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Pokémon Places We Call Home

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, coming back to this series to squeeze in one last update as part of that off-server review event before doing a more relaxed roll through the remainder of this story during the rest of spring.

Though enough chit-chat, let’s send things in that event off with a bang:

Chapter 10

Century. Decade. Year. Season. Moon. Hour. Minute. Second. Most pokemon only ever moved forward in time. But for Celebi, time was his sandbox. Forwards. Backwards. Forks that peered into timelines that would never come to be. All of it twisted around him as he flew through The Passage of Time.

Can't tell if it's a deliberate choice or an oversight, though I see that you opted for 'Year' over 'Cycle' again in this sequence. My assumption at this point is that the two are interchangeable, with 'Cycle' being a bit more colloquial/vernacular, but something to keep in mind if that's not how you intended things to be read.

"Oh, where is it, where is it? Why couldn't you do this yourself Dia? Where was I supposed to go again? When? Oh, this is so boring."

Slipping through the timestream was perhaps the easiest part of Celebi's job. The Passage of Time was his refuge, a place void of sound, a place to relax when other parts of the job could get noisy and dangerous.

Ah yes, Celebi is every bit as loopy and airheaded as I remembered. Though that does make me wonder how he and Dialga relate with each other in this setting. I'm assuming it's a "boss and errand boy" dynamic, but didn't get far enough in the story the first time around to get a good read on that. ^^;

Of course, while the traveling part of their job was easy enough, landing at the right place and time was much more difficult. And influencing events without being noticed was even more difficult. What he wouldn't do to have a convenient disguise.

Image


Though I take it that this means that part of Celebi's job is to help tilt the field for events in the future to play out one way or another. Not sure what the restrictions or limitations on that would be, but it's the sort of vibe that I'm getting from seeing this passage again.

He paused at one particular spot, letting pulses of light pass by him for a moment. "Right, this seems close enough, doesn't it?" As he was alone, no one answered the question. But that didn't stop him from saying, "you're right. Even if it is wrong, popping in to check won't hurt. I'll be in and out lickety-split!"

20 words spoken seconds from disaster. Like seriously, why would you even say that out loud while you’re in a story?

He slowed to a stop and squeezed his eyes shut, cutting his connection with the stream to reappear at the moment he stopped.

The sky was a deep red above him, stars beginning to appear in the sky. He had entered into a clearing. In hopes of getting a better look, he took to the air.

Something was very wrong here.

Celebi: "Uh. Yeah, I kinda gathered from the red sky, brah. Like since when has that ever been a good sign?" ^^;

Smoldering, fresh gouges and craters dotted the landscape. A few of them were marred with smoking corpses of unfortunate pokemon that had either fought or been caught in the crossfire. Though troubling, neither of these things were what made the air so disturbed.

No, what bothered him was how he could feel time twisting out of shape here, bending and scrunching in ways that it shouldn't. And if he had powers over space, he was certain he'd feel that unraveling too. Soon, this place would become another one of the mystery dungeons. He hated mystery dungeons and their unnatural order, creating pockets that he couldn't just enter and that screwed with his senses. As if he wasn't disoriented enough, they had to go and bend the natural order of time out of shape!

Celebi: "... I sure hope that this isn't going to be a repeat of that one Yahtzee night between Dia and Pal again. Since... uh... yeah. This kinda looks eerily familiar." .-.

"No, no bad, you idiot. This is not where you want to be. Or when? What year is this? Hundreds of years in the past, at least? What time is the 'present' right now?"

Wait, was 'Yahtzee night' really that recent in the past? Somehow I'd gotten the impression it'd happened millennia ago.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Though I guess that gives everyone an idea of when Celebi is chilling around right now.

But the view of the battleground did help clear up where he was. On the positive side of things, he was at least close in space to his destination. Now he just needed to get out of here and travel through time a bit.

Celebi placed his hands on his hips. "Okie doke. Theran Village, Theran Village… Now, when were you founded, again?"

Oh, so that's the place that would go on to become Sunglow Thicket. Since I remember there being features in the stable zone that were described that sounded just like that battlefield that Celebi visited.

... I think anyways. It's always a bit hard to tell when time travel is involved. ^^;

Though the first day of recovery had been frustrating, Haru was soon back into the swing of her normal schedule. A rest by the river, breakfast, work, lunch, work, leisure. Everything was right back where it was supposed to be.

"Put your back into it!"

Haru: "Not that I'm not proud of my work, but I get the feeling I should've asked Lecha for a doctor's note to get more than one day off from work with how much I got smacked around over the course of two days in Sunglow Thicket." >_>;

Well, as close as it could be, all things considered.

"I'm trying, okay!" Nip snapped. His claws were wrapped tightly around a wooden beam more than twice as long as he was tall. Grombert - the diggersby construction worker that worked with her dad - watched as he dug his feet into the ground, dragging the beam behind him one step at a time.

Haru: "Especially since I'm pretty sure that I have to babysit Nip again as part of my duties." >.<
Nip: "Just saying, you all could've let me go back in Chapter 9 and I wouldn’t be here!" >_>;

Vale, the current guard on watch, jumped to his feet in an instant, sparks coursing through his fur. "Hey, watch it! No talking back!"

Nip scrunched up his nose at the start of a snarl but stopped after thinking better of it and dropped his gaze.

That would be wise, Nip. Since I get the distinct feeling that Vale doesn't particularly like you and would love to yeet you to Umbra to be dealt with at the first possible opportunity. 😅

Haru let out a huff, watching the situation, and shook her head, veering slightly out of the way to walk past the other pokemon without greeting. Three days had passed now since Nip's trial, and she was more than eager to move on.

Haru: "... Okay, I'd have needed a pretty long doctor's note from Lecha to excuse not working for this long, but still." >_<;

"Hey, Haru, is that you?"

Haru turned her head to the right towards the sound of the voice. Her father stood on his hind legs a bit down the path, draped over a debarked and half gnawed-through log.

"There you are!" Haru called out. "I brought lunch!"

Haru: "I mean, sure this is the first time I've actually done it onscreen, but we've got to get you some presence in this story."
:joltyshrug~1:


"Oh, thank goodness, I'm starving." The bibarel stood up straight, pulling himself off the log, and then plopped down on all fours and waddled around to meet Haru halfway. "What'd you bring today?"

"Bread with apple jam and roasted potatoes. It might be a bit cold though. Mom made it this morning before heading off to fell a few trees."

I mean, at least being a bit cold wouldn't be a problem for the bread and apple jam. Shame about those potatoes, though I suppose that's what happens when you don't plan out a time and place to meet to hand off hot food. :V

Chip let out a hum as Haru shuffled out from the bag, then began to dig through the contents in search of the box of food.

"Hey Chip, your girl bring any for us?"

Chip glanced up to look at the waving diggersby before turning his attention back to Haru, who nosed his paw out of the way so that she could pull out the box herself.

"Half of that's mine, by the way," Haru said. "There should be enough apple jam if he brought his own bread though."

I can already see Chip's
:unamusedwott:
face right now at suddenly getting cockblocked out of half of what he thought was his meal for the day. o<o

Chip glanced in the bags before calling back to Grombert, "not really, sorry! But I got some extra jam."

Grombert grumbled something under his breath before calling out louder. "That's fine, I was going to pick up some sweet bread from Swell for lunch anyways. I don't think I need any more sugar than that!" And then he laughed, as if he had said something funny.

Haru: "That... didn't really sound like he was fine, but okay then. (Also, you'd think a 'mon with such big teeth would be a bit more wary of foods that are bad for their enamel.)" ^^;

The bibarel lifted a bundle out of the box with his teeth and waddled over to where the other three were. Haru considered picking up her food and leaving, but the walk to town had taken a good portion of her lunch break, and she was feeling a bit peckish already. It wouldn't hurt to eat here. So, she gathered up her own bundle and followed behind her father.

"'S fine you didn't bring me anything," Vale huffed, lying down on his stomach. "I can't properly digest most of that stuff after all. Besides, I won't get a chance to eat till Sparks takes over, and he should be here any time now. I'll head down to Mandi's then, then Jhorlo wanted to talk to me about something. That reminds me…"

Lemme translate that into a more laconic version:

Vale: "... Dammit, I was getting hungry for a moment. Would it have killed you to bring some meat?"
:AlviseUnamused:


Since you can just feel the sulking disappointment coming off of Vale there. :V

The manectric stood up and moved a few feet back to stuff his head in a bag lying against the wall. He retrieved a small bundle from inside and unceremoniously tossed it. It audibly smacked the sneasel in the face. He let out a yelp and let go of the beam he was holding, nearly dropping it on his foot.

"There you go, eat up. Or don't, not my problem if you starve."

Wow. Rude.

Nip: "How does this not constitute abusive treatment?!" >.<
Vale: "Because how is it my problem you can't duck or catch quickly?"
:AlviseDumbfounded:


Grumbling under his breath, Nip grabbed hold of the bundle and pulled the knot loose, frowning at the contents.

Haru stole a glance over, noting two razz berries, a nanab berry, a corked jar with water, and a small bowl. The sneasel made a face but began to nibble at the berry anyways. Vale caught sight of his expression and let out a low growl.

Nip: "I'm an obligate carnivore." >.<
Vale: "Yeah, well tough luck, buddy. These are the rations you're getting, so eat 'em or go hungry."
:AlviseUnamused:


"Don't even ask. I already told ya you're going have to put up with it until you get some money. You're a prisoner, not a charity case, and razz, bluk, nanab, and wepear berries have all been ruled as safe emergency food sources for obligate carnivores."

That... would imply that they're not normal food sources and that long-term sustenance like this isn't exactly healthy for Nip. ^^;

Not that Jhorlo and the gang seem like the types to really care about that.

"I think you're making that up. I've never seen, let alone heard of one of these 'bulkberries.' Besides, how do I know you're not trying to poison me? You seemed pretty ready to send me off to my death, after all?"

Considering Jhorlo's antics leading up to this. That's... actually a lot more valid of paranoia than I remembered from the original reading. Not that Nip knows that.

Vale responded with a grumble and a roll of the head. "What good would it do me to kill you? Other than maybe getting some shut eye for once, since you're always whining my ears off? Besides, I didn't prep those for you. If you got a problem with your provisions, take it up with Whisper."

Nip: "Wait, you mean the Hawlucha guard whose egg I'm pretty sure I ate? Okay, now I really don't trust these rations not to poison me!" O_O;

"Oh, so the pokemon that actually has a reason to want me dead is feeding me. Got it, I feel safe eating this now. Not."

... I completely forgot that Nip actually responds in much the same fashion as that last cutaway gag.
:hoodLUL:


"Eat it or don't, but shut up. Or I'll make you shut up. I don't give a shit if you starve or get poisoned or whatever, so long as you give me some respect and some peace. And. Quiet."

Nip: "How on earth do these Pokémon stand guards like these?" >.<
Haru: "Most of us here in town aren't technically multiple murderers. So that tends to help a bit with little things like not having an antagonistic relationship with them." >_>;

Nip glared at the manectric for a moment longer, before averting his gaze, turning his attention to the berries laid out in front of him.

Chip sat down with his food as the exchange happened, watching with a curious glint in his eye. He tilted his head slightly, his tail thumping against the ground. "Er… don't you think that was a bit harsh, Vale?"

Vale: "... Chip, did you conk your head in the morning while waking up? Considering what this guy's done, how on earth was that harsh?"
:AlviseConfused:


Vale let out a huff and shook out his fur before sitting down, scratching at his neck with his hind paw. "Oh, come on, Chip. Why should I be nice to him? He stole and probably ate Whisper's egg. He killed an unborn child from our village! He should have been locked up at best, or else executed. But no, I'm stuck out here babysitting a murderer because the village voted to rehabilitate him." He paused. "No, wait, let me be more specific. I'm here because your son voted to rehabilitate him. It was tied up, and your son had to go and be the [good] guy."

Considering how from his point of view, Nip's ultimate sentence was a travesty of justice, I wonder if it'd have made sense for Vale to frame Toshi as having wanted to be 'the nice guy'. Since giving Nip his just desserts would've been the action of a 'good guy' from his perspective, even if it wasn't necessarily pleasant.

Also, boy is it ironic to hear Vale harp on about this in such judgmental terms when by his own society's rules, he's quietly going out and murdering wildeners in the boonies for their flesh.

"Now hold on," the bibarel said, standing back up on his hind legs, "you don't know what way Jhorlo would have voted. He could have gone either way! And I don't appreciate you insulting my son like that!"

Vale:
Image

Chip: "Okay, I guess he did seem awfully close to that 'Umbra' 'mon, but still. That doesn't mean he'd have definitely ruled in favor of leaving him to be taken away by her!"

To this, Vale let out a low growl, his claws digging into the soft dirt, and muttered something about asking Jhorlo himself. But before he could jump to his feet and do something he might regret, Grombert stepped between the two of them, pushing them back with his prehensile ears.

"Enough! I know tensions are high, but that's no excuse to be jumping at each other's throats! Now, Chip, I sympathize with you, but Vale has a right to his opinion, and he does kind of have a point: the sneasel hasn't given us good reason to be nice.

"Hah, see!"

"And you, Vale," Grombert added, turning his attention to the disgruntled manectric, "insulting Toshi was absolutely uncalled for."

Vale: "Oh for crying out loud. Am I seriously not allowed to point out when a kid does something stupid? It was literally in the nicest possible terms too-!"
:AlviseDumbfounded:

Chip: "Yeah, no. With that sort of tone, there was no way that was the 'nicest possible terms', Vale." >_>;

"Yeah!" Haru said, stepping up. "Toshi had nothing to do with what Nip did. So, leave him out of it."

... Actually, in retrospect, I kinda wonder if Haru and Chip ought to have had more of a visible reaction to Vale getting grumpy about "thanks for your kid ruining everything, Chip" earlier. Especially Haru, since she's the POV character and this is the first time the prose has indicated that she was actually annoyed / upset by Vale's commentary.

The manectric averted his gaze. "Fine, sorry. I'm sorry for insulting Toshi. Besides, he wasn't the one to bring that thing back to the village."

Haru: "... I feel attacked right now." >_>;
Vale: “Gee, maybe there’s a reason for that.”

Haru stepped forward and let out a low growl. "Hey, jabbing at me instead doesn't make you look any better."

"I didn't name any names." Vale gave Haru a pointed look before standing up to back away from Grombert, turning away afterwards before laying down with a huff. "Fine. Whatever. But don't blame me when another egg gets stolen, or someone turns up dead."

Ah yes, going out of your way to nuke Vale's sympathy with the audience before revealing that he's up to some extremely sketch and unethical antics. I didn't see it coming the first time around, but in retrospect... yeah, there were always signs that Vale was bad news.

Grombert let out a long sigh before changing the subject. "Speaking of eggs… Hey Chip, did you get to talk to Tor about our proposal yet?"

The bibarel sat back down and began to pick at his food. "He's… hesitant. On one hand the extra security-" He cut off, catching sight of Nip staring out of the corner of his eye. "Actually, can we talk about this later? I don't know if discussing plans is the best idea right now."

Reminder that Chip’s a Bibarel and not a Bidoof there. It’s a small typo, but still.


Nip: "The hell is that supposed to mean? I think about other things than just eggs, you know!"
:GrumpNip:

Haru: "(You'd never think that with all the egg memes that surround this story...)" >_>;
Vale: "It's supposed to mean ‘shut your trap and get back to work’, you useless cat!"
:AlviseAngry:


"Eh?" Grombert turned his head to look back at Nip, who quickly averted his gaze and busied himself with trying to remove the cork from the bottle of water. "That's right! Eat up! I don't want to hear you complaining about an empty stomach when we get back to work."

Letting out a sigh, he turned his attention back to Chip. "Right, good point. Maybe it isn't the best idea to have him around the nursery… but then again, they can watch him and the eggs at the same time. So…"

Nip: "I'm right here, you know! The text literally didn't say I went anywhere!" >.<
Haru: "... Can't tell if that's an authorial oversight or just an expression of open contempt from Grombert, really. Both seem about as equally plausible."
:joltyshrug~1:


Nip's ear twitched, and he opened his mouth like he was going to say something. But then he thought better of it and shut it again, turning his head away to absentmindedly nibble at one of the berries, making a face at the taste.

Oh, never mind. It really just is an expression of open contempt directed at Nip there. :V

Haru looked up from her food and stared at the sneasel for a moment, guilt gnawing at her stomach. As much as she hated to admit it, Vale sort of had a point. If she, Shimmer, and Muse hadn't brought Nip back, this all would have been avoided... probably. He probably would have died in the forest, meat-eating wildeners drawn by the smell of blood. But perhaps he would have survived. Perhaps he would have found the village and stolen from them anyways.

Well hey, at least she's being more mature than attempt to shift blame onto Shimmer and Muse there. Though I would hardly count this as a strike against you, Haru, since... Nip wasn't exactly thinking a lot of things through during that moment of truth a few chapters ago. ^^;

"Do you need something else, Haru?"

["Hm?"] She tilted her head up and turned back to look at her father, who was staring at her with a concerned expression.

"Oh, no. Not really. I was just thinking about something. I should... Probably head back anyways. I want to get a couple more trees stripped before the end of the day."

I kinda wonder if this sequence would have more punch if you had Haru react wordlessly, and then speak. Maybe it's just a stylistic difference / nitpick, but something about the "Hm?" feels like it could have very easily just been taped onto the rest of Haru's later line there.

At that, Chip chuckled. "That's my girl, always the hard worker. I know it's a ways off, but I know you'll make us proud when you take over the business one day."

Haru hummed in response. Taking over the family business... Part of her so looked forward to it, and yet she wanted to make it into so much more, and worried about living up to that dream.

D'aww, how cute.

Shame that I'm pretty sure that Theran Village will be a smoking crater long, long before there's a chance to do that from what I remember of what was foreshadowed of the future from the later chapters of this story.

No, now wasn't the time to worry about it. She took a moment to scarf up and gulp down the last couple bites of food. "I better get going then, I'll see you tonight, Dad. Goodbye Grombert. Goodbye Vale."

The diggersby raised a meaty ear to signal his farewell. Vale let out a huff of air and shook his head but showed no real signs of aggression.

Haru: "Well, physical aggression, anyways. Since all of that just screamed "passive-aggression" from him. >_>;

She glanced over to Nip one last time as she began to walk away and caught sight of him staring at her, his pupils narrow slits. As soon as he noticed her looking at him, however, he quickly averted his gaze.

As she made her way back towards home, Vale's harsh words rang in her head, and she found the guilt getting the better of her. And anger. Thinking about Nip, and how he'd wronged the community stung. His answers during the trial had been unsatisfying, as well.

Oh, so Nip giving a kinda sucky argument for why he shouldn't have gotten the axe was always a feature and not a bug for this story. Or at least I think that that's the intent with Haru's line there.

I mean, not that she strikes me as the type to excuse him even if he'd put forward a more tailored one, since... yeah, Haru has always given off some more judgmental vibes as a character.

Her thoughts drifted back towards Shimmer's words the other day. Was she taking things personally?

:sceptical:


I really, really doubt it given what we've seen of her and how she was reacting, but I actually don't remember offhand whether or not it was ever depicted later in the story that she was quietly projecting her feelings or something like that.

A few moments passed in silence as she made her way down the path, turning back towards the walkway to the river. And as she stewed in silence, she became certain of something.

The only way she was going to find peace was to confront Nip directly.

... Sure is great that you just skipped out on him and are now physically incapable of confronting him right now, huh?
:loltias:


To say Umbra was upset would be an understatement.

No, Umbra was livid. For three days now, she'd allowed herself to stew in her anger. How could these idiot villagers just up and protect Nip like that, especially after a crime as heinous as his? She had come so close to catching him, only for it to be ripped away by a sentimental bidoof!

Sure is a good thing that Theran Village's sentencing procedures don't have a runoff vote system, huh? :V

Though this is why you should've been lobbying the crowd more aggressively instead of just sitting back and assuming that everyone would just be naturally repulsed by Nip to the point where they just wouldn't care what would happen to him.

If that didn't frustrate her enough, now it seemed like many more of the villagers eyed her with suspicion. More often than not, it seemed like there was someone watching her, waiting for her to screw up. She hadn't even been able to slip away for some peace and quiet, or to hunt. At least Jhorlo understood her needs though; someone always came by in the morning to provide her with food.

Until today, at least.

Umbra: "Which I'm pretty sure is some sort of sign of coming displeasure from him. What on earth is it with these villagers and being so cloak-and-dagger about everything?" >_>;

The morning had come and gone without a single pokemon stopping by her room. Waiting for food to arrive, she had stuck around, trying to curb her restlessness by doing things like grooming, or reciting stories and legends from her Tribe, refreshing memories of the story, as was tradition. She even spent some time trying to think of a way to extract Nip, realizing - unfortunately - that she would have to spend some time understanding the village structure and customs to stand a chance. But still, no one came.

- Umbra's stomach growls -
Umbra: "Okay, seriously? Did Jhorlo's messenger fall ill on the way over or something? Since this is just ridiculous!" >_>;

Now, as late-afternoon light poured in through her window, the claws of hunger dug into her belly. Even on her travels, when was the last time she'd gone nearly a whole day without food? It had to have been at least a few winters ago.

I see that even if civilization up north is a bit closer to the rules of nature than it is around Theran Village, that they don't do "feast and famine" like a lot of wild animals do IRL.

To say the least, she was still in a foul mood when she heard a soft scratching at the door. She responded to the sound with a grunt, not bothering to get up from the nest. The door pushed open a moment later, one of the two purrloin appearing on the other side.

"Jhorlo would like to see you," she announced, dipping her head in greeting.

"It is about time," the mawile grumbled, finally sitting up.

Umbra: "And where the hell is my food? It's past lunch already!" >_>;
Lotte: "I... think that you'll need to wait a bit longer today. The mayor sounded like he wanted an urgent meeting."

The purrloin - Lotte, if she remembered correctly (though she cared little about remembering the name) - waited for her at the doorway, turning to begin walking down the hall once Umbra approached. The mawile followed in silence for a moment. However, there was something off, a concern that she voiced after a moment.

I wonder if that's a cultural artifact of how names work up north, or if Umbra just is this standoffish to everyone outside her tribe in general.

"Where is the... Other one? The one that's usually with you."

She seemed to be prepared for the question, answering nonchalantly without breaking stride. "Jaques had other obligations to attend to. He will be back in the evening."

"I see." After that, Umbra said nothing more.

:fearfullaugh~1:


[ISPOILERIf that's implying what I think it is about what Jaques was up to... boy was it really unsurprising that Jhorlo dispatched these two to bring proof of death from Nip.[/ISPOILER]

Before they could get to their destination, however, the duo was interrupted by a pair of passing pokemon rounding the corner: a kirlia and an absol walking side by side, the kirlia chattering away. Umbra muttered a curse under her breath, unfortunately reminded of the meddling pokemon that also lived here.

"Oh, Musey, Look!" the kirila said, pointing before waving Umbra and Lotte over. "It's our guest of honor!"

Shimmer: "How are you doing anyways, Umbra?" ^^
Umbra: "..."
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Shimmer: "... That well, huh?" ^^;
Muse: "(Shimmer, I'm pretty sure that she doesn't like you.)" >_>;

Lotte paused to look back towards Umbra before veering off the planned path to speak with Shimmer.

"For formality's sake, it would be best if we say hello. Jhorlo will understand our tardiness."

Umbra: "Uh, no. I really think it best that we move on and have this urgent meeting with the-"

Muse dipped her head to the pair as they approached. Lotte came all the way up to stand just in front of Muse, her tail raised in greeting, a slight purr rumbling in her throat. Umbra, however, kept her distance.

"Good afternoon, Lotte," Muse said, her tone warm. "How have you been?"

Umbra: "... Dammit." >.<

"I've been well," the purrloin replied. "Work has gone surprisingly smooth the past week, all things considered."

Muse laughed, her demeanor softening slightly. "Glad to hear it. Sorry we haven't been around as much lately. Things have been... interesting the last few weeks, as I'm sure you know."

"Yeah," Shimmer added with a giggle. "This is, like, toootally my fault. Really though, things have been so wild lately. If it wasn't for such dire reasons, I'd say I like that things have been shook up so much!"

Be careful what you wish for there, Shimmer. Since I'm pretty sure that that was just an opening salvo for changes coming to Theran.

Shimmer's voice was loud and overly upbeat. Maybe some could find it endearing, but to Umbra, it was a headache waiting to happen.

Umbra: "Not to mention she's just standing here reminding me of my failure to exact justice on behalf of my tribe-" >_>;
Shimmer: "Umbra, you are aware that I can hear you loud and clear right now, right?"
:gardexhausted:

Umbra: "Yes, that's the point."

Muse looked up and noticed Umbra and, upon seeing her disdained expression, adopted a curter tone to address her.

"Ah, and Umbra. I take it your day is going well?"

Umbra huffed in response, not answering the question. "I have more important things to do than small talk."

Umbra: "Like ignoring the impudent whelps that got in the way of my tribe’s justice and talking with the Mayor right about now. Lotte, let's hurry up and go already!" >_>;

"Aw, don't be like that!" Shimmer said, draping herself dramatically over Muse's back. "You're such a spoilsport. Just like Haru - but at least I like her!"

- Cue shouting in the distance -
Haru: "I am nothing like her!"
Umbra: "I... feel insulted right now by that comparison." >_>;

Muse flinched ever so slightly, raising one paw as she turned back to look at her charge. "Shimmer... perhaps it would be better to at least be courteous to our guest?"

Shimmer waved a hand dismissively in response. "Why should I? She's not being nice either?"

Oh lordy. I can already tell that this girl's attitude of hers has led to problems with some of Jhorlo's past guests to his manor. ^^;

"Well, it's not my place to question you but... if you want to be a great leader someday, you have to learn to be respectful, even when you don't want to be."

[ ]

"That is a good point," the kirlia said, clapping her hands together for emphasis. But before she continued, she raised a hand and held it up to Muse's mouth in a shushing gesture. "But I'm not a leader yet and I'm not going to be nice right now."

Maybe I'm overthinking things, but I kinda wonder if this sequence would've worked better with a beat moment from Shimmer, since something about the content of her dialogue feels a bit at-odds with the idea that she's saying it as a reflexive and immediate response, which is kinda implied by that lack of anything between it and Muse's preceding line.

Her serious statement aside, the teasing smile returned to her face, and she turned back to face Umbra. "So, how long are you going to stick around moping like this? A decision's already been made, so why are you still here? Go home, or something."

Muse: "(Oh, your father's just going to love hearing about this...)" -_-;

Umbra's expression soured. "I will not leave without Nip. It is my duty to bring him to justice."

"Is it really?" Shimmer said, a mischievous look in her eye. "Is it really your duty? Or do you have some other personal reason for sticking around?"

Shimmer: "I mean, you didn't exactly make it subtle that you two had falling out as lovers... so maybe you're just taking this personal like Haruru-"
:joltyshrug~1:

Umbra: "That is completely incidental!" >.<
Muse: "... With all due respect, but even I could see through that, Umbra. At the very least, it's a contributing motivator for you."
:absus:


Umbra narrowed her eyes, a scowl on her face. "It is my duty. But even if it was not, that is none of your business."

Shimmer continued to stare at her for another long moment, the air tense. But finally, she relaxed, turning away. "Well, all I'm saying is that he's facing justice, so you really don't have any reason to stay here, you know?" Then she turned her attention away. "Come on Musey. We got better things to do."

- Umbra's eye twitches -
Umbra: "This. Isn't. Justice!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Shimmer: "It is here. Crying about it won't change anything."
:gardeshrug:


The absol shook out her fur and turned, nosing Shimmer back the way they came. "Of course. Whatever you wish."

"Let us know if you need anything," Shimmer called back towards Umbra. "We'll be listening!"

I can already hear Umbra's barely restrained seething right about now. :V

And with that, that the two disappeared around the corner, the kirlia chattering about whatever nonsensical thing came to her head.

Something about the way she'd said her last statement unnerved Umbra. But she pushed the concerns about the vapid fairy-type out of her head and instead turned to address Lotte.

"Is she... always like that?"

Umbra: "... More importantly, how developed are her capabilities of passive mind-reading? Since that's apparently a thing for Psychic-types in this setting." ._.;
Lotte: "... How do you expect me to know when I'm a Dark-type? I'd literally never have to worry about it." ^^;

"Pretty much," Lotte replied, reaching up a hind leg to scratch at her neck for a moment before standing and turning back to resume their walk towards Jhorlo's again. "She's got her head in the clouds most of the time, but she's smarter than you'd think. Muse helps keep her grounded though. They play well off of each other, don't you think?"

Umbra: "No. Just. No."

Umbra replied with a noncommittal grunt. She cared little about what the pair did or did not do. They were not her concern.

When she didn't respond, the purrloin faltered, shocked by her lack of care for the social niceties. But she quickly shrugged it off and moved on.

The rest of their short trip to Jhorlo's room was spent in silence. Lotte couldn't find a good topic to start a conversation with, and Umbra had absolutely no interest in speaking. Soon, they were standing in front of the door.

At this rate, I take it that Umbra's just not a 'people person' given that she seems to be patently incapable of yukking it up with others when there's not either business or some sort of threat on the line.

Lotte reached up to scratch at the door a couple times, then pushed it open the rest of the way.

"I apologize for the delay, sir," she said as she entered. "We had a run-in with your daughter and spent a few moments speaking wither her.

"That's quite alright, Lotte," Umbra heard Jhorlo say. "Thank you for explaining. You're dismissed for the evening. Miss Umbra, would you enter, please?"

Umbra: "'Dismissed for the evening'?! Jhorlo! I haven't eaten yet today! Your other messenger's apparently busy until the evening! Who on earth's supposed to bring me food?!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Jhorlo: "Well, not Lotte, obviously. Now do please come in, Miss Umbra. We have much to discuss."

Lotte dipped her head respectfully before turning, brushing her tail against Umbra as she passed. The mawile stepped forward into the room, and the door shut behind her.

It took her a moment to spot Jhorlo in the room. Fabric had been pulled over the opening - the window - in the back of the room, limiting the lighting to just to just a dim, afternoon glow, and whatever was lit by the glowing moss. The purugly's location was only given away by the slight glint of his eyes.

"Good evening, Umbra," he said with a slight rumble in his voice. "I trust your day has gone well?"

Ah yes, deliberately going out of your way to try and reduce the odds you'll be seen and heard for this meeting. That's not an "obviously bad news" sign right there.

"Well enough," Umbra said in a curt tone. "Would have liked a lunch though."

"Oh, I figured you would have been able to figure out how to get it yourself by now. You seemed so certain and confident in yourself. I apologize for overestimating you."

Umbra: "Jhorlo, are you serious right now?!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Jhorlo: "Well, did you honestly expect me to believe that you wouldn't have been able to do a single odd job around town for three entire days? I only have so many resources to devote to charity for strangers..."

The underhanded jab was not missed by Umbra. "Are you... trying to antagonize me?"

"Only time will tell, I think," he replied, standing up. "I'll be curt blunt with you, dear Umbra. It all depends on how well this meeting goes."

Umbra: "(... That's an ill omen if I ever heard one, but I refuse to give this rude incompetent the satisfaction of seeing me visibly uneasy.)" >_>;

"Do I really need to be here for all this?" A voice barked from the corner. Umbra immediately whipped around and spotted a manectric lounging on his side, a bored expression on his face.

"Oh, please hush, Vale," Jhorlo snapped as he walked around to the front of the table. "I'll get to you eventually."

Ah right, it's time for the dark secret of this bucolic village to get thrown out into the open for the audience.

His expression shifted to a restrained smile as he turned back to talk to Umbra. When you're in my position, there are many things you have to juggle, you see. But we're not here to talk about that, now are we? We're here to talk about you. And Nip."

Umbra: "Yes, let's. It's called, you find some way of overturning that obvious sham of a trial, I’ll carry out justice and go back home." >_>;
Jhorlo: "I'm afraid that I can't do that Miss Umbra. Especially not with that sort of tone you're taking with me."

She scoffed in response, her expression souring. "I would have thought you would have the final say in any judgements, and yet he's protected now more than ever."

"Begrudgingly," Vale interrupted from his corner.

"Yes, yes. I Know. And who was supposed to catch him before the whole village caught up, might I ask? I told you to go ahead of the villagers for a reason, and yet you still failed. This failure is on you."

Umbra: "I'm sorry, your Mayor couldn't restrain his own daughter. How on earth is this on me?" >_>;
Jhorlo: "I would strongly encourage you to leave my daughter out of this, thank you very much." >:|

"On me?" she growled. "How is it my fault that a bunch of meddlers ran ahead? Those two, the kirlia and the absol, your daughter and her guard, they are under your command, right? If you cannot control those idiots, I do not see how this is my fault?"


Oh, right. Umbra actually goes there about Shimmer with her argument. Time to fish up an appropriate gif for what'll follow:
Image


Jhorlo rose up to his full height, his voice coming out in a hiss. "How dare you speak about my daughter that way? I don't think you understand the position you're in right now, but I suggest you watch your tongue."

Umbra's paws clenched into fists. "Why should I? I am not beholden to follow your rules and niceties. Give me one good reason I should not call our deal off and march down to kill him right now and leave?"

Vale: "... Lady, you're in a village staffed by guards. You're kinda beholden to our rules here if you're expecting to get treated as anything more than a stray wildener."
:AlviseUnamused:

Umbra: "I've seen the sort of ship you all run. I'll take my chances with you trying to enforce those rules and niceties, thanks." >_>;

The purugly paused for a moment, looking her over. When he finally spoke, his voice came out silky smooth, instead of the previous hiss. "I can give you a few, dear Umbra. For one, if you try, you'll bring down the wrath of the whole village. Certainly, there may be a few that would sit out, feeling you did the right thing, but the majority will follow the decision that was made. And besides that, if things go wrong, there's nothing I can do to protect you."

"I am not some kit that needs protecting though," she snarled.

Jhorlo: "Miss Umbra, you're literally outnumbered and outgunned in this very manor. In this very room. Perhaps stop and consider that before you go off considering anything rash, hm?"
:typhNOsion:

Umbra: "I don't particularly care for this tone that you're taking with me, Jhorlo." >:|

"Fine, fine. I can understand the sentiment. However... There is one other thing. Even if you succeed, if you break your contract, well... Let me just say... things won't go well for you."

At this, Vale sat up, alert, and looked between the two squabbling pokemon. "Wait, contract?" His voice dropped to a surprised mutter. "Oh, Jhorlo, you clever bastard."

I'm pretty sure that in most jurisdictions that Jhorlo's contract would be null and void since Umbra signed it unknowingly, but... yeah. Good luck with her trying to argue that coherently as an outsider to local civilization.

As soon as the last word left Vale's mouth, Jhorlo spun to spit a reply at him. "I don't remember speaking to you. I suggest you hold your tongue as well."

The manectric flinched before turning his head away, laying back down. "Of course, sorry, sir. Won't happen again."

Vale: "I-It was an expression of admiration and respect, sir."
:AlviseScared:

Jhorlo: "Yeah, well so's silence while I'm speaking. Try expressing respect that way." >:|

Satisfied, Jhorlo turned his attention back towards Umbra. "As I was saying, we made a written agreement that you would work for me to bring in Nip. And if you fail that, or if you were to leave without sharing, as per our agreement, both of those would be breaches of contract, you see. And per our contract, if you were to break it, well, I would be allowed to use lethal force. And I do not think you want that, now do you?"

Vale: "Wait a minute, 'lethal force'? Jhorlo, is it even legal to tender a contract with that as an enforceable claus-?"
Jhorlo: "Vale. Stop. Talking. Already."
Vale: "... Right. Sorry, sir. Won't happen again, sir."

Umbra stooped slightly, adopting a defensive pose. "Is that a threat?"

"It can be," Jhorlo replied casually, "if you don't keep your side of the deal."

The mawile stared him down, thoughts racing through her head. How dare he treat her like this? Had this been his plan all along? Maybe he'd conspired with the village mon to sneak Nip out, and this had all been a ploy to humiliate her. "You did not. Mention. This. Before."

I mean, Jhorlo's plan is really, really heavily depending on Umbra being too out of the loop to reach out to an Enforcer since depending on how laws regarding contracts in this setting work there's decent odds that Jhorlo broke multiple laws there, but hey. You can't say that it's not a reasonable bet or not clever of him to pull a gambit like this.

Jhorlo scoffed. "Well, I figured I wouldn't have to. It was all right there in the contract you signed. I figured any clever mon would have taken the time to read it."

At that, Umbra had to take pause. It was true that she'd signed a paper, but it had not occurred to her to try reading it at all. Even if she had, would she have been able to read it?"

"Prove it," she growled. "Let me see this contract."

:sceptical:


I mean, given that Jhorlo managed to snag Umbra's pawprint, what on earth would keep him from just forging it onto whatever he wanted regardless of if Umbra could read the original paper or not?

"But of course." Jhorlo turned to reach a paw up and push a glass jar back on the desk, allowing it to illuminate a piece of parchment. As Umbra cautiously approached, she could make out her signature. But as she looked over the words, she realized with dismay that she couldn't read the writing. Her people had a very simplistic set of runes, with a handful of different print shapes and strokes representing words or concepts. Not everyone had the means to write it, but everyone was taught how to read and interpret them.

Ah yes, Umbra's writing is logographic in her neck of the woods. I recognize that description of writing composition very well.

Umbra: "... Waaaaait a minute. If I couldn't read this contract to begin with, how on earth is any of this legally enforceable? I'm pretty sure that there's rules and regulations against this-"
:what:

Jhorlo: "My village, my rules."
:gardeshrug:

Umbra: "... Dammit. Of course." >.<

These, on the other hand, were made up of a series of dots and lines strung together, running across and then down the page.

Ah yes, so they use Regi Braille for writing here. Definitely makes sense thematically given who their local patron is.

"What kind of trickery is this?" Umbra growled. "This is... this is a bunch of nonsense!"

Jhorlo's head reared back slightly, eyes glinting in surprise. "You mean to tell me that you can't read this?"

"These are a bunch of dots, not a reasonable language! Where are your shapes? Your pawprints and footprints?"

A silence stretched out as her question hung in the air. Then Jhorlo began to chuckle, his tone turning dark and silky again. "My, my, this is rather unfortunate, isn't it? Unfortunate for you, I mean. If you had bothered to tell me sooner, I could have done something to help you, you see. I could have explained the terms in more detail!"

Umbra: "... I refuse to believe that your village has no clauses dealing with obvious perfidy while tendering contracts. There is no way you would tolerate this happening to one of your own!" >.<
Jhorlo: "Oh trust me, we're a pretty tolerating bunch, as you've seen with Nip. Now... I believe we were just getting to the part where I explained the terms of your binding and enforceable contract, hm?" >:3

"So, what, you're just going to hold me to something I couldn't understand?"

"Well... yes? You were the one that signed it without looking, I can't have helped if I didn't know, right?"

Umbra had heard enough. All this nonsense, and she still wasn't any closer to dealing with Nip. "That does it," she growled. And without a second thought, she whipped around and charged Jhorlo, her skull starting to glow.

Ah yes, flip the table and start a fight when you're outnumbered and in the same room as a 'mon that can status spam for days. Brilliant idea there, Umbra.

Jhorlo seemed to anticipate this, however. Before she could strike, he stepped to the side. She sailed past harmlessly, but as she passed, she felt a sharp jab in her side.

When she spun back around, the purugly was staring at her with a smug smile. "Goodness? Is that all you've got? Well, I wouldn't do that again, if I were you."

His words only served to anger Umbra even more, to the point that she was practically seeing red. But before she could lash out and strike him again, a jolt of electricity struck her, sending painful spasms through her body.

Whelp, too late there.

Jhorlo: "I would just like to remind that I warned you that this was a bad idea of yours, Miss Umbra."

She whirled around to strike whoever had attacked her, but her jaws closed in on empty air. Momentum from the failed attack drove her forward, causing her to stumble.

"Ah, swagger," she heard Jhorlo rumble. Was this funny to him? "A risky move, but the results speak for themselves."

Jhorlo: "And to answer the question, yes. I do find this quite amusing right now, Miss Umbra."

Was this anger the result of some kind of attack? No, she was already angry, this just made her angrier and threw off her perception. But maybe she could calm down, just a little. She sucked a deep breath in through her nostrils, then let it all out in a huff, relaxing slightly. Now that she wasn't in a blind rage, she could see exactly where the electrical attack had come from. Still in the corner of the room, Vale had stood up, sparks of electricity bouncing off his pelt.

She looked between him, and then back to Jhorlo. This must have been why he was here; Jhorlo was anticipating an attack. With a grunt, Umbra turned and raced towards the manectric.

This girl just doesn't learn, I swear. Guess cultural chauvinism can kick up some dangerous blind spots like that.

An arc of electricity raced through the air as she drew close, slowing but not stopping her. She raced up and underneath the electric type, clamping down on his stomach with her second jaw.

Vale let out a pained yelp, flinching as the sharp fangs dug into his stomach. He responded to the attack by whipping around to try and snap at her and, failing that, let out a powerful surge of electricity, bolts flinging out in all directions.

The surge was much more powerful than she expected, her muscles twitching and convulsing as electricity surged through her body. For a second, she thought she smelled burnt fur. Was it her own?

Well that's going to leave a mark. And be fairly awkward to explain how you got it to the other villagers once the dust settles here.

But as the surge died down, she realized that her muscles still felt tensed up and unresponsive. She tried to move her arm but got little more than a twitch. Had the blow been powerful enough to paralyze her? Her? How?

That's T-Wave for ya, hon. I take it that status spam is not particularly common up north given how off-guard Umbra's getting caught here.

"Watch where you're flinging that electricity!" Jhorlo snapped. Use something less destructive!

"She was biting me, get off my case!" Vale took the opportunity to whip around, biting down into her torso to pull her off. He flung her a few feet across the room, where she landed on her stomach. With a feral growl, she slowly forced herself back to her feet and tried to face Vale again.

Oh, maybe it wasn’t T-Wave and Vale just got lucky with one of his more normal attacks.

Though lovely dynamic that Jhorlo and Vale have there. Definitely won't result in one or the other getting thrown under the proverbial bus by the other at some point in the future.

But he wasn't in the corner anymore.

Instead, he was rushing her with speed she hadn't been expecting, pouncing forward with sparks dancing in his mouth. She whipped around defensively to block the attack with her steely jaws.

But instead of landing on her, he sailed overhead, landing just on the other side to spin around.

She reached up to throw a punch against his jaw, causing the manectric to yelp. She tried to attack again, but her muscles seized up again at the worst possible time.

Vale: "Checkmate, chump."
:AlviseDetermined:

Umbra: "I call hax." >.<

He took the opportunity to swat at her with one hard blow from his paw, knocking her down. This time, he did not waste the opening, not giving her another chance to attack. She felt one paw slam down on her stomach and had just enough time to see his mouth burst into flame before he struck, clamping down on her shoulder.

Well that's some cruel irony given Umbra's dealings with that one wildener a while back. Dunno if that was deliberate, or if things just happened to fall into place like that, but it's a funny parallel there.

She felt the fangs sink into her skin, biting down not hard enough to break skin, but hard enough to hold her tight in place. But it wasn't the teeth that hurt the most. No, it was the flames. Fire rolled off around the bite in waves, scorching and burning fur and blistering skin. She let out a scream and thrashed, trying to twist around so that she could get a good bite down on his leg.

But her struggles were growing weaker and weaker as she tired herself out. Which only served to make her angrier. Finally, she managed to hook her jaws around one paw, clamping down hard enough that he finally let go, stumbling back a couple feet.

Slowly, she climbed back to her feet to face him again. She took a step forward, trying to ready an attack, but then stumbled and tipped forward, falling flat. He took the opportunity to limp forward again, standing nearby ready to strike, but staying away from her dangerous jaws.

Uh, yeah. Pretty sure this is the part where you should mount a tactical retreat and just bolt for the door, Umbra. I’m pretty sure that Jhorlo didn’t coordinate with the guards outside, so you could probably make it to the door before Vale and him caught up.

At this point, Jhorlo stepped between the two.

"My, my. Now this is concerning," the purugly mewed in mock surprise. "Who would have thought our own Umbra would turn on us? You saw that. Right, Vale?"

Vale grunted in response, letting out a huff of air.

Umbra: "I'm sorry, what? You were deliberately antagonizing me. You don't just get to turn around and pretend like you're the innocent party here-"
Jhorlo: "My town, my rules, remember? And my rules aren't particularly kind to 'mons that take a swing over some idle banter."
:gardeshrug:

Umbra: "... AAAAAARGGGGH!"
:AngrySlink:


Slowly, Umbra pushed herself back to her feet, paws scraping against the wooden floor. How in Yveltal's name had she been thrown around by these two? Or really, mostly just the manectric?

Status spam, honey. Also, you were clearly severely overestimating your abilities and badly underestimating your opponents. It happens.

As if reading her mind, Jhorlo let out a smug, chirp-like noise before speaking. "What, surprised you had a harder time against pokemon actually trained for battle, are we? Seems for all your boastful, high and mighty air, you're not so strong after all."

Umbra replied by letting out a growl, clenching her fists and snapping her jaws threateningly. "Shut. Up."

Jhorlo:
Image


"Oh, are you trying to threaten me again? I wouldn't do that if I were you, dear." He sat down, seemingly unconcerned, and began to groom his face. Between swipes of his paw, he added, "Vale has more than enough reason and permission to use lethal force on you now, you know. It would be a shame to kill you though, really. You may have broken the terms by attacking me, but I am a merciful pokemon, and would be more than willing to give you a second chance… for a price."

I mean, I get that Umbra's not exactly in a good position to say 'no' here, but imagine trusting a single word that comes out of this weasel's mouth after he blatantly rubbed it in your face that he suckered you into signing a contract.

With narrowed eyes, the mawile squeezed her fists again. "And why should I agree to anything now?"

"Because if you don't, then you have no further use to me, and I'll just have Vale kill you now?"

Umbra: "... How on earth has that 'daughter' of yours not heard all of this?"
:what:

Jhorlo: "I invested in soundproofing. So what do you say, Miss Umbra? Are you interested in that second chance? For your own sake, I certainly hope you are."

At that, the manectric stood up a bit straighter, pawing anxiously at the ground. "Are you sure about that, boss? I mean… wouldn't people notice if she disappeared all of the sudden?"

"I highly doubt it," Jhorlo snapped. "There's no one here that cares enough to look into it if she disappeared. But I don't pay you to ask questions, do I? Remember your own debt, Vale."

Umbra turned her head backwards just enough to see Vale flinch. He let out a soft whine before replying, "yes, of course. Sorry, sir."

Oh right, that's how Jhorlo roped Vale along into all of this. Even if it's a fantastical setting, the idea of wielding power through blackmail networks hits a bit close to home to reality. And it both sets the stage for the sort of 'mon Jhorlo is, and what sort of dynamic he has with those in his orbit. Some minor little details that I'd gotten a bit rusty on that help fill in a lot about his character and how he relates with others.

Satisfied, Jhorlo turned his attention back to Umbra. "So, your answer, please?"

Umbra growled for a moment. She shouldn't have been defeated so easily. Her, defeated by these two? There had to be some foul play at work. Even so… she was in no position to fight right now.

Again, status spam, hon. Also, sleeper builds for fighters aren't exactly unheard of in this franchise as a whole.

"Tell me your demands," she finally answered.

A smug grin crept on to Jhorlo's face. "I'm so glad you asked. Tell me, how much have you bothered learning about the… laws and regulations about the meat industry around here?"

"Get to the point."

"Fine, fine. Well, suffice to say that around here, eating meat is seen as a necessary evil. But since it wouldn't do to go and accidentally off someone's relative, there's a lot of… restrictions. Down here, civilized pokemon don't hunt, as you might already know. They harvest bodies of the pokemon that die in the wilds. Or at least… that's what they'd like to believe.

And here we go with the dark secret of this town, though from the way Jhorlo's phrasing it, I doubt Theran Village is the only place that's having these problems.

- Beat moment -
Umbra: "... Are you seriously blackmailing me into doing what I do on a normal basis in my tribe because your town is too squeamish to honestly acknowledge that your predators will need to kill to eat?"
:what:

Jhorlo: "And for you to assume all the legal risks involved doing so in these parts, yes."
Umbra: "You do realize that I don't know the first things about your laws, and if you had just told me that sourcing meat worked like it did in my tribe, I'd literally never have known any better and would've been significantly more open to doing business without being on hostile terms with you."
- Beat moment -
Jhorlo: "... Shut up, I'm enjoying rubbing things in your face right now, and I don't need you to ruin the moment." >_>;

"Truth is, that's just not sustainable, you see. Too many pokemon need to eat meat to live. I may be a bit underhanded, my dear, but I have no interest in seeing good pokemon starve just because of a few little rules. So, since you've already got a bit of experience in hunting, I have some interest in… recruiting you.

"Here's what I can offer you. If you hunt for me, hunt for the town under the radar until you finish your objective, then we can just… sweep this little hiccup under the rug. So, what do you say?"

Umbra: "I literally have zero reason to believe a single word that comes out of your mouth after what you just pulled on me two minutes ago!"
:typhNOsion:

Jhorlo: "Do you believe that I'm ready and willing to have you killed right here and now in my office, then?"

[ ] Umbra hesitated, clenching her jaw as she looked between Jhorlo and Vale. "... And if I refuse?"

"Well, that would be quite unfortunate. But I suppose it can't be helped. I suppose we'd either have to turn you over to the guard though, for attacking me, or else kill you right now."

I kinda wonder if more of Umbra's thought process ought to be shown off here, since we don't really get to see what's animating her hesitance there, and if it's sheer pique, or if she's realizing that she doesn't have a reason to trust this guy. Like it's interpretable a few different ways, but there's no real indication one way or another in the text, and it seems like something that might be pertinent to establish since this is a major character decision of Umbra's that she's making here.

It'd also help break up the present block of dialogue a bit.

If Umbra was being honest with herself, her options were limited. Agree, or die. Agree, or let Nip go. Agree, or lose any hope of avenging her kin.

"Fine."

The purugly's maw twisted into a cruel, toothy style. "Excellent. I'll have Vale fill you in on the details in the morning. Pleasure doing business with you, my dear."

... I just noticed that Jhorlo still didn't arrange for Umbra to get something to eat. Guess she'll be going her first day since winter without eating for a day. ^^;

Alright, time for the recap:

I mean, I liked the chapter, obviously. It gives glimpses of things to come in this story, little hints here and there that things aren't fully well in and around Theran Village and the world at large, and then it just throws the cards out on the table that a huge part of how Theran Village and its society operates is premised on an unsustainable lie. We even got a bit of catharsis out of it, since this is the first time where Umbra has just been flatly outgambited and backed into a corner in this story, after a long spell where she does a bunch of stuff to wear on the audience's sympathy and patience with her. Like it's not quite a "stuff blowing up" chapter, but it's a pretty solid opener to a new arc of the story.

As for things that I didn't like as much. There were a couple places where I thought the description was a tad lighter than it ought to have been, and that it either left description of things going on or else glimpses into the characters' minds on the table, especially into Umbra's mind in that last scene. Also for the way how Vale is teed up that he's into some shady business, the way that the story handles it works, but I kinda wonder if it was a little on-the-nose since Vale just puts the dickery on turbo in the very same chapter where he gets outed to the audience as actively hunting wildeners and passing them off as carrion. I wonder if it'd have worked better to have built up the sense that something was wrong with him by slipping little hints here and there in his mannerisms and sayings in his earlier appearances (e.x. being suspiciously ready to deal with problems in a terminal fashion), or if you wanted to twist the knife and play up the idea that Vale is being blackmailed into playing ball with some unethical stuff, put out red herrings about what sort of character Vale is (e.x. have him be outwardly friendly at first), and then have him lose it with Chipper over his kids and Nip, since depending on execution, it can be framed as him having something else on his mind that's bugging him and/or Haru and Chipper getting surprised and realizing that they didn't know Vale as well as they thought they did. It's not necessarily a needed thing to have, but hey, if you're already planning on overhauling the first arc at some point down the pipe, it might as well be something to keep on the radar.

Though it was a pleasure to catch up with this chapter again @windskull , and I'll be looking forward to getting current with your story review-wise over the span of a couple months. Since what can I say? It's been a fun ride just going back and properly jamming those thoughts out and getting a refresher on things that fell through the cracks for me.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, took me a while to get the raw of this review together and formatted, but feels like as good a time as any to give a bump to my review series of this story.

Chapter 11

Every part of Nip’s body ached.

He was no stranger to hard work; keeping the tribe’s resting grounds clean and tidy was by no means easy. And on rare occasions, more involved hunts and tasks kept him away from the resting grounds for days. But dragging around materials more than twice his size for hours on end with only a short break in the middle? Slicing and chopping wood for so long it made his paws bleed? No, that was not normal. But it was his new routine. And now, he found himself exhausted at the end of every day.


I have wonder how much of this is a standard punishment in Theran Village, and how much of this was chosen deliberately in mind for trying to break Nip.

Since on the one hand, while that sounds kinda harsh... I kinda got the vibe from the past two chapters that much of Theran village wouldn't particularly care if Nip died in a work accident.

Somehow, he figured that was the point. After all, he knew far too well that an exhausted pokemon caused no trouble.


... Or I suppose it could be that. Cynical and kinda cruel, but you have to admit that a tired and worn-down criminal is unlikely to cause too many problems for his captors.

As usual, the day’s work continued as the sun crawled its way across the sky, until it was nearly dark out.

“Aight, I think that’s about enough for the day.”

The diggersby’s call announced the end to the grueling work. At once, Nip breathed out a relieved sigh, sinking to the ground before flopping his back. The dirt be damned, he was already dirty; what was a bit more? By now, the shadows were long, and the sky had grown a deep orange. Scattered, puffy clouds were tinged crimson as they drifted across the sky. Some pokemon back in his tribe would consider the color an ill omen. He didn’t know whether he should, as well.


Ominous hint is ominous. Dunno whether it makes sense to be this coy about things or if there ought to have been a bit more worldbuilding/reveal as to why it was ominous, though.

He heard footsteps approaching and instinctually tensed, trying to sit back up. But his aching muscles protested, leaving him prone as the form of a quagsire loomed over him.

“Are you about done moping around? I’d like to head back and lock up for the night.”

I reflexively cringed, since I very specifically remember how GtI's Quagsire was implied to have dealt with ne'er-do-wells.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Dunno if that was planned on your part or not, but it was a bit of a vibe.

Nip bit back a stinging retort, trying to hide his annoyance behind only the twitch of his ear. Best to not make things worse than he already had today. Rolling first onto his side, then onto his stomach, Nip peeled himself from the ground, climbing slowly to his feet.

As they began to walk away from the daycare and back towards the guard hut, he kept his head down, not interested in seeing the stares and leers of any village pokemon that might be going about their business at this hour.


Quagsire: "Could be worse, they could be actively jeering 'drop dead' and 'murderer' at ya."
Nip: "Look, can you not say that so loud? I'm pretty sure some of them are going to get ideas now." >_>;

The walk back towards the guard hut was fairly short; most places that weren’t dens – or houses, or whatever weird made-up word the villagers used for their weird shelters – were all together in a ring, taking a few minutes at most to reach, and the hut was no exception.


Getting Blindhollow vibes from Power Trip right now, though it makes sense for the layout of a small village that's not on a major trading route. A circle's relatively easy to whip up a defensive perimeter for.

He came to a stop just outside the fabric barrier, listening to the quagsire follow behind. His ear feather twitched irritably as he waited. On one hand, the whole arrangement annoyed him, spending night after night in a dank cell, curling up in a corner in hopes of keeping warm in the drafty building. How did these pokemon stand it, being in such a wide-open chamber with only one narrow exit?


They don't. That's why it's an arrangement given out as a punishment, Nip. :V

On the other hand, he couldn’t blame them for keeping him somewhere where he couldn’t run. He’d already tried finding a way out of the barred cell, striking at the metal with his claws and ice, to no avail. And it wasn’t the worst place he could be. Even if he couldn’t run, at least Umbra couldn’t get to him here.

At least, he hoped not. If she could, well, he was like a cornered rattata.


Nip: "... Why on earth did I think about that?"
:uhhh:


And that didn’t even touch on the diet he’d been given thus far. Whisper claimed that he’d eventually have money to purchase meat, but he wasn’t sure he believed that. He wasn’t sure that she wasn’t slowly starving him to death, enacting the only form of revenge the village had allowed.


... Can't tell if someone up the chain of command is legit trying to starve Nip to death or if that's just ignorance over what he needs to survive in the long-term. Both would be fairly on-brand for Theran Village.

The quagsire - Slies, if he remembered the name correctly - paused just behind him, waiting for him to keep going. When he did not, Slies scoffed and reached up to pull the curtain aside. Nip let out a resigned sigh and stepped inside.

The guard hut was one of the larger buildings, built with a second level. He had no idea what was on top, but the bottom was furnished with only a low, wooden platform, a couple of nests for the guards or any visitors to rest in, and three cells of varying sizes.

Oh? What sort of situation would the Guard Hut have visitors over anyways? Or is this the place where drifters with no lodging crash since nobody is sure if they can really trust them?

Typically, the bottom floor was empty at this time of day, or at most might have a single guard waiting for him and his watcher to return. But tonight, someone else, someone familiar was waiting in one of the nests.

A lump of brown fur raised up as they entered, alerted by the rustling of the fabric.

“Eh? Haru? What are you doing here?” Slies asked. “Everything alright? I hope you haven’t been waiting here long.”

Nip: "Oh sweet Yveltal, why are you here?! I thought that you had trees to chop down or something!" >.<

“Long? Oh, no, no, not at-” Haru cut herself off with a yawn, blinking a few times. “Not at all. I just, er… and this might sound a bit weird I guess, but I kind of wanted to ask the, um… I wanted to ask Nip a couple questions. Is that okay?”

“Him?” Slies tilted his head, thumping his tail against the wooden floor a couple times. “Well, I mean, I guess it’s alright, go ahead.”

Nip: "Am I allowed to refuse?"
:GrumpNip:

Siles:
Image


“Thanks. Of course.” But then she said nothing, just staring at Nip, then back to Slies. “Um… I know you have to keep an eye on him and all, but… do you mind giving me a minute of privacy? Maybe you could… just guard the entrance? There’s no windows or anything for him to escape through.”

“I dunno about that Haru… What if he takes you hostage or something? That could be just as bad.”

Nip felt almost insulted by the suggestion. “Do you really think I would do something as cowardly as that?

Haru: "Nip, you stole an egg and ate it because you were too afraid to go and rob Mandi's shop."
:typhNOsion:

Nip: "Oi! I wasn't afraid of her. Again, extenuating circumstances that don't apply right now."
:GrumpNip:


“You stole an egg,” the quagsire pointed out. “I wouldn’t put anything past you.”


Oh hey, Siles backs me up here. Though I guess Haru's questions wouldn't have gone anywhere fast were she the one to bring this up.
:loltias:


At that, Nip could only clench his teeth, his ear lying flat against his skull. He understood why they were upset, but death and cruelty were just facts of life, and he was only doing what he thought he had to for survival. How would taking Haru hostage help with that? In fact, it was more likely to get him killed.

He didn’t air his thoughts though, not wanting to risk a blast of frigid water to the face. Or worse.


I'm sure that these two would vehemently interject to that train of thought but from what I remember of what's been revealed of the general state of affairs of the world at large in PWCH... Nip is actually pretty damn accurate with that read there. TBD if there will be anything that will shake things up later on in the plot on that front.

Slies continued to give them a hard stare, but when Haru did not budge, he sighed and gave in. “Fine, Fine. Just for a few minutes though! I’ll be right outside. Give me a shout if you need me. "And you”—he turned to face Nip, thumping his heavy tail on the ground a couple times in a threatening manner—"you better be on your best behavior."

Nip said nothing, but forced himself to relax slightly, his tail feathers twitching.

With that, Slies brushed back past the curtain, leaving Nip and Haru alone in the room.


Oh boy, I see that Siles really can do a good Gates!Quagsire impression.
:fearfullaugh~1:


At first, Haru still said nothing, her gaze shifting to the ground. Nip shifted his weight uncomfortably in the silence, watching her without a word. “Well, what is it that you needed to ask so bad?”

“Just a second,” she said quickly. “I’m trying to figure out how to word it.” The silence stretched on for just a bit longer, before she finally sucked in a breath and answered. “I just… I don’t get it. What’s your problem?”

He blinked. “What’s… What’s my problem?”


Haru: "I mean, you only stole an egg from 'mons that took you in when you would've died out in the forest otherwise and become wildener chow, so... yeah, what is your problem?" >:|
Nip: "Oh gods, here we go with this again..." >_>;

“Yeah.” She looked back up. “How can you live with yourself, turning on and hurting the pokemon that took you in and saved your life? You killed someone’s child. Do you realize that? Or are you just morally bankrupt?”


Waaaaaait a minute. How exactly does Haru know sentence #4 again? Like it's a pretty safe assumption at this point given that even if Nip hadn't eaten Whisper's egg, that it'd have died from lack of incubation at this point, but I'm kinda wondering if it ought to have been subtly indicated/mentioned in passing one way or another either here or someplace around this area how Haru was concluding that.

Nip scrunched his nose at the start of a snarl, her sharp words stinging. This is what she came here for? To insult him and ask questions that he had already answered? He forced his fur to lie flat before replying. “That’s… Death is inevitable. Whether it be at the hands of a hungry predator, or because your prey struck back. Or any sort of horrible accident. And at some point, you just have to accept it. You have to accept that you must kill to live, or you have to accept that the world isn’t safe, and that others might hunt you for food. Sometimes it’s both. It’s terrifying, I will admit. But it’s just the way life works.”

Haru blinked a couple times, seemingly stunned by his response. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, he couldn’t tell. But finally, her gaze hardened. “So that’s it, you justify your actions because that’s just the way the world works? What a terrible excuse.


>t. 'mon who maimed a wildener and arguably condemned him to a slow-motion death sentence even if Vale didn't wind up killing him off over a Wonder Orb

Oh the things Nip would say if he had known about that incident...

“Well, I’d like to hear what you think then. Do you really think searching for unfortunates and letting your carnivore friends eat what amounts to carrion is healthy? That it’s right? Do you really believe that it actually works that way?


Wew, so Nip just flatly believes that the scavvers in town are flatly lying about how they got their meat. I mean, he's not wrong, but it's definitely an insight into how he ticks as a character if his reflex is to just not trust others and not take their statements at face value.

“Yes? That’s the agreement every pokemon has to live by, to be able to live in a civilized society. They don’t hunt and kill other pokemon, and in turn, they have access to all the resources and materials living in a town provides. Simple enough.”

“You can’t really believe that’s sustainable, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t it be, it’s worked for all these years.”

Nip: "Because there's nothing filling the gap for nutrition for your predators in seasons where you can't find bodies to scavenge? And most populations need something on the order of a 9-1 ratio between prey and predators for the latter to remain biologically sustainable in nature?"
:sceptical~1:

Haru: "... How on earth do you know all of that again?" .-.
Nip: "Because I was a hunter by fundamental lifestyle? Do you think I never learned about how a food web works?"
:absus:

Haru: "Yeah, well all of that's irrelevant since we have gummis to take care of-"
Nip: "Wrong story again. We don't have that in this setting, remember?"
Haru: "... Right, I should stop forgetting about that. (Damn it, I hate it when he has a point.)" >_>;


“How do you know though?” Nip asked, tapping his claws together. “You don’t seem like you’ve bothered keeping up with any of that. Have you ever even bothered asking and finding out?”

“I don’t need to,” Haru insisted. “It’s written into our laws and rules. If there was something shady going on, surely someone would have done something about it by now.”


Nip:
youre_serious_futurama.gif

Haru: "Look, what reason would there to be to believe otherwise?" >_>;
Nip: "Oh I don't know, how about the way your mayor dispatched his personal messengers to accompany a 'mon who specifically came to murder me in advance of the rest of the town finding out?" >:|

Nip opened his mouth to say something more, but shut it, sensing that this wasn’t an argument he was going to win. Instead, he just let out a huff of air and returned back to the first subject.


Ah yes, that's what happens when you don't have knowledge about who Jaques and Lotte were and why their presence was incredibly shady on the proper side of the fourth wall. But alas, that'd be giving the game away a bit too fast for Haru there.

“Fine. Let me try explaining another way. I…” He trailed off, hesitating. How much was he willing to share? On one hand, he’d already spilled most of his story, and he doubted hiding anything now would matter. On the other, he was still hesitant to tell the whole story, seeing how she’d reacted thus far. There were still things about his life that he doubted she would take well. And he feared the idea of losing this last chance at life if he said the wrong thing.


So Nip just hates not being able to get in the last word in an argument that he didn't do so hot in that much, huh? :V

“Well? I’m waiting. And you know what, let me ask you another question while I’m at it. Why did you steal an egg, when you could have just gone a little bit further out of town and stolen from the meat shop?” Then she quickly added, “Not that I’m encouraging theft, but theft is less heinous than murder.

“I already answered this,” he growled, quickly growing frustrated. “I honestly thought that it was my best option. In the moment, I was concerned with getting away as quickly as possible. For all I knew, Umbra could have already reached the village and was just waiting for me to show myself.”


Haru: "And you didn't think to ask for help from literally anybody why?"
:absus:

Nip: "... Because as you can probably gather, I'm not exactly a trusting 'mon?"
:joltyshrug~1:


“And you really think she would kill you in the middle of the village? Or at all?”

“Yes!” Why couldn’t anyone else see Umbra for how dangerous and aggressive she was? “If it wasn’t for the guards here, she would sneak in and kill me right now, I’m sure of it. And if she had caught me alone in the village then, well, if she didn’t kill me where I stood, she’d at least drag me off into the woods and kill me there.”


Nip: "Haru, she literally tried to murder me while everybody wasn't paying attention for all of a minute not even 5 chapters ago. You were there!"
:GrumpNip:

Haru: "... We don't know that she would've been so bold in town."
Nip: "Good Yveltal, preserve me." >_<;

“Because of what you did in your tribe?” Haru hesitated for a moment, pawing nervously at the straw. “…I’m going to be honest Nip, based on everything you two have said, I can’t totally blame her for wanting you dead, even if I don’t agree with handling things like that.”

Nip recoiled. Was she serious? Did she wish him dead too? He drew his paws down his face, trying to keep his emotions in check. “No. Well, yes, but also no. She wanted me dead from the moment we were paired together, because she saw herself as too valuable to be paired with a scrawny, runty sneasel for a mate.”


Haru: "..."
:sceptical~1:

Nip: "Look, if you can read between the lines, Pokémon in my tribe don't exactly have a ton of control over our own destinies, alright?" >_>;

He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then began to pace, his ear lying flat against his skull as he grew more and more irritated. “But she couldn’t just kill me, could she? That would just get her thrown out of the tribe instead. So, she went out of her way to make my life a walking nightmare. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be kicked out of your home on a cold winter’s night? To be forced to find shelter elsewhere as a blizzard bears down on you? To day in and day out be scared to leave home, for fear of someone taking their anger out on you? To have everyone look down on you and view you as a disappointment? Because if not, then you have no right to judge me. And if that’s all you came here to do, you might as well just leave.”


Haru: "... Nip, you're an Ice-type. That sort of weather should be like water off a Psyduck's back to you-"
:absus:

Nip: "Oi! We're cold-tolerant, okay? Having to stay in it down to temperatures that would give even us trouble constantly's another matter." >_>;

Satisfied with his response, Nip turned and took a few steps away, turning his back towards the door. It would be so easy to knock her over and make a mad dash to freedom right now, but what good would it do him, breaking out in the middle of the square with too many pokemon still around? Umbra would just chase him down again, and he’d be back to life on the run.


Hm. I didn't peg Nip as having been worn down from being a fugitive to the point of wanting literally any out from that. I feel it might be a point/angle worth playing up more in that eventual rework of the first 9 chapters, since admittedly I didn't pick up on that and expected Nip's train of thought to focus more on the impossibility of escape, but not to rule out that he wanted it or that it wouldn't be worth it.

He expected Haru to turn and leave, but he never heard the sound of retreating pawsteps or of rustling fabric. When the silence stretched on for far too long for comfort, he turned to glance back, and caught sight of Haru still standing in the same spot, staring at the ground with an unreadable expression.

“Did you have something else to gripe at me about?”


Nip: "Haru, seriously, why are you still here if you think that little of my explanation? At least give me something to work with for a response!" >_>;

Haru was startled out of her thoughts, jumping at the sound of his voice. She blinked once, then spoke hesitantly. “I just… I don’t get it. I can’t figure you out. You’re ungrateful and cold-hearted and act like you did nothing wrong. And yet you’re just serving your sentence like you want to change. Why haven’t you run off by now?”


Nip: "Because even if your village guards didn't kill me, I'd have a terrible life expectancy if I did? Umbra isn't exactly going to stop chasing me, remember?"
Haru: "... I meant besides that. And if you're really that miserable, surely there comes a point where you're just willing to roll the dice, aren't you?" :?

The truth? A believable lie? What difference would it make, now? “I… suppose it sort of benefits me, at the moment,” he replied before taking a seat in one of the nests, pausing to run his tongue along his shoulder, beginning his nightly grooming ritual.

“What do you m- do you just do that in front of everyone?”

“What, groom? Most pokemon know better than to stare. There’s no privacy here anyways.”


Haru: "..."
:TailsEww:

Nip: "You can look away if it bothers you that much, you know." >:|

“No. I mean, yes, but most pokemon just don’t groom in front of others period. Unless they’re trying to show off that they don’t see someone as a threat, or they’re really close I guess.”

He let out a quiet huff. “Well you can view it that way if you want. Because I don’t see you as threatening at all.”

:rawstberry:


“Hey!” Haru snapped. “Don’t forget who beat you last time!”

“You used dungeon magics on me. I’d hardly call that a fair fight.”

... No, that's a fair fight in a PMD setting, Nip. You're just butthurt that you didn't have any items to work with to use yourself.
:loltias:


“What, the orb? If you’re upset about being beaten that way, that’s your problem, not mine.”

Nip held back a growl. Great, now they were back to arguing again. This would get them nowhere. So, he elected to ignore her again, returning to his grooming. The silence stretched on for another few minutes before Haru spoke again.


Wait, so Haru was just sitting there and watching Nip lick himself for like 3+ minutes? ^^;

I would've thought that she'd lose her patience and start speaking after about 30 seconds in or so given that Nip's behavior is basically an expression of contempt/belittlement in her culture and she was already agitated, but maybe she's just more stubborn than I expected.

“Ugh, let me just… I can’t make sense of you. How is this beneficial to you?”

“It’s simple,” Nip replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “If I’m in here under the watch of all these guards, and Umbra’s out there, then she can’t get at me without a fight. It’s not ideal, but it’s safer than trying to run off now. She can’t even attempt to kill me without everyone noticing.”

Image


Haru: "Hey! You're supposed to be getting punished, not getting free bodyguards out of this!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Nip: "I'd hardly define being verbally and physically abused all day in-and-out as being 'free', but bring it up with your village leadership if you have such a problem with it." >_>;

Haru stared at him for a long time. “Okay, Nip. I could believe that, but I’m still not convinced she’s going to kill you.”

“You don’t know her like I do. It took me more than a moon to travel from my tribe to here. Do you really think she’d go all that way back with me as a prisoner? Even if it wasn’t so far, she would have killed me anyways. She’s always been looking for an excuse to get rid of me, I know it. She was expecting someone far stronger and more prestigious than a runt that had to fight to be acknowledged as a skilled hunter.”

As he spoke, he could see the Haru’s expression begin to shift towards one of deep concentration. “Are you… sure you’re not overreacting a little?”

Nip: "Haru, she tried to kill me right in front of you!"
:GrumpNip:

Haru: "Have you ever considered that maybe you just have that sort of effect on others as a personality?" ^^;

Nip let out a low hiss. “You don’t know what I went through. How many nights I spent either out in the cold, or huddled in the back, expecting Umbra to come back and lash out for existing around her. Don’t you dare tell me I’m overreacting.”


Also, that. Though Nip really could've made Haru look fairly silly if he just pointed out that Umbra literally tried to kill him in all of a minute when the local guards weren't watching the two.

“Surely someone would have noticed if any of this was actually happening and done something about it, right? Why didn’t you just tell someone?”

He couldn’t help but scoff. “I did. But no, Umbra was too well-respected, no one would have believed me. The few pokemon I did tell did nothing to stop it. Tempest at least tried to provide some comfort… but he’s even more an outsider than I was. What was he supposed to do?”


Ah yes, the first inkling of a new face due to show up in the story in short order.


Haru opened her mouth to say something, but paused, thinking. “Who was Tempest, again? I think you said his name before.”

[ ]

“My mentor. He taught me much. But he was adopted into the tribe as little more than a pup. He never would have gained much power in the tribe, and he didn’t have any when I… left.”


Considering how much Nip is revealed to have looked up to Tempest later on in the story, I wonder if it'd have made sense to have him hesitate or else explicitly show off some body language here a bit.

He waited for a moment for Haru to reply. When she didn't, he turned his attention to smoothing out his ruffled fur. Another moment or so passed before she finally stood, shaking a couple times, tossing bits of straw that had gotten stuck to her fur in all directions before beginning to head to the exit.

She paused halfway there. "You know I have no reason to believe you, right?"

Image


The statement stung more than it should have. "I don't care whether you believe me or not. I know the truth. But if you’re not going to listen… why did you bother coming in the first place?"


I see that for a 'mon who seemingly has serious problems trusting others, Nip doesn't handle getting the Cassandra Truth treatment all that well.

Haru took another few steps, then faltered. She hesitated for a few seconds longer, not daring to look up at Nip. “You better watch yourself,” she finally warned. “They might change their sentencing if they don’t think you care about changing.” Then she disappeared through the fabric.


Nip: "... How is that not forbidden in your society as Double Jeopardy? As messed up as my tribe could be, I'm pretty sure that they didn't have that."
:what:

Haru: "Well, it's not, so again. Watch your back."

Nip stared for just a bit longer, a cold pit forming in his stomach. But he forced himself to relax. He didn’t need to worry about what she thought. Whether she got the answers she was seeking, he did not know. Nor did he care. He couldn’t be bothered to care, when she obviously didn’t do the same.

Slies entered a few heartbeats later, his mouth turned in a tired frown. "By ‘Gigas, could you two be any louder? You're luck-" He cut himself off. "Nope, not going to say it. That would probably be in poor taste."


Was he going to say "that Whisper isn't here"? Otherwise I'm not sure what Siles was about to say. It might've made sense to hint a bit more bluntly at what was going on there.

The quagsire's tail thumped against the ground a couple times as he headed over to an alcove on the far side of the room and reached an arm in, pulling out a ring with three bumpy bits of metal. Keys was the word Nip had learned over his last few days here.

He begrudgingly stood up as Slies approached him, not wanting to draw his ire and take a thump from that slimy tail. Silently, he allowed the quagsire to lead him over to the mid-sized cell, a small chamber perhaps three times as wide, long, and high as he was tall. Calling the inside sparsely furnished would be an understatement; the only things in the cell were a small water trough by the bars and a messy straw bed. Bits of hay were still strewn about the floor from when he'd gone a bit stir-crazy the first night he'd been held here, but that he hadn’t bothered to gather up.


Well, their cell design philosophy is definitely punitive in mind. All that's missing is someone doing something like hanging foul-smelling herbs right outside as an extra "screw you".

Now behind the relative safety of the bars, he waited until he heard the sound of a click behind him before moving to settle into the nest with his back to the rest of the room. There, he finished grooming himself before settling down uneasily.

Not that he was asleep though. No, that would take some time. For a while, he just laid there with his back to all the guards that came and went, getting ready to change shifts. Whisper approached his prison at some point, trying to get him to speak to her. Demanding it even. He didn't answer though. He never did. Because he doubted anything he could say would make her forgive him, and he didn’t see the point in trying.


I mean, if he'd said half of what he did to Haru to Whisper, I'd give it a coin toss that Whisper wouldn't just kill him on the spot, so that's probably wise on Nip's part there.
:fearfullaugh~1:


He didn't even want her forgiveness, though. Stealing eggs was just a part of a sneasel's nature. Or so he'd been told. And he felt no shame using that to his advantage, even if he would have done things differently now, now that he'd had time to think about the repercussions of his action.


Ah, so Nip is very much an "I'm sorry I got caught" sort of character. It's not really all that surprising, but I do wonder if that's something that'll change as time goes on on his part.

I also wonder how that thought process would've been received back home. Like on one level, he had to have learned it from somewhere, but Nip didn't exactly fit well with the society he hailed from.

Eventually though, the sun set completely, leaving the room dimly lit by jars of luminous plants. And after a short time, one of the guards came and put most of those away, leaving only a single source of light in the room.

Even then, Nip stayed awake for a while longer. Listening quietly for the sound of movement, particularly from outside. But all he heard was the occasional passing of footsteps, accompanied by torchlight from under the curtain doorway as a guard made the rounds.

At some point, he sent a silent prayer to Yveltal, wondering if he’d said and done the right things.

I'm now curious as to what those rites and expectations of Yveltal among death birb's followers are. Since if Nip thinks he's still got a shot to stay in said birb's good graces after committing what would be a heinous crime in his own society... those standards must be fairly blue and orange. Either that or Nip just assumes Yveltal would be fairly forgiving of his choices.

Only once he was totally exhausted did Nip finally drift into fitful, troubled sleep, his dreams disturbed by rough waves, flashing lightning, and frost-covered trees.


Oh, so memories of when he skipped out on his tribe, huh? That must've been quite an exit considering that description.

Morning came and went in much the same way it had been for the last several days. A guard would come and rouse him by stuffing a handful of berries into a thin slat under the bars, and he'd chew with disinterest so that his stomach at least would not be growling when he left to do labor.

Eventually, the sound of scraping claws or heavy footsteps on the wooden boards would alert him to an approaching guard, and he would get up and follow them out to help with construction, the only job that he could help with at the moment. Or at least, the only job willing to take him.


I mean, at least he didn't get stuck with waste management. Since you'd think that they'd normally be more open to tasking criminals to perform literally dirty work. ^^;

This morning, however, there was a slight bump in the routine. Breakfast came and went as usual, and the flaffy guard came at the usual time, but as they made their way across the square to the construction zone, Nip noted several dozen wooden boxes laying along the road, filled to the brim with berries. There, Essra was busy using her psychic powers to load them up on a wooden board with wheels, the rapidash guard waiting at the end of it.

Nip slowed down as they passed by, curiosity getting the better of him. For a second, he locked eyes with the bellossom that ran the stand. But she quickly averted her gaze to her partner, the roserade standing beside her. That pairing was something he had been curious about for a long time, but an explanation would have to wait for another day.

It didn't occur to me, but given that Nip explicitly mentioned that pairings in his tribe were specifically chosen based off of cynical considerations of rearing progeny, it really would make sense for Nip to be weirded out by same-sex matehood. Since such pairings would just never happen in his tribe by virtue of being at odds with what their culture prioritizes from a pairing.

“Move along, sneasel,” the flaffy bleated, poking him between the shoulder blades to get him moving. “Nothing to see here.”

“What are they doing?” he asked.

The flaaffy snorted. “What, never seen a convoy before? They’re getting ready to trade goods with one of our southern neighbors. Don’t you have anything like that where you’re from?”

“Not at all,” Nip replied. “Territories are heavily disputed, and it’s always each tribe looking out for themselves.

Nip's old neighborhood sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Totally wonderful.
:unquag:


“Don’t know how you guys survive like that. But whatever. Now come along. We haven’t got all day.”


Considering how big of a deal having progeny up north is, I'm guessing that a lot of them don't survive like that. Or at least not for very long. ^^;

And then they were off again, closing the last of the gap to the nursery construction site.

Both Grombert and Chipper were already there, the bibarel of the pair busily gnawing away at a long, relatively thin log, working to cut it apart into manageable pieces. When he saw the pair making their way towards him, he raised a paw in greeting and paused to stretch out his back.

"Oh, good morning you two. It's a bit colder today, don’t you think, really doing a number on these joints of mine."

Now that he mentioned it, Nip did realize things were a bit colder. Nothing like the harsh weather of the north, but at least cool enough that he felt comfortable in his fur. His ear feather twitched in acknowledgement of the comment.


I smell foreshadowing, since that seems like a really particular thing to notice, especially when there's plenty of ways lying around in a Pokémon setting to bring on unnatural cold, and there was that one folklore blurb about Kyurem from the very beginning of the story...

"Y'best go talk to old Grombert and see what he wants done today. I think we're putting up the awning today. Another day or two and I'd say we'll have this job finally done.

"Really, like this?" the flaaffy asked. "You're not going to put in any security measures?"

Chipper blinked a couple times, and then groaned, sitting back on his haunches. "That's right, I totally forgot about the gate. Grombert was working on the fence today. Guess I'll have to bring over more logs tomorrow."

"How is this... gate supposed to protect this place?" Nip questioned.

All eyes turned to Nip, their gazes ranging from cautious glances to dangerous glares. It took him a second to realize what their problem was.

>when you single-handedly change the security culture of an entire village from being there for all of a week

I mean, that's definitely quite the accomplishment there. Not necessarily a positive one, but an accomplishment. :V

"No, no," he said quickly, raising up his paws in front of him defensively. "Not like that. I mean. Where I'm from, they use thorns and brambles, as well as mon-fashioned spike traps, to protect the nursery den from intruders, so that the only way you'd be able to get in is either an attack or by going through the front entrance. otherwise you just get a paw or face full of painful spikes.”


Ah yes, the same principle as concertina wire. Though hey, you can't say that it's not effective. Especially if you disguise the relative placement of said thorns and brambles so it's not immediately obvious where they are.

Chipper's eyes lit up. "Oh, this works... similarly, I guess. Perhaps not as dangerous to the children. It's just a fence around the perimeter to keep people from just walking right in."

That made... some sense, Nip supposed. Though he didn't see how that would protect from an attack from above. Something like a staraptor swooping from above would be a real threat.

Wait a minute, what is the story of when "Chipper" gets called "Chipper" versus "Chip" again? Since I noticed that last chapter, he was "Chip", but he's back to "Chipper" here.

Workers: "..."
:uhhh:

Chipper: "... No offense, but I don't think I ever want visit your old neck of the woods." .-.
Nip: "None taken. I wouldn't want to visit again either." >_>;

Before he had a chance to voice this concern, however, he heard a voice squeak from behind.

"Eep! The sneasel's back!"

He turned his head just in time to catch the retreating, spectral form of a pumpkaboo, rushing back to the safety of the daycare. Once he was safely back on the other side of the wall, he turned back to steal a glance towards Nip from the entryway. But when he saw the sneasel looking right at him, he squeaked in alarm again and disappeared inside. Every day, it was the same thing. The skittish pokemon would cry out an alarm when he saw him, and then run off.

"Tor, the sneasel’s back! Why won't you make him go away?" he heard the child cry out.

I mean, considering how he beat up one of the kids on the big night and that Tor almost certainly had to give an awkward explanation for why Whisper's egg just was never coming back... I can't really blame the kids for being afraid of Nip.

Then he heard the blissey's deep, monotonous voice reply quietly. "It's not my decision Myo. I just need you to be brave for a few more days. Can you do that for me?" The pumpkaboo, Myo, said nothing, so Tor continued. "Why don't you get Aves and go watch the berry cart head out of town. Wouldn't that be fun?"

"I... guess so..."

"Hey, earth to sneasel. Anyone in there?"


... I'm now morbidly curious if Nip would get a similar reaction among the Day Care kids back in his old tribal grounds now. If not one that was stronger considering what we know of what Nip did on his way out of dodge.

Nip snapped back to attention as a pink paw waved in front of his face. He turned his head slightly towards the flaaffy, who grunted before pointing out Grombert again. "I said, why don't you hurry up and get started already."


Nip: "Can I go back to getting stared at by frightened children?" >_>;
Flaaffy:
Image


Biting back a stinging retort, Nip lowered his head and began to walk towards the diggersby. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the pumpkaboo from before and the shuppet he'd fought during his escape leave the daycare, giving him a wide berth as they floated off towards where the boxes of berries had nearly been loaded up.

Now standing before Grombert, he cleared his throat to catch the diggersby's attention. Grombert turned towards him, one ear holding a handful of small, uniformly shaped red rocks.

"'Bout time you showed up," Grombert said, grumbling as he dropped the stones onto a pile of more stones. "I'll be having you work on laying bricks for the fencing today, at least till it's too high for you. Got everything you need right here." He gestured with both his left paw and left ear towards the pile of rocks, and then to a wooden trough filled with some sort of grainy, grey slop.


Oh, so they don't have mortar up north, huh? That makes me wonder what they do have for construction materials given that that probably rules out masonry and brickwork in Nip's native neck of the woods.

Nip shivered involuntarily at the thought of dipping his paws into that mess. "What, do expect me to use my bare claws or something?"

"Only if you break the trowel." The diggersby stooped down and picked up a flat piece of wood sticking out of the grainy mess. "It's easy enough. Lemme show you how it's done."

Nip watched as he began to work, scraping a thin layer of the substance, which Grombert soon explained was called "mortar" on the side of one of the stones before placing it next to another one on the ground. He did this a couple more times before starting a second row, setting up the next set of bricks so that they overlapped with the previous row. Then he finally passed the trowel off to Nip and pointed out where he wanted the bricks before finally leaving him alone with his guard, heading over to where Chipper was busy at work prepping wood.

Despite his best efforts, Nip managed to get some of the mortar stuck to his paws as he began working, the cold, wet, grainy substance sticking to his fur in uncomfortable ways. He grumbled as he laid the bricks, fighting the urge to work carelessly.


That... sounds like a fantastic way to get your brickwork messed up since Nip literally did not know what mortar was until this point, but eh. I guess that the foreman can just check up on Nip every so often and scream at him if he's obviously making a mess of his job.

He had only just finished his first row of work when he was interrupted yet again, this time by Haru approaching the work area, pausing to let the berry cart pass by before crossing over to the work area.

She didn't even acknowledge Nip as she passed, heading straight to her father, grumbling under her breath.

I mean, I'm pretty sure the grumbling under her breath was about Nip, so that's technically an acknowledgement there. :V

"Mom said you forgot to take your herbs," Haru announced before Chipper could say anything, ducking out of her bag’s strap. "She still doesn't want Toshi up and about, walking all the way to the square yet after his injury, so she sent me instead."

"Is that why I'm aching so bad?" the bibarel asked. "I thought it was the weather."

"Well, it is cold," Haru agreed, "so I don't know. But please don't do this again. I had to stop what I was doing to run these all the way down here. I was nearly done cleaning the tree I was working on, too!"


... Wait, how old is Chipper such that he needs herbs to manage body aches? Or else is that symptomatic of something else?

"Gods, thanks Haru, didn't mean to make you worry about me or anything," Chipper said as she pulled out a couple of white herbs, placing them on the ground in front of him. "Thanks though."

"Don't mention it. Now if you'll excuse me, I-"

Haru didn't finish her sentence. In the distance, there was a loud crash and a bright flash of light, followed by shouting and a blast of frigid air.

All five pokemon turned in near unison towards the source. A gout of flame burst into the air in the distance, but the source was out of sight. Seconds later, Whisper came dashing by, heading in the direction of the fire.

"That looks like it came from the direction of the berry cart," the flaffy announced, alarm creeping into his voice. He looked out towards the direction, then nervously back at Nip, then back towards the sound of shouts. "Stay here," he said in a warning tone, before racing off towards the source.


Those poor Oran Berries... oh, and also the Pokémon staffing the cart, too.

That left Grombert, Chipper, Nip, and Haru, to stare at each other uneasily as shouts and the sounds of battle kicked off in the distance. Every few seconds, there would be a flash of light or a plume of fire, followed by a crash or a snap, or many other manners of attacks.

It seemed like the sounds were slowly growing closer, however. Many of the village civilians had come out from the surrounding businesses to look at the commotion.


Nip: "Boy it sure is a good time for your village guards to not be here right now." >_>;

A pair of ghostly figures came zipping through, making a beeline for the daycare. They dashed behind the gathered pokemon, then huddled behind Tor just beyond the doorway.

"A scary pokemon's trying to break into town," Aves announced, huddling a bit closer to Myo.

"Yeah! real scary! He attacked Romi when she wouldn't let him by. Wouldn't even talk to her!"


Oh, well that would explain the fire. That's Romi attacking in self-defense there.

Another blast of frigid air flowed in their direction, strong enough for ice crystals to begin forming on the tips of Nip’s fur even this far away. He paused, sniffing as the wind passed by. Another plume of smoke filled the air. Something about the smell on the wind struck Nip as off. Familiar, even. For just a few seconds, he was transported in his mind back to kithood, to a cold winters day as he followed a pokemon off into the woods surrounding their home.


Oh right, this is the chapter where Tempest shows up for the first time. So that was why everyone felt cold earlier.

Without thinking, Nip darted off, dashing in the direction of the smoke. Behind him, he heard shouts of protest and anger, and at least one pokemon chasing him, but he ignored them.

He wasn't trying to run away. Not right now. He just needed to know.

It wasn't long before the scene of the battle came into view, though it seemed like the fight was nearly over by now. Four of the guards were fighting, some in better conditions than others. A thin layer of ice caked one of Whisper's wings, while the rapidash was struggling to stand, with cuts and bruises lining her body. Sparks of electricity danced off of both Vale and the flaaffy's flank, neither of them looking too bad, with only a couple of scrapes and some ice crystals stuck to their fur.


Nip: "Wait a minute. Ice crystals? From someone able to do this to a bunch of village guards?"

Collapsed in the center of the four was a ninetales, his blue-white fur ratty, caked in mud, and singed. He, like Romi, was struggling to climb to his feet, his breathing ragged. As he stood, Nip could see a nasty, infected wound stretching from his neck all the way down to his shoulder.

And despite all that, despite the wound and the mud and the vague look in his eye as he stared down the village guard with a soundless snarl, Nip still recognized him. Without thought for his safety, he called out the familiar name.

"Tempest!"

And cue the cliffhanger. That's certainly a break from the normal drudgery of hard labor there.

Alright, time for my overall thoughts:

I thought it was a decent chapter. A bit slow, but worldbuilding sprinkled in throughout and the proverbial table flip at the end does a good job at keeping you invested as a reader going forward. And playing Nip and Haru off each other is a good way of showing how the two tick to the readers, as well as how they processed the outcome of the trial. It was also nice to see a bit of Nip's daily life as a convict, like in my first readthrough, I had thought that he was a bit whiny and complaining a lot... but after going through this story a second time... I'm starting to wonder if he had more of a point than he thought. Since there are a lot of parties in Theran who would have a strong reason to want him to keel over. Dunno if that was planned or not, but it's something I noticed.

As for things that I'm a bit less sure about, I kinda wonder if the first scene dragged a bit. Maybe it's from having the benefit of having a full view of things, but the first scene at once felt like it was pretty long for something so light on action, and yet some parts felt like things that we already knew about with regard to Nip and Haru, particularly in the interview section. Not sure what the best solution to that would be, or if it is one of those things that just has to happen for meta reasons even if it's a bit long.

But all-in-all, it was a fun chapter to catch up with @windskull , and I'm looking forward to going through Tempest's introduction to Theran Village again and seeing what details I can pick up this time around that I didn't notice originally. ^^
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, took a bit longer than anticipated, but I've got a Reading Rookidee to square away, and PWCH was one of my items on it. So pulling a late-night special and finally getting together that review of mine that’s been floating in the ether:

Chapter 12

“Tempest!”

All eyes turned to Nip the moment the name spilled out of his mouth. The looks he received varied from disdain to surprise, but that was nothing new. For a moment, under the scrutinizing looks, he worried he had been wrong, and that he was only causing trouble with a stranger that would bite him later.

But when the ninetales eyes lit up with recognition, the feeling subsided, and Nip knew for certain that he was right.


Nip: "Wait, what are you even doing here?" .-.
- Beat moment -
Nip: "... And hey, wait a minute. Aren't you supposed to be able to say something right now? It's me. Nip." ._.

Ignoring a shout for him to stay where he was, Nip dashed forward towards the ninetales. But he only got a few bounds along before he faltered and stopped, overcome with feelings of anxiety and fear. Why was Tempest here? Had he, too, been sent after him? Would he defend him, or would he kill him? Perhaps neither? Fear and indecisiveness rooted him to the spot, and he instinctively shrank down, watching Tempest with wide eyes for any signs of movement.


Nip: "L-Look, I know that I've made some bad choices, but just say something here!"

“I’m sorry, Whisper! He ran off and I couldn’t keep up with him!”

Nip’s ear twitched at the voice. He turned his head slightly and caught a glimpse of Haru slowing to a stop next to Whisper, her sides heaving with effort. Nip ignored her, turning his attention back to Tempest. The ninetales in question had not stepped towards him. In fact, he had instead collapsed onto his side, though his head was lifted up to stare at Nip.


I wonder if meta-wise it'd have made sense to have thrown in a reminder in description that Tempest has an infected neck wound right about now. Since that's something that was mentioned at the very end of the last chapter, but doesn't come up again in spite of it being a detail that shouldn't have exactly been hard for Nip to miss that would logically make him worried about Tempest's well-being after seeing it.

Nip: "Tempest? You... You don't look so hot right now."
:uhhh:

- Beat moment -
Nip: "... I guess that ought to be 'you don't look so cool since we're both Ice-types, but still." >_>;

Hesitantly, Nip began to step forward again, reaching a paw out to gingerly touch the wound on Tempest’s neck. He didn’t know how old it was, but he could tell that it had been there for a while, still not totally healed and stinking. Tempest responded to the touch by baring his teeth, making Nip flinch and shrink away at first. But when he did nothing further, nor said anything, he finally felt safe enough to relax. For the moment, at least.

“What… Who did this to you?” Nip asked breathlessly.

Tempest said nothing, only holding Nip’s gaze.


Oh, there we go, actually. I mean, I still stand by the comment that it should've drawn Nip's attention sooner even if in passing, but you Tempest's neck wound is actually brought up in short order.

Nip: "... Uh... wait a minute. Can you even speak right now with a wound like that?" ._.

Anxiety clawed at the sneasel’s belly again, though now for different reasons. Question after question flashed through his mind. Why wouldn’t he answer? Could he answer? Perhaps the injury kept him from speaking. Was it temporary or permanent? He knew Tempest knew how to take care of himself; even a wound this bad should have been better taken care of than this. So why wasn’t it?

And what brought him here? He’d shown no real aggression towards him, and yet the likelihood of him arriving here by chance seemed impossible.


Nip: "... Boy this is sure a fantastic time not to have paper and a writing implement." >_>;
Haru: "Shouldn't you be a bit more worried about how you cut and run from your daily work earlier?"
:what:


“What are we waiting around for?” He heard Vale shout, snapping him out of his thoughts. Whipping his head around he caught sight of the manectric slinking forward, crouching low to the ground with sparks bouncing off of his bared fangs, ready to sink his teeth into whoever moved first.

Tempest, too, turned his head, and struggled back to his feet before stumbling forward so that he was between Nip and the approaching guard. But his condition hardly let him stay on his feet.

“Vale! Stand down!” Whisper snapped, breaking Vale’s concentration and intense gaze.

“But-”

“Your opponent is subdued, Vale. Disengage.”


So Vale was really gonna just take this opportunity to gank Nip right then and there, huh? Since he's giving some major "looking for an excuse to pick a fight" vibes.

Vale: "Whisper, I'd like to point out that this 'mon is still conscious right now.
:AlviseUnamused:

Whisper: "Vale, the 'mon can barely stand properly. He's subdued enough, honestly.

Vale grumbled something under his breath but relented. He stood up straight turned to take a few steps back.

Satisfied, Whisper turned to Nip. “Ignoring the fact that you shouldn’t be here,” she began, stealing an annoyed look at the flaaffy that was supposed to be watching him, “you seem to know this strange ninetales. Explain yourself.”


Nip: "... (Wait, should I really be explaining this to the 'mon who hates my guts and I'm pretty sure is slowly trying to starve me to death?)"

Nip looked up to Whisper, then to the rest of the pokemon surrounding him before shrinking into Tempest’s fur. He swallowed, sucking in a breath of air before answering. “Tempest is… was… is… my mentor,” he began. “He taught me… most of what I know. My fighting skills, hu… how to track something and survive in the wilderness, all of that. He offered me a chance at getting stronger when most of my… former kin were trying to steer me away from the path of a fighter.


Wonder how Tempest feels about how that one turned out, since I actually don't remember if that ever came up in my first rodeo with this story.

Nip: "... (Whelp, guess she knows now. But thankfully she doesn't seem like the type to want to know more-)" ^^;

Whisper looked up to the other guards, trading an uneasy glance with several of them. “Do you know why he’s here?”


Nip: "... Dammit, that's a bad omen, though at least I know the answer to that one..."

“Not at all,” Nip replied, lowering his gaze. “I haven’t seen him since…” He trailed off. Tempest would know what he did, and the entire village knew now, too. But trying to say it himself left a vile taste in his mouth.

“...Since I left our resting grounds,” he finished.

Nip: "... I'm just gonna assume that Tempest hasn't been talking to me because of that neck wound, since the alternative is honestly a bit too depressing for me to consider right now."
:fearfullaugh~1:


“We should drive him out,” Vale warned, his voice coming out in a low growl. “He might help our prisoner try to escape.” He took a threatening step towards Tempest. Nip, without thinking, moved to put himself between Tempest and the aggressive manectric, the air around him growing cold.


Nip: "Didn't you literally want Umbra just to take me away like 3 chapters ago? What difference does it make if I escaped or not?" >_>;
Vale: "In case if you haven't been picking up on the subtext, I want to you to suffer, Sneasel. And preferably die at the end of things."
:AlviseAngry:

Nip: "Yeah, as if I couldn't have already put that together on my own." >.<

Before either of them could make a move, though, Whisper stepped between the two, holding up a wing on either side. “Both of you stand down. Nip, if you so much as raise a claw at me, I’ll call a new vote and let that mawile drag you out of town, I swear to any god you hold dear.


Nip: "Oh, so there is double jeopardy in this town's legal system. Fantastic."
:grohno~1:

Whisper: "More like you getting into any legal trouble would be grounds for getting you sentenced again, and there are a lot of Pokémon who felt you got off way too easily last time." >:|

“And Vale, you are not in charge here. What we do with the ninetales is up to the village as a whole to decide. Not you. Do you understand me?”

The mere thought of Umbra made Nip shiver. He forced himself to relax, the air around him returning to normal, and dropped his gaze to the ground. Vale, meanwhile, also averted his gaze, muttering a quick apology towards Whisper.

The hawlucha growled, lowering her wings. “Glad you two could see reason.”


I can almost see Vale's reflexive protest about his... 'arrangement' with Jhorlo only to swiftly cut himself off there.

Now that the sounds of battle had died away, a handful of villagers had made their way over from the square to investigate the situation. Nip watched as Whisper looked over the crowd until she locked eyes with one particular pokemon.

“Lecha, would you please escort both Romi back to the clinic, then meet us at the guard’s hut to deal with this… ‘Tempest?’ You can treat him there. Stati,” she paused to gesture to the flaaffy, “you go with them too. Vale, I want you to fetch Jhorlo and tell him what happened, please. Then don’t come back. I can’t deal with your aggression right now. You were due for a break anyways. I’ll be taking Nip back to his holding cell for now, until we have a chance to discuss what to do.”

Image


I mean, not that Whisper knows why that isn't necessarily something she wants to do, but still.

Vale responded with a grunt before turning to run off. Nip felt a paw lightly press up against his back, signaling for him to move out of the way as Lecha approached Tempest, giving his wounds a quick look over. As Whisper began to lead him away, he heard the medic call out, “Twi! Twi, go make me a sitrus poultice! And bring me another sitrus berry and an energy seed.”


Out of curiosity, but is there anything in particular that dictates what to use and when for different poultices in this story? Since while I get the Sitrus Berry for this poultice, I kinda wonder what the Energy Seed would do.

Whatever happened next, Nip didn’t see due to being shepherded around the corner so that the scene was out of sight. Still, he couldn’t get thoughts of Tempest out of his mind. What did his appearance mean? He’d shown no signs of hostility towards him, but the fact that he was here couldn’t be chance. Had he followed him here? Was he, too, here to kill him? Had his moment of anger turned even those that cared about him against him?


Maybe I'm tripping, but something about this "couldn't be chance" construction feels very similar to the construction involving it being impossible Tempest was present by change Nip used earlier on in this scene. It might make sense to make one or the other some sort of synonym like "a coincidence".

An anxious, guilty pit formed in his stomach. His silent questions were left unanswered as he crossed the threshold back into the guards’ hut. As much as he would rather be back with Tempest, trying to get answers and making sure his mentor was alright, he felt it best not to draw Whisper’s ire any more than he already had. But as he was locked back away and things fell quiet, his unanswered questions continued to plague his mind.

Perhaps, with a good word from Tempest, he could convince the villagers to let him leave. But after his less-than-positive departure from the tribe, would Tempest even be willing to vouch for him? Would he be able to vouch for him, for that matter? Or had that wound taken away his ability to speak entirely?


Not that Nip's thought process isn't broadly correct thanks to his tribe and Theran Village using different writing systems, I wonder if it would've made sense to remind the readers about that given "but wait, can't Tempest just write something out?" is technically on the table, even if nobody is likely to understand it.

Shimmer found it quiet at home that day. Too quiet. Boringly quiet. Quiet in a way that made her uncomfortable. There was hardly a single emotional aura in the house, just the quiet, stewing flicker of an emotional aura that she suspected was Umbra. Sure, Muse was here too, but everything about the dark-type’s mind and emotions were an enigma, like a deep, dark void in a vibrant world.


Oh, so no "obviously scheming" aura from Jhorlo, or does he have lead plates surrounding the walls of his office? :V

“Muuuusy,” she whined, draping herself dramatically over her friend and bodyguard’s back, “can’t we please go do something already?”

The absol let out a sigh, dropping her head to rest it against one of Shimmer’s prized pillows. “As much as I would love to go somewhere, Shimmer, your father asked us to stay and keep an eye on the house.”


Well, I guess that would explain the lack of Jhorlo aura in the house.

Shimmer groaned. “I know that. But it’s so boring. Surely it won’t be a problem if we just go out for a quick walk around the square, or maybe to see my Toshi, right?”

Even if she couldn’t read Muse’s emotions with her psychic powers, there were a few things Shimmer knew about her friend, and about her reactions. For one thing, she could tell from the way she tensed beneath her that her will was crumbling. Muse could never say no to her for too long.


Ah, so that's how you handled the Dark-type nullification of Psychic moves. Though Muse confirmed for shipping Shimmer x Toshi, since that was a really particular item to have your will start breaking down on. :V

But to Shimmer’s surprise, Muse managed to hold her ground this time. “Not right now, she insisted. “Maybe tonight around dinner, we could go down to the square for food. But let’s stay here for now, okay? Besides, didn’t you want to keep an eye on Umbra?”

Oh, right. Shimmer let out a huff, sliding off of Muse’s back and adjusting herself so that she was sitting and leaning against her. “I hate it when you have a point. Fiiine, guess we’ll stay here and be bored.”


Muse: "... I mean, if you're feeling adventurous, we could go and try to talk to Umbra."
Shimmer: "Even with you as my bodyguard, Musey, I... think that I'd rather be bored than berated and possibly maimed, thank you very much."
:fearfullaugh~1:


“I don’t know, don’t you think the quiet is kind of nice for a change? It seems like there’s always pokemon coming and going around here.”

Shimmer supposed Muse had a point. Sort of. She may not have an absol’s sharp senses, but she did have psychic powers. Psychic powers that picked up on the comings and goings of most visitors. Still, she had gotten pretty good at tuning out most of it over the years, unless she felt a particularly strong spike of emotion.

So, Jhorlo's confirmed for having a really good emotional poker face, huh? Since if he didn't, you'd think his own daughter who lives under his same roof would pick up on something being up.

Though I guess it would make sense since the guy has 'Manipulative Bastard' vibes in spades.

Like the anger that had come off of Umbra in waves the last couple days, since Nip had been brought back to town. She was silent for a moment, her mind dwelling on the thought, before she blurted out, “do you think we made the right decision? About Nip?”

“Hm?” Muse didn’t raise her head. “What makes you say that, Shims?”


Muse: "With all due respect, Shimmer. But you're not one to normally second guess yourself. So where exactly is this all coming from?"
:joltyshrug~1:


It’s just… you and I both think there’s something fishy going on, right? And it’s good to give someone a second chance and all, but… What if he doesn’t change. What if other pokemon end up getting hurt, and it’s our fault because we decided to give him a second chance. I mean, he’s already hurt two different groups of pokemon. He didn’t deny Umbra’s claims, and…” She took a deep, shuddering breath.


Oh the irony that these two can sense that something is wrong in the village but they're blaming it on Nip right now.

“I’m afraid of having blood on my hands, Muse. And what kind of a leader to-be am I if I can’t help but second-guess myself?”


That's... a lot more mature of Shimmer than I remembered her being. And definitely more than what she presented earlier on in the story.

Muse raised her head, pressing it up against Shimmer’s shoulder. “Hey, no one can be confident all the time, trust me. I’m always second-guessing my actions. It’s just the way I am.”

“Really?” Shimmer asked with a wistful tone in her voice. “You always seem so certain, though…”

“I have to,” Muse replied. “I have to make my decisions whole-heartedly. That’s my job as your bodyguard. And if I had followed the prophet path my mother took, I would have to appear certain so as to not make others worry. Just like you do."

[ ]

"
Look, it’s okay to have doubts, Shimmer, because I’m here to listen and confide in. That’s what friends are for, right?”


Part of me wonders if Muse's line would be more effective broken into two paragraphs with some sort of body language. Since as it stands, it's a little long/"one-breath"-y, and I wonder if it loses its effect because of it.

Shimmer took a deep breath again, a smile creeping onto her face. “I guess you’re right. Thanks for trying to help me feel better, Muse. I’m just worried about what’s going to happen next, I guess. With both Nip and Umbra here, and all, and we still don’t know what your premonition was about. It’s a lot to worry about.”

“I know.” The absol pulled her head away, dipping it as she closed her eyes. “But for now, try not to think about it. Relax. We can worry about Nip when your father gets back, and we have the free time to worry about it, right?”

“I suppooooose. But it’s sooooo boring right now!” [Cheered up a bit, Shimmer was back to her normal, bubbly mood. Was it a façade? Kind of. But considering how ugly her real feelings were, and how much disrespect she’d receive as a leader for showing that side of herself, she could bottle it up and put on a cheerful look.]


Part of me wonders if Shimmer's line would be more effective if this description / internal thought process were at least partially yeeted before her actual line of dialogue in a standalone paragraph. Something about it feels fairly "after the fact" in presentation.

Speaking of leadership… a good leader had to be strong, right? With nothing better to do, she decided that a good use of her time would be to practice honing her powers. Both to practice and as a show of how much better she was feeling, she spent a few minutes levitating various items around her room: a few trinkets her dad had found or bought for her over the years, a couple pillows, a sundial that had gone unused for some time now, and a carefully constructed bidoof plush that she’d had to go to the next town over for. Creepy? Maybe a little. But it was as close as she had to the real thing, so she wouldn’t let anyone shame her for it.


Probably a good thing that Haru and Toshi have apparently never seen the inside of Shimmer's bedroom, since I can already see their
:riOMEGAlu:
faces after seeing that Bidoof plush there. :V

Soon, she had all of the inanimate objects floating in the air. She spent a moment rearranging them, but quickly grew bored. Levitating inanimate objects was easy. And there was no way she’d be able to get a grip on Muse; the dark type slipped through her psychic hold like nothing more than smoke. Only the most powerful psychics could take hold of a dark type. One day, maybe she’d be able to do it. But not yet.


That actually makes me wonder if you can cheat as a Psychic-type and levitate something wrapping a Dark-type as a workaround to their resistance/immunity to Psychic techniques in this setting.

With her options for levitation exhausted, she decided to try stretching the reach of her natural senses. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and imagined first her home, then the area around it. Sensing only Umbra’s emotional aura, following behind a blank spot that she assumed was one of the purrloin siblings, and Muse’s blank spot, she took another deep breath before pushing her senses further, slowly expanding the radius as she strained, scanning for any type of emotional pulse. She was rewarded, after a few minutes, with a quick read of a pokemon hurrying by a bit of a way off. There was a slight nervous twinge to their emotional state, but nothing really out of the ordinary.

For a moment, she considered focusing and diving into Umbra’s psyche. Maybe she could figure out how many of Nip’s claims of the mawile’s cruelty were true. But she hesitated and held back.


That probably would've cleared up a lot of self-doubts about Nip up really fast. Maybe. Probably. Since finding out more about the Nippening back at his home tribe probably wouldn't help her opinion of him.

Dad always told her that it was rude to read people’s minds and memories, after all.


Gee, I wonder why Jhorlo would feel a need to instruct Shimmer accordingly, huh? >:V

Instead, she continued to try and strain her senses a bit further. For her troubles, she picked up on a sudden spike of anger and frustration. She squeezed her eyes shut just a bit tighter, grunting at the sudden overwhelming emotions.

Concerningly, as she continued to feel the emotional aura, she realized that it was moving closer, heading in their general direction, and fast.

Shimmer: "... I'm pretty sure that's not a good sign right now."
:uhhh:


She broke her concentration with a pained gasp, her sense sucking back inward to her general area.

At once, she felt Muse tense up, raising her head to look back at Shimmer.

“Shims? What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” she groaned, bringing a hand up to her temples. “Just… wasn’t expecting that. Someone’s coming, and they’re not happy.”


Shimmer: "Wait a minute, Musey? How come you couldn't sense that-?"
:what:

Muse: "Because my premonitions sense disasters and they aren't exactly common in this setting?"
Shimmer: "... Right. That would be a good reason, actually."

Muse began to stand, trying to not disturb Shimmer as she did so. “Stay here, I’ll go check it out.”

Before Muse could leave, however, Shimmer grabbed hold of the thick fur around her neck, hoisting herself up.

“Nope, not letting you go alone,” she announced. “I’m gonna be a leader one day, so I gotta go with you, right? Di-plo-ma-cy.


Yes, because you did such a fantastic job with that in the Mystery Dungeon, Shimmer. >:V

“Why are you saying it that way?” Muse mumbled, before realizing that not only was it a question she wouldn’t get answered, but that there were more important things to worry about. And there was no way Shimmer would back down. “Very well, but stay either behind me or on my back, please. It’s my duty to protect you. What would your father say if I let you get hurt because I was careless?”


I mean, I'm pretty sure you'd have bigger worries than what Jhorlo would say since he doesn't strike me as the type to let stuff like that slide without -ahem- consequences, but let's not dwell on that too much. ^^;

Though that actually makes me wonder how Jhorlo wasn't madder at Muse for going along with Shimmer out into the boonies, since that feels like something that he'd not unreasonably expect a bodyguard for his daughter to go "lolno, you're staying home".

Shimmer started to giggle but caught herself and covered her mouth. No, she shouldn’t make fun of Muse’s seriousness, even if she did wish she’d lighten up a bit. She was just doing her job.

Carefully, she turned the latch on her door with her psychic powers, saving Muse the trouble of trying to do so with paws - even if it was built in a way that allowed pokemon with paws to easily push it open - and ducked her head as Muse pushed her way through the door.

Quietly, they made their way down the hall and towards the entrance, trying not to disturb Umbra as they moved to intercept whoever was coming their way. Even without extending her senses, Shimmer could feel the pokemon’s emotional aura now, burning bright with anger. Despite her better judgement, she probed just a bit further, trying to read just the surface thoughts in hopes of figuring out who was approaching, and what their intent was.

That was an okay use of her powers, right?


... Actually, I just realized, but Shimmer was probably sensing Vale there. Since he wasn't exactly in a super fantastic mood the last time we saw him, and if he was struggling to find Jhorlo per Whisper's orders...

How could Whisper think this was a good idea? Allowing another one of those into the town, I swear no one thinks things through anymore!


Yuuuuuup, literally the very next line. Probably should've picked up on this faster, but eh. Makes sense.

Shimmer pulled her probe away. “Hey, Muse, I’m pretty sure it’s just Vale. Don’t know what he needs, but it seems like it has to do with Whisper somehow. Aaaaaannnd he’s pretty ticked off.”

Muse hummed in response, dipping her head. “Do not worry, I’m sure he means no harm to us, but I will protect you if anything goes awry.”

Shimmer fought the urge to roll her eyes. Muse meant well, but she could be such a stick in the mud sometimes.


Shimmer: "Musey, Vale's part of the guards. What on earth would we ever have to fear from him?"
:what:

Muse: "You never know, Shimmer. After all, it is part of my duties as a bodyguard to err on the side of caution."

The two stopped just outside the front entrance. Unlike most homes in the area, the villa had actual doors, as opposed to just a cloth covering. Dad was always worrying about keeping her safe after all. Not that he didn’t have his own secrets, as she was sure he did, but she liked to think it was more about her.


No, I'm pretty sure it's about his secrets, Shimmer.

They waited no more than a few seconds before Vale burst through the door, panting.

He looked around wildly until he spotted the duo, and then hesitated.

“What brings you here at this time of day?” Muse asked, only dipping her head for a greeting.

Vale’s response came out in gasping, huffed breaths. “Whisper sent me… to speak… with Jhorlo.” He slumped forward, struggling to stay on his feet.

Muse: "... Vale, how far have you been running to be this winded?" .-.
Vale: "T-Too far."
:AlviseDizzy:


Shimmer let out a thoughtful hum, then addressed Vale. “I’m afraid you’ll have to talk to me instead,” she announced. “Daddy’s off on a trip to talk with Aunty Hearty. Come on, Muse, let’s take our guest off to get a drink, don’t you think?”


Wait, who exactly is 'Aunty Hearty' again? Since even if Jhorlo was lying through his teeth about what he was up to, I could've sworn this was never mentioned earlier in the scene nor why this was significant.

“Whatever you think is best, Shimmer. Come with us, Vale.” Dipping her head respectfully, the absol turned and began to walk. Vale sputtered in indignation for just a moment before resigning himself and following.

“We really... don’t have time for this,” he grumbled.


Shimmer: "Wait, 'we'? But you're here all alone-"
Vale: "I was dispatched here by Whisper, remember? That 'we'. (Cripes, how's Jhorlo raising his kid these days-?)"
:AlviseDumbfounded:

Shimmer: "I heard that."

Shimmer waved her hand. “Come on, don’t be such a worrier. Whatever’s going on, it’s not going anywhere. You seem more angry than anxious, so it can’t be that bad. Let loose, it’s gonna be fine!”


That sounds like tempting fate if I ever heard it, but okay there, Shimmer.

Once they were in the kitchen - a simple room with a lower counter to accommodate shorter pokemon, and a taller one perfectly suited for a gardevoir, as well as a set of cabinets that held most of the dishes and food, and a simple stovetop and oven - Shimmer climbed off Muse’s back and made herself busy pulling out a cup and two bowls. Using her psychic powers, she pulled the lid off of a moderately sized container in the corner of the room and dipped both bowls and the cup in before placing the containers of water on top of the lower counter.


Craftsmen/Contractors must make a killing in this setting tailoring furniture to their users. Not that it doesn't make sense for the contents of a personal residence.

Despite his previous grumblings, Vale took a moment to greedily lap up the water before speaking.

“A ninetales showed up today. Weirdly colored. Pale blue. Never seen anything like it. I’d think he was one of those shiny mutations you see every once in a while, but he used ice attacks, not fire. He got in the way of Romi’s cart and tried to muscle his way past, but she wouldn’t let him by, and it turned into a fight.”


Muse: "That... doesn't sound like any Shiny I've ever heard of. I'm pretty sure those mutations are just cosmetic."
:sceptical~1:

Vale: "Look, it's the best frame of reference that I have, alright?"
:AlviseUnamused:


Shimmer frowned, trying to piece together what it meant. Normally, they wouldn’t come up to her dad immediately after an event like this… unless something really bad happened.

“He didn’t kill Romi, did he?” she couldn’t help but ask.

[ ]

“Oh, gods no! That’s not the problem at all! We beat him without too much trouble. He was in horrible condition. The problem is… well, he seems like he’s somehow knows that sneasel. But he can’t – or won’t – speak. I think Whisper wanted Jhorlo there to discuss how to handle things.”


I think it might've made sense to drop in an explicit reaction from Vale there to Shimmer's question.

Also, I like how Vale is just ignoring the massive, infected neck wound on Tempest's body there. Even if it doesn't exactly seem super out of character for him to not really pay it mind and assume that Tempest is jerking everyone around.

Shimmer stole a glance over to Muse, who stared back levelly. If she knew her friend, it looked like she had the same idea. Gently, she placed the cup back on the counter. Then she slammed her hands down, slapping it open-palmed. “Well, that settles it! Looks like I’ll just have to go instead!”

Vale gawked for a moment, blinking a couple times before he remembered his manners and shut his mouth. “You? You… you can’t be serious.”


Probably a good thing that Jhorlo isn't there at the moment, since I get the suspicion that this would've gotten Vale dope slapped.

Shimmer: "Why not? I'm great at diplomacy!"
:gardeshrug~1:

Muse: "Uh... Shimmer, let's not get too ahead of ourselves here." ^^;

“‘Course I am!” Shimmer replied. “Father says I’m gonna be a leader someday, so I got to start somewhere, right? Besides, it’s not really like you have a choice. Dad won’t be back till late tonight at the earliest.”


Lol, I wasn't that far off from the mark for that cutaway gag.

The grumpy manectric let out a grunt. “Fine. Just. Go on down to the guard’s hut. I believe that’s where they took him. I’ll be down there later.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Muse asked, tilting her head in surprise. Vale let out a grunt. Shimmer felt a nervous flutter come off of him.

Oh, I have a detour I need to make. Something I want to check out. Besides, Whisper wanted me to calm down before I came back.

:fearfullaugh~1:


I'm pretty sure that we're like 2-3 chapters out from when those Wildeners start turning up at Mandi's, so boy is this disconcerting to read in a second go-around.

She felt the nervous emotion grow stronger and stronger, the longer she took to respond. She swore she saw him twitch, tremble, as if withering under her gaze.


Yuuuuuup. I knew that Vale's dialogue there was suspicious.

“Shimmer?”

She felt Muse lightly nudge her in the side. Finally, she closed her eyes and turned away, forcing a disconcerting, sing-song voice. “Fine, fine, see you later then, Vale!”

Shimmer took just a moment to stretch, then practically danced out of the kitchen and all the way back to her room, Muse following behind much more slowly and seriously. There, she picked up a bag and a few basic goods, including a couple berries and coins. This was her chance to show off how much she’d learned, and she couldn’t let it go to waste!

giphy.gif


More seriously, I actually don't remember how well Shimmer's attempt to intervene here turned out. Let's get a refresher!

Vale hadn’t come by first thing in the morning, and Umbra hadn’t known whether to be confused or relieved.

Things had been quiet since the afternoon before; Lotte had guided her back to her room without a word, returning just a bit later with an oran berry, a cheri berry, and some slice of meat that she couldn’t identify.

She stewed in her anger and frustration late into the night, until she had drifted off into an uneasy sleep.


Can't tell if Umbra used to get better meals from Jhorlo and the gang, or if she's just being ungrateful here. Well, ungrateful relative to getting blackmailed into doing Jhorlo's dirty work, anyways.

And now, here she was, quietly being guided away by Lotte towards the woods.

“Vale will meet us soon,” the purrloin explained as she led the way. “He was unable to get away from guard duties today.”

“So, what, you are just… okay with… all this?” Umbra asked, holding her arms out wide. “Whatever Jhorlo has you doing? Were you assigned to this role as a child? I thought the village did not work that way.”

Umbra: "I mean, being blackmailed aside, I'm not particularly bothered by this. But it feels like you ought to be significantly more bothered by your leader lying to everybody about something as basic as where your food comes from."
:what:


Lotte paused, looking back and tilting her head. “What? Oh, no. Not really. Jaques and I owe him our lives, though. So, we just do as we’re told and keep our noses out of his business.”


Wonder what the story behind that one is. And considering Jhorlo's dynamic with Vale, how genuine it is.

She continued to pad along, occasionally glancing back to make sure Umbra was following.

The duo made their way around the edge of the town center, getting a few glances as they passed by. But no one much seemed to be about. Whether that was a good thing or not was questionable at best.

Soon they were coming up on the edge of the tree line. For just a moment, Umbra thought about the fact that she could easily kill or even just injure Lotte and get away. But leaving meant the risk of losing track of Nip. She could go right in and kill him afterwards, but there were too many witnesses, and it would leave her fighting through a crowd to escape afterwards. No. As much as she hated to, she needed to bide her time for a bit longer, watching and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Even if it was under that loathsome purugly.


Have you ever considered just poisoning Nip's food, Umbra? Like sure it's sneaky and underhanded, but depending on the poison you'd use, it'd work without having to be too particular about timing.

Lotte stopped in a clearing just a short distance into the woods. She climbed up onto a fallen log and stopped, turning to lay down on it while facing Umbra, and the rest of the woods as a result.

“It shouldn’t be long now,” she announced, her tail flicking back and forth on occasion.

It would be so easy to just walk away right now. To disappear into the woods and never come back.

But without proof of Nip’s end, she could not return home. Or rather, she refused to return home without making sure Nip could never come back. Without proof of his demise, she would be an outcast for her failure. And she refused to be an outcast.


This segment provides some pretty good insight as to how Umbra ticks. Stubborn, status-conscious, and not one to let a personal affront go easily. Even when it gets her into situations where she ought to strongly consider cutting her losses and bolting.

Frustrated, Umbra settle down in front of the log to wait.

Leaves rustled in the wind as the sun slowly climbed high in the sky. She could hear the sound of prey mon scampering amongst the undergrowth around them. Not giving chase was agonizing. But then again, chasing small little rattata and sentret was not her style. Absentmindedly, she brushed a hand against her injured ear, taking a few moments to inspect it, impressed with how much and how well it had healed already.

Finally, she heard the thundering footsteps of a mon racing in their direction. Lotte must have heard it too, as she stood up with her tail raised high. Umbra also stood up. A moment later, Vale burst into the clearing, huffing.


Well, so much for waiting 2 or 3 chapters to see Vale in action. ^^;

“We’ll have to make this quick,” he announced, coming to a stop just in front of them. “We had some… trouble with the berry shipment.”

Lotte tilted her head, but said nothing, inviting Vale to continue.

“Another one of your lot showed up and raised havoc,” he said, turning his gaze on Umbra. “Some weird looking ninetales that Nip recognized. Ring a bell?”

Umbra froze in place. No. It could not be him… could it? “Did… did he say his name?”

Vale: "You do realize that just from your reaction, the answer is probably 'yes', right-?"
:AlviseDumbfounded:

Umbra: "Look, answer the question properly." >_>;

Vale grunted in response. “Nope. Don’t think he could though. Nip called him Tempest, though. I had to run fetch someone to deal with that. Jhorlo wasn’t in so I had to send Shimmer down instead. I don’t know how long I can stick around before the others notice I’m gone. So let’s get a move on already.”


You'd think that given how Jhorlo needs this guy out in the boonies ganking Wildeners, that he'd have pulled some strings to get him formally made into a Ranger or whatever analogue there is to that in this world. In a high-trust environment like Theran Village, it'd be the perfect alibi to duck out into the wilderness for long stretches at a time and to come back with a wound or two from duty every now and then with no one getting the wiser about it.

The guard’s hut was a flurry of activity, with Stati – the flaaffy – keeping watch while Siles and Whisper busied themselves with work. Anu had come down to from the temple, nervously sitting cross-legged and alert next to the cell they’d placed the ninetales in for holding. The door to said cell was just slightly ajar, allowing Lecha easy access as she busied herself wiping and cutting away matted and bloodied fur so that she could get to his wounds easier.


Oh, so that's what that one Flaaffy out for Nip's blood is called. Filing that one away for the future.

The ninetales himself had quit trying to fight back by now, eyes glazed over as he absentmindedly stared at Nip in the cell over. Nip himself was watching Lecha work, sitting up against the back wall, his ear and his tailfeathers twitching occasionally. Otherwise, he was completely still and didn’t even acknowledge the entrance of Shimmer and Muse.


Nip: "Is keeping my mentor in one of these cells really necessary?"
:GrumpNip:

Whisper: "He attacked our Berry caravan." >:|
Nip: "Yeah, well it probably started it first, so there."

Whisper looked up from her work, and Shimmer felt a flash of relief course through her, only for it to be replaced with frustration when she realized Shimmer was the one that had arrived, not Jhorlo like she had expected.

“Shimmer…” the hawlucha began, clicking her claws together. “I was… expecting some with more… I was expecting your father.”

Blunt, very blunt. “Sorry, dad’s out of town, so I came in his place instead!”

Cue
:unamusedwott~1:
reactions in 3... 2...

Whisper let out a long sigh. Shimmer didn’t miss her exasperation. “I see. I guess we can just wait and deal with this when-”

Shimmer raised a hand and cut her off. “Nope, nope! It’s totally fine. We at least figure out what’s going on now, right? We can always figure out what to do about it when dad gets back.”


I see I wasn't far off from the mark there. Though I'm sure Whisper's just thrilled about Jhorlo's chatterbox daughter inserting herself into the thick of things here. :V

She received an apologetic smile, and swore she felt a flash of pity. “I appreciate the offer, Shimmer, but-”

“No, no, no. It’s fine, really!”

“Besides,” Muse added, stepping in, “would it not be better to learn the situation now, before they have time to come up with excuses, or a good cover story?”

Whisper: "Seriously, Shimmer. Take the hint and go home already." >v>;
Shimmer:
Image


At that, Whisper hesitated. Shimmer laid a hand on Muse’s back to show her thanks. Finally, the hawlucha let out a sigh. “Very well, I suppose you have a point there. I’ll tell you what we know, and then we can work things out from there.”

The three of them gathered around the table at the center of the room, Whisper taking a seat on one side and Shimmer and Muse sitting on the other. Shimmer did her best to pay attention as the hawlucha began to explain the situation, telling her about the fight, as well as Nip’s apparent relation. About half-way through the story, however, she felt something poking at the edge of her senses. She turned her head expectantly through the doorway.

Whisper’s words died in her throat when she noticed that Shimmer was no longer paying attention, and instead looked in the same direction. “What is it?”


Whisper: "... This had better not be an attempt of yours to mind-read, Shimmer." >v>;

“Well if you want to know what’s going on Haruru, you should just come inside and listen.”

There were a few seconds of silence, followed by a quiet swear, before a very embarrassed Haru waddled her way inside, taking a seat by the table without speaking or looking up.

Whisper let out a long breath before continuing, finishing the story.


Kinda wonder if Whisper should've had more of a reaction there to Haru's presence, since you'd think there'd either be more of an acknowledgement of "hey, what are you doing here?" or if this isn't new for Haru in recent days, "oh, you again" that didn't quite come through in the current prose.

“Well, now that we brought him here, we wanted to speak with Jhorlo, and decide how to proceed. Logically, we should hold a judgement, as he’s attacked our villagers. But we have no idea why he attacked, other than that we wouldn’t let him by, and he’s obviously in no condition to talk, let alone travel. But at the same time, I’m hesitant to keep him here, where he may break Nip out.”


... Quality diplomacy from both parties there, really. You'd think that someone would've thought to try and write something out.

“Hm… this is quite the problem,” Shimmer agreed, forcing herself to be uncharacteristically serious. She had to think! If she were her dad, how would he handle the situation. Ideally, they’d hold a meeting and pass judgement, but it’s hard to pass judgement on someone who wouldn’t explain themselves…

“Shimmer…” Haru began, speaking for the first time since she’d arrived. “Why don’t you just… I don’t know, use your psychic powers to poke around in his brain and see where he’s from and why he’s here?


Pretty sure that violates all sorts of rules regarding social etiquette and a stranger from another town isn't going to instinctively be okay with.

Muse: "... Shimmer, isn't this a massive invasion of this 'mon's privacy?"
:what:

Shimmer: "I mean, it's not as if he has a ton of that with these accommodations, so it's at least worth considering..."
:joltyshrug~1:


Shimmer stiffened, avoiding the bidoof’s gaze. Certainly, she’d already broken her dad’s instructions once today, though not without good reason. But at the same time, it just felt… wrong to look into people’s heads, especially as deep as Haru was suggesting. A cursory glance at current thoughts was one thing, a deep dive into memories though?


Boy I sure hope there aren't major side effects from getting that wrong in this setting, since Shimmer isn't exactly a pro mind-reader there.
:fearfullaugh~1:


She turned her head to look back at the ninetales. Lecha had left by now, leaving a few berries at his side. He had not gotten up from where he’d been laid out, but he did seem more alert, keeping an eye on Nip while occasionally stealing glances at the rest of the pokemon. His emotions were difficult to discern, clouded by turmoil, but there was one thing she could feel radiating from him: relief.

Nip was much harder to read, his typing leaving her only with body language to go off of. He had pulled his legs up to his chest and sat staring, not daring to look away, as if the ninetales would disappear if he did.

I mean, not that he knows it, but Nip's paranoia over Tempest's well being is shockingly well-founded considering the absolute state of affairs in Theran Village.
:blazisweat~1:


“Well?” Whisper asked.

Shimmer turned back around, and realized that everyone was staring at her, waiting for her to make a decision.

“I, for one, think it’s a good idea. If you’re not up to it, I can always get Essra to do it,” the hawlucha added.

Haru: "Uh... on second thought, given that Shimmer's still kinda practicing with those abilities. Maybe we should-"
Shimmer: "No, no, Haruru. I can do this. I'll never get better if I don't start from somewhere, after all."

She stood up quickly. Perhaps a bit too quickly, as she had to take a second to find her balance. “No, no don’t worry about it. It’s fine. It’s fiiiine. Just let me take care of things. I don’t want to have to worry about it.”

Image


Whisper gave her a skeptical look, then relented, settling down to wait.

Slowly, though refusing to show hesitation, Shimmer approached the cell, taking a seat in front of it. She was no fool. The bars would hold to some level of brute-strength attacks, but they couldn’t hold either of the pokemon inside forever, should they try to escape. It was kind of nerve-wracking, to say the least, and she couldn’t help but wonder how the Enforcers dealt with it. Did they have better ways of holding pokemon?


Well, they certainly have ways of taking care of Pokémon. I'd imagine that's the fate of many a 'mon that keeps breaking out of their cells.

She heard Muse rise and approach her, laying down just behind. She let out a quiet hum, but did nothing more to acknowledge her presence, instead focusing her gaze on the ninetales.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Her eyes drooped shut as she focused and reached out for his mind.

Snow.

Shimmer: "I mean, he is an Ice-type, so no surprises there... let's see what else we're working with."
:gardeshrug~1:


Words and thoughts were not the first thing to come. Instead, she saw snow, a light flurry of flakes falling all around her. Around him. She was watching a memory through his eyes, she thought.

Nip, I’m sorry. I swear I’ll get us out of this situation, and make sure no one hurts you again.


I actually wonder what that incident is from. Like it's obviously not in the aftermath of the Nippening, since Nip explicitly mentioned he went off alone then, but I'm drawing blanks as to what else that could've been from and if it's plot-relevant or just backstory.

The snow grew harder, blowing into a flurry that whited out her vision. Fractured flashes of memory danced before her eyes.

...

An older ninetales, pushing him back into the bushes, telling him to stay hidden.


Oh, so that's what Tempest's father/mother was like. Maybe. Possibly.

...

He stands proud in a grassy clearing, other pokemon surrounding and watching him, nearly quivering with excitement and nervousness and anticipation.


Alright, looks like some sort of tribal ceremony there-

...

He’s in that same clearing again, but now his tails drag the ground tiredly. There’s a mangled body at his feet, and blood on his fur. He feels like he should feel horrified, distraught, but he just feels… empty.


Well that went places quickly. Also that must be a pain to get out of snowy-white fur.

...

Now he’s out in the snow again, waiting for something. When will Father be back? He thinks to himself. The wind picks up, blowing flurries of snow. And then he spots a bright red feather in the distance.


Oh, so elderfox was his dad. Kinda got those vibes from him.

...

A young sneasel sits in front of him, beaming proudly as he presents the body of a rattata. He swells with pride and tells Nip what a good job he’s done.


I actually just realized, but how is Shimmer not having any reaction to any of these? Is the intent that these memories are coming rapid-fire? Since you'd think that she'd recoil from this memory and the one of Tempest having ganked someone on the tribal grounds.

...

“Must you leave, Tempest?” The elderly Persian asks him.

“I am sorry, I cannot call this my home any longer. I have lost everything now. My father. My mate. My… You know I was always an outsider here. I will never return to Kyurem’s people, but I must find my own path now.”

:sadwott~2:


Boy that's such a mood, and wonder if the story's getting to the point where we'll start to see what those losses Tempest hinted at in more detail.



His eyes are closed, or else it is dark, He nuzzles up to someone, to his mate, and tells her the story of Kyurem.


Oh, so that's where Tempest's thing in the opening chapter came from.



What is wrong, Nip?” he asks the sneasel. “Surely there is something the elders can do?

I’m fine.” Nip insists. There’s a flash of sadness in the vision. “I just… I have to get through to them eventually, right?

Image




A flash of fangs in the moonlight. Tempest lets out a call of alarm, but it’s cut short as he’s ripped open. He falls into the grass, left to bleed out soaked in moonlight.

Why…


And thus the story of how Tempest has speaking problems right about now.



GET OUT!

Shimmer fell back with a gasp as the ninetales struggled to his feet, his muzzle twisted into a snarl once again. Suddenly, she was quite glad she’d sat down before attempting the psychic connection..


I mean, yeah. Did you really expect an unsolicited mind probe wasn't going to result in something like that happening, Shimmer?

“Shims!” Muse cried out. She quickly rushed to stand between Shimmer and Tempest, allowing the kirlia to use her body as a way to climb to her feet. “What happened? What’s going on?”

Shimmer swallowed slowly, trying to digest and put together all the memories she’d seen, trying to figure out what was and wasn’t important.

“I… think he’s here as a friend of Nip’s. But there’s something that concerns me more.”

Muse tilted her head and stared while Whisper approached to close the cell door. “What is it?”

Even with that brief flash, the emotions in the scene were enough to give Shimmer a revelation that somehow was horrifying to her. “That wound. The one on his neck…” She trailed off, bringing a hand to rub at her temples. “That was intentional. Someone, for some reason, wanted him dead. And if he somehow survived, they didn’t want him talking.”


I mean, I'm pretty sure that Umbra had something to do with what happened to Tempest, since I saw that reaction of hers when she found out about Tempest. But I suppose I'll need to keep an eye out as I get further along into the story to see how that shakes out.

And onto the postmortem:

I think the chapter as a whole was one part follow-up to the outro of the prior one, and one part further buildup and suspense since it's come out that Nip's not a solitary operator from his tribe, and that someone really, really wanted his buddy gone for good. I hadn't gotten to the point in my first pass prior to starting this review series where that might've been revealed but... yeah, I honestly think that it's Umbra. I don't know why she would've done it, but something about her mannerisms regarding Tempest feels really off. And whoever messed Tempest up had 'fangs', which Umbra is described as having on her horns repeatedly in the text. Though on the whole, the chapter did a pretty good job at keeping things suspenseful and thickening the plot. Which I'm guessing was its meta purpose.

As for things I wasn't so hot on... there were a few bits where I felt that stopping to describe things or reactions more would've added a bit to the chapter. The sequence with Shimmer memory-reading Tempest I'm of two minds of. I feel that if she was intended to have been doing that for a length of time, it'd have made more sense to show her reactions to the things she was seeing. If it was supposed to be something rapid-fire... somehow that needs to be played up more, since I didn't really get the feeling that those memory snippets collectively added up to 10 seconds or something like that.

But that's not to say that I didn't have fun with this chapter. Quite the opposite, really. It was a blast just getting a refresher on things that went down after Tempest's return, and there was a lot of fine details that I'd forgotten about, so being able to pore through things a second time a bit more carefully helped me notice a number of things that I somehow glazed over.

Good work on the chapter @windskull , and I'll be looking forward to picking up Chapter 13 sometime in the coming week. ^^
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, took me a couple attempts to get my ducks in a row, but I'm ready to come back for some more of PWCH, especially since TR has thrown the gauntlet down for that "catchup review" event thing they've got going on. So let's jump right into things with…

Chapter 13

Haru stumbled over her words as she tried to digest Shimmer’s statement. “What do you mean, it was intentional? Why would someone try to kill him?”

“There could be any number of reasons,” Whisper said, looking Tempest over with a grave expression. “Shimmer, did you get any other information? Do you know who did it, or why they wanted to… silence him?”

Shimmer: "... Musey, you do realize that I just saw a rapid-fire montage of this guy's life, right? If there' is a reason behind what happened to this fox, I'm gonna need some time to piece it together."
:gardexhausted:


“I’m… not sure,” Shimmer began. “Everything was flashing so fast and-” She cut herself off, grunting as she brought a hand up to her head.

“Are you alright?” Muse asked, turning her head back to look at Shimmer.

“I-I’m fine. Really. Just the aftersh-shocks from withdrawing from his memory so fast. Just… give me a… mo…men…” Before she could finish, she suddenly pitched forward, going limp against Muse’s side.
Muse: "I'm... gonna take that as a 'no'. (Also, let's not tell your dad about this, huh?)" o_o;

“Muse, please stay calm,” Anu said, standing up to approach her. “S-she probably just strained herself.” He shifted to help lift Shimmer up, raising one paw over her with his aura feelers waving before looking over to Whisper. Despite his reassuring words, Haru could tell that he was trembling, something she was sure Muse noticed, too. “Still, I think… Let’s take her upstairs to recover. Haru… ah… will you please fetch Lecha, just to be safe? You, um, you may be able to catch her. Before she gets back to her clinic.”
It... might've made sense to give a bit of a reminder that Anu was here in the room in earlier paragraphs. Since I legit forgot that he was here since he basically showed up in one early paragraph of the last scene of Chapter 12 and then was just never acknowledged again afterwards.

Haru replied with a grunt, turning to push her way out the door as her heart pounded against her chest. She’d heard stories of psychics overexerting themselves or being seriously harmed when a deep reading went wrong. Sometimes they didn’t wake up. And as much as she hated Shimmer, she would never wish that on her.

She reached the center of the square, looking around nervously. “Come on, Lecha, where are you?”
I mean, 'never' is a strong word, though it's nice to see that Haru has some lines that she's not ready to cross here. Guess she doesn't hate the idea of Toshi x Shimmer that much-

Haru: "Shut. Up. Now." >.<

“How’s she doing, Lecha?”

“She’ll be fine. She strained herself when the connection was cut, but she’ll recover within the next day or two. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse than it is.

:fearfullaugh~1:


That makes me morbidly curious as to what normally happens in situations like these.

“I’m fine, really. Stop worrying about me, everyone. Oh, this is so embarrassing. It’s just a headache.”
inb4 she's freaking out internally and this is all an external front she's putting up to look tough. Since he was basically doing that with her insecurities about how good of a leader she was being.

Once she had fetched Lecha, the flurry of activity that followed seemed to pass in a blur. First, she had been out in the village square trying to spot the aromatisse, but now she was seated on a cushion on the second floor of the guards’ hut, waiting for Lecha to finish tending to Shimmer.

Whisper had taken a seat in the corner of the room, drinking from a small bowl of water as she waited. Muse was much less relaxed, pacing back and forth, looking over Lecha’s shoulder any chance she got. Or she was, until the doctor had become frustrated with her and told her to back off. Now she was standing near the stairs, occasionally lifting one foot, then the other, as she anxiously waited for Lecha to finish. Amongst all the excitement, Haru felt that she probably shouldn’t be here; there really wasn’t any reason to be here now that Shimmer had been attended to.
Also dreading the explanation that she's going to need to give to Jhorlo about this, of course. Since I can't imagine that that isn't going to result in an earful. :V

Oh, who was she kidding? She knew she shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t have been here at all. But she couldn’t help it! Curiosity about Tempest had gotten the better of her. After all, she rationalized, whatever happened with him would have an effect on the village. And what happened in the village would have an effect on business, especially if word got out. Jhorlo would probably want to keep all this under wraps - who would want to visit or hire services from a village that was harboring an egg thief, after all?

Ok, they weren’t technically harboring him, they were rehabilitating him. But other villages would see it the same way, right?
Oh Haru, you have no idea right now... though she's not wrong about him having skeletons in the closet he's trying to hide.
:fearfullaugh~1:


“-be off now.”

Catching Lecha’s voice, Haru realized she had stopped paying attention at some point, getting lost in her own thoughts. Muse nearly knocked over both her and Lecha as she shoved past to get to Shimmer, nudging her back down as she tried to sit up, fretting over her in a way that reminded Haru of a concerned mother.
I mean, considering how something happening to Shimmer on her watch is almost certainly going to draw Jhorlo's ire, I don't blame Lecha for getting a bit "protective mother" about Shimmer there.

Lecha sounded like she was about to say something, giving Muse a hard look, but apparently thought better of it, chuckling and shaking her head before turning to leave, quietly heading down the stairs.

“Don’t worry us like that,” Muse said, carefully maneuvering herself so that she could rest her head beside Shimmer without poking her.

“I’m fine, Muse. Really. Look at me.” Then Shimmer paused to look around the room, confusion clouding her look. “Actually… how did I get up here, again?”

Muse: "..."
:absus:

Shimmer: "Look, it's just a momentary lapse of memory! It happens to everyone sometimes!" >_>;

“I knew it. I’m going to get Lecha again. You’re still hurt.”

“Muse,” Whisper snapped from her corner, giving the absol a hard look. “She’s going to be fine. She just needs a little time to recover, understand? Just let her rest. It’s psychic strain.”

Muse: "And you know this how?" >:|
Whisper: "... An educated guess?"
:joltyshrug~1:


“But she’s never been strained like this before!” Muse insisted, her brow knit with worry.

Haru hummed in agreement. Even though she very much preferred the subdued way Shimmer was acting, she would be upset if something actually happened to her. Voicing her thoughts would be rude, though, so she held her tongue, instead addressing Muse’s worries. “She’s also never been in a situation where she would be strained like this, has she? You heard Lecha. Give her to tomorrow. If she’s not back to her… perky self by then, then you can worry about it.”

Shimmer: "Oh, so you are rooting for me and Toshi-kins to realize true love, Haruru-"
:seviuwu:

Haru: "Oi, don't make me revise my statement there." >_>;

“I’m fine, really,” Shimmer said, reaching a hand up to pat Muse’s head. “Thank you for worrying about me. Now, um… please answer my question?”

“I helped Muse bring you up here,” Whisper explained, standing up. “You were falling in and out of alertness after you told us something about what you saw. We sent Haru after Lecha to make sure you were okay. Anu is still watching the prisoners.”
Muse: "Shims, you realize that exactly none of this makes you sound fine right now, right?" >_>;
Shimmer: "... I'll get better? That's normal for Psychics that get into this sort of situation, right?" ^^;

Shimmer took a long breath. “Ah, okay. So maybe we should talk about the big fluffy guy downstairs. What do we want to do about him?”

Whisper blinked. “Ah, shouldn’t you rest for a bit? I mean, we can wait for your father to get back-”

“I’ll be fine. Besides, what if business keeps him busy for a day or two? Do we want him to have to come back and deal with this mess?”

While on the one hand it makes sense for Shimmer to be insistent that "I'm okay, I swear". I kinda wonder if at least one of those "fine"s oughta have been some sort of synonym like "alright", since something about those past three instances feels a bit samey right now.

Whisper averted her gaze. “I… guess not. If you’re really certain you’re okay, you could start by telling us what you saw.”

As Shimmer sat up, Haru shifted so that she was more comfortable and could better pay attention. Prior to today, she’d never seen the resting area. It wasn’t very fancy; a couple of straw nests for beds and one big cushion bed – which is where Shimmer was laying – a low-laying table with cushion seats in the center, and a couple of chests full of equipment were the only furnishings.

Haru: "Well, you can't say that it's not functional. (Boy does this explain a thing or two about how Vale's always angry.)" .-.

She was brought back to reality by Muse’s voice. “Are you sure you’re up to this?” She asked quietly, nosing Shimmer’s shoulder. “We can wait, if you want.”

“No, it’s fine. Really. I’ll be fine. Just… give me a moment to recall things.” She took a deep breath, closing her eyes to concentrate. “Everything I saw was… really fragmented, and I’m not sure I remember everything. I don’t even know if everything was important. But I remember seeing… snow. A lot of snow. What else…

[ ]

Oh! I saw Nip when he was young. Tempest seemed very proud in that memory. And there was a memory with an old persian. You know, one of the grey ones with the chubby cheeks? He was asking Tempest why he was leaving, and he was all like ‘I lost everything’ or something,” she said. “Seemed important but the details are fuzzy. And… there was another memory about Nip where he said something was fine but… I didn’t really understand that one. And of course, the one where he was attacked. That was the last one I saw.”

Shimmer’s line of dialogue in the second paragraph is really long right now. It probably makes sense to break it up into at least 2 paragraphs with some intervening description.
Shimmer: "So... you know, kinda didn't pick up a motive for why he'd be attacked or anything in that read."
:joltyshrug~1:

Haru: "... Of course." -_-;

“So, he left somewhere - I’m assuming the group that he and Nip are from - on neutral terms at best? That’s definitely something to follow up on when I get Essra or her mother in here. Thank you, Shimmer.”

Haru listened quietly to the exchange up until that point. But when Whisper mentioned Essra, she couldn’t help but interrupt. “Wait, Essra? You don’t mean you’re going to send someone into his mind again, do you? Especially after what happened to Shimmer?”

Haru: "Like I know that Shimmer isn't exactly super experienced at this psychic stuff, but that just reeks of 'tempting fate' there since for all we know Tempest did something to mess her up."
:what:


“What choice do I have? He can’t speak to us. And asking yes and no questions will only give us part of the story. I either have to have someone dictate his directed thoughts – which is less dangerous but allows him to lie – or we have to dive into his mind again.”

“What about just having him write his answers down?” Haru suggested. “That way, you don’t have to invade his mind, but it would be just as reliable as reading his thoughts.”
- Beat moment -
Whisper: "... Wait a minute, he can do that?"
Haru: "I mean, I'm pretty sure that Nip must've told me that his tribe had writing at some point before in the story? It's a reasonable guess that Tempest could do that, isn't it?"
:joltyshrug~1:


Whisper hesitated. “That’s… I don’t think that would work, Haru. Most wildeners don’t have a writing system. We can’t rely on the idea that Nip and Tempest can write. Besides, that poses the same reliability issue as thought reading.”
Oh right, Nip didn't reveal that he had a writing system in his neck of the woods to Haru. Since otherwise this bit here wouldn't exactly work.

“But it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?” Haru continued stubbornly.

“She… may have a point,” Muse pointed out quietly. “Even if it doesn’t work, isn’t it worth a shot, so no one else gets hurt?”

Whisper looked the three of them over, and Haru could tell she was thinking about it. A frustrated look crossed her face, then she let out a huff. “Fine. We’ll try it. But if it doesn’t work, we’re going back to my plan.”
Ah yes, time for that blank "... Dude, these are a bunch of footprints" look when they get Tempest to actually make good on this.

She retreated to one of the chests in the corner of the room, shuffling through it until she found parchment, a small bowl, and a small jar of ink. Holding all of them in her hands, she headed towards the ramp down, but paused there.

“What are you waiting for?” Haru asked.

“Oh, that’s easy,” Shimmer replied. Haru glanced back, noting that the kirlia was on her feet, trying to climb onto Muse’s back. “She’s thinking about what she’s going to have to do about Tempest.

Whisper narrowed her eyes. “Are you reading my mind now?”
Well, I see Shimmer's feeling better already at this rate. :V

Muse: "In her defense, it was kinda obvious what you were thinking about just from your mannerisms there." ^^;

“What? No, of course not! You’d feel it if I was. It’s just super obvious. We don’t have the means to keep someone captive for a long period, so you’ll have to make some decisions over how to handle Tempest after my dad gets back.”

The hawlucha blinked a couple times, looking Shimmer over. “I… didn’t expect that out of you. Is it really that obvious?”

Muse: "Yes?"
:sceptical~1:

Whisper: "... Whatever, just didn't expect that. Moving along." >v>;

Muse glanced to Shimmer before saying, “it kind of is, yeah.”

“Couldn’t we just handle things the way we’re handling Nip?” Haru asked.

“It’s… more complex than that. If he’s friendly towards Nip, then letting him stay, even under supervision, could run the risk of him helping Nip escape. He could pull a stunt like Nip did as well. And I still don’t trust Umbra, for that matter.”
Wait, is that third line from Muse or Whisper there? It probably makes sense to either drop in an explicit speech tag, or else to add some sort of hint in dialogue that is more unambiguous as to who is speaking.

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about Umbra,” Shimmer said. “Muse and I are keeping a verrry close eye on her.”

Image


Haru was blunt. “That’s… not reassuring. Where is she right now?”
Shimmer: "..."
:uhhh:

Haru: "Yeah, I thought so." >_>;

Before Shimmer could say anything that certainly would have given Haru a headache, Whisper stepped in. “Can we please move on? Look. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’ll have to discuss it with Jhorlo and the other guards, and then bring it up to the village. But I swear, I will not let any of them hurt anyone else, understand?”

Silence fell across the room as Whisper’s heavy words hung in the air. After a moment, Shimmer broke the silence.

“Come on, we’re wasting daylight, aren’t we?”

I kinda wonder if it might've made sense to drop in a passing mention of what Whisper's overall body language / mood is. Since while we get that she was saying "heavy words" somehow it feels like there ought to be a bit more radiated tension than what's coming through here since that "anyone else" feels like something that she'd pretty emphatic on given that she and Anu are the primary victims of Nip's past antics.

Whisper let out a grunt before turning to head down the ramp, her talons clicking on the wooden surface. Haru headed down afterward, hearing Muse question Shimmer's health before following.

Shimmer, perky as always, cheerfully let her know that she was absolutely fine, draping dramatically across her back.
Muse: "..."
:absus:

Haru: "Muse, we already know that we're not going to win an argument with Shimmer about this, let's just hurry downstairs and focus on Tempest for a while, okay?" >_>;

Anu was in the exact same position he had been when she had first gone up to the second floor, sitting cross-legged in front of Tempest’s cell, his head bowed, and eyes closed. His aura feelers hovered and trembled just a bit, making her assume that he was reading the room. He let out a grunt, acknowledging their arrival.

Nip and Tempest, however, had moved. The ninetales was laying on his stomach against the cell bars, his nose poking out into the gap between his and Nip’s cell - a space about as wide as Haru was long - as he stared down the sneasel. Nip was also near the gap, laying on his stomach with his head resting on his arms, staring back at Tempest. His tail and ear feathers drooped, suggesting wariness.
Haru: "... Have you two just been lying around there and staring at each other like that?"
:what:

Nip: "Look, I don't want to make myself look like an idiot making assumptions about how my mentor feels about seeing my face again right now, okay?" >_>;

As they approached, Haru noted the odd expression - confliction a conflicted one, she assumed - on Tempest’s face. What it meant, she wasn’t sure. But if anyone else noticed it, they said nothing.
I mean considering how close the two were in Tempest's memories along with what Nip did on the way out from home... uh, yeah, I don't fault Tempest for feeling a bit conflicted. ^^;

Whisper came to a stop just in front of Tempest’s cell and cleared her throat, drawing the two prisoner’s attention and jolting Anu out of his meditation.

The lucario looked around the room, settling his gaze on Shimmer. “Ah, Shimmer. You seem weak, but I’m glad to see that you’re okay. You had us all worried.”

Shimmer waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about me! I just needed a moment.” Yet, Haru could see how tightly she was gripping Muse’s coat, and how she slightly leaned forward to stay balanced.

Oh, so Shimmer is putting up a front again. Guess I should've expected that she'd do that for more than just how she'd be perceived as a leader-in-training.

“Ah, right, of course.” He turned his gaze to Whisper. “Nothing has happened since you left. They moved, but otherwise things have been totally calm.”

Whisper gave a grunt of acknowledgement as she passed him to stand in front of Tempest’s cell. “Good. We can work out the details of how to handle judgement for his attack when Jhorlo returns, but for now…”

:fearfullaugh~1:


That... doesn't sound like a recipe for anything good coming out of that, just saying.

She turned her attention to Tempest, looking him over with narrowed eyes. “Alright, ninetales. First, I will… apologize for the invasive method of obtaining information. But the fact of the matter is we don’t know if we can trust a word you say. We’re going to give you a chance to give us an honest answer now. But choose your words carefully, because if you lie, we won’t hesitate to turn you over to the Enforcers for proper punishment.”
Haru: "Uh... Whisper, does any of that stuff about the Enforcers actually mean anything to this guy?" .-.
Whisper: "Well it will pretty quick, if he tries his luck, so let's hope he got the point." >v>;

Through the bars, she pushed the parchment, laying it out on the floor. After pausing to unstop the jar and pour a small amount of ink into the bowl, she passed that through, too. “Why are you here? What are your intentions? And we need to know how you were injured, as that seems to be… relevant, from what we gathered.”

Tempest stared for a few heartbeats, looking first to Nip, then back to Whisper. Then he dragged himself to his feet, standing tall with his tails fanned out. The air grew chilly, and Haru instinctually shrank back at the threat display, poised to flee. She forced herself to appear relaxed a second later, realizing that no one else seemed fazed.
Haru: "I was just a little startled, shut up." >///<
Shimmer: "No one was implying otherwise, Haruru. Unless if you wanted to admit something there."
:gardeshrug~1:


Whisper, in particular, was completely unperturbed. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. You can write your answers down there, we can have a psychic read your mind and translate, or, if you refuse to cooperate, we’ll have them dive into your mind again. And I guarantee the next one won’t be so easy to expel.”

For what felt like an agonizingly long time, Tempest stood dangerously still, the tips of his tails twitching as frost formed on the ground around his feet. But finally, he bowed his head, closed his eyes, and took a couple steps back before sitting down. Pawing at the parchment, he pulled it closer before placing a paw in the ink.

Whisper: "... From that reaction, I'm half expecting this guy to scrawl out a bunch of expletives for an answer." >v<;
Shimmer: "Whisper, give it a chance first! The 'mon hasn't even started writing yet!"

Haru swelled with pride, giving herself a mental pat on the back. Her idea was really working! She watched intently as he drew his paw across the parchment to make a thick black streak.

That’s odd, she thought, faltering. the orientation is all wrong. Is he going to write sideways?

Oh right, writing in Theran Village is in vertical columns kinda like old-timey East Asian writing. Wonder if their lines are L-to-R or R-to-L though.

It quickly became obvious that was not the case. Instead of the standard series of dots and lines that made up the written language Haru knew, he drew three sides of a square, leaving the bottom open and placing a dot in the middle. He followed that up by triangular shape, and then two quick parallel diagonal lines.

Haru stared down at the glyphs, her expression blank. “What’s… what’s that supposed to mean? That’s not… that’s not words.”

Those would be logographs, hon, where each glyph is an idea in and of itself. I wonder if given that Theran Village writes in Regi Braille if that means that their writing is structurally either an alphabet or abjad.

Someone scoffed. Haru looked up and caught sight of Nip staring at her. He quickly averted his gaze, turning his head to look at the back wall. Then he sat up, scratching behind his ear before turning his attention to the parchment.

“That first set of lines clearly represents the concept of safety. Protection from attack on most sides, like a sensible den. A triangle with equal sides like that can stand for help or caution. And the two lines can mean hunting or seeking. It’s a universal territorial marker. Simple, really. What were you expecting?”

Yuuuuup. I actually forgot about how Nip spells things out, but the structure of Tempest's writing felt very logographic by nature. Though “seeking safety/shelter”, huh? I mean, it makes sense given that Tempest wasn’t exactly in good shape when he came to Theran Village, so…

Haru: "... Writing like we're used to seeing in and around town?" .-.
Nip: "Wait, so you mean all those random lines and dots actually mean something? I thought those were good luck charms or something like that." 😅

Whether he meant it or not, Nip’s tone was harsh and sounded almost accusatory, reminding her of the way he’d sounded during their argument the night before. Admittedly, she sounded that way too, but she at least had good reason, right? Was he still mad? Well that was just fine. She had been harsh, but she had the right to be, didn’t she?
I mean, if you have to ask the question...

“Well it was the best solution,” she defended. “I just thought–”

“Thought what? That we’d use the same symbols?” Nip let out a frustrated growl, cutting her off. “You’re making assumptions again. Assuming a pokemon you’ve never met is good. Assuming that they think the same way you do, and that the way you look at things is the right way. No wonder you’re so naive.”

Image


Haru felt an uncomfortable pit forming in her stomach, which quickly flared into fiery anger. “Excuse me?” She squeaked, marching towards Nip’s cell. “How dare you. We saved your life and you repaid us by taking one! Maybe I did make some assumptions. At least I’m not a terrible pokemon that takes advantage of others kindness. No wonder you–”
Wew. That certainly got under her skin.

Nip: "So you admit you're naive, huh?" >:|
Haru: "What? No I didn't! Look- Just- Just shut up already! Nobody asked you!" >.<

Before she could finish her sentence, she felt paws grip her sides and drag her back. She let out a surprised squeal and instinctively struggled as Anu pulled her further away. Whisper stepped between her and the cell, banging a wing against the bars. “Will both of you shut up!

It took Haru a second to recover after the loud bang. She looked back to the cell and saw that Nip had scrambled backwards away from Whisper, his fur fluffed up and his pupils mere slivers. His breathing had turned rapid and shallow.
Uh, yeah. I wouldn't want to get too close to the angry bird with the quad type advantage that would probably love to have 5 minutes alone with you without anybody asking myself. So can't really fault Nip's reaction there. 😅

“Both of you, stop,” the hawlucha growled, crossing her wings as she backed off. “I do not have time for petty squabbling like this. And–” she cut off, her eyes flickering to something behind Haru. Turning to look back, Shimmer was visibly swaying, steadying herself on Muse with one arm and holding her head with the other. “Too much. Too strong emotions,” Shimmer mumbled.
Muse: "Shims, I told you that you weren't fine right now." >_>;
Shimmer: "Look. Everyone, just calm down a moment. I'm just feeling a little woozy right now." @.@

Whisper took a deep breath and turned to Nip. “You need to watch your tongue, sneasel. Remember, you’re only here because the village is giving you a chance to prove that you’re going to change. But this? Heckling other pokemon does not sound very remorseful, now does it?”
Nip: "Look, she literally started it by coming all the way out here to heckle me like a day ago-"
:GrumpNip:

Whisper:
Image


Nip, having calmed down a bit, averted his gaze, mumbling what might have been a half-hearted apology. Haru let out a satisfied huff. But before she could get too proud of herself, Whisper turned on her next. “And you, Haru. You’re not helping the situation.”

“What did I do wrong?” Haru asked incredulously.

“You’re antagonizing him.”

“He antagonized me!”

Wow, such adult, very mature. >:P

“I know. But you need to be the bigger mon and ignore him. If you can’t do that, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I don’t need a petty argument getting in the way of the investigation. Nor do I need our emotions to overwhelm Shimmer and make her pass out again. You can get the details later when we bring things up with the rest of the village.”

“But–”

“No buts!” Whisper stared Haru down with a narrowed gaze. “If you really want to help, then you can go fetch Essra. Or better yet, Phoel. Tell her to come over here. Looks like we’re going to need a psychic after all. And when you’re done, don’t come back.”

I can already see Haru's expression right about now, and I can already think of the perfect reaction to it:
giphy.gif

Haru sputtered. Maybe she shouldn’t be here but… how did this not concern her? She helped bring Nip here in the first place. “But I–”

“This isn’t negotiable. As head guard, this is an order, Haru. Leave.”

Haru: "Y-You can't just kick me out right here!"
:AngrySlink:

Whisper: "Haru, I'm literally the chief guard and I have a type advantage over you. Don't make me literally toss you out the front door."
:typhNOsion:


Haru turned to look at Shimmer and Muse, hoping they would come to her defense. But Shimmer was looking pallid, and Muse was too preoccupied with fretting over her to even notice Haru’s gaze. Sensing this was a fight she couldn’t win, Haru finally turned towards the door, a dark expression on her face.

“Fine,” she grumbled, making her way towards the exit. She could see when she wasn’t wanted.

Haru: "Seriously, how on earth is this fair?!" >_>;

The sun beat down on Haru, heating her fur as she trudged across the square. Knowing where Phoel would be, she made her way towards a stand near the center with a cloth canopy draped over it. Underneath, a bored-looking meowstic sat, her head propped up by one paw while the other tapped away on the wooden surface. Next to her, on a perch, sat a pidove, but he took off before Haru got too close. Off to deliver a message, she suspected. Surprisingly, there was one other pokemon there: Toshi.

Haru called out a greeting as she got closer, causing Toshi to nearly jump in surprise. “Haru? What are you doing here?”
Haru: "Got kicked out of the Guards' Hut, don't ask." >_>;
Toshi: "Wait, you managed to get kicked out of the Guard's Hut? What on earth did you do-?"
Haru: "I said I didn't want to talk about it." >.<

“Whisper sent me to fetch Phoel. Said she needs the help of a psychic to deal with the ninetales. You heard about what happened, right?”

Toshi shuddered. “Yeah, heard he managed to rough Romi up pretty good. It feels like we can’t go even a few days without something wild happening lately, huh?”

Haru: "Wait, has it really been that recent since the judgment? I thought it'd been like a week." .-.
Toshi: "Even if it was, that's still really recent for a big event, Haru." ._.;

Haru hummed in response before turning her attention to the meowstic. “Good afternoon, Miss Phoel. You heard me, right?”

“Loud an’ clear, boss,” Phoel said, waving a paw. “Gonna have to wait a minute though, dear. I’m waiting to hear back news from Brinash town. Heard the Expedition Society is gearing up for something, but I’m trying to find out what.”

At first I read that as 'Exploration Society' and was vibing with Super and related fics. Though the name's close enough that it's probably not that unrelated in job.

“Brinash Town?” Haru asked, tilting her head to the side. “Why are you asking about them? That’s several days journey from here.”

“Well, it is one of the biggest and oldest towns around,” Toshi pointed out. He lifted a foot to paw sheepishly at his muzzle. “But to be more specific, I, ah, asked her to. I’ve been… well, I’ve been trying to listen for news about apprenticeship openings at the society.”

Haru: "Look, can't this wait for sometime when there's not a Pokémon with intelligibility issues to grill right now-?"
Phoel:
Image


Haru blinked a couple times. “Openings? Don’t tell me you’re planning on leaving?”

“Not anytime soon!” Toshi said quickly. “I mean, well, if openings came up soon, then maybe. But they’re not really accepting newbies right now. Society head Blue is currently out on business. Apparently, he’s working on passing through the Great Misty Ravine dungeon and establishing a base on the other side! Isn’t that cool? We’ll finally be able to explore the rest of the continent and find out just what lies beyond.”
Haru: "... Wait, but couldn't we just ask Nip about that since he apparently came through there not long ago?"
- Beat moment -
Toshi: "... They'd see more of what lies on the other side? Besides, how much would you really trust what Nip would have to say anyways?"
:joltyshrug~1:


“I mean… I guess it’s neat… but we have three whole pokemon right here that passed through there, you know. Nip, Umbra, and now that ninetales. Tempest, I think Nip called him?”

Toshi’s face scrunched up as he considered her words. “I mean, I guess. But… that still doesn’t change the fact that there’s still so much we don’t know. Doesn’t that excite you?”

Lol, literally the very next lines.

“I prefer to stay grounded,” Haru replied. Why should I waste my time on something that’s several cycles away from being relevant to me?”
Bold of you to assume that it's not going to be relevant to you in the imminent future considering how every story of this ilk works.
:fearfullaugh~1:


“Are… you alright? You seem like you’re in a bit of a bad mood.”

“Whisper made me leave because I was ‘antagonizing Nip,’ or something. Like, yeah, I got mad and started to gripe at him, but he started it! He was the one that insulted me! I think he’s just still mad about what happened last night.”
I like how it just doesn't occur to Haru that that makes her sound incredibly childish and immature right about now. :V

“What… what happened last night? You were out kind of late.”

“Oh, it was awful. I was feeling kind of torn up about the situation with Nip. You know, because I’m kinda a little bit responsible for helping bring him here. So, I decided to confront him directly and see if I could get a better answer than what he gave publicly[/b],” Haru said. “[/b]I mean, I actually spent some time with him, after all, so I was hoping that he would consider me trustworthy or something, I don’t know.

[ ]

But he just spewed the same sob-story he told the rest of the village, like we’re supposed to pity him for what might have Umbra done to him, despite what he did to us. If that even happened!”

This is another chunk of dialogue that is long enough that IMO you should consider breaking it up into at least two. Since that’s a lot of talking without so much as stopping to catch a breath there, unless that was very deliberately the point.
Toshi: "... And you were expecting him to change his story from the judgement why? I mean, it didn't seem like he was totally lying about what was going on, Haru..."
:joltyshrug~1:

Haru: Because I was expecting him to show remorse over his actions like a normal Pokémon!" >_>;

“I mean… Umbra didn’t deny it, did she?” Toshi pointed out quietly. But Haru didn’t acknowledge him, too deep into her rant.

“He convinced himself that he’s safe from her hiding in that jail cell. I don’t think he’s considering changing his ways at all. I think he’s just using it for protection. If Umbra wasn’t here, he’d probably attack whoever was guarding him and try to run away.”

“Uh… sis?”

Toshi: "With all due respect, but... you're kinda making it unsurprising as to how you and Nip wound up getting into an argument with each other." ^^;
Haru: "I know. Can you imagine the gall of that 'mon?" >.<;
Toshi: "(That... wasn't the point I was making there, but okay then...)" >_>;

“Well, he started getting really angry when I pointed that out, so I reminded him that he needed to watch himself, or else they might change their mind and redo his judgement. I also pointed out that I didn’t really have a reason to trust his story.”

“You said what?

“And I think he’s still kind of mad about that, so he tried to goad me. Sorry, what were you saying?”

Toshi blinked, looking his sister over. “Um… Haru? You kind of were antagonizing him.”
Toshi: "And I sure hope you weren't just ignoring Nip and talking over him like this, since otherwise... uh... yeah, I can see how he's mad at you." >_>;
Haru: "... Hey wait a minute, Toshi! You're supposed to have my side here!" >.<

“He antagonized me first, I went over this already.”

“No, I mean last night. Were you trying to upset him? I mean, you literally told him that you thought he was lying.”

Haru blinked. What was he getting at? “What? No, I wasn’t trying to upset him. I was just being truthful.”

I see that nobody's taught Haru that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar, huh? Or tact, for that matter. ^^;

Toshi: "Oh stars, you sure put your foot in it there, Haru-"
:wigglypensive:

Haru: "Again. I. Did. Nothing. Wrong." >.<

Toshi sucked in a breath, anxiously dragging a paw across the ground. “Well… you were kind of insensitive. I guess. So, can you really blame him for getting upset?”

“Insensitive?” Haru tilted her head. “Even if I was trying to be insensitive, why should I spare his feelings?”

Toshi: "Because you were trying to get constructive answers out of Nip and not get into a screaming match?"
:what:

Haru: "Look, exactly none of that requires being sensitive to the feelings of a child murderer!" >.<

“I get that but. Didn’t you notice how scared he was of Umbra. Don’t you think his story might have had just a bit of truth to it?”

Haru averted her gaze for a second, uncertainty clouding her mind. Then she reminded herself of how cowardly he’d been, and how low he was willing to stoop. “I mean… he was probably just putting on a show. And even if he wasn’t, why should I be nice to him? He hurt our village, Toshi. And he hurt his tribe too. He had a second chance in us, and he blew it. We should have turned him over to the Enforcers and been done with the situation. Or maybe we should have turned him over to Umbra, I don’t know.”

Toshi’s mouth dropped open. “You… you don’t mean that, do you?”
Toshi: "I... just didn't see you as this kind of 'mon, Haru."
:ScaredCabot:

Haru: "Toshi, he's a child murderer. A multiple child murderer. I didn't see you as the kind of 'mon to give that sort of person another chance." >_>;

“I mean, it’s not ideal, but we’re just wasting our time with him, don’t you think? I mean, has he shown any interest in changing? Or is he just going to turn around and go hurt more pokemon the moment we say he’s free to go?”
Haru, have you ever considered that you're never going to get an accurate read on Nip's intentions if he's just busy going
:hissssss:
at you every time you set foot into the same room as him?
:joltyshrug~1:


Shifting his weight anxiously, Toshi turned to look elsewhere. “It’s only been a few days, Haru. Give him time. Wouldn’t you want others to give you the same courtesy if you wronged them?”

A beat of hesitation. “Sure, but why would I ever need that? It’s not like I’m going to go out and kill someone for food, or steal someone’s egg.”

I mean, there was that Fletchling that you maimed back in Sunglow Thicket. Not that you exactly are doing a fantastic job at remembering that encounter. ^^;

His gaze dropped to the ground. “It… doesn’t have to necessarily be that… You kinda wronged Nip, didn’t you? Maybe I’m just being a bleeding heart but… You told him that you don’t believe Umbra hurt him. Don’t you think that’s something pretty personal to open up about?”

“Is that what this is about? Toshi, he’s given me no good reason to believe him!”

“But Umbra didn’t deny it either, remember? What if he wasn’t lying? Think about how rude it would be to say that to his face. What if I were to tell you that I didn’t believe you were swept downstream as a kid when you told me why it took so long for you to start swimming in the river? How would that make you feel?”

Haru opened her mouth and raised a paw as she started to respond, but hesitated, putting her paw back down and closing her mouth as she thought it over. “I would feel crummy, sure. But… no one’s forced to believe me if they don’t want to.”

Haru: "Also, this is the definition of an apples to oranges comparison, Toshi." >_>;
Toshi: "Look, it's the best I had to work with on the spot, okay?" ._.;

Toshi dropped his gaze. “What about when you get into arguments with Dad?”

Arguments with Dad? Oh, right. Arguments about Regigigas, she guessed. “What about those?”

“Well… you’re kind of wronging him, in a way, aren’t you? Every time he brings Regigigas up lately, you get in an argument with him. Don’t you think it’s a little abrasive to just brush his feelings off like that?”
Haru: "Toshi, those are literally fairy tales!" >.<
Toshi: "(Boy are you not helping your audience sympathy right about now, Haru...)" -_-;

Haru didn’t like where this was going. “What’s so wrong with feeling like pokemon rely too much on gods that either don’t care about them or never existed at all?”

“Nothing!” Toshi said quickly. “But… you’re always picking a fight over it. Don’t you think it would be better to just, I don’t know, let things be? You’re not going to change his mind by insulting him - or anyone else for that matter. You know how Dad feels about the stories about Regigigas, so why do you keep antagonizing him over it?”

“Letting things be is kinda why Shimmer is still chasing after you, isn’t it? Besides, I just think he’s not thinking clearly! Maybe if he started putting his faith in other pokemon that are around him instead of a ‘god’ that has done nothing for him, he’d stop running himself ragged!”

Oh yeah, that's not going to come back to bite you later in the story after all. Though it's a bit interesting how Haru's got these attributes that normally would be associated with naive and sympathetic characters, only for it to come off as fairly unsympathetic.

I think it's the stubbornness and self-righteous streak in particular that does it. It's definitely not a common way to play a protagonist, and it'll be interesting to see how Haru's worldview evolves after going through another upheaval or three in the story.

Toshi shifted uncomfortably. “Is that what all this is about? This isn’t even about Dad. Or not just about dad, is it? This is about Grandpa Catkin, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Haru said quickly, but Toshi wasn’t paying attention anymore.

“All this time, I thought you were just doing all this for the sake of being contrary. But… no, you’re holding a grudge. You’re still upset that Grandpa died trying to find ‘Gigas, aren’t you?

... Maybe I'm forgetting some allusions to this in past chapters, though I kinda wonder if this should've been hinted at a bit more prior to this reveal + Toshi's accusation. It feels like the sort of thing that logically ought to have colored a couple exchanges, especially with Chipper, but I'm drawing blanks on it having ever been hinted at.

A pit started to form in Haru’s stomach. She turned her head away. “That’s… That’s not true! I just think it’s foolish to put faith in a pokemon that does nothing to help anyone.”

“But Regigias has helped in a way, hasn’t he? He’s helped dad stay strong all these years. At least, that’s how I understand it?”

Haru:
Image


“Even if you were right, grandpa wouldn’t be dead if it weren’t for ‘Gigas,” Haru argued. “Why are you so quick to defend a pokemon you’ve never met? Why are you so quick to defend Nip, for that matter, when all he’s done is hurt us?”

“But he did help us. Back in the woods, remember?”

👀

I actually don't remember if that got built off of in later chapters, but I definitely want to find out more about that incident that Toshi is alluding to. Will be keeping an eye out in my catchup.

“Um… could you two have this discussion somewhere else, please?

Haru and Toshi turned their attention to Phoel, who was staring at them with her claws digging into the wood.

“Psychic couriership takes a lot of focus and energy. I don’t need these kind of distractions when I’m trying to work.”

inb4 their argument somehow got relayed to the other end of the line and those two can die of embarrassment over all of this getting aired to some literal who in Brinash.
:mewlulz:


Both bidoof shifted uncomfortably, averting their gazes as they muttered some sort of apology.

Satisfied, Phoel let out a huff. “Now, I need to go help Whisper. But before I go, I heard back from the network, Toshi. Whatever is going on at the society is under tight wraps. From the sound of things, even the exploration teams only have details on a need to know basis. Sorry I couldn’t help you more.”
Oh yeah, that's not suspicious at all there. Wonder if it had anything to do with that bit with the Not!Arcanine. Like there's no hard confirmation, but it just feels awfully convenient in terms of when it lined up.

Toshi shifted his gaze to avoid looking at Haru. “Ah… thanks, Phoel. I appreciate it, really. Though… that’s really weird. Blue is well known for being very candid about what’s going on at the society…”

Phoel raised her arms, so that her paws were up in front of her. “I don’t know what the deal is, boss, I just deliver the news.”

I'm pretty sure that prominent public figures abruptly acting seriously out-of-character for the norm is your sign to be significantly more worried about what on earth might be going on, just saying. ^^;

“I know. Thanks anyways.” He turned back to look at Haru. “I should probably get back to work. Shouldn’t you, too?”

Toshi was right. The sun was just starting to descend in the sky; Haru’s lunch break had gone way longer than planned, with all the excitement. What did she have to show for it? Whisper was angry with her, and Toshi was obviously uncomfortable with how their conversation had gone.
Haru: "... Right, I was supposed to get Phoel. Hey Phoel, you can still make it to the Guard Hut, ri-?"
Phoel: "I'm in the middle of a message here!" >_>;
Haru: "... Is that a 'maybe'?" ^^;

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said quietly. “See you at dinner?”

“Mhm.”

Unnerved by his noncommittal response, but unwilling to push the matter further, Haru turned and began to trudge towards the edge of the square, making her way back towards home, before veering instead to the upstream path, towards where they felled trees. Toshi would be heading home to work on debarking, and she wasn’t totally sure she wanted to see him, still upset by his accusations. Maybe felling a tree would help her calm down.
I mean, there's a reason why you don't talk religion at the dinner table, Haru. Even if Toshi kinda walked into this... uh... yeah, you were more than a little grating with that whole back and forth there.

Still, as she passed a field of berries on her left, the sparse village homes behind her now, she couldn’t help but dwell on his comments. Was she really in the wrong here?

Was she really being that much of an asshole? She really, honestly felt like she wasn’t.

But some lingering uncomfortable feeling in her gut told her she couldn’t be sure.

Translation: You were being a giant asshole and you're not ready to admit it to yourself. Since, yeah. You weren't exactly super sympathetic with that whole "my way or the highway" schtick you had going on in that back-and-forth, Haru. ^^;

Things were quiet after Whisper had sent Haru away. Anu, after briefly exchanging words with Shimmer and Muse, excused himself, returning to his duties tending to Regigigas’ shrine. He gave his mate a reassuring pat on the shoulder as he passed.

Muse had managed to convince Shimmer to lay back down for a while and headed upstairs, where they would wait until Phoel or Essra arrived.

Leaving Whisper alone in the room with Nip and his possible ally.

Nip:
:fearfullaugh~1:

Whisper: "... Don't tempt me, Sneasel." >v>;

She silently stared at Tempest for some time, scrutinizing his every detail. But eventually, she averted her gaze, nervously running her claws through the feathers on the side of her head.

Quietly, so silent that even pokemon like Nip and Tempest had to strain to hear, she mumbled, “titans, what have we gotten into…”

Somehow, I doubt that that's the last time that that question is going to be asked in this story. Potentially verbatim.

She turned away for a moment. But a scuffling sound made her whip her head back around. Nip had begun to scoot closer to the bars separating him from Tempest. But as soon as Whisper was looking at him again, he froze, his pupils wide as he stared back. She continued to stare for several seconds, then turned away again. Running her claws through her feathers again, she plucked one, winced, then slowly lowered her wing.

“Why did I ever agree to take on this position… I thought I left all this kind of trouble behind when I settled here… Darn it, I’m not prepared for this! Gods, Volt, why’d you have to go and die on us? And Leas, why’d she have to up and disappear? She was a great leader. Better than me…”

Wew, so does everyone in Theran Village have some sort of dark secret that they hide from everyone? Since it sure feels like this town's really, really rich in dirty little secrets that get kept to themselves.

Her gaze drifted to the parchment, and the useless marks on it. Stupid! She knew that it was a pointless endeavor, trying to communicate with writing. And yet, she’d wasted her time with it anyways. How could she be so stupid?

She plucked another feather. Where was Phoel? Surely, Haru should have been able to get her by now?

... Have you considered just having Nip translate considering that he literally gave a free translation in the last scene you were around? ^^;

A low, growl-like noise rumbled in her throat as she looked up to make eye contact with Tempest. But he was too busy staring at Nip to notice, an unreadable expression on his face.

“Hey!” she snapped, drawing his attention. “While we wait for the psychic to arrive, I suppose I’ll gather some cursory information with yes or no answers.” She began to walk, light on her feet, towards Tempest’s cell, stopping just in front of him at attention. “Now, I want you to bow your head if the answer is yes. Understand?”
... Not convinced that this is going to result in anything productive, but I suppose it's better than just sitting and twiddling your bird thumbs. Though wait, what exactly was Tempest supposed to do to say 'no' here? Since it's not exactly specified.

She waited for him to perform the action before continuing. “Glad we got that settled. So, to start off… How much do you know about Nip? Do you know why he left the tribe?”

Tempest lowered his head.

Whisper: "... Huh. Well, it's a start, at least. Alright, let's see what else I can get out of this fox..."

“Then you likely know about the accusations that the mawile, Umbra, made?” Tempest’s lip curled into a soundless snarl at the mention of the name, and Whisper could feel the air growing cold again, but ignored it for the moment. “You know about what happened to the eggs in your nursery? Before you answer, I should mention that Nip here did not deny those accusations. In fact, he even explained his reasons for doing so. Horrible reasons, I might add.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Nip springing to his feet, fur bristling. He opened his mouth to say something, but only the slightest of sounds escaped before he caught himself.

Nip: "Was that commentary really necessary?"
:GrumpNip:

Whisper: "Yes. If anything, I was being polite." >:|

The air grew more frigid. But then Tempest glanced over to Nip and hesitated. In the end, he bowed his head again.

“So, did you follow him here to help him?”

He bowed his head. Whisper sucked in a sharp breath.
Whisper: "Wait? What? Are you sure that you didn't mean to-?"
- Tempest bows his head lower -
Whisper: "... Okay, you're gonna have to explain this to me..."

“Why? Why would you help him after everything he did to your tribe? Do you have any idea what he did to ours? To our village? Do you have any idea how cruel he is? Why don’t you tell him, Nip? Tell him what you did to us.”

She turned her attention to watch as the sneasel stood frozen, his eyes narrowing to slits. His ear and tail feathers drooped, and he said nothing. Huh, so he could feel shame for his actions. It almost made her feel pity for him. Almost.

Nip: "..."
:uhhh:

Whisper: "Well? I don't have all day here!" >v<;

But he didn’t speak, so she scoffed and turned her head. “Well, since he is unwilling to answer, I will. Nip was found left for dead in the woods. A few of us villagers rescued him, bringing him back here to recover. But do you know how he repaid our kindness? By stealing and eating one of our eggs.”

Tempest stared at her for a moment, his gaze scrutinizing, as if trying to figure out if she was being truthful. Then he turned his attention to Nip. When Nip refused to meet his gaze, his tails drooped, and he laid down in the cell. What he was feeling, she was uncertain. Nip turned and sat with his back to Tempest. Something about that really ticked her off.
Nip: "I... I didn't want things to come out like this..."
:sadwott~2:

Whisper: "Yeah, should've thought of that before you committed the crime. Besides, it was coming out one way or another, Sneasel." >:|

“So, now do you feel guilt?” Whisper asked Nip, looking him over. “Do you wish you could go back and change things? It’s a little late for that! Even if you really make a change to be a better mon, you can’t change what you did here, and there are going to be mon that will never accept you for that. Do you get that? Do you really feel remorse? Or do you just regret getting caught?”

“Whisper? Is everything okay?”

I mean, obviously not given that she sounded like she was getting really personal towards the end there, but we might as well let her answer for herself. ^^;

Whisper let out a gasp, whirling around to the ramp upstairs. Muse was standing at the top, looking her over with a worried expression. Whisper averted her gaze. “Sorry… Was I that loud?”

“Loud and clear,” Muse confirmed.

Whisper: "... Well. This... is... awkward, to say the least."

“I’m sorry. I just… this is all very personal. I… really shouldn’t be in charge of this whole operation, but… I don’t trust many others to handle things fairly. Anu is in the same situation as I am. Romi and Siles don’t have time to be involved in overseeing this. I don’t trust Vale and Stati to take care of things fairly.”
Vale: "It'd be fair for the village if I handled it."
:AlviseUnamused:

Whisper: "Vale, you're not even supposed to be here in this scene. Seriously, buzz off already." >v>

Muse dipped her head. “I understand. Really, I do. But maybe you need to step away for a moment? Go rest. I’ll watch them.”

“No. Phoel should be here any time now. I need to get this over with as soon as possible.”

“It’s a good thing I’m here, then.”

Whisper groaned, turning to spot the meowstic in the doorway. Oh, gods, had she heard that entire outburst, too? “Sorry you had to hear that.”

I can already see Whisper's "screaming internally" expression right about now, even if I don't really fault her for getting as touchy as she did with Nip.

“Don’t worry about it, boss. We all know you’re going through a tough time.” The meowstic lightly padded forward, reaching up to place a paw on Whisper’s side. “Sorry for the delay. I was waiting on a message. So, what did you need me for?”

Whisper turned her head and tilted it upwards, gesturing in the direction of Tempest. “Simple mindreading, hopefully. He can’t talk, so I want you to translate his thoughts. If he’s uncooperative though… I might need you to go a bit deeper. Is that alright?”

Phoel shifted uncomfortably. “I haven’t done anything like that in years, so I may be a little rusty but… If you need me to…

“I really do,” Whisper confirmed.

Time to trot out Bubsy again:
Image


“Got it. Leave this to me.” Silently, Phoel padded over to sit in front of Tempest, taking a seat on the floor. She took several deep breaths, bringing her forepaws in front of her as a gentle glow escaped from her eyes.

“I’ve made contact,” she reported. “He’s quite insistent that I leave him alone, though.”

... Which is probably a sign that you should stop before one of you two gets hurt, really. ^^;

Whisper turned back to Tempest. “Well, if he doesn’t want to risk the damage of a deeper dive, he better be honest, then.” She directed her attention to the ninetales. “We’ll make this quick. Are you planning to help Nip? Especially now that you know what he’s done here.”
Nip: "I'd like to remind that I could've translated Tempest's writing if you'd bothered to ask me to help!"
:GrumpNip:

Whisper: "Yeah, well we had exactly zero reason to believe that you'd provide an accurate translation. So what do you say, Tempest? Are you in or out?"

[ ] A moment of silence passed. Phoel frowned. “He says ‘I sincerely apologize on behalf of my… my student. He suffered much in the past and made poor decisions as a result.’”
Kinda wonder if there should have been more description of Phoel settling in and going back to reading Tempest there. Since something about this feels strangely sudden.

Was he serious? Whisper clenched and unclenched her claws. “Sorry doesn’t cut it here. This isn’t just petty theft. This is murder. He came here and he needed to follow our laws, and he should consider himself lucky to be alive.”

There was a long pause. Phoel hesitated when she next spoke. “’Can he really be held to those laws if he did not know them?’”
Whisper: "I'm sorry, how is 'don't kill the locals' young' not one of the most universal laws imaginable?" >v<
Tempest: "..."
:joltyshrug~1:

Phoel: "Pretty sure that was a 'That's context-dependent' there."

“It’s common sense!” Whisper snapped. “You don’t kill the ‘mon that saved you!”

An uncomfortable silence followed. Tempest said nothing more. Or at least, Phoel did not pass on any more information.
Probably for the best, really. Since I'm pretty sure this conversation would've gone places pretty quickly if it wasn't cut short.

Whisper let out a long breath. “Next question. Why did you attack Romi – the rapidash – why did you attack her when you came into town?”

“’She wouldn’t let me by.’”

“She wouldn’t let you- that’s it? That’s your reasoning?”

“’Yes. She wouldn’t let me by, so I used a show of strength to make her let me by.’”

Nip: "Uhm... Tempest, just saying, but if that isn't the world's most incompetent telepath there, you might want to give more of an explanation than that to work with." ._.;

Closing her eyes, Whisper brought a claw up to scratch at her beak. She could feel a migraine coming on. “Okay. Fine. Whatever. So if that’s the case, why did you try to come into town in the first place?”

“I’m paraphrasing his… colorful language here, but he says he was tracking Umbra. He followed an old scent into town. Smelled Nip when he got close.”

... Oh boy. Somebody doesn't like her. Which kinda leans into my suspicion that it's her that was Tempest's attacker, but one bridge at a time, I suppose.

Well, that explained something, though Whisper was shocked by how well he’d managed to track a scent. She was quite certain Umbra hadn’t left Jhorlo’s in several days. Let alone town. “You attacked someone to get into a village, on the off chance that Umbra might be here? That’s rather… impulsive. You could have told her why you were trying to get into the village and she might have let you pass.”

“Um, Whisper,” Muse said quietly as she crept down the ramp. “I hate to be that mon, but… he kind of couldn’t. Couldn’t speak.”
Whisper: "... Right, that's a thing."
Nip: "You know, if you had normal writing here, Tempest could've told you that that way." >_>;

Oh, right. She really wasn’t thinking straight right now. She let out a long breath. “Fine. Just… one more question then. How were you injured.”

“It was Umbra, obviously,” Nip grumbled under his breath.

Whisper whirled around to glare at him. “I don’t remember asking you.

I mean, considering how Tempest reacted to Umbra just being mentioned. I... would frankly be more surprised if it wasn't her, really.

“Well, for what it’s worth,” Phoel began, “the big guy says it wouldn’t surprise him if it was Umbra. But… He doesn’t know for sure. Everything happened so fast, he didn’t get a good look at his attacker. He is certain that it was a member of the tribe, though. He remembers the smell.”

How could he not- Whisper cut off herself off. “I see… Thank you. We will… keep all of these claims in mind as we look into how to handle this precarious situation. I believe that will be all.”

Now I'm curious as to how that one happened, since Tempest was able to see fangs when he was attacked at night. So that had to be one very fortuitous roll for visibility and positioning there, since you'd think that he'd have seen more otherwise.

Tempest stared at Nip for a long moment before his next thought was translated. “He says…’Due to the… to the nature of what has happened here, I will defer to your judgement, so long as no more harm comes to either of us. I should have done more to help Nip before things reached this point. I’m sorry. But I will not leave, even if you ask me to. I have no reason to return to the Half-Moon Tribe. I was always an outsider, even before all this, there is nothing for me there anymore.’”

Whisper had begun to walk away, but once Phoel spoke again, she paused. “You… would not leave? Even under threat of death?”

“’Nip is the only of my kin I have left. Or rather, the only one I still hold any affection for. I will not leave him again.’”

... Well that certainly isn't a good omen of how things were between Tempest and the Half-Moon Tribe before he got out of dodge if he has no attachment to literally anybody else from it right now.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Whisper looked Tempest over, judging his conviction. “Very well. I will trust your claim. I have to wait until our Mayor, Jhorlo returns before judgement can be passed, and will keep you here until then. But I promise no harm shall come to you until then.”

“You have my thanks, Whisper.”

Whisper plucked a feather. “I’ve already regretted trusting Nip. Don’t make me regret trusting you, too.”

Nip: "Look, lady. We're in cells right now. Just what is he supposed to do that could make you regret things?"
:what:

Whisper: "Hell if I know, 'mons from your tribe have been just full of surprises lately, so I'm not taking any chances." >v>

Alright, onto the postmortem:

It felt like a bit of a transitional chapter this time around, though I think that the main thing that shines about this chapter is two things:

A: Getting a firmer glimpse of Haru's character, or more accurately, some of her character flaws that had been shown in glimpses up to this point, but get laid out in full at this point.
B: Getting some layers peeled off the onion for what's going on with Tempest, and the subtle implications of what things were like in the world that he and Nip hailed from both in comparative worldbuilding and character backstory.

They both did their job pretty well, in my opinion, and it was fun to go back and fill in the gaps for some details that had slipped my mind. Especially for Whisper's implied backstory where she's encountered her share of violence and death, and tried to run away from it to Theran Village.

As for things that I was a bit iffy on... something about the pace felt like in the grand scheme of things, not a whole lot happened. Like not every chapter needs stuff blowing up in it, and I felt that the bit where we get to see Haru go full "judgmental and opinionated" did an alright job of carrying things, but something about the ending in particular felt like it wasn't as "hook"-ey as it could've been for establishing "this is what's up next on the horizon for you two". Perhaps emphasizing the impending judgment and something like how Nip would react to that (since considering how his was a near-death experience, he might plausibly be a bit more on-edge than he's presently depicted) might've helped there, but... yeah, admittedly not sure what to give as a hard recommendation.

But altogether, I had a lot of fun with this chapter, @windskull . I wouldn't be up writing about it at this hour otherwise. I'll be looking forward to crossing paths with more chapters in the near future. Since hey, TR's given me a challenge, and it's as good an opportunity as any to put it towards catching up with this story of yours. ^^
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Whelp, dunno how good of an idea it is to try this this late on a worknight, but eh. Need to plug away at a few more of these chapters, so that sounds like as good a reason as any to jump straight into the second review of five that I was aiming at notching under my belt:

Chapter 14

For Theran Village, the next two sunrises passed without incident. Word spread around about the strange Ninetales and whispered rumors passed between the villagers, but mostly life continued just as it had before. Even for Nip.


Nip: "Oh joy, that just sounds wonderful."
:GrumpNip:


Whisper, or one of the other guards, would rouse him shortly after dawn, tossing a few berries his way. Then they'd guide him over to the daycare to work on renovations, where he'd spend most of the day dragging around and cutting lumber. When the sun started to dip low in the sky, he'd be sent back to his cell with a few more berries. Both evenings, he sat against the bars as close to Tempest he could get, talking to him quietly. A couple of the guards would return to the hut when darkness settled in outside, putting away jars of moss that lit the room before retreating upstairs.


So I take it that Nip didn't exactly do a great job at bricklaying, huh?
:loltias:


Speaking of Tempest, the Ninetales had yet to be let out of his cell; Whisper had explained that until Jhorlo returned and they could discuss what to do, he would have to remain locked away. As far as Nip could tell, Tempest seemed mostly fine with this. Still recovering from his infected injury, he was in no condition to be out working or doing anything of the sort. That didn't stop him from becoming agitated both times Nip had been removed from his sight. Not that Nip was in any position to argue about it.


Nip: "Look, was it really too much for me to get some paper and ink so that way I could write to Tempest and explain what was going on-?" >_>;
Whisper: "Yes. In case you haven't noticed, we don't want our prisoners collaborating with one another." ÒvÓ

Despite how regular the last two days had been, this morning started a bit different. He was roused, fed, and escorted to the daycare as usual. But instead of getting straight to work, he and Chipper now sat to the side next to a pile of unworked lumber, waiting, while Tor and Grombert conversed in front of the daycare. Nearby, Anu and Whisper were engaged in their own conversation, both of them occasionally stealing a glance at Nip to see if he was behaving.


Nip: "I'm... not convinced at all that Whisper isn't casing out opportunities to brutally murder me when nobody's looking, really."
:fearfullaugh~1:


Nip shifted uncomfortably on his feet before sitting down, keeping an eye on Tor and Grombert as he tried to listen in on their conversation. In hopes of appearing nonchalant, he started to busy himself with grooming, running his tongue over the side of his forepaw before brushing it over his face. An unpleasant memory of how Haru reacted about his grooming bubbled to the surface, though, making him slowly lower his paw.


Oh so he does care about how he's perceived when he does that. Or at least when at least two of the observers can ruin his day with a stiff punch.

"You say you're almost done, then?" he overheard Tor ask.

"With everything but th' fence," Grombert confirmed. "But to finish that to your, er, specifications, I'd have to get Romi to bring in another load of bricks. Whisper says she can't afford to send a guard off till Jhorlo gets back though. Not even a part-time one. Besides that… I hate to say it, but we're running a bit low on funds. A brick fence wasn't exactly part of the budget, after all."


I think you're missing a word there. Though I suppose it was fortunate that the Nippening happened before they started work on the fence, since otherwise they'd have to tear up stuff they'd already built to make that new one.

Can't imagine that it was cheap having to source those materials at the last second like that.

"True," Tor replied in his usual monotone voice. "I take it you're asking for the rest of the payment now?"

"Not the rest of it," Grombert said quickly. "Just the second third of the agreed-upon amount. The rest can come later. Though we may have to renegotiate the price, what with both the increased cost of supplies and the additional set of working paws."

"Are you really going to pay him?" Nip caught Tor shooting him a nasty look. He quickly averted his gaze.


Surprised that that pay is high enough to be a non-trivial expense. Since even in situations where prisoners are actually paid for penal labor, their salaries tend to be insult-tier as opposed to actually respectable wages.

"What? Of course not! But we do have to pay Whisper for lending out his labor. She's gotta pay for the expenses of feeding him somehow."


Oh, that's where the expense comes from. Something about that system feels like it'd be ripe for abuse were someone less good-natured than Whisper calling the shots though. Since I'm pretty sure that this sounds like a convenient way for corrupt guards to set up a racket hiring out their prisoners' labor and then skimming off the money that was meant to pay for the expenses for caring for them.

The blissey closed his eyes. "I don't like it, but that's a fair point I suppose. Give me a moment." With that, Tor disappeared inside the vibrant building. He reappeared shortly after, carrying a small sack in one of his stubby hands. "I trust this will be enough for now?"

Grombert grabbed the bag in one paw and jingled the coins inside. Then he held out an ear and dumped the contents out onto it, inspecting them with a scrutinizing gaze. Finally, he flashed a grin. "That will, indeed, do! I'll get this divided up and prepare an order. Thanks."

"My pleasure." Tor turned and returned inside, while Grombert quickly returned the coins to the bag before approaching Chipper and Nip. Whisper and Anu glanced up from their conversation, and Nip quickly did his best to make it look like he hadn't been listening in.


Nip: "You know, if I'm supposed to become a productive member of your society, I believe that I'm entitled to a few of those-"
Grombert:
Image


"Looks like we're going to have a couple days off," Grombert announced. "Let me just take care of my business with Whisper and then we can all be on our way."

"Fine by me," Chipper said. He fell down to all fours and stretched. Nip could hear his joints crackle with each movement. "Gives me a chance to rest these old bones. What are gonna do about the sneasel, though?" He gestured his head towards Nip.

"I'm sure I'll be fine without the work," Nip grumbled under his breath, rubbing one sore forepaw with the other. He hoped no one heard that.


Why do I get the suspicion that Nip was also lippy and talked himself into trouble back home? Since this feels ill-advised on so many levels right now. :V

If anyone did, they didn't say anything about it. Whisper turned to address Grombert, Anu hanging a few steps behind. "He's not your responsibility to deal with. I'll take care of finding something to keep him busy. Roselei should have a field of oran bushes ready to harvest. I'm sure she could use the help. I'll talk to her about it before evening."


Nip: "... Dammit." >.<
Anu: "I mean, you did sound like you weren't about to just keel over from being kept busy. And you know what they say about idle paws..."
:typhNOsion:


Nip looked down at his claws, fighting the urge to scowl. They all talked about him like he wasn't even there, not even giving him a chance to give any input. Then again, that was kind of the point, as much as he hated to admit it. It didn't mean he had to like it. Hoping to get his mind off of that, he turned his attention back to Grombert, watching him count several little lumpy disks out of the pile. Most of them seemed to be roughly the same size, but there were a few smaller ones. He gathered up the smaller pile before pushing it towards Whisper.


I mean, yeah. That's life when you've been going through the first week as a prisoner right off the heels of committing a crime that would make you viscerally unpopular, Nip.

I mean, I'd call you out for not having this occur to you, but from how cutthroat life was described up north... I'm... admittedly not sure if your native neck of the woods has a concept of taking prisoners in the same fashion as Theran Village's civilization does.
:fearfullaugh~1:


"I think this should meet our agreed-upon amount?"

The hawlucha counted the coins one by one, then scooped up a few before passing them on to Anu. "Here, take him around the village today. Let him buy meat or whatever else he wants within reason. I'll put the rest with our current funds and figure out how to approach next week later. Bring him back around lunch time. I'll have Stati relieve you at that point so you can get back to your duties.

Anu stared down at the coins in his paw, his brow furrowed. "Are you sure, Love?"

Whisper: "Look, it's either you or me. And... I don't really trust me to do that with a level head." >v>
Nip: "Oh great, I feel totally reassured and safe already. Not." O_O;

At the same time, Grombert gave Whisper a quizzical look. "Why would you give him any money? This is a community service sentence, not a job."

Whisper's feathers puffed up as she whirled around to glare at the diggersby. "I pride myself in not running our guard like the Enforcers do, thank you very much," she snapped.

Grombert stumbled a few steps back, holding up his prehensile ears defensively. "Okay, okay, sorry I asked."

:fearfullaugh~1:


Oh, so the Enforcers do get into the territory of slave rackets, huh?

Slowly, Whisper sucked in and then let out a breath. "No, I'm sorry. I snapped at you under stress and I should do better. I need to prepare a statement before Jhorlo gets back about the Ninetales and any other things that happened since he left. Plus the aforementioned issue of trying to figure out the logistical mess of feeding him and Nip," she sighed. "Besides, letting Nip buy his own goods might give him a better idea of how the village functions, and may help him integrate into society if everything works out. It's not like I'm letting him buy just anything, anyways."


I kinda wonder if it'd have made sense to break up Whisper's dialogue with a speech tag since something about that looked like a really long block of dialogue.

Also, that assumes that there will be a village for him to learn these ways. Which given from what I recall of hints of where the story's plot was heading from the parts I got up to... doesn't feel like a safe assumption to make at all.

She turned her attention to Nip. "I'm giving you a little time to walk around the village and do what you want with this time, so I expect you to be on your best behavior, understand? Anu will be letting me know if you don't."


Whisper: "And whether that's through communication or you coming back obviously smacked around a bit, I'm not particularly picky about. Are we clear?" >:|
Nip: "... Crystal." o_o;

Nip held her gaze evenly and said nothing. But the way his ear swiveled back and his feathers drooped gave away his anxiety. Whisper continued to give him a meaningful stare. But when he kept quiet, she sighed and turned away, scooping up the remaining coins.

"I'll see you later, Anu."

As she began to walk away, Anu approached Nip. He placed the coins into a small, cloth pouch that rested against his hip before addressing the sneasel with his paws clasped together.

"Ah, we should, um, probably discuss what you wish to do with this free time. Are you hungry? P-perhaps we should go get something to eat. I suspect you'd like to have something more to your taste than what the guard has fed you thus far, wouldn't you?"


Nip: "(Dear Yveltal, this is awkward.) I... don't suppose that it's possible for me to be accompanied by someone else-?"
Anu:
Image

Nip: "... Well, it was worth a shot. (Come on, you can't seriously be telling me you want to be here, do you?)" >_>;

Without thinking about it, Nip licked his lips, his mind drifting to the past. His body itched for the exhilarating excitement of the hunt. For the rush as he stalked through the forest, pine needles squishing under his feet as he carefully sniffed the air for signs of prey, or else for the scents of those that might hunt him.

His claws twitched slightly at the thought, but he knew that wasn't what Anu was offering him. Not with how soft these village mon were, or at least claimed to be. "I am hungry, yes," he finally said quietly.


I'm actually not sure whether the implication of Nip not believing Theran's stated story of how they source meat stems more from him being a fundamentally distrustful personality, him fundamentally being unable to imagine things being able to work differently from his home, or him realizing that something isn't adding up in Theran Village, but it's a pretty fascinating insight into his character. Since he immediately called BS on that after hearing about it, and he just has consistently kept that skeptical spark to him afterwards.

Anu hummed in acknowledgement, then moved so that he was standing behind Nip. "Off we go, then."

Wordlessly, Nip turned and began to walk away from the daycare. Anu followed close behind. Nip was quite certain that he was keeping an eye on him the entire time.


Anu: "I mean, I do have aura sensitivity. So I can keep tabs on you even when I'm not looking."
:gardeshrug~1:

Nip: "Literally proving my point right now."
:GrumpNip:


They walked in silence for a moment. But as they left the others behind, a burning question escaped Nip's mouth. "Are you planning to feed me something I can actually eat, now that you have some of this… 'poke' stuff?"

"Hm?" Anu tilted his head but didn't stop walking. "Oh, right. I don't know how Whisper is going to handle things. It's… complicated, I'm afraid. I understand that you are an obligate carnivore. Whisper does, too. But… the meat from our village is sourced from scavenging. It doesn't leave much to spare, and as a result, we can only feed so many mouths. In times of shortages, sometimes we must do without. And I'm afraid if Whisper has to choose between feeding you, and one of the other villagers going hungry… Well, she'll at least give you berries until there's more."

Nip stopped walking and turned to look at Anu, his gaze incredulous. "You can't really believe that, right? That all of your meat comes from scavenging."


Anu: "Oh Titans, this again..." -_-;
Nip: "No, I'm serious. With a mayor as obviously shifty as yours who dispatched his personal assistants to accompany a 'mon who was trying to kill me, how on earth can you be so certain that you're not being lied to about where your food comes from?"
:GrumpNip:

Anu: "... Wait a minute. Are you even supposed to know about Lotte and Jaques canonically?"
:lucathink~2:

Nip: "I-It doesn't matter! Look, the point is that something isn't adding up about your village!" >_>;

Anu stopped as well and stared down at him. Nip noticed the tiniest flicker of uncertainty in his gaze. Then his muzzle stiffened, and he closed his eyes. "You must remember, you are not from around here. I can't expect you to understand how we do things, but I ask that you try to understand how we handle things here. We scavenge so that we might take only what we must. Our community is small as a result, but it is peaceful."


Oh, so Anu has picked up on the obviously shifty vibes just constantly emanating from some corners of the village. I see that he's very much in camp "ignorance is bliss", though.

"I don't need to be from around here to know that's not sustainable!" Nip growled, frustration seeping into his tone. Then he flinched, realizing how heated he was sounding, and shrank back. Slowly, he sucked in and let out a breath before standing tall again. "I-I meant to say… I can't believe something like that really works. My kin only killed what we needed to survive. Yveltal's teachings told us to not let the lives we take go to waste. And yet, there is no way we could have survived on this scavenging. There wouldn't be enough to go around."


Anu: "... Wasn't your tribe also almost entirely carnivorous? Just saying, I'm pretty sure that Theran Village is a lot closer to being compliant with the 90-10 rule than your tribe was."
:joltyshrug~1:

Nip: "Look, there are other villages around you. Am I supposed to believe that all of them are finding enough conveniently dead Pokémon out in the woods to cut up for meat in this sort of proximity?"
:what:

Anu: "... Yes? Why is that so hard to accept? Your homeland couldn't grow berries properly. It would hardly be unprecedented if we just didn't have the same food problems as you."
:lucariwhat:


The lucario gave Nip a scrutinizing glare. He shrank back once again, avoiding looking Anu in the eye. But before he could try and talk his way out of things, Anu sighed, placing a paw against his chest spike. "Again… Please remember this is not your homeland, things are different here. Besides, that's part of why Whisper gave you a share of the earnings: so that you might purchase your own food, so you wouldn't have to worry about whether or not we could get you some."

Nip wanted to say, is that reason enough to leave me malnourished? But there was no point in arguing if it would only make Anu upset again. Getting into arguments led to fights. And fights against a pokemon like Anu would leave him beaten down. It wasn't worth the risk.


Nip: "(Considering how this guy is Whisper's mate, I'm pretty sure that that him getting mad enough would just flatly be the end of me, but let's not dwell on that too much.)"
:fearfullaugh~1:


They began to walk again, but before Nip could start up the path towards the meat shop, he felt a paw on his shoulder.

"Ah… apologies, Nip, but, um. I'd like for us to stop inside this shop first." Anu lifted a paw to gesture to a tent that had been set up to the side. The tarp was colored a swirl of pale pink and white. A sign had been placed in front of it in the same unfamiliar writing that the pokemon around here seemed to use.

"What is this place?" Nip asked.

"Sweet's Shop," Anu explained. "She comes into town every so often and carries a lot of random stuff she finds around the area. Most of what she brings around is useless, but every once in a while she'll bring in orbs, wands, or other useful items. I hope you don't mind if we stop for a minute. Who knows, maybe you'll find a trinket you'll like?"


- Nip's stomach growls -
Nip: "Look, can't this wait until sometime after I've been fed-?"
Anu:
Image

Nip: "Seriously, does everyone in this village just go around making that face constantly?" >_>;
Anu: "It would be more convenient to visit Sweet's now while we're right here, so..."

Nip highly doubted that. But he was in no mood to argue, so he just let out a grunt and moved to step through the entry flap.

A large piece of woven cloth, covered by intricate swirling designs, blanketed the ground inside. Several other smaller, similarly ornate carpets sat on top, with items on top of those. Some items were little more than a fanciful rock, though Nip did spot a couple of glassy orbs in one corner. One he recognized as an escape orb by the dim grey color with a bright light that sparked and danced deep inside. The other he didn't recognize as any particular orb, and he wasn't convinced it was an orb at all.


Ah yes, I see that you also stuck with canonical depictions where you could. Shame that there wasn't general item art prior to DX though, since a lot of the DX designs are pretty neat, and I kinda wish they'd been around when writing the earlier bits of Fledglings back in the day.

"Ah-ah, customers!"

Nip glanced up and looked to the back of the tent, movement catching his eye. From underneath a piece of cloth, a slurpuff had appeared, her fur disheveled.

"Oh, it's Mr. Anu," the slurpuff continued as she tried to flatten down her fur. "Oh, and you must be the sneasel I've been hearing so much about. Hello!"


- Nip's stomach growls -
Sweet: "... Should I be concerned right now?" ._.;
Nip: "Look, can we just get this over with? I don't exactly want to blow a lot of time here."
:GrumpNip:


She held out a paw, and Nip recoiled, noting the stickiness of some sort of berry that had matted the fur of her paw together. She stared at him for a moment, then closed her eyes and spun away, seemingly unconcerned by his reaction.

:TailsEww:


Remind me to never shake a Slurpuff's hand if that's a normal outcome from it.

"Well, aren't you two looking rather well today. What can I get for you? I have all sorts of wares for sale… if you have the coin." She spun back around, bringing a paw up to her mouth, and shot the two a leer for just a second before returning to her usual cheerful demeanor.

Nip shot Anu an incredulous look. This was what he wanted to stop for? He hadn't been wrong, most of this really was junk. Not noticing or ignoring Nip's look, Anu moved to the corner of the room to inspect pile of orbs and probably-not-orbs. He had his back to Nip, but Nip could tell from the way his feelers wavered that he was still watching him. Or watching his aura, at least.


Anu: "You are aware that Wonder Orbs usually have AOE effects on other Pokémon, right? It's handy if you ever get into a pinch." ^^;
Nip: "Yes, but you don't exactly go into Mystery Dungeons frequently. So since when would that ever be relevant for you?" >_>;

"Ah, my good sneasel friend!"

Nip felt a sticky paw grab hold of his hand. He yelped and jerked it away. Sweet gave him a weird look before continuing, grabbing his paw again to drag him to the other side of the tent. "You look like you've been traveling rather light. Wouldn't you like something nice and shiny to accompany you?" Carefully, she picked up what looked like a shard of crystal. On two sides, it was nearly flat, the sides ended in sharp, jagged edges.

"I…" Nip stared at the object. It was rather shiny… but what was the point? Some part of him wanted to store it away, and some other, rational part of his mind told him that he was wasting his time.

Anu glanced over and let out a sigh. "Um… Sweet, c-could you please not attempt to sell him broken glass? Or any sort of weapon, for that matter."

Nip: "... Why would I use this as a weapon when my claws would literally cut and slash just fine?"
:what:

Anu: "Look, we're not exactly in the mood to get surprised by you again. No weapons, designed or improvised, okay?" >_>;

The slurpuff glanced at Anu with a sour expression. "Aww, you're no fun." She perked back up and turned her attention to Nip, who had taken a couple steps back when she'd turned her head. She still had a hold of his paw though, keeping him trapped in the interaction.


Nip: "... Did this really need to happen before we went to Mandi's? Since I'm pretty sure that this is going to mess up my appetite."
:TailsEww:

Anu: "Look, if you're reacting this negatively to Sweet's touch, it's for the best that you're not going through it on a full stomach." >_>;

Dragging him to another pile, Sweet finally let go of his paw so that she could dig through a handful of scarves. When she stood back up, she held a small, drawstring bag made of a pale brown cloth. "See, isn't this perfect for you? Don't you wish you could carry things around? I have a big bag of my own!" She gestured to the corner of the room where, just as she said, there was a large bag, nearly as big as she was.

"Um…" Nip began. She did have a point. It would be nice to have something to carry things with when he got out of here. He had initially stolen a bag for that reason. On the other hand… who knew when he'd be allowed to leave? And until Umbra gave up (something he doubted would actually happen) he was perfectly content with hiding behind the guards.


Oh right, this is where Nip gets that bag that he's depicted with in various art pieces for this story. I'd actually completely forgotten all about this.

"What do you want for it?" he finally said. Because it couldn't hurt to ask.

Sweet shot him a goofy grin, her tongue lolling out. "Oh, I knew you'd like it. And you're such a cutie, I'll make you a great deal. I'll sell it to ya for just 80 poke. Or a jar of combee honey — I'm kind of hungry. That's a bargain you can't refuse!"

Nip: "... Wait is that cheap, or highway robbery? Since I can't really tell since I'm new to this 'money' thing." ^^;

Eighty poke? That seemed like a lot. But he had no clue what a big number was, by village standards. He glanced back to Anu uncertain of how much that would leave him with.

Anu picked up on the unspoken question. "If you buy it, it'd leave you with twenty." Twenty. Nip could quantify twenty.

Twenty was more than he remembered the meat costing before. But not by much. It would leave him with little more than enough for a single meal.

Getting some major Watership Down vibes from Nip's thought process here. It reminds me of how numbers for the rabbits in that story just break down after "four" and become an indistinguishable blur where five is as hard to quantify as a thousand.

"No deal. I need that money to eat."

"Aww, that's too bad." Sweet frowned, dropping the bag back onto the cloth. "Let me know if you change your mind though. Or if you find anything neat. Like combee honey. I miiight be willing to do a trade sometime."

Oh, nevermind. Guess Nip isn't getting that bag just yet here.

After that, she turned her attention to Anu, who had picked out the escape orb and a rock with little golden flecks in it. The two exchanged money, and then Anu stepped outside, waiting for Nip to follow.

He took one last look at the bag before trotting behind Anu, the flap closing behind him.

Nip: "... (Should I have just gone for the bag? I'm pretty sure that the last thing I got from Mandi's cost less than 20 Poké...)"
- Nip's stomach growls -
Nip: "... (Nah, screw it. I need my meat.)"

After the short detour, Anu and Nip made the trip to the meat shop in silence. And Nip was fine with that. Compared to the typical ridicule, jabs, and snide remarks from his guards, the silence was a welcome break. Or it should have been. But with Anu, in particular, the silence was somehow worse.

I mean, yeah. Being stuck in dead silence with the father of the unborn 'mon that you ate sounds like it'd get really awkward and oppressive-feeling really fast.
:fearfullaugh~1:


The meat shop looked just as innocuous as Nip remembered it. If he hadn't already known about the food stored inside, he would not have given the old, run-down looking building a second thought.

The sound of movement from inside made him pause just outside the door. He took a couple steps back, then, of all pokemon, Vale emerged, carrying a bundle between his teeth. He took one look at Nip and his maw twisted into a snarl. He sat the bundle down and stared at him, his eyes narrow. "Shouldn't you be doing your manual labor? "

Nip: "Look, I literally don't have anything else to do today, alright?"
:GrumpNip:

Vale: "I mean, if you have nothing better to do, I can think of some things to keep you busy-"
:AlviseUnamused:

Anu: "Easy, Vale. Whisper just send us to pick up some food for him."
Vale: "... Wait, you're buying him meat? With public funds? I know that Whisper says she likes running a different ship from the Enforcers, but this is just ridiculous!"
:AlviseDumbfounded:


Anu took a deep breath, steeling his nerves. "Relax, Vale. He's been given a day off, just like you. And he's chosen to spend it in the same way you are, from the looks of things. What are you up to?"

Vale scoffed. "Spending it like him? Feh, yeah right. I'm about to spend the afternoon with my friends. Something I doubt a mongrel like him would understand. I was just picking up something for us to eat." He tilted his head towards the package.

:absus:


Okay, Vale.

Nip's nose scrunched up as his lip started to turn into a snarl, but he forced himself to be silent.

Anu said nothing about Nip's state, instead addressing Vale with a tilt of his head. "There's no need to say something like that. Anyway, you're speaking of Jaques and Lotte, I assume."

"Lotte at least. Hopefully Jaques will make it home in time for dinner."

... Huh. Somehow, I didn't pick up on those three being close to each other. Like it makes sense since they're all in closest orbit around Jhorlo, but I kinda wonder if it could've been hinted at more in the past.

The lucario let out a hum. "Fair enough. Have a good day then, Vale."

Vale let out a huff. "Any day I don't have to babysit a murderer is a good day in my book, Anu. I should be wishing you luck."

"I assure you, I will survive."

Vale: "The murderer of your own child, Anu. Seriously, isn't this bugging you at all-?"
:AlviseDumbfounded:

Anu: "Enough, Vale!"
:tessANGRY:


The manectric had nothing to say to that. So he picked up his bundle again and pushed past them. He brushed up against Nip as he passed, and Nip let out a quiet sharp yip when he felt a small static shock.

"Oopfs. Sohry, my bahh." Vale mumbled around the bundle, though from the sneer on his face, Nip suspected he wasn't sorry at all. Anu said nothing as Vale passed him, but Nip was shocked to see a disapproving frown on his face.

I mean, Anu never struck me as the type to like bullies. It's a little surprising to see that it'd extend to 'mons that wronged him as badly as Nip, but I suppose such longsuffering comes with the territory of being a shrine guardian.

"Sorry about that," Anu mumbled, moving towards the doorway. "Shall we enter?"

Anu pushed the wooden flap open, allowing Nip to enter before him. As the flap opened, Nip sucked in a breath, taking in the mouthwatering smell of food. He stepped inside. Mandi was still at the counter with a rag in her beak, using it to carefully rub off what looked like a stain of blood. When she noticed her customers, she stopped, dropping the rag.

Nip: "Hey, if you're not going to use that, could you wring out some of that blood from that rag so that I can-"
Anu: "Ew! Nip!"
:TailsEww:

Nip: "What? Waste not, want not and all that jazz." ^^;

"Ah, well look who it is. Good to see you again, Anu. How's Whisper holding up?"

"She's doing better," Anu replied calmly, bowing his head in greeting. "I trust business has been going well?"

"Well as it usually does. Vale just brought something fresh in. Said he found it on his patrol route. Chased off a raticate and brought it back. Can I maybe interest you in that- oh!" She cut off suddenly, glancing down at Nip. "Oh. You're here, too. Stuck on guard duty, Anu?"

Oh, so I see that "stealing kills" is considered de jure fair game for the scavenging system in this setting. That... would explain a lot about why the wildeners have such antipathy towards townies. Since the rules when actually followed basically give townies a free pass to chase off wildeners from their own quarry they fought and risked their necks for.

Nip kept his gaze on the ground, avoiding Mandi's pitying glance towards Anu. "Whisper asked me to take him for a walk," Anu explained. "Gave him a bit of change from what Grombert was paying her for the help."

"Got it got it. So… I guess you two are both looking for something to eat."

"Indeed," Anu replied. "What were you saying you just got in?"

"Ah, right. I have a rattata that's already been checked over and approved for sale. Vale brought in a fletchling, but it'll probably be midafternoon till I hear back on that one."

Oh, this is the chapter when those wildeners from Sunglow Thicket start turning up dead.

Nip's ear twitched, and he glanced up. "I'm sorry, did you say a fletchling?"

Mandi tilted her head. "I did. Why, does that interest you?"

He flicked his ear and turned his head away. "No, it does not. What else do you have."

Mandi stared at him a moment longer. "Well… I'm afraid Vale wiped out a lot of my stock, but I have some krabby meat and a bit of a seviper left? Someone brought back… most of a sawsbuck the other day, but I'm afraid I don't have much of it left. Enough for two meals, for someone of your size, probably."

Can't tell if that seviper is meant to be the same as from the Monster House in Sunglow Thicket or if that's a coincidence.

Nip considered his options for a moment. "I'll take both the sawsbuck and the seviper. As much as you could spare. Don't bother processing it this time."

Anu raised a brow. "Isn't that a bit much for you?"

"Of course it is," Nip snapped. Then he realized how combative his tone was and took a breath to calm himself. "Half of it is for tempest. If you village mon aren't going to feed us, then I will."

I mean, he's got a point. Especially when Tempest hasn't been given an opportunity to try and pay for his own sustenance like Nip has.

Anu flinched at his tone, but did not argue further. "Very well. I understand." He turned his attention back to Mandi. "I'll take the rattata for myself and Whisper, but we would like it prepared. It'll… be enough until you get more in."

Mandi tilted her head before opening her beak cheerfully. "My pleasure. That's going to be twenty poke for you, anu. As for the sneasel… Forty should be good."

Nip tilted his head. "Why so much?"

"Well, you are buying enough for four meals," she pointed out, "And seviper meat is more popular than you'd think. Rare enough that it costs more."

Anu: "Uh... Nip. I know that Tempest is a bigger 'mon than you, but if you buy all of that meat unprepared, isn't a huge chunk of it going to spoil by the time you get to it?"
:what:

Nip: "... We're Ice-types and can do our own preservation? Though I didn't realize that that was four meals' worth of meat..."
:joltyshrug~1:


Nip had nothing he could say to that. Anu exchanged coins with the mandibuzz, and then she disappeared into the back, calling out for her cubone assistant. Nip took a seat on one of the cushions to wait. Anu paused for a moment before sitting down beside him.

"If… if you don't mind me asking," the lucario began quietly, "is there something about the fletchling that upset you?"

Something about Anu's tone made Nip flinch. "It's nothing important," he muttered. "I just remember seeing a couple of fletchling when I was in the dungeon and wonder if it's one of the ones I saw, that's all. Doesn't really matter, that kind of danger is the price of living wild."

I'm pretty sure that we find out later on in this very same chapter that it was one of them.

"Anu let out a sigh. "I see. Are you troubled by it?"

"No more than I would have been if one of my former tribe-kin had been killed when away from camp. The creators gave us teeth and claws and the need to hunt others for our food. But they also gave those pokemon that we hunt their own ways to defend themselves. It's just the way the world was created."

Anu: "... Lovely belief system there."
:fearfullaugh~1:


"Do you ever think that it's cruel?" Anu asked.

Nip let out a grunt. "Perhaps. But the creators must have made us like this for a reason. Besides. Though life is cruel, death frees us of these dangers and these burdens." He paused, closing his eyes as he recalled a familiar mantra from his youth. "Yveltal will take the dead under her wing and grant them eternal peace."

"And what of those that are killed before they get to live," Anu pressed his voice raising. "What happens to those that never get to hatch? Those that die before they ever get to leave the nursery."

Nip: "... You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?"
:GrumpNip:


Nip flinched, his ear and feather lying flat against his skull as he shrank away from Anu. The lucario noticed the movement and looked away, taking several deep, steadying breaths.

"I… apologize. It is unbecoming to let my emotions get the better of me."

Nip was silent for a moment, his gaze on the ground. "You of all pokemon have every right to be angry. It's only natural for a parent to mourn and want to avenge their child. So why aren't you? Why bother keeping it in?"

Anu: "Nip, we're in a public shop right now!" >_>;
Nip: "An empty public shop right now. So what's the harm in answering a question here?"

Anu was quiet for a moment, taking in several deep, steadying breaths. "Believe me, N… s-sneasel, I am livid with you. I hate you. I hate you more than my own mate, even. She, at least, understands your reasoning, even if she feels it's flawed. Even if she feels so torn up inside by what you've done. But… she has an obligation to treat you fairly, to carry out the village's justice. And, as a religious leader, I have an obligation to lead by example. Following Regigigas means walking a path of peace, and that means I must put aside my anger."

Nip was quiet for a moment. "Whisper… doesn't hate me?"

... Wow. I actually completely forgot about that dynamic between those two. And Nip is really fortunate that Anu isn't just a random field worker or something like that. Since with that sort of confession, I doubt Anu would've let him live past the first night he came back to Theran Village.
:fearfullaugh~1:


"She wants to. But she understands what it's like being in a position like yours. Maybe not quite the same… But being alone, not knowing where to turn to? Having to make a tough choice about where you'll get your next meal? But… Ah, maybe I shouldn't be bringing this up. It is rather personal, after all."

Nip leaned back against the wall. "She's not from around here, is she." It wasn't a question.

Anu tensed. Then sighed. "S-sort of. She's… She used to live wild. Gave up the life of a wildener to settle down here many season-cycles ago, when she was still quite young." He smiled wistfully. "I was still a riolu pup. Lady Gratitude was still the mayor back then, and times were prosperous." His smile faded, twisting into a frown. "And then the drought happened, and all the misfortune that followed… Ah but. O-oh, I've said too much already. This isn't my story to tell. Look, here comes Mandi."

Somehow, I didn't get the vibe from past chapters that existence in Theran Village was particularly meager, unless if I'm reading too much into that "and times were prosperous" comment.

Though I stand by my comment about how Theran Village is just a magnet for dark secrets, since that alluded account of the past by Anu sounds particularly cursed.

Nip sat up straight turning his attention back to the counter. Sure enough, there was the mandibuzz, carrying two parcels in her beak. She sat them both on the counter, nudging one a little closer to the edge. "There you two go. Sorry about the wait. Xylar had to finish preparing our message about the fletchling."

"It…" Anu took a deep breath. "It is absolutely fine, Mandi. No worries at all." He picked up the first parcel, taking a peek inside, before handing it to Nip. As Nip glanced down, he could see the meat inside had been cut, so that one couldn't tell what pokemon it had been at one point. As much of a waste of time as Nip saw it, he could understand why some pokemon would want their food prepped that way. It was a lot easier to eat when your food didn't look like your neighbor.

It's also a lot easier to lie about where you got your meat from and deceive others about it, but let's not think too hard about that one, hm?

"That one is mine," Anu explained. "I will exchange it with you when we return to the guards' hut. Come along now." He picked the other, slightly larger bundle up and began to walk pushing the wooden door open so that Nip could pass through.

Just outside, Nip paused and took a deep breath. "Well… for what it's worth, Anu…" Nip hesitated. Anu gave him an expectant look.

Just spit it out, said a voice in the back of Nip's head. Just say you regret your decision. It's not that hard. Tell him you made a poor choice. Tell him you shouldn't have betrayed their kindness!

But Nip said none of that. Instead, he sighed, closing his eyes. "Nevermind. I'll talk to you about it another time."

Nip: "... (Argh! Dammit! Why is this so hard?!)" >.<

Nip pushed past Anu and silently began to walk back in the direction of the village square. But even after he had been returned to his cell, and after he had shared his food with Tempest, the words still echoed in his head. And even after the lights went out, and he had groomed himself and settled down for the night, his mind still drifted back to his conversation with Anu.

I kinda wonder if it'd have made sense to expand on that ending note a bit to focus a bit more on what parts of that conversation with Anu are particularly affecting Nip. Since I get the feeling that there were specific parts of it that particularly stuck with him, and it might make sense to be a bit less vague about it so that way the reader gets a firmer read on how Nip's mind is ticking here.

Umbra stewed quietly in her room, pacing back and forth in hopes of getting some of her restless aggression. After a long morning of hunting with vale, the manectric had shooed her off back to Jhorlo's villa, taking two of their three kills with him. She considered telling him to buzz off and going to attack Nip on her own. After all, how was Jhorlo supposed to stop her when he wasn't around?

But logic had stopped her. How was she supposed to get to him in broad daylight, when he had guards watching his every move? No. She had to wait until the time was right. And as much as she longed to sink her teeth into his mangy flesh and rid herself of his nuisance once and for all, she hadn't gotten this close without a hint of patience.

Unfortunately, patience didn't rid her of anger.

Again, have you ever considered just arranging for someone to poison Nip's food, Umbra? Since while cheap and lacking the satisfaction of a visceral kill, it'd be effective.

Also, life for Shimmer in the house must be quite an experience given the vibes she's undoubtedly picking up from Umbra's room every time she comes within like a dozen feet of it. ^^;

She let out a low growl, her claws scraping against the wooden boards as she paced. How could the pokemon here defend him? They had seen for themselves how low he was willing to stoop. And now Tempest was here, too. That ratty ninetales… how was he even still alive? She swore she had done him in before she left, knowing that he would chase after Nip. Tempest had always been so quick to defend him and anything he did. If he wasn't male, she'd think he was pining after him!

... Not sure how I forgot that was revealed this early on, but yeah. Umbra is confirmed as Tempest's attempted assassin. And boy does this rationale behind why she did it make her come off as a real rat.

Gnashing her teeth together, she reached down to pick one of the cushions that made up her "nest", tiny claws digging into the fabric as he squeezed it. "Ngh… I don't get it… How do you keep evading me? You very existence is a blight. How could the elders slight me like this? First pairing me with… with that low rank runt. Then, with I make it clear to him and the elders that I want nothing to do with him, nothing happens! And then when I try to make the best of a bad situation, he goes and betrays all of us like that! And now I'm out here, chasing him down because he had the nerve to attack the nursery instead of just running off and dying in the woods or something!"

I see you're going straight for the jugular of that last, lingering shred of audience sympathy there, Umbra.

Pink energy shimmered around her claws. She channeled the energy into the cushion as she squeezed, imagining it to be Nip, then threw it into the air, snapping it up with her second set of jaws before shaking it violently. Oh, how she wanted to sink her teeth into his flesh and rip him to shreds like a juicy bit of prey. It would be a suitable end for him. And yet, at the same time, she wanted to take her sweet time and make sure he suffered, after what he'd done to the tribe. And after he'd slighted her, personally. After she'd gone through all that trouble to break his spirit and turn him into a… tolerable mate.

Well that's not creepy and problematic as all hell. Though it doesn't particularly surprise me that Umbra would be a bully focused more on controlling and domineering others, especially given the way she was initially introduced in the story.

She slammed the cushion against the ground her jaws hitting the floor with a thud. Bits of the fluffy innards went everywhere, thrown into the air and spilling onto the floor from the sheer force of her attack. And then she stood there, huffing for breath as she glowered at the pillow's remains.

And then a quiet scratching caught her attention. She whipped around just as the door creaked open, Lotte standing in the frame.

The purrloin looked over the scene with a concerned expression. "Ah. Is… Is everything alright, Miss Umbra."

Umbra: "What do you think?!" >_>;
- Lotte stares at the remains of the pillow strewn about the room -
Lotte: "That you're very fortunate that Jhorlo isn't here to see this for himself. That pillow wasn't exactly cheap." >_>;

Umbra felt her face heating up in embarrassment. Just how much of her tantrum had Lotte seen? She had a reputation as a poised and dignified pokemon to uphold, and she hoped that it was not tarnished by the outburst. "I am… Fine," she replied stiffly.

Image


Lotte stared, her expression becoming unreadable, only the twitching tip of her tail betraying any emotion. "I will take you at your word, then. How has your morning been? I take it your hunt went well?"

"Well enough," Umbra replied with a huff, bending down to pick up the ruined cushion. "Caught a fletchling that strayed a bit too far from its home. Didn't even see me coming till it was too late. Its leg was all bent out of shape, so it wouldn't have survived long anyways. Course, cause of all your rules and regulations, Vale had to run off and get them 'processed' or whatever. Do you seriously not keep any food around here?"

Yuuuuup, there's the confirmation about that Fletchling. I'm pretty sure the grievous harm that Umbra's audience sympathy is enduring at the moment would be prosecutable as a war crime, since... yeah, she's pulling out all the stops right now to zero that out at the moment.

Lotte hummed, stepping inside. She began to bat at the stuffing, working it into a pile. "We keep some berries and bread, for Miss Shimmer, and sometimes Jhorlo will have Vale just bring his hunts here directly. Says it helps lower suspicion and makes sure those of us that are… looking out for the obligates of the village stay well-fed enough to do so. Like that wooper you brought home, for example."

Translation: Jhorlo just straight-up eats those without going through Mandi. Since I remember him all but drooling at the chance to try out Sneasel meat.

Umbra raised a brow. "You hunt?"

"Not often. Usually only when I accompany Jhorlo on business. Vale does most of the work around here. At least, work of that sort. Hunting. General muscle work."

... Not sure if I want to know what that 'business' entails.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Thinking about the manectric, Umbra scoffed. "Why does Vale even put up with Jhorlo anyways? You say you're repaying a debt, and I'm only doing this because I have to wait for the right time to… take care of Nip."

Lotte flicked an ear. "I don't know the details. Jhorlo saw no reason to share that with me, and I don't intend to question him and bring his kindness into question. But I'm sure Vale has a good reason."

:uhhh:


Considering how Vale is being extorted by Jhorlo, I'm now a lot more suspect of just what went down between Lotte, Jaques, and him back in the day. Since it just would be so on-brand for there to be some sort of horrible catch to their dynamic.

A growl sounded from the doorway. "You know, it's kind of rude to talk about people behind their backs."

Umbra turned her attention back to the door. Vale stood in the frame now, a bundle of some sort of paper tied together laying at his feet.

Lotte followed Umbra's gaze. "Well, good day to you too, Vale. What brings you here?"

He nosed the parchment a bit further into the room. "I brought lunch. Figured Jaques would be hungry when he got back. And you, Lotte. And Umbra and Jhorlo too, I guess."

Umbra: "... Wait, we're eating right here? Not that Jhorlo seems like the type to care about eating game, but isn't this going to make a giant mess of his den?"
:what:

Vale: "Meh, we'll manage."
:AlviseConfused:


"Well, how thoughtful of you!" Lotte let out an amused purr. "Bring it on in, I'm sure Umbra is hungry, too."

She was. A growl escaped her stomach. She'd had nothing to eat since yesterday, and the morning she and Vale had spent hunting had taken a lot out of her. Vale carried the bundle over to the center of the room, holding it in his mouth by the strings. He sat it on the floor, then Lotte made quick work of slicing it open, passing out a sliced piece of some unknown pokemon to each of them. Umbra still found it odd, that they prepared their meals in such a way, but she was in no position to complain.

Vale: "You see that's how we'd manage. It's not as if we're just dribbling blood everywhere right now."
Umbra: "Alternatively, you could just eat outside your dens and not care, but nooooo, you have to insist on lying about it to the outside world." >_>;

Lotte and Vale exchanged small talk while Umbra worked away at her share, tearing pieces off before swallowing them whole. This… sitting here while the other two passed the time when she could be out there finishing her duty so she could hurry up and return home, it drove her mad.

"I cannot wait to get out of here," she growled under her breath, drawing the other two's attention.

"What was that?" Lotte asked.

"The sooner I take care of Nip, the sooner I can leave. All I need is a feather or something like that. I would take an eye, or something else much more concrete, but it would rot before I made it back. If only I was not run so busy doing all this hunting for Jhorlo."

Image


Honey, there is exactly zero reason to think that Jhorlo's gonna let you go even if you successfully kill off Nip considering that he scammed you into signing a contract with clauses that allow for him to kill you if you break their terms.

"You have plenty of time," Vale pointed out. "But… well, I think Lotte wanted to finish cleaning up in here. Why don't you walk with me, for a moment?"

Umbra scarfed down the last of her meal. "Why should I? You have given me no reason to get along with you, outside of hunting."

"Just do it," Vale growled, frustration seeping into his tone.

Umbra: "This had better be good..." >_>;

She considered arguing further, but decided it was not worth it, and finally stood, stretching before walking ahead. Vale followed, taking the lead once they were in the hall. When they got to the end and began to take the ramp to the bottom floor, he finally spoke. "You know you're not getting out of here anytime soon, right?"

A growl escaped Umbra's throat. "What are you getting at?"

"That sneasel? He's gonna be locked up for moons. He's constantly under watch, too. And Jhorlo finds you too useful to let you just leave. So, to him, that sneasel's more useful alive than dead. Hate to say it, but you played right into his paws."

Uh, yeah. I kinda figured there. Somehow, I pictured Jhorlo having his paws tied on Nip, but that actually makes a lot of sense for why this entire status quo is happening.

"You're joking right?" Umbra deadpanned.

"Listen, Umbra. I don't like you. At all. You're only slightly better than that sneasel in my eyes. But I can sympathize with your situation,” Vale insisted. “You and I, we're in similar boats here. I've been working under Jhorlo for seasons. Hunting for him, but also doing his dirty work.

[ ]

And I can tell you right now, he's not planning to let you go anywhere. He's got part of the town caught up in his claws, and wool over everyone else's eyes,” the Manectric warned. “You make one wrong move, and it's you that'll be disappearing, not Nip.

[ ]

No, if you want to get rid of him, you're going to have to take matters into your own paws."

IMO, Vale’s paragraph should be split up into multiple paragraphs interleaving description for body language / Umbra’s thought process. I proposed a take with three dialogue paragraphs, but if so inclined, I think you could pull things off well with just two from the first suggested split.


Though I'm now morbidly curious as to just how many Pokémon Jhorlo has... 'disappeared' in the past now.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Umbra's gut twisted. As much as she would like to argue otherwise, Vale's warning made perfect sense. "So. If you hate me so much, why bothering telling me this?"

"I want that sneasel gone as much as you. He hurt the village. And while I don't care too much about that, I care about the fact that he's got everyone so convinced with his sob story that he's wasting the time, energy, and resources of the village. He's wasting my time."

Vale spun around to look Umbra in the eye. "Let me cut to the chase. You and I. We're going find a way to get rid of that sneasel. That'll get you, him, and hopefully that ninetales out of my fur so the village can go back to normal, understand."

>attempting to kill off the leverage your boss is holding over another Pokémon when it wouldn't get you out of your own debt

Image


Seriously, it'd be less risky to kill off Jhorlo first. Since with him out of the way, you're free from your... arrangement, and a major source of Nip's protection in Theran Village will get cleared from the board.

Umbra stared at Vale for a moment, her eyes narrowed. What the manectric said made sense. But at the same time, she found it hard to trust. "And if I refuse to work with you?"

"I hope you like working for Jhorlo until you either die of old age or a hunting injury, or else he makes you… disappear." He paused, glancing back up the hallway. "Ever notice that there's no liepard around here for Jaques and Lotte to have come from? There's a reason for that. I've been around long enough to remember their ma. I know what happened to her."

:uhhh:


Another backstory bit I forgot about from my first rodeo, but I knew that there was going to be some sort of horrible catch with Lotte and Jaques' relationship with Jhorlo. And boy is it a massive catch.

Umbra grit her teeth. "Fine. I suppose it doesn't hurt to discuss an idea, at least. What do you have in mind?"

"Next time we go out hunting, we'll talk. Deal?"

"Why not talk now?"

"I need time to figure out what Whipser's going to do with the ninetales. Once we know that, we can hash out a plan. Sound fair?"

Umbra thought back to the last time she'd struck a deal in the village. Unlike Jhorlo, though. Vale seemed to be more brawn than brain. And on top of that, he was in a… very useful position, if she wanted to get at Nip. "Very well. Do not make me regret trusting you."

Lady, I can already see a massive problem with Vale's plan viewing things from his perspective. That means one of two things:

A: His plan sucks and will not end well for you two, especially if he genuinely is a "brawn over brains" sort of character.
B: He has ulterior motives for that plan he's not telling you about, such as potentially throwing you under the wagon to get him out of his arrangement. Which will probably come back to bite you hard in the ass.

Are they seriously still chasing me? How rude!

Celebi forced his wings to flutter faster. Trees whizzed past him. Occasionally, he'd graze up against the bark or smack against some leafy twigs, sending decaying leaves to the ground as he dodged and weaved through the forest in desperate hopes of escaping his pursuer. He didn't dare look back, hearing the cracks and groans as trees fell left and right, his pursuer effortlessly slicing right through them. An explosion rang in the distance, and he flinched, grasping at an arm that had become shriveled by burns, scorched almost black.

That... feels like a pretty big underreaction there. Like this is the point where if at all possible, you ought to cut and run elsewhere through time to get out of dodge.
:fearfullaugh~1:


So I overshot my time jump a little. Why does this have to happen to me? It's not faiiir!

He yelped as wind whipped around him, a glowing crescent shape of energy flying by. Another one struck him in the back, sending him tumbling through the air. He hit the ground hard, groaning, and felt something gooey oozing down his back. He tried to flutter back to the air, but his wings wouldn't cooperate. No, if he stopped now, they would catch up. And he didn't want to find out what happened if they caught him. The carnage behind him was bad enough.

:uhhh:


Given that the last we saw of Celebi was in the distant past around the site of what would become Theran Village, that seems to be implying that this is in the future. In Theran Village's future.
:ScaredCabot:


Sure hope that you can change the future a la Xenoblade 1 in this story, but I'll heavily take the under on that since something needs to happen to kick the gang out into the wider world, and 'my hometown was destroyed' is a pretty effective means at accomplishing that.

Another distant explosion. This time he heard the pained, anguished cry of some pokemon unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast. His eyes widened in alarm, and he struggled to his feet, wincing as he put pressure on his damaged arm.

Slowly, he brought his shaking hands up, creating an L shape in each one, holding them together to form a rectangle. He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating, trying to pull psionic energy together. A pulse blasted forward, channeled through his hands, and a window to another time opened in front of him.

With all the speed he could muster, Celebi stumbled forward towards the temporary portal through time.

But just as he was about to cross the threshold, he heard a loud yell from behind. Another air cutter slammed into him, slicing into his back, and he let out a scream. His strength failed him, and he tumbled forward as the world went dark.

:unownF:


Well, not really since we see him appear in a couple chapters in the present day. Though that had to hurt there.

Alright, now onto the recap:

After a multi-chapter stretch of buildup, this is the chapter where things start to feel like we're getting payoff from all of it. It's strange since in terms of actual action, not a whole lot happened in this chapter, but a lot about how we as readers perceive the status quo has changed, since in no particular order, this chapter:

- Establishes Whisper and Anu's true relative feelings about Nip, and his first pangs of genuine, unambiguous guilt over his actions independent of "I'm sorry I got caught
- The awful truth of how Jhorlo runs Theran Village, and of the nature of his relationship with Pokémon that are outwardly his trusted confidantes
- Vale and Umbra making the first steps to try and change their current equilibrium in the story, even if I'm not convinced that it's not going to end terribly for at least one of the two
- Celebi being in peril, with a strong implication that Theran Village will be destroyed in particularly brutal fashion in the fairly near future

There were also some subtle hints at how life in civilization in the south writ large isn't all as it seems. Especially the passing line about the Enforcers, and of Vale's cover story of how he delivered that hunted game to Mandi's. I don't know if the plot will be delving deeper onto those topics at some point in the future, but it seems to build thematically off this general vibe / motif of Theran Village basically being held together by Pokémon at varying levels keeping secrets and not being candid with one another, which given that the stated purpose of this story is that it's a morality study... makes me wonder if we're going to see that extend to a civilizational level in short order. Given what I remember of what I beta read of the interlude, it honestly feels like a pretty solid bet to make.

As for things that I didn't quite like... perhaps there were a couple bits where there could've been more description worked in, but aside from bits that I explicitly pointed out in my writeup. I can't think of too many that I spotted. I was simply too busy getting engrossed in the chapter, and kicking myself a bit at how much I'd managed to forget about it.

Kudos on the chapter @windskull , and I'm quickly closing in on territory where things will be getting a lot more new for me. Given my experiences with this re-read, I'm honestly really looking forward to it. ^^
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, I’d been meaning to do another bump of this series earlier this weekend, though I had been in kinda a chaotic situation for travel the past few days. But that’s all over now, and now seems as good a time as any to finally knock out some progress, picking up right where I left off:

Chapter 15

“We have come to an agreement, it seems.”

Jhorlo’s voice rang clear as he stood in front of the small crowd, Jaques and Lotte sitting at attention behind him. Behind them lay the icy ninetales who, despite his condition, held his head high and proud, meeting the looks of the villagers that had decided his fate. Whisper stood at attention by his side.

“As you all have voted,” Jhorlo continued, “we will continue to monitor him over the next moon or so, putting him to community service while also teaching the laws of our region. If he behaves well, we will reconvene on the afternoon of the next full moon to decide whether he is free to leave. I hope this is all agreeable to everyone, yes?”

Huh. I completely forgot that the plot basically fast-forwarded through Tempest's own judgment in this story, though I suppose it makes sense since it doesn't make sense to go through the same song and dance in gory detail a second time.

Mixed murmurs rose from the crowd around Haru. Some seemed displeased with this outcome, but most were neutral or even happy with it. Haru glanced towards Toshi, hoping to catch his eye, but he avoided her gaze. Almost three days had passed since they’d had their argument, yet Toshi still seemed uncomfortable. The two of them had barely exchanged any words since.

I mean, not killing and eating a local unborn child tends to help you with your local perception, yes. ^^;

I kinda wonder if Nip was present for this, and if so, what his opinions on this turn of events would've been.

Figuring the meeting was over, she took a step towards her brother, but stopped when Jhorlo cleared his throat.

“Ah, Whisper, you said you had something you wanted to bring to the attention of the village before we adjourned, correct?”

“I did,” Whisper said, stepping forward. She looked over the crowd with a stern expression. “I apologize for taking time out of your busy days. As you all know, Vale, Siles, and myself are currently the only full-time guards. Romi, Stati, Essra, and Anu have all been helping with the work, but they also have their own obligations. As it is, we have been stretched thin, monitoring the sneasel during his long-term community service. And with the ninetales now needing to be watched as well, that is even more true.”

... Wait, how big is Theran Village such that it has a grand total of 3 full-time guards anyways? Or is that an artifact of the village generally perceiving itself to be safe / not having the means so nobody thinks of hiring more guards on top?

She paused, taking a deep breath. “I am asking for volunteers to help out for at least the next moon. We need pokemon that are willing to watch either the sneasel or the ninetales for periods of the day, while they do their work. Anyone that does so will be paid for their time. If you are interested, come see me after this meeting, as there will be a short test to be certain you are fit to handle a fight, should one happen. Thank you, that is all.”

>inb4 Haru volunteers

Jhorlo sat on his haunches, silently watching Whisper as she spoke. When she finished, he stood back up and returned his attention to the crowd. “Thank you, Whisper. With that in mind, you are all dismissed.” He waited just a few heartbeats before turning around to face Jaques and Lotte. One gesture from his paw and they stood in unison, flanking him as he headed back towards his villa.

The crowd began to disperse, most pokemon leaving to go about their daily duties. Haru, however, stayed in place for a moment before standing on her hind legs, trying to look over some of the shorter pokemon in search of Toshi. She spotted him approaching Whisper, and got down on all fours to follow him.

She made it within earshot just as Whisper cocked her head, her expression concerned and skeptical. “Are you… sure about this, Toshi?” Whisper asked.

... Oh, so Toshi volunteers, huh? Forgot about that one, even if I'm not remotely convinced that this will turn out well. ^^;

“Positive!” Toshi replied. “I-I’ve been practicing my attacks and everything. I don’t think I’d need to fight, but if I did, I’d be able to take care of myself!”

>sparring against a Hawlucha
>as a Bidoof

Image


The hawlucha looked unconvinced. Haru wasn’t sure that Whisper could frown, but she certainly looked like she was. Whisper opened her mouth to say something else, but then caught Haru’s gaze and quickly straightened up, clearing her throat. “Ah, are you here to volunteer as well, Haru?”

Toshi turned his head, following Whisper’s gaze. The look on his face — some mix of surprise, skepticism, and some third emotion Haru couldn’t place — made her quickly avert her gaze.

“O-oh. No. Not at all,” Haru replied quickly. “I was just…” I wanted to talk to Toshi, privately. “I was going to. Check. On Toshi. I should probably go.” This was embarrassing.

Wait, is the italic bit supposed to be Haru's thoughts interwoven with what she actually says? Otherwise not sure what to make of it there. I kinda wonder if it'd have been clearer turning the thought into a longer, standalone paragraph, and then making the two halves of her line into their own things.

Speaking of embarrassing, a familiar, chipper voice piped up from behind Haru. “Well, we’re here to volunteer. Aren’t we, Musey?”

Haru bit back a groan and turned back to look at Shimmer and Muse. Well, even if she had considered volunteering, she definitely wasn’t going to now.

Well aren't you just being a negative Nancy today, Haru? :V

“You as well?” Whisper asked. “I am… hesitant.”

“Oh, come on,” Shimmer pressed, her voice staying up-beat. “You said you needed all the help you could get, right? Well, I’m help. Muse is help. That’s two whole helps! Besides, I’m totally feeling better.”

Considering how well your attempts at going off to bust Nip on your own panned out, I think I'm with Whisper on this one, Shimmer.

Muse turned her head. “Two whole helps? Shimmer, I am not convinced you are as well as you claim.”

“I’m fine, Muse, really. You’re not gonna convince me to stop.”

You know, this is probably around the point where you should consider spiking Shimmer's drink with something to get her to sleep in and get some much-needed rest. Like sure it's unethical, but this can't possibly be healthy for her.
:fearfullaugh~1:


The absol sighed, lowering her head. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, Whisper, Shimmer would not be working alone. It is my duty as her bodyguard and as her friend to keep her safe. And thus, I would be working with her at all times. I won’t request you to pay me, of course, as I’m already paid plenty working for Shimmer.”

What a headache, Haru thought, glad she wasn’t Whisper right now.

Wow, rude. Even if she's probably not all that far off from the truth.

Whisper looked up over Haru. Haru turned to look behind and noted that only two other pokemon had stepped forward: the swalot that ran the local inn and eatery, and Twi, of all pokemon. Great. Another pokemon that got on her nerves.

Haru: "Yeah, I'm just going to turn and leave right about now." >_>;

Whisper let out a long breath, turning her attention back to Shimmer as she picked up a cloth bag that was sitting at her feet. “Very well. I am willing to give you all a chance. But you’ll have to prove yourself fit for the job. Come on now.”

Whirling around on one foot, Whisper began to walk away, leaving the others to share a look before following behind. Haru looked towards the retreating group, then back towards the square. Despite her hesitations, she followed. If nothing else, she could support Toshi in his test, right?

Oh, so she did want to try out after all. Guess that kneejerk reaction of Haru joining wasn't far from the mark after all. :V

“You didn’t sign up just because I did, did you?” Toshi awkwardly avoided Shimmer’s gaze, keeping his head facing forward.

Shimmer let out a little gasp, dramatically clasping her hands against her cheeks. “What? Noooo, of course not! Although, now that you mention it…”

She totally signed up because Toshi did, just saying.

Toshi let out an alarmed squeak and slowed his pace so that he was no longer walking beside the kirlia. But Shimmer shifted on Muse’s back so that she could turn and continue the conversation. “Really though, cutie, I joined because I thought it would be fun. And important, that too. Besides, I figured Musey would want to keep an eye on things, you know?” She punctuated her last words by giving Muse a pat on the back.

“I-I never said that!” Muse stammered, faltering.

“Never denied it either.”

Somehow, I never pegged Muse as the type to get driven crazy by Shimmer's crush on Toshi, but somehow this is wholly unsurprising right now.
:loltias:


Haru tuned out the rest of the conversation, brushing up against Toshi as they made their way towards a field just a bit outside of the village. Though she’d never used it herself, it wasn’t uncommon to see a couple mon from the village sparring or otherwise honing their skills.

The grass at the center was relatively short, easy enough to maneuver in for training purposes. It was also relatively flat, with few rocks or stones laying around to trip up any fighters. A few boulders dotted the tall grass beyond.

Haru: "Pretty sure that those boulders still count as an unfair advantage for Whisper since Hawlucha literally jump up and crash down on their enemies, but okay then." >_>;

Whisper came to a stop and spun around to face the following pokemon. “We’ll do the assessment here. Would all of you please stand off to the side? Except you, Toshi. Come with me.”

Toshi shot the others a quick, somewhat nervous glance before stepping forward, following Whisper to the center of the grass. “So, um, what did you want me to do?”

Whisper pulled the cloth bag off of her shoulder and tossed it aside, then crossed her wings and faced Toshi. “Like I said, I need to ascertain that you can handle yourself in a fight, should either of our… guests get rowdy.” She uncrossed her wings, crouching forward into a fighting pose. “You’ll be sparring against me.”

“Wh-what?” Toshi squeaked. “Against you?

Whisper: "... Toshi, who else did you think was going to handle this when we have three permanent guards in the entire village?" >v>;
Toshi: "... Someone without a level and typing advantage over me?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


“Of course,” Whisper replied promptly. “How better to test your prowess than to do so myself. Now, prepare yourself!”

Toshi stared, eyes wide like a noctowl. But then he shook off the shock and shifted into a battle stance, pawing at the ground.

Haru: "You know, Toshi, it's not too late to forfeit and get out of dodge-"
Toshi: "Haru, I thought you came here to support me!" >_>;

Whisper waited for just a few heartbeats longer to give him time to prepare. Then she charged forward with a battle cry. Her wings took on a metallic sheen, sunlight gleaming off the top. Toshi flinched, then shook it off and charged, curling into a ball to rush forward. Bidoof collided with wing and the two fighters bounced back. Toshi uncurled and landed on his feet, wincing slightly.

By the time he had recovered, Whisper was already rushing towards him. She sprang into the air, rocketing back towards Toshi beak first. She turned so that she’d land shoulder first, attempting to crush him under her weight.

Well, that's certainly going to lead to problems if it connects. ^^;

Toshi leaped forward and curled into a ball again, this time using the rollout to dodge. Whisper landed where he’d been just a heartbeat before. She was quick to recover, though. One somersault and she was already back on her feet.

To Haru’s right, Shimmer bounced up and down. “Woo, Go, Toshi! You’ve got this!” Haru kept her eyes on the field, though.

Shimmer: "Haruru, shouldn't you be being more supportive of Toshi-kins getting his big chance to be a part-time guard with me-?"
:what:

Haru: "Shimmer. Shut. Up. Already. You don't even know if you're going to pass your sparring!" >_>;

The bidoof rolled in a wide circle, turning back to rush down Whisper. But she was ready for him. She rushed forward to meet his challenge and lunged, striking him with her knee. He let out a pained squeal, thrown backwards by the blow, and hit the ground with a dull thud.

😬

That one's gonna leave a mark.

Everything went quiet. Haru stood tense, expecting that to be the end. Yet Toshi still struggled back to his feet.

Whelp, you can't say he's not determined, at least.

Whisper raised a wing and opened her mouth to speak, but Toshi charged again with a shrill cry. Moisture gathered around his stubby tail, forming into a swirling vortex of water as he ran. She moved to sidestep him, but he nimbly changed directions, spinning on his front paws so that he could slam the aqua tail into Whisper’s side.

Toshi rebounded from the attack and tensely stared Whisper down, panting. The feathers on the side he’d struck were disheveled and damp, though it was hard to tell how much damage he might have actually done. She stared him down with a fierce gaze for several heartbeats. Haru waited with bated breath, expecting Whisper to launch another attack. Instead, she relaxed, though her expression was unreadable.

“I think I’ve seen enough. Please stand to the side while I assess the others. We’ll talk in a bit.”

Shimmer: "Omigosh! He did it! Toshi-kins actually did it-!"
:AmazedCabot:

Haru: "Shimmer, that doesn't mean that you're also going to be able to do it, alright?" >_>;

Toshi tilted his head and shrank down slightly. “Did… did I pass?”

Whisper tilted her head up to look at the other pokemon. “I’ll discuss it with you after I’ve finished assessing everyone else. Consider it a maybe, for the moment.”

Which considering how stories like these work is about as good as hearing a 'yes'. :V

Her words seemed to satisfy Toshi well enough; with his head held high and a sparkle in his eyes, he ran back to the sidelines with renewed vigor. Shimmer passed him on the way back, called forth for her assessment. Muse pawed at the ground nervously, glancing back and forth between Toshi and Shimmer, before finally settling her attention on the bidoof. Haru hesitantly approached behind her.

“Your fighting was excellent, Toshi,” Muse said. “Between this and the fights back in Sunglow Thicket, it’s obvious that you’ve been training the last few seasons, haven’t you?”

Toshi grinned. “I have to if I’m going to join the rescuers or the society! I need to be in tip-top shape, or else they may not take me seriously.”

It's a bit of a nitpick, but I kinda wonder if there ought to have been more background hints or the like that this was going on with Toshi. Since the last that we saw of him was him getting his tail handed to him by Umbra, so it makes it a bit hard to pick up on this in retrospect.

Haru bit her lip. “Are you serious, then? About leaving?”

Toshi flinched and avoided Haru’s gaze. Muse shot Haru a questioning look but said nothing. “Well… yeah. I mean, not right away, obviously. But maybe in a couple moons… maybe when spring comes around, after Blue comes back from his expedition.”

Bold of you to assume that Blue is ever going to come back considering how there's some awful omens for the future of your village.
:fearfullaugh~1:


But you have a place here, Haru wanted to argue. She kneaded the ground in hopes of holding her tongue. It’s dangerous out there, more so than this relatively safe village. What if something happens? What if… No, she needed to stop those thoughts.

Which is exactly why something is going to happen to your ability to just stay here comfy in Theran Village. It's just how stories like these roll.

She took a deep breath. “Look. Toshi, um… I know you’re kind of busy right now. But maybe we could talk when you’re done? I’d… I’d appreciate it.”

Toshi tilted his head, his brow knit with worry. “I, um… sure? I guess I’ll catch you back at home.”

“That’ll work,” Haru agreed. “I’ll see you there.”

She turned. As she walked away, she heard Muse quietly ask Toshi if everything was okay. He mumbled something back, though Haru couldn’t hear it. She decided not to try and eavesdrop. She wasn’t sure she’d like the answer.

Oh, so Haru just figured that the whole "rescuer" thing was all a phase from Toshi that he'd grow out of, huh? That certainly puts a few things into perspective for her. She's really not used to being put outside her comfort zone, huh?

Haru’s troubled feelings did not go away as she returned to the village square. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get thoughts about Toshi out of her head. She should be happy for him. He was figuring out what he wanted to do in life and moving on. So why did it make her feel so… bad?

Because you just found out that the happy normal you've been taking for granted has a shelf life? Doesn't seem all that surprising to me, really.

She was so caught up in her thoughts, that she did not realize she’d wandered over to the guard’s hut until she stood just outside. She wasn’t the only one outside, though. So absorbed in her thoughts, she hadn’t even noticed Vale pacing around the entrance until the two collided with each other.

“Hey, watch it!” the manectric snarled, before realizing who he was talking to. He straightened up slightly, though he still addressed Haru in a low growl. “What are you doing here?”

Who put iron thorns in his nest? “Walking. Is that a problem?”

I mean, Jhorlo might as well have for him, but that's something for you to discover on your own when it comes time, really. ^^;

At her leading comment, he straightened up a bit more and averted his gaze. “Er… Right, sorry. You caught me at a bad time.

His problems were really none of her business, but she had noticed how agitated the manectric had been recently. Curiosity and concern led her to ask, “Is everything alright?”

Vale blinked once. Twice. A growl rumbled in his throat and he shook his head back and forth before beginning to pace once again. “Does everything look alright? This whole village has decided that it’s for the better to waste our time babysitting those two-” he violently jerked his head in the direction of the hut “-while we have much more important things to do! Fall is coming fast. We should be fixing up the town gate. Preparing preserves for winter, focusing on trade with the neighboring village, anything but this! And all for what? Just to supposedly rehabilitate a couple of pokemon that are just going to run off and contribute nothing the moment they get the chance? It’s pointless! Meaningless!”

Well someone is a debbie downer there, and I'm not at all convinced that Vale isn't going to wind up stabbing Umbra in the back at some point when he talks about her like this.

While Haru was inclined to agree, she couldn’t help but think to the pokemon sparring in the field. “I mean… you probably — no, definitely — have a point, but isn’t that why Whisper is asking for volunteers? To help relieve you guys?”

He paused, then scraped one paw against the ground. “Tch… that’s true. But it still wastes our time. They should be doing their own jobs. Besides, do you have any idea how much of Whisper’s budget is going into feeding those two? And now she’s going to pay volunteers as well? At this rate I’m going to end up with a pay cut.”

Image


More scraping. Vale let out a huff through his nose. “It’s a waste! Why couldn’t Jhorlo just make a decision himself? But no, he’s too sentimental about running things the way Lady Gratitude did. Says it builds community. Builds community my ass! It just divides us further!”

Haru shifted uncomfortably. Again, Vale’s sentiments resonated with her own, albeit with a much more aggressive approach. “I… guess you have a point,” she mumbled.

:fearfullaugh~1:


I hadn't realized it, but... uh... yeah, Haru really does vibe pretty well with "Vale, with more innocence" in terms of overall mindset. That... is probably a terrible omen for the places she's going to go in this story.

Vale stared for a moment, then sat down and scratched behind his ear. “See, you get it, Haru. I’m glad someone around here has a bit of sense. I oughta talk to Jhorlo about this. Not that it’ll do any good.” Haru let out a hum of agreement. Vale, in response, stood back up and continued his agitated pacing. “If Whisper would just hurry up and get back, maybe I could actually talk to Jhorlo before he retires for the evening. But no, I’m sitting here babysitting a couple of pokemon that are barely any more civilized than a wildener!”

Probably a good thing that Nip isn't present for this, since I could already see the
:GrumpNip:
expression he'd have at Vale's last line there.

Maybe he was right. Maybe he should talk to Jhorlo about this. If nothing else, maybe Vale could get him to understand that Nip should be someone else’s problem. Maybe something for the enforcers to deal with, not something for a village about as far from the hotspots of civilization as could be.

Haru. Hon, what are you doing right now? .-.

She hesitated for a second, not sure if she should offer her thought. She wanted to get back home, and she had things to do. But she said it anyways. “I… If you think you’re only going to be a few minutes, I guess I could watch them so you can go talk to Jhorlo.”

Vale tilted his head. “Wait, really? I don’t know… are you sure, Haru? If something goes wrong, you’re not exactly a fighter.”

Haru: "That was uncalled for, really." >.<
Vale: "What? Am I supposed to just lie to your face then? It is Toshi that's the one that's been doing all the training lately."
:AlviseUnamused:


“Well… No, you’re right. But we are in the middle of the village. Besides, I held my own against Nip well enough before.” She elected to omit that she had to use an orb to stop him last time.

I mean, Vale would probably just have flatly turned her down if she had brought up the Orb, so... yeah. Smart call there. Or at least for getting what she wanted.

The manectric gave her a hard stare for a moment longer. A strange, unreadable expression crossed his face. It almost seemed like… frustration? Then he shook it off and stretched out his forelegs, raising his back into the air. He yawned. “Well, if you insist. No skin off my back. Just hang around inside, I’ll be back soon.”

He turned and rushed off, leaving Haru alone in front of the entrance.

Haru hesitated outside, suddenly having second thoughts. She was just one bidoof. What was she supposed to do if both Nip and Tempest came after her? She barely held her own against Nip. How was she supposed to handle both of them?

... Suck up your pride and ask Shimmer for help? :V

Haru: "Oh screw that noise. I'll take my chances on my own." >_>;

Relax, she told herself. They’re locked up in there and I’m out here, and I’m in change. They can’t do anything to me.

Resolved, she stepped inside the hut.

I'm pretty sure that that's tempting fate on multiple levels there, but okay, Haru.

Tempest was lying with his back up against the bars, his head on the ground. His eyes were closed, and his expression was relatively relaxed. Fortunately, she couldn’t see the nasty scars on his neck at this angle. He flicked his ears at the rustling sound of Haru entering the room, but otherwise didn’t move.

Nip, too, was up against the bars, stretching a paw across the small space between the two cells to just barely brush his claws through Tempest’s fur. He barely glanced at Haru, then spoke to Tempest in a low voice, his voice so quiet that Haru couldn’t hear the words.

Haru: "... Isn't Whisper supposed to have gotten on your two's cases about not collaborating as prisoners?"
Nip: "How do you expect us to do that easily when one of us is mute right now?"
:GrumpNip:


She shifted uncomfortably. Why was he being so quiet? What didn’t he want her to hear? Was he maybe… planning an escape? Despite her earlier bravado, she suddenly felt very, very weak.

Again, you could go and wrangle Shimmer so that way-

Haru:
Image


“H-hey,” she began nervously, coming to a stop in front of the two cells. “Mind telling me what you’re so keen on keeping quiet about?”

Nip glanced up at her with a frown and narrowed eyes. “We’ll talk later,” he said to Tempest before retracting his arm, standing up, and walking to sit on his nest in the back of the cell, facing Haru.

Still, he said nothing to her, and she didn’t like that. “Come on, just fess up. Or should I tell Whisper that you’re plotting something? Because that’s the only thing I can think of that you’d want to keep quiet.

Oh yeah, that's not going to result in a tense and adversarial encounter there. Not at all.

Nip was back on his feet in an instant. He slunk to the front of the cell, his ear laid flat and his maw twisted into a snarl. “What is wrong with you? It’s like you’re trying to get me killed!”

Haru stumbled backwards before remembering that he couldn’t get to her. “T-that’s not true! But you’re already on thin ice, and you’ve given me no reason to just blindly trust you. Look where that got us already.”

Uh. Yeah, no. You're just being more than a little dickish right now, Haru. Since you literally started your conversation by threatening to get Nip in trouble.

He scoffed, turning his head. “Fine. If you must know, I was telling Tempest about the hardships I endured to get here. It’s not easy to outrun a pokemon that knows how to track you, you know. But that was none of your business, so I don’t see why I needed to tell you. Besides, our previous conversations suggest that you wouldn’t believe me anyways. You probably still don’t, so why should I bother?”

“T-that’s—” Haru cut off. He did have a point. There was very little he could say that would have changed her opinion. But she wasn’t about to let him win. Not now. “W-well, your actions speak louder than your words. You try to act like you feel remorse, but you’re just scared of the consequences! Here you are, hiding behind the village’s protection, doing the bare minimum to act like you’ve changed. But in the end, you’re the one that went and stole an egg from the mons that helped you like some… some lawless wildener!

Wow, really going out of your way to get the audience to question your sympathy there, huh, Haru? I see you didn't bring up the Vale comparison in the narration just for a giggle.

Nip stumbled backwards, his eyes wide. Tempest rose to his feet, his tails lashing. Although his gaze was neutral and steady, there was a fierceness in his eyes that almost made Haru regret opening her mouth.

Yeah, that tends to happen when you sling that sort of comparison around, especially since Nip has met Wildeners recently that were personable to him.

“How dare you,” Nip growled. His head was down where Haru couldn’t see his face, but the way his claws trembled at his sides betrayed his emotions. “I’m not asking you to like me, or act like I haven’t made mistakes. But by the gods, Haru, can’t you give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m trying?!

Not that Haru hasn't been constantly antagonizing you, but you could also try to be less of a perpetually grumpy gus there, Nip
:joltyshrug~1:


By the time he finished speaking, he was shouting. He looked up, his face nearly unreadable. Was it anger? Hurt? Something else? A combination of conflicting emotions? Haru couldn’t tell. All she knew was that she hadn’t expected such a volatile response. Her heart raced as she stared wide-eyed back at the sneasel, expecting him to try and strike her from beyond the bars.

Haru: "Boy am I regretting coming here on my own right about now."
:uhhh:


“Haru? What are you doing here?” The tense atmosphere shifted to the entryway. Whisper stood within the doorframe, her beak hanging slightly open. She took one heartbeat to assess the room, then her gaze turned stern and she straightened up. “Will you please explain what exactly you are doing here? Where is Vale?”

Haru scrambled to stand at attention. “Vale wanted to talk with Jhorlo! Said he wouldn’t be long so I offered to give him a few minutes break, that’s all!”

Ah yes, casually throwing Vale under the bus there, I see. Some prime maturity on display.

Whisper tilted her head, skeptical. “Really now? Even though you had no interest in helping out?”

Haru felt her body grow warm with embarrassment. “W-well… it was only supposed to be a few minutes and… he made a good point…”

Whisper stared a moment longer before sighing. “I’ll talk to him later. You’re free to go, Haru. No. You need to go. That’s an order.”

I think she likes you, Haru.
:blepgia:


“Wait, are you done with the sparring matches already?”

“They were just quick sparring matches. Only took a few minutes.” Whisper dusted off one of her wings, approaching one of the chests. A burst of cold air — the remnants of a hail orb used in the confined space — escaped before Whisper retrieved a package of… nope, Haru didn’t want to know what was inside. She had a good enough idea.

Wait, is that supposed to be meat? I assume it's supposed to be since humanoid eagle plus refrigerated contents, but I wonder if it'd have made sense to throw in something on top such as a passing mention of something to beat it over the heads of the readers such as the bundle being stained red, since it took me a while to get what was going on here.

“Your brother will be partnering up with Twi to watch the sneasel every few days,” Whisper continued. Nip let out a groan at Twi’s name, but a sharp look from Whisper made him quickly avert his gaze.

“I… see,” Haru said. “I guess I should get going, then. I have work to do, after all.”

Yeah, I figured that Toshi would wind up getting that position. Guess you should've stuck around and done the same, huh, Haru?

“As do I. Take care of yourself, Haru, and may the gods light your path.”

Recognizing that the statement was well-intentioned, Haru held her tongue and turned to leave, not even daring to look at Nip as she left. Still, she swore she could feel his gaze glaring at her back, and had a feeling he was in no rush to see her again. Good, the feeling was mutual.

Narrator: "They'll totally see each other in the imminent future again."

She’d barely made it across the square before she heard a voice calling her name. Glancing up, she caught sight of Toshi making his way from the clinic, smelling faintly of oran berries and medicinal herbs. There was a cheerful, fierce, perhaps even defiant, look in his eye as he approached.

“Guess who’s helping the guard?” he said with excitement as soon as she was close.

“I already heard, Whisper told me,” she replied.

Toshi: "... Bah, you're no fun, Haru." >.<

He tilted his head. “Really? What were you doing talking to Whisper? In fact… Why are you still here? I thought you’d be back near home by now.”

“Well, I stopped to talk to Vale,” Haru explained, deciding to leave her altercation with Nip out of the discussion. She didn’t need a repeat of their last conversation. “But I guess this works out, because I wanted to talk to you anyways.”

Considering how your last talk with Toshi turned out, are you sure that's a good idea, Haru? ^^;

Toshi averted his gaze, shifting in place. “I mean… I guess? What do you want to talk about?”

Haru nibbled at her lip. “Walk with me,” she mumbled, turning towards the path home. Toshi hesitated before following her. She was silent for a while, trying to carefully think about what she wanted to say. There were all sorts of ways she could word it, but in the end, she just let out a sigh and stopped walking.

“Look, I’m sorry about my outburst the other day. I… might have gotten a bit heated, and I shouldn’t have directed my anger at you.”

Oh, so Haru does apologize for moments where she messes up. For whatever reason, I'm currently having a strange amount of trouble thinking of a prior occasion where she did the same.

Toshi blinked. “A bit? I’d… argue that was more than a bit heated. But… apology accepted, anyways.”

Haru waited for him to say something more. But when he didn’t, she continued. “I just… I’m frustrated. It just feels like everyone is letting things go too easily. With Nip and, to a lesser extent, Tempest. And besides that… I’m… worried about you.”

“Worried? Why?”

“Well, because you want to go off to the bigger towns and put yourself in danger! Rescuing, exploring, they’re both dangerous jobs. Besides that, the bigger towns, they’re just more dangerous in general. It’s safe here. Jhorlo and the guards, they all work so hard to keep everyone safe, and that’s not something you can say of other places.”

Not that Haru knows it yet, but...

Image


Toshi was silent now. “I get it, Haru. You’re worried about me. And maybe you’re right to be worried. But in the end, it’s my decision to go, and I want to go because I want to help people. Rescuers, they make sure everyone stays safe. Explorers chart new land, but they also figure out what places are too dangerous for everyone else to go to, you know?”

That... feels like a very rose-tinted view of things, but I suppose it's better to become a Rescuer/Explorer for idealistic reasons than cynical motivations. It seems fitting for Toshi's character as an optimist/idealist.

Haru opened her mouth, hesitated, closed it. Then she breathed once, preparing her reply. “I just…I know you’ve always had an interest, but this all seems so sudden. I’m used to slow days, but lately it feels like time has flown by and there’s never been a quiet moment. But… I’ll… try to be more considerate of what you want out of your life, okay?”

Toshi smiled. “I appreciate it, Sis. Thanks.”

Haru let out a breath, and it felt like some of what had been weighing her down was gone. “Thanks, Toshi. Come on. We should get home.”

Toshi: "If talking things out between us made you feel that much better, Haru, maybe it's a sign for you to do the same with Nip. ^^
Haru: "Let's... not get crazy here, Toshi." >_>;

Despite her frustrations, Haru’s evening was uneventful, and her morning was equally quiet, breezing by without much thought. Stretch. Breakfast. Work. And now it was lunch time. She meandered down the path back from the area they’d been logging from, expecting to pick up a warm lunch of roasted carrots and potatoes from her mom. To her left, the river bubbled, a few early autumn leaves drifting by in the current. To her right was an old wooden fence, a gentle slope up into Ruffle and Roselei’s oran field just beyond.

Ah yes, the story of everyone's lives on a workday. "Where did the time go?" is a very relatable feeling.

Familiar voices drifted from above. Not Roselei nor Ruffle’s but instead Shimmer and Muse. The only reason she could think of for them to be there was if they were watching Nip already. She paused, tuning in to their conversation. Shimmer’s louder voice came through much clearer.

“Here’s what I’m thinking, Musey. We should make Toshi a cute little goodbye package, so that when he leaves for the expedition society, he’ll know just how much I- I mean, all of us care. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

“Are you… sure you don’t have some other motive?” Came Muse’s voice.

“None whatsoever!” Shimmer cheerfully responded.

Image


You probably want to write out the rest of Muse’s line if Haru could hear Shimmer’s line right before in full. Though surprised that Shimmer is talking about seeing Toshi off already when he hasn't made a hard commitment to leave yet.

Haru sighed and scrunched up her nose before turning away. Shimmer was being Shimmer again. No ulterior motive, what a joke.

Shimmer: "Haruru, was I really that transparent-?" .-.
Haru: "Yes."
:gardexhausted:


The voices went quiet and Haru began to walk again. But before she could get far, a white figure appeared at the top of the slope. “Miss Haru, is that you? Shimmer said you were nearby. She wanted to talk to you for a moment.”

How did she- oh right. Psychic. Empath. Whatever. Biting back a groan, Haru considered just ignoring Muse and moving on. But that would be rude to her, and Muse had done nothing wrong. Besides, she’d just end up hearing an earful from Shimmer later. Resigned, she stepped off the path, wood scratching at her back as she just barely squeezed under the fence. Muse waited for her at the top before leading the way back between rows of the pale-pink-leafed plants.

So how much of that thought process did Shimmer snoop in on anyways? :V

They made their way to a path that broke the rows in two. Muse paused to wait for Haru before continuing further down the path, where she cut back into another row. Further down the path was Shimmer, who was happily babbling on about whatever nonsense came across her brain, though she never took her eyes off Nip, who was quietly using his claws to slice berries off at the stem. He glanced up at the sound of approaching footsteps but went right back to his work as soon as he saw that it was just Muse and Haru. A bit further down stood a roserade, who was looking over the crops with a stern expression, glancing back at Nip and Shimmer every once in a while.

“Ah there you are Haru, I knew I sensed a bundle of sunshine and anger.”

You are never, ever going to convince me that Shimmer doesn't do this on purpose.
:loltias:


Haru tried her best to ignore what was probably meant to be a light-hearted jab. “What do you want, Shimmer?”

“Can’t a gal just want to talk?” Shimmer replied in a teasing tone, sauntering towards Muse. She brushed green hair away from her face before leaning against the absol. “Really though, I just wanted to get your opinion on something is all. I know it’s a ways off, but Toshi’s not gonna be around forever. I want to get him something to remember me by. At least until he’s ready to come back and settle down. You know him best. What kind of gift would he like best?”

“Peace and quiet,” Haru said without missing a beat. “In fact, both of us would like that. All you need to do is leave him alone.

Shimmer: "Something tangible, Haruru."
:gardexhausted:

Haru: "Tangible peace and quiet, then." >_>;

“Awww, what's the fun in that? It’s not like I’m going to message him every day to make sure he doesn’t forget me or anything.”

Haru couldn’t tell if that was a joke. She really hoped that was a joke.

It totally wasn't a joke and we all know it.
:LULgia:


“Really, though,” Shimmer continued. “It’s not like mon from this area leave all that often. Dad says we’ve had more pokemon come to the village than we’ve had leave. Getting out of the bigger towns, or settling down in something more secure than the wildener life. Like Whisper. Or your mom, in the former case. I think the last mon that moved out was… Jaques and Lotte’s dad, and that was cycles ago. Like. I was barely a hatchling long ago. And…” She leaned in and cupped one hand to the side of her mouth, lowering her voice. “I’m sure you know, but the circumstances around his leaving were rather questionable, considering he left his kids behind, and his mate had just… mysteriously vanished.”

Considering what we found out about the fate of Jaques and Lotte's mom, I'm not fully convinced that their dad really moved out of town.

Haru fought the urge to snap at Shimmer. “You know, it’s kind of rude to gossip about such serious matters.”

Shimmer looked taken aback. She glanced down, speaking in a mumble. “Yeah. You’re probably right. Sorry.” Then she was back to her usual hyper self. “But that’s besides the point. Back to the gifting.”

Oh, I see that that Shimmer does have a sense of shame. Sorta. Since I was actually a little surprised at how quickly she shut up there.

A huff escaped Haru. “Look. He’s not going anywhere for a few more seasons at least. I’m pretty sure they said they weren’t accepting any new recruits until Blue returns from the other side of the Great Misty Canyon. And that could be moons away.

That's... not what Toshi told you in his own words, but okay there, Haru.

At the mention of the canyon, Nip glanced up, tilting his head. But as soon as he caught Haru’s eye, he quickly averted his gaze and returned to his work.

Shimmer, however, did not miss Nip’s glance. “Did you have something to say, Nippy-Nip?” she asked in a sing-song voice.

Oh stars, she’s giving him nicknames now? Haru could feel a headache coming on.

Shimmer: "... Yes? How is giving a nickname not a sign of familiarity-?"
:joltyshrug~1:

Haru: "Have you considered showing familiarity in a way that doesn't make it sound like you're talking to someone from Tor's day care?" >.<

“Nothing,” Nip grunted without looking up. He pulled another oran off the stem and dropped it into a basket.

“Come on,” Shimer said, draping one arm over Muse’s back. She waved at Nip with the other. “You know you can talk, right? Make conversation? We’re not going to bite. Well. Haru might but that’s just because she’s grumpy as usual.”

“E-excuse me?” Haru stammered.

:burned~1:


Nip said nothing, continuing to quietly harvest the berries. For a moment, it seemed like he was just going to ignore them entirely. Then he finally said, “I…. Have to admit, it’s impressive that you can grow so many berries. So efficiently, too. But do you really have need for so many? I know orans are valuable for healing, but…”

“You have that much right,” Roselei said gruffly, approaching the group. A thorny vine shot out from under her blue flower, wrapping around the basket beside Nip. Another vine came from her red flower, and she used it to sit a fresh, empty basket to his side.

Haru: "Have you all never heard of making preservatives from berries up north or something?"
:what:

Nip: "Look, in case if you haven't gathered, but we're kinda short on berries writ large where I'm from." >_>;

“Orans stay fresh for an obscenely long time, and are an ingredient in most healing medicines, besides just being used on their own. Everyone needs them for that, so there’s a need to grow them, and they do well in trade. Plus, they have a very smooth taste and texture, so they’re a common cooking ingredient, too.”

I mean, yeah. That sounds like a good reason to grow a ton of the things.

“Maybe you should learn a bit about growing them,” Shimmer suggested. “I’m sure that kind of knowledge would be useful up where you’re from, right?”

It’s not like I’m going back there,” Nip grumbled. “Why would I go back where I’m unwanted? No, wait, where I’m wanted dead?

That’s a bold assumption if I ever heard one. Since I’m not convinced that Nip’s home tribe and its environs got built up this much by the story for it to never be shown onscreen.


Shimmer: "... A sense of altruism?"
:gardeshrug~1:

Nip: "I'll save that for places that aren't trying to kill me, thanks.

An awkward silence fell over the group. Haru shifted uncomfortably, while Muse turned her attention elsewhere, her tail twitching. “Are we done here?” Haru asked. “I was headed home for lunch.”

Shimmer waved a hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. If we’re putting the gifting idea on ice then we can chat later. Say hi to Toshi for me will ya?”

She certainly would not. “Sure,” she said.

On one level that's kinda rude there, on the other, I'm pretty sure that "Shimmer says hi" would make Toshi flustered enough that this might actually be the correct course of action for handling this. o<o

Haru turned to leave. But before she could take more than a step back towards the path, Muse tensed up, holding a paw in front of her.

“Muse, what—”

“Something’s wrong,” Muse said tersely, her eyes on the sky. “Something might… it’s… There!”

The absol raised her paw to point vaguely in the direction of the village square. Haru followed the gesture. It was hard for her to pick out at first, but then she noticed something off. A ring of light pulsed in the sky, nearly the same blue, only visible against the clouds.

Oh right, this is the chapter where Celebi appears in-story.

The first pulse was slow, like a gentle wave at the edge of a lake. But then the pulses grew faster, more frequent. Five sets of eyes stared transfixed as there was one final flash of pulsing light. A short pause followed, then something burst through the center, whizzing through the air like a falling star. But just as quick as it had appeared, Haru lost sight of it below the trees. She didn’t miss the crash that followed.

“We need to get back to town,” Shimmer said, her voice uncharacteristically firm and serious. She looked at Nip. “You, Nip, you gotta stick with us. Get on Muse’s back. I’ll run alongside. Haru, come on. You too, Roselei.”

Nip: "So do I get any say in this, or-?"
Haru: "Look, do you really not want an excuse to stop picking berries for a while?"
Nip: "... Fair point, really. Let's go see what just happened."

Nip stood up, pushing the basket away, he shot Shimmer an uncertain look before complying.

“Shouldn’t we be going away from the big bang?” Haru said, incredulous. “It could be dangerous!”

Toshi: "Isn't that all the more reason to go there in case if someone is hurt or needs help? I mean, wouldn't be good of me to just ghost a 'mon in need like that when I want to be a Rescuer."
:joltyshrug~1:

Haru: "Have you ever considered, you know, reconsidering the whole 'Rescuer' thing?" >_>;

Muse let out a breath as Nip climbed on her back, waiting for him to steady himself. “Come or don’t, it’s your choice, Haru. But if there are others that are hurt… we could use all the help we can get.”

Oh hey, Muse made the point of the last cutaway gag explicitly in the text. So I was onto something there.

With that, she turned and raced into the oran bushes, Shimmer following close behind.

“I’ll catch up with them in a moment,” Roselei said. “I’ll get a pack of orans, in case they’re needed.”

Haru looked at the roserade, then back in the direction Shimmer and Muse had gone. She really didn’t want to put herself in danger. But if there were pokemon that were hurt, and she ignored that…

She turned and ran after Shimmer and Muse.

I wonder if that was a sense of duty that compelled her to go, or more "I wouldn't be able to live it down". I'm sure that Haru would insist that it's the former, but in light of what I've seen of her thought process, I'm not too sure what the actual motivator there would be closer to.

By the time she stumbled down the slope and scooted under the fence, gasping to catch her breath, the other three were already well on their way up the path. Muse had dashed ahead, but now paused to give Shimmer a chance to catch up. Haru began to stumble in their general direction, but the others ran ahead without her, soon disappearing out of sight as the path curved around a small copse.

As she passed by the houses of other mon, they were noticeably quiet. Anxiety wormed its way into her belly. This wasn’t right. Normally there’d be at least a mon or two loitering about along the residential path. Had everyone else gone to investigate the crash? Or else, were they hiding away? She certainly wanted to hide.

Reaching the village square only worsened that feeling. The outer edges were eerily quiet; only Tor and the ghost children were nearby, Tor quietly murmuring in an admittedly awful attempt at calming them down as he herded them away.
Haru: "Oh, so everyone is hiding away. That's... uh... a-are we sure that we need to run to this big bang again?"
:uhhh:


She left them behind, catching sight of more pokemon further away, close to Ruffle’s berry stand. Or where the stand used to be, at least. Bits of wood, loose berries, and other debris had been strewn about the area. Haru weaved her way between the mess and the crowd. She caught sight of her father and began to make her way towards him, then saw Shimmer pushing her way through the gathered pokemon. Morbid curiosity won out, and she followed the kirlia, catching sound of nervous rumblings from nearby pokemon.

Oh, well never mind then. They're not hiding after all. Though poor Ruffle. Hope there's property insurance in this setting, otherwise that's going to do a number on her livelihood. ._.

“I don’t like this,” Romi murmured, nervously striking her hoof against the ground. “This has to be an ill omen, right?”

“Where’s Anu?” a pidove, Numi, said. He fluttered up to settle on Romi’s back as Haru passed. “Surely, he would know, right?”

“He went to fetch Jhorlo,” Phoel said. “Said he’d be back shortly.”

An ill omen? Looking to Anu instead of a pokemon that could help with the injured, like Lecha? That was dumb. This was obviously something serious, but how was she supposed to take it seriously if all anyone was doing was striking it up as some sign from the gods?

Toshi: "Haru, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the village is seeking out Anu because whatever just happened isn't just something that you patch someone up over?"
:what:

Haru: "I mean, it's not as if the gods really exist, so..."
:joltyshrug~1:


But as she finally reached the front of the crowd, she stopped short, her mouth hanging agape.

Ruffle sat to the side, her leaves stained with berry juices and from the sap that leaked from a nasty gash along her right side. She trembled, struggling to eat an oran berry, as Twi pressed a rag to her side. Her eyes were still glued to her stand — or what was left of it, at least.

Splintered wood was bent every which way, shattered to bits. All the baskets had been upturned or destroyed, and the ground just behind was torn apart from the impact of something. A something that Lecha was now leaning over next to the impact site, her hands glowing with pulses of psychic energy.

Haru: "Oh, so Lecha is here. But who on earth is-?"

As she moved so that she could see who Lecha was working on, she could see just how badly they were injured: sap leaked across the ground from the cuts that shredded their arms, their head, and every other part of their body. One arm was shriveled from a nasty burn, and there was at least one other nasty burn on their back.

But despite the pokemon’s mangled form, and despite the fact that the injured pokemon was something Haru had never seen for real, their shape was still recognizable enough. Her mind went back to a loosely bound book of pictures. An elderly bibarel sat beside her, flipping the page to a picture of a small green pokemon that flitted through the trees, fingers pulsing with blue energy as it prepared to travel through time.

Some way, somehow, Celebi was laying half-dead in front of her.

Haru: "Wh-What? How is-?! But that's- And- How?!"
Toshi: "Still don't believe that the gods exist, Haru?"

Alright, onto the end of chapter recap:

It's a bit of a slow-building chapter, but it very much lives up to the description, and it's nice to see a few plot threads that were previously very disconnected crash into each other at the end and tee up the part where I'm assuming the plot starts to get real for Haru and the gang. The leadup to things was also nice, since I felt like it did a pretty good job at exploring Haru, her flaws as a character, as well as her flashes of cognizance about them that while not all the way there yet, will ultimately help shape where she winds up going as a character once she gets stripped away from what's familiar and comfortable to her.

As for things that I was a bit less sold on... beyond the quibbles that I pointed out in the write-up, I'm not really sure. Perhaps it would've been nice to see Haru broach the idea of whether or not she would also need to apologize to Nip, even if she's likely not ready in her state of mind to actually go through with it. But that's nitpicking of me, and for all I know, you already do that in future chapters. It will be something that I keep an eye out for as I continue on, though.

But altogether, I thought it was a nice chapter, and I got pretty strong "end of the beginning" vibes from it @windskull . The next few chapters on my queue as part of the TRversary challenge are on the shorter side, so expect to see a few more of these in the very near future. Kudos on the writing, and hope the feedback is helpful and an enjoyable read. ^^
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Alright, the next few chapters are a bit on the lighter side for length, and I do have a review challenge to deliver on for TR. Sounds like as good a reason as any to just jump in and start reading, huh?

Chapter 16

Celebi. In front of him was Celebi. The great messenger of time. Prophet of doom and fortune. Struck down as if little more than prey.

Fear struck at Nip’s chest like burning claws. His fur bristled, but he couldn’t look away from the horrifying scene. He felt Shimmer push past him, bumping against his side as she hurried towards Celebi, healing energy already at her fingertips. He paid her little mind, his eyes still stuck on Celebi. Were they breathing? Were they alive? What could do something like this to a god?

I mean, considering the anime and its associated movies, I'm pretty sure the answer is "a lot of things" since Legendaries get seriously hurt fairly easily in them.

Though "Prophet of Doom and Fortune", huh? I mean, it makes sense, though I suppose that it fits with the idea of finding out what the future holds being something that could at once be really, really great, and really, really awful to experience.

It seemed the villagers had similar questions. Around him, he heard hushed whispers, uncertain mumbles, and panicked mumblings. He ignored them, the blood pounding in his ears drowning out their sound.

Oh Yveltal, he silently prayed. What could do such a horrible thing?

Well, the guy who narrated the first scene of this story seems like a pretty solid option, really. Since he sounded like the type who would be willing to take a swing at Celebi or another 'mon of its ilk.

“Out of the way!”

A yowl, louder than any other voice, finally cut through the fog of panic.

His head held high, Jhorlo carefully picked his way through the crowd, each pawstep careful. He did not look at any of the gathered pokemon, keeping his gaze forward as the two purrloin moved ahead of him in sync, clearing onlookers out of his path. Near Muse, he came to a stop, staring down at the Celebi with an unreadable expression.

“What happened?” He asked Lecha, his voice silky smooth. “Has anyone seen what did this?”

:ScaredCabot:


Jhorlo's total unfazedness during all of this honestly strikes me as at once suspicious and deeply concerning. Like it just feels like something is up since that's really your first reaction to Celebi turning up seriously injured in your village? Really?

“Don’t bother me right now,” Lecha snapped, her voice uncharacteristically sharp. “I need focus if you want me to save the fallen god. Twi! Prep a rawst and sitrus poultice. Shimmer, keep using that healing pulse. We need to stabilize him before we can move him.”

Jhorlo stared a moment longer, his eyes narrowed to slits. For a heartbeat, Nip thought he might strike Lecha for daring to talk to him like that. But instead, he turned back to the crowd, raising his voice.

“Pokemon of Theran Village. Please return to your daily routine, if you would. Standing around gawking will help no one. Allow Lecha to do her work, and then perhaps when she is done we will get our answers.”

Considering how Jhorlo has consistently given off vibes of being the sort of 'mon to hold a grudge in spectacular fashion, that's... a worrisome interaction with Lecha there.
:fearfullaugh~1:


A few pokemon quieted to anxious mutters, fidgeting and glancing between the felled god and the mayor. They seemed like they didn’t want to leave, and Nip couldn’t blame them.

Jhorlo cleared his throat and spoke again, his voice dropping into the slightest of growls. “That was an order from your mayor. You all have work to do, and waiting here helps no one. For the sake of the village, and all the pokemon who live here, return to your work. Or at least return to your homes and stop crowding the square. If something important changes, we will summon you all, understand?”

Boy does the charm come off Jhorlo fast when he doesn't get what he want. It's gonna make that moment when his true colors come out in public all the more spectacular assuming that that's not already an open secret in town.

Reluctantly, a few of the pokemon began leaving, casting glances over their shoulders. Ruffle returned to her berry stand — or what was left of it — and heaved a sigh before beginning to inspect the wreckage for anything salvageable. From the back of the crowd, Chip approached her and began to speak in a low voice before raising a paw and waving in Nip’s general direction.

“Haru, Muse, Nip! Why don’t you three come over here and help sort this mess out.”

Reminder to either come down hard on one of Chip/Chipper or else play up that one is a nickname to the other a bit more in earlier parts of the story, since I see we're back to 'Chip' here.

Nip suppressed a wince, trying to ignore the tiredness in his limbs. Muse turned and began to walk towards the bibarel, and Nip looked over his shoulder back at Celebi. Anu was there now, having brought a sturdy wooden board to place Celebi on, in hopes of safely transporting them into Lecha’s hut. Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to the ruined stand.

“Can you believe it?” Chip said when they drew close, keeping his voice low. “Celebi. Here. In our lifetime. When was the last time anyone heard of gods just appearing?

- Meanwhile in the background -
Haru: "... I still don't understand how any of this is possi-"
:riOMEGAlu:

Nip: "It's called 'you were wrong'? Not like that's exactly been rare in this story so far." >_>;

“Did you call us over to gossip?” Haru grumbled. Nip shot a glance out of the corner of his eye. Despite her tone, her expression betrayed stormy feelings, surprising Nip. The way she had talked before, he was surprised she’d feel anything about the appearance of a god among them.

Uh... no, you should've expected her to be shaken up and on-edge, since this was literally something that Haru was convinced was just fairy tales until the very end of last chapter.

“Right. Sorry,” Chip mumbled. “Anyways, I figured we could clean up while, well, while we wait. Y’know? Be good neighbors and all. Figured Nip could help, too. Doubt there would be any point in returning to what he was doing right now, right?”

“That’s quite fine, I think,” Muse said. She turned her head to look towards the medic hut. Shimmer was just disappearing through the entrance. She kneaded the ground anxiously before returning her attention to the small gathering. “I believe Whisper would be fine with that arrangement. I… don’t want to go too far away, myself.”

Muse: "Least of all because I'm pretty sure this is a terrible omen for the future, so might as well stay alert for premonitions for a while."
:fearfullaugh~1:


Sensing that he would not get out of more manual labor, Nip sighed and began to pick over the splintered bits of wood. He, Haru, and Chip spent some time in silence, gathering pieces up and into a neat pile. At some point, Toshi joined them, taking one quick look before falling in order. Muse kept her eye on Nip, occasionally casting glances back to the hut. Ruffle worked her away around the group, gathering the smashed berries and inspecting them to see if anything was salvageable. At some point, her mate joined her and began helping, consoling the shaken Ruffle. But her eyes, too, betrayed troubled thoughts. Was she upset about the berry stand? Celebi? Or perhaps something else entirely.

Wait, is the place where Ruffle lives in the back of that hut? Though even if not... yeah, that kinda makes the end of the bonus chapter hit pretty differently since Ruffle didn't exactly get rewarded for renewing her vows to her patron there.

“Do you think Celebi is here for a reason, Dad?”

Toshi’s voice shook Nip out of his thoughts. The younger bidoof had sat down for a minute and was currently working at a splinter that had managed to lodge itself in his paw. Chip bent down to sniff at the paw, before reaching down to carefully pull the woodchip loose. When he stood back up, he sighed.

“I don’t know,” the bibarel admitted. “Your Grandpa Catkin might would’a known. He studied the legends in the area, back in his youth. But I’m afraid I only ever really memorized the stories about old ‘Gigas.”

Boy it sure is a good thing that Catkin didn't think of explicitly writing those down anywhere, huh? ^^;

“Celebi always shows up for a reason. If he’s here, and in that condition, it can only mean trouble for all of us.” The words were out of Nip’s mouth before he even realized it. Six pairs of eyes were on him before he even finished talking.

“Do you know something about Celebi?” Toshi asked. Haru scoffed and continued to work, though Nip didn’t miss the curious glance she shot his way.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Nip replied. “Celebi may be one of the lesser gods, but he’s the emissary of Dialga, ruler of time. Even after the gods all vanished, Celebi still appeared to mortals from time to time, often in times of great change, or great peril, to offer a choice or to offer a warning. If he’s here...” He paused, letting his words hang in the air, “then it means that something will happen that could alter the history of the world.”

On one level, this is really fascinating world history / folklore, and while I suppose it would've made sense that we wouldn't have seen too much of this since Haru's busy going "lol, gods" in earlier chapters, I kinda wonder if there should've been more subtle hints building up to this reveal there.

His words were met with silence and stares, no one moving as the weight of his words sank in. At least, until Haru let out a huff and continued to work. “You can’t really believe that, can you? First off, that’s assuming that someone like Celebi has our best interest at heart. And second, even if that were true — which I highly doubt — why would he come here, to a frontier village, to say something?”

“Why not?” Nip countered. “It means that this, here—” he swept his paw out, gesturing to the area around him “—is where the trouble will be. Or else there’s someone here that can change it.”

Haru: "Nip, this is a rural village that's literally named after Oran Berries. Why on earth would anything like that ever happen here?" >_>;
Nip: "... You don't read a lot of stories, do you?"
:wigglypensive:


“You sure know a lot about these things,” Chip said. “Did you study these sort of things?”

“Sort of.” Nip scowled. “Not by my choice. But I guess the knowledge has come in handy. And… it is rather interesting, I suppose.”

Haru paused to squint at him, but pointedly turned her back and said nothing more.

I'm guessing that that ties into what Nip's old day job in his tribe used to be, since this feels like some awfully involved and detailed knowledge that I wouldn't expect a common hunter to have.

Muse was the next one to break the silence. “I just hope Shimmer is okay,” she mumbled. “I should be in there watching over her. She still hasn’t fully recovered from the mind reading accident. What if something goes wrong? What if she gets hurt?” Her paws worked at the ground as she glanced between Nip and the medic hut.

Before she could fret further, Toshi stepped up and comfortingly pressed up against her leg. “Come on, Muse. It’s Shimmer. When have you ever known her to let something like that get her down? She’ll be fine.”

While I get that you're trying to be reassuring Toshi, that's a really bold assumption there. Since just Shimmer struggling to bounce back ought to be alarming if that's your perception of her.

Muse glanced down at the bidoof, her fur still ruffled, but his words seemed to make her relax slightly. She sat down, taking a deep breath. “You… you’re right. I shouldn’t worry so much. Thank you, Toshi. It seems my fears were unfounded anyways. Look.”

She tilted her head up, gesturing with her nose to the medic hut, where Shimmer was emerging. The kirlia turned her head back and forth for a moment, then made eye-contact with Muse and crossed the square. Her expression was tired and serious. But as far as Nip could tell, she was fine. And before she had slowed to a stop, she was already speaking.

Pretty sure that's tempting fate there, but okay, Muse.

Haru: "I mean, if she's this deadly serious, are we sure Shimmer's fine? Usually she's trying to banter me or hit on Toshi or something like that." .-.

“Celebi has awoken. Muse, I need you to get my dad, please.”

Muse stood up. “Jhorlo? Now? But what about—”

“Nip can come with me,” she said. “The others too, if they want. But… well, Celebi looks ready to talk. And we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”

Nip: "'Ready to talk'? Surely this village has more respect for the gods than to try and demand an audience with one, right?" .-.
Shimmer: "... We asked very nicely for it?"
:gardeshrug~1:


Hesitating a heartbeat longer, Muse let out a grunt before turning to run off in the direction she’d seen Jhorlo go. Shimmer gestured for Nip and the others to follow her in the opposite direction.

Nip’s heart skipped a beat as he stood up a bit straighter. He was about to be an audience to a god. The messenger of one of the [greats], at that. His shoulders tensed as he thought about what he should say. Was there anything he could say to a god? Was it even appropriate for mortals like him or any of the others to be there?

I personally wonder if 'greats' sounds more natural as something like 'great ones', but eh. Your story, your rules for nomenclature.

Nip: "Also, the fact that I'm stopping to ask myself this probably isn't a good omen for what the likely answer is."
:fearfullaugh~1:


He stole a glance at Haru and narrowed his eyes. Her expression was serious, and she began to move ahead of Shimmer. Was she going too? What business did she have a meeting with a god when she’d done nothing but decry them? Would she say something? Do something to put them in bad favor with Celebi? He flexed his claws without thinking. As he followed Shimmer, he just had to hope that Haru’s presence wouldn’t ruin everything.

Nip: "... Boy what I'd give for a Slumber Wand right about now, since everything about going to see Celebi alongside Haru just screams 'disaster waiting to happen'."
:uhhh:


The inside of the medic hut was exactly as Nip remembered. The same clean environment. The same pungent smell of berries. Just as he remembered it.

But one thing was off now; a god flitted about the room, floating unsteadily and mumbling under his breath. But as Celebi heard the sound of approaching pokemon, he stopped in place and slowly raised his head to stare. His pupils shrank as he looked all of them over, and a tense silence hung in the air as everyone waited breathlessly for him to speak.

“Wow, tough crowd. You’d think that none of ya had seen me before. Oh, wait.”

Lol, that's quite a character introduction there for Celebi.
:loltias:


There was a bright flash, and suddenly Celebi was gone. Before he could process the teleportation, Nip felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned his head, then sprang backward, hissing with fur bristling, as he found himself face to face with the little god.

“But that’s alright, you mortals are always speechless when you meet me.” Celebi giggled, then floated back into the air. “It’s good to see your village doing so well. Looks like the rebuilding efforts went great!”

Shimmer blinked. “Wait, what?”

... Can't tell if Celebi is talking about a past event or if he's jumbling up his past and future there. Shimmer's reaction makes me lean to the latter, though.

Celebi turned away, looking at Haru. He stared at her for an uncomfortably long time before flashing a grin. “Oh, I thought for sure you were a bibarel. Saku, right? Well, congrats on finding yourself a mate. I’m sure the kids will be lovely.”

“E-excuse me?” Haru stammered. “I’m not Saku, you got me mixed up for my mom.” She paused for a second. “Wait, how do you know Mom?”

Oh, so he was talking about past events. That makes Anu's passing mention of troubled times in the past a lot more
:uhhh:
considering what the last we saw of Celebi was.

But Celebi did not answer. Instead, he raised up into the air, so that he was hovering over the entire group again. “You guys are gonna be the talk of the world soon enough, you know that? Dialga has taken great interest in the events that have transpired here. Or will transpire? I don’t remember. Maybe I hit my head too hard? I dunno. It’s all relative to the moment. But I’m here for a reason. And, well, I might as well deliver it to you all. Time stops for no one after all! Not even me!”

Nip felt frozen in place. This was Celebi, messenger of Dialga. A powerful god for all to revere. But he was behaving so… childishly? Scatterbrained, maybe? Nip struggled to follow his leaps in logic. And from the looks of the other pokemon, they were equally lost.

>implying having great power and being childish are mutually exclusive

I mean, I'd know a thing or two about that as a writer. But goofball Legendaries seem to be all the rage in recent years, especially considering how some of Amby's in his character stable tick.

Hoping for answers, he took a deep breath and stepped forward. “Celebi, you say you have a message for us. Please tell us, so that we might understand Dialga’s will!”

He heard Haru huff behind him and suppressed a wince. How could she dare show such disrespect, when a god had shown himself here, physically in front of her, proving her wrong? Even if both his sudden appearance and personality were… disconcerting, did she dare risk being smitten?

I'm pretty sure that she's coping in live-time about how this doesn't mean a whole lot and that "look, just because Celebi exists doesn't mean that all the myths are true, but are you really surprised that she's still putting up resistance to the idea of something she deeply believed being totally bunk?

Celebi, too, noticed her sound. With another flash of light, he disappeared and reappeared, lounging on the floor beside her.

“What? Enamored by my power, little bidoof?”

Haru squeaked and stumbled backwards. “A-as if I would ever want anything to do with the likes of you! You come in here acting like you’re something special, but you’re just mocking us!”

Yeah, she's totally mad about what happened to Grandpa Catkin since boy was that a hostile reaction to an innocent, if teasing question.

Celebi placed a hand to his chest, a mock wounded expression crossing his face. “Oh, I’m hurt Haru. Hurt!” Another flash, and he was on her other side. His voice dropped into a low tone as he slung one arm behind her neck, speaking directly into her ear. “You best watch yourself, dear. Not all of us take well to insults. If you stood before the great Dialga, you’d be nothing more than a sad little pile of bidoof ash.”

In response, Haru growled, but before she could say anything more Celebi looped around to face everyone again. “Ah, if I knew how rude you guys would be, I never woulda agreed to warning you all. But a deals a deal, and I supoooose I should do my job.”

Nip: "Um... Haru? You might want to stop speaking for a while. For all of our sakes."
:fearfullaugh~1:


The light flashed again, and Celebi was gone. Nip whipped around, ears swiveling as he tried to pinpoint where Celebi had disappeared to.

“Where did-” Toshi cut off as a commotion sounded from outside.

“Citizens of Theran Village, gather to me!” Nip startled at the sound of Celebi’s voice. It came from far away, but was abnormally loud, booming loud enough to still be heard clearly.

- Haru facepalms -
Haru: "Oh stars, he just has to make himself the center of attention like this, huh?" >_>;

Shimmer turned back towards the doorway. “Come on!” She urged before rushing out. Toshi and Haru stumbled after her. Nip followed at a slower, more cautious pace, his gut twisting with apprehension. Lecha followed slower still, bringing up the rear as they exited the building.

A small group of pokemon that had remained in the square after Jhorlo’s dismissal was gathered now at the center. Celebi hovered unsteadily above them, his hands raised high as if performing some sort of ritual motion to make his voice louder.

Ruffle was there, as was Roselei. Whisper and Anu stood just in front of the group, the hawlucha placing her claws on her mate’s shoulder as a sign of comfort. A few other pokemon that Nip recognized were also there. And from the north, Muse was rushing back. Jaques, Lotte, and Jhorlo followed just behind.

Haru: "Look, can you just get this over with and leave here-?"
Nip: "Haru, not to tell you how to run your own village, but you don't want to blow off Celebi. Especially not after Celebi just said that he had a warning for everyone." o_o;

“Great Celebi,” Anu said, lowering his paws to his side with palms facing outward. “You, voice of the forest, messenger to Dialga, the keeper of time-”

“Yeah yeah I love the praises and all. Go on, tell me more.” Celebi’s voice had returned to normal, no longer thundering across the square.

Anu blinked and sucked in a breath, but with a sudden jerk, Celebi dipped downwards to place a finger to his muzzle.

“Shhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhh. I was kidding. Come on. I may have all day but you don’t. My life is eternal. Yours is a fleeting speck of dust.”

Anu: "Great Celebi, with all due respect, but... I... could've done without the reminder of my mortality there." >///<
Celebi: "Hush, I was just trying to respect your time, since not all of us have all the time in the world to work with here."

The lucario stared but stayed silent. Good, Nip thought. At least someone in this village knows how to be respectful. But the respect did little to put his heart at ease. The way Celebi was behaving. None of it lined up with the stories he’d been told as a child. Celebi was supposed to be calm. Elegant. Perhaps a bit emotionless. But the god that he saw in front of him was anything but.

I mean, the stories could just be wrong, Nip. After all, myths have a kernel of truth. There's still quite a bit of room for them to make hash of the details. :V

Celebi held his position for just a few seconds longer, before returning to his original position. “Now, as you were saying?”

“Right…” Anu brought a paw to just below his chest spike. “I, Anu, ask of you, what brings you to our quaint village?”

For just a heartbeat, there was a mischievous gleam in Celebi’s eyes. When he spoke, it was once again in the cacophonous voice that made Nip’s ears ring. “I have been sent here with a message… of doom!”

All: "..."
:uhhh:

Haru: "Alright, that's it, you're leaving now-"
Nip: "Aru-Hay, ix-nay e-thay isrepect-day owards-tay e-thay ime-tay od-gay!" >.<

A few pokemon gasped. Nip’s fur began to bristle, and he could see even Anu’s tail starting to dip, like he wanted to tuck it between his legs. But a squeeze on the shoulder from Whisper made the Lucario hold strong.

Celebi let his words hang for a little longer, then continued back in his normal voice. “Although… I don’t actually know what time I ended up in. Maybe the doom already happened. I dunno. Then it would make this point all moot. Let me think. Was anyone supposed to die? The square does seem to be in mostly good shape. Hm…” He pointed at someone near the front. Nip stood up on the tips of his toes and could see he was gesturing to Vale. “I don’t remember seeing you so… either I’m just in time or way wayyyy too late.”

“E-excuse me?” Vale stuttered. Static made his fur fluff up. Then he growled, eyes blazing with anger. Roselei stepped in front of him before he could do anything rash, though.

Guess that's a sign that I should get in some bets on Vale in the Theran Village death pool, huh?

Celebi returned to his echoed voice. “Okay, okay, here’s what we’ll do. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A bunch of strange pokemon show up, cause chaos, and then a bunch of pokemon die. Sound familiar?”

“Some of it does,” Vale growled, turning away from Celebi now. He began to stalk towards Nip. Alarm seized the sneasel’s chest, and he stumbled backward.

“Is more death coming, Celebi?” Vale growled. “Just say the word. Say it, and I’ll rip his throat out.”Sparks danced at the manectrics jaws. Those snapping jaws that could crunch bone and snap necks and rip flesh. Nip’s breath came shallow.

“Vale!” Whisper snapped, stepping away from her mate. “We don’t have time for this. Stand. Down.”

Nip: "I'm sorry, but he literally telegraphed he was ready to rip my throat out, is 'Stand down' really the best you can say right now?!"
:uhhh:


“But you heard him,” Vale argued. “More death is coming.”

“That’s an order, Vale. Think. We haven’t heard the whole story yet.”

“No no, go on,” Celebi said. “I wanna see a fight. It should be interesting.”

Haru: "... You know, maybe I was too quick about wanting Celebi to get out of town, since I've gotta say that his idea there isn't half-bad-!"
Toshi: "Haru!" >.<
Haru: "What? It really wasn't half-bad!"

A vine reached up to brush Vale’s side. Roselei walked up to stand beside him. “Just a moment ago, you were ready to round on Celebi himself. Calm down, Vale. Let us hear the whole story, first.”

The manectric growled, his lips curled into a nasty snarl, and for a heartbeat, it looked as if he might spring on Roselei. But the roserade kept her composure, and finally, he backed down, pointedly turning his back on Nip.

Somebody was certainly on edge there with that sort of reaction. Though I can't imagine that hearing about potential mass death coming in the future would help with that.

“Aww, I was looking forward to that,” Celebi whined. “But I know how it would have turned out anyways. Or probably, at least. I only saw one of you two. Maybe you just went and changed history. But no. He’s not one of the strange pokemon I was talking about. Trust me, you’ll know them when you see them.”

All: "..."
:uhhh:

Haru: "I liked you better when you were egging Nip on into getting into a fight, really." >_>;

Nip’s heartbeat slowed and his breathing began returning to normal. But the apprehensive feeling in his gut remained. He brought his claws up in front of him, staring at his palms, only distantly listening to Celebi now.

“Anyways, I should wrap this up or something. So I’ll just say this. Trouble is coming. Biiiig trouble. Trouble that will affect the entire world if you don’t do something. Big scary pokemon are gonna come here and kill you all. Or something like that. I don’t remember the details."

[ ]

"But it sure was scary. There was fire and screaming. And blood. Oh. Can’t forget about the dead bodies. At least I think they were dead. I dunno. I wasn’t there for long before the little scary guy started chasing me. And then I woke up here. Funny how that worked out. For me. Anyways. Do something or I’m going to be very, very cross with you. If there’s any of you left, anyways.”

IMO, Celebi's warning should be broken up into at least two paragraphs, since that is a lot of unbroken dialogue there with nothing in the way of internal body language or a glimpse at how the audience is reacting to being told that the town is in danger of being wiped from existence in horrific fashion.

Though 'little scary guy', huh? I'll file that one away for the future.

Celebi stood up straighter, dusting his hands off. “Anyways. I think that just about covers everything I needed to tell you? I should get going before the big wispy guy gets angry- oh right I wasn’t supposed to say that. Whoops. Forget I said anything about that. Just remember the warning of doom and all that. Fix it so Dialga doesn’t get mad at me.”

And filing 'big wispy guy' away for the future as well, since that also sounds like someone who will become important.

[ ]

“Wait, Celebi!” Anu reached out towards the little god, but he was already floating upwards. “If you have any care for us mortals, tell us what this danger is, so that we may prepare. Please!”

But Celebi ignored his pleas. He held his hands up, creating a square with his fingers. A beam shot into the air, and a square-shaped ripple appeared in the sky. He stopped just outside. “Good luck everyone, you’re gonna need it! And remember! Reality is more than it seems, life is fleeting and worthless! Buy gold! Bye!”

I kinda wonder if this sequence would've worked better with a paragraph showing the collective
:uhhh:
-faces of the village following that whole unsettling prophecy there, since their reaction has been really absent from this sequence thus far.

Haru: "Whelp, guess that's one way to learn that that guy just doesn't care about the well-being of mortals. Not that I'm really surprised." >_>;

And with that, Celebi vanished into the ripple, and the gate through time disappeared, leaving Celebi’s parting words hanging in the minds of the distraught village pokemon.

Ruffle was the first to break the silence in a hesitant voice. “What… what should we do?”

I mean, you all could go "screw this, I'm outta here" on Theran Village as a whole, but it sounds like most of you in the village might not have the budget for that.
:joltyshrug~1:


Whisper’s expression was unreadable. “Anu… this is your area of expertise. Was that really Celebi?”

Anu grunted. He didn’t try to hide his troubled emotions. “He certainly looked like depictions of Celebi. But… his behavior, it doesn’t line up with stories about him at all.” He took a deep breath, then shook out his nerves. “Right. A plan. Regardless of… Celebi’s personality, we can’t deny the fact that he came here with a warning, and it would be foolish to ignore it. Whisper, I… I think our best course of action is to be vigilant.”

Just saying, I think that I like my idea a bit more. Especially considering how there's already some seriously dodgy stuff going on around Theran that probably makes sense to get away from.

“Have you lost your mind?” Vale growled. “You’re going to take the word of that… that… whatever that thing was? I refuse to believe that that thing was Celebi How do we know he wasn’t just trying to cause chaos and distrust?”

“Aw Vale, don’t be like that,” Shimmer chided, stepping forward. “You seemed perfectly happy to believe him just a moment ago, when you could spin the story to fit your desires.”

Vale snarled, sparks dancing along his pelt. He didn’t turn to face Shimmer, but Nip could tell from his crouched posture and wild eyes that he was more than ready for a fight.

I see that Vale is having a normal one over that implied death of his in the future given that he's doing this to-

“Enough!”

Jhorlo’s voice brought silence to the small crowd. The purugly took slow, methodical steps until he was nose to nose with Vale. His eyes were narrow slits as he hissed at the manectric. “You. No matter how reasonable your concerns. You do not threaten my daughter. Do you understand me?”

Yeah, that.

Sparks danced for just a few heartbeats longer. Then Vale slumped, breaking his stare. “Yes, sir.

“Glad we could come to an understanding.” Slowly, Jhorlo turned, walking back to stand beside Anu.”

Oh hey, I think I have an emote for Vale's reaction there. :V

:AlviseScared:


“That aside, both Vale and Anu have a point. It is hard to trust the word of a creature as chaotic as Celebi - or whatever he may have been. But it would also be foolish to ignore it entirely, when there may be a threat to our village’s well-being. We can’t just turn away any pokemon that passes by. It would ruin our reputation, and denying entry to any rescuers or explorers going about their job would be foolhardy.

[ ]

“But at the same time, we cannot just let any pokemon go about as they please during these troubled times. Here is my proposal, though I am willing to modify it if you, the villagers desire. All pokemon that pass through must keep to the village square to do their business. Those that wish to stay the night will have a curfew. Does this seem reasonable?”

Wonder if it would’ve made sense to drop in a paragraph between Jhorlo’s two lines of dialogue showing how the audience reacts to his initial opener there.

Pretty sure that this is already going to murder Theran Village's meager tourist industry, though I suppose that Jhorlo has reason to want to prevent his little fiefdom from pre-emptively depopulating itself.

The pokemon muttered amongst themselves. Nip could catch bits and pieces of their conversation. Some seemed uncertain, but most seemed amicable to the idea.

“That brings me to the next point.” The purugly turned, and Nip couldn’t help but shrink back beneath his fierce gaze. “Our current…guests and prisoners. We cannot deny the fact that they could be the pokemon Celebi was talking about. I have misgivings about continuing their community service at the moment. Whisper, how have the sneasel and ninetales been doing thus far?”

:fearfullaugh~1:


I see that Jhorlo's cost-benefit analysis for keeping Nip alive is evolving in live-time there.

Whisper quickly stood at attention. “Well, Jhorlo, the ninetales has been doing well. He’s hardworking, and although he has his ornery moments, he generally seems to be interested in doing his best and seems willing to adapt to our culture. Though he does act up if Nip does not return before dark. It would be best if he didn’t start a ice storm in the guard’s hut, but I’m certain it’s something we can work out with time.”

Jhorlo’s gaze was unwavering. “And the sneasel?”

Whisper hesitated, and Nip’s gut twisted as the silence grew longer and longer. “He… does seem to be a hard worker. I can’t deny that. But… he, too, has a temper. And one that he is not good at checking. I want to believe he’s getting better. That he’s understanding how to behave in our society. But I’m... concerned that all he’s done thus far has been little more than an act.”

“I see.” He sat down and began to rasp his tongue over a paw. Nip wasn’t sure anyone else saw the purugly’s claws unsheath. Was Jhorlo threatening him?

Nip: "I can't believe that I'm about to say this, but I would really, really like to be back in that cell in the Guards' Hut right about now."
:eltyscared:


“You know, Whisper,” Jhorlo continued. “I know you’ve put a lot of work into this. No one can deny that you’ve tried. But perhaps it’s time to admit that this sneasel is unfixable. I understand your hesitations on working with the Enforcers, but perhaps it’s time to pass him off to them. I’m sure they know how to take care of someone like him.”

Oh yeah, I'm sure that Umbra just loved hearing that if she was in attendance for this.

Nip’s breath hitched. His legs went weak, and he felt like a stiff breeze would knock him over. After all his hard work, putting up with intensive labor and barbed comments, would they just kill him anyways? Or pass him off to someone who would? How cruel could they be? He stumbled backward, his fur bristling.

That... has some implications for how the legal system in this neck of the woods works. I see that Theran Village really does have double jeopardy as a legal hazard after all.

But instead of acting defeated, Whisper puffed up her feathers and stood up a bit taller. “No. I’m not giving up after doing this much. I’ve worked too hard to give up now. Please, let me work with him a bit longer.”

Jhorlo stared at her for a moment, then let out a long sigh. “Very well. You may continue to work with both of them. But their hours must be limited, and they will be under the same curfew that any passing pokemon would . And I would like to request one other thing from you.” He turned to face Vale. “As you know, we do have one other foreign pokemon among us. Umbra has been staying with me for some time now. And while I do trust her, I would like to request a guard remain with her while she goes about her business, just in case she is one of the pokemon Celebi mentioned. Allow me to borrow Vale for the next moon, until we can… ascertain what pokemon Celebi spoke of, or else that the threat has passed.”

Well that sure is a convenient way to give Vale cover for his... -ahem- business that he tends to alongside Umbra on your behalf.

Whisper tilted her head. “If you believe that is the best course of action, I will defer to your judgment. But only for the moon. If you wish to use him longer, we’ll have to discuss this again then. Fair?”

“Very,” Jhorlo replied. “But we will be revisiting the sneasel’s progress on the same day. Those are my terms. Not every pokemon is suited for village life, but when they wrong us on our territory, well. Someone has to pay the price.”

Nip: "I'm pretty sure that this violates all sorts of legal ethical standards right about now, just saying."
:uhhh:

Haru: "Not here, it doesn't. Plus it's not as if it'd kill you to be a decent Pokémon for a month. Probably."

Jhorlo let his words hang between Whisper and Nip before speaking louder, addressing the entire gathered group of pokemon. “This day has shaken many of you, I am certain. But in these trying times, we must remain vigilant in heart and in faith. Celebi may not have met our expectations, but we must believe that doesn’t apply to all gods. Stay on guard, watch out for one another, and if you see any suspicious activity, report it to myself or Whisper. That is all.”

Image


With that, Jhorlo turned and began to pad methodically back home. Whisper gave Vale an acknowledging grunt, then the manectric followed after. Slowly, the crowd began to disperse, uneasy mutters filling the air.

Nip, however, did not move. Not until he felt a nudge along his back. He spun, letting out an alarmed squeak.

The gentle eyes of Muse faced him down. “Come on,” she said in a gentle tone. “We should get you back to your cell, before any other... excitement happens.”

Somehow I doubt Nip will be sleeping well for a while after this chapter, since... uh... yeah, lots of stuff hanging over his head right now.

For a second the thought of making a run for it bubbled up in Nip’s head. Jhorlo had nearly sent him away, despite everything he’d done thus far. But if he tried to run again, Umbra would follow. And then she’d kill him, if someone else didn’t first.

And he was so, so tired.

With a bit of coaxing, he began to shuffle forward, his gaze kept to the ground. Despite all that, Whisper, of all pokemon, had insisted on giving him another chance. It didn’t make sense. Even with everything he’d been told about her, he couldn’t fathom why she’d be willing to help him now.

I mean, I know that we got told that Whisper is just a bit more empathetic than she comes off at first like two chapters ago, but I still want to find out what the story behind that is. Since I kinda suspect that it has something to do with that life story of hers that brought her out to Theran Village in the first place.

But that was only the tip of his iceberg of troubled thoughts. His mind drifted back to Celebi. To his fickle and flippant nature.

Celebi is one of the calmest, most composed gods of all, he remembered hearing once, on a cold winter night. He must be, to be able to travel through time undeterred by the horrors he’d see.

I mean, he seems like he'd be pretty undeterred from his present personality. Just not in the way that you'd expect, Nip. :V

Nip had been taken to the Wall of Stories, a place within the caves where the elders painted their history. It was there where he’d learned of Xerneas and Yveltal and the Original One and many others. Including Celebi. But the Celebi in those stories was so, so different. Were the stories about Celebi wrong?

Here, in front of him, Celebi had proven to be anything but calm and composed. And if Celebi, a god known by most all, a common point in many pokemon cultures, was nothing like the stories, then what did that say about other stories. Were they wrong as well?

589897202890047522.png


I mean, I'd imagine that they're not totally wrong, but again. Myths have a kernel of truth to them.

What did that say about Yveltal? What did that say about him? Everything he had done in his life, he’d done so because he believed it was just in the eyes of Yveltal. Or, if nothing else, that Yveltal would understand his flaws and his reasons, and make her judgment accordingly. But what if Yeveltal was as callous and flippant as Celebi? Or what if Yveltal was harsh and uncaring? What if she cared not for his reasons, only for his actions?

I can see Nip
:uhhh:
-ing internally in live-time there.

As he stumbled through the doorway into the hut, he didn’t even look up to greet Tempest. His eyes were glued to his claws. Bits of shell and fluid clung to them, glistening even in the darkness of the nursery den. The unmoving form of a half-formed child lay at his feet. It would take a long time to wash it out, and even then, the image would still be seared into his mind-

He blinked and the vision was gone. The ground below him wasn’t dirt and dried grass, but roughly cut wood. He was in the guard hut, not in the tribe. Not with the pokemon that he had spurned and run from, but amongst pokemon that hated him for different reasons.

'Lovely' imagery there. I can see why it stuck in Nip's mind so stubbornly.

For nearly the past moon, he’d put up with the hard labor, viewing it as a safe haven to protect him from Umbra. But his heart was never in it. It was just a means to an end. When it was over, he’d return to his lonely life and live wild, but free, until Yveltal felt it necessary to reclaim him.

But now, with his future uncertain, the guilt of what he’d done here, and the guilt of what he’d done all those moons ago, was catching up fast.

I mean, I doubt that the story's gonna get rid of you that quickly, Nip. Since one of the central themes/unanswered questions of this story thus far is "can someone who's done terrible things be/become a good person?". It'd be a bit anticlimactic if the story just got rid of you without answering that, don't you think?

Plus, you're supposed to have an encounter with Yveltal at some point way, way in the future if some art floating around is anything to go by.

Alright, onto the postmortem:

I think that this chapter was a pretty effective end to the current arc, and tees up the promise of big, earth-shattering change rolling into the plot in fairly short order. Change which I'm not fully convinced that Theran Village is going to survive. It's one of those things where even in spite of it being fairly normal beyond Celebi barreling in and rekting Ruffle's shop, it's very much an "everything changes" chapter since everyone is under the gun at this point, not least of all Nip, and it does a pretty good job at making your readers want to know more about what will come next.

As for things that I was less sold on, it's basically just what I remarked on in my writeup, but the main biggie that stuck with me was that there were some parts that felt underdescribed. The bit where Celebi is publicly predicting doom on Theran Village being the main standout. Those moments strike me as benefitting a bit from just slowing down a little here or there to drop in a bit of extra description / internal thought processes, since the chapter certainly is short enough to afford a little bit of expansion here or there without feeling too overwhelming.

But even so, I don't feel that it really got in the way of my enjoyment of the chapter all that much. Kudos for on the chapter @windskull , and I'm looking forward to getting through the stuff that'll feel really new to me really fast starting with the Interlude that comes right after this chapter. ^^
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Feel in the mood to pull a double-feature tonight, so let’s pick right up with where things start getting really new for me really fast (since I read the alpha version of one and a half scenes of this chapter) :

Interlude

"Let's see. Merry's team is out logging for firewood and building supplies right now. They'll need rest when they get back, but then I could shift half of them on to this project…"

A blue furred paw pressed on a piece of paper. In the corner of a tent, a vaporeon lay in a nest of dried grass and braken, studying the list of duties he'd created. Occasionally, he would pause, his tail flicking, and mumble some thought before continuing down the list, oblivious to the sounds of construction outside.

Across from him, a gogoat stood at attention, waiting for orders. His gaze drifted to the list, to the vaporeon, then to other paperwork scattered about. He shuffled slightly, letting out a puff. His breath drifted away in a cloud of mist, and he shifted, letting his attention waver again. It was far, far too cold for his liking.

Oh right, I'm pretty sure that this is the much-vaunted Blue in the flesh. Though I wonder if he got the name from the jump when he was a kit, or if he got it later on in life.

The vaporeon finally paused, though he did not look up from the list.

"Ganlon, has Farrin returned from his scouting mission yet?" Ganlon snapped back to attention, scraping a hoof across the ground.

"Not yet, Blue, sir. But he should be back any minute now."

Yuuuuup. So given that there's an Enforcer Yellow as well, does that mean that Blue also has various siblings like a Flareon named Red, a Leafeon named Green, etc, etc?

Blue did not look up. "Good, good. When he gets back, tell him to report to me. In the meantime, gather up all the obligates and tell them to report to the center of camp by sunhigh. I need to discuss hunting with them."

:fearfullaugh~1:


Ah yes, establishing right off the bat that Toshi would be extremely uncomfortable about his idol if he knew him beyond his stories.

Ganlon's expression shifted into unease. He shuffled one hoof across the ground, catching on the cloth covering. "Sir, with all due respect, you can't seriously plan to let pokemon hunt, right?"

Blue finally looked up. His gaze was cool, emotionless. "What choice do I have? Traveling through the Ravine was more arduous than I expected. We've already used up a significant portion of our jerky stores on the journey here, and the remainder can only feed us for so long. I understand your concern." He locked eyes with the gogoat. "But we're in uncharted territory now. Outside of civilization. I have pokemon I have to take care of. And if I have to bend the rules a little to make sure everyone is fed, I will."

Ah yes, the story of Southern civilization writ large at this rate. Though I will have to give Blue props for owning his decision here instead of taking the Jhorlo route.

He paused, tilting his head up. His finned tail thumped against the ground twice before he continued. "It's not ideal. I understand that it's dangerous to hunt when we don't know the type of pokemon that live here or how they might react. I can't even be certain how many teams will bring themselves to kill, even for survival's sake. But that's the reality the Original One left behind for us. Everyone knew that, and what they were getting into when they signed up for this expedition."

Ganlon hesitated before finally relaxing his posture, though his grim expression remained. "Very well," he grumbled. "I don't like it, but I understand. I'll be taking my leave."

Ganlon: "Sir, are you sure that this isn't going to get the camp targeted by angry wildeners-?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Blue: "Pretty sure they already do that anyways, so..."
:joltyshrug~1:


The gogoat turned and pushed through the tent flap muttering under his breath. Before Blue could continue his work, however, another pokemon — a lithe boltund — poked her head through the tent flap.

"Sorry to disturb you, sir, but Mago has contacted the courier on duty. She said she has an urgent message for you."

Blue's expression darkened. "Urgent? I'll be right there."

His expression 'darkened', huh? Is the implication that Blue already has an idea of what the message is going to be about? Since if not, one would think that he'd be a bit more neutral in expression than this.

He waited until the boltund left, then stood and stretched. He'd been working on his list of responsibilities for his followers since dawn, and there were still more assignments to sort out. Of the most concern at the moment was hunting. Every pokemon he'd brought knew how to fight; defending oneself outside of societal boundaries was an important skill for any explorer. But even among the carnivores on his crew, few of them had ever had to hunt for their own food — or at least, few had ever admitted to it. And despite knowing they might have to live without society's laws for a time, he wondered how many of them would find it within them to go through with it.


Considering what happens with humans who get sufficiently hungry with depressing regularity throughout history, uh... yeah, they'll find it in them at some point, Blue.

As he exited his tent, midmorning light and the sounds of construction greeted him. Several pokemon milled about, either working on a chore or else waiting for orders. He waved his tail to greet a team consisting of a fennekin, an espeon, and a vulpix, who were busily cleaning out a fire pit. And he nodded his head to a haxorus and meganium as they passed carrying lumber, headed to a dugout where their other team members were assembling the framework of what would eventually be a basement. And above it, there would be a cabin. It wouldn't be the finest structure they'd ever built, but the gold and brown leaves that filtered from the trees signified that autumn had already sunk its claws into the region. Winter would come soon after. He didn't want his society members to be without shelter when the frost came.


For a second, I thought the trio in the first part of this paragraph were a Psychic Sheep reference, but I can't place the Espeon there if so. Even if you pointed out after the fact elsewhere on the net that they’re a reference to The Dreamstone.

The Haxorus and Meganium absolutely give me Demetri and Mispy vibes though, since most such pairings I've seen of those species have been nods to those two. Can't tell if that's a coincidence or a deliberate nod there.

Near the center of camp, a wood platform had been hastily constructed. Several essential jobs were performed on or around it. On one side, a pawful of pokemon were busy preparing lumber. On the other, a line of pokemon waiting for their daily rations stretched from a larger tent and wrapped around the side.

Blue squeezed between the queue, passing a sunflora and a panpour heatedly debating whether they had time to plant any of their berry seeds and which ones were hearty enough to survive the winter. On the center of the platform, an indeedee lounged against a tall wooden stool. Her eyes were closed, and her pensive expression told Blue that she was likely deep in telepathic conversation with someone far away. She opened her eyes just as Blue reached her and gestured for him to follow her to a secluded corner a little further past the mess tent.

Oh, so Blue is keeping secrets from his underlings too. That's... wonderful.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Blue wasted no time once they were away from any prying ears, speaking before he had even sat down. "Echo, you said you received a message from Mago? What news has she sent?"

Echo shook her head, taking a seat on a haphazardly assembled stool in the corner of the tent. "Impatient today, sir? Mago sends her regards. She's glad to hear we made it through the dungeon. On her end, she says things have been mostly smooth."

Blue tilted his head. The tip of his tail thumped against the ground. "Mostly?"

The indeedee closed her eyes, crossing her arms. "She said a zoroark came through about half a moon ago. Came to speak to her and claimed trouble was coming. Unfortunately, we were in the dungeon already when the message arrived, and the psychics couldn't pick up our signal until I reestablished the connection this morning."


Wait, so is there any rhyme or reason as to who gets the berry-themed names in this story? Or is it just arbitrary based off of whoever it sounds nicest with?

Though nice tie-in with that one scene with the fake Arcanine a while back. I figured that that would wind up becoming important again in this story.

His tail stopped. Maneth? He let out a slow breath. It was probably nothing, but… "What sort of trouble?"

Echo shrugged. "Don't know. I was told the details were too sensitive to transmit. That it's probably nothing, but that Mago didn't want to take any unnecessary risks."

Anxiety churned in Blue's belly. He took a deep breath to fight off urge to let it consume him. Relax. Don't let it show. You've hidden worse. Still, even as he shook out his nerves, the unsettled feeling remained. The last thing he needed right now was trouble bad enough that Maneth and Progne were contacting him over it.


I swear, at this rate 'PWCH' could roll 'Things We Keep Hidden' as an alternative title, since it feels like just about everyone in this story either has some manner of dark secret or thing that they're just not comfortable or willing to share with others.

"Very well," he finally said, relieved that his voice remained steady and authoritative. "My message to Mago is that she is to continue to monitor the situation. Let me know if anything changes."

The indeedee closed her eyes. "Understood."

Blue waited for some time, in case there was anything else important that he needed to hear. When it seemed like there would be nothing more, he prepared to excuse himself. But just as he stood, Echo spoke up again.

"I'm receiving another transmission. You have a message from Yellow. She's requesting a direct link."

Oh, so Yellow is also getting tied into this plot as well. I'd completely forgotten about that.

Blue: "Wait, but I'm pretty sure that Yellow doesn't have psychic abilities of her own, so then how-?"
:what:

Echo: "Direct link through a psychic dispatcher or medium? Close enough, really."
:joltyshrug~1:


Really? Wasn't he dealing with enough stress already? Blue suppressed a groan. But saying no would just create more issues later. Might as well get it over with.

He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he cleared his mind, locking away sensitive thoughts and memories that he didn't want prodded. Although he trusted Echo to be as safe as possible and not try to dig into his memories, he learned long ago that he could never be too careful. "Very well."

Well there's a story behind that throwaway statement there. I wonder if we'll ever get to see what happened there or if it'll be out of scope for this story.

A few heartbeats passed as he felt a small, sharp prick in his head, followed by a building, unpleasant pressure at the back of his skull. Then the pressure suddenly vanished and almost at once a voice echoed in his head.

Finally, Yellow grumbled, her voice as sharp as always. Mind telling me why you crossed the ravine without talking to Red and I?

Oh right, so there really is a 'Red' Eeveelution. Kinda wonder if it's just those three or if there's a full color spectrum of them.

Just what he expected. Trouble. He pictured the jolteon in his head, remembering her spiky yellow fur and ever-intense expression before he replied. It's honestly nothing nefarious, Yellow. We were in a hurry. We need to make a permanent base before first snowfall, and we couldn't wait for you or red to send us help.

You're making excuses. Why didn't you just wait until spring? We could have had enforcers and guild members arrive ahead of time and help you with preparations, if going now is such a big deal. Or, Mew's Curse, here's a better idea. Just wait. We can't even solve our own problems right now. Why go looking for more?


I'm guessing that has something to do with the whole predation thing with no workarounds in this setting, since Mew being the progenitor of normiemons is pretty widespread fanon, and in a setting where normiemons are forced to eat each other to get by... yeah, I would be wholly unsurprised if the mythological explanation of it was "our precursor did an oops / punished $PRONOUN's progeny for doing an oops and we live with the consequences to this day". It's something I'd considered myself for how wildmons in some of my settings might understand why they or others would need to kill to live, even if it has yet to really get much explicit screentime in one story or another.

Blue tried to suppress a sigh, but it still escaped into his mental stream of thoughts. I understand your point. But I didn't feel comfortable waiting any longer. Northern society has been isolated since the Great War. The longer we wait to make contact, the more likely it'll be that contact brings trouble.


Funny story about that, Blue...

Though I wonder if 'the Great War' is the big clash of the timespace dragons or if it's supposed to be something more recent.

Maybe they're better without our help. The thought must have escaped Yellow's mind before she could contain it, because she quickly added, Would it really have made a difference if you'd waited a few more seasons? We waited this long.


Okay, never mind. 'The Great War' is a lot more recent. Though that makes me wonder just how long things have been structured around a tribal organization in Nip's native neck of the woods.


I'm not talking about this right now, Blue replied sharply.

A silence passed where both kept their thoughts private. Then, with a sigh, Yellow conceded. Well, you're already there, so you might as well see this through. Just keep us updated. And remember, we can't send any help until spring. You're on your own now.

I knew the risks when I came here, you don't have to remind me.
Another sigh. …Ho-Oh's blessings go with you, Blue. I pray you don't need them.

Narrator: "He's totally going to need them."

Especially since if my memory serves me right, bad things happen to some of his underlings in the very next scene after this one.

There was a quiet pop sound as the two psychics severed the connection, then Blue was alone with his thoughts. And a massive headache. The throbbing pain only worsened as he let his worries loose, no longer shielding them from prying minds.

As much as he hated to admit it, Yellow was right. At least, partially right. They had enough issues to deal with just trying to keep society running without going and trying to find out if there were any settlements north of one of the world's deadliest dungeons.


Wait, what is the geography of this world like such that there's no viable alternative route around the Ravine anyways? I kinda got the vibe that it was on the order of hundreds of miles long from the name, but dunno how much of that was an accurate read there.

Though I see that that throwaway comment about Blue's troubles being par for the course for southern civilization wasn't far from the mark if that second paragraph is to be believed.
:uhhh:


After giving a quiet thanks to the indeedee, he slipped out of the tent and returned to his own, curling up in the grassy nest.

What were they doing here, trying to fold more pokemon into society? As it was, they were already struggling to keep all their pokemon fed and happy while still keeping peace with wildeners. Scavenging only went so far, and Yellow's capital punishment for violent offenders was a shoddy dressing for an infected wound. How could the creators be so cruel? To gift all pokemon with knowledge, but curse some to need to eat others to survive?

Ah yes, the explicit acknowledgement of what is the fate of executed criminals in this setting. Like I'd gathered through some between the lines stuff and commentary you'd made elsewhere on the net, though this is the part where the story just throws it out in the open. It's a dynamic that kinda reminds me Psychic Sheep in which you have this world that presents itself as innocent and full of wonder that as the story goes by, you begin to realize that things are significantly darker than they appeared at first.

Oh, right. They let a war fester under them until it got so bad that they had to intervene. They'd always been careless. At least one of them was working to make amends, though. Not that it had done much good so far.

But that's why I'm really here, he tried to tell himself. If we're lucky, perhaps the pokemon up here have a better solution.

... Wait, how long ago was this anyways? Since I can't tell from the exchange between Blue and Yellow if this was something that happened back in times of myth, or else if this is a problem that has happened relatively recently.
:fearfullaugh~1:


And if they didn't?

Blue curled into a tighter ball. If they didn't have answers… Well, he just hoped he hadn't come for nothing.

Uh... yeah, considering what Nip has said of what life up north is like, you've basically come for nothing, Blue.


The forest was unnaturally silent. The thick canopy of leaves shrouded the depths of The Forest of Ancients. What little light made it to the ground dappled dirt paths and thick undergrowth. Giant trees stretched high into the sky, their boughs obscured by smaller ones. No wind blew through the depths. No leaves stirred. No pokemon stirred, either, but one exception.

Head low, a single stantler trudged down one of the twisting paths, occasionally swaying with exhaustion. His eyes seemed to hint at wariness. But he was far more weary. There were no other pokemon here. He'd made certain of that.

'Forest of Ancients', huh? Wonder if this is on the same side of the Ravine as Blue right now, since his dialogue made it sound like his group was basically in uncharted territory at the moment. I suppose it could be an artifact of having old folklore/maps to work with, but...

The path opened into a clearing, a dead end with the largest tree yet at its center. For just a second, he glanced back, tapping one hoof on the ground. Then he charged directly towards the tree.

And passed right through it.

He was in another clearing, this one empty. The stantler shook his head, then the illusion dissolved, leaving an exhausted-looking zoroark in his place. He looked around the clearing, blinked, then reached into his bag and pulled out a gnarled, twisted piece of wood that looked like had seen better days.

Oh, it's that guy again. Progne, I think.

Maneth may have created these illusions himself, but he was too tired to remember the path forward.


Right 'Maneth'. Need to get my names straight among the supporting cast.

Holding the guiding wand up, the tip lit up with energy, glowing brighter when he pointed it in a specific direction. He followed the light, letting it take him through layer after layer of distortion. Backups of backups of illusions. Until he finally reached the true center of the dungeon.

Mew's Temple had seen better days. Much of the once-polished stone had become overgrown with moss, ivy and all sorts of plant matter. He'd done what he could to preserve any art or text, as had the attendants who had come before him. But he was only one pokemon. Once, there had been many attendants, keeping the temple in pristine condition. But that had been well before his time. When the war was still fresh on everyone's minds. Before Arceus' order. Now it was only him. Him and…

"Uncle Maneth! You're back!"

Oh, so that's what Maneth was up to in that scene. Somehow I never pegged him as an attendant to Mew, but that would explain a lot about the overall mood back then. And also worries me quite a bit as to how Mew is faring.
:uhhh:


From the yawning opening of the temple entrance, a sentret scurried out, scampering over boulders and down dilapidated steps. He ran a circle around Maneth, jumping into the zoroark's fluffy mane.

Seeing the tiny scrap returned a bit of energy to Maneth's eyes. "Whoa there, Junior! Give me some time to settle down. We can't all be full of energy like you." The sentret laughed, then sprang out of Maneth's hair to land in his arms. Maneth shifted so that he was holding the sentret in one arm, putting away the wand before giving him a scratch behind the ears. "What are you doing out here, squirt?"

Huh. Wouldn't expect those two to be in the same family at first blush, but it's a cute pairing.

"I came to see you. I learned a new move yesterday. Watch! Watch!"

The sentret sprang out of his arms. He frowned, concentrating as he raised himself onto his tail. Then he sprang forward, lashing out blindly with his claws before turning back. "Did you see? Did you like it? Progne called it 'fury swipes!' Isn't it cool?"

Maneth smiled with a level of tenderness he gave few others. The kid was growing up so fast. A far cry from the tiny scrap he'd frightened moons ago.

... Can't tell if 'Junior' there is Maneth's biological nephew or not or if they're not related by blood. I think it's that last sentence in particular that makes it hard for me to get a read.

"Amazing work, Junior. Keep it up." He dropped down on all fours to give the sentret an affectionate nuzzle and a lick behind the ears. "Another season or two and you just might be ready to evolve." Junior's eyes widened, then he cheered and began running circles around the zoroark again. Maneth stood back up. "Now, I'd love to see more, but it'll have to be later. Right now I need to talk to Progne. Do you know where he is?"

Junior's smile faltered. He curled inward, flicking his tail anxiously. For heartbeats, Maneth stopped breathing, a pit forming in his stomach. His ears swiveled back and forth, as if searching for some unknown danger.

"They're inside," Junior finally said, voice quieter than before. "They've been no fun lately. Always worrying. They were very upset just before you came home…"

Maneth: "Oh yeah, that's a great omen if I ever heard one."
:eltyscared:


"Well, Progne has a lot to worry about," Maneth said, his tone serious. "I'll go check on him. Stay near the temple."

Before the sentret could say anything more, Maneth leapt over him, scrambling up the crumbling steps and into the old temple, hoping that his fear-scent would go unnoticed by Junior. He did not stop to admire the old drawings, or to crawl into his nest, a simple bed of moss and ferns situated near the entrance. All his weariness had left him.

Wew, didn't expect the emote from the last cutaway reply to be that fitting. So he's not just worried about things, huh?

He found his patron at the back of the temple, floating in front of an old, disused altar. Tiny pink forepaws clutched at the side of their head, and their tail hung limp, the tip twitching slightly. Maneth couldn't hear from where he stood, but he could tell they were muttering under their breath. Heart sinking, he rushed forward, but Progne didn't turn to acknowledge him.

It was terrifying, seeing Mew in this state.

Wait a minute. That's Progne?!
:bulbuhhh:


Maneth opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it, letting out a slow breath. No matter how long he served the god, he never found it easier to comfort them. Slowly, he leaned in and pressed his forehead against Progne's back, and after a pause, the mew's tail brushed against Maneth's side.

For some time, they stayed there in silence. God and humble servant. Only the sound of Maneth shifting into a more comfortable position broke the quiet.

"I lost contact with Victini."

Whelp, guess that really is Progne. Wonder if the name's supposed to be a play off of 'progenitor' or not. Though that last line there is very
:ScaredCabot:
, especially after reading Power Trip and getting some ideas of why losing contact with Victini could be a really, really bad thing.

Maneth didn't react right away, caught off guard by the mew's broken silence. Then he stiffened, ears perking up as he turned to stare at Progne.

"Wait, Tinny? How? What happened? Was he still being chased?"

Oh, so 'Tinny' is Victini in this story. Filing that one away for later.

The mew took a long breath and lowered their paws, leaning against the edge of the altar as if to steady themselves. There was a vacant look in their eyes that put Maneth on edge. "He was. At least, he thought he was. Last night, he told me he thought he was still being followed. He cut the connection so he could focus on moving. I tried to reconnect with him after the sun rose but… nothing. He hasn't replied. What if something went wrong? Oh, stars, I should be out there looking for him but-"

Maneth rested a forepaw on Progne's back. "You're doing everything you can without drawing attention to yourself," the zoroark insisted soothed. "I'm sure Tinny is fine. I mean, by the stars, Progne, he may not be as powerful as you, but he's still a god!"

Narrator: "Tinny is totally not fine."

And from what I remember of what I beta read of this chapter, he's literally the complete opposite of fine right about now.

Progne's response was dull, sullen. "Then why hasn't he answered me?"

The zoroark's paw shifted slightly, as if starting to hesitantly shift away. The subtle change told Progne all he needed to know. Maneth didn't have an answer to that. But then he pressed his paw back, firmer this time.

"Give him time. I know it's concerning but… you have so much to worry about. Focus on one thing at a time. If you don't hear from him soon, then you can worry."

Progne: "Maneth, you realize that we're in a story, right? That's not how stories like these work." >_>;
Maneth: "... We could be in an exception to the rule? L-Look, surely there's been other occasions where Tinny didn't call out to you after a day..."
:fearfullaugh~1:


Another long, slow breath escaped Progne as they tried to relax. "You… are probably right. I need to prioritize." They pushed off of the altar to free float, and Maneth's paw slipped away. "I guess I should ask you how your visits went, since they're… slightly related."

Pushing himself to his feet, Maneth stood at attention. The comforting moment had passed, and now they were back to business. "Red and Yellow are doing well. They said they would keep an eye out for trouble."

Progne tilted his head. "Only Red and Yellow? What about Blue?"

"Blue wasn't there. He has… pushed head to the next stage of Unity. I spoke with Mago, who told me he was headed north. By now, he's probably through the Great Misty Ravine."


Progne: "... Fantastic timing there, really. What on earth would compel that 'mon to take on an expedition like that before winter?!" >.<
Maneth: "I'm... pretty sure that Yellow said something almost verbatim to that." ^^;

"Already?" A subtle wave of psychic energy pulsed from Progne, disturbing the dust around them. Their tail twitched, though whether out of worry, agitation, or something else, Maneth wasn't sure. "Well… it's early, but I guess we'll just have to hope he can make contact with some of the others. Stars, finding Cresselia and getting her to contact me would be ideal. It would make assessing the state of northern society so much easier." They hesitated. "If Blue has already moved this far along, you might as well nudge the others on your next trip out. The sooner he has backup, the better."


I'm... guessing that they aren't going to be thrilled by what they find out there given that civilization up north has collapsed into tribes of predominantly carnivores that are basically perpetually at war with everyone outside their own immediate tribe.

Maneth hunched, drawing inward, and did his best to suppress a sigh. He only just got back, and Progne was already talking about his next trip. Didn't he deserve a break? Or at least a nap?


Could be worse, he could be popping Chesto Berries to stay awake.
:mewlulz:


Then again… he owed his life to Progne. It wasn't right to be ungrateful. Pushing his exhaustion away, he stood back up. "Right. Understood. Do you have anything else you want me to do?"


Well that certainly sounds like an interesting story as well. Definitely curious as to if that one will also come up in the future in the story.

"Hm? Oh! Yes, actually. Yesterday, about half a day before I lost contact with Victini, I briefly sensed Celebi's presence. Not in the same place, and not for long. But Celebi wouldn't let me establish a connection." Progne shook their head, drooping slightly. "Seems like that's becoming more or more common these days." They perked up again. "But that's besides the point. I need to know why Celebi showed up."


Giving the world's least helpful prophecy of doom ever and advertising to goldbugs? :V

I suppose that's one way to imply that Maneth will be in Theran Village at some point in the future. Or at least where it presently is. It remains to be seen whether it'll still be a village or not when he gets there.

Maneth's hind claws dug into the stone, and his ears flattened for a few heartbeats before he realized what he was doing. He shook away any signs of frustration, but the negative feeling still seeped into his tone. "Let me guess, you want me to go check out the area he showed up in. And do damage control if necessary?"

"Correct. The sooner, the better."

Yup, I called it. Though can't tell if Maneth is getting run ragged here, or else if there's just something about Theran Village that he just really hates.

"Understood. But…" Maneth sank to the ground, letting out a yawn. "Could I maybe rest for an evening first?"

The mew blinked, as if they hadn't even thought about the mortal need for sleep. Then, after a heartbeat of hesitation, they floated forward to brush their muzzle against Maneth's. "Of course you can. In fact, I think I'll join you. You have no idea how much I need to relax right now."

Ah, I see that was Column A in that case, though it makes sense since constantly moving about would wear just about anyone out.


The flickering flame of a dying campfire lit up a forest clearing, creating a small, bright spot against the darkened trees. A small pot hung over the fire, though the food inside had long since been eaten. Two pokemon sat on a flat rock near the fire bed, watching the flames die. One was a treecko, a small bag with a badge pinned to it slung over her shoulder. The other was a charmander, her eyes half closed as exhaustion from the day's travels caught up with her. Still, she wore a content smile on her face as she leaned against the treecko. Each held a cup in their hands.

"Good job out there today," she mumbled, puffing out a contented sigh.

Oh. It's this scene again.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Whelp, time to watch as a couple cute girls have a really, really bad time in short order.

The treecko gave her a pat on the shoulder. "You too. I think we made great progress on our research. Do you think Blue will be proud?"

"I hope so. I hope he checks in with headquarters soon. You think he's finished crossing the dungeon yet?"

"Probably. I'm sure Mago can tell us when we get back to headquarters."


Oh, so they're back in the south for this scene. Or at least I think that's the implication. That makes some later bits a lot more
:uhhh:
and it really, really does not bode well for Theran Village's near-term future.

Treecko glanced down to her cup, watching the tiny ripples of water as she tilted it slightly. Then she smiled and lifted it. "Here's to another successful expedition!"

The charmander giggled and toasted, then the two settled into playful banter and laughter as the last of the fire died away. For once they could relax, their world at peace.

Uh, yeah. Funny story about that...

Then there was a loud crack in the distance, followed by rustling and the creaking of wood. Both girls went dead silent, the jovial atmosphere evaporating in an instant. Even the distant sounds of local wildeners had fallen to uncomfortable emptiness.

"What was that?" the treecko whispered.

"I don't know," the charmander replied in an equally hushed voice, cupping her claws over her tail flame as if it would make any difference. After a couple seconds, she tossed away her water and tried to hide it with her cup, with slightly more success. "We didn't catalog any large wildeners living in the area…"

Whelp, it was a nice, peaceful night. Emphasis on 'was' there.

The two went silent again. Though there were no other sounds as loud as the crack, there were certainly other noises. Raised voices, barked instructions, someone crashing through undergrowth.

The charmander glanced uncertainly at her partner. "Should we… check it out?"

"I think we have to," the treecko said as she stood up, hastily kicking dirt over their campfire. "It's our job as explorers to investigate anomalies." One hand went into her bag, readying an iron thorn. The charmander, meanwhile, pulled her tail in front of her, keeping the flame hidden as she kicked dirt to snuff out the last of the campfire.


Uh... yeah, going off to investigate things on your own as a Charmander and Treecko when your initial thought was "... Er, is that a big wildener" sounds like the definition of poor decision-making. Not that you can really blame these two for letting their pride as Explorers get the better of them.

For a while, they followed the sounds, aided only by moonlight and the bit of flame that escaped the charmander's cover. The voices soon grew louder, and before long, they began to see flickers of light ahead. The duo slowed down, moving at a cautious crawl as they approached the voices, some of which were now loud enough to hear.

"Hold it down!"

"Careful! You don't want to damage it too much!"

"Commander Zaid will be here soon! Hurry up!"

Charmander: "'Com- Commander Zaid'? Do you have any idea who they're talking about?" o_o;
Treecko: "No, and part of me gets the feeling that we're going to regret finding out."
:uhhh:


The treecko pointed to a nearby tree and began to climb it as quietly as she could, clinging to the trunk with sticky fingers while holding the thorn in her mouth. The charmander watched as her partner crept out onto a branch, guiding her forward with the wave of one hand. She moved forward past a few more trunks and then behind the shelter of a rock. Carefully, she peeked over the edge. They were finally close enough to see. There was a whole group of pokemon in a clearing ahead - at least, she thought they were pokemon. Some of them certainly looked like pokemon, like the honchkrow at the center. But others…

There was something… off about their appearance. Something wrong. There was one that looked vaguely avian, similar in size to a staravia. But its body was geometric. Angular. Inorganic. Another one was similar to a wartortle, but much bigger. And then there were some that looked almost like pokemon they knew, but not quite right. Like a torchic that had two tufts of orange feathers on either side of their head, instead of the normal orange and yellow crest.


So... I'm pretty sure that first one is a Porygon, the second I think is Turtonator, and the third is... Beta Torchic? That last one would definitely be a trip to have in this story, though hey, these guys are supposed to look weird, so...

The nearest pokemon were facing away from them, forming a loose circle around the honchkrow, who seemed to be holding something down. Or… someone? One of the pokemon, a short-eared umbreon, stepped towards the center, holding a paw up for silence.


I pulled up the beta sprite for Umbreon and... yeah, I'm convinced that there's betamons in this gathering. Not sure what the story behind that one is, but I'll be keeping my eye out for stuff like the bell cats from here on out.

"You gave us a good chase for quite a while, didn't you?" The umbreon said. "But we finally caught you."

She looked around to the rest of the gathered pokemon. "Now that we've captured Victini, we are one step closer to our goals. Finding and acquiring the rest of our targets should be much easier with his powers."

Ah yes, the part where we find out that Tinny is doing fine™️ right now.

Also, if Tinny's powers remotely resemble what Power Trip did with its own Victini, that is a major
:uhhh:
for what it implies these guys will be able to do after this.

"Like I would help the likes of you, you-" The insult was cut off by dull thud and a shrill cry. The charmander cupped her hands over her jaws, stifling the gasp that threatened to escape.

"That's right, keep quiet. We have ways of making you work."

Prooooobably a good thing that Progne isn't aware about this, otherwise I'd suspect he'd be having a nervous breakdown right about now.
:fearfullaugh~1:


The charmander's gaze tilted upwards into the tree. She could see anxious eyes looking down at her and knew her partner was on the same page. They needed to do something. But they had no hopes of winning this fight. And by the time they got to the nearest town and got help, these pokemon would be long gone.

Suddenly, Treecko's eyes widened. She opened her mouth to cry out an alarm, but before she could make a sound, something whizzed by overhead. It collided with the tree and then with a cacophonous boom, it exploded in a blaze of fire, shredding the tree and sending shards of burning wood in all directions. Charmander dropped to the ground, deafened. Something sharp struck her in the side, and she opened her mouth to scream, a plume of smoke escaping her jaws.

Well, they got discovered. Does that count as doing something? ^^;

Before she could recover, someone picked her up from behind, grabbing her just beneath the arms. She let out a small cry. At least, she thought she did, but she couldn't hear it. Her eyes darted to the side, and she saw the treecko on the ground, burnt and unmoving. She had to be alive, right? But Charmander couldn't tell.

Image


Her hearing was starting to return now, and she caught snippets of rough, angry voices.

"… You bring… forest why don't you?" one unfamiliar voice said. "Was that really necessary?

Someone behind her, though not the one that was holding her, replied, "You have no right to question me. It was ab-so-lutely necessary. The Lady ordered no witnesses. Staying hidden is a necessity. I am simply carrying out her demand."


Uh... yeah, if that Treecko wasn't already dead, she's really going to be dead after this scene.
:ScaredCabot:


"But sir, people are going to notice this, don't you think? Every feral in this forest would have heard that!"

"And they'd know better than to come here. Are you questioning your commander?"

"N-no, of course not, sir!"

"Then get to it."

'Feral', huh? Given what you've said of how that term is seen in this setting, that has some implications about how these guys get along with wildeners.

And uh, yeah, pretty sure this is your cue to run, Charmander.

Before anything could happen, however, the honchkrow let out a startled cry. Victini struggled to his feet, wreathed in flames. In some last-ditch effort, he threw the honchkrow off and charged towards the pokemon holding the charmander, colliding with them. She was thrown from the pokemon's grip, tumbling to a heap a few steps away.

Victini bounced to the ground nearby, landing unsteadily on his feet. He screeched an unintelligible warning to the charmander, flinging her away from the attackers using psychic energy and taking off on his own. She recovered quickly this time, scrambling forward on all fours with wide, terrified eyes.

Yeah. This is why you ideally want to do something like pop Stun Seeds if you're going to sit and antagonize a captive. Especially when said captive is a pintsized powerhouse living god.

She made it out of the clearing before catching a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye.

A blur of movement. She felt pain at her neck, then something sticky running down her scales. She collapsed, thrashing, blood pooling around her.

Whelp, Zaid's getting his wish about there not being any witnesses for this.

No no no, not here! I have to get back! Have to… warn…

She could still hear the voices far away, muffled as if she were underwater. She swore she heard something about a presence. A small creature, barely more than a blur of white and orange, passed in front of her vision. She heard the victini screaming before his screams suddenly cut off. For a moment, she swore she saw the flickering vision of a tree, leafless and decaying. And then, even that faded, and her world went dark.

:unownF:


Whelp, talk about a brutal closer, though sounds like this is the point where the proper threat of the story starts coming into play, since I'm pretty sure that Zaid or someone in his orbit is the narrator to the opening scene of the story.

Alright, time for the recap:

I liked it, and it's definitely an experience to get a proper look at this chapter in its completed state. It's definitely the harshest ending that I've recalled of any chapter of this story thus far. Which is probably fitting since there's been a strong undertone of "things are about to get real" that has been permeating the story in the chapters right before this, so it figures that the same would happen in a chapter that ties things in the plot to things happening in the world at large, introduces and explores characters that were in the background in earlier chapters, and gives what I'm pretty sure is the first proper introduction of the main villains of this story.

As for things that I was less fond of... I honestly can't think of a whole lot. Maybe it'd have made sense to try and tie things into what was going on in Theran Village a bit more, but I feel that what was there worked quite well meta-wise for something that was supposed to be a bit of a diversion from the main plot.

And this marks the spot where I cross fully over into uncharted territory as a reader for this story. I'll probably be going back to a more normal pace after this chapter since I've got TRversary stuff piling up in my queue, but good work on the Interlude, @windskull , and I'll be looking forward to seeing these characters brush up against the main cast. Since if Maneth's dialogue towards the end of his scene is to be believed, it won't be much longer into the future until that happens.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
Heya, dusting this one off after getting into territory where things are all-new for me. Time to see what lies beyond the first glimpse of where things are headed in this plot as part of…

Chapter 17

No…No!

Muse jerked awake with a gasp, eyes wide with fear. She sprang to her feet, her claws enveloped with shadowy energy. Her gaze darted about the dark room, illuminated only by a sliver of moonlight. No one else was here. It was just her, her nightmares, and the throbbing pain in her horn.

She relaxed slowly, the tension leaving her body. Exhausted, she sank back into her bedding, ignoring the stray bits of straw that she’d thrown about in her sleep. She could fix that in the morning when she wasn’t so distressed.

She... had a premonition, didn't she?

“Musey?”

Muse had failed to notice the creaking of floorboards outside, or that her door had been opened. Shimmer stood in the doorway, eyes glowing with psychic energy. She crept into the room, kneeling by the absol’s side.

“Muse, what happened? Are you having another premonition?”

Muse looked up towards Shimmer, locking eyes with her. For a moment she was lost in those eyes, and her heart ached to tell Shimmer all her worries, like she used to. But something held her back. She couldn’t tell her. Not yet. The throb in her horn forbade it, made her fear the consequences, scared her of hurting her dearest friend. So, she took a deep breath and, as she always had, hid the pain.

“No, it was only a bad dream.”

:absus:


Yeah okay, Muse. I can see that reaction. I don't believe that was just a bad dream for a minute.
Shimmer furrowed her brow, then scooted forward and turned so that she was laying against Muse’s side with an arm draped over her. Her tiny fingers ran through the absol’s fur, providing a hint of comfort. “Oh, Muse. I’m sorry. I wish I could do more to help you.”

Muse bowed her head, resting it against Shimmer. “Your company helps me more than you know.”

For a while, the two stayed in that position, content. Or at least, Muse feigned contentment. But inside, despite Shimmer’s presence, her stomach still churned with worry.

And deep inside, she knew something was very wrong. Something worse than the feeling she’d gotten around that mawile, even. She knew she needed to tell someone else about her premonition. But she couldn’t involve Shimmer, not when it was this bad. Not without running it by someone wiser.

Yuuup, I thought so. I'd recommend Anu, but... something about Anu gives me the feeling that he'd just turn around and blurt it out to the rest of the village if it was something that was really foreboding about Theran Village's future.

But if she couldn’t involve Shimmer… who else could she trust? Toshi? He was kind, but he had no power to do anything. Perhaps…

As she drifted off, an idea came to her. Someone that, while perhaps not ideal, she felt she could at least trust to help.

But as she closed her eyes and drifted back into sleep, she decided she could worry about that in the morning.

... inb4 it's Jhorlo.
:fearfullaugh~1:


The smell of petrichor clung to Haru’s lungs as she took a deep breath stretched in the weak morning light. The air still felt damp after a shower had passed through before dawn. Perfect weather for a bidoof. She let her breath out slowly, soaking up what little warmth she could get. Autumn was certainly in full swing by now, with the leaves starting to turn a golden color that matched the local mystery dungeon. Soon, short frosty days would drive her to huddle down in her nest for longer and longer.

“Timber!” The sound of her mother’s voice and creaking wood caught Haru’s attention. She turned to watch as a tree several paces down the path tottered before falling away from her. Haru paused her own work of chewing branches off another felled tree, observing as her mom gave the tree a quick look-over and let out a satisfied grunt.

“That one should make for some good firewood,” Saku said, thumping it once with her broad tail. Haru bobbed her head in agreement. Winter was still a couple moons off, but they needed all that time to prepare. The whole town would be needing firewood soon enough.

Wait, so does Haru's family just chip away little by little at a surrounding forest? Or do they practice managed forestry and thin certain parts out, then come back to them in like a decade?

“Do you want me to start removing the branches after I finish this one?” Haru asked. While waiting for an answer, she turned back and started to gnaw at another branch.

“Yes, but you can do that after lunch. For now, why don’t you load some of those branches and take them back home, dear? Your brother can finish them later.”

When? Haru thought, a frown forming on her face. When he’s done playing guard for the local criminal? To her mother, she didn’t respond right away, taking a moment to finish chewing off the branch she already started. Once done, she dipped her head before dragging a few of the branches into a small cart, stepping into an attached harness. Her mother helped tighten the straps. Then she began to pull, straining against the weight, struggling to take the first few steps. Slowly it began to move, and with momentum now on her side, she took off back towards town at a steady gait.

Well Haru's totally taking Toshi's declaration of intent to skip town to become an Explorer perfectly normally and not being a bitter pill over it. Perfectly normal thought process there.

Her route took her back into the outskirts, where she passed dozens of rows of berry bushes. She’d reached Roselei’s farm. She slowed to a stop and — with a bit of effort — loosed the straps enough to come out of the harness. If she remembered Toshi’s hasty explanation before he’d dashed out on breakfast this morning, this is where he was watching Nip work. Curiosity got the better of her. She stood on her hind legs, then climbed onto one of the wooden rails of the fence running along the path. With the added height she could just barely see the tip of a green feather dipping up and down.

Returning to her cart for only a moment, she wedged one of the branches against the wheel to act as a temporary brake, then scrambled under the wooden fence and into the field. She passed oran bush after oran bush — the most common berry that the grass-type couple grew.

Haru: "I mean, I suspect that it's the most common berry in general in this town since... yeah, it's kinda in the name." >_>;

Before long, she reached the row where Nip was working, reaching up to pull the orans from the bush and place them into a straw basket. Roselei was nearby, picking from plants on the opposite side of the path. When one of the baskets filled, she’d raise a vine into the air, and a local avian, an unfezant, would take the basket and fly it back to the farmhouse. He came for another pass just as she arrived, giving Haru the chance to see Nip shrink back when he dove, as if he expected to be carried off like a piece of prey. For the briefest heartbeat, she felt a pang of pity, before reminding herself that he didn’t deserve sympathy.

He could use a little fear, anyways, she thought.

Wow, rude. Though uh... yeah, considering Nip's statement of a common life hazard growing up up north, I can see how getting dived at by a bird would make him go full
:AAAAAA:
for a moment.

Toshi, who was standing a few paces down the row, noticed Haru approaching. He stood on his hind paws for a moment, then ran over to greet Haru with an affectionate headbutt.

“Hey, sis, what are you doing here?” he asked after taking a step back.

Is that influence from Power Trip showing there? Or just a roughhousing thing that you dropped in?

“I was just passing by, and I wanted to see how you were doing,” Haru explained. “How are things?”

“Good.” Toshi glanced back watching as Nip tossed a couple more berries into the basket. “Everything’s been quiet. There’s been no trouble at all.” He hesitated, his cheerful expression faltering.

Actually… I’m getting a little bit worried, if I’m being honest. I know I didn’t have a lot of interactions with Nip, but he’s been acting… weird since the incident with Celebi," he said. "Subdued. I think he was really bothered by what happened.”

Well, that entire bit about "everything's been quiet" wasn't massively tempting fate there, not at all. Though you might want to consider hacking up Toshi's dialogue there roughly along the following lines.

Haru groaned inwardly. Not the celebi again. The small god’s appearance had been shocking to her, to put it lightly. After all her insistence about how the gods were either useless or non-existent, she’d been proven wrong on one theory, and right on the other. And yet… as much as it made her want to feel smug, to tell everyone else that she told them so, that she knew these godly pokemon were bad news… it left a sour taste in her mouth. Celebi’s ditzy, useless behavior was almost everything she’d feared. The only thing that could have made it worse was if he’d been malevolent; and she still couldn’t be certain he wasn’t.

Yeah, she's absolutely mega mad over Grandpa Catkin and I refuse to be convinced otherwise.

Instead of that, she voiced another thought that she thought might be controversial. “I don’t see how you can show any sort of sympathy after everything he’s done!” Her voice came out in a loud whisper. She glanced at Nip to see if he showed signs of noticing. But if he did, he said nothing. His posture didn’t change. Not even the twitch of an ear. In fact, he barely looked up from the ground, reaching mindlessly for another berry. [ ]

“I know I probably shouldn’t,” Toshi admitted. “But I can’t help it. I keep thinking about how I would have acted in his paws. And… I dunno. He made a lot of mistakes, but don’t we all?”

I wonder if it would've made sense at all to show any of Toshi's body language there, since it doesn't feel like we get a good read on his mood prior to him speaking up.

Haru: "Toshi, are you serious right now?" >_>;
Toshi: "... Yes? Why wouldn't I be when I was the first 'mon to vote to try and rehabilitate him?"
:joltyshrug~1:


“Not everyone’s mistakes result in the deaths of children,” Haru pointed out flatly. “I don’t know why I have to keep repeating myself here.”

“Fair…” Toshi hesitated. “But even so… look at him. Have you ever seen a pokemon look so beaten down?”

Haru followed his gaze as he turned to look back at Nip, squinting against the sun to get a better look. Now that he mentioned it… Nip didn’t look as well kept as usual. His fur truck up in spots, as if he hadn’t groomed properly in days, and he worked quietly and sluggishly without looking up.

Haru:
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Toshi: "Haru, remember that you're supposed to keep yourself sympathetic with the a