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Pokémon Places We Call Home

Bonus 1
  • windskull

    Bidoof Fan
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    1. custom/sneasel-nip
    2. bidoof
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    4. kirlia
    5. custom/windskull-bidoof
    @The Desert Cat
    Good to see you here! Thanks for pointing out those grammar issues. I'll spend some time fixing them sometime soon.

    I can understand people being reluctant to turn Nip over to Umbra, since she’s nuts too. I can understand them not wanting to kill Nip themselves, when there’s someone else to handle executions. I don’t know how we get from here, to a plurality of the village inviting him to stay.
    Ah, this is something I hope to cover in more detail at some point, but there were two factors at play here other than what you already pointed out: the first is that the village hasn't had something this serious in a very long time, and so some pokemon might be a bit hesitant to do something as big as an execution. The second, which hasn't really come up at all but I really should mention soon (and probably should have been mentioned within the chapter), is that the village is independent of the Enforcers, which leaves them free to carry out sentences how they want. They might be a bit hesitant to invite them in to deal with their problems.

    Did Anu and Wanderer intentionally structure the vote to split the ‘execute’ voters? They seem like the last ones who should be trying to protect Nip. Do they know that Jhorlo is up to something?
    Well, I can tell you that whisper sure didn't, though they were both hesitant to just turn him over to Umbra. I'm hoping to explore their thoughts in more detail sometime in the near future.

    Hey, I see Team Ion.
    Heh, that was a fun cameo. Most of the unnamed characters in this section, besides Ion, were old ocs of mine from back around 2011/2012. Also, the fact that Maneth was disguised as an Arcanine was meant to be a very loose shoutout to your fic characters.

    Sounds like there's some intrigue within the guild. I know Blue has been mentioned a few times, and Toshi just gave us a reminder, but do we know who Progne and Tinny are? Maybe they’ve been mentioned before. If not, a sentence or two of introduction wouldn’t hurt, here. Who are they and why does it matter?
    Ah, yeah, that was actually intentional, for reasons that might be a more obvious later. We'll see more of them a few chapters down the road. Until then, I'll leave you with this: there's hints in the name and their name and the fact that they could communicate telepathically. But beyond that, you'll have to wait and see! Thanks for the feedback.

    @canisaries
    I think I fixed all the linebreak issues. I'll work on cleaning up everything else later. Thanks for pointing those out.

    If I'd read about Nip before (outside his brief bit in the prologue and being unconscious in the first chapter), it maybe wouldn't feel as slow as I'd be more engaged to him as a character, but here we only learn of him as a character now, and he doesn't seem to have a very strong personality that would make an instant impression. The most interesting thing about him currently is his tribal background, but hearing how far away he is from his tribe, it seems that we won't be seeing that tribe in action for a while... unless another character there will soon be introduced?
    Hm... I see where you're coming from. I don't want to say too much right now due to spoilers, but I will say that there's a reason we don't see Nip beforehand that will come to light over the next few chapters. Though what you said does make me wonder if I could have expounded on it a bit more here.

    Regardless, I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying my worldbuilding, and I look forward to hearing more from you down the line.

    We're nearly caught up with off-site chapters now! But before we delve any deeper into the main story, I'm going to sidestep and post the first of what will hopefully be many bonus episodes. These aren't going to be required to understand the main story of Places We Call Home, but some of them are more tightly tied to the plot than others, and I highly recommend reading those when they come out. If a bonus episode is particularly important, I'll note it as such in the forward of that episode.

    This one, however, is not very tied in, and mostly just serves as extra information about the world, as well as the character Ruffle. This was written for a prompt in a server I'm a part of, and I hope you enjoy!


    Bonus Episode 1:
    Ruffle
    Cycle of Rejection

    There were a lot of things that Ruffle liked about living in Theran Village. It was quiet and peaceful, the pokemon were friendly, and she and her wife, Roselei, had no trouble making a living for themselves. As it was, there were few other places in the world she would want to be.

    But as she busied herself packing, the bellossom reminded herself that there were some things she preferred to keep secret from the rest of the village.

    Her room was dark, only a tiny sliver of light peeking through the cloth-covered entryway. Despite that, Ruffle scurried around in the dark, her leaves rustling as she rushed about, throwing things together in a frenzy. Yet, she could barely tell which berries she was grabbing, or if she’d picked up blast seeds or sleep seeds. Oh, this simply wouldn’t do.

    So, she hurried out into the harsh summer light, blinking for a moment as she tried to locate Roselei.

    “Dear, I’m taking the tarp down!”

    The bellossom’s call was unanswered, her roserade partner preoccupied by her work tending to the berry fields. Carefully, she climbed a ramp to the roof of their humble abode and pulled away the tarp covering that protected it from the elements.

    It also happened to reveal a moderately sized hole. Satisfied, she scurried back down the roof and returned inside. Now the room was better lit, sunlight filtering down the hole in the roof. The bellossom paused for a moment, letting her body bask in the warm light.

    A glint in the corner of her eye caught her attention, however. Turning her head, she caught sight of the small, golden ring resting above her shrine, glimmering in the sunlight. She shuffled over and reached up to run a hand along its smooth surface before reaching a bit higher to take it down.

    She’d need this for later.

    Humming, she turned and placed the ring into a small, cloth bag, securing it within an inner pocket. Now that she could see, she hurried her preparations along, digging a pecha and a cheri berry from their stores to add it to the two oran and sitrus berries already in the outer pockets. Then she went back for a pair of heal seeds and a sleep seed. She paused, hovering over the bag with an apprehensive look on her face, then turned back to pick up a single, tightly rolled-up blanket before closing it up and pulling the strings taunt.

    As one last check, she patted the outer pockets, feeling the weight and jingle of coins, before giving a satisfied hum and slinging the strap across her shoulder.

    She stepped out of the building, taking a moment to look over the rolling fields of berries, squinting until she found the roserade again.

    She took a deep breath and shouted, “Roselei! Hey, aren’t you going to come say goodbye?”

    “Hm?” The roserade looked up from her work, retracting the vine she’d been using to pluck berries from a bush. “Oh, is it that time already, Ruffle?”

    “The eclipse is in a week, dear,” Ruffle gently reminded the roserade. “I need to leave now if I’m going to make it in time.”

    Roselei sighed before putting a smile on her face. “I know, I know. I’m just going to miss you and worry about you. Make sure you send a message through psychic courier to let me know you arrived safely.”

    “Hey, no need to worry.” Ruffle reached forward to brush a nubby hand along one of Roselei’s flowers. “I’ll just be there for a couple days for the eclipse celebration, and then head right back before you know it!”

    She paused, closing her eyes and soaking up the sun - and her lover’s touch - for just a few seconds longer. “Oh, I better get going. Don’t want to keep the cart waiting. Can’t really afford to travel on my own, you know.”

    “Of course.” Roselei hesitantly pulled back, before adding in a whisper, “travel safe, and may Hoopa grant you insight on your journey.”

    *​

    Crescent Shores Beach was a much busier town than the sleepy little village Ruffle made her home in now. Unlike the charming, rustic huts that dotted the land around Theran’s center, the houses here were much more carefully planned, lined up in near-perfect rows along paved streets and divided up by sizes.

    As the mudsdale-drawn cart made its way through the residential district and towards the center of town, Ruffle shifted the bag on her back and walked over to the edge, squeezing between other passengers to peer over at the pokemon passing by, heading to and from their jobs in the mid-morning rush. As she looked ahead to the lower-level commercial district, she could see a tangled cluster of larger buildings before the landscape swept out to the actual beach.

    Somewhere in that tangle, she was supposed to get instructions for where to head next.

    Hopping down and back away from the edge of the cart, she reached back into one of her side pockets, pulling out an opened, blank envelope to look it over, carefully re-reading the letter within.

    Dearest Disciples

    As you may already know, we are expecting an eclipse shortly after the fifth full moon of the year. And as our doctrine dictates, all who are able are to meet on the day of the eclipse, to renew their vows to our dearest Hoopa.

    Estimates say that the eclipse will be best viewed from Seashoal Village this year, but we do not wish to raise trouble with the locals, nor to cause trouble by having all of us trying to cross the ocean at the same time. As such, we have begun making arrangements for private transportation to the far side of the island. If you are coming, please gather at White Sands Warehouse on the western side of Crescent Shore Beach’s commercial district, where we will give you more information.

    Cordially yours,

    Grand Master of Ceremonies

    As she read through the paper, memorizing the instructions to heart, Ruffle couldn’t help but dwell on negative thoughts, of fear of how other villagers would react, were she to tell them about this. About Hoopa.

    As she dwelled on her concerns, Ruffle felt something prickle uncomfortably in the back of her mind. She turned her head, trying to hide her worried expression, and caught sight of a hattrem staring at her. Before she could say anything though, the hattrem quickly looked away, and the uncomfortable prickling stopped.

    Slightly unnerved, Ruffle turned her attention back towards the buildings coming closer and closer, trying to place where she’d felt this feeling before. And upon failing that, she let her mind drift, thinking about home.

    *​

    The business district was even bigger than Ruffle remembered. After disembarking her ride with a polite thanks, she’d began to make her way down the wide streets, keeping to the side to avoid being trampled by larger pokemon passing by. An onix slithered by down the center, pushing a huge box of produce on wheels back towards the edge of town. Silently, she thanked herself for settling somewhere so much smaller.

    With the buildings arching high overhead, and the midday sun high in the sky as well, it was hard to get a good grasp of what direction she was going. But she could assume the onix had come from some warehouse and used that as a starting point in her search.

    Slowly, the flow of pokemon around her thinned out, most heading away from the direction she was walking. Soon the streets became more dilapidated, the buildings shifting from bright and colorful businesses to dank and dingy, run down warehouses. From that alone, she suspected she was headed in the right direction.

    She slowed down, taking the time to look at signs as she walked in hopes of spotting White Sands. She made her way down one row of warehouses, then turned and went up another. But thus far, she’d had no luck.

    On her third row, something was off.

    The air seemed just a bit different here, she realized, and it put her on edge. Walking even slower, she took the time to look around, taking greater care to watch her surroundings. But nothing jumped out at her. Soon, she found herself standing in front of an alley between two buildings, where she paused to peer down into the darkness, frowning. Still, nothing seemed to be there.

    She wasn’t quite satisfied with her search. But, unwilling to duck into some place she wasn’t supposed to be, she turned her back and began to walk away.

    But before she could take more than a step, something dropped from above and grabbed hold of her, hot pink fingers digging into her skin. . She let out a surprised squeal, struggling as she was pulled back into the shadowy alley.

    “Now!” her assailant called.

    In a panic, a flurry of petals burst from her flowers and from under her grass skirt as she tried to summon a petal blizzard. She struggled, trying to pull free during the distraction. Her attacker grunted, but only tightened their grip.

    Something conked her in the back of her head, and the last thing Ruffle saw before blacking out was a blurry flash of blue and pink.

    *​

    “Don’t you think this is a bit cruel?”

    Us, the cruel ones? I think all that time you’ve been spending in the library is making you soft.”

    “Shh-shh she’s stirring!”

    Ruffle woke to a musty smell and a dull ache in the back of her head. This certainly wasn’t home. She groaned and shifted, trying to remember what she’d last been doing, and quickly found that she couldn’t move her arms. In a panic, her eyes snapped open.

    She was in a large, dimly lit room. Windows near the ceiling provided just a little light, letting her see the tops of tall shelves with boxes on them not too far away. But the sun had nearly set, leaving only a dim orange glow in the building. As she tried to make sense of her situation, she remembered what she had been doing before, and realized that her pack was gone.

    Right. She’d been attacked. And knocked out.

    Her heart fluttered in a panic as she tried to walk, but she quickly realized that she’d been tied to a pipe against the wall, the rope acting as a short tether.

    Against her better judgement, she shouted out, “who’s there? What’s the meaning of this?”

    “What’s the meaning of this?” A voice answered in a mocking tone. “I’m the one that’s going to ask the questions around here. And I want to know what the meaning of this is.”

    Something clattered to the floor in front of her. Ruffle caught a glint of gold in the light and realized that it had to be her Hoopa ring.

    Narrowing her eyes, she refused to answer, instead looking up into the darkness. “That’s none of your business, now is it? You think you can just go and attack strangers, rummage through their belongings, and expect them to listen to your stupid demands? You have no right to ask questions of me!

    Apparently, her captor wasn’t prepared for an answer like that. There was a moment of silence, then she heard murmurings of three different pokemon.

    “What do we do, boss? She’s supposed to answer our questions!”

    “Relax, relax, it’ll all be fine.”

    “I told you handling it like this was a bad idea. Come on now.”

    She saw a small burst of flame fly through the air. A second later, a small, enclosed fire burst to life, illuminating her captors.

    Before Ruffle stood three unfamiliar pokemon.

    Well, two, technically. One of them, she recognized as the hattrem she’d seen watching her on the cart. The second pokemon was a salandit, her eyes glinting in the moonlight. The third pokemon she was less familiar with, but recognized as a morgrem after some thought.

    Ruffle stared at the trio blankly for a moment, and they stared right back. But finally, the salandit nudged the morgrem in the side. “Psst, Creek, show her the badge.”

    The morgrem, Creek, looked to the salandit with a dumbfounded expression for a moment before catching on. “Oh, I get it. Right. Good idea as always, boss.” He reached down into the bag slung across his shoulder, fumbling, until he retrieved a small object from the bag and held it out. In his hand was a round, bronze-colored badge, an indented bolt of lightning at the center.

    The salandit cleared her throat. “We’re Team Fey-Wrath of the Enforcers, and you will be answering our questions.”

    Staring down at the badge for a moment, Ruffle’s expression turned uncertain. It… did look like the badge of one of the teams of peacekeepers, but if she knew how their rankings worked, these guys were a newbie team at best. Or else they’d stolen the badge off one and were running some form of racketeering operation.

    With her misgivings in mind, her response was not friendly. “Didn’t know the enforcers had taken to harassing random civilians in the street,” she spat, trying to shift into a more comfortable position.

    “Oh, but you’re no ordinary civilian,” the salandit hissed, slinking forward before holding the ring up in the air, inspecting it. “Joy, here-” she paused as she gestured to the hattrem “-happened to pick up on your emotions and took a little listen in your brain, and just so happened to hear you thinking about a meeting of Hoopa zealots. Now, everyone can follow whatever legends they want, of course. But a meeting of followers of a chaos god can’t mean anything good.”

    “That’s…” Ruffle paused, her expression turning perplexed. “That’s what this is about?” There were things that she kept secret from most people. And this was why; not everyone was understanding of her choices.

    And yet, despite the situation, and despite the fact that she should be afraid, she stared for a moment before snickering. Then her snickers turned to full-on laughter. “Oh, my goodness, you can’t be serious right now! You, a bunch of rookie enforcers, thought you had the right to dig into my brain, made an assumption based on what I was thinking about, and then kidnapped me in hopes that I’d lead you to everyone else so you could harass them too? That’s hilarious. Now, seriously. Untie me and give me my stuff back, or I’ll have to report you to your superiors.”

    Creek hesitated, looking over to his two teammates. “That wouldn’t be a problem, right? I know this isn’t the best way to go about things, but it’s got to be better letting a dangerous Hoopa follower wander the streets, right? We aren’t gonna get in trouble with the big boss-mon for this. Right, Venna?”

    The salandit hesitated in turn. “Well… not if we prove it was for good cause. So…” She whirled back around to face Ruffle. “So why don’t you go ahead and confess already!”

    “Confess to what? I’ve done nothing wrong!”

    “Don’t think she’ll need to,” Joy called from behind. “Look what I found. She was reading this earlier, back on the cart.”

    As Ruffle looked up, she caught sight of the piece of parchment the hattrem was waving around. “That’s-”

    “Instructions as to where your little group is meeting?”

    Venna smirked, her tongue flicking out before she raced over. “Nice work, Joy.” The salandit reached up to grab the parchment and unfolded it, eyes quickly scanning the page. “Let’s move out, you two, we got a cult ritual to crash! And you!” Once again, she whipped back to face Ruffle, spitting out just a couple embers as a warning, the hot flecks fizzling out on the ground. “Stay put. We’ll come back for you when we’re done and take you over to the local enforcers branch so we can figure out what to do with you.”

    “You’re making a mistake!” Ruffle shouted, trying to summon up a burst of petals, but found her attack fizzled out before getting anywhere near what it was supposed to be.

    “We stuffed a ban seed down your throat,” Joy announced quietly, watching her attempts. “Don’t worry, it’ll wear off eventually, but by then we should have you back at the station. Just try to relax dear, your anger is giving me a headache.”

    My anger giving you a headache?” Ruffle shouted, tugging at her bonds. “You three are accusing me of something without reason! How dare you call yourself enforcers!”

    Venna scoffed. “That’s pretty rich, coming from you. Try to stay calm and don’t hurt yourself. Or not. I don’t care. We’ll be back soon enough. Busting this open should be enough to move us up a rank for sure!”

    With that, she paused for a second to put out the flames, then turned and trotted off, the two fairy-types following behind her, leaving Ruffle in near darkness.

    Ruffle sat still for a few moments, stewing in silence. Guilt ate at her as well, leaving her tense and uneasy. She had been careless, and now other pokemon might get hurt because of her.

    Not that she was willing to go down without a fight. She took a long, shaky breath to calm her nerves, then closed her eyes. The flowers on her head started to glow, taking in light as she charged a solar beam. She didn’t yet know how she was going to use that to escape, but she was certain she’d find a way.

    “Er, um… please don’t do that, miss. I don’t think the building owners would appreciate it if you destroyed any of their stock. “

    Ruffle let out a yelp, caught off guard by the new, uncomfortably grating voice. She whipped around, looking for the source, and felt something tug behind her. Turning her head, she caught sight of ghostly, cloth hands trying to undo the ropes binding her. The banette - half of his intangible body still hanging out through the wall - swore as he fumbled with the knots.

    Finally, he gave up on just untying them, looping his fingers through a couple of notes. “Now hold still, don’t want to get you with this.”

    Turning her body slightly so she could glance back, Ruffle watched as shadow coalesced around the banette’s fingers before he ripped them away, severing the ropes bonds as he did so. Slowly, she climbed to her feet, dusting her leaf skirt as she did so. “Um… Thanks…”

    “Kee,” he responded, offering out a draped hand. “Bodyguard for hire, though I’m currently contracted out, so don’t go asking. Now come on, gather up your things and let’s get out of here; my charge is eager to know that you’re alright.”

    For a second, Ruffle stared. Then she moved to collect her bag. Fortunately, none of her items had been scattered, though the trio of enforcers had taken both her letter and her ring with them.

    “The local enforcers aren’t nicest branch around, but this is low even for them,” Kee grumbled, surveying the scene with disgust. “We’ll escort you to the local branch, if you want to write a report.”

    “Thanks…” Ruffle replied slowly. “Though… I kind of need to head to my meeting first and let them know what’s going on.”

    “Ah, the ‘Hoopa’ meeting that they were talking about, I assume? I’ll see if my charge is willing.”

    The two made their way out of the building quietly, taking care to listen for the trio of enforcers, in case they were still hanging around. Once they made it outside without incident, the banette turned and floated ahead towards the far side of the warehouse, disappearing around the corner. Ruffle, after a second of hesitation, followed.

    “Hey, Gan, you still here? I’m back.”

    From behind a pile of crates, Ruffle heard the pitter-patter of feet. A second later, a piplup waddled into view, clutching a small satchel tightly to his side.

    “Everything went well, I assume?” the piplup asked.

    “Yeah. Just a couple of overzealous newbie enforcers,” Kee replied, waving a hand dismissively. “Didn’t like my odds though so I waited for them to leave before breaking her out. She wants to know if we’ll take her over to her meeting so that she can warn them about any trouble these guys might cause.”

    Gan took a second to look up at the sky. “Well, if it’s not too far, I don’t see why not.” He held out a fin towards Ruffle. “You may call me Gan, I’m an apprentice with the local merchantry, learning how to keep the local docks organized. I assume you’ve already been introduced to my associate and bodyguard, Kee?”

    “Ah, yes, thank you, Gan.” Ruffle took a little bow. “My name is Ruffle, I’m actually a berry farmer and merchant from Theran Village, if you’ve heard of us. We’re a tiny little village at the base of Mount Domo.”

    Gan’s face lit up. “Oh, I have heard of it! In fact, I’ve heard that your berries are simply divine. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Now, where were we headed, exactly?”

    “Ah, right.” Ruffle began to reach for her bag, and then remembered that the letter with directions had been taken by the trio of enforcers. “I believe it was… Beach Sands Warehouse… no, er… White Beach Warehouse? Something like that.”

    “White Sands?” Gan suggested.

    “Yeah, that’s it!”

    "Well, that's not all that far out of our way, so I don't see why not. What do you say, Kee?"

    The banette brought his arms together, letting the fabric hang in front of him. "I say you should ask what she's doing there first before just up and offering. I mean, I already know what she's doing there, but I’m not letting you go into a situation without knowing the whole story.”

    Gan waved a flipper dismissively. "I'm sure it's all fine. You worry too much! She's a fellow merchant, after all."

    For just a second, Ruffle hesitated. How would these two react? Would they react as poorly as the enforcers? Once again, she was reminded of why she kept these things secret.

    Then again, she was out in the open now. If things went bad, she'd have a chance to get away. So, she slowly let out a breath and began to explain the situation. "No, the banette’s right. You have a right to know.” A pause. “Well... See, I'm... You two know about the eclipse coming up in a couple days, right?"

    She waited for sounds or motions of agreement before continuing. "I'm... I'm a follower of Hoopa, and for us, the day of a solar eclipse like this is an important day where we're supposed to come together and renew our vows. Remind ourselves of what things we value. I was headed there when I was... accosted. And I'm worried those three might start something and that someone might get hurt... or worse."

    Kee and Gan shared a look. Kee stared at the piplup inquisitively, waiting for instructions, while Gan's expression was unreadable. After a tense moment of waiting, however, the piplup turned his head to give her a friendly look. "Well, why didn't you say so. Some of my dad's workers are over there. I'd be happy to help out. Build friendly relations and what not."

    Ruffle let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. "Oh, thank you two so much. I hate to be a burden on you, so I appreciate what you're doing."

    "Think of it as a favor," Gan insisted, turning to walk past Ruffle and Kee. "Now come on, the warehouse is this way."

    *​

    The three walked quickly in near silence, their pace urgent. Gan took the lead, showing the way. Ruffle walked just a few paces behind him, keeping her bag close and her eyes peeled for danger. Kee floated to their side, occasionally dashing ahead at an intersection to be certain everything was safe.

    Though it felt like a long trip, in truth it took them perhaps ten minutes to arrive, the sun slowly setting behind them. Soon, they found themselves in front of an innocuous, brick building, a sandy-colored sign in the front announcing it as White Sands Warehouse. From a distance, nothing seemed amiss, and Ruffle was relieved to see no sign of the enforcers team. But as they drew close, she could hear loud, angry voices shouting from inside the open door. Without thought, she rushed ahead of her escorts, racing into the building.

    Inside the entry lobby, she spotted the trio of enforcers accosting the door guard: a lone combusken, standing in front of the wide doorway with narrowed eyes.

    "I already told ya," the combusken growled. "I ain’t allowed to let anyone in if they're not on the list, till they get approval from the Grand Master. My associate went to go look for 'em already for you. So, you're just gonna have to sit and wait.”

    Creek grumbled, and whipped his head around, stomping off just a few feet with his eyes closed while Venna tried to reason with the guard.

    The sound of footsteps rushing towards the door made Creek open his eyes, just in time to see Kee and Gan rushing into the doorway, where Ruffle already stood with an angry expression on her face.

    "Uh... boss?" Creek called out without taking his eyes off the trio. "We got company."

    Venna and Joy turned away from the combusken, their eyes bulging as they caught sight of Ruffle. The salandit cried out, "you... how did you get here?"

    Ruffle ignored their question. "You, guard! My name's Ruffle. I was invited and should be on the list. These three enforcers stole my ring and my letter to try and get in because they think we're going to cause trouble. You need to let everyone inside-" She cut off with a pained cry as a spattering of embers landed on her leaves, threatening to send them up in flames.

    Venna scampered forward, attempting to cut her off, but a thin jet of bubbles from Piplup knocked her off-course.

    "Kee! Defensive maneuvers!" Gan announced. The banette rushed forward to stand protectively in front of him. his hands enveloped in purple shadows as he waited for any of the other pokemon to make a move.

    The combusken let out a loud, pained squawk as Joy turned on him and brought her hands together, releasing a beam of bright, multicolored energy in his direction, catching him squarely in the chest. He was knocked sprawling back several feet. As she began to approach, however, he sprang back up and dashed for something just to the side of the doorway. With a shudder, a segmented metal door began to fall.

    "Don't worry!" he shouted. "I'll go get help. Just hold on!"

    Venna turned to look back at the sound and let out an alarmed call. "No! Don't let him get away!" But before she could give chase, she was hit with a blast of energy from behind, sent flailing through the air and landing on the ground hard.

    "That's for kidnapping me!" Ruffle announced, the light from her flowers beginning to fade. With a crash, the door slammed shut, separating the fighting pokemon from the rest of the building.

    "Sorry about dragging you two into this," Ruffle said to her two companions, already charging up another beam.

    "No need to apologize," Gan called back. "I've been wanting a good skirmish for a while!" He clapped his flippers together before shooting water into the air, sending a misty spattering all around the room, dampening the area. "What about you, Kee, having fun yet?"

    The banette grunted in response. "Less talking, more fighting." Without waiting for his two teammates to ready themselves or for the two opposing pokemon to recover, he charged, heading directly for the hattrem. With one quick swipe, he struck her across the face with his prepared shadow claw attack.

    Joy let out a cry, stumbling back several feet, bringing her hands up to cover her face. She tried to shoot off another psybeam, but it went off-course, uselessly striking the ceiling, sending a spray of bits of stone and dust down around the fighting party.

    While Kee dealt with the hattrem, Venna tried shooting another gout of embers in Ruffle's direction. But with the protective coating of water, the flames did significantly less damage to the bellossom's plant matter. Ruffle responded by shooting at her with another solar beam, the bright green-yellow light just barely grazing the salandit. She turned it slightly, managing to catch Creek off-guard. He stumbled back a few feet from the blow, trying to stay upright.

    "Who uses water sport?" the salandit complained as she shifted strategies. With speed that caught Ruffle off-guard, Venna slithered forward, racing towards her. She tried to spring out of the way but was too slow and let out a cry as she felt the salandit's fangs sink down into her shoulder.

    Instinctively, she let out a puff of spores, the yellow cloud surrounding both her and the salandit as she thrashed and tried to break free of the bite. Even as she did, she could feel her strength draining and realized with horror that the salandit managed to inject venom into her body.

    Fortunately, the puff of spores was enough to loosen Venna’s grip, giving Gan a chance to blast her off with a thick, concentrated stream of sticky bubbles. From the wound oozed a nasty mix of purple venom and a greenish, sap-like fluid. As soon as she was free, she struggled to reach into her bag, the poison quickly taking its toll on her. “C-Cover me!” she shouted back to Gan.

    The piplup took up a defensive stance behind her, shooting beams of bubbles as Venna and Creek tried to get in close again or else intercepting gunky wads of poison shot in Ruffle’s direction. At the very least, the stun spores had taken their toll out on Venna slowing both her movements and her attacks.

    There! Ruffle’s hand closed around the soft, fuzzy flesh of a pecha berry. She pulled it free and stuffed the whole thing in her mouth as quickly as possible, waiting with bated breath for the berry to take its effect.

    A cry of pain from Joy turned Ruffle’s attention away for just a split second, long enough to see the scraped and bruised hattrem fall to Kee’s shadow claw attack. The banette immediately whirled around, turning on Creek next.

    “Wait! Wait!” the morgrem cried out, holding his hands out in front of him before dropping to his knees, stealing glances at his injured teamate. “I give in I give in don’t attack!”

    The action in the room slowed to a standstill. Venna paused and hesitantly turned back to look at Creek. The glow from Ruffle’s flowers as she prepared another solar beam slowly began to fade. A stream of bubbles died in Gan’s throat. Joy carefully peeled herself off the ground.

    Kee approached the morgrem cautiously, floating just a few feet in front of him. “Is that all? Are all you enforcers really this cowardly? Attacking random pokemon and then begging forgiveness when things get tough? No wonder you have a poor reputation around here.”

    Several things happened in an instant.

    The hair hanging down Creek’s back, seemingly with a mind of its own, branched out in tendrils and struck at the banette, piercing through his cloth-like body around the shoulder. A shadowy mist escaped the wound as he stumbled back in shock.

    Creek sneered, tackling the banette with glimmers of fairy-type energy surrounding him. “Suckers.”

    Venna shot another glob of poison, this time aiming at Gan. Still in shock from Creek’s surprise attack, the piplup failed to dodge out of the way in time, taking the glob of poison directly to the face. He cried out and stumbled, trying to clear his vision.

    Ruffle had little time to prepare for Joy’s attack, the hattrem less tired out than she initially seemed. She attempted to slow her down with a puff of spores, just as she had done with Venna, but it wasn’t enough. Before she could move out of the way, she was battered to the ground with a single swing of Joy’s thick braids.

    “That’ll teach them to mess with us!” Venna called out. “Alright team, everyone take offensive measures, aim for the knock-out blow!”

    Desperate to protect herself, Ruffle attempted once again to summon forth a flurry of petals. It served as enough of a distraction to allow her to climb to her feet, but just like before, they dissipated before she had a chance to do anything with it, forcing her to just focus on dodging as Joy drove her back towards a corner. She ducked behind a small stool, buying her just enough time to drop a cloud of spores in hopes of slowing the hattrem down before having to dodge out of the way again..

    Kee fell back, dodging out of the way of another strike from Creek as he ran to intercept Venna as she rushed towards Gan. The salandit rolled out of the way of an errant stream of bubbles, then rushed forward again. In a desperate attempt to keep her away, Gan lashed out with his flippers before going in to try and peck at her eyes. He received a spattering of embers to his face for his trouble and let out a pained screech.

    What is going on in here?”

    At once, the struggles of the six pokemon screeched to a halt. Slowly everyone turned their attention to the entrance, where two pokemon stood. The first was a stern looking dewott, her hands reaching down for the shells resting on her thighs with eyes narrowed. The second was a proud and dangerous looking jolteon; she had made no aggressive movements, yet the air felt oppressive just being around her.

    Before anyone could explain why they were battling in the middle of the lobby, the warehouse door that had been shut rattled and began to rise. Before it was even half-way up, the combusken from before came rushing through, followed closely behind by a rather calm xatu.

    Nobody dared to move as the jolteon gracefully made her way inside, standing in the center of the room. “Well, is anyone going to answer? Or is Dew going to have to take you in for questioning?”

    “With all due respect,” Kee began, bringing a hand up to try and hold shut his punctured shoulder, “would you happened to be Enforcer Yellow?”

    The jolteon blinked. “I am.”

    The air seemed to grow even more oppressive as everyone stared at Yellow, realizing that they were standing in the presence of one of the most powerful pokemon in all the known lands.

    The silence did not last long, as Dew stepped forward. “What I’d like to know,” the dewott began, turning her head to stare directly at Venna, “is what one of my rookie teams is doing here, trashing a building?”

    The salandit’s pupils widened in alarm. “Miss Dew! I know this probably looks bad, but I swear it’s for good reason! See, my team uncovered a plot going on here. There’s a cult meeting here in this warehouse, getting ready to go invade Seashoal Village!

    “Really now?” Yellow asked, her voice an unnatural calm that made everyone uneasy. “What makes you so certain of that?”

    “W-well…”

    “I-it’s all in the bellossom’s letter!” Creek stuttered, pointing a finger towards Ruffle. “It said something about sneaking Hoopa followers onto the island!”

    At this, the xatu stepped forward, training his unwavering stare on the jolteon. “If I may,” he began, “I believe I can explain the situation.”

    Dew stepped forward to stand next to Yellow, her fingers pulling away from her weapons, though still staying at her side ready to grab at a moment’s notice. “Please, do.”

    “My name is Sol. I serve as both seer and grandmaster for this region of Hoopa followers, watching the celestial bodies to know what times we should meet. While it is true that we followers of Hoopa arranged to meet here, there is no foul play involved at all. In fact, we were given explicit permission to gather from the building’s owner.”

    “Ah, that would be Sir Brine, right?” Gan interrupted, only to shrink back as Yellow and Dew shot him an annoyed glare.

    “Sorry, so sorry! My apologies. I’ll be quiet now.”

    Yellow shook out her fur, a couple sparks flying off as she relaxed. “So, you have permission to gather, but why have you gathered?”

    The xatu closed his eyes. “Mmm… I have foreseen an eclipse in the coming days. As you may know, we see these days as a symbol of Hoopa’s power, so we gather somewhere where it is the strongest and renew our vows.”

    “Vows of evil!” Joy blurted out.

    “Evil?” Ruffle repeated, her eyes narrowing, her frustration shining through. “Despite what you may have been told, Hoopa is not an inherently evil pokemon. Just as much as they can be seen as the embodiment of chaos and greed, they can also represent ambition. Striving for more than this life gives you. I would have been happy to explain that, but instead of listening, you left me tied up in some warehouse under the assumption that I was evil!

    Dew turned back to look at Venna, eyes narrowed. “Is this true?”

    The salandit withered under her superior’s glare, stumbling a couple steps back. “W-well, we, uh…”

    Yellow let out a long breath, closing her eyes. “I’ve heard enough. Dew, get your rookies back to their station and give them a long talk about jumping to conclusions-”

    “-and poking around in other mon’s heads without permission!” Ruffle interrupted.

    The jolteon shot her an annoyed look. “And that.” She turned to Sol next. “I apologize for any trouble my young associates have caused you. If there’s anything within reason we can do for you, I’ll see to it.”

    “Yeah, how about you compensate me for my medical bills,” Kee grumbled, pulling the rip in his cloth a little tighter.

    Surprising everyone, Yellow let out a rumbling chuckle. “I think we can arrange that. Well then, Sol, I wish your followers well.”

    As she turned to leave, the xatu spoke up, holding a wing out.

    “Safe travels, Yellow. And remember, there are things this world isn’t ready for, things that would put you - and those that you care about - in danger. Be careful who you trust.”

    Yellow whirled back around, giving the xatu a searching look. For just a moment, Ruffle thought she looked… afraid? But the expression passed just as quickly, and she decided she must have imagined it.

    “Yes… thank you.” And then she turned and walked out of sight, leaving the remaining pokemon to disperse. Dew herded her rookies away, muttering an apology as she ushered them out the door. Kee and Gan left shortly after.

    “Do you need medical attention?” the combusken asked, approaching Ruffle.

    “She will be fine,” Sol replied for her. “Her oran berries will heal the damage just fine with a little time. Come, you two. I wish to send a group out after dark.”

    Surrounded by other pokemon like her, Ruffle was finally able to relax, letting her worries melt away as she silently thanked Kee and Gan for helping her. And as she chewed on the flesh of a fresh oran berry, she found herself thinking ahead to the coming ceremony.

    *​

    High overhead, the sun beamed down, casting its light on the clearing. Grass waved in the light breeze, tickling at Ruffle as she took her place around a circle that had been carefully carved into the ground. Here, she fumbled with the parchment that she had been given, checking the words she had written one last time before folding it and tossing it into the ring, along with everyone else.

    On it, she’d written everything she hoped to accomplish before the next eclipse. She wrote about riches and bountiful harvests, of safety and shelter.

    And she wrote about hoping for confidence, for understanding. For courage to tell everyone in the village about the beliefs she’d hidden for so long.

    Perched from a branch on a nearby tree, Sol silently watched the proceedings below, occasionally peeking back up to watch the sun, waiting for the moment to begin.

    Finally, just as before the moon began to eclipse the sun, the xatu let out a loud screech, grabbing the attention of all the pokemon around.

    “For those of us who have gathered today,” Sol began in a clearly enunciated voice, “blessings to you all. As dictated by the stories passed down about Hoopa, we gather here at the time of the eclipse to renew our vows to them. Vows of ambition, of striving for more. We write down our hopes and dreams, praying that one day, Hoopa might see them and grant them to us. By Hoopa’s power.”

    “By Hoopa’s power,” the gathered pokemon repeated back.

    With one last look to the eclipse, Sol turned his gaze back to the circle. His eyes flashed and at once all the papers disappeared, their hopes and ambitions scattering on the winds.
     
    Bonus 2: Titan's Harvest
  • windskull

    Bidoof Fan
    Staff
    Partners
    1. custom/sneasel-nip
    2. bidoof
    3. absol
    4. kirlia
    5. custom/windskull-bidoof
    A/N: This chapter was written as a prize for Fobbie/Spiteful Murkrow for an event on Thousand Roads. He asked for a fic about a festival in Theran Village.

    Catkin

    Titan's Harvest


    "Grandpa! Grandpa! Wake up! It's Titans Harvest!"

    The elderly bibarel let out an "ompf" as he was roused from his sleep by a solid tackle. He blinked sleep out of his eyes. Standing in front of him, her whole body wiggling with excitement, was his granddaughter, Haru.

    He laughed and sat up. "Goodness, little missy, aren't you excited!"

    "We're getting ready to head to the square, Catkin. Are you coming with us?"

    Catkin turned his head. Saku, his daughter in-law, stood in the doorway, a tired smile on her face.

    "Wouldn't miss it for the world," Catkin replied, stretching the stiffness out of his joints. "Chipper' already gone?"

    "He took the cart with the show furniture down already," Saku said over her shoulder as she disappeared into the hall. "We'll meet him there. Now come on, Haru. Let's get ready."

    Haru let out an excited squeal, jumping up and down with her eyes shining. Then she scrambled off into the other room.

    Catkin let out an affectionate chuckle, exchanging a glance with Saku. "Well, we shouldn't keep her waiting. Let's get going."


    Nearly the entire village had come to the square for the festivities. More pokemon had come from nearby villages, and there were even a few wildeners that had come out of the surrounding woods, lured in both by their beliefs in the Titans and the promise of food. Though, Catkin noticed with a frown, there were even less wildeners around than usual this year. He hoped everything was alright.

    But there was no point in worrying about that. No, right now, he should enjoy his time with his family.

    "Grandpa! Look what I can do!" Haru waved a paw until he turned to watch. Then she stuffed an entire oran pastry into her mouth.

    He laughed as she gave him a wide grin, crumbs sticking to her snout. "Goodness, you're getting so big, little miss. Such a big appetite!"

    As Haru reached a grabby paw for another pastry, a familiar voice caught Catkin's attention.

    "Fancy some wine, Catkin?"

    The bibarel turned his head, locking eyes with an approaching roserade. His vines were wrapped around various bowls and cups, each filled with indigo oran wine.

    "Don't mind if I do, Hyacinth." As the roserade maneuvered his carried drinks around to sit a bowl down, Catkin continued. "You've really outdone yourself this year. The harvest has been bountiful! And plenty tasty too. Wouldn't you say, Haru?"

    Haru looked up with wide eyes, face stuffed with yet another pasty. "Mm!"

    Hyacinth laughed. "Well, I've certainly had plenty of help. Roselei is shaping up to be a fine farmer. A few more years and I think I'll be able to retire!"

    "Indeed. Gigas bless you." Catkin turned away and leaned down, lapping up a couple mouthfuls of the wine. He closed his eyes, savoring the taste as it washed over his tongue. But as he opened his eyes again, he noticed Haru leaning forward to sniff at his drink. Then, before he could do anything, she took an experimental drink, only gag and recoil.

    "Gross! Grandpa, why are you drinking that?"

    He pulled the bowl away and held it above his head. "It's old people drink, Haru," he explained, holding back laughter. She was so cute when she got upset like this. "You'll understand when you're older."

    In response, Haru glared. "Don't laugh!"

    "Sorry, sorry." He chuckled a couple more times, then got over the bout. "Alright, why don't we find something else to do. Do you want to go watch fighting games?"

    Haru immediately perked up, all her grumpiness forgotten. "Okay! Race you!" And just like that, she'd turned and bolted away from the table.


    The field where the guards usually ran drills had been divided up into a handful of sections, rope with flags surrounding the area. A dozen or so pokemon milled about in the field, while several more watched from the sidelines. Several events were planned for the day: racing, climbing, swimming, and other ways for pokemon to show off their skills. And then, when the sun was setting, a tournament of battles.

    The main event wouldn't start until after the blessing ceremony, but there were still pokemon around competing in other events. Or even just getting ready. At the center of the field…

    Bolts of electricity danced wildly across the field. From the epicenter came the boisterous laughter of a massive luxray. "Come now, Whisper. Is that the best you've got?"

    Only the grass waved in response. The luxray growled playfully, lowering himself into a crouch as he tasted the air.

    Catkin felt tiny paws dig into his shoulders. Haru had climbed up to get a better look.

    A flash of red darted from the tall grass, racing towards the luxray. His ears twitched, then he turned to face the attacking hawlucha. She slammed into him at full speed, sending them tumbling in a tangle of limbs. But the luxray was prepared. He twisted around to get a better grip and bit down on the hawlucha's wing. Ice crept up her feathers, and she flinched as she tried to pull free, but to no avail.

    "I yield, I yield!" Whisper cried out.

    Immediately, the luxray let go, allowing his opponent to stumble away. A purr rumbled in his throat as the hawlucha dusted herself off.

    "Well done, Volt, Whisper!" Catkin called out. Similar cheers went up around them.

    Whisper froze at the calls, shying behind Volt. Her feathers puffed up, and yet she tried to make herself look small.

    Still not used to the attention of living in a village, Catkin thought to himself. Ah well, it will come with time.

    "It's okay." Volt's voice rumbled with reassurance. "Everyone thinks you did great. He stepped aside, giving Whisper a light headbutt to urge her forward. "Now run along and rest up. We've got a ceremony to attend before the matches start properly."

    "We should head towards the temple, too," Catkin said with a nod. "Come along, Haru."

    "Aww, but I wanted to stay and watch," Haru whined. Even so, she slid down his back and tumbled down his tail. But then she shook the dust out of her fur, and she was back to her chipper self, scampering off again.

    Catkin chuckled and followed slowly behind.


    Not too much later, Catkin had settled down with Haru a short ways from the temple, along with most of the other villagers. The young bidoof squirmed in place as he kept a firm paw on her, making sure she didn't run off before the blessing started.

    Five pokemon stood in front of the temple entrance, surrounded by baskets upon baskets of berries and vegetables. There was Kari – the graying lucario that tended to the temple – and his riolu son, Anu. Standing on either side of them were an absol and a gardevoir.

    Catkin leaned down to whisper in Haru's ear. "You see those two?" He pointed at the absol. "That's Cass, the town oracle. She watches and listens for signs of trouble from Regigigas so that we can prepare. And that—'' he gestured to the gardevoir "— is our mayor, Lady Gratitude." He scanned the crowd. Her mate, Jhorlo, was nowhere to be seen. Probably running about trying to make sure everything was perfect, if Catkin knew him. He could, however, see Cass' daughter, Muse, sitting just to the side. The tiny absol was sitting stiffly, watching with a comically serious expression.

    Gratitude raised her hand bringing all chatter to a close. All eyes turned toward the temple.

    "Good afternoon, everyone," she began in a cheerful tone, clasping her hands together. "Thank you all for coming out to celebrate another successful harvest. I hope you've been enjoying the food. Everyone give cheer for Hyacinth, Meaad, and their families for growing and preparing all the food for today."

    A collection of cheers, clapping, and stomping of feet went up among the crowd. Gratitude waited for the cheering to subside before continuing.

    "As you know, we have many more activities for the day, including the fighting games. But for now, let me step aside, so that Kari can say the blessing."

    More cheers as she took a step back and the lucario took a step forward. Anu stepped up beside him, but remained quiet. It seemed like Kari was teaching him the motions of the blessing. Perhaps he was planning on retiring soon?

    "Great Regigigas, Titan of the Mountain," Kari began, placing one paw to his chest spike while raising the other in the air. "Thank you, as always for the bountiful harvest. We've worked hard in your stead, growing this food. We offer a portion of it back to the mountain, for providing for us. In return, Continent Tower, we humbly ask that you provide us with a bountiful harvest next cycle." He closed his eyes and bowed his head, and many of the other pokemon did the same.

    But before Catkin could do so, he caught an uneasy glance pass between Cass and Gratitude behind Kori's back. Discomfort churned in his stomach as he closed his eyes as well. What was that about? Had the absol received a bad omen? Should he be worried?

    Not right now, he decided after a moment. Whatever it is, it can wait. Now is a time for celebration.

    And as they all opened their eyes, everyone did celebrate late into the night. And for the moment, all was good.
     
    Bonus 3: A time before
  • windskull

    Bidoof Fan
    Staff
    Partners
    1. custom/sneasel-nip
    2. bidoof
    3. absol
    4. kirlia
    5. custom/windskull-bidoof
    A/N: This chapter was written at the request of Negrek, as a prize for Blacklight participation on the Thousand Roads Forums. She requested a peek into Nip's life prior to the events of Places We Call Home.

    Nip

    A Time Before


    "Nip! Pay attention!"

    Small golden pebbles smacked Nip across the cheek. He yelped, rubbing a paw against the stinging spot as the snickers of his denmates rose up around him. His attacker, a grey-pelted persian, stalked into his line of sight, her expression disgruntled.

    "S-sorry," he mumbled, lowering his head submissively. "What did you need, Lorekeeper Glimmer?"

    The persian, Glimmer, sighed and flicked her tail in agitation before using it to point to a drawing on the cave wall. "I asked you to explain the legend this image is depicting."

    Nip stared in the dim light. The painting showed Celebi approaching the great Yveltal with head bowed.

    "This is… the story of Celebi asking for Yveltal's allegiance? Asking for help?"

    "Close," Glimmer said. "But why is Celebi asking for help?"

    "To… request aid in the war against Palkia?" Nip guessed, his voice clearly hesitant.

    Glimmer sighed. "Again, only a partial answer. This is why you need to pay attention, Nip, especially if you are to be a lorekeeper." With a snort, she turned to look at the art. "This painting is the moment that Celebi came with the message that a battle would come to Yveltal's nesting grounds, whether she wanted to participate or not. He asked that Yveltal provide aid — both through getting her followers to fight, and through enlisting the aid of the spirits of the dead."

    "Oh! I know what happened next!" chimed a stunky to Nip's right. "Yveltal refused to provide her powers, saying that it was wrong to use the spirits of the departed for battle. But that she was willing to speak with her followers, and battle alongside them, if they chose to side with Dialga."

    "Very good, Holly," Glimmer purred. "At least someone is paying attention."

    Nip's fur grew hot with embarrassment and resentment. It wasn't that he didn't want to learn, he just didn't want to be forced into the path of a lorekeeper. It wasn't fair. Just because he was undersized, didn't mean he couldn't hunt and fight as well as everyone else.

    "I think that's enough for today," Glimmer said, shaking Nip out of his thoughts. "We'll continue after the group lesson, tomorrow."

    Nip waited for the other students to get up before scampering out of the cave. He squinted as he emerged into midday light. The main clearing, a common area where most of the tribe gathered during rest times, was relatively empty.

    Ten or so pokemon milled about in small groups, most of them still at the training age. Several were gathered just outside a den surrounding Umbra, a mawile training to specialize in fighting, as she recounted a story from the day's sparring matches. She glanced his way, and he quickly averted his gaze, uninterested in getting involved with her group.

    "Hey, Nip."

    A shy voice caught his attention. Turning his head, he saw Holly sidle up to him. She gave a cheerful chirp once she had caught his attention. "I was wondering if you might want to spend recreation time with me?"

    It was a kind offer. Holly always seemed willing to spend time with him – more so than many of his other peers. Nip replied with a slow blink, bringing his claws together. "Maybe another time. I sort of… Already had something planned."

    Holly tilted her head. "Off with Tempest again?"

    Nip's heart skipped a beat. "How did you hear about that?" No one was supposed to know about those meetings.

    She sat down. "I saw you leave the other day. When you came back, you smelled like you'd been around him."

    "O-oh," Nip stammered. "I-it's nothing special. He's just… been giving me some extra hunting practice." He hesitated. "Don't tell anyone, please? I don't want others to get the idea that I'm a bad hunter."

    "Alright," Holly replied, mimicking his slow blink. "I'll see you later, then."

    With that, she trotted away to catch up with another of their peers, a skittish mewoth.

    Nip let out a sigh. He felt bad, brushing her off, but his training with Tempest was more important. Speaking of which, he was going to be late if he didn't get moving.


    The sun had just passed its apex when Nip reached the glade he usually met Tempest in. A thin layer of snow crunched under paw. The soft drip-dripping of snowmelt surrounded him, signaling the end of the cold season.

    Sitting in the center, lit by a sunbeam was the familiar ninetales. Frost shimmered around his waving tales as he watched Nip approach quietly.

    "Greetings," Tempest said, not moving even as Nip approached. "I trust your daily training went well?"

    "As well as it could," Nip said with a twitch of his tail feathers. Mostly lorekeeping, as usual." His voice dropped to a grumble. "It's fine and all but I'm sick of being treated like a kit."

    "Knowing the tribe's history is important," Tempest pointed out. "And the legends, too. I do understand your frustrations, though." He stood up, tails fanning out, before dropping into a crouch. "But that's why you are here, is it not? Attack me."

    To the point, as Tempest often was at the beginning of their training sessions. Nip took a deep breath, then sprang back and forth from foot to foot, dancing around Tempest as he looked for an opening. The ninetales regarded him with a quiet, guarded expression, giving nothing away.

    Nip feinted to the right, then dashed forward so quickly that Tempest didn't have time to track his movement. Icy shards formed on his legs as he flash-froze the air around him, and he leaped to strike at Tempest's head with spinning kicks. The first landed perfectly, but the second only grazed him, and the third missed entirely.

    "Your form is good," Tempest grunted, knocking him back by forming an icy wind, "but your accuracy could use some work. Now, again."


    They continued to train for some time, until, exhausted, the two of them collapsed in a heap. They rested for a while in each other's company, grooming and discussing recent events.

    "You heard the announcement yesterday, right?" Nip asked, pausing between licks on his shoulder. "About the trials?"

    "That they'd be starting soon?" Tempest asked. "Yes, I did. I figured that was why you were so eager to train."

    Nip hummed in response. "I just… I don't want to be stuck as a lorekeeper, just because of my size. Because of my origins, you know?"

    He felt Tempest tense beside him. "Yes, I understand very well," Tempest replied, though his voice was strained.

    Nip's brow furrowed. What about his statement made Tempest stressed? He supposed it was because Tempest was an outsider, like him. Tempest had joined the tribe as a grown pokemon, and had to prove himself trustworthy. Nip had been born in the tribe, but his egg had been taken from elsewhere. He knew it to be true, because there were no other of his kind in the tribe. There had been an elderly weavile when he was a kit, but he had passed, and everyone said he had no heirs.

    "But I'm sure you'll do fine," Tempest finally said, giving a quick nuzzle. "What is this training for after all?"

    He was right. All this training would do him good in the trials. If he did well in the hunting and fighting assessments, he'd be able to become a primary hunter or guard, like he wanted.

    Letting out a frosty puff of air, Nip twitched his ear and glanced towards the setting sun, just dipping behind the trees. "I suppose we should get back. We can hunt along the way. I imagine you don't want to return empty-jawed."

    Tempest grunted in response. He stood, stretched, then shook out his fur. "Indeed. Come on, we can hunt together."

    Nip stood up as well. Together, they pushed into the undergrowth, both hopeful for the future.
     
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