around the docks?" Crom asked.

"I don't think so," Kiran countered with a shake of his head, gesturing with a wingtip to the harbor before them. "Take a look at their sails."

The five turned and looked around the ships in the harbor. All around the docks, there was not a single ship with the indigo sails of the frigate that they spotted on the route out from Sormus.

"Didn't we see the frigate leave port with indigo sails?" the Swellow asked. "I don't see anything like that here."

"Then we'll just have to check the docks in another part of Tidemill, then," Ander sighed.

"Uhm… there might be a problem with that," Pladur murmured, pulling a claw up to his mouth. Sensing his father's unease, Crom blinked and tilted his head at the Fraxure. What would be the problem just going to other parts of the city?

"Huh?" Crom asked. "Why?"

"Well, in bigger ports, all Pokémon have to pass through a visitor's district," the Fraxure explained. "We were able to get past it in Kenobi since we were flying Company colors… but we don't have anything like that here."

"But there has to be some way that Pokémon can get further in," Kiran said. "If everything with the outside world had to be done here, wouldn't this district be much bigger?"

The group paused and mulled at the Swellow's words. From the monuments and towers in the distance, the city itself definitely did go on a ways… Perhaps it would be big enough that they could just sneak in? Though then again, sneaking in would be a major risk… and would they really be prepared to handle themselves if anything went wrong? To top it off, starting off on the wrong foot with the locals was surely a hurdle they didn't need while they were still looking for Team Traveller... Maybe it was best to see what they already knew about the place first.

"Hrm… haven't you been here before, Pladur?" Ander insisted. "Is there anything of the sort we can do?"

"Well, when I was here last time, I was told that you needed a good reason and proof of it to get through," the Fraxure said. "I suppose it's just a matter of telling the guards something that sounds convincing enough for us to go in."

"Oh, es facíl!" Kiran chirped, gesturing at a tall, stony wall in the distance with a waiting Venomoth idling before it. "I've already got just the reason to get us past here!"

Crom blinked incredulously at his mentor's insistence. It did seem a little over-easy, but Kiran was experienced at crawling Mystery Dungeons, so perhaps it wasn't unexpected this would be his first stint in port? The dragon and his companions shrugged before following their teammate along, coming to a stop at the barrier's gate where Kiran batted out a wing in a friendly wave.

"Excuse me, ma'am," the Swellow said. "We're visiting sailors who've run into a touch of ship trouble and needed to consult a specialist. Could you let us through to find one to come and look at our ship?"

The Flying-Type smiled and waited expectantly, only to be met by the Venomoth with a frown and firm shake of her head.

"No, all ship repairs have to be done at the site of berthing, or at a designated drydock," the guard answered. "Nobody gets past this barrier without the proper clearance."

The five sailors stared blankly as the Venomoth continued fluttering in place, giving an unamused stare at the strangers. The group waited awkwardly, and after realizing that the moth wasn't going to let them through, turned and carried down the street grudgingly. When he was confident they were out of earshot, Kiran gave a bothered ruffle of his feathers. Getting a ship specialist ought to have been a surefire excuse! So what were they supposed to do?

"... This is going to be harder than I thought," Kiran murmured, before feeling a tug at his wing by his Druddigon student.

"Let's... take some time to think this one through."

Out in the waters north of Giotto, the Mistral Marauder continued on its course southwest, proudly flying its pilfered white sails. As the crew guided the ship along with the wind and waves, some idle deckhands leaned out to peer ahead at the sight of great plumes of white smoke and tall buildings stretching over the horizon. Even someone who'd never been to Tidemill personally would recognize it by those landmarks, so the more experienced sailors among them knew with certainty that the schooner they'd followed all this time would be docking soon. As the curious deckhands peered out at the city, Rodion swam his way to the side of the ship, clambering back onto the Mistral Marauder from a rope ladder. Upon reaching the ship's deck, the Floatzel shook himself dry and began drifting to and from crewmembers to inspect their work.

"Remember, we get the bird first, and then we can worry about loot," Rodion barked. "This is a big city and we can't go picking fights right off the bat!"

A little off to the side, a small clique consisting of a Yanmega, a Manetric, and a Marowak loitered against the railing, watching the Floatzel first mate going around giving out orders. After being suitably confident that the Water-Type could neither see nor hear him, Valatos gave an annoyed scowl at the yapping mustelid and buzzed irkedly.

"Pah!" Valatos hissed. "Just how new does he think we all are?"

"Wait, wait," a Hoppip's voice insisted. "But what if the bird is with the loot?"

Valatos and Nori blinked and looked ahead to see Wilhelm obliviously flitting in front of Rodion, the Floatzel burying his head in a paw at the Grass-Type's inane questioning. The pair traded askew glances with one another, with crewmates like that...

"I dunno," Nori murmured. "That sounded pretty new to me, Valatos."

The Yanmega frowned and turned his head out back towards land. They were passing a defensive wall made of stone now, the tops manned by stern-looking Pokémon. By chance, he spotted a large cauldron with a pair of bellows installed by them, a Magmar lazing next to it and watching ships go by. It was most likely a batch of seafire, the tool of choice for cities such as Tidemill to burn up unwanted vessels that tried to slip past its watch. The dragonfly watched as the sprawl and canals of Tidemill came into view, the sea of shacks flecked with the city's namesake tide mills and windmills further in the distance.

"Mrph, I can handle myself just fine," Valatossnorted. "I've dealt with the bustle and flow of a big city."

"Egh… it's too crowded for my taste," Nori murmured. "Needs more quiet places. But at least we'd have a leg up, right? Isn't this Alvise's old colony?"

The Marowak turned towards his Manectric partner, only to see that the Alvise's fur was standing even more on end than usual, with his claws dug into the deck's wood, and his teeth locked into a grimace. Hardly the sort of reaction he had expected.

"Uh… Alvise? What's with that look?" the Ground-Type asked. "I'd have thought you'd-"

"We agreed we weren't going back anywhere near here, you lunkhead!" Alvise snapped.

"Whuh? You've got family here!" Nori insisted. "It's not like you've got any enemies here, right?"

The Marowak was met with a withering glare from his teammates. Er... now that he thought about it, Alvise did go out of his way to mark up Giotto on the maps they got as a place to be avoided. And he did vaguely remember the wolf mentioning something about his circumstances for leaving being less-than-ideal in the past...

"… Oh right."

"Oi! If you're on the docking teams, get a move on and get us tied down!" a rumbling voice bellowed. "Everyone else can either show up to the stern or kiss their share of the next raid goodbye!"

Each member of the crew dutifully shuffled toward the waiting Aggron in a flood of motion, joined shortly thereafter by Valatos and his companions, who lingered toward the back of the amassed crowd.

"Eh? Already?" a Wimpod murmured.

"Yeah, why's he want a meeting now?" a Miltank scoffed. "What's there even to do?"

The ship was quieted abruptly as a hard stomp rattled the deck and everyone on it. At the epicenter of the quake stood Hess, leering at his silenced subordinates. After waiting a moment like a stern schoolteacher to be sure the silence would continue, he gave an indignant snort at the interruption and cleared his throat to address his crew once more.

"Alright, you know the drill," the Aggron barked. "We're at a new island, so that means we're picking a scout to tip us off."

"Eh?! But that's a huge city!" a Staravia exclaimed. "How would any of us go undetected in that?!"

"It's a risk we'll have to take, like with everything else. So… any volunteers?"

Chirp chirp chirp

Hess blinked and hardened his face into an increasingly sour scowl as his request was answered only by the sound of a Kricketot chirping. The Steel-Type glared over at the source of the noise, where 'Chirpy' was obliviously chittering away to himself.

"Psst, Chirpy, he's asking for volunteers…" a Pawniard whispered.

The Bug-Type's antennae froze to motionlessness as he hastily silenced himself, leaving Hess to rest his scowling face in one palm, seething. Couldn't his crew ever show a little initiative on their own?

"Fine," Hess growled. "If no one volunteers, I'll just have to pick someone."

The Aggron began to pace around, eyeing his underlings closely (with the visible exception of Nori) as he passed them. Gulps and nervous glances filtered around as the Steel-Type would linger over one pirate before moving on to the next. Hess' course took him to Kichiro where he paused noticeably and glared down, the Ledian becoming increasingly unnerved at his superior's apparent choice.

"I pick…" Hess began, only to be interrupted by a gulping buzz.

"Uh, Captain," Kichiro said. "Maybe we could talk this ov-"

"The Marowak," Hess finished. "He's the scout for this island."

Kichiro raised his voice in reflexive protest, only to trail off as he noticed Nori going wide-eyed by the railing. Was he hearing things right? Hess didn't want him to be the scout?

"Wait, really?" the Ledian asked. "Well, I can't really argue with-"

"Na- Nani itterunda?! You walked away from me!" Nori cried. "Why on earth would you pick me as the scout?!"

Hess turned to face the indignant Marowak, and after noticing that he seemed a bit riled up, the Steel-Type started to stammer. He hastily tried to come up with an excuse that would sound suitably convincing, lest his crew pick up on his obvious unease.

"Because… uh…" Hess began, fumbling for his words. "You're strong headed, and… imposing. Yeah, let's go with that. Anyhow, enjoy your scouting!"

"But I'm not a flier and I can't run that fast!" the Marowak protested. "How could I do anything for scouting that Valatos couldn't? He's the fastest flier on your crew!"

"Hey, kop dicht, bonehead! And I wouldn't be that great of a scout since I'm not that familiar with this place!" the Yanmega hissed. "At least Alvise knows his way around here!"

Sparks began to dance on the Manectric's pelt and his muzzle opened to show bared, gritted fangs. Valatos knew he had problems here in Giotto and how much he tried to avoid coming back, and here he was forcing him into harm's way to save his own hide?!

"You miserable bao!" Alvise snapped. "So now you're going to throw me under the ship to dodge scouting!? Nori got picked, so let him go!"

The conversation between the three quickly devolved into a heated whirlwind of arguments and conflicting accusations, the group adopting increasingly aggressive stances. From the side, Hess threw a claw over his face, letting out an aggravated sigh at how much of a headache he could've saved if only he'd just stuck Kichiro back on deck-swabbing duty back in Kenobi.

"… I should've waited until we were back in Orleigh to look for more deck claws," he grumbled.

Hess lifted his foot and brought it down onto the deck, jolting the ship and making it lurch underfoot. Nori and Alvise struggled to keep their balance as Valatos flitted up instinctively, the three's attention turning reluctantly towards the Aggron captain as the deck settled.

"I'll make things easier and settle your little spat," Hess growled. "You're all on scouting duty! Now get moving!"

The three Pokémon grimaced at the Steel-Type's announcement, Alvise in particular flying into a stuttering panic as the Manectric began to whine in protest.

"B-B-But I can't go ashore!" he protested. "Not here!"

"And why not?" Hess growled. Alvise gulped as he watched the towering Aggron glaring down at him, desperately fishing around in his mind for a suitable excuse, until he finally settled on...

"I… er… uh… have a stomachache!" the Electric-Type insisted. "Kinda took it hard from all the Jellicent stings back in port, and- AUGH!"

The Manectric's words were cut off by a hail of sopping rocks, throwing the three clear over the railing and sending them tumbling through the air.. The trio hit the dock with a thud, groaning and shuffling their aching bodies back up, just in time to catch Hess leaning over the railing and shaking his fist in their direction.

"And don't come back until you have a lead!" the Aggron snapped.

The three moaned dazedly from their heap on the docks, pulling themselves up one after the other. Nori got up, dusting his scales off as he glowered up at the passing ship over his shoulder.

"Gah…" the Marowak groaned. "We didn't even get a chance to change our scarves…"

"I think he likes you, Nori," Valatos grumbled.

"Yeah, great going dragging me back here thanks to your mess!" Alvise growled. The Manectric's protests were met by a harrumph from his Marowak partner, the bone lizard slinging his club over his shoulder before giving an impatient glare.

"Well, are we going to just sit here and wait for the guards to cart us off, or are you actually going to help us get around, Alvise?" Nori demanded.

"… Ugh, fine," the Manectric sighed, turning his face towards a dingy alleyway up ahead. "Come on, this way. I know a few places we can lie low before we look around."

The wolf shuffled off, followed by his teammates as they lurked in the shadows of the canal-straddling alleys. All the while Alvise grumbled under his breath, eager to find enough of a lead to return back to the relative safety of the ship.

After their abrupt departure from the naval docks, Nida and the remaining members of Team Traveller wandered the streets in the western neighborhoods of Tidemill. All the while, the three grudgingly came to the conclusion that there was not much that they could do other than to try to scrape together a little money and find a way back to Bluewhorl and hope that Hatteras and the others would be able to help find a solution. During the trek, the surroundings were akin to an alien planet, with towering monumental halls and pillars looming over buildings that would've reached halfway up the bluff to the guild back on Tromba. The streets were as crowded as Bluewhorl's on its the biggest market days, and stretched on as far as the eyes could see, with even the rooftops teeming with activity from Flying-Types who had settled on rented-out eaves with nests built on them. Even the local Kecleon shop was a world away from Calino's shack, the "shop" (if it could be called that) turning out to be a multi-storied stone building draped in red and gold banners that proudly advertised itself as "one of five locations".

Even so, there were also features that this overcrowded space shared with more humble towns. There were still mailboxes in front of buildings, there were still taverns that hawked drinks along with cheap and filling gummis with the same sorts of motley customers. A little further on, the three also discovered that there were also guilds in this place, as a stone building with bands of Pokémon with glinting badges on their scarves indicated. Elty paused at the sight of the guild, observing the crowded message board set out in front and the Steelix head decoration over the main entrance… only to see that his teammates were continuing on away from it.

"Spike ball, that was a guild…" Elty said. "Didn't you say that we needed a job to get back to Tromba?"

The Growlithe waited expectantly for an answer, only to be met with a shake from the Nidoran's head.

"Would there be anything left at this hour?" Nida countered. "With how much the missions for a Normal Rank team would pay, we'd be better off trying to help out a shopkeeper or something for a couple days."

"So then just how are we supposed to find one of those shopkeepers?" Guardia asked.

"Keep your eyes peeled," the Poison-Type answered. "Shops usually put up a sign of some sort saying that they're looking for help."

"And just what would that look like?" Guardia demanded.

Nida paused and blinked at her teammate's question. It… was a sign that would say 'Help Wanted' or something like that? Though then again, Guardia—like Pleo—never did get the hang of reading runes yet… So how was she able to show what one would look like without an example?

"Uh… erm…"

The Nidoran looked around her surroundings where she chanced to notice a small, dingy shop next to an alleyway with some papers hung up on the outside. The Poison-Type squinted at the wall, where the headline of one of the papers caught her notice with big runes that spelled out 'Help Wanted', just as shops back home did when they needed a helping hand for the season.

"Oh, like that one!" Nida exclaimed. "That's exactly one of the signs that we're looking for!"

Elty looked at the store and frowned, sniffing skeptically in its direction. From a glance, it was hard to guess just what the shop sold. The sign outside the entrance carried a bell on it, with runes that were faded to the point of illegibility, and there didn't seem much of anything for wares on the outside.

"… That little abandoned-looking mordownia?" Elty scoffed. "Would they even have a job for us? That listing looks ancient!"

"Only one way to find out…" Nida murmured.

Nida paced over and pulled the notice off the wall, the paper evidently searching for some Pokémon to help transport crates for a few days. Challenging for their size, but it shouldn't be impossible. She shook her head, leading her teammates into the store past its ajar door where she called out into it.

"Hello?" Nida asked. "We're here to talk about your help-?"

The Nidoran trailed off as she noticed that the floor of the store was completely barren. Indeed, were it not for the dusty notice boards hung on the walls and the idling Gothitelle sitting behind a crude counter at the end, one could be forgiven for thinking that Elty was right about the store being abandoned… but what did this place even do?

"Eh?! This poster said you were looking for someone to move crates!" Nida squeaked. "Just how are you supposed to do that here?!"

The Gothitelle looked up with an incredulous blink. After a pause as the degree to which the youngsters before her were fish out of water sank in, the Psychic-Type sighed and shook her head in annoyance.

"You did read the shop sign before coming in, right?" the Gothitelle asked. "This is the Tidemill West Trouble Center. That job listing is for a client of ours."

"Trouble… Center?" Guardia asked.

"Tch, you all really are just fresh off the boat," the Psychic-Type scoffed. "But it's a place where Pokémon can leave all their requests that are outside of the scope of the local guilds. Laundry, construction work, and that crate moving job you've got in your paws."

Nida's eyes lit up at once at the clerk's explanation. This was just the breakthrough that they all needed to solve their money issues!

"That's perfect!" Nida exclaimed. "These are exactly the jobs we need!"

"Whoa there, buster," the Gothitelle insisted. "This isn't a guild where we matchmake you to a job. It's up to our clients to decide whether or not you fit the bill."

"Even so, there's a lot of jobs here…" Guardia said, eyeing the crowded bulletin boards all around the room. "Just how hard could finding one be?"

A few hours later, the sun had slipped over the horizon entirely and the moon had begun climbing into the sky, leaving the streets below to bathe in the light of the stars and the glow of lanterns hung up in the windows of nearby buildings. The door of the Trouble Center opened, as Team Traveller trudged back in tiredly. All this time, they'd gone from shop to shop in the city and had nothing but sore legs and feet to show for it.

"Just how hard could finding one be, huh?" Elty grumbled.

"Grr… don't get started on this, Gardie," Guardia glowered.

"There has to be something here we can do…" Nida murmured.

"Well, what about this circle-stick one over there?" the Cubone offered. "What's it say?"

The Nidoran looked up and followed the end of Guardia's club to a poster with a magnifying glass. The Poison-Type glanced over the listing, poring over its summary only to stop and blink puzzledly.

"… Detective's assistant?" Nida asked.

The rabbit's words drew an unimpressed frown from her Growlithe teammate. If they couldn't land something simple like pushing jobs around, what hope did they have of getting something less straightforward like this?

"Really?" Elty sighed. "That's the job we're pinning our hopes on?"

"Well, what's a detective do?" Guardia pressed.

"Uh… I'm pretty sure that they just look around for things to help the guards with ne'er-do-wells," Nida answered. "Or at least that's what the guards at home said they did."

"That doesn't sound like anything that we can't do," the Cubone insisted. "Where's it say to meet the Pokémon who put this up?"

Elty and Nida looked down towards the bottom of the paper on the board. At once, a curious line of glyphs noting the client's location caught their attention, drawing puzzled blinks from the duo.

"… Backroom?"

"That would be over here."

The three looked up and turned to the side, where a door had been left ajar leading to a room at the back of the Trouble Center. There inside was a waiting Pikachu with a low-slung hat fashioned of brown fabric, giving an expectant gaze at Team Traveller in between nibbles at an Oran Berry. The youngsters blinked at the sight of the waiting rodent... Was this the client?

"Wait, you work out of the Trouble Center?" Guardia asked.

"I am today. The name's Detective Cardino," the Pikachu said. "Normally, I'd insist on getting a colleague from the City Guard or at least someone a bit… older. But I'm kinda in a rush for my current case. Why don't you step into my office, and we'll talk things over a bit?"

Nida, Elty and Guardia exchanged glances, still somewhat incredulous at their client's choice of meeting place. It was hard to complain given how conveniently it worked out for the trio, but an uneasy air lingered nonetheless as they nervously padded into the room and the Pikachu slid the door shut behind them.

… Something about this admittedly felt a little too convenient, but even so it wasn’t wise to turn up opportunities in straits like theirs. Nida studied the Pikachu at the other end of the table carefully. After thinking the matter over briefly, she decided that if nothing else, they should get a feel for just what sort of help this ‘Cardino’ needed.

"So… what exactly do we need for this job you want us to do?" Nida asked.

"Well, sharp senses, obviously," Cardino murmured. "A good paw at simple forensics… You know, basic stuff."

"Forensics?" Guardia murmured.

"You know, finding traces of Pokémon that have been in the area?" he replied. "Tracking?"

Each of the young explorers' eyes lit up at the Pikachu's explanation. Tracking down missing Pokemon? Why, that was practically what they'd been doing in the Mystery Dungeons all this time! Although their success had been mixed before, it would surely be easier without the shifting walls of a Mystery Dungeon conspiring against their progress!

"That's easy!" the three exclaimed.

The Pikachu stammered, taken aback by the enthusiasm of the young Pokémon before him. Either they were much more experienced than they looked, or they had gravely misunderstood the job he asked of them.

"Now- Now hold on here, pal!" Cardino rebutted. "I don't know where you're getting your past experience from, but it's not that straightforward in my line of work!"

"Eh?" Elty asked, raising an ear. "But it sounds like your luck's been just as bad as ours lately."

"Yeah, and you could always apprentice us in the lore that you know," Guardia added.

"And don't you only need temporary assistants in the first place?" Nida insisted. "It can't hurt, can it?"

Cardino paused and frowned, unsatisfied with the meager reassurance the younger Pokémon offered. Despite his skepticism, though, he found himself short on time and hard-pressed for any immediate replacement... and, if their claims were to be believed, they could handle themselves in environments of a rougher sort.

"… Well, alright then," the Pikachu murmured. "But you should probably get to meet the defendants before you agree to this."

"Oh?" Guardia asked. "I suppose it couldn't hurt. Lead the way."

"Well, it's a little late for that, pal," Cardino chuckled, tilting his hat with his paw. "That said, I can at least show you where you'll be meeting with the defendants before you hit the hay. Come along, and we'll meet you there tomorrow."

He hopped down and shoved the door open, bidding the young ones to follow him out. Together, they walked toward the rapidly-darkening city as the sun set behind them.

Unlike smaller settlements such as Bluewhorl Town and Seahive Square, the visitor's district and the other portions of Tidemill were less affected by the rhythms of the night. The day's visitors were replaced by night owls coming out for the evening, continuing on the day's trade and intermixing the beginnings of a vibrant nightlife anchored around taverns and theaters. Although just around the corner, the alley that Valatos and his companions lurked in was a far cry from the hubbub of the main streets: dark, dimly-lit, and seemingly devoid of life. The Marowak in particular seemed to be particularly moody at their circumstances, casting longing glances at the taverns they passed. At the same time, the solitude had done little to take the edge off of his Manectric teammate, who continued nervously darting his eyes around at his surroundings.

"Can we hurry up and get out of here, already?" Alvise whined.

The wolf's complaining drew scowls from his teammates, Valatos giving an irked buzz at his partner's incessant complaining.

"Well, help us find a lead already, you simpering mutt!"

"Yeah!" Nori spat. "We've been wandering these back alleys for hours now!"

"Let's see you come up with something that doesn't get us all caught!" Alvise growled.

"Hrmph!" the Marowak harrumphed. "Maybe I wi- Huh?"

The three stopped and stared as they watched a group consisting of a Fraxure, a Kabutops, a Swellow, and a Scyther approach a checkpoint at the district wall down the street where a Quagsire and Ivysaur in indigo scarves waited. The group carried a crate along and stopped before the pair of guards to chat them up, only for the pair to return their attempted chatter with annoyed scowls. The sailors faltered, before turning and sulkily making their way back up the street, the form of a young Druddigon slipping out from behind them. Valatos, Alvise, and Nori stood stunned for a moment at the party as they passed, any doubts of their identity being thoroughly dashed once they caught sight of their white scarves decked with waterspout patterns.

"Them again?" Alvise whispered. "What are they doing here?!"

Valatos stared blankly at the Manectric, before throwing a tarsus over his face, buzzing in exasperation. After all this time, how could Alvise not know what the brat and his friends would be doing here?

"Alvise, we followed their ship…"

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that out of everyone from their crew we would specifically encounter them!" the wolf countered.

Nori gritted his teeth, his claws pressing into the surface of his club as he gripped his club with crushing force. All the while, his eyes maintained a laser-focused glare on the Druddigon and his companions as they passed by.

"Grr… well, I think it's time we properly welcomed them here," he growled.

The bone lizard stomped ahead and shoved aside a small pile of discarded barrels with a loud crash, drawing slack-jawed stares from his teammates. He was going to attack them right in the middle of a city street?!

"What are you doing, you lunkhead?!" Valatos hissed.

"Giving those punks a lesson from the school of hard knocks!" the Marowak spat.

"No, you stupid dweeb!" Alvise snapped. "You'll get us caught!"

"I'm the dweeb?!" Nori fumed "You're the one who's afraid of his own shadow out here!".

The outburst did little to soothe the unsettled Manectric, who snarled back, sparks beginning to dance on his pelt.

"Why don't you tell that to my face, you stupid lizard!" Alvise growled.

Nori growled back, gritting his teeth and swinging his club out ready for battle.

"Maybe I will!"

"Both of you, shut up!" Valatos shouted. "You're going to get us-"

"Hey you!"

Valatos and his companions felt their blood run cold and looked back out to the street to see a glaring Araquanid and a Herdier in Imperial indigos glaring at them and making their way over. The three turned to flee down the alleyway, only for a woosh to fill the air as a Decidueye swooped down from an eave, and drew a feathery arrow and readied it to fire, bringing the lot to a skidding stop.


They whirled around, searching desperately for an escape, only to see that their left and right were both blocked by the walls of looming apartments. The trio became light-headed and froze out of fear as the guards approached, the Decidueye keeping his arrow drawn all the while as he paced up to Nori…

… and shoved him back with a beat of his wing.

"This is a public street, not a battlefield!" the owl hissed. "Keep your little spats someplace where they won't trash someone's livelihoods!"

"H-Huh?" Valatos gulped.

"Are you deaf?" the Decidueye demanded. "I'm telling you to knock it off here!"

Valatos stared for a moment, incredulous that the guard was choosing to chew him out over getting aggressive over all things. Eager not to let fortune slip through his tarsi, the Yanmega flicked his wings and gave an impatient buzz back.

"Alright, alright, I get it! Nothing we can't settle in private!" Valatos insisted. "Can we go now?"

"… Hrmph, fine," the Decidueye grumbled. "But I'll be watching you."

The owl moved out of the trio's way, prompting them to rush ahead and out onto a busy street. The pirates looked back, watching stunned as the guards followed after them before nonchalantly turning and slipping off into the crowd. They… just let them go? But what would compel them to do that? Unless...

"They- They didn't notice our scarves!" Nori exclaimed. "They must not know about our crew here!"

The Marowak gave a relieved wag of his tail, his enthusiasm failing to rub off on his teammates. Valatos buried his face into one of his front tarsi as he realized just why the guards wouldn't recognize their pattern... the Iron Fleet were a bunch of no names here!

"That's not making this any less humiliating, Nori…"

"Look, can we just get back into the shadows already?" Alvise barked. "This really isn't the place to-"

"Oi, we're seen as nobodies here!" the Yanmega snapped. "And as long as that's the case, we'd best exploit it!"

"Yeah, and that thing going on with your family had to have settled down by now, right?" Nori insisted.

The Marowak's words came as cold comfort to Alvise, the Manectric scanning his surroundings uneasily, and thickening the air with tense, nervous sparks.

"Look, let's just figure out what those twerps are doing and get out of here, okay?" he demanded. "Standing around like this is just asking for trouble."

"Uh… now that you mention it…" Nori murmured. "Where'd they go anyways?"

Nori and Alvise looked around their surroundings, scanning the passing Pokémon for any sign of the party from the Siglo Swellow. By chance, Nori happened to catch a glimpse of a Druddigon's crest and darted forward with his club drawn, only to skid to a stop after seeing the Druddigon was far too large and the scarf had the wrong pattern and color relative to the twerp.

Valatos, growing frustrated with the lack of progress, flitted up onto an overlooking signpost and perched atop it. From his perch, he managed to catch a glimpse of a Kabutops in the crowd, his gaze taking him to the sailors from earlier as they began pacing back towards the sea. Satisfied with his findings, the Yanmega flitted down and buzzed for attention.

"They're headed back for the docks,' he said. "Let's tail 'em and keep an eye on what they're up to. They couldn't have come here unless it somehow related to that overgrown Wingull."

Nori and Alvise looked at each other, before grunting and pushing off. The three carefully following after the tracks of their old foes amid the crowd. Vengeance was a dish that was best served cold, and there'd be plenty of time to work that out after figuring out whatever they were up to on Giotto.

Author's Notes:

- no tan fuerte - Spanish: "keep it down", lit. "don't be loud"
- plenniki (плeнники) - Russian: "prisoners" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
- Ni idea - Spanish: "(I have) No idea"
- es facíl! - Spanish: "it's/that's easy!"
- Nani itterunda?! (何言ってるんだ?!) - Japanese: "What are you saying?! / What are you talking about?!" (Hepburn romanization)
- bao - Venetian: "bug"
- mordownia - Polish: "dive", "dump". lit: "murder-hole"
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Loony Moony
Alright, as promised, here is a Catnip review for the Fledglings, I'll be doing an extra review for Once a Thief too as discussed as well.

So, I've managed to read through the Prologue and Chapters 1-3, and I have to say I'm actually really enjoying reading through Fledglings, even at this early stage.

First of all, the world building. I love the detail that has gone into actually setting up a mythology behind this particular PMD world, with what would have happened to the gods and the humans. Using it from the prespective of a bedtime story is just a classic, really nice way of actually revealing those kind of details. Not revealing too much, but revealing enough that you have a complete basic understanding of it all. As a bonus, it also establishes the current status of the world as well in a nicely packaged way.

Speaking of the world in general, having an ocean themed one is a nice change up from what I've read in the past, with a huge amount of potential in future chapters. I also like how the town is set up, and the take on feral Pokemon alongside them, which again, neatly ties back into the wider mythology of the setting.

That brings me over to the characters. I like the fact that they are all distinct with their own personalities, between Nida's impatience, Crom's carefree attitude and Kirin being upbeat but by the book in a way. And that is before we get to the Lugia... which is handled brilliantly with a realistic outcome to the situation here that earned a few smiles on my end. The dialogue and reactions all come across as pretty realistic and natural to me.

I don't have any real critique on my end, occassionly I can lose track of which character is speaking, or how the town is laid out as a whole, but that is often corrected with a second glance through so it might simply be a me thing rather than anything else. The use of different languages is a nice touch too.

All in all, I'll be reading more of this. I'm interested to see where this story goes next!

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
So, I've managed to read through the Prologue and Chapters 1-3, and I have to say I'm actually really enjoying reading through Fledglings, even at this early stage.

First of all, the world building. I love the detail that has gone into actually setting up a mythology behind this particular PMD world, with what would have happened to the gods and the humans. Using it from the prespective of a bedtime story is just a classic, really nice way of actually revealing those kind of details. Not revealing too much, but revealing enough that you have a complete basic understanding of it all. As a bonus, it also establishes the current status of the world as well in a nicely packaged way.

Well, we’re glad to hear that you’re having a good time with the worldbuilding, since it’s one of those things that this fic has made a reputation for itself for. @Virgil134 and I poured a lot of love into building the setting of the Cradle, and we’d like to think that it shows off our efforts quite well.

Speaking of the world in general, having an ocean themed one is a nice change up from what I've read in the past, with a huge amount of potential in future chapters. I also like how the town is set up, and the take on feral Pokemon alongside them, which again, neatly ties back into the wider mythology of the setting.

Yeah, I’ll admit that part of the reason why the Cradle and its internal dynamics are the way that they are was because back in 2015, there were very, very few prominent PMD stories that went in a direction that wasn’t heavily influenced by Silver Resistance. “Edgy Saturday Morning Cartoon vibes”, “oceanpunk”, and “Legendary party member” PMDs weren’t exactly common among PMD fics back in the day, and they honestly still aren’t terribly common even 7 years later. Let alone in a combined package.

Now, not to knock SR or the folks that were influenced by him, but your comment about the story being a nice change from stuff you read in the past makes me feel vindicated for taking the direction that we did.

That brings me over to the characters. I like the fact that they are all distinct with their own personalities, between Nida's impatience, Crom's carefree attitude and Kirin being upbeat but by the book in a way. And that is before we get to the Lugia... which is handled brilliantly with a realistic outcome to the situation here that earned a few smiles on my end. The dialogue and reactions all come across as pretty realistic and natural to me.

I’m glad to hear that you’re liking them. Since characterization is the other signature strong suit of Fledglings, and I’d like to think that Virgil and I are good at coming up with characters that even if they can get a bit goofy, feel very much “alive” and grounded in the way that they operate.

I don't have any real critique on my end, occassionly I can lose track of which character is speaking, or how the town is laid out as a whole, but that is often corrected with a second glance through so it might simply be a me thing rather than anything else. The use of different languages is a nice touch too.

Well, we’re glad that the first impression was so positive on you, though if you do see something that feels like an issue to you. By all means, point it out.

As for the languages… yeah, it’s kinda my headcanon that Pokémon have different languages among themselves, and it reflected in the initial worldbuilding of this setting way, way back when. It also helps as a handy off-the-shelf tool for making different chunks of the Cradle feel different from one another, so you’ll get to see those be put to good use as you go along.

All in all, I'll be reading more of this. I'm interested to see where this story goes next!

And we’ll be looking forward to hearing back more from you! It was a blast reading your review, and we’re glad to hear that you had a good time with our story. ^^

Alright, and it’s been about two weeks. Last time, Team Traveller kinda left off on a bit of a bad place on Giotto Island. Sounds like as good a time as any to check in on them and see how they’re doing, huh?
Chapter 56: Signing Up


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

Nagant’s travels from the docks took longer than normal on the night of her return. As opposed to the direct course through the canals she would normally take from the docks to her quarters in the Royal Citadel, the evening was consumed by a meandering course helping to guide the crate and the Protector within along back alleys and emptier streets to elude attention. Eventually, the Aurorus, the cart, and their defending entourage made their way to a tall stone gate, where guards dutifully watched the entrances on land and those cut into the network of canals that spilled over the wall. The Clawitzer hopped into one of the canals, waiting to be waved through by a watching Lumineon and Kingler. She swam under the wall and waited for her more terrestrial counterparts to come through their gate before continuing on into the Citadel.

The Citadel, much like the one that graced Conntow in days of old, was effectively a town built unto itself. Queen Aleria’s palace was its anchor, a grand affair with its parapets and balconies for her to take to the air, and its surroundings were crowded by the quarters of nobles along with vanities such as gardens and libraries. Radiating outwards from the palace and nobles’ abodes at the center were quarters belonging to servants and guards, as well as those of Pokémon such as Nagant from the nobility whose prestige had waned with the ages. The Aurorus and the rest of the crate’s escorts carried on to a service entrance, where the crate was unloaded onto a push cart, and hoisted up a pull elevator that took it up to the third floor of the palace, where a small party of guards headed by a Chesnaught bade them to follow down a candlelit hallway towards a set of large doors at the end.

Nagant made her way forward with her entourage, keenly eyeing the decor on the walls. It had been lined with portraits and statues of royals from ages past. There was Aquila the Great, the Staraptor founder of Anyilla’s ruling dynasty. There was King Oriel the Unifier, who had stitched the Empire back together after the royal family split into feuding wings whose squabbles brought ruin to its ports. There was King Gavin the Wise, who had chartered the Company to guard the Empire’s metals and act as a means to lift the best and brightest commonfolk to the ranks of the nobility… not that he’d think much of his creation now.

The Clawitzer made her way up to the door, where right beside it was a portrait of Queen Aleria’s father, King Alexander and of her aunt, Queen Erna. King Alexander and Aleria were the sole members of the reigning family to escape the Great Calamity. The shrimp paused in front of the portrait, her thoughts turning towards the royals depicted within.

Whether by a stroke of fortune or the cruelty of fate, Aleria’s egg had an accident at Alexander’s manor on Giotto that had cracked her eggshell early and kept it from heading to Conntow with the rest of the then-Prince’s family for his sister’s jubilee that year. By missing the anniversary of Erna’s reign, Aleria had been spared from the maelstrom, a fate which Nagant’s own family failed to share. In life, King Alexander had done everything possible to try and rebuild the world he knew for his child, but like many things in Anyilla since that awful day, the most that could be managed was a mere shadow of the times gone by.


Nagant pushed the door open to find that the throne room before them was mostly barren, barring a small body of guards in the cerulean cloth and mail expected of their ilk by the throne, a sleepy-looking Archeops on the ground, and an Altaria resting on an overlooking eave. The Archeops yawned, and flapped up to paw at the wing of the dozing Altaria. Upon the ancient bird's prodding, the cloudy bluebird perked up, and gave a trilling admonishment.

"Captain Nugget!" the Altaria chirped. "This is a throne room, not a loading dock!"

Nagant’s frowned and twitched her barbels irkedly at the mention of ‘Captain Nugget’, clenching her claws tight to restrain herself as the Altaria queen fluttered down. Aleria hopped over to her throne perch and waited for the Archeops to follow suit before turning back to Nagant, skeptically eyeing the ratty crate that had been brought in her chamber.

“If you have supplies to leave for the palace, there’s a service entrance for that!” Aleria cried. “I don’t need it brought straight to my throne room!”

"I can assure you, if this were mere supplies, I wouldn't have troubled you, your majesty,” Nagant insisted. “This is the Protector that I sent word about."

"… The Protector is that crate there?" the Altaria asked.

The cloud-bird's failure to recognize the obvious elicited wide-eyed stares from the audience, followed by a wave of paws and claws being thrown over faces.

"… Captain, would you kindly open the crate for her majesty to see?" the Archeops sighed.

"Gladly, Chancellor Osborn,” Nagant chittered. “Bommel!"

The Clawitzer’s cry prompted a Bewear to grunt and approach the crate, forcing his paws under the lid and tugging it up with a smooth motion to reveal its contents for Nagant to gesture at with her claw. Much to the Aleria and Osborn’s astonishment, slumbering within the crate was a long-necked bird of a species that neither of the two had ever seen, bearing silvery-white feathers, a blue crest and back plates.

"That's the Protector, your majesty," Nagant explained.

"Oh, how lovely! I never knew that a Protector could be such a cutie!” Aleria chirped. “They're always so big and imposing in myth."

The onlooking Pokémon murmured as they saw the creature in the box begin to stir, his silvery-white feathers rippling as his head bobbed up in a confused daze.


Pleo blinked, trying to clear the sleep from his eyes to make out his dimly-lit surroundings. Every bit of him ached, and he felt himself yearn for just a few more hours of sleep. Still bleary-eyed, he rolled his shoulders and spread his wings wide, giving them a few beats to get his blood flowing like he always did in the morning.

"Nida?" the young Lugia murmured. "Are you still there?"

As his eyes finally adjusted to the lighting, Pleo suddenly jumped back with a start. Far from the sunset-filled sky he'd expected to see, he'd woken up in an airy, candlelit room. Nagant was still lurking near him, but the room was filled with strangers he didn't recognize, some with scary-looking faces in cerulean armor, and an Altaria and an Archeops peering curiously at him from the front. The seabird whirled around in a panic, hopping out of the crate flapping his wings instinctively to find he was still grounded, the million questions swirling in his mind only managing to surface the two most pressing of all:

"H-Huh?! Where am I?! Where's everyone?!"

"You're in her highness' presence, young one," a staticy voice explained.

Pleo looked behind just as the creak of a door rang out, spotting a Magnezone in an indigo scarf and a Kecleon in a red-and-gold cravat entering the chamber. The pair seemed serious-faced, and somewhat disheveled, as if suddenly drug in from other work. Perhaps conscious of his appearance, the chameleon gave a bow in front of the Altaria, dusting his scales off as they flushed a deep, businesslike green.

“Ah, Admiral Coil, Treasurer Walpole,” the Archeops greeted. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

"Sorry for the wait, we were held up by a Snorlax dozing on the road," the Kecleon apologized.

"Eh? Where's Thalez?” Aleria asked. “He's also a candidate for prime minister alongside you two."

"Uhm, your highness…” Osborn sighed. “About this whole ‘making a bard a prime minister candidate’-"

“B-But where are my friends?!” Pleo squawked. “What did you do with them?!”

"They're making their way back to their old lives,” Nagant answered. “Just as they ought to."

The Lugia’s beak started to quiver, his eyes watering as he thought about his missing companions. They… They were gone? But they needed him to come back! So did everyone on Tromba! He remembered hearing them before, their voices playing out even now as they begged and pleaded with the fates to let him return…

The young Protector felt a rush flow through him, the air near his tail and back beginning to brighten up and his wingtips flushing with a silvery glow as startled looks flashed over the surrounding Pokémon.

"But- But they-” the Lugia sniffled. “And I-"

"Will get to see them again!” a Cranidos’ voice hastily insisted. “Isn't that right, Captain?"

The gathered Pokemon turned their attention to a Cranidos towards the rear of the chamber who flustered at the sudden attention and shrank back slightly as the glow from Pleo’s feathers faded. After a moment's pause, he steeled himself and righted his posture, clearing his throat dismissively. Wide-eyed, his Sandslash partner jabbed him in the side with the flat of a claw.

"Cabot, what are you doing?" Niilo whispered.

"I mean, you did say that the Protector would get to see his friends one day,” Cabot insisted, ignoring his Sandslash teammate. “Isn't that right, Captain?"

The Clawitzer scowled at the Cranidos, and flicked her gaze to Pleo. With a twitch of her whiskers, she mused that perhaps she should've brought someone from her crew who asked fewer questions.. That said, perhaps calming their captive's nerves with an answer wouldn't be such a bad idea...

"… I suppose that I did say that, yes,” Nagant sighed. “If they followed my suggestions, they're probably enjoying themselves in the city right now."

"So… if the Protector got all of his learning and preparation out of the way,” Cabot continued. “Wouldn't that be a good time for that to happen?"

"Cabot,” Berecien hissed under his breath. “You're not supposed to be giving suggestions right in front of-"

"I think it sounds lovely!” Aleria cheered. “What about you, Protector?"

Pleo blinked and shifted uneasily at the Altaria's prodding. The fluffy bird genuinely seemed like she wanted to make him feel welcome, but… he was all alone, and his friends were off in the middle of some island he knew nothing about…

"But I want to see them no- ow!"

The Lugia winced and reflexively folded his wings back, limping as he felt a pain shoot through his hip. The young bird craned his head down, nosing carefully at the sore joint with his beak as he felt a deep bruise under his feathers. Osborn, mindful of the little Protector’s shabby state, shook his head, before appealing to the creature’s evident fatigue.

"It would do you well to get some rest tonight, at least,” the Archeops said. “And perhaps you'd come to appreciate your new home here."

"B-But my home's in Bluewhorl…" Pleo murmured. The seabird’s protest drew a shake of Walpole’s head, the Kecleon sighing at the evident hurdles that would need to be resolved for this creature to truly become the Protector of the Empire. The lizard thought back upon his experiences within the Merchantry of dealing with more intractable clients in the past, before raising his claw to float a proposal.

"If I may, but might I suggest something to help build the bond between Protector and protected?” Walpole offered. “Perhaps the thing needed to truly make Lugia feel at home here would be something to show him just how much he means to the denizens of the Empire."

"Oh, so like a tournament!" the Queen chirped.

"Er,” the Kecleon began. “Actually I was going to propose a-"

"That's a wonderful idea! Osborn! See to it that the word is distributed at once and the stadium is booked for the next week!” the Altaria trilled. “We’ll start the tournament tomorrow! Only the finest festival in honor of our new Protector!"

The Archeops Chancellor gave a flat frown back at the Altaria’s prattling, only to ruffle his feathers and grudgingly nod his head back at his liege. It would be a long night’s work to cobble together a tournament in less than a day… Though given Aleria’s penchant for pagentry, he supposed it was easier than any of the alternatives the Altaria could have thought of.

"As you wish, Your Majesty. Though be aware we will need to get... creative with where we get our entrants from,” the Archeops sighed. “As for Treasurer Walpole and Admiral Coil, I believe that it is safe enough for you two to retire for the evening. It looks like this matter is done."

"That's fine,” the Magnezone buzzed back. “I had some other matters to attend to anyways regarding the raid on Polderfield Town earlier today."

The admiral’s nonchalant mention of a raid on Polderfield instantly made Cabot’s eyes widen, and the Cranidos jumped back with a start.

“R-Raid on Polderfield?!” he cried. “What happened?!”

“It’s more accurately an attempted raid,” the Magnezone corrected. “I was given intel saying that they’d be coming around these parts in search of some rumored treasure, so I set a trap for them at the docks on the shoreline. Beyond some pier repairs and a few damaged tulip fields, there was nothing really there to note.”

Cabot blinked slowly, the admiral’s explanation seeming to calm him down, but even so a lingering unease clung in the air about him at the mention of his hometown going through such a scare.

“I… suppose that it worked out then,” the little dinosaur murmured, as Walpole gave a shake of his head.

"I see that Coil here has his magnets full with his own matters. As for me, I need to get back to my bookkeeping at the Treasury," the Kecleon replied. “I’ve been running a bit behind thanks to my colleagues from the Merchantry have been coming to me more than I’d like to seek guidance.”

The pair shuffled off back down the hallway, the grand doors creaking open as the two Pokémon slipped out into darkened hallways further beyond. As the Altaria queen spoke names aloud to herself for the title of her new tournament, her advisor noticed Pleo restlessly pecking around, prompting him to frown and turn back to face his liege.

"Before I retire for the night, shouldn't you choose someone to mentor the Protector?" Osborn asked.

"Eh?” Aleria murmured. “What do you mean?"

"Someone will have to instruct the Protector in the history and ways of the Empire,” the Archeops explained. “He can't protect it well if he doesn't know the first thing about it."

The Altaria paused, and moved a cloudy wingtip against her chin deep in thought at her advisor's prodding. She supposed it would be a bit much for a fledgling Protector to be able to defend an entire Empire at the flick of a feather.

"I guess that's a point…” Aleria admitted. “You wouldn't happen to know anyone of the sort, would you, Captain Nugget?"

Nagant frowned a moment at the butchery of her name, before scanning the room, with her left claw to her chin in thought. A tutor, a tutor... her gaze fell on Cabot, and it occurred to her that he might be a good choice, despite his inexperience. After all, he'd already proven capable of soothing the seabird's nerves easily enough. Perhaps the Protector would be better to start off with the guidance of an amateur.

"Cabot,” the Clawitzer ordered. “You and your friends will carry out the queen's task."

The Cranidos sprang back out of surprise, the Rock-Type stammering to himself as he tried to process his captain’s order. She wanted him to tutor the Protector?!


"Heh heh!” Niilo cheered. “I could get used to living large for a while!"

"Don't get any ideas, this job doesn’t need mercenary riff-raff in order to be done,” Nagant growled. “I'm only suggesting this because you all have the most familiarity with the Protector from my crew, and Cabot managed to calm him earlier. This is a mission, and I expect you to act the part."

Niilo’s enthusiasm hastily deflated at the realization that this ‘tutoring’ was going to involve more work than he expected. The Sandslash’s teammates similarly seemed to have trouble getting excited about the task, after all, they had been training for conquering the high seas, not stacks of books!

"With all due respect, Captain,” Berecien retorted. “But just how much are we supposed to be able to teach him?"

“Yeah!” Cabot protested. “We’re sailors, not tutors!”

"Er…” Pleo murmured. “What do those funny squiggles over there say?"

The gathered Pokémon turned and looked as the Lugia gestured at a hung tapestry, there on it was a depiction of a sunrise at sea with ‘for her majesty’ embroidered at the bottom in gold thread… A moment of wordless befuddlement settled over the group, as it sunk in as to just how much this young Protector had yet to learn.

"Well, 'reading' would be a good place to start," Nagant sighed.

Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo traded looks with one another before looking at Queen Aleria. The three noticed the Altaria eyeing them expectantly, evidently having made up her mind as to what she expected of them, prompting the trio reluctantly agree to go along with the plan.

“I… uh… suppose we could always start from the basics?” Cabot said.

"We'll do it,” the Ponyta snorted. “But where do we even go from here?"

"Osborn will show you the way," Aleria said. “Just try and make yourselves comfortable, and let us know if you need anything.”

The three shuffled off along with the Archeops Chancellor, making their way for the door as Nagant turned back to the rest of her underlings who accompanied her and shot them a stern look.

"The rest of you, head back to the ship and take that crate with you,” she ordered. “I've got a few matters to tend here."

The room quickly cleared out of Pokémon, leaving behind Queen Aleria and Nagant with the royal guards. The Clawitzer captain twiched her barbels in anticipation, keenly eyeing the cloud-bird as she cleared her throat to speak.

"I suppose this is about the matter of your reward," Aleria murmured.

"It would certainly be appreciated, your majesty," Nagant replied.

"Well, no worries,” the Altaria chirped. “I made sure to prepare only the finest compensation for such a task!"

The Clawitzer’s eyes lit up and twitched her barbels expectantly as she watched Aleria slip her beak under her fluffy feathers and fish out some paper articles. The Water-Type raised her claw to accept, only to realize the papers were adorned with a Rotom’s silhouette with runes reading ‘Thalez’s Electric Opera’ and ‘Admit One’ underneath. The shrimp’s mood visibly soured, this wasn’t anything to do with her noble title! Why, these were-!

"… Theater… tickets?" she seethed.

"Well, Osborn said that I couldn't just restore your title at the beat of a wing,” Aleria insisted. “Something about having to find an appropriate domain for you now that most of my family's realm now in the wings of ruffians. But it's better to give you something to leave the room with for now, isn't it?"

Nagant paused and eased her scowl at the Altaria’s response. The throne never had fully regained its power even after the Empire wrested itself free of Company usurpers. With the vile libels that the Company had transmitted to the peasantry about what had happened with Queen Erna at the time of the Great Calamity, Queen Aleria’s parents found it impossible to reassert the rule by decree their family enjoyed in prior times of crisis without stirring the embers of revolt. Perhaps the best route was to simply bide her time. After all, such patience had already delivered this Empire a Protector...

"… I suppose that I can't argue with that,” the shrimp admitted. “Thank you, your highness."

"Well, just look at it this way,” Aleria offered. “Everything will be cleared up, and I’m sure after he gets the basics figured out, that Protector will surely help you get back your family's domain on Conntow!"

"… I think that it's a bit premature to start getting complacent, your highness," Nagant answered.

"What do you mean?"

"There was quite a storm brewing around the Protector when I brought him here,” the Clawitzer said. “I don't think we can assume that it's let up just yet."

The following morning, Team Traveller woke up bright and early from a night spent on some free mats spread on a flat rooftop overlooking an inner courtyard filled with dingy water. They had been roused at the crack of dawn by Cardino, and been led along to a four story, tiled building with arched windows that was teeming with Pokémon in indigo scarves. The group made their way through a lobby full of loitering guards, and then through a central courtyard to a wing of the building that had been built with peepholes in lieu of windows. The four came to a barred door of the wing, where they were waved along by some gruff-looking guards and led down a series of darkened corridors. On each side, the passages lined by small cells with metal bars where various creatures peered out, the stench of musk and unwashed bodies hanging thick in the air along with an overpowering feeling of unease among the three youngsters.

“What is this place…?” Guardia murmured.

"It's like those cells back home where Osmund would keep drunks till they sobered up,” Nida muttered to herself. “Except there's so many of them."

"Psst! Hey kid!”

Nida’s barbs fanned out and the Nidoran went wide-eyed. The Poison-Type whirled around, where she saw a Politoed poking an arm beyond the bars of his cell.

“Wanna help a ‘mon with a little delivery?" the frog said.

Nida did not allow herself a second to entertain the Politoed's offer, opting instead to duck away from the amphibian's outstretched arm and bound down the hallway. The Nidoran charged ahead as fast as her legs could carry her, not daring to stop until she caught up with Cardino further down the cell block.

"Gah!” she squeaked. “And these ‘mons are plenty sober!"

"That's holding cells for you, pal," the Detective Pikachu sighed. “Pokémon are held here until they can be given a sentence by the court and punted off to places to pay their debts to society."

Nida and Guardia took in their dreary surroundings and shrank back, each firmly aware of the dangerous-looking eyes casting glances in their direction. Elty too, appeared unnerved, his ears and tail clamped firmly against his body with a nervous whine escaping his mouth every so often. Unlike his peers, he seemed to be at relative ease around the characters in the background, though constantly gazed up at the ceiling, as if expecting it to cave in at any moment.

"… Elty?” Nida asked. “Is something wrong?"

"Let's just finish up what we need to get done and get out of here,” Elty sighed. “These sorts of places bring back memories for me, and not in a good way."

"Oh, so the guardians of your hut-dwellers do have some flashes of competence every now and then," Guardia chided.

The Growlithe gave a sour frown back at the Cubone, before giving a dismissive snort. Was this really the time for banter? Besides, she’d missed the point he was trying to make entirely...

"It's not like that, bone-head,” the Fire-Type growled. “This is something that goes beyond-"

"Not to cut this aherm… interesting conversation short,” Nida interrupted, waving a paw to motion for silence. “But why are we here anyways, Cardino? I thought you wanted us just to help you look around for some pawprints or something."

"Yesterday, there was an attempted pirate raid on Polderfield Town, one of the fringe settlements here on Giotto,” the detective explained. “Admiral Coil from the navy was leading his ship out at the time, so his crew was around to shoot out the hull from under the attackers."

"Ow! Stop pulling!” a barking voice yelped. “I'm going! I'm going!"

Nida, Elty, and Guardia turned to see a Furfrou and Mareanie in black scarves getting dragged along by a a Bastiodon and Glalie guard. Hadn’t those two attacked them on the way out of Rosequartz Town? The three watched as the pair were marched off by the guards, before turning uneasily back to Cardino, wondering just what he needed them to do with these ne’er-do-wells...

"So you need us to pick up evidence about them raiding?” Nida prodded. “Or…?"

"No, most of the cases were fairly open and shut,” Cardino replied. “Kinda hard to explain away loot on your person, and a lot of the pirates opted for plea deals in return for lesser sentences…"

The Pikachu trailed off before shaking his head, evidently not fully at ease with the matter himself. After all, Team Traveller’s necessity was thanks to there being loose ends, which the Electric-Type dutifully explained to his hired help.

"No, I'm in charge of gathering evidence for the last few cases. For the ones that aren't just a simple matter of throwing a labor sentence and calling it a day,” Cardino explained. “That's why I wanted you to meet the defendants you'll be covering before you accepted this job."

So this case wasn't a 'simple matter,' then? Team Traveller exchanged uneasy glances as an air of dread came over them, the group's minds set wandering with the possibilities of an abnormally-criminal... criminal. Just what sort of heinous act would they have to be defending here?

"Who are the defendants?” Guardia asked. “And what exactly did they do?"

"I'm telling you, we didn't do it!"

Nida’s ears perked up at the sound of the voice of a Scraggy. It was the same that she’d heard when being ambushed in Kenobi. And again when Guardia had been taken hostage in Orleigh… Could it be…?

“Wait,” Nida murmured. “I know that-”

The Nidoran and her companions looked ahead to see a door left ajar, and made their way up to push it open. Inside, they found a simple, dimly-lit room with a wooden counter. On one end was a Fletchinder and Misdreavus who looked up as if having just been interrupted in a task… On the other, were the forms of a Scraggy, Combusken, and Grotle in black scarves chained to the other end of the counter, all of whom were taken aback with startled surprise.

You again!”

The Pikachu detective blinked incredulously as the pirates and his newfound assistants stared dumbfounded at each other. 'Again'? Then did that mean…

"Wait, you all have met before?" Cardino asked.

Team Traveller grimaced, their sour faces broadcasting their full, unabashed displeasure with these 'acquaintances' of theirs. Nida shook her head and threw a paw over her face, before grudgingly answering the Pikachu's query.

"We have a bit of a history, yes," Nida groaned.

"You wouldn't happen to have a lead in our case as part of that, would you?" the Misdreavus asked.

"Probably not unless you want to look for more stuff to charge them with,” Elty muttered. “Who are you two anyways?"

"I'm Nico and this is my assistant, Rita,” the Fletchinder explained. “We're the defense attorneys for this case here, and we asked Cardino here if he could help give us a hand."

"Naturally, as someone who's part of the city guard, it wouldn't do me good to come off as taking sides,” the Pikachu said. “So having you three as my assistants would work out perfectly."

The Electric-Type shook his head and gave a tired sigh to the Fletchinder. The rodent’s expression carried an air of flummoxed resignation, as if the robin had opted to charge a windmill for the umpteenth time.

"That said, I'm not sure why you keep picking these hopeless cases, Nico,” Cardino sighed. “I mean, they were booked on charges of egg-napping, and barring that evidence adding a major swerve, it’s hard to see how you’d exonerate these ‘mons."

"We're not confessing that and there's no way you can prove it!" Sela snapped.

"Well, there has to be something deeper to the truth if they were willing to pass up a plea deal and risk a death sentence," Rita answered. “Taking cases that let us pursue the truth is our specialty.”

The pirates froze at the Misdreavus' words, and as the meaning of the statement set in the shocked silence gave way to open panic. Each of them shuddered with a wide-eyed, horrified expression etched onto their faces, and the Grotle among them seemed to blanch especially pale as he pawed frantically at his Combusken teammate

"H-Huh?! Sela!” the Grotle squeaked. “You said they were just gonna keep us locked up for a decade or something like that!"

Team Traveller seemed just as stunned as the pirates, albeit with a decidedly more disgusted mood as they glared incredulously through the bars at the imprisoned. Desperate though they may have been to raise money for their fare home, sticking up for any Pokémon who stole unborn hatchlings away from their families was a line none of them were willing to even think about crossing.

"Yeah, no. I'm out," Nida hissed.

"Hrmph. I'm not lifting a claw to help you egg-thieves,” Guardia growled. “Lie down in the nest you made for yourself."

"I mean, a ‘mon’s gotta make a living, but they don’t have to make it that way. If you'd just nabbed some Poké or something…" Elty murmured, shaking his head. Noses upturned, the trio wheeled around for the door, but were stopped in their tracks as the jailed Pokemon cried out uproariously, pleading with their claws outstretched.

"H-Hey wait!” Sela pleaded. “Don't go!"

"Please!” Eric begged. “We really didn't steal those eggs!"

"We'll die if we don’t get our names cleared!” Hanuna whined.

Guardia paused, her partners carrying on a way before turning back and seeing the Cubone still planted in her position. The Ground-Type scowled, deep in thought, seemingly mulling between a pair of conflicting options, only to suddenly tighten the grip on her club.

"… Then you must prove yourselves," Guardia demanded.

"Okay! Okay!” Sela insisted. “We're open to trying stuff out! What's it that you-"

The Combusken was cut off by the sound of a woosh, the chicken looking up just in time to see a bone flying directly into her face.


The bone lizard threw a claw up and caught the bone as it whirled back at her. Guardia felt the momentum of her club tug her back, coming to an uneasy, stunned stop as she realized that she finally executed a proper Bonemerang. The Ground-Type stared down at her bone with a wide grin, when she was snapped back to attention by a sharp buzz.

"Oi!” a Lurantis in the background shouted. “No foreign objects in the prisoner's quarters!"

Each of the other Pokemon in the room, gaped at Guardia in stunned silence at the spontaneous assault. What had gotten into her?!

"Ack!” Rita cried. “What's the big idea attacking our clients?!"

"It's not an attack. It's a judgement by the dead!” Guardia insisted. “And while they find you to be appalling wastes of flesh on par with sea scum… they don't think that you're guilty of this."

The Cubone shook her head before slinging the bone over her shoulder and turning her attention back to Sela as the Combusken continued to nurse her head.

"And more importantly, I needed that," Guardia added.

Nida and Elty traded shifting glances with one another before rolling their eyes. That… was suspiciously detailed for a 'ruling from the dead'…"

"… She made that up on the spot, didn't she?" Nida sighed.

"You don't honestly believe her ‘judgment of the dead’ mumbo-jumbo, do you?" Elty whispered back.

"I heard that,” Guardia growled. “But seriously, even an unguided rube like you can surely see that things aren't adding up here."

"Yeah, we've done some stuff before as pirates, but we'd never steal eggs!" Eric insisted.

"I don't even have the paws to steal 'em with!" Hanuna cried.

The pirates’ insistence made Nida fold her ears back dubiously, unsure whether or not she still could trust the lot. She turned her head, and noticed that her Growlithe teammate appeared far more satisfied with their insistence. Was it simply shared experience? Or what was she missing here?

"I think I'm with the bonehead here. I mean, these guys are from Sibich's crew, and he's no slouch,” Elty explained. “If they couldn't even properly take a hostage, I can't see him trusting them to steal eggs."

As she massaged the sore spot left by Guardia's Bonemerang, the Combusken glared at the Growlithe through her parted claws, clicking her tongue in displeasure at the shoddy defense he'd offered.

"Thanks for the defense, mutt," Sela growled.

Elty rolled his eyes at the Combusken. Leave it to her to find displeasure while he and his team were in the middle of bailing them out! What kind of ingrate would find the time to whine in such dire straits?

"You're welcome."

Nida furrowed her brow and flared her ears. After all the grief that this Scraggy and his friends had given her and her teammates, they had no leg to stand on for asking for their help! Though… with them all alone and facing a terrible fate like this, was it really right to just walk away? And what would they do to raise the money for a fare home when this was the only lead they’d found so far?

"… I guess it would make sense to give them the benefit of the doubt… for now,” Nida admitted. “So what is it that you need us to do anyways, Cardino?"

"I need you to help me get back some misplaced evidence from Polderfield,” the Pikachu answered. “Some cuco from the department had it shipped to the wrong part of town."

"Oh? Where did it go?” Nida asked. “And why do you need our help there?"

The following morning in the visitor’s district, the crowds had yet to appear as the local streets started to get into the swing of their daily rhythms. The shops began to open, yawning Pokémon stretched themselves at windows and doorways, and the general rhythm became more lively by the minute. Despite that, the guards at the gates seemed to be slower to liven up than their surroundings, a watching Herdier yawning audibly only for its Araquanid colleague to nudge him for attention, pointing off at a party clustered around a visibly young Druddigon carried along in a sling made from a ratty sail.


The two looked at each other as the young dragon and his companions made their way over, before turning their attention back to the party. Something was obviously wrong with the younger Pokémon, but why were they expecting them to be able to do anything about it?

“Eh?” the Herdier asked. “What’s with you?”

“Can’t move… Legs jelly…” Crom groaned. “Life flashing before eyes…”

“You have to let us through!” Kiran cried. “He needs medical assistance!”

The guards traded frowning glances with each other, only for the Araquanid to turn back to the sailors and point off behind the group with a foreleg.

“You mean like assistance that would be given by the building right there?” the spider asked.

Pladur and his companions followed the Araquanid’s leg over to a three-story building on a corner teeming with Chanseys and adorned with red banners with white semi-circles. Uh… how had they missed that one when coming up with this cover? But for now, they needed to come up with something to persuade the guards...

“Er… we need different assistance!” Pladur insisted, drawing skeptical frowns from the guards at the gate.

“Yeah?” the Herdier demanded. “And just what are you suffering from that we shouldn’t invoke quarantine protocols over to keep you out of the city?”

The five Pokémon grimaced, fumbling for an excuse to give back to the guard dog. Eventually, the Druddigon among them shifted and spoke up uneasily from his sling with the best explanation he could muster.

“Uh… er… a stomachache?”

The Herdier and Araquanid rolled their eyes as a Venomoth flitted up from behind. At the sight of Crom and his companions, the moth gave an irritated buzz and flitted up to her counterparts at the gateway.

“Hey, is that those five again? What are they claiming this time?” the Venomoth demanded. “That they need to listen to someone’s dying wish?”

“... Why didn’t we think of that again?” Ander whispered.

Much to Ander's chagrin, the Venomoth guard frowned after his hushed comments. The comments had failed to elude her hearing, and given her huff at the party's return, had similarly failed to impress her.

“Look, I get that you five want in, but you don’t have the right permits,” the Venomoth scoffed. “It’ll be a snowy day in summer before you get past us!”

“Hoy! There’s a new decree from the crown!” a squawking voice cried.

Crom and the guards looked back to see a drowsy Noctowl in an indigo scarf and a glinting badge fly into a nearby plaza burdened with papers. The badge caught the attention of some nearby Pokémon, which prompted them to look up from their matters and listen to the owl, much to Kiran’s puzzlement.

“Huh?” the Swellow chirped. “Just what’s going on here?”

“It looks like there’s some sort of announcement,” the Venomoth guard said. “That’s unmistakably the badge of a Royal Messenger… Though I didn’t think anything noteworthy happened last night...”

The guards and the Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow watched as a small crowd started to form around the Noctowl, the messenger clearing his throat before unfurling a rolled-up sheet of paper to read off of it.

“By order of her highness, a week-long tournament will start this afternoon in Vecioferàle Arena for her public’s amusement,” the Noctowl proclaimed. “To herald the Empire’s awakening of a new Protector!”

The messenger's announcement drew excited murmuring from the gathered Pokémon. Some posters were distributed, filtering their way around the crowd. Eventually, one turned up in the young Druddigon's claws, revealing the somewhat misshapen silhouette of a white bird with a long neck and blue plates with runes proclaiming a weeklong 'Silver Wing Cup'… Why, this Pokémon on the poster was none other than-!

“Wait a minute!” Crom exclaimed. “That’s Pleo!”

“Entrance is open to anyone, both denizen and outsider may enter for this joyous festival!” the Noctowl continued. “So come one, and come all, and prove your strength in this grand festival for our new Guardian of the Seas.”

As the ruckus from the crowd settled enough for the sound of an individual's voice to carry over the area's ambient noise, Crom and his companions turned back to the stonewalling guards, wearing wide, mischievous grins.

“So… I believe that the tournament’s open for everyone to enter?” Dimitri asked.

The Venomoth narrowed her eyes exasperatedly as the Herdier and Araquanid put paws over their faces in frustration. The messenger had said entrance was open to anybody, but even so...

“Ugh… signup is inside the district,” the Venomoth growled. “Once you get that squared away, then we’ll let you through.”

The guard's demands drew a tired glare from Crom and each of his companions, before the sailors turned away and started setting off back into the district. They all knew that the guards were only doing their job, but even after all this, they couldn't just let them through already?

“Are they actively coming up with more things to stall us?” Ander sighed.

“No matter, at least we were able to find out where Pleo is,” Kiran chirped. “Once we can get through, we can try to find him and bring him back home!”

The Swellow beat his wings and took to the air, prompting his colleagues to follow off after him towards the messenger and the crowd forming around him. Unbeknownst to the five, from a nearby alleyway, Valatos, Alvise, and Nori watched, listening as the Noctowl hastily flagged down a few guards to help him enroll contestants into the tournament and spread posters on some nearby walls.

“A tournament in honor of that bird, huh?” Nori murmured.

“Guess we know who’s got him right now,” Alvise grumbled. “But how are we supposed to get him back from the Empire?

“... Let’s bring it up with the Captain,” Valatos buzzed. “He’d be bound to have something in mind, right?”

The Yanmega watched as the Druddigon and his companions melted into the crowd, a Trubbish going by to put up posters depicting a long-necked seabird in the street outside. After watching the Poison-Type pass and seeing their foes nowhere to be found, the Bug-Type pulled one of the posters off the wall with his mouth and slunk back into the alleyway with his teammates, before quietly making their way back for the docks.

"Eh?! What is this place?!"

Nida, Guardia, and Elty looked over across the canal in front of them, there on the other side was a massive, round building built of stone and layered with arches that sat next to a stone tower that stretched up to a pavillion, much like Hatteras’ lighthouse at home but taller and less rounded. At the front was a large plaza, filled with Pokémon of various shapes and sizes talking with each other underneath banners bearing a wave-shaped swoosh that proudly proclaimed the name of the building...

“‘Arena Veijofaro’…?” Nida murmured. “Er… or, ‘Old Lighthouse Arena’?”

"Well, you can certainly read the runes that way, but everyone here calls it ‘Vecioferàle Arena’,” Cardino explained. “Before Tidemill’s expansion under King Alexander, this used to be the coastline and that tower the lighthouse for the harbor. Nowadays, it’s the great battlefield at the heart of Tidemill where Pokémon prove themselves on the field in front of the whole empire."

"Yeah, but why are we here?” Guardia demanded. “You said that we were looking for evidence that got misplaced."

"This is where my evidence got shipped,” the Pikachu insisted. “Don't ask me how the ‘mons in the evidence department managed to mix up the captain’s diary with provisions for arena security."

Nida, Elty, and Guardia blinked curiously at the Electric-Type’s answer. Mixing up evidence with provisions? How on earth would a ‘mon manage to do that?

"Isn't that just a little weird?" Nida prodded.

"Beats me, pal. These sort of things just happen,” Cardino sighed. “I tried getting in earlier myself, but couldn't find it in the public areas or the lost and found, so if it's still here, it's in the normally off-limits places."

"And we're supposed to find this diary, how?" Elty asked.

Cardino stammered, grasping for a satisfactory answer but coming up short. The Pikachu racked his brain for ideas, mumbling half-formed thoughts aloud as he worked himself through the thought process.

"Uh… well, you'd need to be doing something that would let you get full access to the stadium…” he began. “Something like…"

Cardino’s eye turned towards a batch of posters on a nearby wall with the form of a white, long-necked bird on it. It was for a ‘Silver Wing Cup’, which would admit teams of up to six Pokémon for entry in a three-on-three elimination-based tournament… Hey wait a moment!

"Ah, that’s it! Like entering a tournament for yourselves!” the Pikachu insisted. “Shouldn't be an issue for a few up-and-comers like you, right?"

Nida, Elty, and Guardia crowded around the poster and gawked at the poster. Was that… Pleo?! The ink of the poster had been smudged and put on in an obvious hurry, but the form was unmistakably his. The three looked over at the stadium, the notion of ‘entering a tournament’ seeming to be child’s play compared to trying to grab Pleo out of those naval docks… only to notice a team of a Blastoise, a Gallade, and a Goodra with glinting rescue badges pawing at a copy of their same poster… with numerous teams in the plaza looking every bit as strong and imposing as they did.

“But that’s crazy!” Nida exclaimed. “You can’t expect us to just go in and win a tournament on the fly with half a team like that!”

"Yeah, and even if we did, how's that supposed to help us find your evidence?" Guardia added.

"Because you only have to hang in there until the evidence is found,” Cardino countered. “Whatever you do after that, whether taking a dive, or just not showing up onto the field is on you."

Nida and her teammates collectively breathed a sigh of relief, looking at one another and finding further reassurance in the fact that their comrades seemed to feel the same way.

"Oh, well when you put it that way, that doesn't sound too impossible," Guardia murmured.

"Yeah, we'll go sign up now,” Elty added. “That evidence isn't going to be any easier to find by waiting around."

"That's the spirit!” Cardino cheered. “Bring whatever you’ve found to the courthouse next to the station in a few hours for the trial, and we'll go from there. Sound good?"

"I think we can work with that,” Nida nodded. “Good luck with the rest of the investigation!"

The three waved and shuffled off into a growing line at the entrance of the stadium marked by a banner noting it was for signups. Unbeknownst to the three, a Weavile and a tired-looking Mothim lurked from a nearby alleyway. There, the Dark-Type leaned against a wall, looking at one of the tournament posters in his claw as the Bug-Type of the pair kept a watchful gaze on Team Traveller’s forms in the queue.

"Those grubs again?” Ellsberg hissed. “What are they doing here and where's the Protector?"

"Try looking around before you ask any stupid questions," Ketu grumbled.

The Weavile turned his claw out towards the Mothim, revealing the poster with the information about the Silver Wing Cup. Ellsberg gaped wide-eyed at the paper, before slowly and grudgingly shaking his head at the implications.

"So, the Empire does have him right now…” he murmured. “But just where would we look next to find out where they're keeping him? We were up all night sneaking around those naval docks and found nothing but crates and some inebriated sailors!"

"We won't have to. According to this poster, they're going to be bringing him out in front of the whole city,” Ketu said. “All we have to do is prepare and wait."

The Weavile shook his head before rolling up the poster in his claws and stuffing it into a satchel slung over his shoulder. he turned, motioning impatiently with his claws for Ellsberg to follow.

"Let's go,” the Dark-Type grunted. “We've found out enough for Lyn to come up with a plan for us to be able to steal that bird out from under him anyways."

Ketu slipped off, darting down the alleyway as Ellsberg looked after him with an unamused frown before giving a sleepy buzz and fluttering off after him. They’d certainly found their lead, so hopefully it would satisfy Lyn enough to justify resting his wings for a while.

“Can you guys hurry it up already?! We’re almost at the ship!”

Alvise’s voice carried on down the tight confines of an alleyway in the Visitors’ District, where Valatos and his companions had nearly reached the Mistral Marauder. Alvise led the group, springing out from the shadows and sprinting towards the Mistral Marauder in sight, leaving Nori and Valatos in the dust to follow along with an agitated sigh. The Manectric stamped the ground as he glanced back at his lagging teammates, impatient to finally put this trip behind them already.

"Well that certainly lit a fire under your tail,” Valatos buzzed. “You're zipping along almost as fast as me… Almost."

“Grr…” Alvise snarled. "Listen up, you lousy bug-"

"Oi! Who goes there!"

The three paused and looked around their surroundings before glancing up at the ship’s deck. There at the railing was a Pawniard peering down at them, his blades readied as if to deal with an intruder… They hadn’t been gone that long, had they?

"It's us!” Nori snapped. “We found a lead out in town, let us up already!"

The pirates on the ship traded glances with one another before lowering the gangplank, allowing their crewmates to climb back aboard. When Valatos and his friends reached the deck, they found themselves surrounded by the ship's crew, all eyes on them expectantly. On one side came Hess, slowly shoving his way through the crowd while giving a generous berth to the Marowak who stood among them.

"Well, what did you find out there?" the Aggron demanded.

"Well, to start with, the Imps have that bird…" Valatos began.

Grimaces spread around as an audible collective gulp went about the gathered Pokémon and Hess' face began to flush pale. If the Imps had the Protector, that meant that he was behind an entire city's worth of guards… far too many for a crew his size to try and push around directly.

"I- That's-” Hess stammered. “Do you have anything more specific than that?"

"Yeah,” Valatos continued. “They're holding a tournament in his honor and planning on bringing him out in front of the city for the closing ceremony with the winner."

Hess' head rose and his eyes lit up slightly at the mention of the closing ceremony, and his mood began to recover in time with his ponderings on this new information. With the Protector out there in the open, why... as long as they could somehow get in there, they could just snatch the Protector right off the stage! ...More or less. But, they'd overcome higher barriers in the past and still managed to get along well enough, right?

"So… he'll be there for the taking, then?" the Aggron prodded.

"I mean, he'll have to go on a stage, I'd presume,” Alvise explained. “So-"

"Then it's settled,” Hess grunted. “We're entering that tournament!"

The steel lizard’s declaration at once set off a wave of chatter among the gathered pirates. Some—such as a Charmeleon flashing his claws—seemed eager to welcome the challenge of a tournament, while others—such as a Noibat shrinking behind a barrel—seemed to be far more skeptical of the idea of entering a tournament being able to help their goal. Nori for his part seemed to relish the idea of watching his teammates battle: this was just the sort of occasion he needed to unwind after such a tense reconnaissance mission!

"Heh heh… so we're gonna see you out in the ring, huh?" the Marowak chuckled. “Sugoi! We’ll be looking forward to watching you crush a few sods!”

"No, we're going to see you in the ring, Nori,” Hess growled, pointing at the Marowak. “You three will be taking the lead for our team."

Alvise's eyes widened at the Aggron's order. He'd already tempted fate enough lurking around Tidemill, and here he was going to stick him back in it for a week's worth of fighting?!

"Wh-What?!” the Manectric yelped. “But we just spent an entire day crawling that lousy city, and you want us to go back?!"

"Yeah, and you're the toughest mon on the crew,” Nori added. “Why aren't you taking part in the tournament?"

Both the battle-ready and battle-skeptical factions of the crew seemed to find the Ground-Type’s argument convincing, drawing a chorus of “that’s right” and drawing murmurs as to why their captain seemed so eager to get involved in a tournament he didn’t want to fight in himself. Hess grimaced at his crew’s chatter, as he’d already assigned the three to battle, and now they wanted him to go along. Gah… keeping that Nori away on land was supposed to get that bonehead to make a mistake and get trapped, by the Travellers above he did not want to be stuck around that little monster! But if he refused to fight here… or if he took Nori off the team to fight himself after just assigning him... how could either of those not obviously look weak to his underlings?

"I… er…” the Aggron stammered. “Th-That's because…"

"Because a captain helps keep the ship together," a Floatzel’s voice finished.

The crowd's attention was drawn to their ship’s first mate, who scowled defiantly back at the crew. Rodion's bold statement drew incredulous murmurs of skepticism and derision from the gathered crowd. Hess, of all Pokemon, keeping the crew together? Just how badly had that Clawitzer thrown him around earlier?

"Come again, Rodion?" the Miltank medic demanded

"Yeah, looks to me like the Captain there is just trying to weasel out of a fight," Kichiro scoffed.


Kichiro stilled his mandibles at the sound of a low, gravelly growl, looking up to see Hess glaring down at him. The hulking lizard was clearly offended and took a more belligerent tone at the accusation… Perhaps a little too belligerent to be natural.

"I'm not trying to weasel out of any-" the Steel-Type began, only to quiet at the sight of a raised paw from his first mate.

"Easy, Hess,” Rodion insisted. “I wasn't done explaining."

The Floatzel's expression softened somewhat, and he began to pace around the deck, throwing a warm glance to some of his fellow pirates with a disarming smile plastered on his face.

"Look, that shrimp and her crew are obviously in town and would recognize him and anyone they captured last time. On top of that, we've obviously… had some rougher luck than normal lately, and it'll be a snowy day in Sormus before we get back anyone who gets stuck here,” Rodion said. “In light of that, do you want to risk the possibility that you'd be stuck trying to sail out of port without the toughest 'mon among us thanks to some ankle-biter in the Imp navy recognizing him? Or hedge your bets a little?"

Uncertain hemming and hawing drifted from the crowd as the implications of being left without their captain began to sink in. Hardheaded klutz though he was, Hess was still the toughest 'mon on the entire crew. Getting stuck in a scrap without him there to back them up left their odds of success... remote, to say the least. That in mind, the crew suddenly clamored much less to throw Hess himself into the arena.

"Whelp, couldn't have said it better myself, and looks like the crew's spoken,” Hess sneered. “You three are out there taking the lead."

"With what?” Valatos demanded. “We don't even have a full team between us right now!"

The Aggron put a claw to his mouth, realizing that regardless if his plot to be rid of the Marowak worked or not, he did need to take the team to enter seriously. He glanced over at the Charmeleon from earlier, who was still fired up and pawing at the deck ready to go, an obvious enough choice. Hess’ glance then turned to his escorts in the water, his eyes settling on a Sealeo among them who was chattering with a Vileplume on the railing. Actually… that seemed like a rounded enough team to work with.

"… Alfred, Pieter, and Minhwa,” Hess grunted. “You all are joining these three. Rodion will give you all scarves for cover before joining the tournament, so make the most of it and stay sharp out there."

The Captain's order was met by an eager 'aye' from the Charmeleon, followed by a less-enthusiastic echo from the Sealeo, and finally a grudging grunt from the Vileplume. At once, the Sealeo swam up onto the pier the Mistral Marauder had moored at, as the Charmeleon and Vileplume began making their way for the gangplank where Rodion walked up with a few white scarves with waterspout patterns ready in his paw. Regardless of their feelings about the matter, the team was clearly ready to accept their disguises and set off… with three very visible exceptions including a Manectric who had pulled his tail between his legs.

"B-But Captain, you don't understand,” Alvise whined. “If I get run into out there-"

"Oi! Move it, you whiny dweebs!" the Charmeleon snapped.

"Yeah, you don't see us trying to get out of the Captain's orders!" the Vileplume growled.

Before Alvise could do anything in protest, he felt a sharp shove at his rump, turning back to see Alfred and Minwha glaring at him. The wolf dug his paws into the deck, only to wind up fighting a losing battle at keeping himself from being unceremoniously pushed down the gangplank. After trading grudging looks with one another, Valatos and Nori followed after their flailing friend, prompting Hess to breathe out a sigh of relief, before making his way to the railing and cupping a claw to call out the stern, shared sentiments of the crew.

"Don't mess this up!"

As Hess’ less-than-willing tournament entrants departed the Mistral Marauder in its disguising white-and-blue sails, off at the other end, a brigantine flying white sails with blue sun patterns hummed with activity. Under the shade of its sails, the crew of the Nektar Weide busied themselves carrying aboard supplies as others tended to ship maintenance, including a bandaged Grumpig and Krokorok who pawed lazily at the deck with damp rags next to a bucket full of sudsy water.


The pair’s rhythm was interrupted by a panicked jump up as a pressurized burst of water struck the bucket, flinging its soapy contents across the deck and depositing the bucket onto the Grumpig’s head with a yelp. The two looked back uneasily towards the source of the water, only to see the growling form of their Samurott captain staring down at them.

“Stop slacking off!” Lyn snarled. “I want you two scrubbing this deck until it's clean enough for me to eat off of it!”

The Samurott’s bellowing elicited a pair of squeaks from the unfortunate deck-scrubbers, who hastily set the bucket back on the deck before hunching down and beginning to scrub with visibly affected enthusiasm. Up above, the Crobat leader of the aerial escorts stirred from the racket, sleepily spreading his wings and turning to some of his nearby subordinates perched on the rigging.

"Nrgh… when's that debriefing starting?” the Crobat groaned. “It's too late in the day for this…"

"Beats me,” a nearby Fearow sighed. “I haven't seen so much as a feather of those two-"


The crew’s attention turned towards the dock, where Ellsberg flitted up onto the deck and settled on a railing stretching himself tiredly. Behind him, the sound of footsteps rang out as Ketu climbed the gangplank back up to the ship, fidgeting with a rolled-up paper from his shoulder bag to an impatient frown from Lyn.

"It took you that long to find anything in this district?” the Samurott demanded. “I'd have been better off just telling the crew to go out and mingle!"

"Actually, we did you one better,” Ketu countered. “We snuck past the barrier into the rest of the city."

"In my defense, Lyn,” Ellsberg sighed. “I told him that-"

“Enough. Risks are acceptable when the payoff merits them,” the Water-Type interrupted, holding up a paw for silence. Lyn shifted his weight and shook his head, staring intently at the pair of Second-Ranks before him.

“So what exactly did you two discover?"

Ketu rolled his eyes and took the poster in his claws, giving a swift motion down to unfurl it in front of Lyn and the watching crew. The Weavile paused for a moment for the initial surprise at the drawing of their target to sink in, before speaking up.

"That the Imps definitely have got the bird,” he explained. “They're holding a tournament in honor of some ’new Protector’ that they ’awakened’. Last I checked the only one that looked anything like the picture on here was ours."

"We also ran into the Guardian's little friends at the local stadium-" Ellsberg began, only to be cut off with a stomp and a growl from his Samurott listener.

"And you let them go why?” the Water-Type demanded. “They would be our best lead back to-"

"I hadn't finished, Lyn,” the Mothim insisted. “They were without the Protector and doing some odd job for a local Pikachu. It's safe to say that they don't have any way of getting to Lugia themselves."

Lyn shot Ellsberg sour frown. He should've known better than to expect that those Tromban whelps would get lucky with escaping a ship with their Protector a second time.

"And of course the simple solution had to not be an option…” Lyn sighed. “No matter, we still have another route open. If the Imperials are letting the winner of this tournament just waltz up to the Protector, we’ll be fielding a team to enter it."

"Tch,” Ketu scoffed. “Someone's eager to get back into act-"

"I won't be going, Ketu,” the Samurott growled. “As loath as I am to give my blades rest, someone else will have to head our team. Specifically you."

Ketu furrowed his brow before giving a surprised tilt of his head back at the Samurott. Him? Since when had Lyn ever made a point of making him do his dirty work on land?

“What?” the Weavile demanded. “You’re not exactly a pushover here. Why don’t you just gather some deckhands and enter the tournament yourself?”

"Because my cover was just compromised yesterday,” Lyn snapped. “If you have enough time to sit back while a rogue Second-Rank tries to slice me up in the middle of a peasant uprising, sleep through the Protector escaping, and sunbathe on my deck, I think that it's nigh time that you had a chance to prove yourself again."

"Just what are you batting at here?" Ketu demanded.

The Weavile’s ears perked up at the sound of a seamitar embedding itself into the deck with a resounding thunk. He glanced indignantly up at its owner, who seemed visibly irate at his back-talk, the recently-vacated throwing paw now balled into a white-knuckled fist.

"I'm saying I will need to look for another Pokémon to fill the duties of first mate if you can't demonstrate to me that you're the best 'mon for the job," the Samurott said. “I would encourage you to think twice about pushing back against me on this matter.”

Ketu paused and grimaced at the Samurott’s ultimatum. His work for Administrator Elilan required him to have the sort of latitude he presently enjoyed on Lyn’s crew. He had his own goals that certainly wouldn’t be happening if he couldn’t deliver the Protector. If it had come out that he’d botched his cover through flippant and completely avoidable behavior, life would become... unenviable, to say the least. As such, it was perhaps best to tend to his wounded pride another time and try and wait for Lyn’s patience to recover a bit before returning to his relaxed status quo.

"In order to help you, I'll allow you to take anything that you feel you need in order to prove yourself," Lyn offered. “Sound reasonable?”

"Hrmph, fine."

"Yeah, break a leg out there, featherhead!” a Mothim’s jeering buzz rang out. “Or maybe two!"

Ketu hissed back at the taunting Mothim, baring his teeth threateningly. After his initial reaction, the first mate's demeanor eased a bit, his naked aggression transforming into a face of smug, retributive realization.

"You know what? I know the first thing that I need,” Ketu said. “I need Elmer's bum with me in that ring, pronto."

Ellsberg flitted up with a flustered start at the Weavile's demand. That slacker couldn't just drag him along into this, he was the one who'd fallen afoul of the captain!"

"E-Eh?!” the Mothim cried. “How do you get off trying to drag me into this, you weasel!"

The Weavile stuck his tongue out at the Mothim, relishing his discomfort, much to Lyn's visible displeasure. The Samurott threw a paw over his face, muttering under his breath about whether Ketu appreciated just how thin his patience with him had worn down.

"I take it back,” Lyn sighed. “Since you're picking your team based off of spite over tactical utility, I'll give you the tools that you'll need to prove yourself…"

Ketu shot back a sour frown, rolling his eyes at his captain's meddlesome interference. Even so, he knew better than to challenge Lyn at this point in time. The Dark-Type folded his ears back and relented as the Samurott looked around the crew for suitable teammates, his eyes settling on a dozing Crobat dangling from the rigging.


"Nrk!” the Crobat cried, beating his wings out with a start. “Wha-? Huh?"

"Get up and sleep later,” Lyn barked. “I want you to accompany Ketu in the tournament."

"… What tournament?"

"… Ask Ketu for details,” the otter harrumphed. “I'm not going to waste my breath on this."

Lyn then turned his attention to the crowd of subordinates, where he started looking around for suitable Pokémon to field. After a few false starts, his gaze settled on a Tauros and an Electabuzz chatting with each other. The infiltrators he’d assigned to Tromba on the first day… who evidently didn’t have anything better to do right now.

"Fintan, Tarmo,” the Samurott snapped. “You're on the team as well."

"Huh?” the Tauros asked, pulling his head up with a start. The bull looked around puzzledly for a moment, before noticing his captain giving an expectant scowl, which prompted the creature to over-hastily agree.

“Er… right we can handle it!"

"Yeah, you can count on us to light up the field!" the Electabuzz added.

Lyn groaned under his breath at the Electric-Type's pun, bidding the two to come along before turning his attention back to his crew. The Samurott looked around keenly, playing around with possibilities in his mind that would give Ketu's team the best odds of victory, which led him to settle his gaze on a Crawdaunt loitering in the harbor water, and an orange Lycanroc on all fours pawing impatiently at the planks of the deck.

"Cray, Rudolf,” the Water-Type insisted. “You two are also on the team."

"Aye, captain," the Crawdaunt answered.

"Shouldn't be anything we haven't seen before from sparring," the Lycanroc added.

The freshly-established team crowded around the glowering Weavile, shifting impatiently and glancing at the gangplank ready to leave the ship and start scouting out their battleground. Lyn glared down at his first mate, silently daring him to challenge his orders now of all times.

"And there you go, Ketu. One team that should be more than sufficient for you to win or else get through enough of the tournament to nab that bird,” Lyn grunted. “Do be aware that I'll be tracking your progress."

A palpable tension hung in the air following Lyn's order. Both captain and first mate traded glares with one another, before the Weavile shook his head with a disgusted sigh.

"Wouldn't want it any other way," the Dark-Type growled.

Ketu and his new teammates took their leave down the gangplank, melting into the crowds massed in the streets in no time at all. As Lyn watched his first mate disappear into the mess of Pokémon, he looked up as Ellsberg flitted up to him with a puzzled look, waving one arm to catch his attention.

"Are we seriously hinging the hope of our entire mission on that red-headed slacker?" the Mothim buzzed.

"Hardly. He'll have accomplished his mission as long as he can determine how to get to the Protector while he's still in the running,” Lyn explained. “If he wins, he'll speed things up for us, but as long as he finds out where the bird is, we can still pull this mission off. All that's needed for now is to give him a little motivation to take things seriously until then."

Clearing his throat, the Samurott's mouth turned down into a scowl as he shot Ellsberg a pointed glare.

"I would encourage you not to get too comfortable yourself, Ellsberg,” hr chided. “I value loyalty from Pokémon like Ketu as much as anyone else, but I have a limited appetite for ‘mons wasting my time."

Ellsberg blanched and flitted back uneasily. Working for Elilan or not, Lyn was certainly not a 'mon to be trifled with, as his dealings with Ketu illustrated. Perhaps it was best to try and make himself look busy here.

"Er… right,” the Bug-Type gulped. “I'm sure there's some work to be done right now…"

The Mothim turned and flitted off, opting to track inventory below the deck and away from Lyn’s prying eyes. Back above, Lyn prowled over to the railing, leaning over it as he looked off into the street where Ketu and his assigned teammates had slipped off, a small smirk settling over his muzzle.

"I'm a fan of bold plays as much as the next Pokémon, but sometimes you just have to know when to stop sitting on your cards," he said. “Let’s see how this one unfolds.”

The innards of the Vecioferàle Arena proved to be as cavernous and disorienting as any Mystery Dungeon for Team Traveller. The stadium’s ground level had been raised relative to the canals and streets, with a layered ring of stands built around a central, sunken battlefield that contained trapdoors for Pokémon and stage obstacles to be moved around, and curious apertures that looked as if they were meant to move water onto the battlefield itself. The three’s initial instinct had been to check the various stands that hawked food and goods to spectators in the hallways, only to come up with dead ends again and again.

After some pointers from a few local guards, their attention shifted to the lower levels of the stadium. The lower portions of the stadium were a catacomb of chambers that served as storage areas that kept the arena’s logistics in order, and more importantly housed the complex’s lost and found and mailroom. Their search took them past chambers and prowling guards, including a Zweilous that spent much of his time dawdling in front of a ratty poster. A few false starts later, Team Traveller came to their current location of a chute with pull lid, Nida and Guardia waiting impatiently as Elty rooted through the chute before the Cubone gave a rap with her bone against its wooden flat.

"Do you see anything in there?" Guardia asked. The Cubone’s question was answered by a shake of the Growlithe’s rump, as its owner flailed to plant his feet against the wall and pull the rest of his body out of the chute, eventually poking his head out with a small collection of envelopes stuck in his fur.

"Just a bunch of letters,” Elty called back. “What's a stadium need all of these for anyways?"

"Well, I'm stumped,” Nida sighed. “That diary wasn't in the lockers, it wasn't in any of the rooms we could get to, and it's not in these mail chutes… Just where haven't we looked by now?"

Nida’s teammates mulled in thought. It did seem strange that supplies for a stadium wouldn’t be anywhere where one would expect to find them. Could they have been thrown out? If so, that could potentially take them anywhere in Tidemill... Perhaps it was better to make sure they weren’t missing anything first?

"Maybe we should try retracing our steps?” Guardia suggested. “It could be tucked away in some corner we overlooked."

Elty shook the envelopes loose and dropped down to the floor, rejoining his teammates as they made their way down the hallway and began to look in the alcoves and corners. They found a stray copper coin, some dust bunnies, some shed feathers and hair, but no sign of anything that looked remotely like a diary. Elty shook his head, turning to check down another corridor, where saw the Zweilous guard in front of the poster looking around warily before slipping off.

"Eh?” the Growlithe asked. “The guard was still at that poster all this time?"

"So?” Guardia demanded. “What's wrong with watching the hallway from there?"

"Yeah, but wouldn't he have moved around or something?” Elty pressed “Why stay at that one specific spot?"

"… I think that you're overanalyzing things," Nida sighed.

"Maybe so, but you hut dwellers are a peculiar lot,” Guardia countered. “If nothing else, it would be worth inspecting for lore to relay about the habits of your guardians."

The three made their way over to the poster, and Nida pawed at it, discovering that the bottom was loose. The Nidoran blinked, before peering at it from underneath and noticing that there was a conspicuous lump sticking out in the middle.

"Huh?” Nida murmured. “There's something behind here."

"I told you,” Elty snorted. “Now come on, let's hurry up and make a tower to see what's there."

The Growlithe darted over to the wall, beckoning his teammates to follow after him. One by one, Guardia, and then Nida clambered onto the Fire-Type, forming a rough tower between the three resting on each other’s shoulders topped by the blue Nidoran. Nida moved her paw to the bottom edge of the poster and pulled it up, revealing a crude wooden nub embedded in the wall.

“Eh?” Guardia asked. “What’s that thing doing in the wall?”

“I don’t know,” Nida answered. “But it looks like it can move.”

The Poison-Type pawed at the nub and found it to be loose and jiggle to the touch. Without thinking, she pushed down on it, only for the nub to suddenly jerk down, and the sound of a faint click to reach the three’s ears.

"Hu- Agh!"

Before the Nidoran or her teammates could react, the wall the three were leaning against swung inwards, sending the trio pitching forward and tumbling down a darkened set of wooden stairs with a yelp. After pinwheeling down a flight, the three came into a tumbling stop into a pile on a stony floor, bunched up against a wooden obstacle that had been left at the bottom.

"Gah, my tail…" Elty whined.

"Urgh…” Guardia groaned. “Are these contraptions normally built by you hut-dwellers?"

The three pulled themselves up and off of each other as light from the opened section of wall filtered down dimly. They waited a moment for their eyes to adjust to the light, revealing the obstacle at the bottom of the stairs to be a crate, with a partially melted candle left in a clay lantern with a wooden holder on top of it.

"Eh? There's a świeca here,” Elty murmured. “Let's see what we're dealing with.”

The Growlithe jumped and pulled himself up to the top of the crate and nosed at the lantern, breathing a few sparks into it. The gout of fire lit up the room with a flash, before settling down into a dimmer glow as the candle’s fire simmered down. The dog grabbed the holder with his mouth and carefully clambered down, revealing the room to be a small chamber riddled with wooden crates with a few tables and a closed door at the other end.

"Qué es este lugar?” Nida asked. “And why's it smell like hay?"

"Well, whatever it is, someone didn't want it to be discovered," Guardia said.

"Right,” Elty replied. “All the more reason to expect that we'd find that diary down here."

Flummoxed, Nida and Guardia glanced at one another, and then back to Elty in unison. What kind of leap in logic was that? Had he conked his head on the way down or what? All that they could see here were just a bunch of crates!

"Come again?" Guardia asked.

"We've been looking across an entire stadium and neither us nor Cardino could find Sibich's diary,” Elty explained. “If it was just sent here by accident, one of the guards would've found it and told someone about it."

The Growlithe shook his head, before lowering his snout back to the ground. He inhaled deeply, sniffing at the crates and finding them to be the source of the suspicious hay smell.

"No, this smells like it was done on purpose,” the dog continued. “If that diary's not already been burnt-up already, wouldn't it be reasonable to think that it'd be hidden in some place no one was expecting?"

"Someplace… no one was expecting…" Nida murmured.

Well it was certainly hard for anywhere else they’d been in the arena so far to top this little chamber as an unexpected place. Could the diary really have been hidden here? The three began to root through the crates, finding them to be empty beyond some hay lining inside, and curiously, flakes of eggshells. The process continued on until Nida chanced to find a small wooden bin beside a crude table filled with spoiled papers. Inside, the Nidoran nosed around and felt something heavy and block-like inside pulling it out and finding it to be a book. Nida blinked and cracked it open, only to find that it was filled with page after page of runes filled with jumbled-up nonsense. The Poison-Type frowned, and was about to throw the tome of gibberish aside, only for a surprised yelp to ring out.

"Ack! What are you doing, spike ball?!” Elty yelped. “That's it! That's the diary!"


Elty hurried over with the lantern, the light revealing a hand-shaped design on the book’s cover, the same that had been on Eric and his friends’ scarves back in the detention center. Nida looked down dumbfounded at the cover, before looking back at the Growlithe, stammering incredulously at his claim.

"But it can't be his diary!” Nida insisted. “It's full of nonsense writing!"

"Technically, isn't all of your rune writing-?" Guardia began, only to be cut off by a hasty hiss from her Poison-Type teammate.

"You know what I meant!"

Nida cracked the diary open and slid the book in front of her Growlithe teammate who peered down to read it. Sure enough, the writing did sound like nonsense when read aloud… but it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d run into writing like this. He’d heard of pirates from the Council sending messages harboring secrets where the runes would be switched with the ones next to them… Elty frowned and lowered his ears at the gibberish-riddled diary. A code would certainly explain what was happening here, but how were they supposed to figure out the proper order how to switch them back?

"Bah, it's written in some sort of code!” he growled. “Some sort of evidence this was!"

Elty angrily kicked the leg of the nearby table, causing it to shudder and shower the floor full of papers. Nida and Guardia bristled out of alarm at the spilled papers, shooting glares at their Fire-Type teammate.

"Gah! Elty!"

"I didn't do it!" the Growlithe exclaimed.

"Come on,” Guardia snapped. “Let's just put them back before someone notices."

The three hastily began collecting the spilled papers, throwing them haphazardly back onto the table. As Elty finished shoving a mouthful of papers back onto the table, he watched as Guardia threw a stack of her own onto the table, with a curious repeating rune listed on it.

"… Eggs?" Elty murmured.

"Eh?” Guardia asked. “What are you talking about?"

"Your paper there,” the dog insisted. “It has it on there over and over again."

The Cubone showed the paper off in her claws, revealing it to be entries from a ledger. On each line was a name, followed by a number, the rune for “eggs”, and some notes to the side about things such as “condition” and “species”.

"Head Chargers, Mud Marauders, Shadow Brigade…” he muttered. “Hold on a second, these are all crews that were into egg theft!"

The three paused as a dawning realization crept up on them. The logs here were for records of stolen eggs that were being passed onto pirates. If Sibich’s diary was here with these, then whatever was in it was important enough for the thieves to want to keep hidden, so then...

"It must've been that Cofagrigus who really stole those eggs!” Nida exclaimed. “Why else would whoever came down here go through so much trouble?"

Guardia stuffed the diary into the team's bag on Nida’s shoulder along with some other shifty-looking papers handed to her by Elty. As she looked on, waiting for the Growlithe to scan over the rest of the papers strewn about the desk, the sound of footsteps echoing down the stairwell brought each of them to a complete halt, and the sound of the Zweilous guard's voice filtered down into the chamber.

“Hah!” the growling voice cried. “I knew that slipping off to get Thalez's autograph would be worth- Huh?!"

Team Traveller hastily hopped into one of the crates and dove under the hay as footsteps raced down the steps, a Zweilous coming into view. The dragon’s heads sniffed at the air, and after noticing the scent of fresh intruders, looked around in alarm, upending papers and furniture in search of the trespassers. Team Traveller froze and held their breaths as the Dragon-Type poked its heads into the box, nosing at the hay underneath.

"All contestants, please make your way to the battlefield,” a disembodied voice proclaimed. “We will be commencing with the opening ceremony in five minutes."

The guard paused and took a good whiff of the box, only detecting the scent of hay. The Zweilous looked around his surroundings uneasily, before eyeing the door. Someone had obviously been here, but if he wasn’t there at the opening ceremony, it would be bound to raise questions… Then perhaps the best thing to do would be to try and cut losses for now.

"They must be gone already," the left head muttered.

"We'll clear this place out after the cerimònia," the right insisted. "They couldn't have gotten that much in just a few minutes…"

The door at the top of the stairs slammed shut with a loud thud, followed by a long silence. One by one, the members of Team Traveller poked their heads above the hay, gasping for air and sighing loudly out of relief.

"That was too close," Nida panted.

"Uh, wasn't that voice earlier just saying that we needed to go to the arena right now?" Guardia insisted.

"Are you kidding?” Elty snapped. “That lizard said he'd be coming back to clear this place out. Whatever we don't get is gone for good!"

"Yeah, but if we get kicked out of the tournament, our ability to find anything else is gone for good," Nida countered.

The three paused, looking around indecisively. Five minutes was not enough time to meaningfully scour the room for evidence… but if the Pokémon that used it had already been clumsy enough with it once, who was to say that trying to hold out at the stadium wouldn't provide other opportunities to search for clues?

"As a gentle reminder, attendance to the opening ceremony is mandatory," the telepath’s voice announced. “Any teams that do not show up will have been presumed to have forfeited and removed from the running.”

"… Grab anything that looks like it might be useful,” Nida said. “We need to get out of here."

The team shoveled as many useful-looking papers as they could off of the table into their bag, and darted for the doorway. Having taken the lead, Elty cracked the door open and peered out carefully, ensuring they wouldn't be seen. At his go-ahead, the three of them darted out into the hallway, breaking into a full sprint as fast as their legs could carry them in the direction of the battlefield.

Author's Notes:

- cuco - Venetian: "fool"
- Vecioferàle Arena - Venetian: "Old Lighthouse Arena". Irregular, conventional rendering in language would be "Arena Vecioferàle"
- Arena Veijofaro - Spanish: "Old Lighthouse Arena"
- Sugoi! (凄い! / すごい!) - Japanese: "Great!" (Hepburn Romanization)
- świeca - Polish: "candle"
- Qué es este lugar? - Spanish: "What is this place?"
- cerimònia - Venetian: "ceremony"
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Chapter 57: Catching Up

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie

As Team Traveller prowled Tidemill's arena for Cardino's evidence, things had settled down back at the Mistral Marauder. On the deck and the nearby docks, sailors from the moored ship whiled away time gawking at their surroundings and busying themselves with small games of cards and chance. Their counterparts among the sea escorts similarly passed their time amongst themselves with gossip and resting under the pier's pilings, taking advantage of their unexpected downtime.

In the midst of the languid atmosphere, Rodion made his way about the ship's deck, taking stock of the condition of the timbers and rigging as he always did after pulling into a port. The mustelid looked up from the last mast, finding nothing disagreeable from his check and turned to make his way to his Aggron superior who watched the cityscape from the ship's bow, a palpable sense of contentment hanging around him.

"Oh? You sure seem to be in a good mood, Hess," the Floatzel murmured.

"Heh, what can I say?" the Aggron answered back. "I'm feeling good about our odds at that tournament! Looks like we might have a shot at getting that bird after all."

"Eh? I thought you tended to be more confident about the stuff you did in person," Rodion wondered, moving a paw along his chin. "Is there something about that team you picked that I'm missing?"

"It's an open tournament," Hess scoffed. "Everyone knows those tournaments are full of common rookie dweebs trying to make a name for themselves. A few tougher-than-normal 'mons from our crew ought to mop the floor with them!"

The Aggron gave a contented grin and wagged his tail, only to notice that something had caught Rodion's attention. The Floatzel's eyes widened out of surprise, prompting him to point off behind his metal-headed superior.

"Er… you mean the 'mons that are coming up the gangplank right now?" he asked.

"Wait, what-"

Hess turned around to follow Rodion's line of sight, and the grin slipped off his face as quickly as it had come at the sight that greeted him. There before him were that blasted Marowak and his assigned teammates, waddling up the gangplank with their heads hung firmly downwards in shame, shuffling sheepishly under his shocked gaze.

"Ack! Why are you here?!" Hess cried. "You're supposed to be fighting in the tournament!"

"Uh… yeah, about that…" Alvise began. "We kinda had an issue while signing up."

"They said someone from our crew already entered and wouldn't let us join!" Nori exclaimed.

"We tried to… persuade them into letting us in anyways with some coin," Valatos explained. "But they told us to take a hike."

Hess glared at his subordinates, before eyeing their scarves more closely, and glancing up at the 'borrowed' sails the Mistral Marauder had been flying... and groaned as he put two and two together. Those sails had been taken from that Tromban ship, so if "someone from their crew" had already joined up, it couldn't have been anyone but those blasted bumpkins they ran into at Kenobi!

"Of course," Hess grumbled. "Those Tromban hicks must also be in the tournament right now."

Rodion clicked his tongue in frustration and paused, thinking over the team's plight. After a moment's thought, he shot a skeptical frown at the party as a realization came over him.

"Wait a minute," the Floatzel said. "If they're in there, why didn't you just add a dot or something to distinguish your scarves?"

Valatos' mandibles hung open, grasping for an explanation and failing to find one as the Charmeleon, Sealeo, and Vileplume among his teammates shot frowning scowls at him. He trailed off awkwardly, leaving a pointed silence to hang over the ship's deck.

"… Uh…"

"That's what I tried to tell them!" the Vileplume sighed, throwing a hand over her face.

The deck jolted as Hess stomped the timbers underfoot, sending some nearby pirates sprawling to the deck with a yelp as they lost their footing. As things settled, the Yanmega and his companions winced as they looked up and met the gaze of the livid Aggron, who snarled and bared his fangs as he glared down at them.

"So fix your scarves and get back in line already!" the Steel-Type snapped.

Valatos and his fellow contestants hastily squeaked back an affirmation before bolting back down the gangplank. The Aggron captain stared blankly after the party as they slipped back into the bustle of Tidemill's streets, before turning and groping at a chest with his claw. Hess fished out a clay flask and brought it shakily to his mouth, taking a deep, anxious swig of the calming rum within before dropping it to the side with a defeated frown.

"Urgh… what did we just get ourselves into?"

Up in the higher tiers of the Vecioferàle Arena, Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo led Pleo down an arcing hallway lined with open-air windows on one end and doors on the other. Every so often there would be the occasional entrance opposite of the windows blocked off by folding paper screens and strong guards who'd been allocated segments of cerulean cloth armor for their bodies, letting naught through them but the sound and shadows of Pokémon inside.

The three led the young Protector past a pair of guards and into a darkened room with tables and cushioned seats set out, columned walls, and flecks of light peeking through along the floor from three sides from behind heavy curtains, which prompted the seabird to crane his neck around uneasily.

"Where did you take me?"

"It's the opening ceremony for your tournament," Cabot explained. "Queen Aleria wanted you out there so you could better see the Pokémon that need you as their Protector."

"Yeah, and you won't be seeing anything fast from the air with your flight feathers the way they are," Niilo added. "So might as well let us show you arou- Ow!"

The Sandslash yelped as a hard hoof stomped on his foot, and nursed his injured toes before shooting the Ponyta a dirty glare from his spot on the ground.

"Shut it, najemnik!" Berecien snapped. "Anyhow… we wanted to show you something."

The Ponyta nosed with his snout at a curtain drawn over a set of wide windows, letting light from outside filtered in along with a great murmur. Pleo blinked curiously and waddled over, peering through the slit Berecien opened to see that outside was a great circle-shaped courtyard filled with Pokémon of all shapes and sizes watching from terraced stands. At the center, small groups of Pokémon had gathered on a field, all expectantly looking up and seemingly in wait...

"There's a lot of Pokémon in the Empire who have been waiting a long time for this moment," the fire horse explained. "For something bigger than them to take their side."

"Yeah, and they're all here to greet you!" Cabot cheered. "To make you feel welcome in your new home!"

"I… guess…"

Pleo looked out over the grand arena and its throngs, the rapt attention providing cold comfort to his own loneliness and yearnings for home. Unbeknownst to the young Protector, at that time, his teammates darted onto the field and took in their surroundings. The Vecioferàle Arena was a grand space consisting of a circular pit ringed with stone stands that went up in tiers up to a canvas ring about the edge that provided the stage. On the field, the contours of a battlefield had been sketched out on sandy ground, along with impressions of trapdoors and signs of movement of heavy objects. Curiously, there also seemed to be portholes in the pit's walls just below the first rows of seats, the apertures sporting fresh water stains on them. Elty looked back at his teammates and saw that the pair were gobsmacked at the sheer scale of the battlefield and its surroundings.

"I take it you haven't seen anything quite this big before, huh?" the Growlithe murmured.

"Obviously not!" Nida exclaimed. "This arena has more 'mons in it than our entire town!"

"I didn't know it was possible for your colony grounds to get this populated…" Guardia murmured.

Nida looked around and saw that the teams were composed of Pokémon of every conceivable shape and size… including the Gallade, Blastoise, and Goodra they'd spotted at the signups. The three were far from the only obviously tough competitors on the field, as all throughout the gathering, taller and stronger competitors blocked out the sun with their shadows, hardly a positive omen for fighting against them.

"Yeesh," the Nidoran muttered. "If our first fight is against them, maybe we should just forfeit."

"Pah," Guardia scoffed. "Why would you be so swift to turn tail?"

"Because we have our evidence and we don't have any chance of actually being allowed to go and see Pleo?" Elty retorted, rolling his eyes.

"But there's lore to be gathered!" Guardia insisted. "Strategies to learn, histories of your warriors, and-"

"All contestants, your attention please," the announcer's voice said. "The Silver Wing Cup is about to begin! Please give a warm welcome to our host, the one, the only..."

Team Traveller looked up to see a Rotom flitting out of an announcer's pavilion built into one of the upper stands, the glint of a badge shining against his crackling body. The Ghost-Type zipped around over the stands, the spectators filling the air with raucous cheers as he passed overhead.

"Good afternoon, beauties and gentlebeauties!" the Rotom crackled. "It's me, Thalez! The master of sound and soul who's ringing in the first ever Silver Wing Cup!"

Nida, Guardia, and Elty furrowed their brows skeptically at the ruddy ghost zipping above the stands. For such a small Pokémon, the Rotom certainly had an outsized personality... and ego to boot from the sound of it.

"They really managed to get some characters out for this thing, huh?" Elty sighed.

"I can already tell it's going to be a great show!" Thalez cheered. "Everyone give a big hand for our wonderful contestants!"

The crowd erupted into cheers and applause for the gathered fighters in the arena pit, the assorted Pokémon basking in the attention for a moment. As the lot was collectively distracted, a small party consisting of Pokémon in white scarves that had hastily been retouched to have blue triangle designs slipped in at the edges, panting from a hasty rush into the stadium, with a particular Yanmega, Manectric, and Marowak at the head of the group.

"Gah…" Valatos buzzed. "Lousy paper pushers are such a pain to deal with even here."

"Well, at least we made it, right?" Alvise sighed.

"Yeah, it's fighting!" Nori snorted. "This oughta be a piece of cake!"

"And for all you novices out there, there's only one rule," Thalez explained. "Fight and win… or you die!"

Valatos and his teammates froze in shock at the Rotom's announcement. They hadn't signed up for a fight to the death, right? Since when was that a part of things?!


"Tournament-wise!" Thalez cheered. "Don't worry, my dear contestants! The only things getting buried on this battlefield are losers' dreams!"

The Rotom's exclamation drew laughs and chortles from the nearby contestants, which made Alvise turn up his snout and snort out of annoyance.

"Pah… Thalez's still doing his old bait and switch routine, I see," the Manectric grumbled.

"And for the lucky winners out there in the field, we've got quite the haul for you! We've got a silver cup, a title…"

Thalez zipped by a box high up in the stands that had been covered by indigo drapes. As he passed, the curtains parted to reveal the form of a long-necked bird with silver feathers, who shrank uneasily back as he felt the presence of thousands of eyes turning to him intently.

"And an audience with the first-ever Protector of Anyilla! Lugia, Guardian of the Seas!"

The stadium broke into a deafening cheer as the gathered spectators eagerly roared out their approval of their new Protector. From below on the arena floor, amidst the gleeful awe of their fellow competitors, Team Traveller stared up in slack-jawed surprise.

"Wait!" Nida cried. "That's the prize?!"

"Rev up those wishes, beauties and gentlebeauties," the Rotom said. "I know that I'd have trouble settling on what I'd want from that plucky little bird!"

The Pokémon in the stadium went wild with raucous cheers as spectators and contestants alike traded wild fantasies of what they'd do were they the lucky victor. Even so, a few more sober faces lingered on, including that of a Weavile among the contestants giving an unimpressed harrumph and folding his arms over each other.

"Hrmph. I see that they didn't feel any hesitation cutting his feathers," Ketu grumbled. "Shame, he looks like he wouldn't need much of a push to convince him to take off right now."

"Well, it's nothing that we can't handle over a few fights, right?" an orange-furred Lycanroc next to him asked.

"Maybe…" the Weavile muttered. "But I'm keeping my eyes open for a way to cut to the chase and cut him loose."

"So let's get this show rolling, folks! Real action! Real drama! Real bloodshed! Which the authorities will remind is to be avoided per rules of the Imperial Battle League but hey who cares?!" Thalez cried. "Go and give us a finale that'll drive this crowd wild!"

The stadium filled with a cheering roar as the contestants waved back and began to filter out of the arena pit. As the crowd of fighters visibly thinned, the party from the Siglo Swellow remained visibly fixed in their spot, staring up at the box where Pleo had revealed himself as the curtains were lowered and the Protector slipped from view.

"So he really is out there…" Crom murmured. As the young Dragon-Type found himself dumbstruck over the discovery, Ander's mood had taken a far more agitated turn, the Scyther shaking his head anxiously back and forth.

"Irresponsible. It's all completely irresponsible," the Bug-Type piped. "Trotting around that- that thing around like it's some toy."

The Scyther's visible unsettledness drew an audible pause from his teammates, unsure of how to respond. After a short, awkward lull, Dimitri cleared his throat, hoping to shift the team's focus back to their present options at hand.

"Where do we even start on this?" the Kabutops asked. "I honestly don't know how we slice the whole 'getting Pleo' part right now."

The group fell silent as they mulled over the situation, thinking about how best to retrieve Pleo. Winning the tournament outright was a longshot, to say the least, but the odds of trying to steal him away from such a crowded, well-guarded area didn't seem much better. The five Pokémon found themselves blanking out, and after a while Kiran ruffled his feathers uncomfortably and spoke up.

"… Let's try and think this through in a quieter place," the Swellow offered.

The five turned and began to trudge off for the exit, passing by various Pokémon on the way over. Unbeknownst to the young Druddigon and his companions, at the same time, a Nidoran was passing by with her Growlithe and Cubone teammates. Nida and her companions were similarly not paying attention to the passing Pokémon until the Poison-Type chanced to catch the sight of a red crest high up from the corner of her eye. The blue rabbit blinked and caught herself, before looking back into the sea of Pokémon, her lack of progress catching the attention of her teammates.

"Something the matter, Nidoran?" Guardia asked.

"It's just, for a moment, I thought I saw…"

"Hey! It's this way!" a chirping voice cried.

The trio looked and for a fleeting moment saw the forms of a familiar Swellow and Kabutops in the crowd in white scarves. The three blinked, and began to follow after, when much to Nida's astonishment, there at the mouth of the exit, she saw the form of a shorter Druddigon heading inside… Wasn't that-?!


The five Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow followed the rest of the teams into the maze of corridors and chambers that formed the arena's underlevels. The group hung back as the teams disappeared off into different chambers and waiting rooms, before looking around and slipping down an emptied back corridor. The five went down a ways, and after growing suitably convinced they were not being overheard, began to talk amongst themselves about their next course of action.

"Er… so what do we do now?" Pladur murmured.

"We fight and win the tournament?" Dimitri replied. The Kabutops' question drew a nervous squirm out of the Fraxure, prompting him to look around his surroundings with visible unease.

"Yeah, but we're one team out of… I don't even know how many teams were out there," the Dragon-Type muttered. "A-And a lot of them seemed really tough. There was that Gallade with the Goodra and the Blastoise... the team with the Slaking... and that one with the Metagross…"

Pladur's doubts quickly rubbed off onto his teammates, making Crom, Ander, and even Dimitri blanch a bit at how daunting their odds looked at the moment. Even so, the Swellow among their number seemed to retain some semblance of optimism, as the bird fanned out a wing and patted his Druddigon pupil's shoulder.

"It's nothing that can't be resolved with a little bit of planning ahead," Kiran reassured.

"But… do we really know anything about the other Pokémon?" Crom asked. "How would we even know what to expect?"

A sinking feeling fell over the company as they realized they were more than likely hopelessly outmatched in a tournament full of career fighters who no doubt made a living fighting in tournaments just like this. To turn the tide as underdogs in one battle was possible, if challenging...

But how could they possibly pull it off enough times to win an entire tournament against foes whose strategies they had no foreknowledge of? And with just the five of them to support one another?

The situation came over the sailors in a rush, and it was enough to make anyone feel small in the face of an intimidating foe, to say nothing of the fate of Pleo and the entire island of Tromba hanging in the balance on top of it.


A familiar, squeaky voice brought the group to attention. Crom felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him as he heard it, harkening back to the simpler times before this whole mess began. The Dragon-Type shook himself and realized that it was none other than the voice that always came to greet him when he arrived from his family's bakery in the mornings...

"Wait a minute!" the Druddigon cried "That's-!"

The dragon whirled around towards the calling voice, and his eyes went wide. It really was Nida, in the flesh! The little Poison-type ran towards him with wide, expectant eyes as she called his name again. Following her was that Growlithe pirate they'd roped into their team all that time ago on Tromba, as well as another Pokémon Crom had never met before. The Cubone seemed somewhat confused as her friends rushed off ahead of her, but she hurried after them all the same.


The Nidoran and Druddigon darted ahead of their still-stunned groups, the young Poison-Type leaping into her Druddigon companion's arms as he lifted and twirled around with her. The Dragon-Type pulled the young pincushion close and gave an enthusiastic, nuzzling squeeze, little droplets forming at the edges of their eyes as their reunion sunk in and their teammates neared.

"I've missed you so much…" Crom sniffled.

"Yeah…" Nida answered. "Same here-"

"Eh?! Just who are these majū?"

All eyes in the gathering turned at the sound of a raspy voice, settling down on a puzzled-looking Cubone. Ander and Pladur in particular seemed to be surprised at the bone lizard's appearance; was this the extra Pokémon Aulis had been talking about back in Copperband Village?

"Wait, you never told me you had a Cubone pupil, Kiran," Ander murmured.

"Er… I don't," the Swellow explained, before hopping over to the bone-helmeted lizard.

"Who are you, little one?"

"I'm Shugodeshi, lorekeeper-in-training of the Dungeon Colony," the Ground-Type answered. "My teammates here call me 'Guardia'."

"Bonehead also works," Elty replied. The Growlithe opened his mouth to continue, only to be promptly cut off by a conk of the Cubone's club against his head.


Nida sighed as her teammates traded glares with one another, and noticed that a faint, flustered chagrin had crept up on Crom and his companions. The Nidoran waved her paws, hoping to smooth over the less-than-ideal impression.

"We recruited her in Kenobi when we explored the Mystery Dungeon there," Nida explained. "Sorry if she was a bit of a surprise, Kiran."

"Oh hardly," the Swellow chortled. "With you recruiting a fresh member on your own, you've shown 100% more initiative than any of my past classes!"

Guardia wagged her tail a bit at the Swellow's greeting. Even though the stranger did seem to be a little more numbers-oriented than she'd have expected of a team leader, he didn't seem particularly dangerous. The others with him seemed to have their initial reservations give way after the Flying-Type's greeting and the sight of the bone lizard's more amiable demeanor, prompting them to come up and introduce themselves to their new teammate.

"Ah, well it's nice to meet you Guardia!" Crom greeted. "I'm Crom! And the Swellow is my team captain, Kiran."

"Pleased to meet you," the Flying-Type said.

"And I'm his father, Pladur," the Fraxure in the group offered. Sensing that he was the only one left out, Ander shifted uneasily before tapping his scythes together and warily speaking up.

"And I'm Ander…" he offered. "I do business with their family. I guess."

"Well, I don't know about the other three. But I do know about you, Crom," Guardia replied. "The others kept talking about you when we first met."

The Cubone's explanation drew a nonplussed flap of the young dragon's wings, along with a similarly flustered-looking fold of Nida's ears back along her head. Finding herself to be the center of a bit more attention than she anticipated, the Poison-Type tilted her head, and gave an awkward smile back to her Dragon-Type counterpart.

"… We missed you just a bit," Nida sheepishly answered, before pausing and blinking out of realization.

"Wait a minute, Dimitri," she murmured. "How did you get sucked into all of this? The last time we saw you was when those Imperials collapsed the Subway!"

"The rod ran into their ship while looking for you. When the Ataman was practically begging me to help look above-water for you, I couldn't say no to that sort of opportunity!" Dimitri chortled, before giving a curious tap of his scythes.

"But what about you all? What have you been doing here?" he asked. "When we tracked you down to Sormus, we had heard you were dragged off by the Empire!"

"We were," Elty explained. "But they dumped us to the curb after they got Pleo and dragged him away."

"We were hoping to go home and ask Hatteras what we should do…" Nida murmured. "But when we found Pleo was right here… Well..."

"We found out he's out of our reach, obviously," Guardia sighed. "It's a shame we can't just fight our way to him…"

Crom and his companions looked down at the Cubone, deep in thought. If they were to try to fight their way through to Pleo, their only hope would be to do so through the tournament fair and square. But with odds as daunting as they were, just how could either of them hope to discover enough about their opponents going into their matches to get an idea of their weaknesses… It's not as if they could just pool their strength together for every fight!

That said… was there really anything to stop them from doing it outside each one? The sailors' eyes lit up as they realized that they'd been looking for help to find out enough about their opponents to stay a step ahead of them while still setting aside time to train and prepare. All this time, the solution was standing right in front of them!

"Wait, what's that look for?" Guardia demanded.

"Actually… Maybe we do have a way of doing that after all," Kiran murmured.

"Huh?" Nida asked. "What do you have in mind?"

Back at the box where Pleo had been housed, as the tournament had gone on, the mood remained electrified even in the lulls between matches as Berecien, Cabot, and Niilo traded excited talk amongst themselves over the results of the prior matches. The three prattled on amongst themselves, occasionally glancing out to watch the process of the field being cleared out for its next match, as was always done prior to matches to smooth out damage to the field and to try and set the rough theme for the battlefield's next match. The process of setting up for the incoming match was nearing its tail end, with Pokémon on the field moving the last few stones into place to help make the battlefield a craggy facsimile of a mountainous clearing.

Even so, there was one conspicuous exception to the shared excitement in the box, as Pleo huddled to himself in a corner. Indeed, much to their astonishment, even during the entire afternoon full of battles so far, the young Lugia with them had shown little appetite to do much other than to rest by the columns of the box and poke his head past the nearby curtains and over the balcony every now and then. Berecien, Niilo, and Cabot hoped that perhaps the thrill of battle would soothe his spirits, and decided to give the Protector space for the time being.

As the three droned on, the Lugia looked back out onto the field, where he saw that the workers had cleared the battlefield and the teams for the next battle began to take their places. At the far end was a party consisting of a Cubone, a Growlithe, a Nidoran…

Eh?! Why those were none other than his own teammates!

"Ah! They came back!" he chirped. "Hey! I'm up here!"

The young Protector sprang to his feet and moved in front of the window, waving out at the field eagerly. He heard the roar of the stadium and continued waving his wing out at his friends in the distance… Only for them to keep looking ahead, and the three youngsters to look around puzzledly at the suddenly energized stands as a sinking realization dawned on the seabird.

"Oh… they didn't notice me…"

Indeed, as Pleo's enthusiasm ebbed away and the Lugia drooped his head, Team Traveller continued to look around at their surroundings in the arena pit. All the while, the three tried to make sense of the sudden spurt of excitement as thoughts fresh off of a session trading stories and tips with Crom and his teammates lingered in their minds.

"Eh? What's with this crowd?" Elty murmured. "I feel like we just missed something here…"

"Hrmph, worry about that later," his Cubone teammate countered, pointing her bone off into the distance. "Our foes are coming out to challenge us right now."

Nida and Elty followed the tip of the Guardia's club off down the length of the field, where sure enough, the forms of three Pokémon with rescue badges sidled into the arena pit. At the front was a dark violet-blue Gligar hopping and scurrying along the ground, followed closely by… a magenta Monferno and a white Vulpix? Why, if they didn't know any better, they'd think the fox was an Ice-Type!

When Kiran had come back with his findings about the team earlier, he hadn't mentioned at all that their opponents would be such head-turners… He hadn't missed anything else in the process of scouting out their opponents, had he?

"And representing the Tidemill North Guild on the left is Team Anomaly! The flashiest up-and-comers you'll see in the tournament today!" Thalez's voice crackled. "On the other side… three random kids from Company waters! 'Team Wanderer' or something like that."

Right on cue, the crowd of spectators began to boo and hiss at the young adventurers. No matter where Team Traveller looked in the crowd, all they saw were Pokémon jeering them down, seeming all to wish defeat on them right out of the gate.

"Whelp, looks like the crowd's made up its mind over who to root for!" the Rotom chimed. "Can't say I don't feel for them!"

The three Pokémon wilted at their less-than-hospitable reception from the feisty locals. Couldn't they just root for their favorites like normal Pokémon?

"Was that introduction really necessary?" Elty grumbled.

"Tsk," Guardia scoffed. "They certainly favor their colony's home team…"

"Hrmph, we'll make it through this," Nida grunted. "We just need to win this match, and then we'll alternate with Crom and the others to get sneak peeks at how our next foes will fight!"

Derisive laughter rang out from across the battlefield, and Nida turned to see the Gligar and his team smirking at them dismissively.

"Hate to burst your bubble, but there won't be another match for ya!" the flying scorpion jeered.

"Yeah, that next round's got our names written all over it!" the white Vulpix added.

"Grr… We'll see about tha-" Guardia growled, readying her club only for Thalez's voice to once again fill the arena.

"Aaand they're already getting into it, folks. Let's not disappoint our fighters and get their match rolling! To your places!"

The two teams took their places at opposing sides of the battlefield, planting their feet and readying themselves to spring into combat. The Rotom announcer positioned himself over his announcer's booth, floating as a growing ball of static built between his arms and the stands began to pulse with excitement. The Ghost-Type raised his arms up, prompting the stands to break into a countdown in a united voice.






At the sound of Thalez' thunderclap, Team Traveller sprang up and bolted down the battlefield for their opponents. Nida and Elty trained their attention for the Vulpix and Monferno respectively as Guardia charged on ahead for the Gligar, bringing her club into motion for a swing as the bug-like creature planted his feet and crouched.

"Hah!" Guardia sneered. "You'll never get anywhere just standing there like tha-"


Guardia swung her club with all her might at the flier, only for the Gligar sprang into the air in a flash. The Cubone stumbled as her club cleaved through the air, finding purchase on nothing solid in its path, and only barely readjusted her balance in time to avoid falling over entirely. She glanced up at the scorpion incredulously, just as he dove back to the earth, smoothing his landing by catching the wind beneath his membranous wings and gliding gently down.

"N-Nani?!" the bone lizard exclaimed. "You can do tha-?! Ack!"

Guardia tumbled as she felt a frigid blow come from behind. She hastily righted herself and brushed some ice off her back spikes, seeing that much to her astonishment, the Vulpix really could spit ice instead of fire! The Cubone hastily dove out of the way as a blast of powdery snow came at her, the Ground-Type's plight prompting Nida to hastily run after the fox in pursuit with her legs tensed for a pair of kicks…

"Not so fast, cunìcio!"

… only to feel a crushing divebomb from the Gligar that sent her tumbling head over heels. A sharp yelp from the background quickly evidenced that Elty had fared little better, the Growlithe sailing facefirst into the battlefield after having been kicked into the air by his Monferno opponent. Under withering fire from all ends, the three members of Team Traveller hastily retreated for their end of the battlefield, grouping back together as their foes gave chase behind them much to the audience's roaring delight.

"And a strong opening by Team Anomaly!" Thalez cheered. "Will Team Wanderer, manage to get their act together? Or is this the end of their short career here at the Silver Wing Cup?"

"Gah! That Gliger was standing around like that to lure us into a trap!" Guardia fumed.

"Trap or not, this is gonna be a short fight if we can't take care of him!" Elty growled.

"How are we supposed to do that when he keeps weaving out of the way?!" the Cubone protested.

Nida bounded towards the Gligar, spikes fanning out as she lobbed poisonous needles up into the air, but found her attempts thwarted again and again as the scorpion zig-zagged out of the path of each attack. The Nidoran dove out of the way of an incoming air-blade and countered it with a poisoned spike, only to gawk as the pin sailed clear past its target and landed harmlessly on the ground of the battlefield.

"Gah!" Gritting her teeth in frustration, Nida glared up at the blasted bug, cursing his evasive abilities. It seemed downright impossible to hit him as long as he was in the air with how he was dodging every attack aimed his way in some errant direction! There was no way they could win this fight like this! …Unless… he could be led into an attack?

"That's it! We'll just have to control where he flies!" Nida exclaimed. "Cover me and take a shot when he's coming into range!"

Nida lowered her head and charged ahead for the Gligar, fanning her spikes out as she ran forward. The Poison-Type twitched her hide, flicking a spike into the air at the scorpion only for him to weave left of it. Nida's assault quickly caught the attention of the white Vulpix, prompting him to alert his Monferno teammate and dart after the Nidoran.

"Oi, heads up, Snowy!"

Before the Vulpix could turn to see the source of the voice, he was cut off by a stinging rain of embers and soot blowing into his face. His Monferno teammate skidded to a stop at the sight of the Growlithe culprit behind the attack, pivoting and readying a lunge. Before the Monferno could carry on, she was cut off by Guardia charging on ahead, forcing the monkey to leap back as the Cubone forcefully swung her club out at the Fire-Type.

"Agh! He got soot in my eyes and fur!" the Vulpix yelped.

"Gardie!" Guardia snapped. "How much longer do we have to keep this up?!"

"Huh?" the Monferno asked, blinking. "Keep what up?"

The Monferno turned and saw that from her position there was a clear line of sight to her Gligar partner and the Nidoran pursuing him. The Fire-Type turned back and saw that a smirk had spread over her Growlithe opponent's face, before he took off in a sprint, prompting her to go wide-eyed out of realization and dash after him.

"Oh no you don't-!" the Monferno shrieked, only to be cut off with a raspy shout.

"Outta my way!"

The monkey reeled after feeling a heavy blow against the side of her head, sending her pinwheeling as Guardia came to a skidding stop in the dirt of the battlefield. The Ground-Type whirled and turned to run after her Growlithe teammate, the fire dog continuing on in his charge towards the Gligar as fire began to dance on his pelt. The Puppy Pokémon leapt and brought his legs over his head in a fiery wheel, somersaulting straight into the scorpion as he desperately tried to pull up higher into the air.


Elty's blow sent the Gligar shooting up into the air, pinwheeling uncontrollably as he plummeted back down to earth with a loud thud. Team Traveller's three members waited a tense moment, only to see the Gligar starting to get back up visibly tottering, prompting Nida to flare her ears in realization that their opponent's strength was fading fast.

"This is it!" the Nidoran cried. "Make your hits count here!"

The team descended upon the Gligar with kicks and blows as Elty bit down on his wing. The scorpion screeched and thrashed under the blows, desperately flailing to get free as his movements grew increasingly labored and fatigued. With her foe pinned at her feet, Guardia growled and raised her club over her head, only to be knocked onto her stomach with a yelp by an icy jab from behind.

"Hang in there, chief!" the Vulpix shouted. "We're coming!"

The Monferno and Vulpix charged ahead, the latter limping somewhat as the battle wore on him. Elty met their rush head-on, fire erupting from his pelt as he somersaulted directly into the Vulpix. A piercing shriek rang through the arena as the Ice-type flopped backwards, faceplanting into a limp heap on the ground. The Growlithe shook off the impact of the blow, giving a contented huff as he studied his handiwork.

"One down, two to-"

Elty was swiftly broken out of his reverie by a fist curled tight around the nape of his neck, yanking him off the ground forcefully. He yelped and thrashed about, turning around in his aggressor's grasp and coming face-to-glaring-face with a Monferno, her fist already reeled back for a heavy punch.

The Growlithe flinched and screwed his eyes shut, bracing for impact, but his eyes snapped back open as the Monferno gave a shout and dropped him. Elty tumbled to the ground, craning his neck up to see the ape doubled over in pain clutching her stomach, and Guardia reeling back to deliver a forceful uppercut. The dog turned and fell back, just in time to see the Gligar take flight as a Poison Sting from Nida sank into his left membrane.

"Gnrk! I'm not done yet, Nidoran!" the Gligar hissed. "Better hope that-"

Before the scorpion could finish his threat, he watched as Nida turned and bolted for the direction of his Monferno teammate. The Gligar narrowed his eyes and seethed, diving after the little pincushion as he chittered under his breath.

"Hey! Get back here!"

The Gligar dove after the blue rabbit in pursuit, only to begin to feel woozy and disoriented as soon as the air billowed out under his wings. The scorpion grimaced and poked his head down to inspect the membrane of his left wing, where he found a spike lodged in it, still dribbling purple poison. He looked ahead just in time to see his Monferno teammate send Guardia tumbling back with a punch under her chin, only to be caught by a tackle from Nida immediately afterwards. The Gligar grimaced as his companion fell to the ground and failed to pick herself up, grudgingly realizing that the spike ball's desperate run-around on the battlefield had been far less desperate and reactive than he'd thought.

"… Well played…"

The congratulations came out slurred and trailed off as its speaker lurched forward, depleted of his strength. The Gligar went limp and tumbled out of the air, hitting the stadium floor with a dull thud and a small cloud of dust. A stunned silence filled the air of the stadium, dragging on for seconds that felt like eternities before the quiet was broken by the sound of a loud thunderclap.

"Aaand I don't know how they managed it, but Team Wanderer pulls in for the win!" Thalez exclaimed. "Give it up for our winners, folks!"

Some scattered, wary clapping and cheers rose from the crowd, seemingly unsure whether or not it was appropriate. After a few bolder and braver souls took the plunge into a full applause, others joined in, until the whole arena was alive with an enthusiastic roar. For a moment, time seemed to stand still for Team Traveller, the lot glowing with pride as the whole world seemed to share in their hard-won victory.

"Heh… we did it," Guardia wheezed. "All five of us!"

Nida and Elty bit their tongues as they watched Guardia lurch and totter, leaning against her club for support. The two traded uneasy looks with each other, wondering if perhaps they'd pushed themselves a little too hard out on the field in the past match.

"Just how hard did they manage to hit her?" Elty murmured.

Nida looked back in the direction of their opponents, where a Comfey, a Blissey, and a white Meowstic in the familiar red scarves of healers scooped up the felled Pokémon and loaded them onto slings to carry off. As the party departed, Nida saw the Gligar crack his eyes open, before smiling weakly with a wave. If he could start recovering so quickly from the blows he'd taken… surely Guardia's wounds wouldn't be so much harder to surmount?

"Nothing that we can't manage, I think," Nida reassured. "We'll just have to make an extra stop to patch ourselves up before meeting up with Cardino and-"

The Nidoran trailed off as she noticed the sun was much lower and further to the west than she thought it'd be. Why, it looked like it was just an hour or so before sunset, and they still needed to get to the courtroom to bring their evidence to Cardino!

"Ack! It's late in the afternoon already!" she squeaked. "We need to get going!"

"But what about bonehead's double vision here?" Elty insisted.

"We'll fix it on the way!"

The three hurried off, pulling Guardia along by the arm as they slipped back into the underlevels of the arena. They'd survived their first battle in the ring well enough, so with any luck, fortune would smile on them again in court…


As Team Traveller slipped off the field, Pleo continued to hover around the column of his stadium box, his mood having failed to improve after his hopes of catching his teammates' eyes were so thoroughly thwarted. From the side, Cabot and his companions noticed that their charge continued to appear downcast, and after some conversation amongst themselves, the Cranidos stepped forward and tapped his claws uneasily as he tried to strike up a conversation with the white bird.

"So... uh... how are you liking the tournament so far, Protector?" Cabot asked. "Those Pokémon were your friends right? They did pretty good out there!"

"But they didn't notice me…"

The Lugia's head drooped further, prompting him to tuck it under a wing to hide it away much to Cabot's dismay. After seeing their companion's failure to shift the young Protector's mood, Berecien and Niilo followed along, the two thinking of ways of their own to try and lighten the mood.

"I'm sure that won't be the last time you see them," Berecien reassured. "After all, you do have a role serving as the Protector of Anyilla and it's only logical that you'd run into them every now and then."

"And the stadium's not quite your neighborhood juice bar," Niilo added. "It wouldn't have been too hard for them to not notice you with that battle going on and all the excitement in the stands."

"But I didn't have that problem at all when they were with me…" Pleo muttered.

An awkward silence came over the group, prompting Cabot and his companions to kick at the ground sheepishly. Try as they might, none of the three were able to think of anything that might cheer up the young Lugia, and so they remained quiet as Thalez's voice filled the silence.

"And next up we've got… ‘Team Hailstorm’ and ‘Team Blue Sun’? Really? Who was responsible for booking two merchant teams from out east against each other?" the Rotom scoffed. "Bah, whatever, feel free to get some refreshments, folks. You're probably not missing much."

Thalez's announcement failed to register in the young Lugia's mind, much less among his caretakers as they struggled to find anything to try and lift his spirits. One after the other, the three tried to make small talk to cheer Pleo up, only to find themselves fumbling for words until the sound of a heavy hop reached their ears.

"So how are things going with the Protector?" a chittering voice asked.

The gathered Pokémon turned to see Nagant approaching, Pleo hopping back with an audible squawk. Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo themselves seemed to tense up at the Clawitzer's presence, with the Cranidos among them hesitating a moment before warily raising his voice.

"Eh? Captain Nugget?" Cabot wondered. "What are you doing here?"

The shrimp reflexively shifted her claw in Cabot's direction, before noticing Pleo's frightened demeanor, prompting her to ease back. Even if the Cranidos ought to have known better by now, it was a bit crowded to be shooting Water Pulses around wildly...

"It's Nagant, Cabot," the Clawitzer hissed. "Please do be mindful of that."

Pleo watched as the Cranidos gulped and backpedaled away from the wizened shrimp, which prompted him to similarly shrink back. The crab had already hurt him, cut his feathers, and kept him tied up for hours in a darkened ship… From the way she dealt with underling, it didn't look like she would treat him any nicer now. B-But why did she still want to bother him? Hadn't she already gotten whatever she wanted?

"Wh-Why are you here?" Pleo stammered.

"Because the Queen insisted that I check up on your caretakers," Nagant answered. "There's plenty of other places I'd rather be right now than this stadium stuck with that obnoxious Rotom."

"When do I get to leave, though?" the Lugia pressed. "I want to go home."

"You are home," the Clawitzer retorted. "And it's a bit soon for the Empire to be talking about building visiting residences in islands that aren't under its control yet."

The full meaning of Nagant's words about Tromba returning to Imperial control eluded the young Protector, though perhaps that was for the better. From their vantage point, Niilo and his companions could see that the shrimp's attempt at comfort failed to do anything at all other than making Pleo feel even more downcast about his circumstances.

"Er… not that I'm getting paid for saying this, but I don't really think that helped, Captain," Niilo sighed. "Maybe distract him with something?"

"That's your job, Niilo!" Nagant snapped. "Besides, what would I even have as an offhand distraction?"

Almost as if in answer, a loud roar came from the audience in the stands. Nagant initially shrugged the matter off, supposing it to merely be a more exciting moment in the tournament, only for Thalez's voice to suddenly fill the stadium.

"And the crowd goes wild after a stunning down from Team Blue Sun's captain!" the announcer crackled. "Guess there is something worth watching from Company waters after all!"

"Eh? That was sure a change in attitude," Nagant murmured. "Wonder who's out there-?"

The Clawitzer turned to the field just in time to see a familiar-looking Weavile shift his glance to the corner of his eye, and spring up away from a fainted Vanillish as an Abomasnow charged at him. The Dark-Type quickly weaved out of the way as the Vanillish's teammate swiped at him with a crushing arm thrust, the Grass-Type's Hammer Arm carrying on into the floor of the arena with a loud crash. The sound of a piercing wind rang out, followed by a bellow as the Abomasnow was knocked back by an Air Slash from a strafing Crobat, prompting the Weavile to spring up and bring down the side of his claw in a chop at the Abomasnow's head, which made him stagger back, and topple forward unconscious to the crowd's roaring approval.

"And he does it again with an assist from his teammate!" the Rotom cheered. "Talk about your diamonds in the rough!"

The Weavile stood beside the sprawled-out Abomasnow, giving waves to the audience as the cheering continued. Even within Pleo's box, the audience's enthusiasm had rubbed off on the Pokémon present, with the visible exception of Nagant who scowled at the Weavileon the field, twitching her barbels in recollection.

"Heh. Not a bad choice of distraction there," Niilo said. "Take it you're impressed with that Weavile, too."

"… Somewhat," Nagant answered.

Cabot looked on curiously as the Clawitzer glowered down at the battlefield, studying the victorious team's Weavile intently. He'd never noticed her having much interest in these sport-battles in the past; the Dark-Type did look a little familiar, but there couldn't have been anything too strange about him… right?

"Is something the matter, captain...?" Cabot asked.

"... Probably not," the Clawitzer grunted. "I just need to check up on something."

Nagant hopped from her place by the balcony and made for the door, catching the attention of Cabot and the others and drawing puzzled tilts of their heads. Berecien opened his mouth to inquire as to her destination, but she pre-empted him before he could get a word in.

"I'll be back in a bit," the shrimp insisted. "Just stick to your duties."

Cabot and his companions traded looks with one another, but opted not to interfere with the Clawitzer's as she began to leave the viewing box. The pistol shrimp set off, hopping along the hallway deep in thought. It was far too implausible for that same Weavile to suddenly be here after running into her at Sormus. How could he have reasonably gone from joking about being a spy nearby the Protector's location at the time, to suddenly showing up at said Protector's public debut without something nefarious afoot?

So who was that Weavile? And more importantly...

"Why is he really here?"

Team Traveller's mad dash across town took them to a stone, columned building set in front of a plaza with a statue of weighing scales set up before it. The three found themselves staggering up a set of marbled steps, running through a tall-ceilinged lobby and up a flight of steps at the end to a sunlit hall lined with doors before coming to a panting stop. Near one of the doors was the familiar face of Cardino—their Detective Pikachu employer—who judging from his impatient flicking of his ears had been waiting for them for a good while by now.

"Where have you all been?" Cardino demanded. "The Defense has been stalling for an hour!"

"Sorry," Nida sighed. "We kinda got held up getting the evidence."

The Pikachu paused to size up his assistants. Numerous scuffs and bruises on their bodies told a tale of a tough fight, meaning that they must have taken on a round before finding their evidence...

"I see you weren't able to find it before your first match," Cardino murmured. "Well, no matter. Here. Just take these and start chewing when you get inside, the Defense staked its case on a cross-examination of whatever you found."

The Electric-Type's reaction drew blank looks from his assistants, though the expression of the Cubone was blankest off all. What exactly did the hut-dweller rat just say?

"A what now-?"

Cardino hastily fished out some Oran Berries from a shoulder bag and thrust them into Team Traveller's paws. The youngsters started to speak up, only to find themselves pushed through the door into a large chamber with two rows of seats at opposite ends behind tables. To the right was Nico and Rita, and over to the left was the form of a Serperior batting his tail impatiently against the floor. The sound of a throat clearing directed their gazes upward, prompting them to see a Slowking peering down from a raised bench overlooking the room.

"Er… hi?" Elty asked.

"Oh, it appears that the Defense's witness is finally in court," the Slowking murmured. "Be noted that making an old Pokémon wait like this doesn't help your odds of getting a favorable verdict out of me."

Nico and Rita grimaced at the Slowking's disappointed grumbling. The Fletchinder of the pair ruffled his feathers at the judge's poor first impressions. Showing up late to court was not the way to start a life-or-death case like this...

"Erk… Yes, your Honor," Nico gulped. "I'm sure that they have a perfectly good explanation for this…"

"Gah hah hah! I see the Defense's inexperience is showing," the Serperior sneered. "Well no matter, all the more opportunity for Akin the Rookie Killer to cut your lucky streak back down to size!"

"We got held up at the stadium," Elty explained. "It was a bit confusing to get here in a hurry."

"Oh! The one that Thalez's announcing for?" Rita asked. "Did you manage to get an autograph?"

"Aherm!" the Slowking chided. "In the interests of moving this along in time for everyone to have an opportunity to get an autograph, we should really move onto the cross-examination now."

The three members of Team Traveller looked up from their berries, juices still staining their muzzles. There was an awkward silence as the trio grew increasingly aware that they were being stared at, evidently in expectation that they'd say something back...

"Cross… examination?" Nida murmured.

"I ask you to give testimony, I review your statements and point out if there's any inconsistencies with the case?" Nico answered. "You know? Basic legal proceedings?"

"Eh? That sounds so convoluted!" Guardia protested. "Just throw a bone at the three and get the trial over with!"

Guardia's exclamation was met by the sound of exasperated groaning, a quick look revealing that Nico had buried his face in a wing, shaking his head.

"That's… not how law works here…" the Fletchinder sighed, before murmuring under his breath. "What rock did Cardino turn over to get these guys?"

"The Prosecution suggests that the Defense save the court this farce and send in the clowns already," Akin scoffed.

"Wait, didn't we win a case by doing that once?" Rita whispered to herself, before clearing her throat to speak up. "But anyhow, you just need to talk about something we want to know. You had a question, right Nico?"

"That's right. The Defense maintains that the evidence recovered by Detective Cardino's assistants will prove the innocence of our clients!" the Fletchinder insisted. "So the Defense requests that the witnesses testify about what they recovered and how they found it!"

Nico's exclamation drew a disdainful hiss from the Serperior prosecutor from the other end of the room. The Slowking at the judge's bench didn't seem much more enthused with the matter, and shot a skeptical frown back at Nico's desk.

"… This had better be worth the wait, Defense," the Judge grumbled. "Witnesses, please give your full account of the process of recovering the evidence."

"Uhh... well, Cardino hired us to go into the stadium to look for evidence that had been shipped there by accident," Nida began. "So we entered the tournament to get in."

"We looked around high and low, but couldn't find anything until we noticed a guard standing for a long time in front of a random poster," Elty chimed in.

"He snuck off, and we checked the area, where there was a switch to a secret entrance," Guardia added.

"At the bottom, we found a hidden room full of papers and crates with straw in it and a tunnel that went off to someplace we didn't check," Nida continued. "It looked like it had been used to move stuff around."

"Hold it!" Nico demanded.

The Nidoran sprang upright, flailing a moment to keep her balance at the sound of the Fletchinder's loud chirp. The Poison-Type looked over and saw that the attorney had extended a wing out, pointing intently at her with its tip.

"So that's where you found the missing evidence?" Nico asked.

"That's right!" Nida exclaimed. "It's this journal here!"

Nida pawed at Sibich's journal on the podium and held it up before the court. At once, a cacophony of murmurs broke out among the audience, and the Slowking craned his neck towards the tome to get a better look.

"Well, what's it say?" the Judge asked.

"Er... we weren't able to figure it out. It looks like it's written in some sort of code," Elty explained. "But that's a sign that whoever wrote this had to be someone high-up and not just a bunch of random pirates, right?"


A loud smack rang through the room as Akin slapped his tail against his desk and gave an impatient hiss. The Grass-Type waved dismissively, before shooting an annoyed look across the room back at Nico and his party.

"Anyone can make a coded message!" the Serperior scoffed. "Why back when I was in schooling, I'd use to pass messages to my sweetheart in law classes…"

"So we almost had little Akins crawling around…?" Nico murmured, trying his hardest to fight back a visible grimace. "Truly a horrifying thought."

Akin coiled behind his desk, giving a flick of his tongue. The Serperior's demeanor seemed strangely unmoved by Nico's barely disguised snark, the serpent shooting a smug grin across the room.

"If this is really the best you can do, you really ought to give up now, attorney," he chided. "You've proved absolutely nothing about your clients' innocence."

"But we just demonstrated-" Nico began.

"The possibility that someone else made the diary. I know you're fond of such things," Akin corrected. "But who's to say that it can't just as easily belong to your clients? Or for that matter, that it can't just be some throwaway book for testing pens out?"

"... Agh..."

The audience began to clamor as Nico fumbled with his words, obviously having resorted to weak bluffs and wild leaps of logic to defend his clients. From their place at the docket, Eric, Sela and Hanuna deflated as they realized the gravity of this miserable turn of events.

"We're so dead," Hanuna gulped.

"I told you that we should've been our own attorney!" Sela snapped.

"H-Hey! Spike lump!" Eric pleaded. "I-Isn't there anything else at all you can say?!"

Nida paused, grasping for a defense to blurt out, only to quickly discover that everything she could think of wouldn't work and accomplished little other than stumbling over her own thoughts again and again. There really didn't seem to be anything to prove the pirates' innocence from where she stood... but perhaps she could still cast doubt on the accusations, at least?

If there are no more objections," the Slowking Judge said. "I think I'm ready to hand down a verdict-"

"Hold it!" Nida squeaked.

All commotion stopped in the courtroom, replaced by an air of expectation as Nida found every eye in the room trained right on her. The Nidoran shrank back under the attention of the courtroom, but cleared her throat and hastily continued her objection nonetheless.

"Uh… well, we did find some other stuff in the room along with the diary," the Nidoran explained. "We couldn't bring most of it, but we have at least one thing with us that I think doesn't seem like it fits with this case right now."

"Eh?" Rita asked. "And what's that?"

"We found this shipping list here."

Nida pawed through her satchel and pulled out a folded-up sheet of paper, before giving it to Guardia to pass over to Nico. The Cubone made her way over and slid the paper over, prompting the Fletchinder attorney to unfurl it, and his eyes to light up as he scanned its contents.

"Witness, please add that statement to your testimony," Nico instructed.

"Uh… okay... We also found this shipping list with the diary," Nida began. "There's a bunch of names and numbers for eggs with it."



All eyes turned to Nico as he pulled his wings up and pointed at the witness podium. The Fire-Type waved his feathers dramatically, before turning his gaze to his opposing prosecutor."

"You were saying earlier that I didn't have any proof of my clients' innocence, Prosecutor Akin?" Nico said. "Well, I present to you this shipping list!"

The Fletchinder snapped up the list in his beak, proudly unfurling it before the crowd of onlookers in the courtroom. Some confused murmurs went about when from his place at the Prosecutor's table, Akin eyed the paper, before giving an irritated hiss back.

"How is that supposed to prove anything?" the serpent demanded.

"You'll notice that this list is filled with the names of different crews. Why, the one for the crew my defendants are from even shows up for multiple dates," Nico explained. "Would a pirate crew trust three easily overpowered flunkies with a job like that?"

"That was so not necessary…" Eric growled.

"Oi, Eric," Sela snapped. "Don't undermine our case!"

"It does seem a little implausible to believe…" the Judge murmured.

"But the three just as easily could have been proxies!" Akin exclaimed. "And there's no proving that without either establishing what's in that diary or who wrote up the shipping list!"

The Judge groaned as he pounded his gavel for order. The Slowking sighed as he regarded one party and then the other with a muttering grimace, evidently not finding either end of the debate wholly conclusive.

"It doesn't seem like we have enough information either way to hand down a verdict," the Slowking said. "And I have a divorce proceeding to tend to in five minutes."

"Oh, isn't that the case with the Zangoose and Seviper?" Rita asked.

"Yes. It's an… excited case, to say the least," the Slowking sighed. "But anyhow, I'll leave the Prosecution and the Defense be until tomorrow to deliver more information about the owners of the shipping list and diary."


The Psychic-Type brought his gavel down one last time in dismissal of the trial, and as soon as its pound rang out, a relieved audience began to flow out of the room. Team Traveller shuffled outside after the crowd had cleared while Nico and his assistant packed up their belongings, and they too breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of the courtroom. They'd managed to avoid a crisis in their first trial… somehow.

"Gah… that should've been open and shut!" Guardia fumed. "They were obviously innocent! We even saw so!"

"Getting smacked with a bone isn't admissible evidence in most places, just saying," Elty sighed.

"Even so, just how are we supposed to get a lead on this diary and shipping list in a day?" Nida asked.


Team Traveller turned to see Cardino approaching them from the courtroom's door. The Pikachu's ears twitched inquisitively, their owner seeming visibly curious about some matter... involving them?

"You mentioned that there was a secret room in the stadium, right?" Cardino asked. "Mind showing me around there?"

"Eh?" Guardia wondered. "I thought you couldn’t get in there because of the tournament?"

"Not anymore. It's a crime scene, pal," the Pikachu explained. "And one that might be able to determine how tomorrow's trial plays out."

"I guess that makes sense," Nida said. "Though are you sure that we won't get in trouble for this?"

"Nah, not any more than usual from my end," the detective insisted, his nonchalance drawing skeptical frowns from his assistants.

"Not sure if that was really reassuring…" Guardia murmured.

"Well, we don't have any other leads right now," Nida said. "Come on, let's check it out."

Cardino paused a minute as the three youngsters bounded out of the courtroom. The Electric-Type gave a skeptical tilt of his head before following along after his assistants. After such a tumultuous trial, surely there wouldn't be anything that could surprise them from a simple checkup...

Back at the Vecioferàle Arena, the tournament had continued on in a cycle of battles, the audience again roaring in approval as the current set of teams engaged each other in pitched combat. In the midst of the raucous cheers and shouts, a Weavile snuck up along the stands, keeping a keen eye on the Protector's box. For a fleeting second, the young Legendary poked his head out, leading Ketu to follow it and notice an entrance several tiers below just to the right. The Dark-Type set off, slipping into the hallway and coming across a stairwell, where he began climbing up the flights of stairs. He went up a first flight, then a second, a third...

"What are you doing here?"

Ketu tensed up and flashed his claws, whirling around to see the Clawitzer from offshore Sormus standing on her tail behind him. The Weavile shifted his glance from the corner of his eyes for a moment down the hallway, before looking back with an annoyed frown.

"I was out getting a stretch after my round to see the scenery," he scoffed. "Why? Something the matter?"

"You seem just a bit unnaturally interested in the stadium when there's an entire city outside of it," Nagant said.

Ketu flicked his feathers back and answered back with a shrug. He watched a moment as Nagant visibly fumed, before throwing a mischievous smirk at the Clawitzer captain.

"You know, if you want an autograph, you can just ask nicely," Ketu teased.

The Weavile's remark was answered by a large chitinous claw being leveled at his face. Ketu raised a brow skeptically before looking over to see its owner seething and wound up in an aggressive posture.

"I want an explanation, and you can keep your back-sass to yourself!" Nagant hissed. "You were at Sormus just the other day. Why are you here and in the tournament?"

"My route just happened to take me here and entering the tournament sounded like a fun way to unwind during my crew's downtime," Ketu insisted. "Nothing unusual."

Nagant clicked her mandibles and sneered at him incredulously. 'Nothing unusual'? That was a bald-faced lie if she'd ever heard one!

"Oh yeah, what are the odds of that?"

"And a daring forward slash by the Druddigon from the Siglo Swanna!" Thalez's voice crackled. "That little tyke's got some fire in him!"

Nagant and Ketu turned at the sound of the Rotom announcer, looking out onto the field just in time to see a young Druddigon spring back from a Delcatty's swipe with her tail. The pair watched as the young Dragon-Type weaved around the Double Slap, and rushed the Normal-Type, tackling her to the ground to a rousing cheer from the audience.

As the roar of the audience reverberated from the audience, Nagant watched with her mandibles slackened. That Druddigon was none other than the youngling she'd run into all the way back in Kenobi! He was here too?! The Water-Type's disbelief was quickly detected by the Weavile with her, who turned and gave a smug smirk back at her.

"Better than you think, Clawitzer," he answered. "It's not that big of a world anymore."

Ketu's explanation drew an irritated hiss back from the Clawitzer. Even if the whole known world fit into a common sea now, there was no way she could believe that the black furball or the Druddigon on the field had just shown up here by happenstance. But dragging his feathered behind in without some pretext would accomplish little more than a scolding for being hot-headed and acting on lack of evidence… Was there any way at all to make him slip up?

"Hmph, whatever. But let me ask you something else," Nagant said. "Back in Sormus you mentioned that you were just the acting captain. What species is the ship's normal captain?"

Ketu paused and tilted his head puzzledly at the question, which prompted Nagant to click her claws impatiently. The Water-Type spoke up to press further, only for the Weavile cut her off with a dismissive shrug.

"That would be a Mothim by the name of 'Captain Elmer'," he answered. "I don't believe that either of you two have met before, so feel free to believe me or not."

Nagant blinked at the response, she was certain that the weasel would've said something that would have wound up pointing to Commissioner Lyn. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so clumsy to outright say his name, but still… Something. Even so, this 'Elmer' felt vaguely familiar, though she couldn't pin down why…

Bah! A hunch was far from the evidence she needed! So for now, she supposed she had no choice but to relent here.

"… That's fair enough," she grunted. "You shouldn't be keeping your captain waiting for too long. He'll put you out of a job."

"Oh trust me," Ketu replied. "I know my boundaries when it comes to my captain-"

"Another thing," the shrimp added.


Nagant glowered harshly at the Weavile, and gestured from her eyes with her little claw before pointing forcefully to his.

"I'll be watching you."

The Clawitzer made her way back for Pleo's chamber as Ketu watched before turning back into the stadium. The shrimp certainly wasn’t a trivial obstacle in the way of retrieving the Protector and would be a formidable pursuer if they actually nabbed him back. Perhaps she was just a bit too much trouble to be left alone without having to… conveniently make her disappear. Much as he'd done to displace Lyn's old Absol First Mate.

… But then again, going with that route would have its own set of headaches. She was definitely more experienced in battle than Lyn's old First Mate ever was, and there certainly wouldn't be any higher-ranking allies to easily sweep matters under the rug here in Imperial territory were the Clawitzer to abruptly leave the stage. The Weavile shook his head and made his way down the stairs, deciding that his best odds of retrieving the Protector lay in not forcing a confrontation with the shrimp…

For now, anyways.

Cardino followed Team Traveller through Tidemill's canal-side streets, and back to the lower levels of the Vecioferàle Arena. His assistants led him down one winding hallway after another, until they neared a familiar poster down one such hall, prompting Elty to gesture ahead with one paw.

"That's it over there," the Growlithe grunted, pointing at the poster.

"Eh? But this looks like just another poster," Cardino replied. "And nobody's guarding it."

"Must be our lucky day, then," Nida murmured. "Because when I do this…"

Cardino looked on with mild amusement as first Elty, then Guardia, and finally Nida formed a tower by climbing atop one another's shoulders. Although it was a sight to behold, it wasn't one totally unfamiliar to him; he'd heard now and again of rescue teams forming such towers while exploring dungeons. He watched as the Nidoran pawed around beneath the poster until the group heard the audible pressing of a switch. Team Traveller dismounted their tower as the section of wall bearing the poster swiveled wide open ahead of them and revealed the staircase leading down into the darkness below.

"It opens like a charm," Nida said. Cardino blinked incredulously for a moment, waving a paw in the newly-opened passage to confirm to himself that it was not an illusion, before mumbling in thought.

"… Huh," the Pikachu remarked. "Talk about hiding in plain sight."

The group made their way down the stairs deeper into the darkened chamber. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, the team felt around for the crate where the lantern had been, only to find naught but stone flooring. Team Traveller groped around in the dark, before a sudden, electrifying flash of light rang out and lit up the room. The three flinched and looked back to see Cardino had created a ball of lightning on the tip of his tail that lit up the room… and revealed it to be completely barren.

"Eh?!" Guardia exclaimed. "They cleaned it out already?!"

"I mean they have had several hours by now," Elty countered. "Wouldn't you also clean it out?"

Cardino's nose wrinkled as he sniffed at the ground, recoiling slightly at the strong scent of wood and hay. Could this scent have been left by whoever it was his assistants had seen earlier?

"Well, they must not have covered their tracks too well," Cardino murmured. "I can smell something was here. Let's try to see if they missed anything-"

The Pikachu cut himself off as the sound of footsteps down the stairwell made him stiffen up in alarm, ears and tail held straight warily. Team Traveller glanced about the room, trying to make out the intruders, but the telltale drone of buzzing wings answered the question first.

"They went this way!" a chittering voice barked.

Team Traveller froze and went wide-eyed at the sound of the voice, recognizing it to be a Yanmega's. An uncomfortably familiar Yanmega’s…

"W-Wait a minute," Elty stammered. "That's-!"

Team Traveller watched as Cardino looked up in alarm, the three starting to whirl around, only to be summarily knocked off their feet by a cutting gust of wind.


The three heard Cardino shout after them and staggered up as the detective darted over, grimacing as they looked up and saw none other than Alvise, Nori, and Valatos making their way down the stairs, grinning maliciously all the while.

"Surprise, runts!" the Yanmega buzzed. "We decided to rope you into a pre-match warmup by doing a jig on your spines!"

"Yeah, you didn't think that we were just gonna let you prance around here and show your ugly mugs without doing something about it," Nori growled "Did you?"

"Wait a minute, why are you here?" Elty demanded. "You're supposed to still be with the Iron Fleet!"

"Details," Alvise scoffed. "All that matters is that we're here in the same tournament, and you're here in whatever this weird room is, with us."

"So why wait for a matchup?" Valatos asked. "We'll settle the score with you. Right here and now."

The three pirates fanned out at the base of the stairs, settling into aggressive postures as they crept nearer and nearer to Team Traveller. Nida and the others backpedaled uneasily, only for Cardino to step out in front and wave his paws for a stop.

"Hold it!" the Pikachu exclaimed. "I'm Detective Cardino with the City Guard! These three are my assistants! You can't just go taking a swing at them!"

For a moment, there was an audible silence as Valatos, Nori, and Alvise traded looks with one another, before turning back to the Pikachu and bursting into laughter.

"Ha ha ha! And just why are we supposed to care about that, rodent?" Nori taunted.

"Yeah, I don't care if you're royalty, little rat," Valatos sneered. "Get out of our way, or get beaten with them."

Cardino blinked and twitched his nose uneasily at the stranger's pointed rebuffal. Team Traveller tensed up, watching as the Electric-Type licked a paw and slicked the fur on his head back, before continuing on with the glowering pirates in front of him.

"Hey, let's not get hasty here!" the Pikachu began. "I'm sure that whatever little argument's going on between you all's something we can settle with a little-"

Team Traveller screwed their eyes shut as the room suddenly flashed a blinding white from the ball of lightning on Cardino's tail. The Electric-Type threw it at the feet of the intruders and a trio of yelps followed shortly afterwards. As the light subsided, Nida, Elty, and Guardia cracked their eyes open to see Valatos and his companions groping around in a blinded daze as Cardino hopped back.

"Alright!" the Pikachu cried. "Time to book it!"

At Cardino's prompting, the three youngsters took off running down the tunnel at the end of the room, slipping down a dark, stony passage as the sounds of angry buzzing carried on from behind them.

"Grr! You're gonna regret that dirty trick, you little runts!" Valatos hissed. "Kom terug hier!"

The four carried on as their eyes began to adjust to the darkness, revealing a dank stone tunnel that was occasionally lit by dim lanterns filled with glowmoss well past its prime. All the while, the sounds of shouting and footfalls rang out behind them, drawing closer and closer as the group charged on ahead.

"Friends of yours?" Cardino asked.

"What do you think?!" Elty snapped.

The group spotted light ahead at the tunnel and dashed ahead, the stone walls melting away into a winding maze of stacks of crates. Cardino and his assistants darted out, weaving from one crate to the other and found themselves on an enclosed dock, looking around wildly until they spotted the sight of an open, watery canal up ahead and a wooden catwalk wrapping around the stadium to the side.

"Ah! There!" the Nidoran cried. "We can take that exit out of-!"

"Going somewhere?!"

Team Traveller hit the floor as a flying bone shot out in front of them, the Bonemerang arcing around and clipping Cardino in the head with a yelp before returning to a crate beside them, where Nori stepped out into the open. Nida and the others hastily pulled up their Pikachu ally and turned to run, only to see Valatos and Alvise come up from behind, and encircle them with visible satisfaction.

"I believe we had a little catching up to do from last time," Alvise sneered. "Hope you like seeing stars, twerps-"

"Hey!" a low, rumbling voice barked. "Someone's here!"

"Give it a rest already," a hissing voice groaned back. "We've been searching for the punks edging into our turf and come up with nothing but footprints."

"No, let's check it out," a hound-like voice ordered. "I think Carlo's onto something."

Both Team Traveller and their foes looked around puzzledly for the source of the voice, noticing that Alvise's fur was standing up even more than normal, and his face had flushed pale. The group's collective attention turned to see a Swampert and a Salazzle in black scarves each with a red lightning bolt making their way for them, flanking a larger and visibly stunned Manectric in the same garb who Alvise visibly recoiled from.


"Wha-?!" the other Manectric spluttered, "Alvise?!"

"Alvise?" the Swampert asked. "Wait, isn't that your brother, Luca?"

For a moment, the different Pokémon traded incredulous stares with one another as Luca's gaze hardened into a fierce glare at the smaller Manectric. Alvise for his part was particularly attuned to his brother's mood, prompting him to trade nervous looks with his teammates before whirling around in a stammering panic.

"Yeah, forget this!" the Manectric whined. "I'm outta here!"

"Eh?!" Valatos demanded. "But who the he- Hey!"

Valatos and Nori winced as Alvise bolted away from the scene towards the arena. They glanced at the shifty strangers they'd met and opted to follow suit after their comrade. The Manectric among the team of strangers grit his teeth as sparks danced angrily along his hide, and the Electric-type dashed forward after them to give chase.

"Don't let that furbrain get away!" Luca shouted.

The Yanmega and Marowak hastily caught up to their fleeing companion, Nori looking over his shoulder and crying out for the group to duck. The three dove to the ground, going wide-eyed as some attacks zipped overhead, and a glance back revealing the three strangers were in hot pursuit after them.

"Gah!" Nori cried. "Get off our tail already!"

The Marowak brought his club overhead and slammed it into a wooden support beam on the side of the tunnel with visible vigor. A resounding crack rang out as the beam broke and the walls sagged, much to the three strangers' alarm, prompting them to dive out of the way in opposing directions as the roof caved in with a plume of dust. As the dust settled, the trio saw that the mouth of the tunnel had been filled almost to the top with bricks and rubble, the sound of Valatos and his companions retreating reaching the three's ears. At once, Luca launched himself onto the rubble, trying to kick away enough of it to create a passage while his Swampert companion threw aside a few rocks… and his Salazzle companion rolled her eyes and buried her face in her palm.

"Well, that was quite the reunion," the Salazzle sighed.

"Understatement much there, Giusy?" the Swampert retorted.

Team Traveller blinked incredulously as the three strangers got up from the rubble pile. The Manectric evidently was Alvise's brother, but as the group watched the Electric-Type growl out of frustration, one mystery kept swirling in their minds... what on earth had gone on between those two?

"Grr… lousy deadbeat thinks he can just waltz in here and show his mug like nothing happened?" Luca growled. "Well, he's got another-"

"So… this might be a bit of a bad time, but I need to pay a visit to the Don."

The Manectric and his companions blinked, before glancing down to see Cardino waiting for them. Scowls split their faces, the lot of them making no effort to hide their displeasure with the rat's intrusion.

"Yeah, and just who are you supposed to be?" Luca demanded.

"I'm Cardino, Detective with the City Guard," the Pikachu answered. "And I'm going to need the Don to answer a few questions from me."

The three strangers looked at one another for a moment, before dissolving into open, derisive laughter in unison at the detective's attempted ultimatum. Team Traveller backpedaled nervously at this. The strangers being so open about their contempt for Cardino surely didn't bode well for them, presently in the role of his assistants...

"What are you gonna do?" the Swampert sneered. "Arrest him?"

"Yeah," the Salazzle added. "The guards haven't been able to prove any charges in ages!"

"That might change. We found an egg-trafficking den just here in the stadium, and last I checked, this was the Saéta Family's territory. Your territory," the Pikachu countered. "As such, I can't really say if he's in the clear over it or not."

All joviality left the strangers at Cardino's words, and the lot of them glowered and growled at the party. The Manectric among them paused in thought before shaking his head with a scoff, clearly none too pleased with the tone the little rat had chosen to take with him.

"Oh, you can get an audience," Luca growled. "I can't guarantee you can leave afterwards, though."

Team Traveller blanched and traded uneasy looks with one another at the Manectric's comment. Going along anywhere with these Pokémon just seemed like it was begging for trouble… On the other hand, the fates of Eric, Sela, and Hanuna were hanging in the balance, and it did seem unlikely they'd find any other leads this good…

"I accept," Cardino said. "Though I need to run it by my-"

"We'll come too," Nida answered.

"Yeah," Guardia added. "It's safer if we stick together."

The Manectric paced forward and loomed over the gathered Pokémon, the Electric-Type lingering a bit before lowering his snout to their level with a low growl and piercing scowl.

"Looks like it's your lucky day then," Luca grunted. "Let's go."

The three shifty characters quickly surrounded the other group, jostling them along down the catwalk into the crowded streets of Tidemill. All the while, Team Traveller kept a nervous eye on their surroundings, hoping to the Travellers above that they hadn't just made a terrible mistake.

Author's Notes:

- najemnik - Polish: "mercenary"
- cunìcio - Venetian: "rabbit"
- Gliger (グライガー) - Japanese: "Gligar" (Official Romanization)
- Kom terug hier! - Dutch: "Get back here!"
Chapter 58: Breaking Ground


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

As the afternoon sun began its drift westward in the sky, Team Traveller carried on along Tidemill's winding streets along with their… most unusual black-scarved escorts. Along the whole walk away from the arena, Luca and his cronies flanked them with a keen eye, seemingly ready to come to blows at a moment's notice. Even more disconcertingly, whenever the group would carry down a street, a frigid aura would settle over the area, as other Pokémon would interrupt their goings-on to give the black-scarved passersby a wide berth.

Eventually, the Manectric and his companions took the group to a shaded street that had its entrance partly blocked off by crates with a Machoke and Raticate in black scarves standing guard. The pair eyed the newcomers suspiciously, only for Luca to wave them through, and bring them in to a back lane completely devoid of other Pokémon, the Machoke and Raticate glaring after them all the while.

"So Cardino, who are these guys exactly?" Nida whispered.

"Yeah, I don't really like the looks they're giving us," Elty murmured. "And the streets around here are deserted."

"They're associates of Saéta, the biggest crime lord in the city," the Pikachu answered. "These parts around central Tidemill are their main turf, and they're just a little touchy about-"

"Oi! Tourist! Save your explanations for someone who cares!"

The surrounding shaded street and its canal shimmered and vanished into a darkened space. Nida, Elty, and Guardia looked around in hasty glances about the dimly-lit space, their eyes adjusting to see they were inside a warehouse with a lattice of crude wooden balconies and offices. On the wall ahead, there was a balcony patrolled by a dark taupe-furred fox with a thick mane billowing from his head, the creature visibly glowering down at his startled 'guests'.

"A-Ah! The huts and street just vanished!" Guardia cried. "And there's that black furry yajū over there!"

"That would be Savio," the Swampert ahead grunted. "He handles our… cover to keep unwanted guests from poking their heads in."

"Or finding their way out," the Salazzle snarled.

Nida gulped at the lizard's enunciation, trying to not think too hard at what became of the Pokémon that failed to find their way out. Was coming here with Cardino really the best idea? Though given how they'd been fooled into thinking they were in a street all this time, was turning back even an option right now?

"Up the stairs and to your right," Luca instructed. "You'd better have a good reason for this meeting. The Don has less patience than me for wastes of his time."

The Manectric gestured off to the wooden flight of stairs leading up to a catwalk along the edge of the warehouse. At the end of the stairwell loomed an imposing-looking door, cracked slightly ajar to let in glimmers of light from the other end. The three ruffians marched their unwelcome guests along, shoving them along the remainder of the catwalk and through the opened door. To Team Traveller's surprise, in contrast to the shabby appearance of the rest of the warehouse, the room was remarkably well-furnished and draped with light curtains.

On one far side of the room was a set of shuttered windows, offering a glimpse of the domes and parapets of Tidemill City's center, along with a view of the ships sailing to and from the harbor. On the other wall hung portraits of various Pokemon; The sun's rays shone through the curtains of the room just enough to see that many of the pictures featured similar-looking, steely-eyed Manectric in black scarves. Finally, in the middle of the room and closer to the entryway, was a dark wooden table surrounded by silken cushions, with a wizened Manectric sitting comfortably before noticing his guests. He rose, and his muzzle turned downwards into a hard frown.

"Ah, you're back earlier than I expected, Luca," Saéta murmured. "These are the little parasites that have been operating on our territory?"

The Don's hostility caused Team Traveller to grimace. Elty in particular seemed noticeably unnerved, the Growlithe's fur standing on end as he yelped in their defense at the accusation.

"N-Now hold on here!" Elty stammered. "That's not-!"

Before he could finish, the Fire-Type was cut off with a sharp bite at his shoulder, drawing a pained yelp. The Puppy Pokémon shrank back, lowering his ears and pulling his tail between his legs as the Manectric beside him spat up a few stray hairs with a growl.

"Quiet," Luca snapped, before turning to his elder counterpart. "They're associates with this rat here. Thinks he's some sorta hotshot detective."

"I am a detective," the Pikachu corrected. "The name's Cardino, and this is a team that I contracted to help me out with my current case. We're here since we had a few questions for you about it."

A tense silence hung over the room as Don Saéta glowered down at Cardino, one brow raised skeptically. The Manectric trained a withering glare on the unflappable detective for a while, before shifting his gaze to his son's companions.

"… Carlo. Giusy. Take five at the door," he instructed. "I'd like to hear what my son and his guests have to say."

The Swampert and Salazzle nodded and withdrew to the doorway, though they didn't leave the room. Instead, the two settled themselves at opposing sides of the exit, keeping a keen eye on their superior as he neared, and on the three youngsters as well.

"Hrmph, you are here to do something other than trying to tie me to some trouble an associate got into, right?" Saéta demanded. "The City Guard haven't been able to any time they tried in the past, and they sent more than a rat and some pups fresh out of a guild for that."

"That's entirely dependent on where the facts of my case lead," Cardino answered, shooting a determined glare back. "I came to ask you about it since I thought you might know a thing or two about it."

"Oh?" the Manectric scoffed. "And just what would that be?"

"Earlier this afternoon, my associates discovered an egg-smuggling operation in the tunnels underneath the Vecioferàle Arena," the Pikachu explained. "The City Guard already know that your 'mons operate around there, so that begs the question… Who was there and why were they on your turf?"


Saéta slammed a paw down on the floor, forcefully enough to kick up a small swirl of dust underfoot. A low, dangerous growl rumbled from his throat, and he glared down at the lot of them, sparks dancing angrily off of his pelt.

"I'm not sure what your guests are trying to imply here, Luca," the Electric-Type snapped. "But I don't think that I like it."

"Our organization doesn't do theft, much less egg theft. We stick to reselling from free traders and selling protective services," the younger Manectric growled. "If you don't want an abrupt swim in the canal outside the window, I'd suggest that you not bring that up again."

"But we know what we saw in there!" Guardia insisted. "If it's your territory and you didn't do it, then who would?"

"Some common mànega that doesn't know their place," Luca answered. "Every now and then, the Guard breaks one up for crossing a bridge too far and another band of chuckleheads comes along to fill their role."

"That's what I'd assigned Luca here to do," Saéta explained. "To find out who's been encroaching on our turf so we could… retire them."

A cloud of unease fell over the room as Cardino and his assistants shifted uncomfortably. Given the Manectric's enunciation and their treatment so far, having a career ended by him and his lackeys didn't sound like the sort of experience anyone would look forward to… or live to talk about afterwards. That said, something wasn't adding up here. If Saéta and his pals were so slippery to the guards...

"Eh? But then why has it taken so long for you to handle this?" Nida demanded. "I thought you said that the Guards didn't have anything to get you in trouble with."

"Because as much as I'd like to make some goons sleep with the fishes, we'd need to make sure that settling this business wouldn't fall afoul of the Coordinator."

The elder Manectric's words at once drew some hushed chatter from the doorway, the Swampert underling trading a blank glance with his Salazzle counterpart.

"Never did get why that was supposed to be threatening," Carlo whispered. "I sleep with the fishes every night."

"It's idiomatic, you dunce," Giusy countered.

"Wait," Elty murmured. "The… Coordinator?"

A dismissive scoff came from across the table. Team Traveller looked back to meet Saéta's eyes as he shook out his mane, before idly sliding a paw onto the desk before him.

"I suppose that some prim and proper types like you wouldn't know, but he's the main fixer for our line of work here in Tidemill," the elder wolf sighed. "Whether you're a street gang, a free trader, or a proper organization like us, if you plan on staying in business for any length of time, you've got to go through him."

"Eh? But Cardino said that you were the biggest crime lord here in Tidemill," Guardia said. "You mean there's someone even bigger?"

"Please, 'crime' is so rude. But no, if we didn't get our more… sensitive operations cleared with the Coordinator and send him a cut every month, the guards would've made up a lead to bust pàre here and we'd have gotten turfed out years ago," Luca explained. "It happens to anyone who either stays in the business too long without going through the Coordinator... or else causes too much trouble for him to smooth over."

"Hm? But according to the logs we found, the egg thieves have been operating for quite a while," Cardino insisted. "Just what we've found would point to them being active for at least over a year, if not more."

A long, pregnant silence hung in the air. After shooting the others a cold, hard glare, Saéta spoke up, his response carrying with it an audible venom.

"We haven't been dealing with this turf issue for more than a couple weeks," the Don murmured. "There's no way a common pack of street thugs could pull off an operation like that."

"Sounds to me like this gang's a bunch of fall guys to be hung out to dry later," Luca added. "They wouldn't be the first one to be burned through either if this has really been going on for more than a year."

Saéta paused a moment, before furrowing his brow in realization. Any Pokémon in their business had to maintain some relationships to stay viable... Unless the 'mon with all the fall guys wasn't playing on their same level, who would be none other than...

"The only 'mon who could make so many enemies in this town so quickly while still staying in business would be the Coordinator himself," Saéta said. "Anyone else would've either gotten bumped off, or run out of partners ages ago."

Team Traveller murmured uneasily among themselves. On one level, given Saéta's lead, they knew exactly the sort of Pokémon they'd be looking for... But without any inkling to an identity or even a species, just how were they to narrow things down in a giant city like Tidemill?

"Okay, and just where are we supposed to find this Coordinator?" Cardino demanded. "This 'fixer' of yours doesn't sound like he'd be operating out of some hole in the wall."

"Start by looking in your own ranks, Detective," the elder Manectric sneered.

Saéta's words hung in the air with a stunned quiet. After a spluttering moment to put things together, an awful thought crossed Cardino's mind. Could the wolf really have meant…

"Wait. You mean he's in the guards?!" the Pikachu exclaimed.

"Congratulations for realizing what everyone in the underworld's known for years," Luca sighed. "Now hurry up and get out."

"Huh?!" Nida squeaked. "But we just-"


The Nidoran flinched at the sound of a low growl, looking up to see Luca glaring at her with bared fangs, sparks dancing on his pelt. Whatever questions that the spike lump or her friends had, it was evident they weren't going to get an answer to them right now.

"Question time's over," the younger Manectric snapped. "Get out before we change our minds."

Team Traveller and their detective companion hastily ducked out of the office, coming out to see that the catwalk outside now opened to the outside of a building at late dusk overlooking a winding alleyway. The four traded uneasy looks with one another. This had to be the work of that Zoroark from earlier... but by the same token, it didn't make sense to try and tease out an exit beyond the 'alley' they were provided.

The four carried on, making their way down the winding and deserted alley until they reached a noticeably-brighter archway guarded by the Machoke and Raticate from earlier. The group stepped through it, only to hear a loud slam behind them, turning back only to find that the sky above was still bright with the orange-ish hue of the early evening. The four looked behind them to see the arch they'd passed through had been replaced with a barred gateway behind the glaring guards, giving looks that all but screamed their impatience to be rid of the group.

"… Hope we didn't forget anything back there," Elty muttered. "I'm not sure if I could find our track back through that."

"Well, at least we got a lead for where to look next," Nida sighed. "So… we'd just need to start by checking the guards?"

"But there's tons of guards in this city!" Guardia protested. "How are we supposed to narrow down which one's this 'Coordinator'?"

Cardino shook his head, before casting his gaze out to the harbor. There, just inland from the sea along a canal, sat the squared-off headquarters of the City Guard. If they had to try and smoke out a bad apple from the ranks, there was only one reasonable way to go about it.

"Simple," the Pikachu said. "We start from the top."

The four of them set off on their journey back to the headquarters of the Guard. A thick tension hung over the air around the group as their minds drifted to the possibilities; just what kind of sordid matter would they uncover here...?

"Come on…" Elty muttered. "There's gotta be something here."

After their visit to Don Saéta's compound, Team Traveller and Cardino had made their way back to the Guards' Headquarters, their search taking them into the dimly lit inner rooms where personnel files were kept. The four rooted around, skimming through one packet of aged and dusty papers by the faint light of glow-moss for any hints as to what Pokémon among the guards could be the Coordinator. Amidst all their effort, so far they'd accomplished nothing other than to create a small pile of loose records on the floor, making Nida, Elty, and Guardia increasingly antsy about their lack of progress.

"Cardino, we've been looking through these records for hours now and we still haven´t found anything," Nida sighed. "Are you sure we're going about this the right way?"

"Yes. If the Coordinator is indeed someone highly ranked among the guards, there has to be a clue here in these records!" the Detective Pikachu insisted. "An unexplained absence, a suspicious numbers of sick days, anything that looks shifty or strange…"

"But we haven't found anything!" Guardia exclaimed. "So does this mean the Coordinator is not in the guards?"

"We shouldn't jump to conclusions like that so soon before searching everything thoroughly," the Electric-Type countered. "Like... aha!"

Cardino's eyes lit up as he yanked a paper folder from a box, proudly spreading it out on the ground and beckoning his assistants to come and inspect it. The three members of Team Traveller darted over, coming to see their employer excitedly pointing at some runes under a chart laid out in even square rows.

"Here we go! One of the Sergeants was apparently gone for a full month!" he cried. "That's something that stands out!"

"… The writing in the margins says 'parental leave'," Elty said.

The Pikachu blinked, squinting back at the scrawling in question. He stared blankly at it before reeling back, ears lowered and one paw behind his head accompanied by a sheepish grin.

"Er… that would actually be a good reason, yes," Cardino chuckled. "Should've noticed that there was only one absence! Heh heh…"

The detective's announcement drew an audible chorus of groans as Nida, Elty, and Guardia each slid paws over their faces in exasperation. Did they even have anything to show for their efforts right now?

"Bah… so we learned nothing at all from this search!" Guardia grumbled.

"Well, the Coordinator's obviously good at covering his tracks," Nida murmured. "So it'd have to be someone with a lot of power in order to do that…"

"Oh yeah, that's totally gonna get a 'Not Guilty' verdict," Elty sighed. "We need to have someone to point our paws to! Not some hazy 'mon of mystery'!"

Cardino flicked his ears uneasily before rubbing his chin in thought. The records room was probably their best bet for a lead... but after all this time spent cooped up in here, maybe it was worth switching up their tactics a bit.

"Maybe we need to try tackling this from a different angle," the Pikachu mulled. "Come on, let's step outside and get some air."

He bade his assistants to follow him out of the records room, leading them past a drowsy Hoothoot at the front desk and out into the hallway. The four walked down a few flights of stairs to the central courtyard of the headquarters of the City Guard, pausing for a moment under the sun to breathe in the fresh air from the sea, only for their peace to suddenly be interrupted by the abrupt sound of a barking order.

"Hey you, hurry up!" a trio of squawking voices snapped. "You've got rocks to be lugging and a busted-up wall with your name all over it!"

"Alright! Alright!"

The four Pokémon paused and did a double-take to their left, where they noticed a Furfrou in a bright orange scarf getting dragged along by a scowling Lurantis and Dodrio. As the pair and their moody companion passed along, Guardia blinked, realizing that the Furfrou seemed just a little too familiar.

"Eh?" the Cubone asked. "Didn't we just see that Trimmien the other day in a different scarf?"

"Hrmph. Means that he's already been sentenced to a punishment," Elty said. "It's unlikely we'll be seeing him around this compound again."

"And your wall would be fixed faster if you lazy bums did the work yourself!" the Furfrou snapped.

"… Never say never," Nida sighed. "Especially with that attitude."

Cardino watched as the guards escorted the Furfrou away. The Electric-Type moved a paw thoughtfully to his chin, when he suddenly perked up, his eyes alight with a sudden realization.

"Wait a minute… the big shots from that ship!" the Pikachu exclaimed. "One of them had to have met the Coordinator to set up that trade!"

"Yeah, but how do we know that any of them are still here?" Nida demanded.

Cardino paused for a moment to mull his options. To talk with any of Sibich's leading underlings, he'd need to go through the guards that worked around the prison. That said, he never did get a chance to memorize their daily beats, and they always seemed to be loath to talk while on the job… why, he'd have to go and flag one down in person off-duty to get an idea of what was going on!

Tromp tromp tromp

The Pikachu looked up at the sound of heavy footfalls, looking to see a Bastiodon in guard's attire passing down the hall with a small rucksack of food. Hold on a minute, he'd seen this 'mon before! He was pushing that Furfrou from earlier around just yesterday!

"Only one way to find out…" Cardino murmured. "Hey, Bastiodon!"

The Steel-Type paused and blinked a moment, before giving a curious glance back. The dinosaur shook his head and carefully turned around in the corridor, lowering his head with a quizzical tilt to address the Detective Pikachu.


"Are any of the high-value prisoners from that captured ship still imprisoned here?" Cardino asked. "The first mate? A escort captain, maybe?"

"As far as I know, all of those 'mons have already been sentenced except for the captain," the Bastiodon answered. "Can't imagine why with the plea deal he took, though."

"Plea deal?" Guardia asked. "What's going to happen to him?"

"Six months of trash collection," the dinosaur explained. "With a sentence like that, they might as well have let him walk out the detention center on the first day!"

Nida, Elty, and Guardia blinked and traded blank looks with one another at the Bastiodon's reply. Cardino similarly wrinkled his nose in skepticism; what sort of pirate captain got sentenced for anything for six months? The only plausible explanation was that someone had interfered in Sibich's sentencing, but just who could the Coordinator have been in the guards to have that sort of power?

"… How long did you say the Captain would still be in here again?" Cardino asked.

"Pretty sure his sentencing's tomorrow," the Bastiodon mulled. "Why?"

"My associates and I have some questions for him."

"Well, you know where the visitor's room is," the guard replied. "Make your way over there, and I'll have him brought out to chat up."

The four bade farewell to the Bastiodon and made their way across the courtyard. The guards at the doorway let them through into the detention center, after which Cardino and his assistants retraced their steps through the facility's corridors in the direction of the interrogation room. The journey there was quite familiar; just as before, the cell block remained dimly lit, the same fetid smell hung in the air, and the same metal bars divided the hall's cells from the main walkway... but something was different, this time. The cells were sparsely-populated compared to before, and everyone left seemed to bear the patterns of the Marked. Their journey concluded as the four reached their destination of the interrogation room and sat waiting, the idle time allowing them to mull over this revelation. How could it be that every Pokemon remaining was Marked? There had certainly been more Marked than normal in the cells the other day, but surely a few of the remaining prisoners ought to have been unmarked, right?

They considered the situation of the Marked as a thoughtful silence hung over the room, broken only by a loud clank from outside the door on the opposite side of the room. The door swung open, and the form of a Cofagrigus made itself apparent. He floated into the room, and the gathered Pokemon made note of his unusual bindings, dotted with attached bells that jingled after every movement. The Ghost-type glowered across the interrogation table as the guards secured him further, sliding his arms into metallic shackles and attaching some sounding bells around the lot. Satisfied with their work, the guards nodded at the Pokemon across the table and moved to clear out of the room, slamming the door behind them and leaving a solitary Pinsir on watch. Sibich rolled his eyes at the indignity of his treatment, before turning his attention to the youngsters before him.

"Ah, the Guardian's friends," the Ghost-Type sneered. "I didn't expect to see you here."

Nida, Elty, and Guardia reflexively gulped and tensed up at the sight of the Cofagrigus as he radiated an aura of outward hostility. Cardino puzzled at the spectacle for a moment, before turning back to the Ghost-Type prisoner with a dismissive shake of his head.

"I see you all have met before," Cardino grunted. "But let's skip the pleasantries and get down to business: we've got some questions for you."

"And just what would those be?" Sibich demanded.

"What was your crew doing trying to get those eggs, and what do you know about the Coordinator?"

The Cofagrigus scoffed at the Pikachu's question, flashing his teeth menacingly from across the table.

"I have no idea what you're talking about or who this 'Coordinator' is. As for the eggs, I merely instructed my crew to grab the most valuable things they could find," the Ghost-Type answered. "Some of them obviously interpreted it in a much more unseemly way than I intended. If I knew about it, I can assure you, they'd have walked the plank ages ago."

Elty narrowed his eyes and growled back at Sibich. Was he even trying to be convincing here?

"What kind of lame excuse is that?" the Growlithe snorted. "Even the captain on my old crew knew what was going on with the Pokémon under his command, so how's one of the captains of the Council supposed to be that oblivious?"

The Cofagrigus slipped his arms further through his shackles, bringing his inky black hands together and shifting his gaze to the Fire-Type.

"As you know, I deal a bit more extensively with Marked in my crews," Sibich explained. "I'd thought their more insular tendencies could be worked around given past experience; clearly, I was wrong."

The Ghost-Type's mouth curled into the faintest of smiles, the Cofagrigus sinking down low to the floor as he trained a taunting gaze on his interrogators.

"That's why the court accepted my offer of a plea deal for helping to find the real bad eggs in my crew," the wraith sneered. "Really, you should talk more to some of the Marked. When I heard of all the... interesting affairs they were up to, I was shocked that the court even extended them plea deals instead of banishing the lot!"

"And that's why all of them are still in detention?" Cardino prodded.

"Of course. The courts in the Empire prefer to process the more serious offenders towards the end," Sibich replied. "It's a shame the Marked in my crew would choose to dabble in such affairs, but it's not like they could count on the judge's sympathy either way."

"Then why were Eric, Sela, and Hanuna so adamant that they didn't steal the eggs?" Nida demanded. "We've found evidence they could be telling the truth, too."

A smug grin split Sibich' face. His four arms came together, tenting the fingers on each set of hands innocuously. He played with his fingers for a moment, letting Nida's allegation hang in the air awhile before responding.

"Ah, but you've established a possibility, not a proof. My crew understands that we stand together, or fall divided. And those Pokémon you brought up have chosen to fall," Sibich retorted. "Even if they did get found innocent, I'm sure one of their more clear-headed peers wouldn't see it that way and want to... rectify the situation."

"So basically, you're threatening 'mons like them to stay in line or pay the price," Elty growled.

"My, those are some serious allegations, pup," the Cofagrigus scoffed. "Do you have any proof of such claims?"

In unison, Team Traveller glared across the table at the Ghost-Type. Here they had the real culprit backed against the wall, and he was just bragging to them that they couldn't prove a thing! But... was that really the case, they wondered? Surely, of all things, their prized evidence from the previous trial ought to get some kind of reaction from him...

"How's this for proof, then?" Cardino snapped.

Sibich was answered by a loud thud, looking to see that the Pikachu had thrown a tome with the hand-shaped sigil of the Shadow Brigade onto the table. The wraith reflexively reached for the book, only to find his bindings keeping the diary just out of his reach. The Cofagrigus had a fierce flash of frustration cross his eyes, before turning his attention back across the table with an irritated scowl.

"It is, yes," Sibich replied. "And what of it?"

"Then why don't you help decode it for us?" Cardino asked. "If you're really looking to help flush out the 'bad eggs' in your crew, your diary should be able to help while backing up your story, right?"

The Ghost-Type paused, a dangerous look flashing across his eyes. He scowled fiercely, a low hiss emanating from within him.

"I have a right to my own privacy," the Cofagrigus snapped. "Though good luck finding anything of note from it. As I'm sure you've already discovered, it's not easy reading without knowing how to interpret it properly."

"But you-" Nida began. Before the Nidoran could finish, Sibich raised a hand for silence and held it up to the gathered Pokémon.'

"I'm done talking here," he growled. "I've got a sentencing tomorrow to attend, and I don't need you giving me even more stress over it."

The door swung open as the guards returned to the room, undoing the Cofagrigus' shackles and marching him off as he looked back with a taunting glance. As the door slammed back shut, Cardino pounded a paw against the table and buried his head in his other paw, his cheeks flashing sparks. The mood among his assistants was little improved, the lot still glaring after the door where Sibich exited.

"Grr... we oughta get that fiend at the other end of a Honebūmeran!" Guardia growled. "I just know the dead would find him guilty in a heartbeat!"

"Well they don't allow that in court, so what do we do now?" Elty sighed. "We still don't have anything to work with to make the case that Eric and his friends are being set up."

"... Maybe we overlooked something," Cardino murmured.

"Huh?!" Nida exclaimed. "What do you mean?!"

"Sibich was very confident we wouldn't find the decoder," the Pikachu explained. "The evidence room's a giant mess, so it could very well be hidden among other evidence the guards have already collected and we wouldn't know any better about it."

"Egh… I suppose we don't have many leads," Guardia admitted. "But I'm not confident about our odds here."

"It's worth a shot, isn't it?" the Electric-Type asked. "Come on, let's go take a look."

Cardino got to his feet and began walking for the door, prompting Team Traveller to fish the journal off the table and follow grudgingly. All the while, Nida kept a vacant stare on her face, dreading what was sure to be a long night trying to find any lead at all for decrypting Sibich's diary.

"Alright, how about this one Protector?"

Berecien nosed at a page of a book with large, bold runes scattered about it under the silvery glow of moonlight. The Ponyta had enthusiastically taken the lead after Queen Aleria had assigned him and his companions to be tutors, which had inspired him to the palace's library in order to start with a simple primer.

Unfortunately for the Fire-Type and his companions, their progress had been… lacking, to say the least. Almost immediately into the lecture, Berecien discovered that the young Protector knew naught but a handful of runes, scrapping the original plans for literature. Mathematics all but put him (as well as Niilo) to sleep just with simple exercises, even after Cabot took over the lecturing. Their current attempt at basic vocabulary was also going far from swimmingly, no matter who attempted to take the lead. Time and time again, Berecien and his companions would nose or paw at a rune on the pages of 'The Imperial Lexicon', just as he did with the jagged squiggle he currently was on. Much as the last times, the seabird stared blankly at it for a moment, before turning unsurely to the Ponyta.

"Uh… 'Snake'?" Pleo replied, only to be answered by a trio of exasperated groans.

"No, it's 'Thunder'," Berecien said. "See? Doesn't it look kinda like a thunderbolt when you squint at it?"

"I… guess?" the Lugia answered.

"Well... at least it's going better than when we tried to teach him to write…" Niilo sighed. "But maybe we should try moving on to another subject for now?"

"But how's he supposed to study anything without being able to read?" Berecien protested. "He can't do math without it, he can't do literature…"

Cabot audibly mulled a bit as he turned his eyes about the library. There were certainly plenty of books to work with here, but none of their subjects would be worth anything if the Protector couldn't read them. Plus with all of the older tomes around, and the old paintings and sculptures, would they really hold up to the stresses of a younger student?

Wait a minute… why not use the paintings and sculptures themselves to make a lesson around them? It would be a little tricky since he'd never gotten the hang of all the fine details on his own, but...

"What about history?" Cabot offered. "I think we've got enough stuff to do a simple primer on the Empire's history here."

Pleo craned his head up, giving a blank blinking stare. What… exactly did the Cranidos want him to do here, and what was...?

"… 'The Empire's history'? Why is that important?"

"Because it'll help you as our new Protector to learn about things that have happened in the past," Niilo explained. "In our case, how the Empire came to be through King Aquila's endeavors."

"King… Who?"

"Look over there," Cabot said, moving his claw up to a large portrait of a Staraptor with a crown, spreading his wings with a leftward gaze.

"That's King Aquila," the Cranidos explained. "The legendary hero and first King of all Anyilla."

"Eh? But why was he made king?" Pleo wondered.

"Because of his exploits as a hero who brought peace between the Marked and other Pokémon here in Anyilla," Berecien explained. "It all started when he was discovered from a metal cocoon that fell from the sky above, a dazed Starly who remembered naught but his name…"

The Ponyta carried on with a peculiar tale about the Starly drifting from village to village and becoming renowned for strength and wisdom after joining the company of a Chespin that he formed a Rescue Team with. The rest of the tale went by in an increasingly hazy blur as Pleo settled against the ground struggling to keep his eyes open. He looked around, and while looking at the bookshelves, noticed a faint spark of electricity, following them to see a large, metal saucer of a Pokémon with an indigo scarf float cautiously out from behind it.

"Huh? Wasn't that that flying... saucer thingy from last night?" Pleo murmured.


Cabot and his companions turned to the shelves where Pleo gestured off to, only to notice the Magnezone and jolted up with a surprise. Why, this was none other than the famed...

"Admiral Coil?" Cabot asked. "What are you doing here at this hour?"

Startled, the Magnezone bobbed upwards, his magnets twirling out of surprise. After a tense pause, the Electric-Type returned to his normal level and stilled his magnetic limbs, recomposing himself as he tilted his body downwards to better face his questioners.

"Ah, I was just coming by to grab a book before sleep," the Magnezone answered. "You're the Pokémon assigned to tutor the Protector, I presume. Smooth progress, I trust?"

Coil's question was met by tired, unamused looks back. Cabot and Berecien struggled to find the right words to describe their trials to the admiral, only for Niilo to beat them to the punch with his normal, blunt phrasing.

"I'm pretty sure that I'm not getting paid enough in my contract to do this," the Sandslash sighed.

Niilo's explanation was met by a swat from a fiery tail, followed by a glare from his Ponyta teammate. Berecien turned his attention back to the Magnezone and hastily cleared his throat.

"What he meant to say is that we're working through a few unexpected complications," the Fire-Type corrected. "But I'm sure that things will be fine, Admiral. The Protector just needs a chance to warm up."

Ah... well I'll just clear the way for you then," Coil said. "Good luck with your efforts."

The Magnezone began to turn and float off, drifting away from Pleo and his three tutors. Before he could slip off entirely, a loud voice called out from behind.


Coil looked back and saw Cabot having darted up behind him. The Cranidos tapped his claws together, fumbling with his words as he tried to speak up to the Electric-Type.

"I… just wanted to say, thank you," Cabot said. "For coming to my hometown's help earlier."

The Magnezone bobbed and spun his magnets at the dinosaur's thanks. After a moment's quiet, the admiral floated down to the Cranidos' eye level, before giving a smiling answer back.

"It was nothing," Coil replied. "I was merely doing what needed to be done for the sake of Her Majesty's realm."

Cabot nodded, before starting to make his way back to the group, grateful that Admiral Coil had waited on him before leaving. As the Magnezone slipped away out of earshot, the Cranidos returned to the table, just in time to see Berecien drop his forced smile and turn his attention back to Niilo with a fierce glare.

"Mind your tongue around your superiors next time, sand rat," the Ponyta snapped. "You're lucky the Admiral didn't have you discharged on the spot right then and there."

"Meh, he seemed pretty chill with it to me," Niilo scoffed. "Besides, we've got teaching to get back to-"


The Sandslash and his companions blinked at the sight of Pleo opening his beak with a loud yawn, trying to shake himself awake with uneasy beats of his wings. Niilo looked at the drowsy Lugia, and then up at the sky, noticing that the moon had already slipped past its midpoint, with Time Lord's Traveller already well to the east of it, a sign as clear as day that it was just past midnight.

"Err... now that he mentions it, it is getting a little late," Niilo murmured.

"I suppose it's as good a time as any to call it a night…" Cabot yawned. "I'll lead him over to his chambers."

"Right, we'll catch up again tomorrow," Berecien said.

The Ponyta and Sandslash set off, going deeper into the library as Cabot beckoned Pleo to follow him. The young Protector followed after his Cranidos guide, only to deliberately slow his pace before ducking off into a row of bookshelves along the wall. Pleo made his way along the shelves, wondering to himself what caught that saucer Pokémon's eyes around here. Each of the bookshelves were packed with dusty tomes with labels he couldn't read, and there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary... By chance, the Lugia opted to look upward, where he noticed a tapestry above him.

It was of a village burning with blotched Pokémon fighting with a Staraptor and other Pokémon in indigo scarves. A little further down was another, depicting the Staraptor at the center of a group of Pokémon sternly looking at each other at a desk full of papers, the left side filled with Pokémon with blotches on their heads that had a visible reluctance about them. From there, there was a picture of the Staraptor with a Starly perched on a branch overlooking a town with a castle built on seaside bluffs, followed by one with the Staraptor and a Staravia flying at sea with ships following after them.

"Huh? Was that the next king?" Pleo murmured to himself.

He carried on, moving onto a portrait of two Staraptor, one visibly aged and the other young and lively. The next one showed the young Staraptor full of sorrow, standing before a glinting statue of the elder hawk with him nowhere to be seen. From there, the paintings seemed to grow more somber in color and tone. There was one with the seas churning showing the Staraptor fighting with a Milotic, one showing ships and Pokémon fighting at sea, and another depicting the blotched Pokémon being chased into a mountain full of fog.

Pleo paused and ruffled his feathers uncomfortably, having an uneasy feeling about the contents of the paintings and decided that perhaps it was better to turn his attention to the books on the shelf. He stopped in front of a book with a silvery-white binding and a paper jutting out the top, opening it and leafing through its pages only to discover...

"Aw... there's no pictures."

The young Lugia took the book with his beak and began to slide it back, when an envelope with a design depicting a five-pointed star made of leaves fell out onto the ground. He blinked incredulously, before setting the book aside and eying the paper container curiously.


Pleo craned his neck down at the envelope, nosing it open with his beak to see a paper filled with colored runes in a strange, squarish chart. The Lugia studied the strange letter for a moment, before looking back at the envelope as a dawning realization came upon him.

"Wait a minute," Pleo murmured. "We used one of these to send my feather back to Tromba!"

It really was one of those paper carrier thingies! And if it had been able to get a feather out to let his friends know he was okay back then... maybe he could do it again here! Maybe he'd even get a response again! ... Assuming he figured out a way to get his companions the envelope in the first place. But it seemed as good of a shot as any to try and hear from his friends once more, which prompted the bird to shake some feathers loose and scoop up the envelope with his beak.


Pleo jumped up with a start and whirled around, hearing the sound of approaching footsteps. Not seeing anywhere to dispose of the envelope to find it later, the Lugia hastily stuffed a beakful of feathers into the envelope and dabbed a little saliva on the edge and sealed it, stuffing it under his wings just as Cabot rounded the corner with a sleepy shake of his head.

"You shouldn't wander off like that," the Cranidos said. "It's a big world full of mean 'mons who would want to hurt you."

"But I wanted to look at the books!" Pleo protested, beating his wings out for emphasis. The Lugia's insistence prompted Cabot to sigh, before opting to motion for Pleo to follow him and not give him too hard of a time over wandering off. Just what sort of trouble could he have gotten into just a few bookshelves away?

"Alright… I'll get one to read to you tonight, okay?" the Rock-Type insisted. "But it's time for you to get some rest. Tomorrow's a big day."

Cabot began to pace off, prompting the Lugia to look around before truding off after the Cranidos. As he followed along, Pleo shifted his wing over the envelope he discovered, pinning it tight against his body as he waddled onward. The young Protector made his way out of the library, his thoughts drifting towards what he could say to his friends as the dinosaur led him off deeper through the darkened palace.

"Well... this is it."

Cabot motioned ahead from the doorway, pointing out a well-furnished room lit by the warm light of an oil lamp. In it, there was a set of furniture with a well-stocked bookshelf, a low table with seat-cushions, and a storage chest. The centerpiece of the set was a canopied bed made of rich, dark wood, with silken curtains framing a window that stared out into a collection of lights from the skies above and the lanterns from the rest of Tidemill below. In front of the bed, a small hoard of toys and amusements had been spread out in anticipation of the Protector's arrival, including a collection of Substitutes, some toy ships, a small pile of wooden blocks, and a silver looking-glass. The Cranidos smiled, giving a proud wag of his tail before turning back to the young Lugia full of enthusiastic cheer.

"I know it wasn't ready yet your first night since you came kind of unexpectedly," the dinosaur said. "But this is where you'll be sleeping for a while."

"I see…"

Cabot pointed around the room with a smile, giving a contented nod of his head, only to notice that things were uncomfortably quiet. The Cranidos looked back and discovered that much to his dismay, Pleo seemed wholly uninterested in the room, giving a lethargic, unhappy peck at his wing feathers. Hasty to try and liven the mood, the Rock-Type waved his claws and tried to draw the young Protector's attention back to his surroundings.

"I mean it's not all bad, it's a nicer room than mine and there's tons of fun stuff here!" Cabot insisted. "Maybe you could play pretend with those Substitute Dolls over there, and I think these model ships can float if you wanted to bring them to swim in a fountain or something…"

The Cranidos trailed off as he noticed that his young charge was still staring off into space, seemingly unfazed by any of the toys in the room. The little Protector evidently wasn't much in the mood to play, but there had to be something that would lift his spirits...

"Uh… er… there's even some books on the shelf you might like once you learn how to read," Cabot offered. "Since you're not there yet, I can read one for you before you go to sleep."

"But... where do I sleep?" Pleo asked.

"Oh? Right there of course."

The Cranidos pointed off at the large, silken mattress on the bed. On it, the bedding was adorned with silk cloth spread over it and smaller cushions set on the edges underneath a curtained canopy. Cabot watched as Pleo blinked confusedly, before the seabird turned back to him with a puzzled tilt of his head.

"But there's no straw."

The Lugia's answer made Cabot splutter in confusion and consternation. He'd expected the Protector to be over the moon after seeing the sumptuous bed, not to treat it as if there was something wrong with it!

"But- But this is how really important and powerful Pokémon sleep!" the Cranidos exclaimed. "This is an improvement over those straw clumps you've been sleeping on!"

"But it doesn't look like any bed I've ever seen!" Pleo squawked back.

"Just try it?" Cabot pleaded. "I promise that it'll feel better than any straw bed you've slept on so far."

Pleo looked at the bed and then at Cabot before warily waddling up to it and climbing onto the mattress. The young Protector settled atop it, and after finding it surprisingly soft and comfortable, settled in, curiously poking his body under the sheets as Cabot walked over.

"See?" the Rock-Type asked. "Perfect place to listen to a bedtime story, isn't it?"

Pleo gave a wag of his tail and chirped contently as he sank into the bedding. Relieved, Cabot breathed out a thankful sigh, his own tail beginning to move back and forth from the happier turn of events.

"Alright," Cabot murmured. "Now let's see if there's anything good on that shelf…"

The Cranidos got up and began to thumb through the books on the shelf, quickly realizing that they were all written in mind for young Pokémon. The Rock-Type leafed through titles such as The Three Little Trial-Goers, Brave Prince Goldenrod, and a book with a Lucario and a strange Pokémon resembling an unusually tall Sneasel on the cover titled The Chronicles of Shiren the Wanderer, only to suddenly hear a voice from behind.

"… It's 'Cabot,' right?"

Cabot stopped his claws abruptly and blinked a moment out of surprise at hearing his name, starting to look over his shoulder.


The Cranidos turned back and saw the Protector sitting up, craning his head high to look after him with a curious tilt of his head.

"Your name, it's 'Cabot,' isn't it?" Pleo asked. "That was what your friends were calling you."

"That's right, has a good ring to it, don't you think?" the Fossil Pokémon chuckled. "Why do you ask?"

"Well…" Pleo murmured. "I was wondering if you could give a message to my friends."

The young Lugia batted his wings, shaking loose an envelope with a leaf sigil onto the the bed. At once, his Cranidos caretaker jumped up with a start, darting over to the bed in a flustered rush.

"E-Eh?! Where'd you get that?!" Cabot stammered. "We didn't give you any envelopes!"

"I found it in the library and I was thinking that maybe it would help send a message to my friends. To tell them that I'm okay?" the young Lugia explained. "You'd help with that, wouldn't you?"

Cabot hemmed and hawed at the Lugia's request, keenly noting that the envelope bore the stationery of a high-ranking member of the Empire. Had the Protector snuck off and taken it for himself while he wasn't looking? If so, he couldn't just let him send off a letter in that envelope! If he wrote something incendiary on it, Nagant would have his hide over that!

"I- I mean, you already are visible at the stadium every day…" Cabot began. "And I really shouldn't be-"


Cabot saw Pleo craning his head forward, his eyes glistening and his lower beak quivering. The Cranidos blinked and paused uneasily a moment. This certainly was something that could get him into trouble… But when the Protector had trouble recognizing anything beyond a small clawful of runes, wouldn't it be more likely he just wanted to send something like a drawing?

"I'll try and slip it into their fan mail," Cabot offered, as he lowered a claw over the envelope. "But you need to promise to keep quiet about this, okay?"

"Alright," Pleo replied. "But there was one more thing that I wanted…"

The Cranidos hesitated and looked up puzzledly at the young Lugia. He hadn't snuck off with a second envelope, had he?


"Did you pick a story yet?"

"Yeah, I think I'll tell you about the tale of The Summoner's Journey," Cabot answered. "Doesn't that sound fun, Protector?"

"Eh? But my name's Pleo," the Lugia insisted.

Cabot blinked out of surprise for a moment, before pausing as a small smile spread over his face.

"Right. But I'm sure you'll like it, Pleo," the Cranidos insisted. "I picked this one out since there were lots of pictures, which I'm sure you'll love."

"Oh!" Pleo cried. "Can you show me, Cabot?"

"Of course!" the little dinosaur cheered.

The Cranidos clambered atop the bed and sat next to Pleo, cracking open the book to begin reading passages of a fairy tale about a spiral-like land where the Spirit World interacted more regularly with the world of the living. All the while, Pleo sank into his bedding, his eyelids growing heavy as Cabot's tale continued on as a faint homliness settled upon him. Even if Cabot wasn't Nida, Pleo realized that he hadn't felt as at peace since the night he and his teammates entered Copperband, wondering if they were doing alright themselves.

Before either of them knew it, Team Traveller and their peers from the Siglo Swellow found themselves back at the lower ring of the stands of the Vecioferàle Arena on the following morning. In contrast to Crom and his teammates' focused and ready demeanor, Nida and her companions spent the entire morning in a shambolic state. The three had spent most of the night scouring the Guards' Headquarters for any lead at all before finally returning to the Siglo Swellow to sleep for the night. There in the stands, the effects from the lack of rest were made evident by a loud yawn from Nida, which drew concerned glances from her Druddigon teammate.

"You feeling okay, Nida?" Crom murmured. "You guys seem so tired even though we all went to bed at the same time at the ship."

"Well, we did spend the entire evening searching for evidence only to come up empty handed…" the Nidoran sighed.

"I'm sure you'll find something, Nida," Kiran offered. "From what you've told me, it sounds like that captain wasn't expecting to be caught and had to improvise. If he really is trying to set up his subordinates, he's bound to have slipped up and left some proof behind."

"Yeah, that's great," Elty grumbled. "But how do we find it in the next hour and a half without forfeiting our next match?"

Nida opened her mouth to answer, only for a loud electric crackle to make her spring back with a start.

"Good morning beauties and gentlebeauties!" Thalez greeted. "Hope you got some rest last night since this festival of mayhem's got no breaks on it!"

The Nidoran looked up just in time to see Thalez zip by, circling in the air around the stands much to the crowd's cheering pleasure. Team Traveller's members stared as the Rotom continued soaking up the audience's adulation, an annoyed scowl settling on Elty's face at the Ghost-Type's showboating.

"Świetnie, just what we needed."

"There's just 32 contenders left standing before the eighth-finals, so these matches will be flying by faster than you know it!" Thalez cheered. "First up, is Team Swanna of Tromba versus Team Mirage from our very own Tidemill West!"

"Oh that's us!" Crom exclaimed. "Looks like we're kicking off this round!"

The Druddigon's enthusiasm failed to be mirrored by the rest of "Team Swanna", Ander in particular seemed to be unimpressed with the Rotom's announcement, giving an annoyed shake of his head.

"Though he got our team name wrong... again." the Scyther sighed. "Though wasn't Team Mirage the one with that strange Pikachu we spotted in the evening matches? I don't think they'd be too hard for you to handle."

Thalez continued on, moving on to a match between Team Wrecker along with one with 'Team Glyph'... Certainly a balanced-sounding matchup as Team Traveller looked over to see the sight of a group of Unown celebrating the announcement as a disinterested Rhyperior glanced over, evidently one of their opponents. Team Traveller was called up next, their next match pitting them against a 'Team Bedtime' which prompted the three to peer over and look at a group of visibly dozing Pokémon headed by a Munchlax… Nothing that they couldn't handle given that they couldn't stay awake through their own match assignment.

The trio's thoughts turned back to the impending trial, and how little they had to show for their efforts. One after the other, Nida, Guardia, and Elty tried to tease out some potential angle they could still try, only to come up short until a loud buzz from Thalez's booth drew their attention back to the Rotom.

"And there you have it folks!" the Ghost-Type crackled. "Those are all the matchups of the second round!"

"Well at least it doesn't seem like we're matched up against anyone too tough…" Elty murmured. "Or Valatos and his buddies for that matter."

"Don't tempt fate, Gardie," Guardia grumbled, only for her admonishment to be swiftly drowned out by Thalez's voice.

"So without wasting any time, let's get the three sailors of the Siglo Swanna and Team Mirage onto the field so we can get the first battle started!" the Rotom cried, prompting a wave of cheers and applause to break forth from the stands.

"Crom, Kiran, Dimitri," Pladur grunted. "That's your cue."

"Yeah, stay sharp out there," Ander added.

The Druddigon and his teammates strode onto the field, the beaming sunlight revealing a battlefield which had been rearranged to form a grassy, open field with a few stones in the center. All around them were the spectators' stands, packed to the rafters with Pokemon of every conceivable shape, size and type, the whole lot of them in an uproarious cheer as the teams made their way out. Crom scanned the lower portions of the audience and smiled as he caught sight of Nida, leaning over the edge as she waved eagerly to her teammate.

"Buena suerte!" the Nidoran cheered. “We’ll be rooting for you!”

"Right!" Crom grunted. "Time to show off what we've been learning!"

The three watched warily as their opponents trotted out to the field, the team consisting of a ghostly, Pikachu-looking Pokémon up front flanked by a Masquerain and an Amoonguss. Crom and his teammates assumed their fighting stance as Thalez began his usual routine to hype the crowd up for the countdown, but their concentration was broken by a dismissive scoff from the other side of the field.

"Ah, a team of sailors, huh?" the ghostly Pokémon sneered. "Be warned, it'll take more than a good eye for stars to see through our web of illusions!"

"Wait, what was that supposed to mean-?" Dimitri began, only to be cut off by a deafening cry from the audience.


Caught off-guard by the sudden beginning of the match, Crom and his teammates jumped into battling stances with a start. The three glared ahead, seeing that the strange Pikachu and his team had already taken formation much more gracefully than they had. Kiran jumped to lead his own team with a sharp squawk in response.

"Alright, like we drilled!" Kiran cried. "Stay sharp and focus on the foe that suits your fighting style best!"

The trio charged ahead, Crom and Dimitri running along the battlefield in parallel with each other, as Kiran led the way from above. As the two teams neared each other, Kiran noticed the Amoonguss slowly trudging along the side, prompting him to dive at the Mushroom Pokémon in a swooping attack.

"Gotcha- Gwark?!"

A stream of hot, sticky bubbles sent Kiran stumbling back through the air and crashing down onto the arena floor unceremoniously. The bird hastily flicked the suds off of his plumage, kicking off the ground just in time to avoid another such assault from its culprit: the Masquerain who hovered over Kiran with a taunting sneer.

"Hah! You'll need to try harder than that, Swellow," the Masquerain jeered.

As Kiran hastily darted off, Crom ran for the peculiar Pikachu, his maws opened for a crushing bite. The Druddigon noticed that the rat wasn't moving at all out of his way, filling him with a fiery confidence.

"Heh, should have run while you could've!"

"Oh trust me, I have nothing to fear," his opponent hissed back.

Crom gave a guttural shout, only to feel a warm sensation at the back of his throat. He went wide-eyed and reflexively spat up a bluish ball of light at the strange Pikachu, looking out stunned as the orb sailed along. Why, that was a Dragon Rage! Had he really grown that much in his journey? The Dragon-Type watched with excitement as the orb of fiery light barrelled into the Pikachu, surely enough to put him on the ropes… And watched as to his horror, the light orb dissipated with little effect other than to make the Pokémon backpedal with a light sting.

"H-Huh?!" Crom exclaimed. "B-But you're a Pikachu!"

"Correction, I'm a Mimikyu," the Pokémon hissed. "Could a Pikachu do this?"

The Mimikyu abruptly whipped up a cloud of pinkish dust and lunged for the Druddigon. Much to Crom's astonishment, the creature shot out an inky, ribbon-like tentacle tipped with claws and swung it through the pinkish haze into his chin.


Crom flew back and landed on his back stunned, the dust cloud moving over as the Druddigon felt a blow to his stomach and his arm. The Dragon-Type hastily righted himself and took off in a blind panic, the "Pikachu" giving chase with a hopping pursuit around the arena.

"Oh no you don't!" Dimitri chittered.

The Kabutops ran up as water began to wreath his scythe, the vampire crab bringing his blade-like arm down with a watery slash at the Disguise Pokémon. The Mimikyu's head jerked back, sending the Ghost-Type tumbling away, only to rise up with its head hanging limply off, glaring back. As the Mimikyu shifted back into a battle-ready stance, Dimitri ran in to try and deliver another blow, sprinting for the Ghost-Type.

"Hah!" the Kabutops jeered. "Your evasion's lacking-"

Dimitri shrieked in pain as he suddenly felt a large weight on his back along with a piercing sensation. The Kabutops thrashed wildly, throwing off the Amoonguss from his back just as the Grass-Type withdrew some vine-like protrusions behind his shield-like arms, their tips dyed a noticeably bluish tinge.

"Oi!" the Mushroom Pokémon snapped. "You'll have to deal with me before you hack your way through our team!"

"Dimitri! Tactical retreat!"

The Amoongus whirled around at the sound of a loud squawk, only to be struck by a flying tackle from a speeding Swellow. The Grass-Type tumbled back from the impact, weakly propping himself from the arena floor. Groaning, he looked up, just in time to see Dimitri cut a wide arc across the air, leaving a blade of wind in its wake that slashed him across the chest.


The Grass-Type lurched forward and limply toppled onto the ground, shaking loose a cloud of golden spores from his cap which billowed out to envelop his foe. Dimitri gasped with alarm, and accidentally inhaled the spores in the process. The Kabutops quickly broke into a fit of wheezing as he felt every muscle in his body grow heavy and numb.


From his vantage point high above, Kiran watched Dimitri stagger forward, struggling with all his might against the weight of paralysis. The Swellow turned to circle around the battle below, but his concentration was broken by a sharp yelp coming from somewhere behind him.

"A-Aah! H-Help!"

Kiran turned his attention backwards, where he spotted Crom tearing along the battlefield for dear life as the opposing team's Mimikyu chased after him closely, swiping just out of reach of the Druddigon's tail. The Swellow threw a hasty glance to each of his teammates before committing to a decision, turning to dive for his younger teammate.

"Hang in the- Argh!"

Before he could cover any meaningful distance, Kiran was blown away and into the ground by a sudden Whirlwind. His place was quickly taken by Team Mirage's Masquerain, who flashed a glimmering light on her wingtips that lit up the arena floor and prompted the Mimikyu to shift his gaze to the Bug-Type. From his place further down the field, Crom kept running from his pursuer, only to notice that the Mimikyu's hops were growing fainter and going further away.

"Huh?" Crom murmured. "Where's he goin-?"


The dragon whirled around at Dimitri's shriek of pain, turning to see that he had been mobbed by the Masquerain and Mimikyu, who'd pinned him down and surrounded him.


Crom instinctively ran forward after his teammate, his Swellow mentor haggardly righting himself and leaping back into the air with spread wings as his breaths came out tired and exasperated.

"Gah! I can't make sense of this team's strategy!" Kiran squawked. "Every time we try to get a foothold, they always keep distracting us!"

Crom kept fast on his path, mulling over Kiran's exclamation in the few moments he could spare as he closed the distance to Dimitri. He had passed up a good chance to really damage him earlier, but if the Mimikyu was just going to bolt right for Dimitri once he finally caught up, what was the point of coming after him so severely?

Unless... chasing their team apart like this was the whole point?!

"Hey wait a minute! That's it!" Crom exclaimed. "They're just picking off whoever they think's the most dangerous from our team first!"

The Swellow blinked blankly for a moment, before having his gaze harden in firm determination, shouting out to his pupil below as he entered a steep dive.

"Then let's turn their strategy around!" the bird cried. "Cover me!"

Kiran flew out ahead of the group, sailing low above the ground directly for Team Mirage's still-standing members. At once, the Masquerain spotted him, and sounded the alarm with a loud buzz to her teammate.

"Oi, Captain!" the Bug-Type buzzed. "We've a bogey to the right!"

The Mimikyu whirled around just in time to spot the Swellow barreling towards them. Unimpressed, the Ghost-type readied a claw for a swipe, throwing his arms back in preparation to bat it out at their incoming attacker.

"Hrmph, this won't be difficult."

The Mimikyu lurched forward to deliver his attack alongside his Masquerain teammate, only for their concentration to be broken by a blue blur lunging from behind. The Masquerain felt a heavy tackle from overhead and plummeted to the ground, lying dazed for a moment. She heard the noise of her Mimikyu partner shouting and the sound of him suddenly struggling with the Kabutops, and felt a rough, sandpapery claw abruptly yank a wing backwards. The bug grimaced in pain, beating her wings wildly in an attempt to catch sight of his surprise attacker.


On reflex alone, the Masquerain gave a deafening beat of her wings and jerked ahead as the sandpaper-like grip slackened, coupled with a pained yelp from its culprit. The Masquerain hastily whirled around to see Crom tottering in a daze, and further off, her teammate having knocked himself free of the Dimitri's attacks. Team Mirage's members looked around themselves and went wide-eyed at a sobering realization: their foes had them totally surrounded on every side!

"Gah! It was a feint-!" the Mimikyu exclaimed, only to be cut off with a loud squawk.

"See ya!"

The Ghost-Type hastily turned to flee, his teammate's attempt to follow thwarted by an overpowering Whirlwind that sent the Masquerain flying back along the battlefield. The Bug-Type hastily tried to take to the air, only for Crom to run up and clamp down on her wings with his jaws. As the Druddigon struggled with the bug, Kiran strafed from above with a cutting wind and Dimitri staggered over, leaping to close the final distance and bring a scythe blow down on the Masquerain. The bug shrieked out of pain, tumbling on the ground and coming to a twitching, groaning stop on the arena floor. With their foes' flier downed, all eyes turned towards the last remaining opponent, the Mimikyu pulling himself up from the ground.

"Davay!" Dimitri cried. "Let's do this!"

"You've got this, Crom!"

From their place in the stands, Team Traveller grew ecstatic as their friends turned the tables against Team Mirage. The Mimikyu hastily readied a slash of his claws, only to be driven back by a watery dash from Dimitri. The Ghost-Type tumbled along, swept up by a Whirlwind from Kiran that sent him flying along the grassy field, directly into the path of a waiting Druddigon with opened maw, who pounced on him… and bit down.


The Mimikyu's shriek filled the air of the stadium, the Ghost-Type tottering as Crom let him go with his mouth, collapsing into a clump of tall grass. As soon as the Mimikyu hit the ground, the stands roared with approval, prompting Thalez excitedly chime in pronouncing the victor.

"And Team Swanna wins the match with a surprising turnaround!" Thalez crackled. "Give it up for them, everybody!"

On cue, the stands cheered even louder at the Rotom's prompting. From their place in the arena, Crom and his teammates stood amidst the grassy battlefield, soaking in the applause. As the three basked in the attention, the medics came to collect the members of Team Mirage as the victors began to trudge off for the stands. All the while, the audience's applause continued, including that of a visibly animated Nidoran from the lower rows.

"He did it! He did it!" Nida cheered.

"You mean his team did it," Guardia corrected. "Your Crimgan friend was struggling with that Pikachu-looking Pokémon."

"Yeah, when that other team ganged up on Dimitri, I was sure that they weren't going to make it," Elty said. "Talk about quick thinking there-"

"Hoy," a barking voice said from behind. "Are you 'Team Traveller'?"

The three blinked and turned around, only to be surprised by a horned, forked-tailed dog with a satchel over his back waiting for them with a letter under his paws.

"Er… who are you again?" Guardia asked.

"I'm from the mailroom downstairs," the Houndoom explained. "You got a fan letter earlier in the day."

The Dark-Type passed the envelope over, prompting Nida to scoop it up and examine it, seeing a star-shaped leaf design emblazoned on it. The trio traded puzzled looks with one another, before Elty turned his attention back to the courier, giving a confused fold of his right ear back.

"Wait, we have fans here?" the Growlithe murmured.

"I've heard of stranger things happening, but you've clearly been fighting well enough to impress someone here in Tidemill," the Houndoom answered. "Keep it up, and maybe you'll get some more."

The black dog turned and slinked off further along the stands, leaving Team Traveller to crowd around the letter. Nida checked both sides of the envelope once again, only to see that beyond the presence of the leaf design on the front, there was no writing or marking whatsoever to tell them about where the letter had come from.

"No sender or address…" she murmured. "Let's open it up and see who it's from."

The Nidoran slipped the nails of her paws under the envelope and pulled the seal open, turning it over as a silvery-white feather fell out and settled on the ground. At once, the gathered Pokémon hopped back with a start and their mouths flopped open out of surprise, realizing that only one Pokémon in the Cradle could've sent a feather like that.

"Zaczekaj chwilę! That's Pleo's!" Elty exclaimed.

"How did he manage to send it?" Guardia asked. "We only saw him being trotted out on the first day and kept up there in that box!"

Guardia's question gave pause to the Growlithe, who lowered his head in thought. It wasn't very likely that Pleo would just be given envelopes to send out freely, especially with how he had been kept so isolated from the rest of the crowd... Could it really have been Pleo that sent it?

"Maybe it wasn't him that sent it," Elty mulled. "Let's see if there's a message in there. Maybe whoever sent it wants something."

Elty flipped over the envelope once more, and after feeling something weighty between his teeth, shook the paper sleeve thoroughly to get at it. A quarter-folded sheet of paper, full of colorful runes, fell out of the envelope and onto the ground in front of them with notes in the margin.

"'Match the position of the runes by color'," the Growlithe murmured.

"Eh? Is that supposed to mean something among you hut-dwellers?" Guardia demanded. "I don't really understand what the writer wants."

"… I'm stumped too," Nida sighed. "If I didn't know better, I'd think it was instructions for a weird game of checkers. But there's way too many colors and I don't see how doing the same move over and over again would help you win."

Elty paused and stared at the colored runes, comparing their positions in the left and right charts. One move repeated over and over again in a game would be fairly useless, but what if it was actually meant to shuffle things around instead? The Fire-Type blinked, suddenly realizing that as long of a shot as it sounded, maybe the team actually had something that could stand to be shuffled around like that...

"Hey, did we ever give Cardino back the journal from yesterday?" Elty asked.

I don't think we did?" Guardia answered. "But what does that book of your unreadable hut squiggles have to do with anything?"

"I just wanted to try something out."

Elty put his nose into the team bag and pulled out a piece of paper along with a writing pad and a charcoal nub, slipping the pad and nub over a forepaw. The Growlithe nosed the journal open and followed the text to the top of a page, carefully transcribing its contents, and then writing a second copy carefully shifting the runes around just as they had been on the two charts on the paper.

"Ah! Hey wait a minute!" the Fire-Type yelped.

The dog looked down at the transcribed text and noticed much to his astonishment that his still-incomplete second transcription started to have intelligible phrases in it. There was 'sandbar', 'merchant ship', 'captured loot'... Elty kept at his transcription as Nida watched, the Growlithe carefully sketching out a short passage denoting a past raid in which the Shadow Brigade chased a merchant ship onto a sandbar and pillaged it before sailing off with captives to ransom. The Nidoran looked up at the Fire-Type blankly, the two quickly coming to the realization that the paper was none other than...

"This is a decoder!" Elty exclaimed. "And it works on Sibich's diary!"

Guardia blinked, stunned at the discovery. There had to be some sort of catch, right? Well, it didn't seem so, as far as she could tell...

"Wait, so you mean something unexpected finally went our way for a change?" the Cubone murmured.

"How did Pleo find this? And how'd he know what it was?" Nida asked.

"I dunno, but you can't argue with results," Elty grunted. "Come on, let's figure out what this thing says!"

Nida looked up at the stands and for a fleeting moment, saw Pleo in the window of his box high up in the arena. A passing Exeggutor from the row in front blocked her vision briefly, and as soon as the Grass-Type left the Nidoran saw the young Protector slip behind the curtains prompting her to mutter a thanks under her breath. One way or another, they'd get him back home to where he belonged, she'd see to that even if it was the last thing she did.

"We're back!"

The three remaining members of Team Traveller looked up to see Crom and his companions walking in from their battle on the field just as the benched members of their team returned from a nearby stairwell with pawfuls of snacks. The Druddigon along with his Swellow and Kabutops teammates were obviously tired, but at the same time electrified with the thrill of victory. The young Dragon-Type gave a proud beat of his wings, darting up to his companions with special emphasis on his Nidoran teammate.

"So what did you think?" Crom cheered. "That practice we did has been holding up pretty well, huh?"

The Druddigon and his companions blinked and looked down at the papers spread out on the ground, tilting their heads curiously at the chart of colored runes with an emptied envelope set aside. They glanced back up to Elty, Nida, and Guardia and noticed the three were seemingly entranced by the mysterious chart.

"Oh? What are you doing with that letter there?" Dimitri asked.

"It's the decoder that we needed to read Sibich's diary!" Nida exclaimed. "Pleo found it and sent it to us!"

"Huh?! Pleo did?!" Kiran squawked. "But how would he have been able to even get this to us through his guards?"

"I dunno," Elty began. "But I say we worry about that later and find out what's in here first-"

"And next up is Team Wrecker and Team Glyph!"

Team Traveller grimaced at the sound of Thalez's voice, watching as the group of Unown from earlier floated off and a small crew of workers descended on the battlefield to start changing it around. A sinking realization dawned on the three, as they realized that the next match was due in just a matter of minutes and more importantly...

"… That's the match right before ours," Nida murmured. "We'll probably have 15 minutes at most before we're on the field.

Each member of Team Traveller glanced out to the field and then back at the journal, suddenly finding themselves paralyzed by indecision. The journal had to be decoded as much as possible before the trial, or else it would be nothing but a paperweight for Nico and Rita… But on the other paw, if they were no-shows to their next match, they'd forfeit the tournament by default, leaving all their hopes of getting to Pleo on just Crom's team...

"We'll help while you're out there," Pladur said.

"Huh?" Guardia murmured.

"Get what you can done now," Ander offered. "We'll take over while you're fighting in your match."

"Yeah, we're a team," Crom added. "We wouldn't just let you struggle on your own!"

Team Traveller as a whole was stunned, at a loss for words. Even though it would complicate their plans to prepare for their next match, their old teammates were still willing to cover for them out of nothing else but their camaraderie... Nida's ears flicked back as a small, grateful smile spread across her face.

"… Thank you."

Carrying herself with a newfound determination, Nida perked her ears back up, stamping the ground emphatically.

"Come on, let's get going!" the Nidoran squeaked. "That diary isn't going to decode itself!"

With that, the group hastily cracked the diary open and set out the chart, each of the Pokémon grabbing a nub of charcoal and a piece of paper from the bag on Nida's shoulder in order to tackle a chunk of the tome for decryption. As much as there remained to be done to make it through the next trial and battle, for the first time in a day, there again seemed to be a ray of hope on the horizon.

Author's Notes:

- mànega - Venetian: "gang" (criminal)
- pàre - Venetian: "father" (informal), "dad"
- Trimmien (トリミアン) - Japanese: "Furfrou" (Official Romanization)
- Buena suerte! - Spanish: "Good luck!"
- Davay! (Давай!) - Russian: "Come on!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
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Loony Moony
Alright, as promised, here is a Catnip review for the Fledglings, I'll be doing an extra review for Once a Thief too as discussed as well.

So, I've managed to read through the Prologue and Chapters 1-3, and I have to say I'm actually really enjoying reading through Fledglings, even at this early stage.

First of all, the world building. I love the detail that has gone into actually setting up a mythology behind this particular PMD world, with what would have happened to the gods and the humans. Using it from the prespective of a bedtime story is just a classic, really nice way of actually revealing those kind of details. Not revealing too much, but revealing enough that you have a complete basic understanding of it all. As a bonus, it also establishes the current status of the world as well in a nicely packaged way.

Speaking of the world in general, having an ocean themed one is a nice change up from what I've read in the past, with a huge amount of potential in future chapters. I also like how the town is set up, and the take on feral Pokemon alongside them, which again, neatly ties back into the wider mythology of the setting.

That brings me over to the characters. I like the fact that they are all distinct with their own personalities, between Nida's impatience, Crom's carefree attitude and Kirin being upbeat but by the book in a way. And that is before we get to the Lugia... which is handled brilliantly with a realistic outcome to the situation here that earned a few smiles on my end. The dialogue and reactions all come across as pretty realistic and natural to me.

I don't have any real critique on my end, occassionly I can lose track of which character is speaking, or how the town is laid out as a whole, but that is often corrected with a second glance through so it might simply be a me thing rather than anything else. The use of different languages is a nice touch too.

All in all, I'll be reading more of this. I'm interested to see where this story goes next!

Alright, continuing on from this. I have read the next four chapters ahead, so that is chapters 4 to 7. Once more, things have definitely still got me hooked to the story as a whole. The next time I settle down for a big leap in reviews, I will be doing something more extensive through discord, as I'm not used to doing live posts.

So, let's get my initial reflections on the chapters out of the way. Chapter 4 did slowly begin to drag a little bit, namely by the fact that much of the story seemed to be dominated by a single scene in the Guild. However, there was enough additional infomation and intrique to keep me me hooked. The real treat in this chapter came towards the latter end with the burrow scenes which all but made up for it. These scenes very much earned a chuckle or two from me and helped add a light hearted moment to the whole chapter.

Chapter 5 and 6 helped in expanding the details about Bluewhorl as a town itself, at least by introducing the different locations with in the town and expanding on the cast of the local area. The short spar featured was a nice, short segment of combat that was engaging. It was fairly tricky at times to track what was happening within the maze, but stuff like that can be fairly tricky to write depending on the circumstances due to it's very nature. Again, it was the small interactions between individuals within the town itself. In Chapter 5, it was the haggling that was the real treat of the chapter. Chapter 6's fight was also a nice little treat too, especially with the mention and use of certain abilities in combat for very good measure.

Chapter 7... BLIMEY. Things take a drastic turn into chaos.

In a great way, I'll reassure you.

The combat sequence was really well done. It was short, brief and action packed. I had no issue keeping track of things and it was extremely engaging throughout, leaving me guessing at what was going to happen next and not pulling back any punches. The damage to places as well was something major and definitely worth mentioning. The final outcome also really shows the power of one of the characters, even given this early stage in things.

Which rolls me onto character development. I really like the expansion on the details of the primary cast, Nida showing a cheekier and snarkier side to herself which is very much enjoyable to read about. Granted, I have a bit of a bias to snark. But it's still refreshing to see anyway. Crom has shown himself to be more mature and wiser than I expected. Kiran is still Kiran, but his character is still growing on me. Pleo is the star at the moment, for both being incredibly realistic given his circumstances, as well as being very adorable for good measure. Other, more minor characters certainly have their own traits that make them stand out more easily from the crowd, which really adds to that further.

There is less worldbuilding in general here in these chapters, but what is there does help in expanding things further, and having Pleo in play also serves as a very good way of explaining things naturally, and some of the stuff does have a nice bite to it so to speak.

The writing itself is all looking solid to me. The maze bit was the only bit that tripped me up, but again, stuff like that is pretty difficult anyway so it's not a major issue.

With the aftermath of Chapter 7 leaving things up in the air, I am very much looking forward to seeing what is going to happen next!


PMD Writer
  1. sylveon
  2. weavile
  3. kommo-o
  4. noivern
  5. mothim
Alright, continuing on from this. I have read the next four chapters ahead, so that is chapters 4 to 7. Once more, things have definitely still got me hooked to the story as a whole. The next time I settle down for a big leap in reviews, I will be doing something more extensive through discord, as I'm not used to doing live posts.

Hey there! Glad to hear the story got you hooked! ^^

Whether you choose to DM me or @Spiteful Murkrow on Discord, or share your thoughts somewhere on a server, we’ll be sure to look forward to seeing more of your feedback!

So, let's get my initial reflections on the chapters out of the way. Chapter 4 did slowly begin to drag a little bit, namely by the fact that much of the story seemed to be dominated by a single scene in the Guild. However, there was enough additional infomation and intrique to keep me me hooked. The real treat in this chapter came towards the latter end with the burrow scenes which all but made up for it. These scenes very much earned a chuckle or two from me and helped add a light hearted moment to the whole chapter.

Sorry to hear you felt that scene with Hatteras dragged on a bit, though it sounds like the scenes at the burrow more than made up for it at least.

The short spar featured was a nice, short segment of combat that was engaging. It was fairly tricky at times to track what was happening within the maze, but stuff like that can be fairly tricky to write depending on the circumstances due to it's very nature.

Yeah, that scene was intended to be a little chaotic. Mystery Dungeons are inherently chaotic places and this training in the maze was supposed to sell that sense.

The combat sequence was really well done. It was short, brief and action packed. I had no issue keeping track of things and it was extremely engaging throughout, leaving me guessing at what was going to happen next and not pulling back any punches. The damage to places as well was something major and definitely worth mentioning. The final outcome also really shows the power of one of the characters, even given this early stage in things.

Heh, well I’m happy you enjoyed it. Both the fight with Elty and his friends and the one against Hess are fun ones and the first serious battles of the story.

Which rolls me onto character development. I really like the expansion on the details of the primary cast, Nida showing a cheekier and snarkier side to herself which is very much enjoyable to read about. Granted, I have a bit of a bias to snark. But it's still refreshing to see anyway. Crom has shown himself to be more mature and wiser than I expected. Kiran is still Kiran, but his character is still growing on me. Pleo is the star at the moment, for both being incredibly realistic given his circumstances, as well as being very adorable for good measure. Other, more minor characters certainly have their own traits that make them stand out more easily from the crowd, which really adds to that further.

Thank you! Creating fun characters and making them stand out from each other is one of our favorite things to work on, so we always love getting compliments like these!

With the aftermath of Chapter 7 leaving things up in the air, I am very much looking forward to seeing what is going to happen next!

And we’ll equally look forward to hearing your thoughts! ^^

Today’s chapter was originally published as one big chapter on March 3rd 2018. Due to its massive length, we’ve decided to split it up into two parts for Thousand Roads. The first part will be uploaded now and the second one will be published next week.

And with that said, let’s get right into it:
Chapter 59a: Reversal of Fortune, Part 1

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie

The time after Team Swellow's victory on the field flew by in a daze, thanks to Team Bedtime's battle strategy abusing techniques that put their opponents to sleep, including a potent Yawn from its Munchlax leader. In spite of it all, Nida, Elty, and Guardia managed to piece together enough of the journal to notice that Sibich seemed to have total control over his underlings' activities, and that he seemed to use the journal to maintain a running log of his dealings and exploits. Before they knew it, the three were back in the courthouse, with their paws and the team's satchel filled with muddy notes, running up with an audible yawn in front of an agitated-looking Pikachu.

"… Again?" Cardino sighed. "What happened this time?"

"Sorry, we got Yawned on during our last match and had trouble staying awake afterwards," Nida explained. "That's why it took a while to get over here."

Cardino sighed and he flattened his ears against his head in exasperation. If he'd known his assistants would have had this much trouble with the tournament, he would've looked around for an extra set of paws to fight in the ring while these youngsters focused on finding clues.

"Sure seems like you three are a magnet for trouble," the Pikachu murmured. "But did you find anything, at least?"

"Someone mailed us Sibich's decoder," Guardia answered. "These papers were the transcriptions we were able to make before time ran out.

At once, Cardino's jaw dropped and he spluttered incredulously. They got mailed Sibich's decoder? But how, and who- Pah, it wasn't worth sweating the details right now! This was the break of a lifetime, and it couldn't have come with better timing!

"Well don't just stand there!" the Pikachu exclaimed. "Hurry on in! Nico has been stalling for over half an hour!"

The courtroom doors swung open dramatically, clearing the way for Nida, Guardia and Elty to stride in at a hasty pace, Cardino closing the doors behind them. As Team Traveller made their way inside, Nico opened his beak to exclaim something-or-other at a Cofagrigus on the witness' stand with Rita floating at his side, only for his budding outburst to die in his throat as his voice stalled out of shock. The Fletchinder took a breath, gathering his wits for a moment, before gesturing excitedly with a wing to present Detective Cardino's assistants to the court.

"Aaaaand here's our evidence, your honor!" Nico cheered.

"Really now?" Akin scoffed. "Looks more like a bunch of children and an out-of-shape mutt running in with a last-minute distraction."

"That's where you're wrong!" Guardia countered. "Those three pirates were framed and we have proof of it!"

The Cubone's claim at once stirred up murmuring among the audience, some curious, some skeptical. For his part, the Cofagrigus witness on the stand narrowed his eyes, shooting a hardened glare back at the youngsters before turning to the Slowking judge.

"Your honor, I didn't agree to come testify to be smeared with baseless accusations," Sibich huffed. "I already plead no contest to my crimes."

"That's for the evidence to decide," Nico countered. "Your honor, I call Cardino's assistants to the stand to share this evidence that they've found!"

The Slowking judge moved his gavel to his mouth, giving it an idle whirl as he pondered. The timing did seem a bit suspect, but after the tumultuous events of the last trial, it hardly seemed fair to dismiss it out of hand. Satisfied, the Slowking shook his head, turning back to Nico with an expectant look.

"I will allow it," the Slowking said. "Witnesses, please take the stand."

Sibich scowled as he slinked away from the witness' stand to make way for Team Traveller while they shuffled forward. The three youngsters took their places, and Nida fished the journal out of her bag as Elty and Guardia set out the transcriptions they had made. The trio steadied their breathing, keenly aware that every eye in the courtroom was on them. Nida cleared her throat uneasily and straightened her posture, preparing to speak.

"We'd gotten the idea that Captain Sibich's diary would tell us more about what his crew were up to," Nida began. "By a stroke of fate, earlier today we stumbled on his decoder."

"We took a look through different parts," Guardia added, passing out a small stack of transcriptions. "Even though we couldn't finish in time, we know that he seems to insist on calling the shots for his crew."

"Most interestingly, he seems to be pretty disdainful of his Marked crewmembers," Elty said. "Calling them 'blotch-heads who got in his way' that 'draw attention away from the rest of the crew'."

"As you can see, Eric and his buddies' claim to be set up is completely reasonable," Nida continued. "There's someone with the motive and mindset here to do it. Captain Sibich!"

The Nidoran's exclamation at once drew a set of startled protests from the defendants' docket. There, Eric, Hanuna, and Sela gawped at the Poison-Type with wide eyes and slackened jaws, incredulous at the claim she'd laid before the court.

"H-Hold on a second!" Eric stammered. "Captain Sibich really wrote that?!"

"But the Shadow Brigade was the easiest crew for Pokémon like us to join!" Hanuna added.

"How about we get an explanation here, huh?" Sela demanded.

"Well now, your honor. That sounds like an awfully surprised reaction from the accused," Nico said. "Perhaps there's some truth to the witness' claims."

The Slowking quieted for a moment, playing with his gavel in his paws. The Psychic-Type paused in visible thought, before shaking his head and beginning to respond.

"I'll admit that it does sound a bit-"

"Hold it!"

All eyes in the courtroom turned to a billowing and seething Cofagrigus, giving a look that could kill towards Team Traveller. The Ghost-Type slammed his hands onto the ground and turned up to the judge, visibly agitated.

"I demand to be allowed to testify," Sibich spat. "I refuse to let a pack of neophytes try and shift the blame onto me through engaging in selective quotations!"

"Yeah, what he said!" Akin hastily added. "What bit of decisive evidence did the witness provide to exonerate your client?"

"That Captain Sibich used Pokémon like the accused as patsies," Nico scoffed. "You heard it straight from their mouths!"

"Yes, but did your 'patsies' here not commit the crimes they're accused of?" the serpent demanded. "That's the important part, and you don't have the evidence to prove it!"

The Fletchinder grimaced, realizing that this whole time, while he'd been trying to cast doubt on Sibich, he'd completely failed at proving his clients' innocence! They certainly weren't acting misleading, but nothing that he'd shown the court so far could prove that they weren't a part of those egg thefts!

"Nrr… rrgh…"

"It's really all quite simple, featherbrain," Sibich said, giving a dismissive wave of his hands. "I'll explain to you from my experiences as a captain how it was that the testimony of those little snoops you called to the stand changes absolutely nothing."

"I'll hear it," the Slowking replied. "Captain Sibich, you may begin your testimony explaining the context of your journal entries."

The Ghost-Type floated back up to the stand as Team Traveller hastily took their leave back for Nico's desk. All the while, the Cofagrigus trained a harsh glare on the youngsters, seething behind clenched teeth before he swallowed his agitation and turned his attention to the judge with newfound sobriety.

"I admit, the youngsters' words are true…" Sibich reluctantly admitted. "That is what those entries in my journal say after reading them properly."

Some shocked gasps went about the gathered audience, wondering just what sorts of malevolent acts the Cofagrigus captain before them could have done if he was willing to hide his true colors from his own crew. In anticipation, the Ghost-Type held up a hand for silence, before turning his attention back to the judge.

"However, things are not as simplistic as the Defense's witnesses would like to believe," the wraith insisted. "The lines have merely been taken out of context."

"… Would you care to explain that?" Nico asked.

"They are things I wrote out of frustration after long days of working with the Marked on my crew," Sibich explained. "It got tiring to deal with them going behind my back constantly."

"If they are all such awful crewmembers, then why do you have them on your crew in the first place?" Fletchinder pressed.

"Because a trained and experienced crew is worth more to a captain than a ship full of rookies," the Cofagrigus retorted. "Despite the flaws among my Marked subordinates, it simply made the most sense for me to stay the course to teach them prudence in their mission and of honor among thieves."

Nida, Elty, and Guardia gaped at Sibich. How could he regurgitate the blatant lies he'd told them at the detention center yesterday so plainly in public ? It was totally shameless!

"Grr… that's an obvious lie!" Guardia spat. "He's guilty and we all know it!"

"Maybe so," Nico murmured. "But I can't see anywhere where his testimony contradicted the evidence we have."

"Hold on, Nico. He admitted that anything read from his journal through that decoder is proper, right?" Rita asked. "Then if so, anything else he wrote in that book is something that he'd be admitting to happening."

"Yeah, but how does that help us with this giant book here?" Elty demanded. "We'll never be able to decode the whole thing before the judge gives a verdict!"

"We'll buy some time. Nico's great at pressing a witness when he has to, so just look around and try to find something that would relate to this last raid," the Misdreavus insisted. "He's bound to have said something about what happened beforehand."

"Hold it! About your first statement!" the Fletchinder cried. "What did you mean by 'write'…?"

Team Traveller blanched and threw a set of paws over their faces, shaking their heads as they noticed a deepening glare settling over the judge's face. 'Stalling for time' was one thing, but this was just reeking of desperation...

"Let's just hurry this up before the judge loses his temper," Guardia sighed.

Nida and Elty at once flipped the diary open and browsed back to the most recent entries in it. The pair fished out the decoder and hastily started to transcribe entries while occasionally peering up to overhear Nico in his latest featherbrained attempt to stall the judge. On the third entry in, Elty hastily scribbled down some runes, before Nida's eyes went wide as she realized that when combined with the ones next to it, it described a 'Guardian of the Seas' in Giotto. Wait, but that meant...

"Eh?!" Nida exclaimed. "Someone told him Pleo was here?!"

"Huh? But weren't we at Sormus at the time that was written?," Guardia muttered. "That said, how exactly would that do anything to help prove our case?"

"If he was coming for Pleo, it'd explain why he went out with all his ships…" Elty said to himself. "Did he talk anywhere afterwards about planning? Since even Hess plans out his bigger raids."

The three looked down and started to transcribe the next messages. Glyph by glyph, words and then entire sentences started to take shape in front of their eyes, with Nida and Elty falling silent as their eyes fell on one in particular that they'd just completed.

"Drilled through attack plan with crew, left notes under cover," Nida murmured. "'Under cover'? Like a blanket?"

The Nidoran looked around at the rest of the notes, and failed to find any mention of drapes or any sort of covering. By happenstance, the Poison-Type grabbed the front cover to turn to another page when she realized that it felt unusually thick. Nida blinked a moment, before lifting up the diary and shaking it in front of her, hearing a faint rustling sound from within. The Nidoran's ears perked up, her actions failing to go unnoticed by Sibich from the witness' podium whose eyes widened out of surprise.

"Oi!" the Cofagrigus snapped. "Just what do you think you're doing there?!"

"That's it!"

The Nidoran hopped onto the desk, whirling to face the judge as she thumped the wood underfoot for attention. Try as she might, she couldn't contain her excitement, coming to the realization that the discovery she just stumbled on was huge!

"Your honor, there's something inside this diary's cover!" Nida exclaimed.

For a moment, it seemed like Sibich's face had gone pale, however much that was possible considering his coffin-like body. The Ghost-Type sputtered, desperately attempting to find the words to downplay the Nidoran's epiphany.

"P-Pah! Preposterous!" Sibich insisted. "Even if there was, just how would you propose opening i-?"


The courtroom flinched at the sound of splintering wood after Guardia club came down on the diary's cover. The binding cracked as the front cover buckled out and a panel toppled out, leaving Nico and Akin alike to stare mouths agape, the Serperior stammering in shock at the Cubone's treatment of case evidence.

"Hey! She can't do that!" Akin squeaked. "That's destruction of evidence!"

"That's where you're wrong, Jalorda!" the Cubone insisted. "I'm improving your evidence!"

Guardia yanked away the freshly-broken cover, causing a small wad of folded-up papers that had sat in the newly exposed hollow to flop out onto the witness' podium. The Slowking judge's eyes widened, the Psychic-Type audibly gasping in surprise at the sudden turn of events.

"Oh my! Diaries with compartments?" the judge exclaimed. "I wasn't aware that you even could keep private possessions and private thoughts together."

Nico strutted over and grabbed the papers with his beak, bringing them back to his desk. The Fletchinder and his Misdreavus assistant pored over the articles carefully, prompting curious murmuring to break out in the audience. Guardia peered over, struggling to see just what they had uncovered.

"What does it say?"

Nico unfurled the papers from the cover onto his desk, as they settled it became evident that they contained an annotated map of Polderfield Town and its surroundings with colored dots and arrows. Along with it, names had been scrawled onto a separate list, apparently denoting groups of Pokémon and actions written out over them.

"It looks like it's a diagram of the harbor, with attack routes," Nico murmured. "I'm more interested in this list here though, Captain Sibich…"

"Grrnh… and just why would that be?" the Ghost-Type demanded.

"Well for one, I see Eric, Sela, and Hanuna's names in here, but they're under a team for pillaging Polderfield's main square," the attorney began. "On the other hand, I see your name in this group here under 'recruitment' for what appears to be the local daycare. And wasn't that where your diary was recovered in the first place?"

"Then that means-" the Slowking began, much to Akin's grudging realization.

"That the real culprits were the Pokémon who went to the daycare…"


"Which would include you, Captain Sibich!" Nico exclaimed. "As none other than their ringleader!"

"Rrgh… this proves nothing!" Sibich hissed. "It was a setup!"

"I'm afraid that won't work," Rita retorted. "You yourself admitted that the decoder was right."

"Yeah, and that's how we found out about the compartment in the first place," Nida cried. "You wrote about it in your diary!"

The Nidoran's exclamation at once made Sibich set his teeth on edge, the Cofagrigus appearing much like a Deerling in the line of a Flash Cannon as he realized that he had indeed confirmed in front of the whole courtroom that the decoder belonged to the diary...


"Your honor, these documents are the decisive evidence needed to prove my client's innocence," Nico said. "It shows that they were part of a broader conspiracy organized by Captain Sibich to frame them and other Pokémon like them for more serious crimes, so that the real culprits could evade justice!"

The Fletchinder beat out a wing, dramatically leveling his wingtip across the room and peering down at the Cofagrigus at the other end, before finally raising his voice again to press one further question.

"… Do you have any commentary to add, Captain?"

"Nnn… Ngaaaah..." the Ghost-Type seethed. Sibich wrenched an arm free, flinging a shadowy orb at the Defense's table that sent them diving for cover. The Coffin Pokémon raged, his voice coming out in an increasingly unhinged-sounding hiss.

"This can't be happening! Everything in my plan was perfect!" he shrieked. "I'm Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade, I made it perfect! And I'm not letting a songbird and a couple of runts ruin that perfection!"

The Cofagrigus threw another Shadow Ball at the other end of the courtroom, making some observers in the audience duck out of their seats with yelps as it slammed into the wall below. His patience with Sibich long exhausted, the Slowking judge glared and pounded his gavel irritatedly against the wood of his podium, turning his attention to a Glalie and a violet Persian with pudgy cheeks.

"Bailiff, please take the witness into custody and escort him out of the courtroom," the Slowking judge grumbled.

"No! I refuse! You cannot do this to me!" the Cofagrigus screeched. "I'm Captain Sibich of the Shadow Bri-"

The Ghost-Type was cut off by a shadowy ball striking his face, as the Glalie and the Persian descended upon him. Sibich thrashed against his attackers, only for the Glalie to chomp down on his face, drawing a pained shriek as he toppled back in a daze. With their charge subdued, the captain was unceremoniously dragged off, the courtroom door slamming shut and leaving behind a stunned silence… broken by the sound of a Fletchinder poking his head up above his desk and shooting a smug smile across to the prosecutor's end of the room.

"Well, it looks like the 'Rookie Killer' has been killed," Nico jeered.

"Nrghh," Akin groaned. "This is one of those times when it's really best to just slink away for another day."

"So be it, I'll be waiting for tha-"


The Fletchinder and Serperior quickly stilled their tongues as the sound of the Slowking judge clearing his throat sounded out. The pair turned, watching as the Psychic-Type toyed with the gavel in his paw, giving a satisfied shake of his head.

"With these turns of events, I think that I'm ready to hand down my verdict," the judge said. "With regard to the defendants and the charges of egg theft… Not Guilty!"

The Slowking brought his gavel down onto the desk with a forceful thud, prompting cheering to erupt from the audience. For a moment, the Pokémon on the Defense's side of the room swelled with pride, glad that their hard efforts had in spite of all odds paid off.

"Hah! You did it! You did it!" the Scraggy exclaimed. "You got us off the hook-!"

"However, based off the evidence at hand, we can clearly see that the defendants are guilty of larceny," the Slowking ordered. "I order that they be returned to detention to await sentencing on a separate occasion as prior cases are reconsidered in light of this new evidence."


"… Way to make us look like idiots, Eric," Hanuna snarled.

"Come on, get going," Bastiodon scolded. "You can go warm a cell for a few days before you get put on trash duty."

The Pokemon by the Defense's end of the courtroom looked on while the Bastiodon guard marched the three pirates away as Cardino slipped in from outside, the Steel-Type guard slamming the door loudly behind him. From where she floated over Nico's shoulder, his Misdreavus assistant sighed and shook her head.

"Well, all's well that ends well…" Rita sighed. "Er… sorta."

"I'm sure they'll be grateful in due time," Cardino said. "Larceny is usually grounds for some form of Community Service, nothing that those three can't bounce back from if they make the most of it."

"Hrm… I guess we'll have to see what they do. Though something's bothering me," Nida murmured. "We found out that Sibich was responsible for this egg theft… but that list of eggs involved multiple crews... Who exactly was helping him?"

Before anyone could answer the Nidoran's question, she was cut off by the sound of thumps and shouts from outside the courtroom. The door was abruptly smashed open with a shadowy fist, as Sibich's seething form floated back inside.

"I'm not going down on my own!" the Cofagrigus shouted. "I refuse to let Coil hang all the blame on me!"

Stunned gasps broke out in the audience, the Ghost-Type narrowing his eyes and slamming his hands against the ground for attention, hoping to strike while the iron of his spectators' shock was still hot.

"That's right! Your beloved pirate hunter Admiral Coil has been working with me for years!" Sibich snarled. "So what are you going to do about it?!"

At once, the Cofagrigus was answered with a hail of loud jeers and shouts. The Ghost-Type was promptly clocked in the face by a flying apple, with other audience members taking the opportunity to lob objects of their own from the overlooking balconies.

"Get out!" a Bellossom shouted.

"A likely story from scum like you!" a long necked Exeggutor jeered.

Sibich toppled back under the blows of the incoming attacks when a flung Iron Ball sailed along into his forehead, sending the Ghost-Type clattering to the ground with a groan. The bailiffs came along and drug the now-unconscious Cofagrigus off, though the uproar in the audience was little-changed prompting the judge to pound his gavel for order. While the Slowking attempted to calm the riled-up audience, Cardino stared after the door where Sibich had been dragged off, before shooting a sidelong glance at the Fletchinder beside him.

"Hey Nico, you interested in representing another client?" the Pikachu asked. "I think we can get you a face-to-face meeting with him sometime around sundown."

"Well, it's my job," the Fletchinder murmured. "But why?"

"I think I might've found a break to this egg ring case, but it's gonna require the cooperation of a tough customer."

As the sun continued its ascent up to its midday high in the sky, the Silver Wing Cup continued on at the Vecioferàle Arena. The day had been marked with cycles of frenetic activity, followed by lulls much as this one where the field was cleared and rearranged and spectators drifted out into the hallways to purchase concessions or settle bets in the wake of the second round. From the portion of the stands set aside for the contestants, the lull was occupied more by plotting out strategies for next matches, slinking off to train, or in the case of Valatos, Nori, and Alvise, simply lazing around and waiting for time to pass by.

"Ugh, I'm so bored spending all this time watching all these other Pokémon fight," the Marowak groaned.

"If only we were in a large city where we could freely go around with plenty of stuff to do like the Imperial capital…" Valatos sighed, before shooting a piercing glare at the Manectric beside him.

"Hey, you saw what happened the last time we went out!" Alvise snapped. "I'm not going unless there's a good reason for it!"

"Bah… why couldn't you have left town when you were younger without getting a gang of 'mons mad at you?" Nori huffed.

The Marowak and Manectric's argument quickly took a turn for the worse as the two bickered with one another, drawing an annoyed groan from Valatos. After a moment's reservation, the Yanmega opted to let the pair sort out their own differences and settled on a railing overlooking the arena. The dragonfly turned his head rightwards down the contestants' stands and watched the forms of various Pokémon go by, fanning his wings lazily when a squeaking voice reached his ears.

"Ah! You're back!"

Valatos looked ahead and saw the form of a blue Nidoran hopped into the arms of a waiting young Druddigon, the Dragon-Type taking her up and nuzzling her against his snout. The Yanmega retched at the lovey-dovey scene further away, and gave a seething chitter that turned his teammates' attention away from their spat.

"Eh? What's with you, Valatos?" Alvise asked.

"Yeah," Nori added. "What are you looking at?"

The pair peered over from the other side of the contestants' stands, just in time to see the young Druddigon and Nidoran ahead joined by the rest of their teammates. At once, Valatos' companions felt their moods sour along with him, the pair growling lowly as Valatos beat a tarsal against the stadium's railing.

"Grr… of course they have to show their ugly mugs in the most guarded spot in the stadium," Valatos hissed. "If it weren't for that, I'd give the lot of them a good Air Slash."

"Wait, those dweebs from the ship know those 'mons with the bounty on them?" Alvise asked.

"I'm pretty sure that the Crimgan with them mentioned something about it," Nori said. "But surely we have something better to do than just sit and watch them here."

"Well, since Prinses Alvise here isn't up for going out into the city, let's do the next best thing and stretch our wings in the halls a bit," Valatos sighed. "Maybe there's something we've missed so far."

Alvise spluttered and sparked in frustration as his teammates dutifully ignored his protests. Valatos got up and flitted off for the hallways, followed by his Manectric and Marowak peers. The three made their way along the circular walkway ringing the stadium, looking through the arches out to the passersby in the canal-lined plaza below milling between shops and stands set up for the occasion of the Silver Wing Cup. The pirates started to turn down an interior passageway, passing some rooms that had been locked tight with signs labeled 'Arena Props' or 'Plaza Decor' denoting their contents.

Valatos and his companions swung around a corner, carrying past a room lined with holes cut into the floor that had herbs hung over the doorway with the sound of flowing water coming from it. The herb-scented air carried an underlying odor reminiscent of the Mistral Marauder's heads, which judging from Alvise's disgusted reaction after sniffing the air, had been freshly used for their same purpose. The trio picked up their pace and turned down a corner, eager to return to a portion of the stadium with fresher air. The lot carried on, heading towards the sunlight and making their way forward when the sound of murmuring ahead caught their ears.

"I don't even care how you did it, but why did you change our matchup?" an agitated, bat-like voice demanded.

"Yeah, it's not like there's any team in this tournament we can't beat anyway," a barking voice added. "And we've been swimming in fan mail! Why risk our reputation with the crowds?¨


Valatos poked his head around the corner, where the forms of a Weavile, a tan-furred Lycanroc, and a visibly agitated Crobat in white scarves with a blue sun pattern came into view with other like-garbed Pokémon loitering further down. The Yanmega and his buddies looked on in silence, watching as the Weavile gave a dismissive shrug of his shoulders before replying to the Crobat.

"I was bored, I saw an opportunity to have a little fun, and I took it," he answered. "Nothing wrong with that."

"You endangered our operational security for your own amusement?" the Crobat spluttered. "Ketu, what's wrong with you?"

"Would a 'game' give us a chance to have an easier path to the finals?" Ketu retorted. "Besides, you're not actually sorry that we're getting the chance to throw around a few of those Tromban idiots, are you?"

At the mention of 'Tromban idiots' from the strangers' voices, Valatos flitted up with a start. The Bug-Type beat his wings agitatedly, realizing that there were only two possibilities that cat could be referring to. Both of which were scores he wanted to settle!

"Hey wait a minute!" the Yanmega buzzed. "That's-"

"I dunno, he makes a pretty compelling point there, Kane," the Lycanroc murmured.

"Hrmph. You'd just better hope nothing goes wrong from this, Ketu," Kane snapped. "You'll have a lot more to worry about than just being knocked down a rank by the Captain if it does."

"Tsk, nothing to worry about. Let's just take some time to kick back a bit before our next match, it’s not as if it’ll be a hard one," the Weavile answered. "Besides, how often do we get to humiliate some hicks in front of their own Protector?"

The team of white-scarved strangers slunk off down the hallway, chattering amongst themselves about how much of a cakewalk their next match would surely be. All the while, Valatos and his companions stared after them, their jaws slacking as the significance of the Weavile's words began to dawn on them.

"That little weasel's rigging the matches!" Nori exclaimed

"Come on, if we hurry, we can tip off a ref before the next matches start!" Alvise grunted. Valatos mulled, fuming under his breath, only for his temper to get the better of him. He was not going to just let that Weavile's scheming go unanswered, much less just sit around while he stole away their chance at vengeance on those Tromban hicks.

"Grr… lousy fleabag, going out of your way to steal my revenge!" the Bug-Type hissed. "Let's do it, I wanna see that cat suffer-!"

A deafening, roaring cheer cut off the Yanmega mid-sentence. He trailed off, the three of them pausing to wonder about the occasion for the audience's raucous demeanor. The question swiftly answered itself, however, as Thalez' voice filled the air from a glinting metal bangle hung in the hallway.

"Aaand our intermission's over, folks!" the Rotom cheered. "Time to move on to the eighth-finals!"

The three pirates grimaced at the announcer's words, a sinking realization setting upon them that the tampered team lineups had surely been seen at this point. Now, whatever had made it in front of Thalez would be read aloud and none would be the wiser about the original lineup.

"… We're too late."

Valatos stared blankly ahead, head drooping low and wings uncharacteristically still as Thalez droned on in the background. It seemed that not a single thing had gone right for them since they first bumped into those blasted brats back in Kenobi! No matter which side of the law they fell on, it hardly seemed fair for them to not catch a single, small break...

"And moving on to our matchups!" Thalez's voice crackled. "Our first fight will be between Team Tailwind and Team Sunshine. Next up will be Team Venom and Team Surveyor, then Team Traveller and Team Iron..."

The trio stood blinking dumbfounded for a moment as Thalez called out 'Team Iron', the hastily-devised name that they'd entered themselves and their teammates into the tournament with. The Rotom droned on, leaving Valatos to click his mandibles and spread a malicious smile over his face as much as his chitinous mouthparts allowed. With newfound peace of mind, the Bug-Type turned to his teammates, giving a cheery flit of his wings.

"Whelp, what are we waiting for?" the Yanmega asked. "Let's go prep for our match."

"Wait," Nori insisted. "But I thought we were gonna tell the refs that that Weavile was cheating."

"No need. Cheating or not, we can still work things through with this lineup," Valatos chittered. "So let's just have a little fun."

The Yanmega flitted up, taking a moment to lavish in a feeling of assured self-confidence stronger than any he'd had since the Mistral Marauder pulled into port at Giotto. Alvise and Nori traded puzzled looks with one another, but Valatos was more than happy to better articulate his point.

"After all, how many chances are we going to get to beat the tar out of those dungeon brats in front of a cheering crowd?"


The sound of a Gallade's cry rang out from the pit of the Vecioférale Arena, as he lunged forward with a swipe, sending a hulking Scolipede skidding back along a grassy arena floor. The centipede hissed angrily and built up a glob of violet fluid in between his mandibles, and spat it up in retaliation at the Gallade. The glob carried on, finding its mark on the Fighting-Type much to the Bug-Type's satisfaction, only for his cheer to swiftly end as he felt himself get lifted off the ground. The Bug-Type shrieked and thrashed, watching his opponent motion with his arms with glowing eyes as he sent him flying towards the top of the pit's walls. The Pokémon in the stands flinched, worried the Scolipede’s body was about to strike them, before an Exploud and a Ninjask hastily stepped up and threw up two barriers of light as the Scolipede smacked against them with an audible crash. The hulking Bug-Type pitched back before limply tumbling into the pit, crashing face-first in the grass and twitching his hind legs weakly.

"And looks like Team Venom's Scolipede is down for the count!" Thalez cheered. "And with that, Team Surveyor is the winner to progress to the quarter finals!"

A roar of approval swelled in the stands of the Vecioférale Arena, prompting the forms of a Gallade, Blastoise, and Goodra on the field to wave back in triumph. Amidst the celebratory mood, there were occasional outliers here and there: a Boldore slinking back with a disappointed sulk over his chosen team failing to win the match, a Honchkrow beating a wing out agitatedly at money lost on betting on the wrong team… But most unusual of all were the ashen faces of a Nidoran, Growlithe, and Cubone in the contestants' sections of the stand, the lot sporting grimaces all but dripping with visible dread.

"Looks like that's it for this round... We're up next…" Elty gulped.

"Against Valatos and his buddies…" Nida groaned. "Fantastic…"

"Ugh, I told you you'd jinx us by talking about not fighting them again, Gardie!" Guardia snapped.

"How is that my fault?!"

A low growl rumbled from the Growlithe's throat as he arched his back aggressively. Not to be outdone, Guardia tensed her grip on her club, pointing it forward and growling back at her Fire-Type challenger. With a wide-eyed grimace sensing the imminent trouble, Kiran flitted up, interjecting with a hasty wave of his wings.

"Hey, hey, calm down!" the Swellow squawked. "You won't be doing yourselves any favors going into battle divided!"

"And you're not the only ones who have a tough matchup," Ander murmured. "We got slotted against one of the crowd's favorite teams for our next match."

The Scyther's reassurance failed to sooth the three youngsters, particularly Nida, whose ears flattened against her head in annoyance. Just how was being told that they weren't the only ones facing insane odds supposed to help?

"But you're also much more experienced fighters than us!" the Nidoran exclaimed. "How can we even do this?!"

"Yeah, we can't use any items like the last time we faced them," Elty protested.

"And even then we needed my colony's help," Guardia added.

"Well, how did you get past encounters with groups of Pokémon in Mystery Dungeons?" Kiran asked.

"We tried to take down the Pokémon that would hurt us the most first," Nida answered.

"The same principle applies here," the Swellow insisted. "All you need to do is to try and keep your most dangerous opponent still fighting from attacking you."

The Flying-Type's instructions drew uneasy glances back from Team Traveller. Yes, keeping the toughest foe from fighting them had served them well in dungeons… but this was no Mystery Dungeon, and Valatos and his buddies were not exactly common ferals from a Monster House.

"That's a little easier said than done..." Elty groaned.

"Alright beauties and gentlebeauties! How about we get this next fight started?" Thalez's voice crackled. "Can Team Traveller and Team Iron please come onto the battlefield?"

At once, a loud roar broke out from the stands, the spectators eager to see the next fight. One that the grimacing members of Team Traveller were hoping on the Travellers above wasn't their last...

"Well... that's our cue," Nida sighed.

"Good luck out there, Nida," Crom said. "I'm sure you guys can do it."

The Nidoran stared out onto the field a moment before turning to face the young Druddigon. The rabbit twitched her nose, weakly forcing a smile onto her face before mustering an equally weak and unenthusiastic response.

"Thanks Crom."

Nida, Elty, and Guardia breathed in before making their way out onto the battlefield. The field had been cleared and laid out as a rolling, grassy plain, bereft of any meaningful cover to be used in a battle. The three looked down the field at Team Iron and grimaced, realizing that there would be nothing to help tilt this fight to their advantage beyond their wits and reflexes, which judging by the sneering glares from Valatos and his companions as they approached, was a realization that had also dawned on them.

"Well, well, well," Valatos sneered. "What have we here?"

"Looks like we got lucky and got an easy matchup this round!" Nori added, joined in by a devious smirk from his Manectric teammate.

"It's time to get back at what you did to us on Kenobi you little brats," Alvise taunted.

"And this time you won't be able to hide behind another Monster House or a bunch of street thugs!" Valatos chimed in.

Nida, Elty, and Guardia gulped and tensed their bodies at their foes taunting. Trying their best to steel themselves for the coming fight, the trio dug their feet into the ground and attempted to summon defiant scowls to shoot back at Valatos and his buddies.

"H-Hah!" Elty stammered. "You don't scare me!"

"Yeah, we've toughened up since last time!" Guardia insisted, giving a wave of her club. The gestures did little to impress Valatos, who answered back with a derisive chortle.

"Hah! Sure you have!" the Yanmega buzzed. "Just tell yourselves whatever you need to feel better, this'll be over before you know it."

"We all know these two teams by now, so let's not delay this any longer and get the action rolling!" Thalez crackled. At once, the audience erupted into cheers, their excited roar swelling in the arena as Thalez raised his arms for the countdown.

"Three! Two! One... GO!"

At the sound of Thalez's thunderclap, the three members of Team Iron tore forward in a rush. Alvise's attention quickly settled on Guardia, venom visibly swirling in his eyes as he lunged for her with bared fangs.

"You're mine-!" the Manectric roared, only to be cut off by a whirling woosh and a dull blow against his head. Alvise let out a whining yelp and stumbled, looking up just in time to see a spinning bone twirl back towards the form of a Cubone falling back. Guardia threw her hand up and caught the returning Bonemerang with a determined scowl.

"Now!" she cried. "Ring him before he can get away!"

Alvise tensed himself and bared his fangs, when he caught the sight of a hopping blue blur come from the left. He opened his jaws and whirled towards the oncoming Nidoran ready for a crushing bite, only to howl in pain as he felt a burning pain on his hindquarters. The Manectric whirled around just in time to see Elty dart away, his focus promptly interrupted by a pair of stiff kicks at his gut that sent him stumbling back.

"Alright, Guardia!" Nida squeaked. "I think we've got him on the-!"

"Not so fast, brats!"

Nida’s ears flicked as she heard Guardia and Elty suddenly yelp as they dove out of the way. The Nidoran turned her gaze to try and see what happened, when she was cut off by a slicing gust of wind striking her in the side that sent her pinwheeling across the battlefield.


"Hang in there, Nidoran!" Guardia shouted. "I'm comi- Agh!"

The Cubone's attempts to rush after her teammate were interrupted by a blow from behind, sending her tumbling along the ground. Stunned, the bone-lizard lay on the ground trying to catch her breath for a moment, only to glance upwards and see her evolutionary relative charging for her with his club raised for an overhead smash. Guardia went wide-eyed and reflexively grabbed her club, holding it up just in time to block Nori's blow as he brought it down towards her.

"Let's see how tough you are when you can't hide behind your colony, jari" the Marowak snarled.

The sound of Guardia's struggle grabbed the attention of Nida and Elty, prompting the pair to rush in from opposing sides of the arena towards Nori. Much to Nida's surprise, given his stocky build, Elty had actually managed to pull ahead of her, as cinders danced on his orange pelt and set it alight.

"Hey bonehead!" Elty jeered. "Think fast!"

The Marowak was cut off by a wheeling, burning tackle to his side, knocking him off his feet. Nori uneasily righted himself, watching as his Cubone opponent slipped away along with a Growlithe still trailing embers off his pelt attempting to follow suit.

"Grr! Why you-!"

Nori swung fiercely at the intruder, making a loud whack ring through the arena followed by a pained yelp, as Elty sailed forwards and skidded along the ground. From the right of the Marowak, Nida attempted to lunge for the bone lizard, only for her whole body to stiffen up at a blood-curdling howl from just a few paces behind her.

"Here, you lousy pincushion!" a wolf's voice growled. "Try this on for size!"

Nida shrieked as she felt fangs dig into her pelt and her body get lifted up off the ground. The Poison-Type felt her body get shaken like a rag doll, prompting her to raise her barbs in a panic and Alvise to drop her with a pained whine. She fell to the grassy ground with a yelp, lying stunned and panting as she watched Alvise spit up some barbs from the side. The Nidoran froze, watching in petrified terror as a slicing gust of wind struck her square in her chest, sending her skidding back with an agonized cry.



"Hold on just a little longer!" Guardia's voice cried. “I’m- Eyaaah!"

Nida craned her head to see Alvise snatch up Guardia in his jaws, the wolf biting down into Guardia's abdomen with a pained squeal. In a panic, the Ground-Type lashed out with her club, clocking her tormenter below his left eye with her bone. The Manectric shrieked and let the bone lizard go, letting her flop unceremoniously to the ground, before tottering and collapsing onto his side.

The Nidoran waited tensely for one or the other of the two Pokémon to get back up, only for the pair to remain still beyond the occasional weak twitch or rising of their chests from breathing, a sure enough sign that the two were down for the count in this battle. From his place in the air, Valatos chittered annoyedly at Alvise's defeat, training his eyes down on the visibly haggard spike lump below.

"Lights out for you, Nidoran!"

Nida blanched as the Yanmega beat his wings together and began to flick up a slicing gust of air from his wingtips. She hastily sprang to her feet and bounded away as the sound of a piercing wind came from behind her, the Poison-Type hastily side-stepping as the Air Slash mowed down the grass off the battlefield just to her right and forced her leftward towards the arena wall. The Nidoran looked up, and much to her horror spotted Nori ahead charging towards her with his club swung out wide for an attack.


Nida loosened a spike from her pelt and flicked it forward, screwing her eyes shut in a panic as the Marowak’s footsteps approached. The projectile sailed on into the air, with the sound of a yelp and Nori’s pace abruptly halting following immediately afterwards.

Cracking her eyes open, Nida saw Nori stumble back slightly, his club-hand's grip loosened on account of the fresh, poison-dribbling barb which had been lodged in it. Just as the Marowak began to regain his bearings, he was thrown for a loop again as he felt his club yanked right out from between his digits, his eyes shooting open wide in shock.

"H-Huh?!" Nori cried. The bone lizard whirled around in an instinctive panic, groping for his missing club only to turn and spot a Growlithe waving his bum at his face, his jaws clamped firmly around the bone that moments ago had been secure in his grasp.

"Chodź i weź to!" Elty jeered. "Just try and get your bone back!"

Grinning as well as he could with Nori's club in the way, the Fire-type darted away, leaving Nori in his dust to splutter and take off after him, blood running hot and his helmeted head transfixed with a look that could kill.

"Get back here, you lousy fleabag!"

The Growlithe led Nori on a wild chase across the battlefield, darting to and fro ever out of reach of the slower Marowak pursuing. Exasperated, Nori growled, shouted, and cursed in the bone-thief's general direction as the Puppy Pokémon continued leading him on, far outclassing his pursuer in speed. Elty's grin widened impishly, the Fire-type making no effort to hide his enjoyment of the episode, but his smile faltered as a loud hiss sounded out from above him.

"Knock it off, you lousy mutt!"

Valatos motioned with a tarsus and called up a dirt-caked rock from under the battlefield, sending it flying soil and all square for the Growlithe. Elty hastily sidestepped with a yip, but was unable to avoid a nasty graze to his flank from Valatos' Ancient Power, knocking the bone in his mouth free and sending it flying ahead. The dog stumbled disorientedly, his body throbbing from the heavy blow when he noticed in alarm that Nori was making a run for his dropped club. He took off after the Ground-Type, only for his best efforts to be thwarted as the Marowak somersaulted ahead and pulled his club in close to his chest.

"Gotcha-! Agh!"

As soon as Nori recovered his bone, he toppled onto his side and rolled from a pair of swift kicks from a Nidoran's feet. Their owner whirled back to Elty, beckoning him to come and strike while the iron was still hot.

"Elty! Quick!" Nida squeaked. "Before he can get back up!"

"On it!"

The Growlithe lunged, his fur becoming wreathed with flames as he darted forward and leapt up into a somersault at the stricken Marowak. Nori looked up just in time to see his attacker falling towards him, and in a panic swung his club, catching the Fire-Type in his hind leg... but failing to stop him from barreling headfirst into his chest and throat and kick up a cloud of smoky dust. The young Growlithe tottered in a stunned daze, trying to keep his balance as he saw Nori struggle to rise to his feet with his club…


… only for the Marowak's grip to abruptly fail and for him to flop unceremoniously to the ground on his belly. Nori's club followed suit, toppling onto its owner's head and leaving him on the ground groaning incoherently. Nida and Elty panted, looking at their handiwork, only to be snapped back to attention by the sound of a seething buzz from the air.

"Grr… do I have to do everything myself?"

Valatos dove, darting in a zig-sagging pattern towards Nida and Elty as the pair hastily tried to waylay him with fire and spikes thrown from a distance, only for their attacks to miss their marks one after the other. Nida's eyes widened as the hulking bug closed in on her, a shadowy haze starting to accumulate around his front legs that spooked her into fleeing. The Nidoran turned and bolted, managing to make it away a few paces before suddenly feeling a slicing pain on her back and the sensation of a chitinous claw pin her down.


The rabbit squealed in pain and fright, swinging her paws for dear life and desperately trying to wedge her nails into the gaps of Valatos' carapace. By chance, one of her swipes slipped in between one of the segments of the Bug-Type's flank, forcing him up with a startled buzz, and prompting him to ready another Night Slash to finish off his foe.

"Say your prayers, you little pest-"

Before Valatos could finish his taunt, he felt a burning pain flash over his wings and saw fire move past his eyes. The Yanmega fell to the ground screeching, rolling desperately to put out the embers that had landed on his wings. He hastily righted himself and beat his wings, wincing in pain from the sensations of a fresh burn, looking up to see none other than the tubby Growlithe culprit dart in front of him.

"Grah! What did you do, you lousy mutt?!"

The Fire-Type didn't bother to stop to give a response, instead beelining for his stricken teammate. Panting and winded, Nida stumbled to her feet as her teammate nosed her up from the ground, peering down with exhausted eyes that were at once alight with the taste of victory just within reach.

"Nida! We can pull this off!" Elty yipped. "We just need to think of a way to slow him down enough for us to hit him!"

"It won't matter!" Valatos hissed. "Let's see you pull through this!"

Elty lurched as he felt the ground roll under him, a stone erupting from the battlefield underfoot to strike him beneath. The Growlithe went flying through the air in a plume of dirt, shrieking as he sailed up and hit the ground hard, coming to a rolling stop amidst the torn-up grass of the battlefield.


The Fire-Type wheezed, struggling to his feet with his vision running muddy as Valatos swooped in from above. For a moment that felt like an eternity, Elty stood there, frozen in fear as the dragonfly descended upon him with a claw trailing smoky haze, only for a thwip to ring out and a dart-like spike to suddenly strike the Yanmega's singed left forewing.


With a pained shriek, the Bug-Type pinwheeled in the air and slammed head-first into the ground. Elty threw himself to his feet, stumbling as he saw Valatos weakly pick himself up, tottering in a daze from an impact. Sensing that their window of opportunity was at hand, Nida bounded forward, looking back at the Fire-Type to beckon him to follow.

"Elty, this is it!" she cried. "Let's make this count!"

The Nidoran ran ahead and shot out a spike at the stricken Yanmega, followed closely on her heels by Elty as flames wreathed his pelt. The Growlithe charged and vaulted up, somersaulting into Valatos' side and sending him tumbling back in a cloud of cinders and torn-up grass. The Bug-Type wheezed and hissed hatefully, struggling to his feet and facing his attackers just in time to see a blue blur charge him.


A long silence hung in the air after Nida's tackle to the Yanmega's face. She heard a faint groan and felt Valatos' head slide down and flopped backwards, looking down to see that the Yanmega was lying still and motionless beyond faint signs of breathing.

Nida and Elty panted and stared ahead exhausted when the sound of a loud roar reached their ears. The pair looked up apprehensively, only to realize that it was coming from the stands. There all around them, in every shape and size were Pokémon cheering for them, congratulating their hard-fought victory, leaving the pair to soak in the attention for a tired, happy moment.

The two noticed movement from the corner of their eye, where they saw the medics lifting up and dragging off Valatos and his compatriots from Team Iron. For a fleeting moment, Nida and Elty watched as the Yanmega raised his head, seemingly glaring off at them before drooping back down, which served to shift their minds back to their own battered and sore bodies.

"P-Psiakrew… Come on," Elty panted. "We should go help Bonehead and get patched up ourselves."

Nida limped off, fighting with her legs against the weight of her body to make it over to Guardia's unconscious form. She heard Elty slip and flop against the ground, the Nidoran pausing a bit before continuing on a few paces and also toppling onto her side, staring off ahead with her breath coming in ragged pants. They'd made it one match closer to making it to Pleo, but how could they hope to build at all upon this victory? They'd pushed themselves to their limits just to overcome Valatos and his buddies, and there'd be stronger teams… and the Empire... Surely they wouldn't just let Pleo go without a fight even if she and the others did get a private audience with him…

Just what could they hope to do…?

"Nida! Hang in there!"

The Nidoran blinked and felt herself get lifted up from the ground by a pair of claws, craning her head up to see Crom looking down at her. She turned and sized up her surroundings, seeing Pladur helping Elty up and limp along away from the battlefield, and Guardia slumped over on Kiran's back. In spite of her battered and lightheaded state, the spike ball couldn't help but have a smile settle on her muzzle as a realization sank in her mind...

"We won…We really won."

"And you did great out there…" Crom answered. "But let's take things one step at a time, alright?"

"I think I'd like that…"

The Druddigon let his Nidoran companion clamber tiredly up his head, for what felt like the first time in ages. And so it was that the two made their way back for the contestants' portion of the stands, glad for the quiet of a precious peace the two could share just like old times.

Author's Notes:

- Jalorda (ジャローダ) - Japanese: "Serperior" (Official Romanization)
- Prinses - Dutch: "Princess"
- jari (じゃり) - Japanese: "brat" (Hepburn romanization)
Chapter 59b: Reversal of Fortune, Part 2


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

After Team Traveller's battle, the rounds of the Silver Wing Cup continued on in the arena, crowning upstart victors and dethroning rising stars from the eighth-finals of the tournament. From their place in the stands, the victory over Team Iron had taken a weight off of Nida, Elty, and Guardia's shoulders, especially after the Cubone came to in the medic's hall and returned to the stands after the application of a Reviver Seed and some Oran paste. Even so, the cloud of anxiety over the group had not fully departed them, as Team Swellow huddled together during the halftime of the eighth-finals, strategizing their options for how to deal with what was set to be a grueling match with one 'Team Blue Sun'.

"Eh? Kiran, are you sure that it makes sense to field Pladur, Ander, and yourself against Team Blue Sun?" Nida asked.

"Yeah, isn't their heavy hitter an Ice-Type?" Elty added. "That sounds like a recipe for disaster if I ever heard it."

"That's just the lot we were dealt," Ander sighed. "Dimitri's not in shape for a second battle today, and Crom would be in the same boat as the rest of us without being any fresher for fighting."

"Egh… that sounds more like the moment you'd call for allies to help," Guardia grumbled. "Which this hut colony's backwards rules of battle forbid."

"I know it'll be an uphill battle, but it's nothing that we can't handle with the right strategy and Tromban spirit!" Kiran insisted, puffing his chest out. The Swellow waited for a moment, beak upturned into an expectant grin... but instead of the rousing 'hurrah' he had anticipated, the only reaction he drew from his companions was some uncomfortable shifting-around and uneasy looks that darted to and fro among the lot.

"Eh… I don't know about this, Kiran…" Pladur murmured, only to be answered with an excited wingbeat.

"Nonsense! It's been the key for our island being able to overcome daunting odds!" the Flying-Type insisted. "Just look at what everyone went through when Darzin was thrown out from the village!"

Pladur paused and thought about that fateful day, only for his thoughts to turn to envisioning a rampaging Marley charging ahead. The Fraxure blanched as a shiver went down his spine, hastily shaking his head back at the Swellow.

"That's not really helping, Kiran…" he gulped. "H-How am I supposed to do anything against a team like Team Blue Sun?"

"You're supposed to be the toughest fighter on our team after a Dragon Dance or two, right?" Dimitri asked. "So just hang in there and keep your nerve, and you should be able to turn things around!"

"I was also under the impression that that was our basic strategy myself," Ander added, the mantis' affirmation doing little to dispel the cloud of anxiety surrounding his Fraxure teammate.

"But- But-"

"Soooo, my dear audience, I think I speak for us all when I say I'm tired of this intermission!" a Rotom's voice crackled. "How about we get this next set of battles underway?"

In one voice, the audience hooted and hollered back an affirmation. After taking in a moment to savor the crowd's adulation, Thalez flitted up, cheerily carrying on with his announcements.

"Good! Then let's have the next two teams enter the battlefield right now!" the Rotom buzzed. "This festival of mayhem must go on!"

"That's our cue," Kiran remarked. "Wish us luck out there?"

"Yeah, we will," Nida said. "After all, Pleo's counting on us too!"

"Show them what we're made of, dad!" Crom cheered, the Druddigon's well-wishes being joined by Guardia from her resting place beside him.

"Yeah, knock 'em dead!"

The three Pokémon set off into the arena pit, coming out onto a sandy battlefield laid out much as a desert clearing flecked with small rocks. There, at the other end, Kiran noticed a Weavile in a scarf with a blue sun pattern lead in an Electabuzz and Tauros that snickered with one another. An uncomfortably familiar Electabuzz and Tauros… which stirred up an ominous feeling for the Swellow that something was dreadfully amiss right now.

"Is something wrong, Kiran?" Ander whispered.

"I've seen that Tauros and Electabuzz before…" the Swellow muttered. "I can't remember exactly when, but I have a bad-"

"Hey, Fraxure."

Pladur blinked and turned his head over towards the Weavile on the other side of the field. The Dark-Type nonchalantly shifted himself, before peering off at the stands… square at Crom.

"That Druddigon there spectating in the stands…" Ketu murmured. "He's your kid, isn't he?"

"Oh? Uh…" Pladur stammered. "Well yeah, he is."

The Weavile curled his mouth up into a small smirk and closed his eyes, before shrugging his shoulders.

"He certainly looks to be in better shape than when we threw him off our ship like a piece of garbage," the Sharp Claw Pokémon said. "Sure hope that weakness of his doesn’t run in your side of the family."

At once, Kiran and Ander hopped back with a start at Ketu's words. From his place before the Weavile, Pladur went wide-eyed and spluttered out of shock.


"And to the left, we have our favorite rising stars in this tournament!" Thalez cheered. "Team Blue Sun!"

The crowd immediately broke out into applause, prompting Ketu to turn and wave to his admirers. At the other end of the battlefield, the initial shock of the Dark-Type's taunt began to wear off, the three starting to realize that this Weavile- no, his entire team must be from none other than Lyn's crew! At once, Pladur set his teeth on edge, growling and flashing his claws as he felt his blood boil in his veins as the implications of the taunt and what it meant for his child dawned on him.

"You- You're from that awful ship!" Pladur cried. "The one that stole our Protector!"

"Brilliant deduction there. I'm its first mate," Ketu scoffed back. "And what's your point?"

"How- How dare you show your face here, you miserable furball!" the Fraxure snarled.

"Ooh, looks like the battlefield's heating up already!" Thalez continued. "To the right we have Team Swanna-!"

The Rotom's voice abruptly paused and trailed off as he floated up and raised an arm over his eyes. The Ghost-Type peered down onto the field and blinked incredulously, realizing the team had taken a peculiar turn since the last match.

"… With a Marked teammate at a tournament for our new Protector?!" he exclaimed. "Those Trombans sure have chosen a different strategy this time!"

At once, the stands of the arena erupted in a throng of boos and jeers, their ire swelling up much like a rogue wave and crashing down on Ander and his teammates.

"Go home, blotch-head!"

"Yeah, we don't need Pokémon like you near our Protector!"

The members of Team Swellow shifted uneasily under the torrent of abuse, serving to dampen their already shaky confidence about their odds in the upcoming match. Judging by his demeanor, the opposing Weavile had come to the same conclusion, and was clearly relishing his foes' doubts with a smug grin plastered on his face.

"You should know when to fold them, Fraxure. It's not too late if you and your team want to forfeit," Ketu sneered. "It would spare you the humiliation of being beaten into a pulp in front of your own Protector."

"W-We'll never surrender to the likes of you!" Pladur insisted. The Fraxure growled with all the bravado he could muster, glaring daggers as Thalez's crackling voice chimed in.

"Well, let's not keep these passions bottled up any longer! Let's get this battle started!"

The two teams took their marks at opposite ends of the sandy battlefield, easing into battle stances and staring each other down from their respective sides. From Team Swellow's end, Pladur's breath came out in seething pants, while his teammates traded worried looks with each other. For their part, Ketu and his teammates seemed to not think much of their opponents' posturing, the lot of them shooting jeers and taunting glances back.

"So be it," Ketu scoffed. "In that case... which of you Tromban hicks wants to have a bad time first?"

"Three! Two! One! GO!"

The countdown flew by with a collective chant from the stands, sending the Pokémon of both Team Swellow and Team Blue Sun flying down the battlefield. Up at the head of his team, Kiran darted ahead for the middle of the field, turning back to call out to his Fraxure teammate.

"Pladur! Keep your distance!" the Swellow squawked. "We'll try to keep them busy while you prepare!"

The Fraxure flew into a frenetic, stomping dance as fiery blue lights swirled around him, his Swellow partner flying up and readying his wings for a crushing strike. Kiran dove, barreling towards the form of the Weavile below as he leveled out his body for a Wing Attack, only to see his foe slip out of view and feel his wings strike air.


The Swellow was cut off by a freezing, stabbing pain at his breast, making him stagger and look down to see a cluster of icy shards lodged between his feathers. The Flying-Type fought to maintain his balance, reeling from blows that stung far worse than he'd expected for a simple Ice Shard, when he saw the Weavile slip ahead of him and pull an ice-slicked fist back. Kiran pulled up in a panic, tearing into the air as he felt the Ice Punch just miss his feathers, and heard a mocking voice call out after him.

"If that's the best you can do, you ought to just give up already!"

Further down the field, Ander charged the Electabuzz, weaving back and forth as the Electric-Type shot out arcs of static at him. One after the other, the thundery moves missed their mark, prompting the Electabuzz to opt for a different tactic and let his foe approach him, pulling a fist back as electricity danced on his knuckles.

"Come and get it, you overgrown insect!"

Tarmo swung his fist out, bringing it square for the Scyther's jaw… only to miss and strike air. The Electric-Type went wide-eyed, with the next sensation he felt being a slashing pain on his arm, sending him skidding back as he cradled his arm from a swipe from Ander's scythes.


"Pladur! How's that setup com- ARGH!"

Ander's words were cut off by a crushing blow from his side, as he felt a hefty body tackle him and throw him to the ground. The mantis tried to right himself, only to feel a horn wedge itself in between his body's segments, looking up to see a Tauros pinning him down. The Bug-Type screeched and thrashed his scythes wildly, desperately scrabbling to freedom after forcing the bull off of him with a yelp.

Further away, Ketu bounded down the battlefield, starting to chase after Kiran only to notice Pladur from the corner of his eye. The Dragon-Type was continuing the movements of his Dragon Dance, prompting him to scoff and train his attention to the Fraxure.

"You know, we heard what you guys were doing way back when the Protector was still on Boisocéan," the Weavile said. "Wanna know what we did in response?"

Ice began to build up on Ketu's claw, before the Weavile flicked forward a large, jagged chunk of ice at Pladur's feet. At once, the Dragon-Type yanked his foot away, only to lose his footing and flail.


Ketu sneered as Pladur slipped, the Fraxure falling flat onto his back as the blue dragonfire around him dissipated. Eager to rub salt in the wound, the Weavile flashed his claws, narrowing his eyes at the stricken dragon.

"Nothing! Because it wasn't worth wasting our effort trying to stop a bunch of sad sacks like you!"

Pladur threw himself up to his feet, hate smoldering in his eyes as the dragonfire returned and he re-entered his war dance. Ketu gave a scoff, and readied his claws to pounce...


… only to be cut off by the sound of a startled bellow. The Weavile looked left to see his Tauros teammate sailing through the air away from a whirling wind and crashing into the side of the arena. The Dark-Type turned his head back, where there circling in the air was the form of his Swellow foe, calling out to his Scyther teammate below

"Ander! Now's your chance!" he cried. Without prompting, the mantis flicked out his scythes and rushed ahead at the Electabuzz. The Electric-Type stood his ground, and let static build on his pelt, gathering it up in a thick, jagged arc that shot out just as the Bug-Type descended on him.


"Hah hah! That's right, bug!" Tarmo jeered. "Just stay nice and-"

The Electric-Type was cut off by the sight of Ander swiping his scythes in a cross-shaped strike that sliced his belly and launched the Electabuzz backwards. Tarmo tumbled back, coming to a groaning, sparking stop on the ground as Ander panted out of exhaustion. The Electabuzz's defeat quickly drew the attention of his teammates, including Ketu, who turned away from his toying with his Fraxure foe and trained his attention on the winded Scyther.

"... I'll deal with you later, lizard."

The Weavile ran towards the Scyther, prompting the Bug-Type and his Swellow partner to take notice and brace themselves, readying attacks to try and stop the Dark-Type in his tracks.

"We'll take on the Weavile!" Kiran cried. "He can't dodge forever!"

The Swellow attempted to start things off with a whirling burst of wind, prompting Ketu to roll out of the way before springing towards him. Kiran attempted to fall back, only to be cut off by a heavy, icy blow from behind.


Ketu watched as the Swellow pinwheeled and crashed to earth, twitching weakly on the sandy battlefield. The Weavile cracked a satisfied smile only to hear a buzzing sound come from his side, prompting him to duck as a scythe slid overhead, slicing the tip of his right ear feather off. The Dark-Type looked up seething at the sight of Team Swellow's Marked Scyther pulling his scythes back from a missed swing, and slid between the legs of the mantis. Ander cried out in alarm, hastily whirling around to attack his foe again with a cross-shaped strike with his blades. Ketu hopped back, allowing the Scyther's blades to swing out in front of him. As Ander tried to bring them in, the Weavile jumped up onto his scythes and raised an icy fist back, bringing it square into the Scyther's chin with a frigid uppercut.


Ketu hastily hopped off, leaving the bug to topple backward onto the arena floor with a dull thud. The Dark-Type stepped on the fainted Scyther's thorax, giving an annoyed brush at his severed feather-tip when he heard a loud growl, and saw that Pladur had freshly finished his second Dragon Dance.

"Like I was saying earlier, Fraxure, what did we have to fear from some Tromban hicks bumbling around from port to port around the Cradle?" Ketu taunted. "If you couldn't defend your own kid, what were you going to accomplish other than some meaningless errands on shore?

The Fraxure roared back in rage and planted his feet to spring forward, only for his cry to be answered in kind by a loud bellow and the sound of trampling hoofbeats approaching.

"Time to go down like your kid, lizard!"

Fintan lowered his horns and charged ahead, aiming to run down the Fraxure in his path. The Tauros watched as the Dragon-Type slipped under his body, the Normal-Type going wide-eyed as he felt his horns connect with the air, followed by a pair of piercing stabs at his hindgut. The bull bellowed in pain, wrenching his head back to see Pladur's left tusk buried deep into his abdomen by his legs. The dragon snarled and wrenched his tusk out, making the Tauros' tails shoot out along with an agonized scream. The Fraxure fell back, leaving his Normal-Type opponent's legs barely able to support his weight, Fintan's attempts at trying to regain momentum accomplishing little other than to stagger along with a shambling totter as he felt a warm fluid ooze down his legs.


The Tauros weakly tried to raise his head to scan his surroundings, looking up just in time to see Pladur lunge off the ground towards him. For a fleeting second, the bull watched as the Fraxure neared, his blood-red eyes burning with hate as he spread a set of claws and swiped them downwards...


Fintan's forelegs buckled and his head slammed down into the arena floor after the claw swipe, leaving his rear legs still struggling before they gave in and let their owner slump forward. Pladur looked down at the felled Normal-Type, panting and fighting back the urge to spit on his child's tormentor, when the sound of a slow clap drew his attention back to Ketu nonchalantly observing.

"So you do have a few tricks up your sleeve," the Weavile scoffed. "Guess you picked up something useful in that boring adventure of yours after all!"

The Dark-Type was answered by a loud roar, watching as the remaining fighter from Team Swellow flashed his claws and fangs. Pladur seethed, every scale on his body coursing with visible rage and hatred for the black-furred monster who stared him down.


The Fraxure charged ahead, readying his claws for a swipe as they trailed flecks of dragonfire. Ketu braced himself, ready to spring out of the Dragon-Type's way only to realize that he was coming fast… too fast.



The Weavile tumbled back as pain shot through his body, sending him skidding along the ground. Hecame to a stop, coughing from the dust kicked up from the arena floor and moving a claw over his flank that now dribbled a few droplets of blood. Ketu looked up with an angry scowl, staring down a panting Fraxure glaring back at him with a look that could kill.

"You Company types always act like you're masters of the world, that nothing can ever go bad for you!" Pladur bellowed. "Well, I'm here, and I'm about to show you just how wrong you are!"

"Fine, enough toying around then," Ketu hissed. "I guess we're doing this the hard way!"

Pladur roared and charged again, the scent of victory and vengeance spurring him on. The Dragon-Type raised his claws, ready to tear his son's tormentor limb from limb in front of the baying crowd.

"Say your prayers, you lousy red-feathered-!"

Before the dragon could react, he was hit by a freezing wind that numbed his joints and slowed his movements. The Fraxure carried on, fighting with his frigid limbs to keep pressing forward, only to catch a glimpse of the Weavile rapidly descending upon him and drawing back a punch aimed for his face.


Pladur tumbled back and sprawled out onto the arena floor, breathing haggardly. At once, the fire in his belly that had driven him on died, and a flood of fear took its place. He was now completely alone and down to the last of his strength, fighting against a Pokémon who'd dispatched his teammates without seeming to break a sweat. The Fraxure did his best to stay conscious and hastily tried to rise to his feet, any thoughts of vengeance and victory now replaced with an urge to flee and spirit his son away for dear life from this demon here with him.

"Game over, skink!"

The Dragon-Type went wide-eyed as he saw Ketu standing above him, prompting him to throw his claws over his face to try and shield himself. Pladur watched Ketu raise his claw trailing shadows… angled further down at his body. The Fraxure suddenly realized that the square-neck had intended to throw his blow elsewhere all along and frantically threw his claws ahead to try and stop it… only for the Dark-Type's claw to slip past the tips of Pladur's claws and plunge into his stomach.


The dragon screamed as he felt an agonizing pain shoot through his body, thrashing as he felt the slicing claw dig across his stomach before wrenching free. Pladur curled up and turned onto his flank, instinctively throwing his claws over his wound and whimpering from pain and shock. He began to feel lightheaded and looked down to see blood oozing between his ruddy claws and onto the sand. The world started to go blurry, the sounds of the arena going indistinct where for a fleeting moment, he saw Crom in the stands with a crushed, horrified stare looking back at him. Pladur reached out a claw weakly, hoping to try and reassure his child that somehow everything would be alright...


The world then went black, and Pladur stopped moving on the battlefield. Unbeknownst to the motionless Fraxure, the stadium erupted in loud cheering, with Thalez taking his place in front of one of the glistening badges used to transmit his announcements to the audience.

"And Team Blue Sun takes it with a stunning finisher!" the Rotom boomed. "We've got a winner!"

The stands' roar continued, prompting Ketu to flash his claws triumphantly and wave to the audience. His right claw was still stained a bright crimson from his opponent's blood, but seemingly did little to sway the enthralled and enraptured spectators.


The hubbub in the crowds quieted as a young Druddigon ran onto the field, the cheers giving way to the sound of distraught bawling. Crom crouched over his father, tears running down his face as his voice came out in hitched sobs. Nida and Elty ran up after him, their faces fixed in ashen grimaces as the festive atmosphere in the stands had vanished into a cloud of unease, which seemed to suck in even Thalez.

"Er… it appears we may be having technical difficulties on the field..." the Rotom stammered from his booth, before hastily turning back to a shaded corridor with a murmur. "Wait, was this a scripted event? I thought that we were aiming to keep the crowds excited, not bring the whole mood down."

Nida and Elty neared their Druddigon teammate, staring at a loss for words as they watched him sob over the unmoving form of the Fraxure on the field. The two ran up, noticing Pladur's chest rising weakly before their gaze drifted towards the blood on the sand which made them shrink back, when a disgusted growl caught their attention from behind.

"Gah… what a mess."

The three youngsters looked up to see Ketu flick out the digits of his right claw, brushing off a film of bright-red liquid off of them. At once, Crom's mouth hung open and the Druddigon crouched against his father's body, quivering out of fright, his teammates growling back with forced bravado at the Weavile.

"As if that nicked feather wasn't enough… Now I've gotta wash all this blood off my claw."

"Wh-What is wrong with you, you canalla?!" Nida snapped. "You leave a 'mon bleeding on the ground and all you care about is your stupid claw being dirty!"

The Weavile looked back wordlessly for a brief moment, before shaking his head with a low scoff.

"What can I say? In my normal line of work, you sometimes make a few messes," Ketu said. "You're small though, so who knows? Maybe you'll be a bit tidier for me to deal with tomorrow."

Nida and Elty paused, staring back at the Weavile as an uneasy feeling rose in their stomachs. 'Tidier to deal with'? As in deal with them?

"… Just what do you mean by that?" Elty demanded.

"What I mean is that you'll be facing me next round, brats," Ketu sneered. "So start thinking about if you want to bother showing your little faces or not."

"How would you know that?" Nida demanded. "The matchups are chosen randomly between rounds!"

"That sure didn't stop me from getting the foes I wanted in this match," the Dark-Type retorted. "Though good luck finding any proof of that to show the refs before tomorrow."

Nida and Elty flushed an unhealthy pale color at the Weavile's words. He set this match with Team Swellow up? Then that meant that he was rigging the matches! And after doing what he did to Crom's father, he wanted to face them next…?

The pair stood staring off into space a moment, Ketu turning to leave as Crom continued to sniffle over his stricken father. The Weavilel looked back, and curled his muzzle into a cruel smile.

"Oh, by the way… Lyn sends his regards," Ketu said. "He's looking forward to seeing all of you back in your pathetic little town where you belong… in pieces."

The Weavile turned and left, cavalierly stepping past his felled teammates as he departed the arena pit. All the while, Team Traveller's members gazed ahead blankly and stammered, the color from their faces having ebbed away as a team of Pokémon in red scarves with semi-circle patterns ran up.

"Come on, we need to get this wound looked at stat!" the Blissey insisted. The group started loading the fallen members of Team Swellow onto stretchers, Crom hastily following after his father as a Granbull noticed Nida and Elty still frozen in place on the battlefield.

"Are these your teammates?" he asked. "Are you kids coming along?"

"Y-Yeah, we're coming…" the Nidoran finally managed. "We're coming…"

Nida and Elty watched as a still-sniffling Crom headed off with the medics and the wounded members of Team Swellow. The two saw their remaining compatriots leave the stands to follow after the Druddigon, prompting them to join and trudge along after the medics. Their hope of continuing on in the tournament vanished entirely, as the gnawing dread of impending doom and impossible hurdles staring them down took over.

Outside of the stadium, Valatos and his companions had slunk off, making their way limping down back alleys in what was becoming an increasingly familiar ritual to them as the disused lighthouse of the Vecioférale Arena towered in the background. The three were battered and still sporting bandages from their defeat, and opted to ditch their teammates from Team Iron rather than put up with the earful for 'losing to a bunch of hick kids'. Time and time again, the trio tried to piece together how their defeat had happened... how they possibly could have lost to a team that they had no trouble putting on the ropes back in Kenobi.

"Gah… I didn't remember those little canàje hitting this hard last time," Alvise groaned. "And I still didn't get a chance to zap them thanks to that stupid lizard with them!"

"Yeah, they were supposed to be an easy sweep!" Nori whined.

"Well, they weren't, okay?" Valatos hissed. "Let's just get back to the ship and crash a bit."

The Yanmega's retort prompted Nori to pause to catch his breath, leaning against the wall for support. Berating or not, the Ground-Type was beginning to regret not having a healthier set of shoulders to lean on. Judging from the lack of company beyond clutter and clotheslines in the current alley, it was a fair assumption that no one would step up here to help them limp back to the ship.

"… Shouldn't we have gone back with the other half of the team, though?" the Marowak insisted. "Maybe they'd have some idea for what we could tell the Captain about getting that bird-"

"I don't want to hear it, Nori!" Valatos shouted, the angry dragonfly's hissing being quickly joined by a scoff from his Manectric counterpart.

"Yeah, besides. Those idiots were going to take the main canal back," Alvise added. "The better we stick to these backroads, the better we can stay out of trouble-"


The three paused and rose to attention as the sound of a yelp rang out in the alleyway. A crash followed, along with the sound of a body thudding, of thunder crackling, and footsteps running for dear life.

"Q-Quick! This way!" a rough voice cried. The first voice was soon joined by a higher-pitched voice shouting back.

"Yeah, we'll shake 'em through the alleyway!"

The three watched as a rough-looking Vigoroth and Steenee tore through the alley intersection ahead in a panic, slipping away as fast as they appeared. Alvise's fur shot up in a panic, while Valatos and Nori paced ahead tensely trying to make sense of what had happened.

"Hey, what the-?" Valatos began.

"Uh… on second thought," Alvise stammered. "Those main canals aren't sounding so ba-"

"Just shut up and let's check it out!"

Valatos flitted ahead, prompting Alvise to try and turn away only to be caught and drug along by his tail by Nori. The Yanmega made his way forward as his teammates fought with each other in the background, lingering in the intersection of alleyways between multistoried stone buildings. The dragonfly looked about his surroundings, seeing naught but some dingy stairwells, scrawled graffiti on the walls, and litter.

"Why there's nothing he- Agh!"

The trio was promptly struck by several other Pokémon coming around the corner, sending the three tumbling back while yelps rang out. As Valatos and his buddies dusted themselves off and looked ahead of them, they saw a black scarved-Manectric, alongside a Swampert lying on his back and a half-buried Salazzle.

"Agh… my fins," the Swampert groaned, only to be answered by an exasperated rejoinder from the Salazzle underneath.

"Carlo, get off of me, you fat lug!" Giusy hissed. "I can barely breathe!"

"Ow! Watch where you're going!" Nori snapped, pointing his club at the stranger Manectric.

"I could say the same to you, you lousy liz-"

Luca got up, and after noticing the voice addressing him, hopped back and braced himself with a growl. There in front of him was the Marowak who'd caved in the stadium passage the other day, his Yanmega buddy, and most importantly his brother.

"You again?!" Luca growled. "What are you three doing showing your ugly mugs back around our turf, huh?"

"What are you doing running around and playing touch-tail like a bunch of hatchlings?" Valatos spat. The Yanmega's outburst was swiftly met with a trio of glares from the other Manectric along with his Swampert and Salazzle partners, which made Alvise set his teeth on edge and gulp.

"Uhm… what he meant to say was… we were just leaving?" he offered.

"Hey, Luca," Giusy said. "You think these three got anything to do with those street punks?"

"Yeah, they sure seem to have a habit of interfering with us right when we're getting to the bottom of something with those mooks," Carlo huffed, which promptly made Nori's eyes widen with a start.

"Eh?! Th-That's not it at all!" he exclaimed. "We were heading back to our ship!"

"Well, you ain't now," Luca growled. "I'm not the one to pass things off as coincidence, and besides…"

The older Manectric pointed out a paw at his white-scarved counterpart, shooting a fierce glare that seemed to drain the color from Alvise's face.

"Your friend there has a family reunion to take care of."

Alvise pulled his tail between his legs at the mention of a 'family reunion'. The Electric-Type backpedaled with a wide-eyed stammer as thoughts of what said 'reunion' might entail flashed through his mind.

"L-Luca! Come on!" the younger Manectric whined. "We can talk this out!"

Alvise's panic drew a dismissive beat of Valatos' wings. The dragonfly hissed back, and despite the injuries from his earlier battle against Team Traveller, flitted forward menacingly, determined not to let the nobody from yesterday chase him off once again.

"Hey bub, I don't know what you're up to," the Bug-Type hissed. "But I don't take orders from some random shlub off the street-EYAAAH!"

The Yanmega shrieked as a bolt of lightning shot out from the black-scarved Manectric and enveloped him, sending him crashing limply to the ground. At once, his teammates' nerves failed them, prompting them to go wide-eyed and Alvise to raise the call for retreat.

"Run for it!"

Alvise and Nori turned and bolted as a searing gout of fire and an exploding ball of mud nipped at their heels and tails, kicking up a shower of dust and litter. The pair ducked as an arc of electricity shot overhead, turning their attention rightward to a low fence. Instinctively, the two hopped up, hoisting themselves up over the fenceline, only for a sharp shout to ring out behind them.

"Carlo, Orb 'em!"

The Swampert fished through a rucksack and dug out a blue orb crackling with sparks under its surface and hurled it at the fenceline. The sphere struck the wood of the barrier, exploding into a shower of glass and sparks that caught up the fleeing Manectric and Marowak. The duo yelped and froze at the top, before lurching over the edge headfirst.


The sound of splintering wood rang out, prompting Luca and his subordinates to run up to the fenceline. After nearing it, the three Pokémon paused as they noticed the sound of pained groans... along with a curious clattering sound whenever the two Pokémon on the other end moved.

"My back…"

"I can't see anything!" Nori cried. "Who turned out the lights?!"

"… Isn't that the spot where the Pokémon on this block leave their trash for pickup?" Giusy asked. The Salazzle's words were met with silence, followed by a sniff from her Manectric partner's snout that confirmed the stale, rancid smell of grime and decomposing waste. The Electric-Type furrowed his brow in disgust, before giving a shake of his head.

"Hrmph. Drag the bug along and tell Valerio to bring his wagon by this dump's gate," Luca barked. "We've got some other trash to bring back to our hideout."

The Salazzle scampered off, leaving Luca and Carlo to carry down the alleyway until they saw an intersection heading right. The pair turned, making their way down the right until they reached an entrance to a yard filled with heap of rubbish and spoiled food… with Nori and Alvise sprawled out amidst a pile of sullied, broken-down boxes. The pair watched as Nori staggered up with his head covered in a crate, tugging futilely at the box to free himself, only for the black-scarved Swampert to throw a hand around his shoulder and grip tightly.

"Come on, bub," the Swampert growled. "We're going."

"Hey! Hanashite!" Nori yelped. "Get off of me!"

The bone lizard flailed as best as his paralyzed body allowed, only to be promptly knocked down with a jet of water, and unceremoniously dragged off by his tail by the Swampert. On the trash heap, Alvise struggled to get away, only to slip and tumble backwards, coming to a stop in front of his brother. Luca at once pounced on his sibling from his flank, planting his feet on Alvise's back as he glared down.

"Nice try, furbrain," the larger Manectric snarled. "But you're not getting away with crossing your own family this time."

With that, Luca dug his teeth into his brother's scarf, dragging Alvise along kicking and flailing for the exit of the rubbish yard. At the front, a covered cart pulled along by a Zebstrika came to a rolling stop, a Yanmega's tail poking out of the end. The black-scarved trio shoved the dragonfly's body back and unceremoniously dumped their new captives into the cart before drawing the covers shut, walking along with the cart and its puller as if nothing had happened.

Around the same time, Team Traveller paced uneasily in a shaded medic's bay in the stadium's underlevels. The space consisted of a long, stone hall partitioned with retractable curtains that closed off sections of straw bedding, tired groans coming from behind some curtains where more thoroughly defeated contestants lay licking their wounds. In one of those partitions, Pladur's companions including a still-woozy Kiran and Ander watched as a Blissey tended to the form of a Fraxure stretched out on a straw pile, along with the anxious faces of Vicente, Natrix, and Philips having freshly run from the Siglo Swellow at the news of Pladur's calamitous defeat.

The Dragon-Type was in horrid shape, with scrapes flecking his body, and a set of large bandages wrapping around his stomach that sported an ugly red stain along with flecks of blue from the juices of Oran berries. All the while, the Fraxure never showed any signs of lucidity, and barring the rising of his chest and the occasional groan or whimper, of life at all. The atmosphere in Pladur's corner of the hall had been grave since his arrival, with Crom anxiously shadowing the Blissey's movements as he tried to get reassurances that his father wasn’t as hurt as he feared.

"Is he gonna be alright...?" he asked.

"It's nothing we haven't patched up before, but he's been hit pretty badly," the Blissey answered. "He should be able to get back on his feet after a week of bedrest as long as his wounds are kept treated."

The medic's answer set the teeth of the youngsters in the group on-edge with a grimace. Crom peered down at his father's stricken form, looking up uneasily at the Blissey.

"A… week?" the Druddigon gulped.

"Well, you weren't planning on just pushing a Reviver Seed down his throat and throwing him back out into battle with a wound like this, were you?" the Blissey questioned. "While most Pokémon can bounce back from a hard knock or two, even a hardened fighter's body has its limits."

An air of gloom settled over the gathered Pokémon at the Blissey's words, their reaction looking only marginally better than the one she would've expected had the Fraxure expired on the spot. The medic sighed and shook her head, reasoning that it must merely be the natural reaction by hopeful competitors to such a crushing defeat.

"… I know that it's probably not what you wanted to hear as entrants to the tournament, but that's how things are," the Blissey sighed, before rising to take her leave.

"I'll give you some space to be alone with your friend," she said. "But again, don't push him."

The Blissey shuffled off, sliding the curtained panel shut over the space around the straw bedding. Freshly alone, the members of Team Traveller and the Siglo Swello's crew glumly traded looks with one another, shaking their heads at the news.

"Whelp, that's it I guess," Elty muttered. "We're doomed here."

"Maybe if we work together we might win after all…?" Guardia offered. The Cubone's question was promptly answered by a groan, prompting them to look over to see Pladur stirring weakly on his bedding. The group watched as he tried to turn over onto his belly, before falling back onto his back, prompting Elty to shake his head.

"… Nope, definitely doomed."

"How are we supposed to get Pleo back now?" Nida cried. "Even if that horrid Weavile doesn't fight dirty like he did today, there's no way that we'd be able to beat him."

"We do what we can and take the only option left," the Siglo Swellow's Hitmontop first mate answered. "Springing Pleo and getting out of here."

Vicente's suggestion was at once answered by a startled buzz from a haggard-looking Scyther. From his place leaning against the poles holding up the curtain, Ander staggered forward, shooting a look at the Hitmontop that appeared as if he'd suddenly sprouted another head.

"You can't be serious with that!" the mantis exclaimed. "We're in the middle of the Imperial capital! How would we even get off this island without being sunk?!"

"Getting off the island is not what I'm worried about. We've dealt with slipping cargo past customs under tighter circumstances before…" Vicente replied. "It's more getting the Protector to begin with."

The Hitmontop's admonishment prompted his fellows to pause and think. They had an idea of where Pleo would be in Tidemill… but to get there, there would be the guards to fight through, and the garrisons with even more guards outside, and the defensive walls, and the frigates and galleons of the navy… Why, what were they to do facing obstacles like those?!

"… I don't know what can be done. We don't exactly have the strength to storm the gates of where he's being held in the stadium…" Kiran murmured, only to be met with a shake of Dimitri's head.

"Well, we'd better figure out something quick," the Kabutops said. "Last I checked, only teams along with invited guests have full access to the entire stadium. And I wouldn't put money on us being able to do that past the kids' match tomorrow."

Nida shifted uncomfortably, finding that no matter what scheme she bandied around, she simply couldn't think of anything that would give her and the Siglo Swellow's crew a hope of retrieving Pleo. Based off of the grimaces and silence in the room as she looked around, the Nidoran surmised that everyone else was having much the same problem.

The Poison-Type turned her attention to the window, where she saw the sky was growing dark, and the first lanterns of the night were starting to be lit. She folded her ears back, realizing that Cardino had sought out their help tonight… As bad as things were, they hadn't collected their pay yet for their work on the case, and it wasn't as if they were getting any more ideas just sitting around here...

"I... don't really know either. But I do know that Cardino asked us to visit him in about half an hour," Nida sighed. "I'm not sure what it's about exactly aside from getting paid, but maybe stretching our legs a little would help us come up with something?"

"… That's fair enough," Natrix murmured. "We'll do our part talking with Captain Beatrix and the others to see what we can do about Pleo, too."

Elty and Guardia shuffled off, making their way past the piles of straw bedding for the room's stone doorway. Nida turned and started to follow after them, only to see Crom standing at his father's bedside, still visibly shaken.

"… Are you going to be okay, Crom?" Nida asked.

"I… I don't know," the Druddigon stammered. "But I think that I just need some time with my dad..."

The Nidoran stared after the dragon, looking away with a vague sense of guilt, as if there was something she could be doing right now to help her friend. She shook her head uneasily, rationalizing that Crom himself would know what he needed most right now. If he truly needed a moment alone, then it was for the best to let him have it.

"… I understand," Nida said. "We'll be back as soon as we can, okay?"

The Druddigon nodded back glumly, prompting Nida to turn and leave slowly and in similarly lowered spirits. The Nidoran carried along to catch up with her teammate, her mind wondering all the while just how they could possibly get out of their present jam.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, Cabot?"

Berecien shifted uneasily with his teammates at the steps of a short, squat hut that had been built alongside a spindly canal that hugged the interior of the citadel's wall, with water slipping in through grates at its base. Such quarters were a far cry from the pomp and grandeur of Queen Aleria's palace in the background. Cottages like these were normally set aside for the guards and servants who helped to staff the various buildings within the walled compounds. The house had been built with simple stone and a shallowly sloped roof of wooden shingles, with the only sign at all that it belonged to someone other than the likes of a common gardener being a small coat-of-arms depicting a ship and crossed claws hung over the doorway.

The young Protector shifting uneasily in their midst had been thrust into a gloomy mood since the wrenching defeat of... what was it, 'Team Swanna'? Some random team that could have surely been pushed aside with a night of post-tutoring amusements and reassurances about the competence of Imperial medics… had they not somehow had ties to the sea rats they picked up with the small Lugia. Yet for some daft reason, instead of leading the Protector to a playroom, the Citadel's gardens, or even just a rooftop to stargaze, Cabot had deigned to try and distract the seabird... by dragging him, Niilo, and the Protector all off to the residence of the one Pokémon in Giotto who would somehow be able to make Lugia feel even less comfortable than he already was.

"Of course! Pleo's still afraid of Captain Nugget, so how's he ever supposed to see that we're the good guys?" Cabot exclaimed. "If he sees how she really is, I'm sure that it would smooth things over!"

The Cranidos wagged his tail eagerly, expecting a hearty affirmation... only to watch in disappointment as Pleo shrank back uneasily and his teammates rolled their eyes at the suggestion with impatient shifts of their feet.

"… Yeah, good luck with that," Niilo grunted.

"She is a bit more on the cantankerous side, Cabot," Berecien sighed. "I think we'd have more luck just by letting him spend time with Her Majesty, Admiral Coil, or else someone who's less… temperamental."

"And she's a scary crab!" Pleo squawked, beating his wings in protest.

"But we've all seen that when it really comes down to it, she does care about us!" Cabot insisted. "If that's how she feels about her own crew, surely she'd feel the same about the Empire' s new Protector!"

The Rock-Type's suggestion was met with a round of unamused, skeptical looks from his teammates, with even the young Lugia's expression seeming every bit as unconvinced as the others'. Sensing that his battle for persuasion was a losing one, the dinosaur flashed a pleading look and pulled his arms in towards his chest.

"Just trust me on this?"

Cabot turned back to the simple wooden door and brought up a claw. The Rock-Type balled it up and rapped it against the wood, waiting for an answer. After a long pause, Pleo and his guardians started to shift uncomfortably, wondering if anyone was home. Cabot raised his claw again, only for the door to open, revealing a surprised Clawitzer at the other end. Nagant blinked a moment, sizing up the Cranidos forcing a smile in front of Niilo and Berecien on her doorstep, with Pleo's form shrinking away, prompting an annoyed scowl to settle over her face.

"… What do you want?" she demanded

"Well, we thought it might be handy if you got to know Pleo a little more, Captain," Cabot explained. "He kinda started off on the wrong foot with you earlier."

"Pleo?" Nagant questioned.

"It's the Protector's name," the Cranidos insisted.

"Hrmph, it looks more like he has other ideas."

Nagant pointed past the three sailors off towards the lane. Blinking, Cabot and his companions turned back and saw Pleo creeping off slowly for the shadows.

"Uh… Protector, where are you going?" Berecien wondered. The Lugia at once jolted his head up, and looked back uneasily mid-stride, appearing much like an Aipom caught with its tail in a cookie jar.

"Oh! I… er…"

As Pleo fidgeted uncomfortably, Cabot paused before clearing his throat. The Cranidos inhaled deeply to brace himself, steeling his nerves to plead his case to his obviously unamused superior.

"Captain, if he feels constantly threatened around us, what's to keep him from flying off?" Cabot asked. "His flight feathers aren't going to stay damaged forever, and shouldn't the Protector of an Empire want to be a part of it?"

Nagant narrowed her eyes and scowled from the doorway, giving a quiet click of her mandibles. After a long, awkward pause, the Clawitzer sighed and shook her head.

"… Ladno. Let's just get this over with."

The four made their way into the cottage, finding it to be barren of the normal decor of a residence beyond the presence of some simple decorative stonework in the floor, a handful of cheap shelves along the wall, and a few ratty cushions haphazardly strewn about. Instead, the bulk of the abode's floorplan was consumed by a large pool of water connected to the grate, evidently Nagant's living, sleeping, and accommodating quarters all rolled into one. Berecien eyed the surroundings uneasily, noting that the house seemed to lack any other rooms… Was this really how captains of naval frigates lived nowadays?

"I would have thought that the Empire would have done more to help you transition, Captain…" Berecien murmured, only to be answered by a dismissive hiss.

"Hrmph. Such is the price for trying to inherit my family's title and estate when it's no longer in Imperial territory," Nagant grunted, as she lowered herself into the pool. "But so be it. It's not as if I'll have to wait much longer to get back what's mine."

"Well, underwhelming house or not. Don't you ever host guests here?" Niilo asked.

"Hrmph. I have my ship for that," the Clawitzer snapped. "Do you have a problem with it?"

"Well, I was thinking… maybe you had something to drink for the Protector and us?" the Sandslash continued. "Like a cup of water?"

Nagant rolled her eyes and brought over a clay bowl from some tiles next to the pool, leveling a claw at it. The Clawitzer cracked her firing claw open and spewed out a jet of water, which half-bounced out of the bowl leaving water splattered all around it, with a small amount of briny water remaining inside. Without a further word, the shrimp latched onto the sopping bowl and unceremoniously dropped it in front of her guests.

"There," she huffed. "Now dish it out yourself."

The bowl of briny water drew disgusted stares from Niilo, Cabot, and Berecien. Keenly aware of the others' reactions, Pleo uneasily craned his head down, eying the bowl skeptically.

"… Uh… are we supposed to drink that?" he whispered, only to be answered by Cabot emphatically shaking his head back.

"Er… I don't think you'd feel too well if you did, Pleo."

"Aherm. Perhaps we should skip refreshments for now?" Berecien offered. "Maybe we can start with some form entertainment instead?"

The Ponyta's answer was met with a hardened glare from the old Clawitzer. Based off her stiff demeanor and visible hostility, it was evident that she somehow had an even lower opinion of the suggestion than Niilo's request for drinks.

"Like what, Berecien?" Nagant demanded. "I'm a captain, not a common bard!"

Berecien backpedaled a moment and gulped, half-expecting the agitated crustacean to snipe him with a Water Pulse right then and there. He looked about the dingy abode for something to lighten the mood, only for his eyes to settle on a simple checkerboard made of light and dark wood lying to the side.

"Well, what about a game?" the Ponyta insisted. "You've always been a fan of checkers, and it's a simple game to pick up, is it not?"

Nagant's hostility ebbed for a moment, with an expression approaching genuine anticipation settling over her face. She clicked her claws, half unsure whether to take up the fire horse's suggestion, before shaking her head and answering.

"… I'll humor it."

The Clawitzer pulled the board over and set it down in front of her, carefully setting out the pieces on their respective sides. After it was prepared, the shrimp grabbed a corner of the checkerboard and rotated it to turn the light pieces towards the young Lugia, moving her small claw to latch onto one of the dark pieces and push it forward diagonally to the left.

"Your pieces stick to the like-colored tiles," Nagant explained. "If you jump over one of mine, it's yours."

Pleo peered down at the board, noticing that the Water-Type had moved her piece onto a square of the same color. Why, there were plenty of those further down the board on Nagant's end! Did he really just have to make one of his pieces jump to get some of Nagant's?


The Protector opened his beak and picked up one of the light-colored pieces on his end, lifting it from the board and swinging his head forward. He opened his beak, sending the checker flying across the board and clattering down on Nagant's end of the wooden board as it knocked a few of her pieces into her pool. The Clawitzer spluttered incredulously for a moment, only to be cut off by a curious chirp from the young Lugia.

"Like that, right?" Pleo asked. "It jumped over a whole bunch of your pieces!"

Nagant stared at her disturbed and freshly-disordered side of the checkerboard, tightening her claws with a low hiss under her breath. Keenly aware that his superior was losing her composure, Cabot hastily cleared his throat, hoping to shift the topic of conversation before Nagant's temper got the better of her.

"Er… how about you two start with introductions first!" he suggested. "That should happen before any games or drinks anyways, right?"

Nagant scowled at the Cranidos, and it was clear that her patience for her subordinates had already worn thinner than the cheap drinks served at Tidemill's seaside taverns. She narrowed her eyes, trying to pick apart just where the sailor was going with this.

"Introduce how, exactly?"

"Just tell him some stuff about yourself?" Cabot insisted.

The Clawitzer blinked, before sinking back into the water. The shrimp brooded a moment, twitching her barbels out of indecision before finally harrumphing back to a watching Protector.

"Hrmph. I'm a captain of an Imperial frigate," Nagant said. "It's my job to sail around and help protect the remaining realm from brigands, Company schemes, and assorted louts who threaten the order of Her Majesty's realm."

The Water-Type's declaration was followed by an awkward silence as Pleo found her explanation to be… thorough, yet not telling him anything he didn't already know about the shrimp. He shifted uncomfortably, wondering if there was anything at all that he could talk about… before one idea in particular came upon him.

"… What about your family?"

"Excuse me?"

"You mentioned back on Orleigh that if you caught me you'd tell me about it," Pleo insisted. "Well, you caught me, so what were you going to say about them?"

Nagant paused, even her barbels failing to display any motion as a long quiet quickly sucked out what little life there was in the room. The elderly shrimp stared back at the young Protector, before shaking her head and raising her voice to speak.

"... I used to live with my family on Conntow, where my mother was a Marchioness," the Clawitzer answered. "We had an estate there called Nagant Bridge built over a ruined bridge from the Old World that straddled a river going into a harbor just outside of Middleguard City."

"Wait, Nagant Bridge?" Niilo asked, raising his brow. "But you're-"

"Nagant the Thirteenth, named after 'Nagant the Great', the heroic navigator," the shrimp interrupted. "My family kept up the tradition by sending their younger members to join seafaring professions such as those in the Navy. At the time of the Great Calamity, I myself was sailing regularly as a freshly-enlisted naval cadet."

A wave of grimaces settled on Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo, the lot coming to the realization that Nagant's enlistment was in all likelihood the reason why she was here before them to tell this tale at all. The Great Calamity would've happened when Nagant was about the same age as when the three of them enlisted and set sail for their first missions, and destroyed every part of her home settlement while she was far away at sea… Beyond their obvious discomfort, that realization failed to percolate down to the young Protector, who gave a blank tilt of his head at the wizened crustacean.

"So what happened to everything else?"

"Gone. All of it," Nagant snapped. "I spent years afterwards drifting from port to port on various ships, with my accommodations being whatever the navy could spare during those dark years. It was only afterwards that I finally got even this pittance of a cottage as recompense."

"But I don't understand. After all of that, why wouldn't you just accept the new title?" Berecien insisted. "My own parents lost everything when the Company dispossessed them, and they don't live like this…"

"Hrmph. You'll have to bring it up with the Prime Minister at the time who decided they didn't want to support titles that lay outside the Imperial realm," the Water-Type growled. "I'm sticking to my rights, and even if it takes my life to see it, I'll see what's mine return once the Empire is restored to its old glory."

"But what's the use of it?" Pleo asked.

The room went dead silent as Nagant shifted her body in the pool's water with a splash. The shrimp visibly tensed up, training a stare on the young Protector as her claws tightened shut with a powerful grip.


"You've gone through all this trouble just to get me for your old title and land…" Pleo murmured. "But if they're all destroyed, then aren't you just doing all of this for nothing?"

The four Pokémon flinched at the sound of a heavy slam against the ground from Nagant's big claw and heard the clay bowl from earlier shake. Pleo ruffled his feathers uneasily and craned his neck to see the Clawitzer visibly seething, pulling her big claw away from the room's stone flooring.

"We're done here," Nagant hissed. "Cabot. Please take the Protector and see yourselves out the door."

"H-Huh?!" the Cranidos stammered. "But-"

"Now, Cabot!"

Cabot and the others flinched, hastily darting out of the chamber and back through the front door with the young Protector. The sound of Nagant following after reached their ears, and before the lot were down the front steps, the Water-Type slammed the door shut with enough force to disturb a few pebbles out in the path to the dwelling. Cabot stared back at the darkened residence for a moment, hanging his head dejectedly.

"… I'm sorry that that happened, Pleo," the dinosaur sighed. "I really thought that if you just talked with her, then-"

"It's alright."


"She doesn't seem as scary anymore," Pleo insisted. "I understand why she's like this."

The three sailors paused, before wary smiles crept up over their faces. Somehow in spite of everything it sounded like something good came out of that whole debacle.

"Well, small victories, I suppose," Berecien muttered. "It's late, and we should be getting back."

Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo sighed and started making their way off down the lane, leaving Pleo to waddle after them. He beat his wings and noticed that the air still felt like it came too quickly through it, a quick glimpse revealing that while some of his plumes had grown back, the majority still sported the marks of clipping. The young Protector flinched as he felt something poke his chest and looked down to see his King's Rock. He adjusted it carefully, taking in the stone loop and the split band that Nida had tied back together. At once, the young Protector was filled with a flood of wistfulness, his mind shifting to his friends.

Watching Kiran and Ander get defeated in the tournament had shaken him earlier in the day, with Crom's reaction to the wounded Fraxure making him wonder how the two were related, and if his friend was doing alright. Whatever the relation, the whole episode seemed to shake up Nida, Elty, and Guardia… and he wasn't there to help... The young Protector sighed, looking up at the stars in the night sky before trudging off in heavier spirits, wondering when he'd see his friends once more.

The way back to the Guards' Headquarters went by listlessly that evening as Team Traveller went to collect their pay from Cardino and see what it was that he additionally wanted from them. The atmosphere was not for any fault of the districts of Tidemill they passed through, as the streets and canals throbbed with Pokémon as much as ever. Much like Bluewhorl's residents, the local Pokémon made a habit of shopping and socializing after leaving their places of labor. While the local Pokémon passed time together at taverns and eateries much as Trombans did, there was a noticeably different aura about the evening rush, with the local preference seemingly tilted towards perusing evening markets set up along the water and stopping to observe the performances various theaters and street entertainers.

No, instead the listlessness afflicting Team Traveller was enforced by an all-encompassing sense of gloom that hung over the three like a cloud, which made what ought to have been a lively and exciting evening walk slip by in a dull blur. When they finally reached the steps of the headquarters, even Cardino seemed to sense something was amiss, prompting the electric rat to clamber down and meet his assistants on the street.

"You're on time for once," the Pikachu said, passing over a small bag that clinked with coins as it moved. "Though you seem a bit downer than normal."

"We had an emergency come up back at the stadium," Nida replied. The Nidoran took and stashed away the mission reward with a sigh, shaking her head. "A friend of ours got hurt pretty badly in the ring."

Cardino blanched and flattened his ears out apologetically. His assistants had been a bit of an enigma all this time and on the later side, but even so he hadn't expected them to be grappling with a personal crisis as grave as this...

"Ah... well, I'm glad that you still managed to come out here," he offered. "You've technically completed your obligations, but... I still need your help with this case."

"What do you mean?" Elty demanded. "Didn't we just get through proving that Scraggy and his buddies innocent? Why would the case still be open?"

"We still don't know the full story of the real culprit, pal."

The three present members of Team Traveller traded uneasy looks with one another. Cardino's determination to close the case was admirable… but what else could be done right now?

"But just what are we supposed to work with there? We know there's a 'Coordinator' and that Sibich says that some 'Admiral Coil' is the culprit," Guardia murmured. "But you can't really trust the word of any old pirate, can you?"

"… Probably not," Cardino sighed. "But even so, you can still learn a thing or two from them. Come on."

The Pikachu and his assistants made their way inside, pacing down the hallways to the courtyard where they continued on back through the detention block. As soon as they entered, they were greeted by the sight of a much fuller cell block than the day before. The group made their way down uneasily, only to spot the Mareanie and Furfrou from the day before back behind a cell, visibly anxious and disoriented. Now that they noticed it, it seemed like the cell block as a whole was filled once again with other faces that were missing just yesterday… but why?

"Hey, didn't some of these 'mons already get sentenced once?" Elty murmured. "What are they all doing back here?"

"Well, given how the main witness for sentencing these pirates was revealed to have been colluding and feeding wrong information to us, it was hard for the judges not to push for a retrial," Cardino explained. "If it was discovered that Sibich's ship-burners were getting lighter sentences than cooks from his galley, it would cause an uproar against the crown."

"Hrmph, you'd never have this issue if you ran your trials like a civilized group of majū," Guardia grumbled.

Nida and Elty rolled their eyes at the Cubone's assertion, only to have their ears prick up at a muffled noise. The group carried on, where it became increasingly clear the sound was the hissing voice of an angered Cofagrigus. One that was becoming all too familiar to the group for their liking.

"I told you, I'm not telling you a thing to help you with your featherbrained plans!"

Cardino and his assistants paused, staring ahead down the hallway. There, ahead on the left was the door to the visitor's room, its occupants hidden from view but with sounds instantly discernible to be the muffled voices of Nico and Rita, along with the much louder sound of a none-too-cheery-sounding Sibich.

"Er… just what are we supposed to learn from Sibich like that?" Nida asked, prompting Cardino to look ahead skeptically and flatten out his ears.

"Uh… well, Nico did say he was still working on it," he reassured. "Let's check up on him and see how it's going."

The Pikachu walked up to the door of the meeting room, pressing up against its push panel to reveal Nico and Rita sitting at one end of a table, staring down a shackled and visibly glowering Sibich at the other end.

"As I was saying, there's nothing featherbrained about this at all. You'll give your testimony as the accused, and we'll use it to help bring the Coordinator out into the spotlight," Nico reiterated. "It's also the last chance you got at making any change to the current perception of you being a heartless cutthroat who steals eggs from their mothers before sentencing."

The conversation quieted at the sound of footsteps approaching. From his place chained to the table, Sibich looked over and instantly set his teeth on edge with a hateful scowl at the sight of Team Traveller's presence.

"Hrmph," the Cofagrigus huffed. "If you were hoping to persuade me, you would should have left those brats at the Day Care."

"Oh trust us, we didn't want to see you again either," Elty grumbled, rolling his eyes.

The Growlithe's retort was quickly answered by a seething hiss as an inky haze billowed out of Sibich's body. From their places across the table, Nico and Rita shifted back slightly, the Misdreavus floating up close to her Fletchinder partner's ear.

"Er… Nico, I don't think that we're getting through to him," Rita whispered. Nico paused, and moved a wing thoughtfully to his beak .

"Hrm… perhaps I need to put things in the most direct possible terms, then."

The Fletchinder turned back to the Cofagrigus across the counter, beating his wings with a heady thud against the table. With a fierce scowl across his face, the Fire-Type leaned in, glaring at the Ghost-Type at the opposing end.

"Sibich, the court has exiled Pokémon to the Wastes for less serious crimes than what you were discovered to be doing today," Nico snapped. "I don't know how much Cofagrigus really can get by on eating gold, but you'll be hard-pressed to find much of anything out there to stave off a long, lingering death by starvation."

No answer came back to the Fletchinder's words but the cold, steely glare of the captain of the Shadow Brigade. Sibich scoffed, giving a dismissive wave of his upper right hand as much as his bindings allowed.

"So what am I supposed to believe? That by playing along with you, you'll magically make all my problems go away?" the Cofagrigus retorted. "I wasn't born yesterday, Fletchinder."

"No, but you can believe that the judge will sentence you to something other than exile to the Wastes if you cooperate," Nico countered. "Wasn't that why you attempted to frame your more disposable underlings to begin with? If you would really prefer that the real culprit got away and you took the sentence, then there's nothing I can do to convince you. If you want a different option, this is the only other one you have."

Sibich paused in visible thought for a moment, before giving a grudging sigh and turning his attention back to his Fletchinder questioner. The Ghost-Type folded his arms as much as his bindings would allow, shooting a sidelong glance at Cardino and his party of assistants.

"… Fine. And I presume the peanut gallery here is also present to question me?" the Cofagrigus grumbled. "So what do you all want to know? Not like I have anything to lose right now anyways."

"Who is Admiral Coil?" Nida asked. "And why did everyone react the way they did when you said he was the Coordinator?"

"Hrmph. I'm not the local here," Sibich snapped, letting a little blackish haze billow out from his coffin. "Why don't you ask one?"

The wraith shot a finger at Cardino, who after having Team Traveller's gazes settle upon him, shook his head, and began to explain the identity of this 'mon of mystery.

"He's a naval admiral who is in charge of Giotto's defenses and helps keeps the peace in the Capital on behalf of the royal family," Cardino explained. "He's had a long history of naval service defending the island from piracy and hunting down pirates from dangerous waters. That's the primary reason why Her Majesty was currently considering him for filling the current vacancy of Prime Minister."

"Not the easiest of claims to swallow, as you can see," Rita added. "He's viewed very highly even by some Pokémon on other islands in Imperial waters."

"Aha... so he's the most trusted warrior of your colony," Guardia mulled. "So even the common gatherers would not believe it if they were told that he endangered the colony in such a treacherous way."

"I… think?" Cardino replied, giving a puzzled tilt of his ears. "And even if something serious did come out, I'm not sure how Her Majesty would react. Coil's family has a long history of service to the royal family in particular."

Guardia blinked and wondered under her breath why this colony would make such a big deal over lineage for its leaders and warriors. In the process of heaping up all their buildings and monuments, could the Pokémon of this 'Empire' really have forgotten wisdom as simple as the fact that talent wasn't an inherited trait? After all, in the colonies around home, there were tales of warriors having hatchlings that lacked their parents' bravery and stomach for battle, and of zokuchō who'd had young that in spite of their best efforts to mentor them were unable to gain the discernment needed to follow their parents' footsteps.

Why, if this Coil was even half the ne'er-do-well that Sibich made him out to be... If this ruler of the Empire just let him have his job because his parents had it before him, then no wonder why he'd caused so much trouble! But even so, what would he have to gain here? As the highest warrior of the Empire, what would he possibly gain from undermining his own duty in such a fashion?

"But I don't understand," the Cubone continued. "Just what would a pirate have to offer someone like that?"

"The power to make things happen. If the Admiral needed a raid to be done that he couldn't afford to get involved in, I'd do it in person or sway another crew back on Orleigh to do it in my stead," Sibich explained. "In return, he repaid me with tips so I could mount an occasional raid in his waters, along with a steady stream of eggs to bring back to mold into discardable pawns that suited my needs."

Nida, Elty, and Guardia recoiled in disgust at the Cofagrigus' statement. The idea of spiriting eggs away to raise as pawns for crime was already odious enough, but to hear him say it so cavalierly and with such disregard for the Pokémon he used… why, it was enough to think that perhaps even sending him to the Wastes wouldn't be punishment enough!

"Why would he bring you here, though?" Cardino demanded. "If Admiral Coil really is the Coordinator as you allege, then I'd imagine he'd want you as far away as possible from him."

"He sent a message that the Lugia had been seen on Giotto, and informed me that he was in a fringe town south of here," Sibich answered.

Cardino's assistants jolted up, their eyes widening in alarm. Admiral Coil had gotten wind of Pleo being awake? But they'd never so much as heard of the Admiral until they arrived here in Giotto! Could someone have told him? Was it the old Clawitzer who ambushed them?

"But Pleo was with us all the time!" Nida exclaimed. "And how would he know anything about him?!"

"That's irrelevant, as the Protector was nowhere in that hamlet. The only thing we found was a waiting ambush," Sibich insisted. "I was told that my crew was drawing too much attention and that if I helped single out some Pokémon to bear the brunt of the court's wrath, that I would be rewarded with a sentence lenient enough to escape from in return for my silence."

"Could you really trust that if he misled you from the start of your journey to Giotto?" Nico asked. "Given Admiral Coil's bid to be Prime Minister, it sounds more like he wanted to be rid of a liability."

The Fletchinder's response at once set the pirate's teeth on edge, his mood visibly darkening. Sibich grumbled bilously under his breath, the Ghost-Type realizing that with the information Nico had provided, all of the inexplicable events that had befallen him in the past few days suddenly made sense.

"I was not… aware of Coil's current circumstances at the time," the Cofagrigus seethed. "If I were, I would have not been so quick to trust him."

"Guess there really is no honor among thieves," Cardino sighed, shaking his head. "But still, we won't be able to get anywhere with just your testimony."

"I'm afraid that's the best I can do. Coil usually uses street thugs to do the dirty work of running messages and contraband," Sibich said. "But I've seen no one outside my crew in these cells since our capture."

Wait… Coil used street thugs to do his dirty work? Then, the notes that they recovered from that chamber in the stadium... the gang that Saéta had been so agitated about... could they have some sort of connection to him as the Coordinator?

"Wait a minute. Cardino," Nida said. "Didn't Saéta say that he and his goons were searching for a gang that was doing things on their 'turf'?"

"The egg thieves, yes," Cardino answered. "Was there something strange about what he said?"

"I was just thinking," the Nidoran murmured. "If those are the Pokémon Coil is using to do his dirty work right now, then they have to have something on them."

"That would be our best bet," the Pikachu muttered. "But how would we even go about that on such short notice? And even assuming we actually manage to find them and grab something from them tonight, dragging Coil in would be bound to cause a real stink at the tournament. Unless we managed to find something really good, there'd be no way we could justify it."

Elty blinked at Cardino's explanation, realizing that a commotion at the stadium would mean that there'd be fewer guards to pay attention to Pleo… But for how long? And where would they be?

"Hold on, did you just say that Admiral Coil was going to be at the tournament tomorrow?" Elty asked, tensing himself expectantly. It was a long shot, but… could it be something they could turn to their advantage?

"... I mean, yeah," the Pikachu sighed back. "But where are you going with this? It's not as if we have that many leads to work with."

Elty paused a moment, giving a serious look back to the Pikachu.

"... Don't be too sure about that, Cardino," the Growlithe replied. "But first things first… what sort of stink at the tournament are we talking about here?"

Author's Notes:

- (¡)Cállate! - Spanish: "Shut up!"
- canàje - Venetian: "brats"
- Hanashite! (放して!) - Japanese: "Let go!" (Hepburn romanization)
- Ladno (Ладно) - Russian: "All right"
Chapter 60: Jumping Through Hoops

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie

With the onset of night, Tidemill's streets darkened and the Moon Caller's Traveller rose over the horizon. Even as the bustle of the city shifted into its nighttime rhythms, the Siglo Swellow teemed with the sound of movement and muffled chatter. In spite of the signs of activity, the upper deck and waters around were mostly barren of Pokémon, the focus of the hubbub instead taking up a hastily-vacated galley that had quickly filled with standing crew members. There, Team Traveller and their companions had gathered the sailors, who traded curious murmurs with one another as to what the nature of the meeting was. Although he knew full well what his teammates hoped to present, Crom carried an anxious air about him all the while, his mind turning from the packed galley back to his father at the stadium's medic hall.

"We won't be gone for that long, right?" he murmured.

"Natrix and Philips are covering for you right now," Kiran reassured. "I'm sure there will be time to stop by to see him again tonight."

The gathering quieted as the sound of buzzing wings approached, carrying Beatrix down a flight of steps followed by her trusty Hitmontop first mate, Vicente. The pair sized up their surroundings, before noticing Kiran and his charges and making their way over with expectant stares.

"You were awfully insistent earlier about this meeting," Beatrix said. "Did you find something out there?"

"We did," Guardia nodded. "We might have found a way to get your Protector back."

At once, the cargo hold flew into an uproar, with excited chatter among the gathered sailors. One after the other, they pressed for more details, wondering if the Cubone really had something, or was merely succumbing to wishful fantasy.

"What's this way?" Vicente demanded.

"Yeah, this is a huge city full of guards!" a Golduck exclaimed. "You mean to say you actually have a way of getting him out?"

"That's right. Today, we found out that an Admiral here in Giotto has been double-dealing with pirates," Elty began. "He's going to be attending the tournament tomorrow in the section of boxes where Pleo's been held for the entire tournament."

"We're going to be visiting some… fixers tonight to try and see if we can get any evidence against him for a trial dealing with a partner of his tomorrow," Nida added. "If we get it, we'll be able to get the guards to drag him into court."

An uneasy pause lingered in the air. Their mission was to retrieve their Protector and take him back to Tromba! As awful as it was to hear that such a trusted Pokémon here was compromised, just how did that relate to what they needed to do?

"… I'm not seeing how exactly that's helping us at all here," an Unfezant in the crowd said.

"It's helping us because we're currently working with a detective from the guards as assistants," Guardia explained. "When the guards come to bring Admiral Coil to court, we'll be coming along, and can hang around a little afterwards."

"The guards would thin out and have to shake up their routines quite a bit having to escort such an important Pokémon out, which would give us a chance to spring Pleo out," Elty continued. "It's just a matter of distracting the guards at his box with something like a Slumber Orb, and then getting him out of the stadium."

The Growlithe's answer was met with a dismissive scoff from a Dwebble, the Bug-Type's skepticism being audibly murmured through unimpressed hems and haws from some nearby shipmates.

"Just a matter?" the Dwebble scoffed. "By that standard, living in the Wastes is just a matter of getting food and shelter."

"I actually don't think it's as impossible as you'd think. The streets and canals here are a maze, and it's difficult even for me to keep track of Pokémon sometimes from the air," Kiran offered. "If the kids can make it out of the stadium, they'll have a lot more options for ways to slip off."

"Yeah, and if they can make it to the water, I could get them back to the harbor in a heartbeat!" Dimitri added. "I'm a swift swimmer, and I've already swum them through a tight spot once before!"

Kiran and Dimitri's reassurance drew some less skeptical murmurs from the gathered sailors. It would still be a heavy lift, but… yes, they had to admit that it would be technically feasible. Even Vicente and Beatrix seemed to be convinced, the pair quietly mulling over possibilities and options that would be available if Kiran and the others could make it back.

"… We'd need to keep the ship ready to go at a moment's notice," Vicente said. "But if you can get back here in one piece, it shouldn't be anything we couldn't handle."

"It's settled then," Beatrix grunted. "Though it should go without saying that there will be very little margin for error in this operation. Is there anything that you need for help, Team Traveller?"

"Well, the ship obviously needs to be ready, and getting Pladur back aboard tonight would be important," Nida said. "But the biggest thing that we need would be some Pokémon to help us with those fixers."

"Pah! With your track record, you'd be better off just walking up to their front door!"

At that moment, a short, furry presence began to move through the crowd, revealing the unamused form of a Sentret making his way to the front. Nida and her companions stared and blinked blankly for a moment, before rolling their eyes in annoyance.

"Urgh…" the Nidoran groaned. "Did you have to pick Scout up at sea, Crom?"

"I mean he did escape from a pirate den, Nida," the Druddigon whispered back. "And besides, Hariti does still have kids that needed letters delivered to them..."

"Actually, maybe he's onto something there," Pat mused. "If you've met these 'fixers' once already, can't you just walk up and tell them you want to talk?"

The Unfezant's question drew a long silence, finally broken by an uncomfortable fidget from Nida as she folded her ears back.

"Er… we're not so sure that they'll say 'yes' back to us."

"We'll join you," Kiran offered. "Your situation sounds like exactly the sort where a helping wing would come in handy."

"Yeah, Kiran and I can both get up high," Ander added. "We can keep an eye out from above if needed."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Dimitri cried. "Let's get a move on!"

Team Traveller began to set off, Elty and Guardia being joined shortly afterwards by Kiran and Dimitri. Much to their surprise, even Ander seemed willing to come, and followed after, leaving Crom to shift uneasily in the crowd. The young Druddigon felt a pawing sensation at his legs, looking down to see none other than Nida looking up at him, giving a reassuring bat of her ears.

"Try to stay positive?" Nida said. "After all, we want to come back to Pleo at our best, don't we?"

The Druddigon paused before nodding his head back, forcing a smile over his maw. Although he was still plagued by uncertainty and vague doubts as to whether it was right to turn his attention from his father, the rabbit's reassurance lifted his spirits, giving him just enough confidence to follow along.


The pair darted after their teammates, ducking down the hallway and clambering up the flights of stairs to the deck. There, they watched as the others slipped off down the gangplank, and looked out at the cityscape framed by the stadium's tower and the Royal Citadel, hoping that Pleo could wait for them for just one more night.

"Hang in there, Pleo," Crom murmured. "We'll have you back before you know it."

Team Traveller met up with Cardino at the gates of the Visitor's District, prompting them to swing south and walk along the winding lanes and canals of Tidemill. The route took them away from the tall, multistory buildings they'd grown used to seeing for streets lined with unfamiliar, ramshackle wooden shacks that weren't present on the route Luca and his underlings took them through the day before. According to Cardino, they were passing through a fringe neighborhood of Tidemill Central known as Novomarca that sat along the quickest route between the Visitor District and the seaside neighborhood where the Saéta Family's warehouse was. The buildings seemed to be jammed together and appeared a bit worse for wear, the lanes around them largely empty of the same bustle the neighborhoods around the arena had to them.

If anything, it felt like the Pokémon around had largely taken their business indoors, with the occasional stern face glaring from an entrance or window. Flickers of conversations would occasionally poke through the muted surroundings, the argument of some less-sober Pokémon emanating from a tavern, or worries about companions who had yet to show up from late in the day. A young voice asking why dinner was so small caught Nida's ears, stirring up uncomfortable memories of a year with a blighted harvest where the Nidoran remembered asking the same question again and again in much the same manner.

The buildings started to become less shabby as Team Traveller neared the seaside neighborhood which housed Saéta's warehouse, but the impression from their time in Novomarca failed to ebb away on the Pokémon. For all its pomp and grandeur, Tidemill City evidently couldn't fully shield its own from the same troubles that Pokémon on less populated islands like Tromba struggled with. The thought brought Nida's mind back to Nerea's explanation that both the Empire and the Company were buckling under strain and breaking, and of tales she'd heard of Tromba's revolt before her birth. She remembered Mamí recounting many a time of how the insult of Darzin's impunity finally stirred up the fire in the townsfolk's bellies to run him out after the injury of a bad harvest, giving Bluewhorl's Pokémon just enough courage and desperation to lash out. If a mere village of berry-growers and sailors could get so riled up, then no wonder why Nagant had moved heaven and earth to steal Pleo away! If there were ever enough Pokémon in Tidemill living in such conditions, then it was only logical the Empire would want to parade him before the city as soon as it had the young Protector in its clutches to take their mind off their circumstances…

"We're here," Cardino said. "Look alive."

The Pikachu's statement made the gathered Pokémon look up and spot the form of a row of warehouses at the end of a lane up ahead. The lot continued and followed after Cardino, only to follow the lane to a dead end.

"Huh? Where is the gate?" Elty asked.

Instead of the barred gate they'd remembered seeing, the Growlithe saw there was a wall of crude bricks that cut the lane off. Team Traveller and their companions blinked, and watched as Cardino pawed at the wall to feel it was solid, much as the gate had felt earlier.

"It seems like that Zoroark underling of theirs is protecting this place, even at night," the Electric-Type sighed. "If it's just an illusion, a weak attack would dispel it for a bit... but illusion or not, I don't think Saéta would take kindly to us breaking down this wall."

The Pikachu's response drew some frowns and uneasy shifts, Nida giving a worried paw at the ground as she stared ahead.

"But then how do we talk to the Don?"

"Would it be too much to try and ask for directions?" Ander offered.

The mantis' words were followed by the sound of an audible creak and low chattering coming down an alleyway to the left, which prompted the group to look over as a small door built into the wall swung open, letting out a Machoke and jet-furred Raticate that were in black scarves marked with a red lightning bolt. Cardino ran his paw along the brickwork of the wall and noticed that they seemed misaligned going towards the left, a sign that the wall and its entrance surely were more likely to be the real deal than the wall before them.

"… Maybe you're onto something there, Scyther," Cardino murmured. The Pikachu flared his ears, before beginning to pace over for the guarding pair, giving a friendly wave of his paw for attention.

"Hey," the detective greeted. "Looks like you two are kinda busy, but we were just wondering-"

"Hrmph. Don't go sticking your nose where it don't belong, Pikachu," the Machoke snapped.

"Huh? But we were just here yesterday!" Guardia protested. "We even saw you right at the front gate!"

"Doesn't matter. All I see here are some warehouses for waste management, and I know you aren't employees," the Raticate growled. "So scram before I push you into the canal!"

The black-scarved Pokémon began to make their way over, tensing their bodies for an attacking ambush. With their numbers, Cardino and his companions dug their feet into the ground and braced themselves, only to notice the sight of a Swoobat in a black scarf settling on the roof eave, and of a Vikavolt and a Wigglytuff coming from behind. Sensing that things were getting out of control quickly, the group legged a hasty retreat, darting back down the lane and continuing for a rightward alley until they came to a panting stop underneath a high wall plastered with wanted posters for pirates and local ne'er-do-wells.

"Well that went well," Dimitri sighed. "How are we supposed to get in without someone letting us through in the first place?"

Nida looked around when she noticed that overhead, a set of wooden shutters had been left open a crack. The Nidoran looked around for any sign of an approaching presence, and when she found none, peered up and flicked a spike up at the shutters. She watched her spike sail on, finding its mark and wedging into one of the shutters as it creaked inwards, prompting her to give an excited look to Cardino.

"Cardino. You said that a simple attack would've dispelled one of that Zoroark's illusions, right?" she asked. "Well, if you're right, those shutters look pretty real to me."

The group peered up at the shutters above them. It was far from an ideal entrance, but at the very least it was real. And if it hadn't been disguised on this end, odds were that Saeta's illusionist had missed the inside of it as well.

"We take the openings we can get," Cardino replied. "It'll be tricky, but I think your taller friends can squeeze us through there if we get up on each others' shoulders..."

One-by-one, Dimitri, Crom, Ander, and Kiran clambered atop each other to form a crude tower, waiting for their teammates to clamber up and crack the shutters open to let themselves slip through into the darkened warehouse. Upon making their way through, Nida, Guardia, and Elty dropped down onto some wooden planks underfoot, watching as the rest of their teammates carefully followed them in by flying and climbing their way up.

"… Where are we?" Guardia asked. "And how do we get to the Don's office?"

Elty waited for its eyes to adjust to the lighting of the warehouse, where he noticed that the lot of them were standing on a pallet of crates. All around the building, crates had similarly been piled up on a stony floor, leaving a maze of narrow passageways. The Growlithe looked up, spying a slender network of catwalks that seemed to connect the different sides of the warehouse, which made the group wonder if the rigors of the night were why Savio's illusions were so much less elaborate than the last time they were here... or if he simply spared his effort when there weren't outsiders to be dealt with.

"The Don's office was at the edge of this warehouse one floor up," the Puppy Pokémon said. "I remember the sun was setting in the west out the window, so I think that means it would've also been on the west side of the warehouse?"

Team Traveller and their companions looked out the shutter, noting the moon in the sky ahead. Given that the night was still young, that would surely mean that they were on the east of the warehouse. The group turned their heads back ahead of them, where they noticed at the end was a rickety wooden set of steps going up from the ground up to a dimly lit doorway.

"Ah, that's straight ahead!" Crom exclaimed. "Come on, let's go!"

The Druddigon motioned for his teammates to press on, dropping down to the stone floor and carefully making their way past the crates on the ground. For a Pokémon into 'waste management', a close gander at some opened crates revealed Saéta seemed to have a good deal of wares that would fetch a decent price at a shop, including the expected assortment of berries, orbs, and seeds. The group carried on, crossing a small intersection of crates where they saw a stack of wooden tubes that had been bound by ropes and metal loops… Cannons? But merely having one loaded with anything other than lines for a Lyle Gun was usually cause for getting a ship summarily sunk by a vessel in Company or Imperial colors! Surely Saéta couldn't have that many Pokémon interested in buying Lyle Guns from him...

"And that's how Pezzo sent up the wine for the winter party up in smoke last year," a buzzing voice said.

"Ugh. Seriously?" a high, airy voice scoffed. "How's that screw-up not been made to take a long walk off a short pier already?"

"Well hey, you can't say the 'mon doesn't know how to do a good party trick or two with his flames," the first voice said. "I heard the firedancing routine he did at the party to make up for it saved his neck."

Cardino and his companions froze up, hearing the voices and attending footsteps were coming closer and closer from up ahead. The Pikachu looked around in alarm, before he noticed a small gap between crates leading to a small pocket.

"Quick!" Cardino whispered. "Let's lie low in that pocket!"

One after the other, the gathered Pokémon ducked past the gap and into a small clearing surrounded by crates, peering through the small entrance to see a Vikavolt and Wigglytuff pass by. The pair carried on chattering, only for the Wigglytuff to pause uneasily, and pull her nose up to sniff the air.

"Destacàr," she murmured. "I think someone's here."

The gathered Pokémon blanched and looked around frantically for a way out, only to see that they'd gone into a dead end. Nida backpedaled up into a crate when she heard the tink of shifting glass inside. The Nidoran hastily propped herself up and discovered the crate to be filled with orbs, prompting her to slip her paw in and fish out one filled with white, rapidly-swirling clouds. Nida pulled the sphere back and threw it in a high arc, sending it sailing off toward the right behind the black-scarved Pokémon with an audible crash and the woosh of a sudden burst of wind.

"They're making a run for it!" the Wigglytuff shouted.

"Quick!" the Vikavolt barked. "We'll cut them off!"

The mobsters turned and ran after the sound of the shattering glass, prompting Team Traveller and their companions to hastily abandon their hiding place and make a mad dash leftward. The party made their way ahead, before reaching a sparser portion of the warehouse, panting quietly as they looked back and realized that as the guards found nothing around the orb they'd used as a distraction, they'd fall back on their other senses… including a sense of smell that was bound to give away where they'd passed through.

"We- We didn't happen to bring something to cover our scent, did we?" Crom stammered, glancing around uneasily. "If they notice our tracks, they'll follow us straight back to where we are!"

"I don't think we'll need it," Dimitri said. "Smotri, up there."

The Kabutops pointed off at a crude ramp made of crates that stretched up to the ceiling, where just beyond it was a wooden grate. The lot looked around and noticed that the ceiling seemed to be flat, unlike its sloped roof from outside… which would logically indicate that on the other side of the grate would be none other than an attic.

"They can't smell what's not there," the crab insisted. "Come on."

The gathered Pokémon hastily made their way up the crates, pulling themselves up one after the other until the hatch was in sight. With a swift flick of his scythes, Ander cut open the grate's supports, letting it flop open and his teammates to begin clambering in… Cardino went in first, then Nida followed by Elty and Guardia... It soon came to be Crom's turn to climb up, the young Druddigon nearing the edge, only for the crate to suddenly lurch underfoot. The Dragon-Type yelped and leapt up, latching onto the ledge as the crate underfoot fell to the ground with a crash and the sound of shouts suddenly rang out from below.

"Hey! There's someone near the wall on the south side!" a buzzing voice exclaimed.

The cry threw the group into a panic, prompting Dimitri to hastily shove the rest of the young Druddigon up before scrabbling up himself. Kiran dived in afterwards, making it into the attic and quickly tugging the hatch shut. The group panted, peeking back down through the grate to see the Vikavolt and the Wigglytuff coming across the shattered crate from earlier and storming off in search of them further below… mercifully off away from their grate.

"Talk about your close shaves there…" Cardino sighed. "But where have we wound up this time?"

Nida looked back down through the grate and scanned her surroundings beneath her. The Nidoran tried to make sense of where they'd run off to, only to overhear the faint voice of Don Saéta from further ahead...

"Giusy? Just what is the meaning of this? I was in the middle of penning a correspondence."

The blue spike ball blinked, before carefully pacing forward, prompting the rest of the party to follow suit carefully. Nida stopped at a different grate, peering down to see a Salazzle standing at a low table opposite of none other than Manectric boss himself, seated behind a stack of papers, prompting a smile to spread over the Nidoran's face.

"I'd say we're exactly where we need to be," Nida said, before the gathered Pokémon hushed themselves, and leaned in to listen to the Pokémon below.

In the room below, Don Saéta continued to jot down some notes on a paper set down on the desk before him, giving a stern look across the desk at the Salazzle. The Manectric waited patiently, prompting the Poison-Type to clear her throat and carry on.

"We've got some of those street punks ready for interrogation, boss," Giusy said.

"Hrmph, about time," Saéta grunted. "I'd have expected you to have had more to show from those mooks by now."

"Pardón," the Salazzle murmured. "It's just that we had a few unexpected turns, and weren't sure how to present them to you."

Saéta cocked his head, lifting a brow skeptically, before turning his attention back to his writing. Just what sort of unexpected turns could dragging a few punks off the street involve.

"I'm not sure if I follow."

"Get your paws off of me you domkop!"

The Don's head turned towards the doorway as the sounds of buzzing and shouts rang out, including a voice like his that made him perk up incredulously. Saéta gave a puzzled look back to Giusy, who shook her head and began to explain the disturbance beyond the door.

"We picked up your son and his friends working with that street gang from an alleyway near the arena," she said. "He's out in the hallway. We figured you'd want to press them yourself."

The Manectric's paw abruptly slipped, dragging his writing pad across his paper and leaving a long, black streak of charcoal over it. He looked down and shook his head with a disapproving grumble, setting his paper and charcoal aside as he rose up from his seat.

"... Send them in."

At Saéta's insistence, the Salazzle got up to open the door, letting in Carlo as he dragged along the bound forms of a Yanmega and a Marowak in his burly arms with Luca unceremoniously dragging in a fellow Manectric. The bound wolf in the group was pushed to the front by Luca, leaving him face-to-face with Don Saéta's glaring eyes as the stench of waste clung to his captives' bodies.


Alvise instinctively scooted back away from his father's gaze, only to feel his brother's head press up against him from behind and shove him back towards his dad.

"Oh no you don't!" Luca growled. "You're not running away this time!"

His brother pushed forward again, shoving Alvise forward into a faceplant directly into the line of sight of his father's silent, stern gaze. The white-scarved Manectric weakly picked himself up, his blood running cold and his tail folding back timorously between his legs as he spoke up in a squeaking stammer.

"Er… h-hi dad…"

A tense silence hung in the air at Alvise's greeting, Nori and Valatos watching anxiously for any changes in Saéta's dispassionate demeanor. At last, the Don shook his head, breaking the silence with a sigh.

"Bònjorno, Alvise…" the elder Manectric said. "It's been far too long."

Saéta walked over from behind the desk, pacing and circling deliberately around his three captives. Every so often, he would train a stern glare on one of the brigands, who would flinch away from the attention much to his unimpressed displeasure.

"Really now, you should be grateful the boys were feeling so hospitable... Most families wouldn't bother seeking out their children who abandoned their family business," Saéta chided. "Much less children who ran off with a bunch of sea rats."

Saéta's words drew audible gulps from his son's partners, the Marowak and Yanmega quickly having the color drain from their faces. The pair tripped up over each others' words in protest, each hoping to hastily steer the dangerous Pokémon's mind from any plans involving them.

"H-Hey!" Valatos buzzed. "You've got everything all wrong here!"

"Yeah! We've never had anything to do with you before in our lives!" Nori whined.

"A likely story," Saéta scoffed. "But since you need a refresher of your place around here, let's bring in some of your associates now."

The Manectric motioned to the door as a bound Vigoroth and Steenee were dragged in by an Escavalier and an Ambipom. For a long, awkward moment, Valatos and his companions stared at the group of strangers, before turning back to the elder Manectric.

"... Who the hell are these guys supposed to be?" Valatos demanded, only to be answered by an offended outburst from the Steenee.

"I could say the same to you!"

Some puzzled murmuring floated about the room as Saéta's underlings traded blank looks with one another. Just what was this bug going on about, not recognizing these two?

"Eh? But they have to be your associates!" Carlo exclaimed. "We've been seeing them nose around whenever you've been here!"

"We don't do anything with street punks like those beyond fencing loot!" Alvise snapped. "You ought to know this already!"

"... You still haven't changed, have you?" Saéta sighed. "I'd have thought that this encounter would've gotten you to reconsider. Here on the turf that ought to be rightfully yours, and we find you scuttling around like an alley rat with nothing but those two bums for support reeking of garbage!"

"Th-That was Luca's fault! I smelled like myself before he jumped me!" the younger Manectric whined. Alvise's protests did little but prompt Saéta to look over to Luca who gave a dismissive shrug back, followed by an annoyed shake of the elder wolf's head. The Don scoffed unimpressedly, leaning into his child's face with a hardened glare.

"Seriously, get some smarts," Saéta scolded, as he returned to his seat behind the table. "Who in their right mind would trade away family and protection for sleeping in some musky hulk with rabble that'll leave you high and dry in the first botched raid?"

"The sort of 'mon who wants to live a little!"

Alvise's outburst drew a dismissive scoff from his father from across the table. Saéta shot a disgusted scowl down at his rebellious child, walking up and looming over him.

"Excuse me?" the father wolf demanded.

"Y-You heard me! I've never been satisfied just staying cooped up in this stupid district with your 'business' even when I was an Electrike!" Alvise snapped. "When I'm with Valatos and Nori here, we always get to see something new!"

Nori and Valatos watched as Saéta's frown seemed to deepen before their very eyes, prompting the two of them to struggle against their bindings to try and poke at their Manectric teammate for attention.

"Uh... Alvise," Nori whispered. "I don't think we should be making the nice Pokémon even madder-"

"And what would you care anyways?!" Alvise continued. "You always spent all your time training Luca to take over 'the business', so why can't I go do something else if I have to play second fiddle anyways?!"

The younger Manectric's outburst drew a low growl from his father, along with a reflexive crouch as if ready to spring upon him. The Don paused a moment to let his irritation subside, before continuing on in an audibly irked tone.

"Alvise, the business has a structure and a reputation to maintain. We´re not a bunch of common thieves!" Saéta snapped. "By playing your part in it, you help to ensure that the whole stays together and that if needed, you can help keep it going if anything were to happen to your brother. Just what have your two 'friends' there done for you all this time?"

"... They've always been at my side for whatever we've gone through," Alvise answered.

"Hrmph, a likely story."

"I'm serious! I mean, yeah, they give me a hard time sometimes... and we've gotten captured before... and they kinda needed to be thrown from a ship the last time to stick with me," the younger wolf murmured. "But when push came to shove, they've always been 'mons I could count on to watch my back! If the choice is between being able to live the life I want or being stuck here glued to Luca's shadow, then by all means, give me the dice to roll!"

With that, sparks began to dance on Saéta's pelt. From their bindings, Nori gave out a whimpering whine, as Valatos turned his attention to his Manectric teammate.

"That would've been really touching, Alvise," he gulped. "Except that I think your old 'mon's about to kill us."

The Don's sparks grew stronger and stronger, only to abruptly flicker and dissipate with a harmless crackle. Saéta eased his posture, shooting a disgusted scowl at the bound youngster before him.

"... Very well, then," he growled. "Have it your way, Alvise."

Alvise blinked uneasily, his father's words repeating over and over again. That… was it? Even in his youth, he'd been able to glean enough to know what happened to Pokémon who crossed his father in his line of work. So what gave here? No abrupt life-ending event? No maiming? Not even a beating?

"... Huh?" he asked. "You're just giving in like that?"

"Alvise, you're my son. If risking your life chasing stupid thrills until the day you drown at sea is really what you want out of life, then I'll respect that," Saéta answered. "I'd hoped that perhaps I could help you see some sense, but it seems that there's nothing that I can do to jolt you back to reality right now."

The elder wolf shook his head bitterly, turning to look out the window at the scattered lights of the city's lanterns in the distance. Saéta raised his voice again, his words coming out with a thick air of disappointment.

"Maybe you'll come to see sense soon enough, to see what a fool you're being," he muttered. "For your own sake, don't wait until you're in the Spirit World in order to turn back."

The wolf continued looking out the window, before giving a shake of his pelt. His earlier somberness seemingly dissipated in favor of a sharp, impatient annoyance.

"... Now get out of my office," Saéta snapped. "The only 'mons that have any business being here are my business associates, not random tourists."

Alvise shifted uneasily as his tail began to droop. While for his own sake, his father's respite had been welcome, something about this victory felt hollow... He was convinced that he'd made the right choice abruptly running away from home all those years ago without saying goodbye to elude his goons... and that the freedom he found on the seas afterwards had been worth it...

Even so, he couldn't help but waver after seeing his father turn away from him entirely. Could he have done anything differently? Would it even have made a difference?

"... Dad…" he murmured. "I-"


The room abruptly quieted at the sound of a creak from above, prompting the gathered Pokémon to look about their surroundings. By chance, Carlo happened to look up, where the Swampert noticed a wooden plank in the ceiling sagging.

"Hey wait a minute," he said. "Was that part of the ceiling always-?"

The wooden plank abruptly snapped, sending it and a good chunk of the roof collapsing into the room with a crash. The room quickly filled with a plume of dust and confusion, the sound of yelps ringing out along with coughing from the particulates in the air.

"Agh! What was that?!" an Escavalier cried.

"I thought we just fixed those roof timbers!" an Ambipom spluttered.

The dust began to settle down, revealing the stunned forms of Cardino, his assistants, and a number of 'mons who hadn't been present yesterday. At once, Alvise growled, recognizing the intruders to be none other than the pests who'd humiliated them at the tournament!

"You again!" the Manectric cried.

"Grr... I didn't know they paid you detectives to go trespassing, Cardino," Saéta seethed. In response, Cardino scooped up his hat and placed it back on his head before sheepishly answering back.

"Er... we got an invite at the backdoor?"

Don Saéta's face reddened with lividity at Cardino's shamelessness. The Manectric sparked, motioning to his underlings as a low growl filled his voice.

"... Boys," Saéta snarled. "Show these 'mons how we handle uninvited guests here."

At once, Carlo, Giusy, and Luca began to advance snarling, pushing the increasingly unnerved party from the ceiling backwards. After feeling his wings brush up against the timbered wall of Saéta's office, Ander buzzed with a start, raising his voice in anxious protest.

"N-Now hold on here!" the Scyther stammered. "We only came because we wanted to trade information!"

"Yeah!" Elty added. "We wanted your help dealing with a mutual enemy who will be in a restricted area at the stadium tomorrow!"

"Well, the only thing you're getting is a good beating!" Valatos snarled. "You're gonna regret showing your face in front of us agai-"

"But before then," Saéta insisted. "Show Alvise and his friends the door."

"Huh?!" Nori cried. "But we were just about to-!"

"Out. Now."

The three opened their mouths in protest, only for the Escavalier, Ambipom and Swampert in the room to pick up the pirates and drag them out of Saéta's office, slamming the door behind them. The bound Vigoroth and Steenee blinked incredulously at the whole scene, before Saéta rose and began to surround his trapped interlopers with his underlings.

"Just what do you think you're doing here, huh?" Luca sneered.

"We wanted to make an offer to the Don," Crom said. "But your doormons were being obstinate and wouldn't let us in."

"That's mighty presumptuous of you," Saéta growled. "I'm the one who makes deals here, and the only deal I'm in the mood for right now is the one that gets you out of my office spitting your teeth up into the canals."

"Even if we told you we have a way of taking down the Coordinator?" Nida pressed. "He was apparently keeping in touch with a pirate who got caught a couple days back. If we can find any proof they talked with each other, it'll catch him red-pawed!"

Saéta and his lackeys shot back scoffing frowns at the Nidoran's response, only for Luca to notice from the corner of his eye that the bound Vigoroth and Steenee were shifting uncomfortably at the term.

"'Coordinator'?" the Vigoroth asked. "How do you shlubs know about him?"

The sloth, realizing at once he had spoken too much bit his tongue. Unfortunately for the creature, the mobsters' attention had already settled on him, prompting the Vigoroth to audibly gulp.

"Come again, buddy?" Luca demanded.

"Yeah, it sounds like you've got something that you want to tell us here," Giusy added.

"A-All I did was run a couple letters, I swear!" the Vigoroth insisted. "I had nothing else to do with his operation! All I've seen of the 'mon is a shadow!"

Kiran's eyes lit up at the Normal-Type's words. This 'mon was a courier! So if his job was to run letters on behalf of the Coordinator, then maybe...

"Wait! That's it!" the Swellow exclaimed. "Do you have any letters with you right now?"

The Vigoroth blanched and visibly paled, shaking his head overvigorously back at the question.

"I… er… no?" the Normal-Type stammered. "It's not like I just go walking around the time with- Hey! What are you doing?"

Undaunted by the Vigoroth's protestations, Giusy helped herself to patting down the sloth, discovering a envelope hidden under his scarf. The Salazzle wrenched the envelope free, shooting a glare back at the pallid Pokémon.

"Hrmph. If you'd stuck to mail delivery, maybe you wouldn't be here," the lizard spat.

"This look familiar at all to you?" Luca asked.

Giusy passed the envelope over to Nida, who snatched it up and tore it open. The group fished out a letter inside and unfurled it, scanning their eyes along line after line of written runes… only to discover that the letter seemed to have a far less nefarious purpose.

"Wait… a letter for Thalez?" the Nidoran said. "There must be some sort of trick to this thing."

"Maybe it's encoded just like the diary...?" Crom suggested.

"… Looks like it's just some fan mail to me," Luca scoffed. "What are you going on about a 'code' here?"

"Yeah, wasn't the coded journal you showed us a bunch of nonsense when you tried to read it out loud?" Dimitri asked. "The writing forms actually readable sentences here."

A set of uncomfortable blinks went around the gathered Pokémon's faces. Sure enough, the letter read perfectly fine, even if its topic seemed peculiarly innocent… Why, it was hard to see how rearranging the runes here would do anything other than to turn the note into a jumbled mess!

But even if the letter wasn't coded that way, surely there had to be some sort of trick to it…

"Right…" Cardino mulled. "Maybe it's written in a sort of ink that can't be seen normally?"

"I don't see anything out of the ordinary for it," Ander buzzed. "And I've been told that my vision allows me to see things that your kind would normally miss."

Ander's mention prompted Saéta to mull a moment over the letter only to furrow his brow in annoyance, drawing some uneasy murmurs and coughs from the group. Frustrated with their breakthrough having evaporated before them, Elty slammed a paw onto the fan letter and gave a disgusted scowl.

"Pah! Some lead this turned out to be!" he harrumphed. The Growlithe snorted out a couple stray embers, which fell onto the paper, and much to his alarm set it alight. The Puppy Pokémon yanked his foot back with a yelp, as the eyes of all the present Pokémon widened in shock at the sudden eruption of flame.

"Agh! The letter!" Nida exclaimed.

"Quick!" Cardino cried. "Put it out!"

Guardia ran over and beat the letter over and over with her club, leaving behind a charred sheet on the floor. At once, Saéta's pelt began to course with electricity, the wolf lowering his head towards the stocky mutt with a furious snarl.

"What is your problem Growlithe?!" the Don shouted.

"H-Hey! How was I supposed to know it'd do that?!" Elty stammered. "Paper doesn't just suddenly burst into flame from a little ember like that normally!"

The Growlithe flinched, only to pause and crack an eye open uneasily and see Saéta staring blankly. The other Pokémon in the room sported similarly dumbfounded expressions, as Guardia's attention turned over to the charred letter on the floor.

"… That's right," the Cubone murmured. "It doesn't."

The bone lizard bent down and examined the paper, noticing that a small patch of it appeared unburnt, but of a curious yellow color. Guardia picked up the paper and carefully peeled away the burnt part, revealing a full sheet of yellowed paper underneath, with runes starting to become visible as more and more of the charred layer was peeled away.

"Eh?! That 'mon hid a letter within a letter!" Giusy exclaimed.

"You can do that?" Luca asked.

"… I've heard of stories of 'mons doing this sort of stuff with treasure maps, but never letters," Saéta murmured to himself. "Who wrote this thing? And what exactly is the writer trying to hide?"

Cardino and Nida crowded around, dutifully helping to peel away the burned layer until the body of the hidden yellow paper was fully exposed. Cardino scooped it up, noticing a stamp at the bottom right with a design bearing a cluster of five leaves roughly laid out as a star before looking up and beginning to read aloud.

The paper was a note requesting an alliance with one 'Captain Tarquin' of the Strongjaw Gang in Orleigh, promising power and wealth if he would be willing to trade some favors as a member of Orleigh's ruling council. The letter carried on, flattering its intended recipient and making it clear that the author was in need of a new partner in light of his prior one pushing his luck and falling afoul of his superiors, until terminating in a squarish burn mark for a signature...

"Signed, Admiral Coil?" the Pikachu finished, which drew a surprised squeak from Nida.

"Ah! So he really is the Coordinator!"

Cardino stared blankly at the paper, pawing over and over again at the leafy sigil in the corner, only to shake his head out of stunned disbelief.

"I didn't want to believe it, but it looks that way, pal," Cardino murmured. "That seal on the letter is definitely his."

"It would make sense… Every tougher crew will be gunning for Sibich's spot on the Council once they hear about his capture, and the Councilmembers will all want to sway whoever winds up taking his place," Elty murmured. "The Pokémon in Orleigh are almost certainly wondering if something's up with him by now, so if I wanted a new partnership, I'd certainly make it before half of Rosequartz gets bogged down in turf wars over sorting out a new hierarchy."

"So, Don Saéta," Guardia pressed. "Are we still wasting your time here?"

The Manectric glared back, visibly mulling over the youngsters' words. After a moment's consideration, the Electric-Type shook his head, his demeanor easing into a more relaxed if still stern expression.

"… I think it's worth letting your little episode with my ceiling earlier slide. Though you'll need more than just a little piece of paper to plead your case," Saéta said. "Going after Admiral Coil's like going after the queen herself. If you swing at him and miss, you won't be alive to get another chance."

Team Traveller and their companions blanched and gulped at Saéta's explanation. With stakes like those, it would be wise to heed the Don's advice and err to the side of caution… but what were they still missing, then?

"Uh… what else would we need then?" Crom asked.

"The same thing that took out my old rival in the business, Scarpatti," Saéta explained. "You get someone with inner knowledge to squeal and finger the 'mon."

"Wait, but didn't Scarpatti kick the bucket after a deal went wrong?" Giusy corrected. "Aren't you thinking of-"

"My point still stands, thank you very much!" Saéta snapped. "And as for 'mons with inner knowledge, I think that we've got a couple right here."

The Manectric moved his paw down the other end of the room, all eyes following it over towards the form of the bound Vigoroth and Steenee. The pair fidgeted uneasily a moment, before the Steenee worked up the courage to ask about their newfound attention.

"… Why are you looking at us like that?" the Grass-Type pressed.

"Because, Steenee, I'm making you and your partner an offer you can't refuse," the elder Manectric answered. "You're going to help these nice Pokémon by ratting on the 'mon who's been giving you these letters before being left to slink off under whatever pier you two crawled out from."

The two went wide-eyed with a panic, reacting to Saéta's demand much as if he'd told them they were to choke down hot coals. The pair began stammering, only for the Vigoroth to splutter back a vehement refusal.

"I- I'm not doing that! You're crazy!" the sloth exclaimed. "You don't know what happens to the 'mons that cross the Coordinator like that!"

"… I thought you might be hesitant," Saéta growled. "So allow me to make a counteroffer."

The Manectric whistled, prompting Carlo and an Ambipom to enter the room carrying along a pair of barrels, followed closely by the forms of an Escavalier and Drampa. The Swampert and Ambipom struggled under the containers' weight and set them in front of the Steenee and Vigoroth, a quick glance revealing the reason why to be that the bottoms of the barrels were filled with stones. The two Pokémon peered blankly at the barrels, only to feel themselves get lifted up, and dangled into the opened casks.

"H-Hey wait, what are you doing?!" the Steenee cried.

"Giving you my counter-offer of having you deliver a message back to your associates for me about their dirty dealings on my turf," Saéta said. "Namely by taking a long walk off a short pier inside those barrels and having a nice, long nap with the fishes."

"… Boss, we are doing this away from my place, right?" Carlo asked. "I don't want to be sleeping next to a pair of drowned rats tonight."

The Vigoroth and Steenee's eyes widened with panic, the two thrashing wildly as they were forced into the barrels. The Ambipom came over and clamped lids over the tops, before beginning the process of lifting up the Steenee's barrel when Carlo and the Ambipom were suddenly cut off by the sound of a Vigoroth's yelp.

"A-Aah!" the Normal-Type screamed. "Okay! Okay! I'll talk!"

Saéta growled and motioned with his paws at the underlings to stop, prompting the Ambipom to set the Steenee's barrel back down onto the floor. The Don then turned his head over his shoulder to Team Traveller and their companions, still wide-eyed and stunned from the shakedown with the barrels.

"So… how exactly do you want this squealing to get done?" Saéta asked.

Team Traveller and their companions shrank back, visibly flustered and unsettled by what Saéta was expecting them to say back. Perhaps… it was best to try and low-ball their demands, for their own sakes of not getting sucked into his… 'business'.

"Uh… we needed a witness at the courthouse tomorrow?" Nida answered.

"So be it," Saéta answered, before giving a crackle of static and turning his head to his underlings.

"Get them out of those barrels and take them to our… accommodations for their like to pass the night," the wolf barked. "We'll need them at least somewhat presentable if they're giving a public testimony."

The Swampert and Ambipom grunted back affirmations, undoing the bolts on the barrels and unceremoniously dumping the Steenee and Vigoroth out onto the floor. The two hit the ground visibly pallid and shivering, before being picked up and marched out of the room by the Escavalier and the Drampa. Carlo and his monkey colleague stopped by to collect the barrels, the Swampert peering into the Vigoroth's barrel only to give a disgusted groan and slide the lid over it before leaving.

With the room now mostly vacated, Saéta turned to his gathered associates and gave a nod, prompting Giusy to walk over to a nearby chest and fetch a bottle of wine that was set onto the table, along with cups made from blown glass wrapped with rubber holders. The Don waited as the Salazzle pulled the cork out, pouring wine carefully into the glasses as Saéta slipped his paw into a holder, raising a half-filled glass in front of the present Pokémon.

"Let us have a toast," the Manectric said. "To a fruitful and productive relationship, and the death of the Coordinator."

The Don's words hung in the air, Team Traveller and their companions trading uneasy looks with each other before vigorously shaking their heads back. The wolf raised a brow, prompting the gathered Pokémon to hem and haw and offer up one excuse after another to refuse Saéta's hospitality.

"Er… that's alright," Cardino insisted. "I've already drunk quite a bit tonight."

"I'm too young for wine," Nida added.

"Nie dzięki, I… uh… have a really bad stomachache right now," Elty said. "Can't be drinking much of anything at the moment."

Saéta blinked nonplussed for a few moments, before opting to shrug the matter off and sip from his glass before setting it aside on the table with a roll of his eyes.

"Suit yourself, then," the Manectric harrumphed. "I'll see if I can arrange something celebratory through the mail later."

"We'll appreciate the gesture, I'm sure," Cardino replied. "Though we should get going. We've got a big day tomorrow, and a lot of things to plan out for it."

"I understand. And good luck with your case," Saéta grunted. "We may have opposing interests most of the time, but I can assure you that I'll be pulling for you in this case."

Saéta's statement made Guardia pull her helmet tight against her head, prompting the Cubone to turn to her teammates with an uneasy whisper.

"… Is that really what we should be hearing from him right now?" she murmured.

"Er… thanks. And good luck with… whatever it is you do that's not completely illegal," Cardino cheered.

"Much obliged, and good night."

Luca and Giusy stepped up and led the group of unexpected guests out of Saéta's office, bringing them through the warehouse, and much to their surprise, through a series of gates that led back onto the street. When the gates slammed behind them, the group collectively exhaled a sigh of relief. Until the morning at least, they'd have reprieve from this whole ordeal and they'd be able to rest and plan in more comfortable surroundings.

The following morning, the sun began its ascent in the skies over Giotto with a brilliant golden hue, scattering its rays from east to west as they pursued the Sun Chaser's Traveller across the sky along with the last vestiges of the night. Within the confines of the Saéta Family's compound the warehouse was busier than normal with black-scarved Pokémon moving about, including a Swampert, Salazzle, Ambipom, and Escavalier who made their way over to a row of storage rooms fitted with bars. The four made their way by, passing one room after another before stopping by a room with the forms of a dozing Vigoroth and Steenee sprawled out on the ground. There, the Swampert fished out a crude key from a small bag and walked up, glaring at the makeshift cell's occupants, before batting out a fist to loudly pound against the bars.

"Hey, stoolies! Get up! It's time to make yourselves useful!" Carlo barked.

The Swampert waited, only for the Vigoroth and Steenee inside to do little more than snort and shift uneasily in their sleep. The Vigoroth blinked his eyes a moment, before turning over and dozing back off, swiping a claw off at an unseen presence.

"Nrgh, no…" the sloth groaned. "Five more minutes…"

The four mons traded frowning looks with one another, Giusy murmuring under her breath if it wasn't too late to just drown the two wastes of air after all. The Escavalier rolled his eyes, before turning back to his Swampert teammate.

"Open the door," Bug-Type said. "I'll handle this."

Carlo slipped the key into a padlock that had been slipped over the door and undid it, allowing the Escavalier into the cell. The Cavalry Pokémon crept along, hovering over the Vigoroth as he readied a lance and promptly brought it down on the Vigoroth's side with a stiff jab. As soon as the spike made contact, the sloth's eyes shot open, the Normal-Type squealing out of startled surprise at the sudden jolt.

"Eyaaah!" the Vigoroth yelped. "Let go! Let go!"

The Escavalier let go, leaving the Vigoroth to pant on the ground and his Steenee partner to crack her eyes open, looking up with an audible gulp to see the four black-scarved Pokémon glowering over her. Giusy spat a glob of poison onto the ground, evidently impatient with the pair's lack of progress.

"We had an agreement, and the trial you need to sing at is in an hour," the Salazzle growled. "So get up and start making yourselves presentable!"

The pair hastily drug themselves to their feet and timorously made some attempts at dusting themselves off with obviously forced vigor. As the pair made a show of their grooming, the Ambipom's attention turned to the cell just over to the left, where it had been left vacant beyond a few stray brown scales and strands of blue hair.

"Hey wait a minute, wasn't the boss' other kid supposed to be in that cell there?" the monkey asked.

"Gah! They must've broken out overnight!" the Escavalier exclaimed. "Quick, tell the boys upstairs that-"

"They've been let go and are someone else's problem."

The four mobsters turned and saw Luca making his way down into the row of barred rooms with a stern expression. The group traded incredulous stares with one another, before turning back to the Manectric. The prisoners in the other cell… had just been left to walk away?

"Eh? Luca, what are you talking about?" Carlo demanded.

"Yeah, we don't just 'let 'mons go' when they cross the business like that!" the Escavalier exclaimed.

"And if it was just a matter between that lizard and that bug, we wouldn't have let them go," Luca countered. "But then that furbrain had to come along and make things a family matter."

The Ambipom blinked, giving an awkward pause at Luca's explanation. Wouldn't a family matter with a close betrayal involved just get Don Saéta more riled up? So what gave here?

"… Not sure if I'm following, Luca," the Normal-Type murmured. "What would that have anything to do with it?"

Before the monkey could react, the Ambipom was answered with a sparking swat of Luca's paw at his shoulder, leaving him to recoil from the shock and paw uneasily at his shoulder as the wolf fumed and shook his head.

"Because, dad has a soft spot for his family," Luca scolded. "Even though that schlub we dragged in was an embarrassing failure of a sea rat, he's still his family."

"That… makes some sense, I guess," the Ambipom replied. "So that's how you also feel, huh?"

The Manectric visibly paused at the question, his eyes darting away even as his muzzle remained firm and unmoving. After a moment of silence, Luca answered with a dismissive scoff, before turning away.

"... I'm just glad that idiot's out of our fur, that's all," he insisted. "If Alvise doesn't want to help the business, it's better for him to stay out of the way until he gets some sense."

Luca began to set off, leaving the four mobsters to gossip with one another. He clearly went through a lot of trouble to admit it, but it seemed that Luca was happy with how things turned out…

"Ah, so he does care about him," Giusy murmured.

"Yeah, I never thought he'd have picked up his old man's sense of sentimentalism," Carlo said.

The mobsters were interrupted by a bolt of electricity striking the ground near their feet, prompting the lot to yelp and look up at a glaring Manectric, his irked demeanor carrying a hint of overperformance.

"Are you going to start marching those mooks along or what?" Luca barked. "We've got a trial to make!"

The four underlings hastily squeaked back affirmations, dragging off their prisoners as Luca set off through the box-cluttered warehouse. The Manectric carried along, stepping out into the sunlit street outside where he followed the canal towards the sea before sitting and staring off at the sails of the ships in port.

"It's all on you, bro. You've got your own life to run into the ground, and we've got our own problems to take care of," he grunted. "That Cardino rat better deliver if he knows what's good for him."

The wolf stared a moment, looking back down the lane to see his four associates already making their way off with the Vigoroth and Steenee, prompting him to shake his head and give one last look at the harbor.

"... Whatever you wind up doing out there, just try not to be too much of a disappointment."

About an hour later, the courtroom that Nida, Elty, and Guardia had grown increasingly familiar with over the past two days began to fill in with Pokémon. The motley faces that composed the audience grew in number as Nico and Rita made their way to their desk, with Cardino coming by today as a visibly deflated Akin slithered over to his. From their spot on the courtroom floor, Nida and her companions looked up, spotting Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Dimitri keenly watching them from the audience. It was a big day, and even if Nico, Rita, and Cardino didn't know the full story, they seemed to be able to sense the tension in the air as well.

"So… are you ready for this, Nico?"

"I feel as if it's me who should be asking that, Cardino," the Fletchinder answered. "You're sure your assistants have found evidence important enough to force the Coordinator in here?"

"I don't see how any audience, living or dead, would be able to rightfully say it's not important enough," Guardia insisted.

"We have his handwriting, a signature, and a witness!" Nida added. "It's hard to get clearer than that!"

The Nidoran trailed off as the call for an 'all rise' went around, prompting the Pokémon in the courtroom to stand up. Nico and Rita peered over at the judge's podium, where the Slowking judge was returning to his podium and took his seat before raising his gavel.

"Then here goes nothing…" the Fletchinder murmured.


The judge brought down the gavel and looked around the courtroom, just in time to watch the doors of the courtroom open and see the glaring form of a Cofagrigus be led into the courtroom for the defendant's docket. The Slowking shook his head, before raising his voice to speak up to the gathered Pokémon.

"The court is now in session for the trial of Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade," the judge declared, his words followed closely by the Serperior prosecutor and Fletchinder attorney's statements.

"The Prosecution is ready, Your Honor."

"The Defense is ready, Your Honor."

"Prosecutor Akin," the Slowking ordered. "Please give the court your opening statement."

The judge's prompting drew a defensive coil from the serpent prosecutor, prompting him to hiss in annoyance. Akin flicked his tongue moodily, before turning back to the judge, his eyes all but screaming his desire to do anything but in some way revisit his blistering loss from the day before.

"Your honor, is this really necessary?" the Serperior insisted. "We saw how the defendant is obviously guilty, so there's no reason for the Defense to subject me to this blatant humiliation!"

"Your opening statement, Prosecutor Akin?"

Akin slunk down against the ground, giving a glare and an irritated hiss across the courtroom towards Nico.

"You're doing this just to show off, aren't you?"

The Serperior was cut off by an irked clearing of the judge's throat, prompting him to look over and see the Slowking was scowling impatiently at him. With wounded pride, the Grass-Type sighed, before shaking his head and opting to cut to the chase with what would hopefully be an open-and-shut opening statement.

"Anyhow, Your Honor. The defendant, Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade, pirate scourge of Orleigh, was captured in a failed raid on Polderfield Town just three days ago," the prosecutor explained. "After his capture, it was found through Detective Cardino's investigation that the Cofagrigus had been attempting to shift blame towards lower-ranked underlings to allow him and higher-ranked subordinates to evade charges for heinous activities such as egg theft."

The Serperior's words prompted murmurings among the crowd, some observers insisting that they knew that Captain Sibich was directly involved in the odious acts of his crew all along, while others wondered just what sentence the judge would hand down. Akin waited for the chatter to ebb a moment, before clearing his throat and continuing on.

"The Defense specifically proved that the defendant is guilty of numerous counts of egg trafficking, and provided decisive evidence against him while exonerating his last client," the serpent continued. "The Prosecution sees no reason to doubt the facts of this case or even to bother with further witnesses, Your Honor."

"Thank you, Prosecutor Akin," the judge replied, before casting his glance over to the other side of the room.

"Well then, do you have any objections to raise here, Defense?" the Slowking asked. "After yesterday's thing came out, my caseload has… grown fairly dramatically with retrials, so I'd like to not spend too much time on this particular trial if we don't have to."

Much to the Psychic-Type's surprise, from the Defense's corner of the courtroom, Nico answered back with a shake of his head. The Slowking blinked incredulously, before the bird began to speak to explain himself.

"My apologies for your troubles, Your Honor," the Fletchinder answered. "But I am afraid I must raise an objection here."

Nico beat his wings against his desk with a loud pound, drawing the attention of the whole courtroom before raising a wingtip back at the judge with a determined gaze.

"But Captain Sibich is not the core culprit of the egg trafficking scheme we uncovered!" the attorney declared. "He's reached an agreement to cooperate by testifying against his former associate, the Coordinator! He's the true culprit, and a Pokémon who's been swaying the underworld here in Tidemill outside of public suspicion from within the ranks of the guards!"

"That Cofagrigus accused Admiral Coil of being in league with him in front of the entire court yesterday!" Akin scoffed. "Surely you're not putting stock into the desperate ramblings of a condemned 'mon, are you?"

"I am, and I will demonstrate that contrary to your impressions, Captain Sibich was telling the truth yesterday," Nico declared. "Admiral Coil is the Coordinator who trafficked eggs to him!"

At once, the Fletchinder's exclamation drew a loud and angry outcry from the audience. The air in the courtroom grew thick with jeers and boos, as livid glares settled on the Pokémon around the Defense's corner of the courtroom.

"This story again?!" a long necked Exeggutor cried.

"How could that defense lawyer drag Admiral Coil's name through the mud like this?!" an Elgyem snapped.

"Yeah, just because he won his last case, he suddenly thinks he can save anyone?!" a Glaceon shouted.

In the face of the overwhelming torrent of hostility, Nico couldn't help but shrink back and pull his wings in tight. For his part, Akin seemed particularly unimpressed with the Fletchinder's grandstanding, prompting him to give a dismissive scoff back at his counterpart.

"Hrmph. I see your win yesterday's been going to your head, attorney," the Serperior snapped. "You can't honestly believe your client's accusations, can you?"

Back at the Defense's corner, Nico and his companions traded apprehensive glances around the room. Even with the evidence they'd uncovered, this premise of Admiral Coil really being the Coordinator was clearly something that the audience, and judging from his glaring scowl, the judge would have to be eased into...

"… I think that we've riled up the room pretty badly," Rita murmured.

"Gee, you think?" Elty snorted. "Get your partner to throw out some evidence already!"

From his place before the judge, Nico blanched, hastily trying to find a way to dispel the initial shock surrounding his accusations. The Fletchinder beat his wings out, stammering out an insistence to the watching audience.

"N-Now hold on a second here! I didn't exactly find this easy to believe myself!" Nico exclaimed. "I wouldn't make these accusations if I wasn't completely sure about them, Your Honor."

"Eh?" Cardino asked. "But I thought your specialty was bluffing-"

Before the Pikachu could finish his statement, Nico hastily threw a wing over the detective's mouth. After an awkward chuckle, the Fletchinder ruffled his feathers, before turning his attention back to the judge behind the podium.

"The point is, Your Honor, I've seen concrete evidence pointing towards Admiral Coil being the culprit," Nico insisted. "Just look at this!"

The Fletchinder attorney fished out a yellow paper riddled with runes that smelled of smoke, the very same Team Traveller had returned with from Saéta's place the night before. Nico took the letter and began to pass it around, sending it first by Akin's desk. There, the Serperior browsed the paper, before flushing pale from shock and uneasily passing it onto the judge, who similarly had the color drain from his face.

"This- This is a letter soliciting a partnership with a wanted pirate! There must be some sort of deeper story here!" the Slowking exclaimed. "Perhaps it's a forgery? I've heard that the competition for the Prime Minister spot was fierce between Walpole and Coil. How can we know this wasn't planted to damage him?"

"Because, the Defense has two witnesses to back up its claim," Nico retorted.

A stunned silence filled the courtroom, uneasy murmurs floating about the audience. From his corner of the courtroom, Akin visibly grimaced at the mention of a witness. Since when did a chronic bluffer like that Fletchinder suddenly walk into court catching him off-guard at the start?

"I-It does?" Akin gulped.

"That's right," Nico retorted. "The Defense calls its witnesses to the stand!"

The Fletchinder pointed off at the door to the courtroom where the Glalie and Persian bailiffs led in a Steenee and Vigoroth. The Pokémon made their way forward, as the pair clambered behind the witness podium and shifted uneasily, the Vigoroth clearing his throat uneasily.

"Er… uh… hi?" the sloth stammered. "I just wanted to say that I've got nothing to do-"

The Normal-Type's gaze turned up towards the audience, where the Vigoroth grew acutely aware of a Manectric in a black scarf glaring down at him. Luca motioned with a paw across his neck, prompting the Pokémon to audibly gulp.

"… Other than come clean," the sloth said. "Yeah, I ran letters for this 'Coordinator' 'mon, and that one you've got in your paws is one of his."

The Vigoroth's claim at once set the audience back on edge, drawing loud protests and jeers. From his place at the head of the courtroom, the judge maintained a skeptical glance, seemingly torn between the evidence he saw and the outlandish nature of the claims.

"I… still don't know if I can swallow this claim, Defense," the judge said.

"Yeah, you probably just pulled some random thug off the streets to play along with some gambit of yours!" Akin snapped.

"Well then, I suppose that we ought to cross-examine the witness, shouldn't we?" Nico answered.

The Fletchinder turned his attention back to the Vigoroth and Steenee, listening intently as the two laid forward a claim of serving as a messenger on behalf of the Coordinator. As the pair's story carried on, Nico would pause and pepper the Vigoroth and his Steenee compatriot with questions, about where the letters were obtained, about times and places of meeting, of how long he'd been operating. All the while, a disturbingly coherent picture of the Coordinator started to emerge. Of a figure who had influence among the guards, and seemingly the power to affect anything he pleased in Giotto and in the waters of the Empire. A pallor settled across the audience and the judge, as the premise of Coil being this Coordinator shifted from seeming outrageously outlandish into something that felt disturbingly probable.

"… We need to bring the Admiral in here for an explanation," the Slowking said. "Detective Cardino!"

"Yes, your honor."

"Please go along with the bailiffs to summon Admiral Coil to court," the judge ordered. "Bring reinforcements along. Even if he's innocent as I still hope, the 'mon can be a bit confrontational at times."

"As you wish," Cardino replied. "Come on, kids, let's go."

At the Pikachu's prompting, Nida, Elty, and Guardia followed after the Detective, their companions in the audience quietly slipping out of the courtroom as well. The lot made their way through the doors, a thick tension surrounding them all the while as they set off for what was sure to be a fateful confrontation with Admiral Coil.

About half an hour later, the hallways of the Vecioferàle Arena echoed with the sounds of stomping footsteps on the move. Their owners were a small handful of guards in indigo scarves, having been pulled off of duty from the courthouse, following after a Pikachu sharing their garb, along with a Nidoran, a Cubone, and a Growlithe keeping pace. All the while, the three youngsters seemed to fidget with unease, their glances shifting back to the detective Pikachu every now and then as they wondered if they were overlooking anything in their attempt to bring Admiral Coil to court.

"So… how's this work anyways, Pikachu?" Guardia asked. "Isn't Coil supposed to be a very powerful Pokémon?"

"Well, it's a legal summons. So it shouldn't matter if he's strong or not, he has to come," the Pikachu answered.

"And if he doesn't?" Elty pressed.

An uneasy silence lingered in the air, before Cardino folded his ears back, evidently having found it to not be a very pleasant scenario. Even so, the the Pikachu opted to guard his thoughts close to his chest, shaking his head back at his assistants.

"… We'll cross that bridge if we have to, pal," he sighed.

The party made their way down a hallway lined with doorways with guards in cerulean armor posted at the front, carefully examining some signage hung up outside each entrance. Cardino came to a stop at one bearing 'Admiral of Her Majesty's Navy', prompting him to step through into a chamber with cushions and low tables set aside to entertain guests with curtains opened to a private box where Admiral Coil floated and bobbed above the floor enthralled by the sight of a Gengar, Spiritomb, and Chandelure locked with an opposing Rhyperior, Machamp, and Klinklang in pitched combat. The Pikachu began to pace forward, only to at once draw the ire of an agitated Aegislash and Torterra clad in segments of cloth armor who stepped forward with low growls.

"Oi! This is a restricted area!" the Torterra snapped. "State your purpose here, Pikachu!"

"I'm here for a court summons for Admiral Coil," the detective replied.

The pair's outburst drew the attention of a Malamar and Heracross in the back of the room, along with Admiral Coil from out in the box's stands. The Magnezone motioned for the guards beyond the entrance to the stands to pause, floating out into the reception room and peering down at the Pikachu before him.

"Is there an issue here, Officer?" Coil asked. "I was just in the middle of watching a match."

"You have a summons to testify in an ongoing case against an egg trafficker," Cardino answered.

Coil paused and bobbed unimpressedly, evidently having thought nothing of the answer. The Magnezone give a nonchalant spin of his magnets before he started to turn back for the ongoing match in the arena, waving off the detective's questioning.

"Hrmph. It's nothing that can't wait until the end of the day," Coil scoffed. "Tell them to throw the scum back into a cell to rot until then."

"This is fairly urgent," Cardino said. "You're being accused of having involvement with the trafficker's activities and the judge wanted to hear your alibi."

An arc of static suddenly danced on the Magnezone's steely body, prompting Nida, Elty, and Guardia to reflexively shrink back. The admiral turned around slowly, his eyes now sporting a piercing scowl, leveled firmly at the intruding detective.

"Is this supposed to be some sort of joke?" Coil hissed, drawing a similarly hostile reception from the posted guards.

"Yeah! Admiral Coil would never be up to stuff like that!" the Heracross exclaimed.

"Take a hike if you're going to waste his time!" the Aegislash spat.

"That's for the courts to decide, and I can assure you, I'm not wasting his time," Cardino retorted.

The Pikachu fished around in a satchel about his waist, pulling out a piece of rolled-up paper. The mouse unfurled it, revealing it to be a paper densely packed with runes, with the judge's signature featured prominently at the bottom next to a waxen seal.

"You would have something better to tell the judge than that you ignored a summons just to watch a few fights, wouldn't you?" the detective pressed.

Coil sized up the paper, shifting and bobbing out of visible aggravation as he realized its contents were for a subpoena. The Magnezone let some sparks dance on his body, giving a crackling huff back to the diminutive detective before him.

"Hrmph. If you really want to inconvenience the guards here by throwing together a security detail, then so be it," Coil harrumphed. "You can rest assured that you won't be hearing the last of it, Pikachu."

"Fine by me," Cardino replied. "My job's just to help dig up clues to the truth, not to be convenient to other people."

"Let's just get this over with," the admiral snapped.

The Magnezone floated off and left the box as six guards followed after him. Team Traveller poked their heads out the door as the admiral set off, watching as one after the other, guards from the other rooms left and followed along in ones and twos at the beckoning of Coil's new entourage. The three watched as the number of guards thinned in the hallway and Cardino set off, before Nida raised its voice after them.

"Hey, Cardino?" she asked. "We… kinda need to make a bit of a detour here before heading back."

The Pikachu looked back over his shoulder, shooting a visibly unimpressed frown back at his charges. They couldn't seriously need to attend another match in the ring now of all times, could they?

"What is it this time?" Cardino demanded. "We finally got Nico what he needed to try and blow the case open!"

"Uh… well… it's just that we left behind some stuff we took out of the team bag yesterday," Elty explained. "And we wanted to see if it turned up at the lost and found."

Cardino folded his ears back and pinched his brow with a paw. After a moment to shake his head, he reasoned that his assistants had been through a lot as part of their work… Perhaps it was time to be a little easy on them.

"Alright, I think that Nico should be able to handle everything if you're running late anyways since all the evidence is back at the courtroom," Cardino replied. "Good luck?"

"Yeah," Guardia answered. "Ganbatte."

The Detective Pikachu hastily scampered off after the rest of the body of guards accompanying Coil, their footsteps fading and being subsumed with the roar of the spectators in the background. Nida, Guardia, and Elty walked off in the other direction, looking around when they reached a quiet spot between rooms where Nida shook her head and gave a determined scowl.

"We've been keeping Crom and Kiran waiting long enough," the Nidoran muttered. "Come on, let's find them."

The three carried on, passing a stairwell leading up to the level above. There, waiting for them in the shaded corner behind it was none other than Crom and Kiran, the two keenly eying their surroundings as Nida, Elty, and Guardia neared.

"Any luck, you two?" Nida asked.

"We think we've found where they're keeping Pleo," Kiran chirped back.

"Yeah, and a bunch of the guards just left for some reason!" Crom exclaimed.

"That's from our end," Elty said. "And Ander and Dimitri are waiting for us at…?"

"The canal that brushes up against the back of the stadium," the Swellow finished, pointing a wing off at a small waterway bounding the plaza that carried on behind the complex's disused lighthouse. "If we want to make our move, the time is now while the extra guards haven't been able to be replaced."

Kiran's exhortation made the three shift uneasily, prompting them to gaze out at the plaza below. They could see a group of indigo-scarved Pokémon moving out around a saucer-shaped creature whose metal reflected light off its curvature. The three peered down towards Cardino, wondering if there could've been a way to free Pleo without exploiting his trust in such a fashion…

It was too late to turn back now. This was the only opportunity that they'd have to get Pleo back, possibly for good. All that was left to do was to bide their time… and then finally take the plunge.

"Let's give it a little bit until we know Cardino and the others are gone," Nida said. "We've only got one chance at this, so let's not rush into it."

"Right," Crom answered. "Let's keep an eye open."

The four walked up to the ledge of the stadium's level to get a better view, looking out into the plaza around the stadium. The group waited, watching as Admiral Coil and his entourage melted into the hubbub of the city, prompting Kiran and the four younger Pokémon to check for approaching guards and cast cautious glances down the hallway they'd need to navigate to reach Pleo. Their breaths came tense and guarded, the five steeling themselves for a mission that quite literally placed the weight of the world on their shoulders.

At the time Team Traveller waited for Coil's entourage to be far enough from the stadium, Valatos, Alvise, and Nori were trudging their way back to the docks where the Mistral Marauder waited. This time, the three didn't bother making an attempt to stick to the alleys of the city, the purpose of having to do so now left moot, and their states of mind far from being in a position to care about discreetness.

"Ugh, we finally made it back," Valatos sighed.

"What's the big deal of making a bunch of illusions to confuse us on the way out, huh?" Nori growled. "We would've gone away sooner if they'd just shown us the door!"

"Now do you see why I said that coming here was a bad idea?" Alvise huffed. "Let's just go up the ship and get things over with."

The three shambled up the caravel's gangplank, flopping down tiredly on the planks, where a visibly fuming Vileplume, Charmeleon, and Sealeo were waiting for them on deck.

"There you are!" the Vileplume exclaimed. "Just where do you think you've been?"

"Yeah, we thought that you fell into a canal or something!" the Charmeleon added.

The outburst quickly drew the attention of the rest of the Iron Fleet, who began to sidle over to the gangplank to see what was going on with their freshly-returned crewmates. Among them was the Aggron captain, his face clearly sporting a disappointed grimace at the three's return.

"Oh. You're back, along with your lizard friend…" Hess murmured. "That's… wonderful."

"Eh?!" a Voltorb exclaimed. "But you were saying that if they didn't show up by noon, that we were better off sailing off to- OW!"

The Electric-Type was promptly swatted by Hess' tail, sending the hapless Pokémon pinballing clear off the deck and into the harbor water. Some of the sea escorts swiftly went over to retrieve the downed Voltorb, leaving Hess behind to clear his throat and attempt to change the topic.

"So since you were gone all night, did you actually find anything while you were out?" the Aggron demanded. "Your teammates told me that you didn't find any leads for getting that bird after you lost us the tournament."

The three blanched, trading gulping looks at each other. It had been true that they hadn't found any leads to the Protector beyond 'winning the tournament'… But couldn't their supposed teammates at least attempt to make a cover story for them?

"Er…" Valatos buzzed. "You see, uh…"

"We had some trouble with some local criminals who bogged us down overnight," Alvise said. "They thought we were involved with some street punks they had a turf dispute with."

The ship rocked as a loud stomp hit the wood of the deck. The nearby sailors hastily braced themselves and looked over to their Aggron captain who opened his maw with a bellowing roar.

"What sort of lead is that?!" Hess shouted. The irate Aggron made Alvise and Valatos backpedal uneasily, their Marowak teammate, whether in a fit of pique or bravado, stood his ground, raising his club defensively as he glared back.

"Oi! We spent the night locked up in a cell!" Nori snapped back. "Give us a break!"

As quickly as Hess saw the Marowak's frustrated challenge, his nerves got the best of him, prompting him to shrink back. The newly-meek Aggron's eyes darted about uneasily, as he stumbled over his words trying to muster a response.

"I- I mean, when you put it that way…" Hess stammered, before muttering under his breath. "Gah… why couldn't he have stayed locked up?"

"Besides, it wasn't a total bust!" Nori insisted. "We found out that those Team Traveller twerps and their buddies are trying to work with those 'mons that jumped us to settle a score with some 'mutual enemy' that would be at the stadium!"

The revelation drew some puzzled murmurs among the gathered sailors. Even Hess seemed to be taken aback, his earlier unease ebbing away in favor of an incredulous scowl.

"Wait, what? Didn't you just lose to them yesterday?" the Aggron demanded. "Why would they want to risk getting in trouble when they're still in the running?"

"Beats me," Valatos grumbled. "But they came there saying that the 'mon they had a score to settle with was in a restricted area of the arena and they needed help pulling it off."

Hess blinked, before falling silent. A dawning realization crept up on him that regardless of whether or not there was a score to settle, there was only one Pokémon in the entire stadium that would motivate those hicks to go through all that trouble. The captain gritted his teeth and balled his claws up, his change in demeanor quickly being noticed by the Pokémon around him.

"… Captain?" Alvise murmured. "You suddenly went quiet."

"… We need to get into that stadium," Hess said.

"Huh? Why?" Valatos asked. "I don't see the-"

"Why did those 'mons enter the tournament in the first place?!" the Aggron roared. "To get that bird! They wouldn't be taking a risk like that unless it somehow helped them get him back!"

The pirate captain's declaration drew murmurs and startled outcries from the sailors gathered around him. Could those Trombans really be plotting to try to just cut the knot and outright steal the Protector away from the tournament?

"What are we supposed to do now, then?" a Sealeo despaired. "We can't just sit here and let them walk off with our target!"

"We're not," Hess scoffed. "I'm going in with a team, and we're gonna beat them to the punch and steal the Protector first!"

The Aggron's exclamation drew an outcry from the gathered Pokémon, with even Rodion seeming taken aback by his plan. Voices went up one after the other in protest, including that of an incredulous Ledian.

"I think he's finally lost it," Kichiro muttered. "Just how do you expect us to pull that off?!"

"I think you'd do well to think this one through a bit, Hess," Rodion insisted. " Even if our crew isn't known here, this isn't exactly friendly territory. That Clawitzer and her kholui are bound to be around. If they spot you, they'll surely try to take you down, so how do you propose getting around that?"

"We'll stick to the canals on the way over to the stadium," the Aggron replied. "It's harder to see things there in between the water and all the 'mons there. If that shrimp and her cronies had been swarming the stadium, we'd have been caught days ago by now."

Hess noticed that his crew still seemed less-than-convinced, prompting him to shake his head and lower his voice a bit. His armored head sometimes was slow to pick up on his crew's mood… but even here, it was plain as day why they weren't enthusiastic about their odds. Then… perhaps the best thing to be done would be to remind everybody what was at stake.

"... I know that these are long odds, but this is likely our only chance at pulling this off," he murmured. "So are we going to go for it? Or slink off and say that we had a chance to bring a Protector to Orleigh but turned tail at the last moment?"

The metal-hided lizard heard his underlings' wariness begin to melt away as one after the other, cautious affirmations began to swirl around their number. Satisfied that he'd shifted the mood enough, Hess batted his tail against the deck, turning his attention to the crew around. With a sense of determined purpose, the pirate captain began to speak, counting off with his claws as he cast glances off at the canals in the distance.

"Alright, I'm gonna need ten swimmers, ten fliers, and fifteen 'mons who aren't afraid of getting a little wet!" Hess barked. "If we pull this off, you'll get double shares of our next batch of loot!"

The mention of double shares of loot served to be enough to sway most of the numbers Hess needed, Kichiro and a few more stubborn holdouts being accounted for after being promised first dibs over any spirits swiped from Tidemill on the way out. The volunteers began to make their way to the bow of the ship, Hess stopping by a chest at the bridge to rifle through some supplies when he saw the sight of Rodion approaching.

"Not this time, Rodion," Hess said, raising a claw in a stopping gesture. "You stay with the ship."

The Floatzel first mate raised a brow in reply. He had a fairly good hunch as to what would account for Hess' newfound reluctance to take him along, and began to raise his voice in protest.

"Hess ,if this is about what happened back with that Clawitzer, that was simply a run of bad lu-"

"That's not the point. If this goes south, there's no negotiating our way out of this one, which means playing whatever we can as safe as possible." Hess explained. "And to do that, I need you to get the Mistral Marauder ready in case we need to get out of here in a hurry."

Rodion blinked uneasily and looked around the Mistral Marauder. During the past few days in port, the crew had really let things go. The deck looked more like a saloon than a sail-ready ship, the ropes around the moorings were still tightly tied up, and the sails were still folded up. As loath as he was to admit it, the ship wasn't prepared for a speedy exit, and it was hard to imagine the remaining crew being able to remedy the matter without someone directing them.

"… That's fair enough," the Floatzel replied. "Just make sure you're not taking stupid risks on your side of things."

"I'm not planning on it," Hess insisted, before turning back to his amassed underlings.

"Alright, let's do this!" the Aggron shouted. "Stick to small groups and watch out for your teammates! You're the first and only lifeline they've got for getting back if they go down!"

Hess ran and dove off the side of his ship, hitting the water and coming back up to the surface with a series of powerful strokes in the water. One by one, other Pokémon began to set off after him in the canals, in the air, or on the surrounding pathways, rushing off for the Vecioferàle Arena for what was perhaps the Iron Fleet's boldest mission yet.

Back at the Vecioferàle Arena, Kiran and his pupils crept up along a corner on the fourth tier of the arena, drawing shallow breaths as they heard murmuring from around the bend. One by one, the five poked their heads around, seeing a doorway separated by a thick curtain of indigo cloth with a Hitmonlee and a Lunatone in cerulean armor waiting in front. The Swellow stared ahead a moment, carefully sizing up the Pokémon at the entrance. Every move, every moment would determine the fate of their scheme to secure Pleo's freedom, with failure potentially resulting in the harshest of fates for the lot who were captured. With those thoughts in mind, Kiran ruffled his feathers uneasily, turning back to the younger Pokémon with him.

"Well, this is it. Are you sure that you don't want to trust this to other Pokémon?" the Flying-Type asked. "Once we make our first move, there's no turning back."

"There was no turning back from the night we snuck aboard Lyn's ship," Nida answered.

"Or when I left home to gather lore about your Protector," Guardia added.

"We're ready, Kiran," Elty grunted. "You've got a whole town counting on us back home, and I'm not about to turn tail this time."

The Growlithe rooted through the tattered bag on his Nidoran teammate's shoulder, pulling out a glassy orb that swirled with peach mist under its surface. One by one, the five passed the Slumber Orb around to each other, brushing limbs against it until it wound up being passed to Crom. The young Druddigon took the orb, tightening his claws firmly around it, before looking back down at the guarded entrance.

"Here goes nothing…"

Crom beat his wings for stability, pulling his arm back for a throw. In the process, the sound of the Dragon-Type's movements drew the guards' attention, setting the pair on edge at once as their attention instantly shot towards the corner where Team Traveller rested.

"Hey!" the Hitmonlee cried. "Who goes there-!"

Before the Fighting-Type could finish, he saw the form of a dragon zip out, flinging a spherical blur at the ground ahead. The guards hastily weaved out of the way, only for the sound of shattering glass to sound out, followed by a sudden explosion of peach smoke that filled the hallway.

"Agh! We've got intruders!" the Hitmonlee yelped.

"Nrgh… call for help…" the Lunatone said tiredly. "Right after this nap."

The Rock-Type slumped over onto the ground, her Hitmonlee counterpart following suit after a vain attempt to retreat into the stadium box. A faint breeze blew in from the windows, blowing the orb's dissipating mist away, revealing that both guards were soundly dozing. Team Traveller crept forward uneasily, Crom stopping to poke at the Hitmonlee with a claw cautiously, only to notice as they neared the entrance that the sleeping breaths of the Hitmonlee and the Lunatone were intermixed with the sound of loud snoring from beyond the indigo curtain, sign enough that for now at least, they'd face less resistance.

"Huh, I wouldn't have thought that one of Lyn's dirty tricks would wind up working for us for a change…" Crom murmured.

"Hey! What's going on out there?!" a whinnying voice cried.

At the sound of the cry from inside, the five stiffened up. At once, Kiran made his way over to the curtain, motioning for his pupils to follow.

"Come on," Kiran cried. "Let's move in!"

The Swellow batted out a wing and threw the curtain in the doorway in front of them aside. With the indigo curtain out of the way, the five saw a chamber laid out with low tables and cushions with the arena pit visible up ahead, running forward as they looked wildly about their surroundings for their Protector. The group passed the slumbering forms of an armored Vanilluxe and a blue Florges passed out on the floor, along with a loudly snoring Gumshoos in Imperial plates when the sound of running footsteps reached their ears. The five braced themselves, watching a Ponyta, Cranidos, and Sandslash in Imperial indigoes pop in from the stands, and much to their astonishment, along with none other than Pleo. The young Lugia for his part seemed every bit as dumbfounded to see his companions, jumping back in surprise.

"H-Huh?!" Pleo squawked. "Nida?! Crom?!"

"You again?!" Berecien hissed. "What do you think you're all doing here?!"

"I heard that there was a little bit of confusion and that one of my pupils was stuck here," Kiran answered. "My students and I are here to take him back."

"Well you've got another thing coming, bird!" Niilo growled. The Sandslash lunged forward, raking his claws which slashed Kiran with a pained squawk. Out of reflex, the Swellow flew up, retaliating with a slicing gust at the Sandslash below and sending him tumbling back, clearing a path towards Pleo.

"Now! Make your moves!" Kiran cried.

Nida, Crom, Elty, and Guardia rushed forward as Kiran continued to harry Niilo, Cabot and Berecien hastily darting ahead to intercept. The Ponyta charged ahead, aiming to strike the Nidoran in the group with a flaming tackle, only for a yip to reach his ears.

"Not so fast, Imp!"

Berecien felt a pain shoot through his haunches, prompting him to rear up with a pained whinny as he looked back to see Elty latched onto his hindquarters. His Cranidos partner looked around in startled confusion, before making a beeline for Crom. Cabot lowered his head for a headbutt, only to jump back as a bone narrowly missed him from the front. He quickly whirled to see Guardia retrieving her bone from an arcing throw, prompting him to hastily change course and plow into her, knocking her off her feet and sending her tumbling back onto the ground to a growling stop.

"Ngah… Nidoran! Crimgan! Hurry it up!"

The path now cleared of any other defenders, Nida and Crom ran up to Pleo, the pair hastily latching onto his wings and tugging him along. All the while, the young Protector followed along uneasily, spluttering out of confusion at the sudden tumult.

"Wh-What are you doing here?" the Lugia squawked.

"Getting you out of here!" Crom cried. "Come on!"

The three ran along, just in time to come across Guardia regaining her bearings and swing her club out. Her bone carried on, its heavy knob slamming into Cabot's throat as the Cranidos wheezed out of pain.

The Cranidos tottered back, coming to a stop against a pillar. The dinosaur slouched over, throwing his claws out against the ground as he struggled in a daze to find his footing. A sharp yelp rang out, revealing Elty sailing back through the air, a pair of fresh hoofprints stamped on the pelt of his flank.


The Growlithe hastily righted himself, instinctively breathing back a gout of embers at his tormentor. The Ember swept up the Ponyta, though much to Elty's dismay, it simply got absorbed into the horse’s hide—the telltale sign of Flash Fire.

"Is that really the best you can do, you mangy mutt-?"

The sound of a startled cry prompted Elty to turn back and suddenly dive away. Berecien looked up, wondering what had so spooked the tubby pirate, only to go wide-eyed as he saw Niilo's spiked back sail for him. The Sandslash struck him, sending the pair tumbling back into a wall with a pair of pained yelps. From his vantage point up ahead, Kiran looked around the room, seeing that their foes had been stunned and the exit was clear. They had been blessed by fortune so far in battle, and now was the time to make the most of the luck they'd had.

"We need to get going!" the Flying-Type exclaimed. "Now!"

The Swellow flew off, prompting his teammates to run after him. From his place at the back of the group, Pleo began to follow suit, only for a startled cry to reach his ears from behind.

"Pleo, w-wait! Where are you going?!"

The young Protector looked back and saw Cabot getting up, his eyes wide and his face visibly filled with confusion and despair. Pleo hesitated a moment, his mind drifting towards the snatches of happiness the Cranidos had helped to give him since Nagant captured him. Was… was he doing the right thing?

The Lugia's mind turned back to his teammates, to the Pokémon back home in Tromba, how sad Nida told him everyone in Tromba had been after Lyn took him away. No, there would be time to be a Protector for Cabot and Pokémon like him… but not like this, and not right now.

"I'm sorry, Cabot," Pleo said. "But these are my friends! They need me more right now than your Empire does."

"H-Huh?! B-But-!"

"Please don't be sad," he insisted. "We'll meet again, I'm sure of it."

With that, Pleo turned and ran. The young Lugia beat his wings, his flight feathers still not healed enough to let him get off ground, but enough to help drive him forward. The seabird darted forward, the sound of Cabot's voice crying out from behind following him.

"Hey! Stop!"

Team Traveller looked back and saw Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo running after them readying themselves for battle. The sight prompted Nida to fish through the team's satchel and take out a scaled, orange seed, before hurling it up at the capstone of the arched entrance. A deafening blast and flash of heat rang out, followed by the sound of crumbling stone, and the sight of Berecien, Cabot, and Niilo skidding to a stop as a pile of masonry fell down before them. Team Traveller ran forward, sidestepping around the still-dozing Hitmonlee and Lunatone as they looked back panting amidst the smoky haze to see that the entranceway had been blocked by a small mound of upended and scorched stone blocks, with the sounds of shouts coming from the other end. Satisfied with the blockade, Kiran shook his head, turning and motioning down the hallway.

"Come on, this way! The other guards had to have heard all of that!"

Pleo watched as his friends took off running, the young Protector running after them down the hallways under the light of the midday sun. Amidst all his worries, he'd finally been able to return to his friends… but for how long, and what dangers awaited them during their desperate flight out of this faraway city?

Author's Notes:

- Novomarca - Venetian: "New Market"
- Destacàr - Venetian: "Stop" (interjection)
- Smotri (Смотри) - Russian: "Look" (second-person imperative) (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
- Pardón - Venetian: "Sorry" (formal)
- Bònjorno - Venetian: "Hello"
- Ganbatte (頑張って) - Japanese: "Good luck". lit. "do your best/give it your best" (Hepburn Romanization)
- kholui (холуи) - Russian: "lackeys", "grovellers" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
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Memento mori
  1. leafeon
**Fledglings Chapter 2 and 3 review**

Line comments for chapter 2 here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S6buLcOnqEmg-5W2FaCsNYdnk7otpKwm0IAuzS2zg6A/edit?usp=sharing

I wonder if the townsfolk are going to continue to treat Lugia with reverence now that they've all realized he's just a fledgeling. Hope they weren't banking on those pirate raids getting stopped anytime soon. Also kind of feel bad for Nida if she has to take care of him, because she already has enough kids to babysit. But I guess Crom could help. I feel like he'd be good with kids, but maybe a bit of a pushover.

As an aside, I am now comedically imagining Crom and Nida with swapped responsibilities, so a flustered Crom is trying to corral all these little baby nidoran/nidorina that are climbing all over him while Nida struggles to see over kitchen counters that are too tall for her and hold measuring cups without proper hands.

Speaking of comedy, the chapter maintains an amusingly silly tone, juxtaposing Lugia's childish behavior against his impressive power. I haven't yet guessed why he can't replicate the big gust he did that one time, though. Maybe the technique requires a lot of precision to be potent, and he just got lucky one time.

Next chapter.

"Mmm! These pebbles taste much better than normal pebbles!" he declared.

Lugia plz

Mayor/guildmaster Hatteras is a funny guy. An ampharos of many hats. Hats... Hatteras... Hm...

So at minimum it seems like the Marked are superstitiously afraid of the presence of gods. We still haven't really got their side of the story yet, so maybe their superstition has some basis other than leftover bitterness from losing the war way back. Ander seems genuinely afraid more than bitter or hateful. But, in juxtaposing his hysterical accusations against Pleo's innocent fright, I'm made more inclined to sympathize with the latter.

"I… I mean, I suppose it's at least worth a try."

Oh no, it is as I feared. Nida must do more babysitting.

I felt that the scene in which the neighbors gathered around Nida and Pleo needed more of a sense of blocking, like where are the neighbors coming from, or at least, where do they show up when Nida notices them, and how close are they. I think you could still be a little vague if you lampshade it deliberately and describe the neighbors as seeming to materialize from wherever Nida isn't looking and/or have her say "where did you guys even *come* from?!" or something to that effect.

Anyway, the story is maintaining a firmly comedic tone even though conflict is being set up with the Marked.

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie

Thanks again for the thorough feedback. We can’t guarantee that we’ll implement all of your suggestions, but it’s definitely handy for identifying things for us to keep an eye out for in the future.

That said, for future reviews, we would appreciate it if you highlighted suggestions for us in quoteblocks directly in your post. It helps us see your suggestions and how they fit into the relevant chapter texts a bit faster.

I wonder if the townsfolk are going to continue to treat Lugia with reverence now that they've all realized he's just a fledgeling. Hope they weren't banking on those pirate raids getting stopped anytime soon..

I mean, it’s not as if they’re suddenly going to rudely brush him off since they still very much care about him, but yeah. The difference between expectations and reality for them did get them to temper their attitudes a bit since Legendary Pokémon are definitely a bit more approachable when they’re fun-sized.

As an aside, I am now comedically imagining Crom and Nida with swapped responsibilities, so a flustered Crom is trying to corral all these little baby nidoran/nidorina that are climbing all over him while Nida struggles to see over kitchen counters that are too tall for her and hold measuring cups without proper hands.

I’m not sure how much Crom and Nida would’ve enjoyed that, but it’s a funny mental image. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll write a short omake about them doing something along those lines. [loltias]

Speaking of comedy, the chapter maintains an amusingly silly tone, juxtaposing Lugia's childish behavior against his impressive power. I haven't yet guessed why he can't replicate the big gust he did that one time, though. Maybe the technique requires a lot of precision to be potent, and he just got lucky one time.

Well, he did get a bit lucky there. The more recent chapters of this story offsite are starting to lay out more explicitly what some of the drivers behind Pleo’s powers are, but if you’ve got a keen eye, you should be able to pick up some hints as to what might be going on much earlier.

Lugia plz

Pleo: “Are you... not supposed to eat them?” ^v^;
Nida: “Er… no.” >_>;

Mayor/guildmaster Hatteras is a funny guy. An ampharos of many hats. Hats... Hatteras... Hm…

Unintentional, but hey, it works pretty solidly for him. :V

So at minimum it seems like the Marked are superstitiously afraid of the presence of gods. We still haven't really got their side of the story yet, so maybe their superstition has some basis other than leftover bitterness from losing the war way back. Ander seems genuinely afraid more than bitter or hateful. But, in juxtaposing his hysterical accusations against Pleo's innocent fright, I'm made more inclined to sympathize with the latter.

Hold onto those thoughts, really.

Oh no, it is as I feared. Nida must do more babysitting.

Such as life in a family with a ton of siblings. o<o
Anyway, the story is maintaining a firmly comedic tone even though conflict is being set up with the Marked.

Well, I won’t go as far as to say that there won’t be any conflict between Pleo and the Marked, but they’re not the main driver of that in this story. You’ll get to see the main players a little further down the road.

Though thanks for the review! You seemed to have had a good time with things in Chapters 2 and 3, and we’ll be looking forward to hearing back from you in the future. ^^

Though on that news, we’ve got a new update! Today’s chapter was originally published as one big chapter on May 2nd 2018. Since it’s kinda… uh… long in its original format, we’ve decided to publish it in two parts for Thousand Roads. The first part will be uploaded now and the second one will be published next week.

Though that’s enough waiting, let’s jump straight into the story:
Chapter 61a: Tooth and Claw, Part 1


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

The air around the Vecioférale Arena rang heavy with shouts and cheers as the Silver Wing Cup dragged on. Unbeknownst to the mesmerized masses, at that moment the circular hallway rang out with the sounds of running footsteps and hurried pants. Their owners, Team Traveller along with the Guardian of the Seas, tore along the smooth, stony floor, their ears trained for any sign of trouble that might rise up over the din of the spectators.

"Hanh… hanh… wh-where are we going?!" Pleo cried.

"To the canals!" Kiran squawked back. "Ander and Dimitri are waiting for you there!"

Pleo's eyes widened at the mention of Ander being there waiting for the team. The last time they'd met, he'd attacked him! What on earth would motivate such a change of heart? Puzzled thoughts swirled in Pleo's mind as the floor tiles zipped by underfoot, only for his attention to snap back at the sound of a shout and sight of a Skuntank guard rounding the corner from one of the private boxes just ahead.

"Hey!" the skunk bellowed. "What do you think you're doing here-?!"

Without thinking, Kiran banked hard towards the Skuntank, whipping up a whirling gale between his wings that swept up the Poison-Type and sent him flying back into the box. The group heard him scream followed by a loud crash and the sound of startled yelps from inside, drawing grimaces from the younger teammates. It would be a matter of moments before the other guards inside put two and two together, prompting the lot to look around frantically for an escape route when Nida's eyes caught the sight of a stairwell nestled in an alcove ahead.

"Quick! Over there!" the Nidoran cried.

The party rushed down the stairs, making their way down towards the ground as shouts and running footsteps came down the hallway. As the lot passed the second flight down, Pleo craned his head out, noticing waterways outside that carried on in neat lines… with a giant square packed with Pokémon wedged between the canals and the stadium.

"How are we supposed to get out of here with all those Pokémon?!" he cried. "I haven't been able to fly since we got captured!"

"There's a loading dock at the bottom that leads out to the canals," Elty answered back. "If we get down there, we'll be able to dodge most of the crowds!"

The Growlithe bounded ahead, leading Team Traveller down to the ground level where the light came through slit-like windows near the ceiling. In the dimmed light, the lot looked around uneasily, only for Crom's yellow eyes to spot a service entrance with a door left ajar that smelled of seawater.

"Ah!" Crom cried. "That's the way!"

The six ducked through the side entrance, running down a stone hallway with light at the end. The lot ran along, popping out into an enclosed dock riddled with crates and barrels strewn about, only for the sound of voices ahead to prick their ears. Instinctively, the team dug in their feet and came to a skidding stop in front of a stack of crates. There, a surprised Emolga and Pelipper looked up from a game of cards and down at the unexpected trespassers.

"Hey wait a minute?!" the Emolga yelped. "Isn't that the Pro-?!"

Before the squirrel could finish, she was cut off by Crom fishing out a scaled seed from the team's bag and hurling it at the crates. The seed exploded with a searing flash, sending the two guards and their cards flying into the water as fire and smoke kicked up from the remains of the blast. Kiran and his charges pressed ahead as the plume of smoke thickened, running off ahead to the edge of the dock where a brown crab jetted up in the water, slapping its surface impatiently.

"Took you long enough!" Dimitri chittered. "I was starting to get worried that you'd gotten caught in there!"

"We're fine, just had a little bit of an unexpected run-in," Elty replied. The Growlithe trailed off, as he and his teammates noticed Pleo staring with a blank, dumbfounded look at Ander flitting over towards the docks. The Lugia shifted uncomfortably, tripping over his words with his tongue before he finally managed to splutter out a question.

"A-Ander?! What are you doing here?!"

"Here to help you get away, that's what!" the Scyther snapped.

"But you said that I brought misfortune to the Pokémon I was around!" Pleo exclaimed. "Why do you want me back?!"

Ander flitted back uneasily, growing aware that he was increasingly the spotlight of attention among the gathered Pokémon. The Bug-Type tapped his scythes together, half-wondering himself how he'd let himself get into this situation.

"I- I mean, I still don't think that you're safe to have around," he stammered. "But-"

"Hey, stop!"

Ander ducked as a crackling arc of electricity zipped overhead, the mantis and his seabird questioner turning to see that the Emolga and Pelipper had pulled themselves out of the water. Further behind, more forms in indigo scarves could be seen running up the docks, prompting the Scyther to frantically nudge at the young Lugia with the flat of his blade.

"Gah! We need to go now!" Ander buzzed. "I'll answer you some other time!"

Without prompting, Pleo and his teammates hastily clambered onto Dimitri's back as the Kabutops swam off, Kiran and Ander following behind flinging back a gust of air and a white shockwave at their attackers as beams and missiles strafed the water around them. Dimitri spotted a narrow channel wedged between a pair of block-like buildings to his left and darted down it, his passengers' hearts racing as they slipped off into the shadows.

Back on the fourth level of the stadium, the stony floor echoed with the sound of a chitinous carapace landing on the ground over and over again. Its creator was a wizened Clawitzer, who made her way along the hallway with her eyes narrowed and her mouthparts clicking unamusedly at having to be out of her more watery preferred environment.

"Bah," Nagant spat. "I don't see why I have to make these checkups in perso-"

As soon as Nagant rounded the corner for the Protector's box, she came to a slack-mouthed stop. There in front of her was a pile of rubble where the entrance was supposed to be, with a Hitmonlee and Lunatone in Imperial scarves sprawled out asleep in front of it.

"What the-?!"

"Nrgh… five more minutes, mom…" the Lunatone moaned. Nagant stared open-mouthed at the sleeping Rock-Type, as her dazed mutterings were joined in by the snores of a nearby Hitmonlee.

"Hmm… so many Mareep…"

The Clawitzer scowled and lowered her firing claw, before promptly disgorging a torrent of water into the dozing pair's faces. The Hitmonlee and Lunatone jolted up with a gasping splutter, jumping to attention.

"Eyaah! I'm up! I'm up!" the Hitmonlee squealed.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Nagant hissed. "Why is there a gigantic pile of junk blocking the entrance to the Protector's box?!"

The two guards stammered uneasily, only for the sound of shifting rubble rang out. Nagant hopped back as she felt stones brush up against her from her right, looking back as a hole opened up in the rubble and Niilo poked through, Berecien and Cabot visibly peering after him from inside.

"Bah, about time!" the Sandslash spat. "Here I was thinking that we'd be stuck in there all-"

Niilo bit his tongue at the sound of an angry hiss, looking up and flushing pale at the sight of none other than Nagant glaring daggers at him.

"Er… is it too late to pile up the rubble again?" Niilo gulped.

The Clawitzer captain dragged Niilo out of the hole, prompting Berecien and Cabot to dart out into the hallway, followed by a Gumshoos, Vanilluxe, and blue Florges with visible grimaces. The shrimp peered through the hole, noticing signs of a struggle and silvery feathers scattered around, before turning back and shooting a harsh glare at the three guards who were supposed to guard the Protector's inner chamber.

"You there!" she hissed, as she grabbed the Gumshoos' scarf. "How did you let this happen and where is the Protector now?!"

"I-I don't know! They threw a Slumber Orb before breaking in!" the Normal-Type stammered. "I only woke up after this rubble fell on my tail!"

"Who is they?!" Nagant roared, only to be answered by a snorting response.

"Those dzieciaki we picked up on Sormus."

The sound of Berecien's answer prompted Nagant to let the Gumshoos go and direct her attention back to the Ponyta in front of her. The Fire-Type audibly inhaled, bracing himself to break the news about what was surely the last thing his superior wanted to hear right now.

"They came back with friends while the guards were thinning out to a disturbance elsewhere in the stadium," Berecien explained.

"They must have known it was going to happen," Cabot added. "Since they attacked us and stole the Protector in that exact timeframe."


The group flinched as Nagant sent a glowing blue orb into a nearby wall, throwing stone chunks and a cloud of dust up as a sphere-shaped indentation was left behind. The shrimp raised her small claw over her face, before flicking it away in disgust.

"Ugh! This is just fantastic!" she seethed. "How are we supposed to find the Protector again now that he's missing in the middle of the largest city in the Empire?!"

"Hoy! Don't just stand there!" a deep voice from further down the hallway cried. "Come and help the rest of us!"

The Clawitzer whirled around, claw raised as she came face-to-face with a startled looking party in indigo consisting of a Mamoswine, a Vivillon, and a Wartortle. The three stammered and backpedaled a moment at the sight of the unexpectedly high-ranked Pokémon, only for the crustacean to chitter irritatedly.

"What do you want?" Nagant demanded.

"Uh… apologies, ma'am," the Mamoswine gulped. "B-But it's really urgent!"

"Yeah, a band of kidnappers ran off with the Protector!" the Vivillon added. "We spotted them heading towards the harbor!"

The three blanched as they heard a seething hiss emanate from the Clawitzer captain, who clicked her mandibles and leveled her large claw at the group.

"How do you manage to lose them like this?!" the shrimp snapped.

"Er… well, they struck after a bunch of us had been pulled aside to provide security for Admiral Coil after he got a court summons," the Wartortle explained. "Uh… we were still redistributing our remaining ranks until reinforcements-"

"Spare me the history lecture and get moving after that Protector!" Nagant bellowed.

"Yes ma'am!"

The guards began to make their way back out, followed closely by the guards tasked with guarding Pleo's chamber. The Vivillon followed from behind, flitting down the hallway only to hear the sound of chitin thudding against stone behind her and feel her wing get tugged at by a claw.

"You," Nagant ordered. "You're stopping by the naval yard to serve a notice to the sea escorts of the Vasilek to start heading into the canals."

"Huh?!" the Vivillon cried. "But that's all the way-!"

"To the south, I know," the shrimp finished. "If they're notified in time, there's still a chance they can help cut off the Protector in the canals."

"Right!" the Bug-Type answered. "On it!"

The butterfly flew off, leaving Nagant to cast her gaze out the window down towards a canal that passed by the base of the stadium. The Clawitzer neared the window, before turning back towards Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo as they uneasily pawed at the ground.

"Patch yourselves up," she barked. "If you're in any condition to run afterwards, I want you on that bird's tail as well!"

"Aye, Captain!"

Nagant hopped ahead, leaping from the window ledge and vaulting head over tail into a dive into the water below. The Clawitzer felt the water rush past her gills, a fiery determination filling her and prompting her to tear through the water for the harbor.

She'd gone through enough grief just tracking down the Protector for the Empire, and if a bunch of peasants from across Anyilla thought they could just steal it away from her, she'd need to remind them of how wrong they were. If they were going to steal away the hope of a generation for the Empire, they'd have to first pry it from her cold, dead claws.

As Nagant stormed off through the canals, a loud roar went up from within the stands of the Vecioférale Arena. The audience watched in rapt attention as a Gallade barreled ahead of his Goodra and Blastoise teammates in a arena pit that had been freshly-lined with trees for an Incineroar, the Psychic-Type tackling the cat and launching him high into the air. The Incineroar righted himself in midair and came to a springing landing on a branch, as a Metagross and Braviary charged forward weaving around trunks with a glowing-eyed headbutt followed by cutting gusts of wind that sliced across the field much to the audience's delight…

… or most of it, anyways. A few faces here or there seemed to be unmoved by the performance, among them was none other than that of a Weavile in the contestants' stand, looking up disinterestedly from a small collection of letters in his claws.

"Pah, this is the quarter finals?" he scoffed. "With a sorry pair of teams like that, no wonder we became a hit with the spectators here!"

Ketu spread the letters in his claws and waved himself with it to ward off the midday heat. From further behind, an orange Lycanroc with a white scarf and a blue sun pattern raised a brow and looked up with a curious glance.

"You sure it wasn't our team's personality that made us popular?" the Rock-Type asked. "We got a lot less mail today. Maybe they felt you went a bit too far yesterday?"

The Weavile stopped fanning himself a moment, thinking back to how the fanmail had seemed to slow down a bit since his last match. After a moment's pause, he shrugged the matter off, before returning to cooling himself.

"Meh, it's my job to complete the mission, which in this case means winning," Ketu said. "If an egg or two gets broken along the way, then so be it."


The Weavile stilled his claws and turned back, just in time to see a Crawdaunt scuttle in in a visible hurry. Ketu frowned, before rolling his eyes as the breathless lobster darted up.

"Oh? What now?" the Dark-Type asked. "Some mail carrier sent another batch of letters?"

"The guards are all in a commotion right now!" the Crawdaunt cried. "They say that someone's stolen the Protector!"

Ketu jolted up with a start at his teammate's words, letting the letters in his claw fall to the ground.

"What?!" the Weavile exclaimed. "How?!"

"The guards apparently thinned out around fifteen minutes ago after some noble got into hot water and needed to be escorted out!" the Crawdaunt explained. "A team of a Swellow and some kids caught them off guard with an Orb and ran off with the Protector towards the coast!"

Ketu flattened his ears and grit his teeth. Those attackers the Crawdaunt described were none other than those accursed brats from the day before!

"Grr, I should've taken care of those lousy hicks yesterday instead of letting them slink off to lick their wounds!" he hissed, before turning to the form of a Crobat dozing from an awning over the stands. "Kane!"

The Crobat jolted awake at Ketu's shout, prompting the Poison-Type to flit down with a start, blinking his tired eyes awake.

"Ngah?! What is it?!" the bat yelped.

"Go back to the ship and tell Lyn that those Tromban hicks grabbed the Protector and are heading for the harbor!" the Weavile barked. "We're gonna have to take him back from them!"

"R-Right! On it!" the Crobat replied.

Kane took off, a newfound vigor coming over his wingbeats as he slipped out into the sky. Back on the ground, Ketu's Lycanroc and Crawdaunt teammates shifted uncomfortably, the wolf of the two going up to the Weavile with an uneasy grimace.

"So what do we do now?" the Lycanroc asked.

"We make our way back to the ship," Ketu harrumphed. "We've already done our part, and Lyn's going to draw a lot of heat going after the Protector, and I'm not getting left behind when he needs to get out of port."

The Weavile hurried out of the stands, the Lycanroc and Crawdaunt faltering a moment before following suit. They had done their part in this mission, their role now was simply to get out of the way and hope their crew could recover the Protector by letting Lyn do what he did best: fighting and mowing down anyone who got in his way.


In the main canal leading away from the Vecioférale Arena, the water and its surroundings hummed with their usual busy traffic of rafts and swimming Pokémon. In the midst of it, the form of a Kabutops tore through the water, weaving around Pokémon and various watercraft with yelps and angry admonitions from passerbys. On his back were the forms of a white, long-necked bird along with a blue Nidoran, a Growlithe, a young Druddigon, and a Cubone. The Nidoran among the group craned her head back to the forms of a shadowing Swellow and Scyther before turning back to her aquatic guide with a cry.

"Dimitri, how much further is it?!"

"Just a couple of minutes!" the Kabutops shouted back. "Just hold on tight until we get there, those guards can't lag behind us forever!"

"H-Huh?!" Pleo squawked. "What's a couple of minutes away?"

"The harbor, pollito!" Kiran answered. "We have a ship there to take you out of here!"

The Swellow's answer made Pleo blink blankly back. Was he mishearing things? Or did Kiran really just say...

"You have a ship?!" he cried.

"It's the one my dad sails with! Remember how I told you about him-" Crom began, only for a sharp yelp from Ander to cut him off.

"Agh! Look out!"

The Scyther's cry rang out, prompting Dimitri and his passengers to look up as a churning wave came down the canal, upending a slew of rafts and sweeping up hapless swimmers. The Kabutops' attention diverted to a small alcove in the canal, where he beelined and dug into the stone as the water surged past him. Dimitri evened out, his passengers drenched and coughing as the sound of frightened yelps rang out, the Pokémon in the canals clearing out in front of a set of Pokémon in white scarves swimming up in the water.

"Bah! I missed!"

Team Traveller's blood went cold at the sound of a familiar, rumbling voice from further up the canal. The lot looked ahead where much to their astonishment, there in the water was the half-submerged form of an Aggron in a white scarf with the same design as Ander's snarling at them.


"You again?!" Guardia demanded. "We left you back in your horrid pirate town!"

"I'm here to grab that bird there," the pirate captain spat. "So step aside before I run you o-"

Hess caught himself, his gaze falling upon the form of a Growlithe among the Kabutops' passengers. The Aggron blinked, realizing that it was none other than his ship-burner who'd gone missing after Nagant's attack on Orleigh, and trained a scrutinizing eye on the fire dog.

"Eh?! Eltenios?!" he cried. "What are you doing here? I thought you got lost at sea earlier!"

Elty's body went rigid at the sound of his old captain addressing him, glancing anxiously at his fellow passengers. He had been torn away from the rest of the crew without any say last time… so why was he torn about leaving Team Traveller right now?

"Uh, well… I-"

"Oi! Save the story for later!" Hess barked. "You did good with that cover of yours, just keep those hicks busy and-!"

"We were just leaving," Dimitri said. "See ya!"

The Kabutops cut off the pirate captain by spitting up a jet of scalding water at the Aggron's face, prompting the Steel-Type to screw his eyes shut before getting knocked back by the attack. Hess lolled onto his back from the Scald, leaving Dimitri to turn away and zip off in the water. Back in the canal, Hess righted himself, coughing and brushing away some hot water out of his eyes, before giving out a seething roar and slapping his tail against the water's surface for attention.

"Don't let them get away!" the Aggron bellowed.

Dimitri charged ahead as beams and jets of water zipped overhead, the Kabutops wildly zigzagging left and right to evade the Iron Fleet's attacks. The Kabutops looked up and veered right at the sight of a pile of rocks flying for him, sending him veering down a side canal where a mixed gust of silvery and pinkish dust sliced into the water before him.


Dimitri abruptly stopped, prompting him and his passengers to look up to see a white-scarved Ledian and Hoppip smirking down at them from the air, the beetle tugging his partner into place against a stiff wind. From behind, the water churned as Hess stormed along in the water, followed closely behind by a body of baying underlings.

"Grr! You shouldn't have tried me, you lousy crab!" Hess seethed. "Eat rocks!"

The Aggron thrashed his body in the water, calling up a hail of rocks from the bottom of the canal that zipped into the air. Dimitri yelped and hastily darted ahead weaving around the rocks with a watery jet only for a large stone to clip his side and drench his passengers. The Kabutops winced and slowed down as the Ledian and Hoppip moved in, ready to pounce on the injured crab…

"Dimitri! Keep going!" Kiran squawked. "We can't let the guards catch up with us because of these pirates!"

The Hoppip abruptly was slammed into the wall by a cutting gust from Kiran, drawing a pained shriek before he fell into the water. From the other end of the alley, the Ledian buzzed with a start, flying up in a panic as a Scyther bounded off the walls and narrowly missed his head with a swung scythe, opening a path up for Dimitri to carry on as his passengers threw back attacks to try and cover their trail. The Kabutops' eyes lit up as the sight of an exit to a much wider lane of water came into view when a bellowing shout came from behind.

"Oh no you don't!"

Team Traveller flinched at the sound of roaring water, looking back to see Hess riding the crest of a large wave flecked with debris from behind them. Pleo watched as their Kabutops guide desperately tried to pick up his pace, only for the wave to overtake him and pull him and his teammates underwater. The Lugia screwed his eyes shut as he felt water wash over his plumes, darting back up to the surface where his head broke above the water and where he saw the sight of his friends in front of him in the canal coughing up water and trying desperately to stay above the surface. The young Protector went wide-eyed, instinctively swimming for the sound of his friends when a loud snarl rang out from behind him.

"Get back here!"

Pleo turned his head back at the sound of Hess' shout, seeing the form of the hulking Aggron tearing towards him in the water. The Lugia screamed and turned to try to fly away, beating his wings furiously only to pitch forward and dunk underwater. He flinched, pulling his head under his wings as the sound of roaring water came upon him.

"Not so fast!"

Before the churning water could descend on him, Pleo heard a wet smack followed by a sharp yelp and loud splash. Pleo pulled his head up and turned back to see his teammates looking off at Hess listing on his side in the water, rolling over to right himself a daze. Further behind, the culprit of the blow quickly became apparent with the form of a glaring Clawitzer at the head of a large body of Pokémon at the end of the canal in indigo scarves.

"So this is how Pokémon from Tromba repay kindness," Nagant hissed. "And you, Aggron. If I'd have known you'd be this much of a thorn in my side, I'd have sunk you back in Orleigh!"

"Well that's your problem," Hess spat. "And you're not getting the better of me this time!"

Hess threw a hail of rocks back at Nagant and her underlings, catching a Pelipper square in his head. The Clawitzer retaliated with an orb-like burst of water that missed her Aggron mark and shot an unfortunate Staravia out of the sky. One after the other, the air thickened with attacks from white and indigo-scarved Pokémon, the hapless onlookers on the street diving into nearby shops to peer out unnervedly at the battle. Amidst the confusion, Dimitri, Ander, and Kiran drug the sopping members of Team Traveller back onto Dimitri's back, the Swellow among them shaking off some water as he prodded uneasily at his charges.

"Are you all okay?" Kiran coughed.

"Urgh… as good as you can be getting soaked like this." Elty groaned.

"Come on," Dimitri insisted. "Let's just hurry up before they notice u-"

"Going somewhere?!"

Before the Kabutops could finish, a glob of sickly purple sludge zipped by, catching Ander in his chest. The Scyther gagged, and uneasily wavered in the air as he pulled up to avoid sinking into the canal, his gaze leading his compatriots' eyes over to the approaching forms of a Tentacruel and Sharpedo in Imperial garb.

"Don't think that you're going to get away from us so easily this time!" Cyanea sneered.

"Yeah!" Katyusha jeered. "We're wise to your tricks now!"

Dimitri darted forward, attempting to slip off to an intersecting canal ahead. Much to his horror, the Sharpedo from their pair of pursuers cut them off, whirling around with her jaws opened and barreling head on for the lot. The Kabutops looked around wildly, before his eyes caught the ledge of the canal, and he jutted a scythe out to bank hard to his right.

"Hold on, kids!"

The Rock-Type leapt up, sending himself and his passengers spilling into the street as they came to a tumbling stop against the wall of a tea shop. Pleo and his teammates lay there stunned for a moment, the young Protector getting up with a groan as he nursed fresh nicks and bruises among freshly torn-up plumage.


The Lugia looked up as Katyusha propelled herself out of the canal with jaws opened wide, prompting him and his teammates to hastily roll out of the way. Katyusha sailed past, the shark going wide-eyed as she clamped her jaws shut onto empty air…


… and flopped onto the cobbles of the street with a yelp. The Sharpedo looked ahead to see Pleo standing in front of her startled, and spat up a jet of water only for him to sidestep and hastily duck away, leaving her to flail her fins and flop in an impotent attempt to keep her head-dominated body up with the youngsters just outside of her jaws' reach.

"Katyusha, why didn't you just use Scald on them?!" Cyanea spluttered from the water.

"B-But a bite oughta have been super effective!" the Sharpedo whined.

Team Traveller rolled their eyes at Katyusha's bellyaching, only for a glob of poison to sail overhead and splatter over the window of the tea shop behind them. The five youngsters and their companions ran along, bolting for an alleyway up ahead to their right as more bursts of poison and water nipped at their heels. One after the other, the group made their way down the alley, only for Ander to make it to the mouth of the lane when a burst of water exploded at the back of his head.


The Scyther's eyes flickered before the mantis pitched faceforward into the ground, the back of his head sporting cracks that dribbled yellowish fluid, much to Nida's horror.

"Agh, Ander!"

The Nidoran and her companions turned back, only for another burst to break just overhead. The group looked out into the canal where its culprit was quickly revealed to be a Clawitzer shooting a harsh glare at Cyanea and Katyusha in the canal.

"Ah, Captain Nugget!" the Tentacruel yelped. "We were just-!"

"Just pin them down already!" Nagant snapped.

Team Traveller ducked as another salvo of water and poison tore through the corner of the shop next to the alleyway, grazing Crom and Elty and sending them lurching forward with yelps. The lot reflexively bolted ahead, only to find themselves looking back at Ander's still-unconscious body when they heard the patter of Dimitri's feet and saw him running for the mouth of the alley.

"Go on ahead!" he shouted. "I'll catch up with you!"

The five youngsters grimaced as they saw the Kabutops run ahead for Ander's downed form, Kiran pushing them along from behind with a forceful nudge.

"Come on," he said. "We all knew what sorts of risks we're taking here. Just please make the most of it!"

Kiran and his charges hurried along, lowering their heads as bursts continued to ring out behind them. The youngsters and their Swellow guide carried on, running down the alleyway before popping out and bounding across a bridge over a canal lined with tall stone buildings. The group bolted for the mouth of a narrow lane towards their left, when a leafy arrow suddenly zipped by Kiran's head with a thwip. The group came to a skidding stop, where ahead of them were the glaring forms of a Decidueye, an Araquanid, and a Herdier.

"Hold it right there! You're disturbing the peace and abducting a Protector!" the Decidueye hissed. "Come quietly and your charges won't get any worse!"

Team Traveller's members froze, their gaze following Elty's head as he looked over at an open doorway to his right, and a rickety sign with herbs and a pestle above the owl. The Growlithe sprang up and spat up a gout of fire onto the sign's post, prompting the Decidueye to let his arrow slip…


… only for the sign to fall on him and his companions, sending his leafy missile sailing off into a wall. The group watched as the trio of guards groped about in a stunned daze, Elty sporting a grin until he noticed himself at the slack-jawed center of attention of his teammates.

"Oh come on! We were already in trouble with the law here! What's wrong with a little property damage?" he asked. A patter of feet rang out behind them, the battered and panting form of Dimitri coming into view with Ander slung over his back as he stared dumbfounded at the stopped group.

"What are you doing?!" Dimitri cried. "The alleyway is-"

"This way!" Crom insisted.

The youngsters charged through the opened door, pulling the Kabutops and his stricken passenger along through the doorway just as the Decidueye guard and his companions got back up to their feet.

"Sergeant Alba, they're getting away!" the Herdier yelped.

"Don't just stand there then!" the owl screeched. "After them!"

The group charged through a room with a simmering cauldron lined with clay jars and a strong herbal smell in the air as the guards came in afterwards throwing attacks around and filling the air with the sound of dashed pottery. Team Traveller made their way to an open doorway where a puzzled red Florges poked her head in, only to yank it back as Kiran and his companions bounded through and vaulted over a counter in front of a wide-eyed Axew. The lot came to a skidding stop into a covered hallway outside in front of a bookstore, Nida and Crom flinching at the sound of shouts and crashes from inside.

"Er… I guess we ought to have been a bit more careful there," the Druddigon murmured.

"Eh, don't sweat it," Elty insisted. "We got exactly what we needed from that little detour!"

The Growlithe proudly raised a small knapsack in his mouth, revealing them to be filled with seeds and berries, the telltale form of a Reviver Seed lying at its top. The other Pokémon traded stern frowns back at the Fire-Type.

"Urgh… you are so not learning your intended lessons from your Community Service," Kiran groaned. "Petty theft is 100% not acceptable from my pupils!"

"Oi! Desperate times call for desperate measures!" the Growlithe barked back. "Besides, if you don't want to just take the stuff, you can pay for it later by mail or something!"

Before Elty could finish, an errant arrow sailed by, zipping into the front of the bookstore and whipping up a rain of paper. The group looked back, seeing the Decidueye guard and his counterparts from earlier stagger from the front of the pharmacist, glaring across at them.

"Worry about it some other time!" Dimitri shouted. "We've got company!"

"Stop right there, criminal scum!" Alba hissed.

The team charged on ahead, the guards' attacks carrying on and upending the shops that had the misfortune of being along the zig-zagging path of the fleeing group. The tide of destruction swept up a bakery, a pottery shop, a grooming parlor… as Guardia's attention turned to a stairwell going up to the right next to a bulletin board up ahead.

"There!" Guardia cried. "Up ahead on the right!"

The party ducked up the stairwell, flying up a set of stairs and balconies that led them past one dingy apartment of mats and rude furniture after another, the sound of Alba and his underlings ringing out from below. At the third floor, the Decidueye sprang up, raising his bow to shoot, only for Kiran to whirlwind the owl into an opened apartment. The group carried on, where the last flight ended at a solitary door, the Nidoran at the head throwing it open to see the sky above and a patio surrounded by tiles underfoot.

"A-Aah!" Nida cried. "We're on the roof!"

The little spike ball and her companions looked around, seeing that they were now on the rooftops above Tidemill City, the ground four- no five- uh… more stories off the ground than it appeared safe to fall off of. Instinctively, Guardia shrank back, backing up against the door when the sound of shouts from inside rang out, prompting Crom and Dimitri to shove a nearby crate over the door as Kiran pulled the Reviver Seed out of the pilfered satchel and slipped it into Ander's mouth, setting him spluttering and stirring with a groan as his eyes refocused.

"Nrgh… what happened?" the Scyther groaned.

"Well, let's see here, we've just resisted arrest, assaulted some local guards, committed larceny, and caused more counts of damage to public property than I can count offhand right now..." Kiran murmured. "Other than that, I don't think you missed a whole lot."

"That oughta hold them for a bit, but we need to get moving!" Dimitri panted.

"How?!" Guardia exclaimed. "We're stuck here on a bunch of roofs!"

The group looked around uneasily, only to hear a loud stomp and shouts coming from the side of the building to the right. The lot peered over, where they saw the forms of haggard-looking Pokémon in white scarves running along

"They went somewhere on land!" Hess' voice shouted. "Don't let them get a-!"

Team Traveller watched as Hess ran along under their eyes, only for a tile to slip off the roof and break beside him. The Aggron looked up, where Guardia and her companions grimaced as the Steel-Type's blue eyes widened and his claw shot upwards in their direction.

"There they are!" Hess cried. "Get them!"

The edge of the roof suddenly disappeared in a hail of rocks and other beams and missiles from the alleyway, kicking up a cloud of dust as broken tiles and timbers rained around the roof. Team Traveller flinched as they heard shouts and squawks ring out, as fliers in white and indigo scarves harried each other in the air nearby. After having their attention shift back down to the rooftops, they saw that barring the occasional alleyway, the rooftops were conjoined, providing what would be their only route forward to escape.

"Run!" Elty shouted. "And don't look down!"

The lot charged ahead, bounding as tile and shingle crunched underfoot and Pokémon in indigo scarves from the air sent forth cutting winds from behind as further attacks flew up from other Pokémon in similar garb from a canal on the opposite end of the building. The group reached a small gap over an alleyway, prompting one after the other to leap over it… with the sole exception of Guardia, who skidded to a stop and cringed away much to Kiran's surprise.

"Eh?! Come on Guardia!" he cried. "You can make that jump!"

"N-No! I can't!" she whined. "I- I won't make it if I fall from this high!"

The Swellow peered down at the alleyway below and at the quivering bone lizard, before giving a shake of his head.

"Then it seems like you'll need another way over," he answered.

"Another wa-? Agh!"

The Cubone yelped as she was suddenly thrown onto the Swellow's back, the bird running and flying forward over the gap as she dug her claws into his plumage. Guardia screwed her eyes shut as she felt the air brush past her, before feeling her body drop and land on tiles. The Ground-Type cracked her eyes open to see that Kiran had flown her over the gap and onto the roof across the gap, panting breathlessly as she peered warily back up at the Swellow, who shook his head with a smile.

"If you need help, just ask for it," he insisted. Kiran began to move ahead, when the sound of an Aggron's grunts from the side reached the gathered lot's ears.

"Nrgh… just a little more!"

Much to their horror, Team Traveller spotted a ladder to their right leading to the roof, where clambering up it was none other than Hess followed by a small train of Pokémon. The pirate captain of the Mistral Marauder hoisted himself onto the roof, and on sighting Team Traveller, dusted himself off and gave the tiles underfoot a satisfied stomp.

"Hah!" he sneered. "Gotcha you little-"

The sound of a whining creeeeak rang out, as the ladder suddenly came ajar and buckled, collapsing back to the ground as the sound of yelps and thuds rang out… followed by whines and the sight of a small pile of Pokémon in white scarves lying at the bottom of the building shambling to their feet.

"Ow…" a Pawniard groaned.

"My spleen…" a Charmeleon moaned.

Hess blinked and then looked down at the collapsed ladder with a sheepish grimace. Evidently, the builders hadn't constructed it in mind with Pokémon quite as bulky as him.

"Er… oops?"

Team Traveller turned and bolted ahead to slip away from the distracted pirate, only for a watery blur to suddenly jet up and come to a stop ahead of them. There, pivoting on her tail was none other than Nagant, the Howitzer Pokémon leveling her firing claw at the lot of them with a low hiss.

"Shakh i mat, buyany," the Clawitzer spat. "It's time to surrender peacefully and come along."

"Get bent, you lousy sea bug!" Hess roared. The Aggron charged ahead, lowering his head into a reckless charge only to be caught and forced back by a Water Pulse. The Steel-Type yelped, throwing his arms out to try and maintain his balance as he stumbled backwards past Team Traveller, only for an icy beam to land under foot and send him slipping and coming to a tumbling stop at the edge of the roof… directly behind a now ashen-looking Team Traveller.

"Why am I getting this sinking feeling that this has happened before?" Nida gulped.

"I-It did?" Crom stammered. "How did you get out of it last time?"

Nagant shook her head and leveled her claw, an orb of water forming in between the tips of her pincers as Hess dragged himself to his feet. Before she could fire, she was cut off by a watery burst from behind, drawing a shriek from the elderly shrimp that sent her tumbling. Hess blinked before looking over at a visibly nervous Team Traveller, when a jet of water sprang up from the corner of the Aggron's eye.

"Hey, what the-?!"

Hess turned and went wide-eyed as a blue blur moved onto the roof and launched him back with a tackle that sprayed water all around the rooftop, pitching him over the opposite edge of the roof with a startled shout followed by a loud crash. Team Traveller brushed away droplets from their eyes, turning back towards the blur only for their blood to run cold at the sight of an uncomfortably familiar Samurott glaring back at them.


"I've been getting very tired with your rebelliousness, Trombans," the Commissioner growled. "It's time I put an end to it and take what's mine."

The Samurott gave a bloodcurdling cry, drawing the attention of a Crobat along with a following array of flying Pokémon in blue-sunned scarves. The fliers swooped in, driving off the indigo-scarved counterparts from the air and forcing Hess' underlings in the alley back with yelps with a rain of cutting winds before turning for the rooftop Lyn was on. Satisfied with the turn of events, the Samurott gave a dangerous grin and fished his seamitars from their scabbards, raising them ready for battle.

"Have at you-!"

Before Lyn could finish he was cut off by a blue orb of light which zipped along and wrenched the blade from his paw and sent it clattering against the tiles. The otter whirled over in the direction of the Aura Sphere, seeing the seething form of a Clawitzer with her large claw still leveled at him.

"You must be Commissioner Lyn," Nagant hissed. "I don't know how things work in your little treasonous gang, but I'm afraid I can't just sit back as you meddle in Her Majesty's affairs."

Lyn stooped down and fished his fallen blade up with a scoff, before rearing up and sweeping his blades out with a low growl.

"Just try and stop me."

The Samurott bellowed and dashed towards the Clawitzer, who in turn jetted for the oncoming swordsmon. Team Traveller took off and ran as the sound of water spraying and blows from behind rang out, running ahead only for a slicing gust to tear up the section of roof before them.

"Ack!" Nida yelped. "What on earth was-?!"

"Extraction team, take your positions!" Kane shouted. "Looks like we're going to have to do the heavy lifting today!"

The Crobat sent forth a glob of violet sludge, his salvo followed by a hail of gusts and beams from the fliers around him. Team Traveller tried to press forward, only for the fliers to quickly block off the front with attacks, then the left and right, until before they knew it the lot were ringed by fliers circling overhead, keenly eyeing an increasingly unnerved Team Traveller below.

"A-Aah! What do we do here?!" Crom yelped. "They have us surrounded!"

"Yeah, we can't fight all these Pokémon!" Pleo cried.

Nida's eyes darted from one flier to the next when she realized that the Crobat's face looked familiar… The Nidoran's mind turned back to their prior adventures, the vivid image of one of her spikes zipping into his carpal joint and making him wobbly before fire and wind sent him plummeting out of the skies over Boisocéan. Nida's eyes suddenly lit up, realizing that the team didn't have to try and fight their imposing foe head-on after all.

"Go for the wings of that Crobat!" she yelled. "We can shake the others!"

The blue spike ball flicked a barb at the bat, prompting him to hastily weave out of the way and swoop down. The Crobat dove for the silvery-feathered bird in his foes' midst, only for Dimitri to dart forward to intercept the bat. Kane's plowed into Dimitri's shoulder, his body brushing up against the Kabutops' scythe, prompting him to jerk up and retreat as he felt warm fluid ooze against his fur before a gout of fire and a burning burst of light caught his wings followed by a rough slash across his belly.

Kane shrieked, lurching wildly to and fro as he fought to stay airborne. The Crobat let his rear wings droop limply, beating his forewings harder to stay aloft as he hissed back angrily at the ringed Pokémon below.

"R-Rgh! I've had enough of this!" Kane fumed. "Hurry up and sweep them while I can stay airbo-"

"Take that!"

The Crobat whirled and his eyes shrank to pins at the sight of a hail of rocks sailing for him. The stones struck him and a number of the fliers with him out of the air, sending them crashing onto the roof and others into the street with audible groans. The still-airborne fliers gaped stunned a moment, only for a group of indigo-scarved Pokémon flying in a V-shaped formation to swoop in and chase after them, leaving the skies cleared of all but the sounds of a jeering Aggron.

"Hah!" Hess exclaimed. "I got 'em! I got 'em-"

The pirate's celebratory racket prompted Nagant and Lyn to peer down into the alleyway, before summarily disgorging a pair of watery shots at the Aggron. Hess hopped over a orb of water with a yelp and leapt out of the way of a torrential jet, the Steel-Type going wide-eyed and squealing out of fright.

"E-Eyaah! Fall back! Fall back!"

Hess dove for cover along with his lackeys, prompting Nagant to turn and notice that Team Traveller had bolted on ahead. The Clawitzer jetted along after the fleeing youngsters and their companions, readying her claw to fire off a burst of water only to shriek as a stabbing pain sliced into her and sent her tumbling back along the roof. In her place, the form of a Samurott snorted, swinging it and flicking away some bluish fluid off its edge.

Lyn pursued after Team Traveller, who came to a skidding stop at the edge of the roof seeing that it was hemmed in by broad canals on two ends. The group felt the roof sag underfoot as Lyn ran along, forcing them to fight to keep their balance as they realized that the supports were less than adequate for supporting their weight. They looked around, and noticed a wooden ladder at the last end. Crom darted over, only to recoil back after seeing Hess and his underlings run up to the base of the building.

"Wh-What now?!" the Druddigon cried. "We're trapped!"

"Yeah! Even if we get past Lyn, that Clawitzer and that Aggron pirate will just block the way!" Nida added.

Dimitri looked ahead to see Nagant harrying Lyn from behind, prompting the Samurott to whirl and disgorge a beam of ice back at the shrimp. The Kabutops then turned his attention down into the alleyway, where he saw Hess pawing the ground with a loud bellow, only to be summarily forced back with a yelp by a pair of watery jets. The Aggron charged back blindly, before running square into a stack of crates, falling on his rump with a yelp. As he nursed his snout from the impact, Dimitri's eyes lit up with a flash of inspiration.

"We'll have that Aggron help us out!" the vampire crab said. "We just need to get in front of him!"

"Have you lost your mind?!" Ander exclaimed.

"Trust me on this one!" the Kabutops insisted.

Nagant's voice suddenly cried out, the Clawitzer having been frozen in place against the tiles. With a bellowing roar, Lyn turned back towards Team Traveller's end of the roof, charging ahead with his blades drawn. The youngsters paled, only for Kiran to dive in with a loud squawk.

"Go on ahead!" the Swellow ordered. "I'll distract him!"

"You'll need someone to keep that Daikenki's eyes off the air, Ohsubame!" Guardia cried. "I'm coming with!"

"Guardia!" Pleo cried. "Wai-!"

The young Lugia darted after the Cubone, only to hop back as an Ice Beam zipped at his feet. With a hurried tug, Crom, Nida, and Elty dragged their Protector companion along, making their way one by one down the ladder as Guardia and Kiran ran ahead throwing a Bonemerang and Air Slash at the Samurott in front of them. The otter deflected the bony missile, only for the cutting gust to dig into his shoulder with a seething growl as the pair ran off for the center of the roof. Lyn swung his blades out, forcing the Swellow and Cubone to hop back as their tips sailed past, their owner giving a low growl back.

"Grr… do you actually think that you can win here?" the Water-Type spat. "I was besting more formidable foes back in my days in the Academy!"

"Not every battle is won on the field," Guardia harrumphed back. "Not that I won't give you a good knock!"

Lyn growled and swung his seamitar down at the bone lizard, only for it to be brushed aside and into a patch of tiles by a gust of wind from Kiran. The blade embedded itself into the roof, prompting Guardia to clamber up Lyn's still extended forearm and leap up bringing her club down onto Lyn's snout.

A roar of pain sounded out, followed by a watery pulse shooting forward from Lyn's mouth and the sound of a sharp yelp as Kiran's pupils shrank to pins. Much to his horror, there was Guardia, sailing through the air with her club, her body limp and unconscious.


Kiran saw Guardia's body hit the roof's tiles and skid along them, prompting him to fly after and snatch up the lizard and her bone before they sailed off the roof. The Swellow panted as he heard a fierce roar, looking back to see Lyn charging with his seamitars drawn, only for a sudden blue orb to knock him off his feet and send him glaring towards the direction of a scowling Clawitzer.

"Hey, square-neck. You didn't think that little nick and frost was going to stop me, did you?!" Nagant hissed.

As the rooftop above rang out with shouts and blows, the rest of Team Traveller clambered down into the alley. There, the forms of a host of white-scarved Pokémon neared from every direction, sneering and snarling threateningly as Hess lumbered down at the mob's head.

"Are you sure this is going to work?" Nida murmured.

"It's our only shot, so try and sell the part!" Dimitri cried.

"Grr… I hope you like swabbing decks, you lousy runts!" the Aggron captain growled. "That's the first thing I'm making you all do once I press you into my crew!"

"Just try us!" Crom snarled back. "You'll never take us down!"

"Yeah!" Pleo added. "I'll take you down with my powers just like last time!"

The mention of 'powers' made Hess audibly gulp and the nearby pirates inch away with nervous hems and haws. The metal lizard knew full well what the bird's 'powers' could do, and in a maze of stone buildings and cobbled streets like Tidemill, there was no guaranteeing a soft landing like the last time he'd wound up on the wrong side of the overgrown Wingull's sorcery...

"That's- Uh. Th-That… That won't mean anything if I defeat you first!" the Aggron insisted. "G-Good luck blowing anything away when you're out cold!"

"No worries, Captain!" Elty barked. "A good old-fashioned headbutt would put him down for the count!"

Elty's words at once threw his nearby teammates into wide-eyed alarm, only for them to catch him turning to face them and pawing impatiently at the ground. Nida, Pleo, and their companions watched warily as the Puppy Pokémon turned back to face the Aggron, giving a playful wag of his tail.

"Why, that's even what put him down back in Sormus!" the Growlithe insisted. "One stiff ram from that old hag of a shrimp and he keeled over like a burnt Shedinja!"

Elty's report prompted a malevolent grin to spread over Hess' face. His confidence restored, the Aggron began to paw at the ground, lowering his head in the direction of the young Protector.

"So that's what's super effective against him, huh?" he sneered. "Well you're in luck, ya overgrown Wingull! Because I've been doing headbutts since I was a shin-kicker!"

Hess stomped the ground, shaking the surrounding street before opening his maw with a deafening roar. He stormed ahead, tearing along the cobbles underfoot and lowering his head for a forceful ram. The Aggron carried on, the forms of the runts and their fellow-travellers coming into view, only for them to suddenly slip out of his vision, with the Nidoran among them sliding between his feet.



Hess felt his head slam into the stony wall, and stumbled back, shaking his head in a daze as a large hole and a few chunks of splintered wood lay strewn about where the bottom of the ladder was just a few moments ago. The Aggron blinked and looked underfoot to see that far from being trampled underfoot, the meddlesome pests had slipped behind him, in front of a slack-jawed audience of his underlings.

"Argh! I missed!"


A low groan filled the air, followed by the sounds of timbers swaying and snapping. Up on the roof, Lyn and Nagant braced themselves as they felt the roof jolt underfoot, and begin to list more and more towards the canal.

"Huh?! The roof!" Nagant exclaimed. "It's colla- Ack!"

Before the Clawitzer could finish her statement, she felt a whirling wind sweep her up and hurl her head-first into Lyn. The Swellow culprit took a moment to examine his wingwork as the two Water-Types separated from each other, taking off with Guardia and her bone as the roof lurched and pitched forward, dumping Lyn and Nagant shouting into the canal along with a mass of tiles and wood. Back on the ground, Hess looked up to see Kiran's form approaching with his limp Cubone passenger, turning back to Team Traveller as they stood in the center of a regrouped mob of pirates.

"Eltenios! What the hell was that?!" he growled. "You said that that overgrown Wingull would crumple up from a little tackle, not- Huh?"


The Aggron noticed a sea change among the mood of his deckclaws, whose eyes widened with panic and began to run off with yelps and shouts. A similar panic had come over the runts and their companions, who followed suit shortly afterwards. A falling stone prompted Hess to look up, where he noticed the timbers from the wall above falling outward, bringing the facade of the building's side along with it.


Hess darted forward as the stony wall fell into the alleyway, dashing itself against the side of the alley and disintegrating into a rain of bricks and wooden shards. From further up the alleyway, Team Traveller shielded their eyes as a cloud of dust overtook them, coughing as the sounds of disoriented shouts rang out all around them.

"Is- Is it over?" Pleo stammered.

"Urgh… h-hey!" Hess' voice shouted. "Hurry up and get me out of here!"

The youngsters looked back as the dust began to clear, looking back to see the form of a dust-caked Aggron laying on his belly with a large pile of rubble burying his legs. Above, the occupants of floor after floor of freshly-opened rooms looked out with slack jaws, watching the Aggron below flail and struggle with the rubble below as Team Traveller looked up sheepishly.

"It's over enough!" Kiran insisted. "Come on, let's get out of here!"

The white-scarved members of the Iron Fleet rushed back for their stricken captain as the shouts of incredulous onlookers rang out in the background. In the midst of the confusion, Team Traveller and their companions darted off, running off down the alleyways past passerbys towards the harbor's water in the distance.

Author's Notes:

- dzieciaki - Polish: "kids"
- Shakh i mat, buyany (Шах и мат, буяны) - Russian: "Check( and )mate, ruffians"
- Ohsubame (オオスバメ) - Japanese: "Swellow" (Official Romanization)
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Bidoof Fan
  1. custom/sneasel-nip
  2. bidoof
  3. absol
  4. kirlia
  5. custom/windskull-bidoof
  6. custom/little-guy-windskull
  7. purugly
Hey Fobbie and Virgil, this is the long-awaited episode 8 review for my first half of the review exchange. I’ll be referring to chapters by their Ao3 numbers, so please keep that in mind. But with that said, let’s waste no time in jumping in.

This is pretty nit-picky, but I found the second paragraph kind of a jumble to get through. I think it might have been in part due to it being several long, high-info sentences one after the other, which started to make everything feel like it’s bleeding together. Nothing wrong with it per say, but something to keep in mind.

The escorts in the sky and sea also began to take their places, including a Tentacruel and Sharpedo who sidled up against the ship with their peers looking up curiously.
Another nitpicky thing, but the way this sentence is worded can cause some confusion - were the tentecruel and sharpedo the ones looking up curiously, or their peers? One way to alleviate this is to cut out the peers portion, since the beginning of the sentence already implies that their peers are there.

The shrimp paused at the Sandslash's words and thought of the Marchioness title she had coveted since her family's house had come crashing down so many years ago. A sea god would be but a trifle for climbing the nobles' hierarchy, and it would finally give her the chance to set fate's cruel caprices right. With a playful twitch of her feelers, a small smile began to spread over the sea bug's mandibles as she continued on.
Sorry if I keep coming up with nitpicks, I promise I’ll have good things to say later because I remember really liking this arc. Anyways, with regards to this, I kind of feel like this falls a little too far into telling instead of showing. While it’s only a very base description, we’re still given an outline of Nagant’s motivation here, instead of it naturally getting revealed throughout the story. I kind of feel like Niilo’s comment about money is enough for this section, giving the reader the vibe that Nagant is in this for the money, while later allowing the full truth of the situation to play out.

Anyways, all that said, I am enjoying the tension between Nagant and Cyanea. Cyanea’s hotheadedness certainly won’t cause any trouble down the road, now will it ;)

As always, I enjoy the little notes about characters having different physical capabilities, like the note that Guardia can see better, at least with regards to distant objects/light. And I’m loving the in-universe explanation for how non-aquatic pokemon can go through underwater dungeons.

Huh, I don’t remember the mention of the plane from my first readthrough. But it’s been years so I don’t know if this was added in later or it just didn’t stick with me originally. But that’s a fun little worldbuilding detail to remind readers that, yes, this is indeed a post-human world.

The space was deserted, the sole exception consisting of a Corsola lazily going through a colorful collection of knotted strings tied to a cord behind a table-like stone by the entrance, wondering aloud how it was that a drill could pierce the heavens.
So you could say she was thinking about a
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V1oD1h6hvk&ab_channel=Area11

Hm… I find myself wondering a few things as we meet our good mareep-line acquaintances. Following along, we know these are Hatteras’ missing family. I’m assuming they’re using pseudonyms, otherwise I’d think Nida would recognize them, unless she was too young to know about it.

I’ve said my part on epithet overuse plenty in the previous reviews, so I’ll just note that there were a couple spots where it distracted from the prose when just using character pronouns or their name would have been more invisible, but also acknowledge that this is older content, and move on.

From his view looking up from the deck, everywhere he looked,
Nitpick. This is kind of extrenuous and repetitive. Ils cut everything before "everywhere".

The lizard gave an angry roar and stomped the deck hard enough to snap the timbers underfoot, calling up a barrage of rocks from the ship's ballast that sliced through the deck. The projectiles punched through the wood and carried into the air before falling in a great pile,
I love little world building quirks like these. It makes a degree of sense that moves with a physical component like rock slide would require the physical component to exist. And probably both due to that and other, non-attack methods of ship protection, the ship keeps at least some of those components on-hand. That’s how I’m interpreting it, at least.

Let’s talk about the battle as a whole. To begin with, it kind of felt like the beginning, where the fliers were providing a distraction to allow the main pirates a chance to get in close. I honestly felt like the fight wasn’t snappy enough, which led to weakened tension. That said, once the pirates get close enough to board, things pick up and remain suitably tense throughout the entire fight. And I like that Crom gets a good moment to shine. And Ander too, to an extent.

Ah right, this chapter sets up the coming meeting of the board, something I’m looking forward to. There’s something really appealing to me about political tension in PMD fics, in particular, and I don’t really know why. But I really like it and I’m looking forward to getting to that part.

quote]The crew had taken nearly as bad a beating as the ship; the ship's doctor had his work cut out dressing wounds and administering berry juices. Crom and Ander had been pressed into nurse duties as soon as possible due to their comparatively light injuries, with Kiran joining in after he finally regained consciousness. One of their number, however, had yet to awaken.[/quote]

I want to highlight this particular section, because it feels kind of repetitive following the information given to Pladur after he wakes up just a few paragraphs down. It might be worth revisiting to edit, but it’s also pretty minor.

Man, I know Elty could have handled that with more nuance, but it’s not his fault that Alcon is snippy to non-customers. Kinda think they’re being a bit harsh here. Of course, the team really hasn’t warmed up to him yet, so the annoyance is unsurprising.

Ah yes, Sevan. I remember you well. I almost kind of wish it wasn’t outright stated that Lyn was his brother here given that they have an interaction later, even if it *is* exceedingly obvious. It could have been fun to let the audience try and piece together what was going on between the two of them. But oh well, not a big deal, just a thought.

Man, I can absolutely believe Cyanea would do something as rash as trying to chase after Pleo without backup or telling anyone what she was doing. It suits her character as we’ve seen so far. It does feel a little weird that Katyusha is worrying about how strong Pleo might be right after coming to the conclusion that he can’t be *that* strong due to how scared he was of Sevan.

I don’t have much more to say about this chapter in particular; a lot of it was setup for the tension of the next two chapters, but it makes clear the situation of all the current major pieces. Cyanea and Katyusha are preparing an ambush, the kids are planning a meeting with the Blue Fairy, and the company is about to have a tense meeting. But with only two chapters left for the payoff, I believe things are about to come to a head.

Lol, the only thing that would have made Niilo’s failed haggling funnier is if the merchants had specifically raised the price because they were sick of his haggling.

Cabot fidgeted at Faraday's mention of a 'target slipping away'. Then if the Protector had already left, was it really a good idea to keep prowling around a Company island?
"... Should we pull out, Captain?" the Cranidos asked. "I mean, it sounds like the Protector we're looking for isn't on this island…"
This is another one of those instances I mentioned before, where the dialogue repeats what the prose just said. Both paragraphs boil down to "if the protector already left, is it a good idea to stay here?" Don't get me wrong, I like seeing Cabot's body language, since it gives the idea that he's nervous or restless, but you could cut the remainder of the first paragraph and still deliver the exact same information.

The Clawitzer turned and shot out a burst of water down the alleyway, smashing crates and pots that had been set out amongst the clutter with a loud crash.
Link would be proud.
God, I still love the absolute disrespect towards Darzin. It’s hilarious to see everyone rip this dragonite a new one. I think the reason it’s so fun to watch is specifically because he isn’t a good guy, himself. He’s also a pretty terrible person. So something that would be hard to watch island would make you root for the victim in another scenario just feels hilarious.

And now we get to the introduction of the McGuffin of the story. Or at least it seems like one from what I remember, given that its purpose is basically just “thing that will make the company and empire leave us alone.” I’ll have to wait and see if my feelings changes on that further down the road, when it becomes relevant.

I won’t lie, while I know metal is hard to come by, I’m a little surprised that the lockpick is made from a coin, since that seems like the kind of thing that could get you in trouble for destruction of currency (although I think I remember there being specific types of currency used that weren’t pokecoin, so maybe the implication is that it was made from something that wasn’t legal tender? Or maybe I’m totally off base here. Just a thought that popped in my head.

"It's hardly ideal, but it's the best we can manage under these constraints," Inler admitted. "Besides, if the Protector has already made it into Imperial territory by the time Lyn's crew arrives in Otvaga, they can continue on westward as a 'merchant ship' without drawing attention."
Side note, this is basically repeated information that was already voiced a couple paragraphs prior.

I'm trying to remember if we ever find out what the sentimental item Darzin is searching for is, but it's not ringing any bells and I can't remember it coming up as of where I left off in the mid 80s. With both that and the fact that Fledglings is nearing it's climax, I kind of wonder what the point of bringing it up now is.

I've only just realized that the situation at the trench is probably a Finding Nemo reference? Given the big scary trench and the hoards of jellyfish above it.

Overall thoughts for the episode
From a worldbuilding perspective, I love this episode. I love that it touches on underwater society, while also introducing an alternate way for pokemon to get around from island to island if they don't want to or can't take a boat for whatever reason. And I love the political aspect we get from the board meeting and the espionage between Darzin and Nagant.

That said, there were times where I felt things were a bit slow. Particularly in the first half. Most of the major developments in this episode take place in the last two chapters, outside of the fight between Hess and the Tombans. I know that, given the episodic style of fledglings, part of this is by design, and it works fine when I'm reading in episodic chunks, but it could start to feel bogged down if someone is reading straight through. Not really something worth thinking about changing in Fledglings, probably, but something to consider for future projects.

In general though, I enjoyed the section overall. But we do have one more thing to cover before I wap this review entirely - the special episode.

I actually don't have a whole lot to say about said special episode. I enjoyed getting to see some backstory for some of the minor recurring characters (and a bit of important backstory for Lynn as well, though not as important as later special episodes) and it was really fun to get to see the Siglo Swellow crew do something under the table, making it clear that they're no strangers to bending the law in certain situations.

I think my only complaint is that I would have liked to see Calino put up a bit more resistance to turning over his journal, given how important it was for him to bring it. Of course it could have caused more trouble with the pirates, but it also could have better sold that this is the big important book.

But all in all, these chapters were an enjoyable read. I hope to be back before end of blitz to finish my part of the review exchange. But until then, take care.


PMD Writer
  1. sylveon
  2. weavile
  3. kommo-o
  4. noivern
  5. mothim
Hey Fobbie and Virgil, this is the long-awaited episode 8 review for my first half of the review exchange. I’ll be referring to chapters by their Ao3 numbers, so please keep that in mind. But with that said, let’s waste no time in jumping in.

Hey there, Wind! Glad to see your review is finally here.

This is pretty nit-picky, but I found the second paragraph kind of a jumble to get through. I think it might have been in part due to it being several long, high-info sentences one after the other, which started to make everything feel like it’s bleeding together. Nothing wrong with it per say, but something to keep in mind.

Another nitpicky thing, but the way this sentence is worded can cause some confusion - were the tentecruel and sharpedo the ones looking up curiously, or their peers? One way to alleviate this is to cut out the peers portion, since the beginning of the sentence already implies that their peers are there.

We’ll be sure to take another look at these paragraphs and tweak them. For the second one, it’s supposed to be Cyanea and Katyusha looking up, but I admit the way it’s phrased is kinda confusing.

Sorry if I keep coming up with nitpicks, I promise I’ll have good things to say later because I remember really liking this arc. Anyways, with regards to this, I kind of feel like this falls a little too far into telling instead of showing. While it’s only a very base description, we’re still given an outline of Nagant’s motivation here, instead of it naturally getting revealed throughout the story. I kind of feel like Niilo’s comment about money is enough for this section, giving the reader the vibe that Nagant is in this for the money, while later allowing the full truth of the situation to play out.

Oh, don’t worry about it. These sort of nitpicks can be really helpful for improving these old chapters.

That said, I don’t really agree here, since it’s supposed to show what Nagant is thinking here.

Anyways, all that said, I am enjoying the tension between Nagant and Cyanea. Cyanea’s hotheadedness certainly won’t cause any trouble down the road, now will it ;)

Of course it won’t cause any trouble! What could possibly go wrong? :3

Huh, I don’t remember the mention of the plane from my first readthrough. But it’s been years so I don’t know if this was added in later or it just didn’t stick with me originally. But that’s a fun little worldbuilding detail to remind readers that, yes, this is indeed a post-human world.

Yup, that little detail has always been there. Fledglings has a bunch of things readers probably won’t notice until they read it for the second time.

Nitpick. This is kind of extrenuous and repetitive. Ils cut everything before "everywhere".

That’s a fair point, we went ahead and made this change.

I love little world building quirks like these. It makes a degree of sense that moves with a physical component like rock slide would require the physical component to exist. And probably both due to that and other, non-attack methods of ship protection, the ship keeps at least some of those components on-hand. That’s how I’m interpreting it, at least.

Heh, I’m glad you like it. Though in this case, the rocks are there to provide the ship stability at sea by adding extra weight to certain areas of the hull. Even if ships have moved on from using stones for such purposes, this same principle is commonly used in ship design to this day, just with other materials.

Lol, the only thing that would have made Niilo’s failed haggling funnier is if the merchants had specifically raised the price because they were sick of his haggling.

Funnily enough, me and Fobbie had a similar idea after watching a Christmas episode of The Cuphead Show! recently. While it’s a bit late to change this moment, it’s something you’ll likely see in our writing at some point in the future, even if it might not feature Niilo or even be in Fledglings.

God, I still love the absolute disrespect towards Darzin. It’s hilarious to see everyone rip this dragonite a new one. I think the reason it’s so fun to watch is specifically because he isn’t a good guy, himself. He’s also a pretty terrible person. So something that would be hard to watch island would make you root for the victim in another scenario just feels hilarious.

Yeah, he really is a glutton for punishment with the way he acts :p

I won’t lie, while I know metal is hard to come by, I’m a little surprised that the lockpick is made from a coin, since that seems like the kind of thing that could get you in trouble for destruction of currency (although I think I remember there being specific types of currency used that weren’t pokecoin, so maybe the implication is that it was made from something that wasn’t legal tender? Or maybe I’m totally off base here. Just a thought that popped in my head.

I think you misread this part. The coin was only used to jam the door shut. The lockpick Niilo used is entirely separate for that.

Side note, this is basically repeated information that was already voiced a couple paragraphs prior.

Ah, we’ll be sure to give this line of dialogue another look.

I'm trying to remember if we ever find out what the sentimental item Darzin is searching for is, but it's not ringing any bells and I can't remember it coming up as of where I left off in the mid 80s. With both that and the fact that Fledglings is nearing it's climax, I kind of wonder what the point of bringing it up now is.

All I’ll say is that it isn’t an item that Darzin cares so much about.

But all in all, these chapters were an enjoyable read. I hope to be back before end of blitz to finish my part of the review exchange. But until then, take care.

And your review was enjoyable to read as well! We’ll be sure to look forward to your next one.

Hey everyone, me and @Spiteful Murkrow are here to end the year with the final part of the Giotto Episode. This chapter marks the end of the first half of Fledglings, or at least when it comes to the narrative. In terms of chapter count we’ve definitely already passed the halfway mark.

We’d like to wish all our readers a happy new year and hope to see you all in 2023!
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