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Bug Catcher
Welcome to Warped Skies! Arc 1 at least.

This is the remade version of my big long story, with hopefully the weaker parts ironed out and split into the three separate stories it should have been!

It's a ride for sure, this won't be the
exact same story as the original, but mostly the same. We'll see how it goes. Hope you all enjoy!

The sun warmed his fur, probed his eyelids, and pressed its every-burning presence along his entire body, from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.

He moved over, making a pained sound. There was an overpowering feeling of foggy weight on his brain, everything hurt, and he didn't feel like dealing with life at the moment.

Falling back asleep was a mercy. One that would not be granted.

"Oh my gosh!"

A high, but boyish, voice cracked through the air like a whip to the ear. The foggy weight immediately flashed into eye-watering pain and two brown-tipped paws clasped themselves over his pointed ears.

There were numerous things wrong with the feeling of paws over his ears, compounded further by the erratic twitching of his tail, but there was no time to think about such things. He began to curl into a ball, wanting to hold onto sleep.

"Um… hello?"

Well now it'd be rude to continue rolling into a ball to escape such cruelty.

He cracked his eyes open, squinting against the light, the cruel, cruel, light and groaned. His eyes felt like they had never so much as peered into a warm spring day.

Watching this all go down was a non-descript shinx. He had slept a difficult night over the thunder and rain and wind howling around his cliff-based home and had dragged himself up a little later than his usual start to the day.

Finding an unconscious meowth effectively on his doorstep was another wrinkle to his morning, but one that could be managed.

It was half-soaked from the previous nights storm, and he felt a wave of guilt. Had this poor meowth been searching for shelter, but been barred by his closed door? It was dangerously close to the cliffs edge, it might have fallen, and no one would have ever known.

The meowth in question peered at him, silent, fur somewhat raised in readiness to do something should things move south from here.

Its eyes were adjusting and spotting a shinx gave him a most curious feeling of vertigo. A shinx. A shinx. Pokémon. Electric-type. Pokémon. Shinx. There was something wrong here, and he was fighting morning brain to figure out what it was.

A pendant was around the shinx's neck, unnoticed until a gust of wind caused it to swing slightly.


Shinx started back as Meowth exploded into movement, leaping up in a sudden panic and skirting back.

Right to the cliffs edge.

"Watch out!" Shinx cried, leaping forward as Meowth stepped into open air. He rocked for a brief moment, before his balance left him, with his arms flailing he began to fall.

"AH!" he cried.

The shinx darted forth with startling speed. "Got you!"

The meowth fell about an inch before something clamped around his flailing right paw. Teeth pierced through his paw and a new shock of pain went through him, unfortunately literally.

The shinx was glittering with electricity and had zapped him in the process.

The jolt ended up being rather fortunate. His initial reaction to being bitten was to unleash the beast and drag them both down, shocking him stunned him long enough for the shinx to pull him up.

Shinx panted with his heart racing, sitting down once he had them both safe. Meowth was holding his paw, which was bleeding slightly, but he didn't look too bad. He looked scared but he had almost fallen.

It hadn't been difficult to pull him back, Shinx realised, this meowth was surprisingly light.

Looking closely, Shinx thought he could see Meowth's ribs. Meowth caught him staring, and he glanced away, ears flushing.

"Thank you," Meowth managed. This morning was going terribly, he had been bitten, shocked, and nearly fell to his death. He was in a little too much shock to feel any pain from the bite, it didn't even ache and he stared down at the slight blood on his cream fur.

There was also the problem of him having paws.

And claws.

And a tail.

Meowth glanced down at his furry body and carefully poked himself in the leg.

"Huh," he said, looking down. His lovely human hand was much smaller, covered in white fur, and had a disturbing lack of digits comparatively. He wiggled them, hoping that his fingers would reappear. The most curious feeling occurred when he tried to move either his pointer or thumb, both attempted actions would move just one of the three digits.

Glancing down further, more cream-coloured fur. Trailing down to hind paws that were tipped with brown fur. He tried to clench his toes, and claws popped out. Trying the same with his hands would cause his new paws to also unsheathe claws.

He felt up, without unclenching his hand, and felt his forehead. The feeling of metal was equally unwelcome as everything else. His tail sagged to the ground, laying like a limp noodle.

Shinx stared at him in confusion as the stranger that had just jumped off the cliff just began to touch all over himself in mounting concern. "Excuse me?" he asked but received no response, the meowth was too busy poking himself. "Hello? Meowth? Are you okay?"

"Okay," Meowth breathed out. He felt a little dizzy, he'd like to sit down but the vertigo of almost falling off the cliff came back so he decided to keep standing. If a little unsteadily. "This is fine."

"What is?"

One of Meowth's eyes twitched for a moment, but he took another breath. "This. It is fine."

"Okay…." Shinx glanced around, there was no one else here. He took a breath and turned back. "Okay, um… are you okay? You must have been out in that storm all night, you're half soaked. And, uh, half dry."

Meowth's eyes fell on him and Shinx felt for a moment like Meowth was seeing him for the first time. It was a little weird.

His eyes flicked down, spotting the treasure. Shinx shifted in place, uncomfortable. He wanted to cover his treasure up, but it his first to gain courage was wearing it all the time, however. He still looked uncomfortable with shiny meowth eyes right on his treasure. This was a mistake, he should stash it back in the hole in his house so no one could steal it and-

"Huh," Meowth said, blinking a few times. The vertigo was coming back, along with a lot of stuff that was not quite déjà vu but felt an awful lot like it.

"Shinx… that is in fact a shinx," he thought, eyes widening. "That's the Relic Fragment. This… this is Sharpedo Cliff, isn't it? Does that mean?" He looked up, past the shinx. It was farther than he would have expected, but in the distance he could make out a few buildings.

Treasure Town. That was Treasure Town. Mystery Dungeon. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.

A dream then, he decided. That's what this was.

He looked back to the shinx, the partner clearly. He was, in a word, adorable. This felt odd, lucid dreams he tended to wake up from very quickly, but he might as well play this one for the moment and chuckle about it with friends when he woke up.

"I'm…." He paused for just a moment, having a moment of tongue-twisting to try and remember his name. "Sean," he introduced, stretching a paw out in greeting. His eyes still ached, his head was pounding a little, and his heart felt noticeable, beating like a drum in his dream-chest.

It was curious how a simple greeting could have such a profound effect. Shinx's ears and tip of his nose went red and he spluttered for a moment.

"Nam-? You? I… okay." He cleared his throat, Sean slowly lowered his arm, gathering that a shinx probably wouldn't shake, and he clearly said something wrong already.

"Did I… say something wrong?" he asked, feeling a little embarrassed now. Of course his dreams would be about awkward social embarrassment in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon world.

"I… no, no, I don't judge or anything. Um…." He looked like he was judging a little.

Sean frowned, glancing away. Now Shinx wouldn't even look at him. He felt edges of embarrassment try to cling to him, but he wouldn't let this drag his dream into one of those horrifying trips that make you afraid of sleeping.

He'd had enough of those dreams.

"Could you tell me where I am?" he asked. He already knew, Sharpedo Bluff or something? Cliff? It was some sort of fish-shaped location, he was sure. The pounding of the waterfall far behind him rang out distantly, falling down into the sea.

"You don't know?" Shinx asked, ears perking up. There was a glimmer of wanting to help in his eyes, forcing the embarrassment back for the moment.

Sean shrugged. It felt odd to be standing so short, and his shoulders didn't roll so well. His tail flicked once before sagging again, good lord that was an odd sensation. Almost like having another arm, except poking out from behind.

He didn't really want to think about how his dream was able to simulate that feeling so well.

"I don't," Sean answered, shaking his head. "I don't remember much of anything actually; do you know how I got here?"

"There was a… storm last night," Shinx said, quietly. He frowned deeply and Sean wondered if he said something wrong again. "You don't remember anything? You said your… uh."

He began to grow embarrassed again, Sean quickly cut through that. "You can just call me M-Meowth if you want?" he said, nearly stumbling on the name. He looked down again, it was excessively trippy to not see human there, yet it also felt completely normal.

Shinx's expression brightened in relief and he nodded. "Yes, we don't really know each other so that makes more sense. I'm Shinx, hello."


Shinx smiled at him for a moment before an ear twitched and he cocked his head. "What do you remember?" he asked.

"Not much," Sean answered, looking down. He remembered what role he was supposed to play and briefly considered straying. Things were already a bit off course, he wondered why he was at the cliff rather than the beach. "Just my name, really."

"Oh, well… you might need to go to the guild then!" Shinx said, briefly beaming with energy. It was cut short in a moments notice. "I'm sure they can help you there." He turned to gesture with a paw, waving at a pinkish blob in the far distance.

Sean was surprised he could see so well, normally something that far away would be barely a blot to him. Dream magic, he decided.

"Wigglytuff Guild," Sean murmured, Shinx turned back with a note of surprise.

"Yes! You remember that, then?"

Sean blinked before shrugging it off, smoothly saying, "I can see a Wigglytuff from here," he said, it was true. His eyes were good. Although he may not have guessed Wigglytuff if he didn't already know it.

Shinx nodded. "Good eyes."

Smiling, Sean asked. "Would you show me, then?" he asked. "I don't really know the place."

His companion paused for a moment. "I… okay. Sure, I can show you. Treasure Town can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don't remember it."

With that, Shinx began to lead him into town. It was a longer walk than Sean had anticipated, there was a great deal of overgrowth heading to and from Sharpedo Bluff.

As they walked in a somewhat stiff silence, Sean took the opportunity to look around. The world was beautiful, he had to admit. Trees with deep emerald leaves swayed in the wind, up ahead as the land sloped downwards there was a bridge over a slice of saltwater.

Treasure Town grew larger and larger until it was larger than life. Dozens of pokémon walked around, talking and playing and laughing and bartering. Pidgey. Zoroark. Beedrill. Greninja. Machoke. Sunflora. Sableye. Wurmple. Poochyena. Swellow. Litleo.

There were even pokémon he didn't know the species of, which filled him with brief excitement before remembering that this was a dream and that brown, yellow, and black pikachu-looking thing didn't actually exist.

Morpeko would be offended if she could hear his thoughts.

Shinx's pace increased suddenly. He wasn't quite running away from him, but there was a noticeable increase in speed, Sean hurried to not be left behind.

Shinx's haste, unfortunately, just drew attention.

"Shinx, dear?" Kangaskhan said, spotting the two. "And… Meowth? How do you do?"

"Good morning Kangaskhan," Shinx said cheerily. "I'm sorry, I've got no time to talk, I'm helping Meowth to the guild."

"Ah," Kangaskhan said, spotting someone else. "I shall not keep you, then."

The time was enough, however.

"Eyy, Shinx!" the litleo, Sean spotted earlier sauntered up to them. Tail flicking back and forth while a smirk slid its way onto his face. "I was just wondering if you were going to drag yourself into town or not today."

"I'm here now," Shinx said, stiffly. "And I'm going to the guild." He immediately stepped around him, leaving exactly one litleo between him and Sean. "With Meowth," he added, as Sean was dillydallying.

Sean wished he hadn't had said that, however, as Litleo's gaze moved to him and he continued standing in the way. Sean noticed a few small things, Litleo's posture changed to grow slightly taller, paws spread wider, tail stopped moving, and his eyes narrowed just a tiny bit.

"Got a pal, huh?" he asked, staring at Sean with nothing less intense than predatory. He looked him up and down. "Nice."

"We're going," Shinx said, voice strained, and Sean nodded to Litleo and edged his way past.

"Good day," he murmured, Litleo didn't reply.

As they walked, perfectly not in a rush, away Sean thought he heard the litleo say something about seeing Charmander before there was enough space between them.

"Who… was that?" he asked as they crossed the bridge. The wonder of seeing Treasure Town from this angle was somewhat dampened by their obvious rush, he didn't have time to talk to the Kecleon Brothers, or Electivire, or visit Marowak, or even get creeped out by Duskull. They were speeding along just below a run.

"Litleo," Shinx replied, voice remaining tense like a stretched length of thread, liable to snap at any moment. It was a far change to the quietly shy shinx he thought he'd just met.

Sean opened his mouth to deliver a retort but rethought it and closed his mouth. Then he said it anyway, because there were no consequences here. "I gathered that."

Shinx didn't respond at first, but he eventually sent a confused look his way. "Then why did you ask?"

The question was so earnest, Sean's natural sarcastic response was completely lost to the winds, and he shrugged instead. "You seem like you know him."

"Oh, I know him," Shinx's voice turned bitter before he shook his head. "He doesn't matter, okay? He's just a jerk."

They exited the town, taking only ten minutes to cross the surprisingly large town, and only slightly out of breath.

Sean looked around eagerly, but there was no Spinda's Café. "I suppose it wouldn't be till later… but can I make it appear?" he thought hard, visualising the café.


And Shinx was also talking, and talking quickly, so he missed some of it.

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" he asked, Shinx stopped and nodded.

"Sure, the Wigglytuff Guild is just up there," he said, gesturing to a terribly large number of steps. "You need to step on the grate to be checked out before you can enter. Once you're in… uh, someone should be able to help you."

"You're not coming with me?" he asked, surprised.

Shinx cringed. "I… well I kinda have other things planned today."

"Like what?" Sean asked. Part of him felt bad to see Shinx cringing further, but most of him was just interested in seeing the results of this.

"W-well, I, uh… nothing too important, I'll see you up there I guess."

"Thanks!" Sean beamed and Shinx's nerves faded slightly, and he smiled.

"I guess I can walk you to the guild entrance." He batted at the Relic Fragment for a moment before taking a breath and followed him up the stairs.

On the way up, Sean found something a little concerning. He could feel tired from the powerwalking and now climbing these steps. But he was sure he'd felt tired in dreams before, that was a thing. Right?

The Wigglytuff Guild was a little horrifying up close. A massive Wigglytuff head with a tied plume of feathers at the top with a dash of purple on its forehead. The eyes were wide and unblinking, there was odd totem polls flanking it, and the mouth yawned into oblivion.

About par for the course for a wigglytuff.

Before the closed gate, there was a thatched grate that Shinx pointed to. "Stand there, and someone will read your footprint."

"Read my footprint?" Sean asked, stepping forward. "Are they going to tell my future or something?" he joked.

"No. Just what you are?"

"This seems a bit… odd."

"A little, but you'll be fine once you're in."

Sean gave Shinx one more smile before stepping on. There were different sized holes to ensure someone would be able to have their entire foot viewed without trouble and he needed to wait only a moment before a response came.

"Pokémon detected!" a high-pitched, energetic, voice cried. "Pokémon detected!"

There was but another moment before someone boomed. "Who's footprint? Who's footprint?"

The voice, Loudred's of course, voice boomed all around them and Sean's headache flared up again.

"The footprint is… Meowth! The footprint is Meowth!"

The voices stopped and Sean glanced back to Shinx, who was watching enviously. He smiled and the shinx smiled back at him.

"You may enter," Loudred declared and the grate began to rise, allowing entrance into the guild.

Grinning, part of him always wanted to do this, Sean turned to Shinx with a pleased look. "Your turn!"

Shinx started violently, almost jumping like a startled cat. "What?" he squawked.

"Is there SOMEONE else there?" Loudred's voice boomed, causing them both to jump. "They must be checked out AS WELL!"

"N-no, it's fine," Shinx squeaked, already backing off. "Just… go in. Please."

Before Sean could get a word in, Shinx ran off and the gate clanged shut.

"Sorry," he called, looking down into the grate where he knew Diglett to lay. "He's, uh, a bit shy and he's run off."

"A LIKELY story," Loudred yelled, voice still carrying easily enough that it sounded like he was bellowing into his ears directly. "Get him on the grate or buzz off."

Sean flinched and stepped back. "I'll… go find him," he muttered, more than a little annoyed. He ran away from the guild and on his trip downstairs he realised just why Shinx might have had trouble finding the nerves to enter the guild.

The grate wasn't the first barrier, Loudred was.

And now he had to track down a wayward shinx partner in a place he only knew from playing a game. He hoped his dream would show him the way.

As he ran, he expected the dream to switch, but it continued as solidly as it had been up to this point, and his paws stung slightly. Sean frowned, staring at his feet for a moment. He clenched them, and claws popped out. Also a weird sensation. The end of his tail also stung slightly, it had been dragging down on the ground through the town and up the stairs and lifting it up felt very bizarre.

Sean felt a seed of doubt.

"This is… no! That's ridiculous," he scoffed, shaking his head. A claw popped out of his paws and he debated scratching himself with it, that was what you did, right?

Pressing a claw into his body wasn't the easiest to push himself into doing, however, and before he could commit, he was nearly bowled over.

"Whoops," a deep voice chuckled with mirth. "Sorry," he said, completely unapologetically.

"Heh-heh, watch yourself," another voice simpered and before Sean could get a good look, the pair flew off.

He looked up as the pair departed, spotting what he knew to be a koffing and zubat fly towards the beach.

The beach!

Of course. "Duh," he muttered to himself. The games started at the beach, but he'd been woken up early. That's why things were a bit off, and his waking up at the cliff instead but that was fine.

Sean picked himself up and ran after them, colliding with something else almost instantly. "Watch yourself," the owner, a skuntank, growled before stomping off.

Sean stared after the pokémon for a moment, but Skuntank didn't look back. He was heading away from the beach, into town, and Sean breathed a sigh of relief. Before immediately gagging from the stench.

He grabbed his nose, relieved to find he had one. "No snake meowth or anything," he said before dropping his paw. This dream was rapidly falling out of his control, but that was honestly relieving. Dreams that made sense weren't usually dreams.

He had his goal and so he ran after Koffing and Zubat. The trail downhill winded around a little, but he could hear the crash of waves before long and smell the salt in the air.

The scent nearly made him sneeze but not quite, a bothering feeling. Almost as much as the tail that was still dragging on the ground.

He hiked it up and wacked himself in the back of the head. There was no winning here, so he settled with holding his tail with a paw and jogging awkwardly.

And learned that without a tail lagging behind to balance him, he fell over easily.

Truly no winning.

Sean's inner war with his tail was brought to a grinding ceasefire when he finally arrived on the beach, to find Shinx sulking into the sand.

He hadn't noticed him yet and was talking out loud.

"Even in my spot everything goes wrong!"

He seemed more angry than miserable.

"Oh, who am I kidding?" Shinx slumped into the sand. "I'll never be brave enough to join the guild."

Sean wasn't sure what he had missed, well he had some idea, but he decided now was time to clear his throat.

Shinx, immediately, jumped into the air. "Wha-who?"

"That's Mario," Sean answered, Shinx blinked at him. "Hi."

"H-Hey. What are." He turned slightly to wipe his face as discretely as he could. "What are you doing here?"

"I got knocked over by a couple of thugs talking about snatching something from someone, so I followed them, but they were too fast for me."

"Oh." Shinx's lip quivered for a moment before he shook it off. "You didn't go into the guild?"

"Not without you," he replied, stepping forward. He laid a gentle paw on Shinx's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm… I'm fine."

Sean waited in silence before Shinx buckled. "No. They took my treasure and ran into the cave. By the time someone gets down here, they'll probably be too far away to catch. I've lost the only thing I have left!"

He buried his face into Sean's chest and cried for a moment. Surprised, and a little uncomfortable, with the turn of events, Sean awkwardly patted the crying shinx on the back. "There-there," he said, letting Shinx cry for a bit.

Soon enough, however, Shinx pulled back. "Thanks for coming after me," he said, voice dejected, "but there's no point in wasting your time on me."

"There is every point!" Sean protested, feeling a flash of defensive anger for him. Didn't matter if this was a dream, that was not okay. "Come on, you said they went into the cave? Let's go after them."

"Us?" Shinx gasped. "Into Beach Cave? That's a Mystery Dungeon!"

"And?" Sean asked, giving him a confident nod.

"I… you'd go into a dungeon for me?" Shinx asked, voice very small. "You don't even know me."

"Of course!" Sean beamed. "You helped me, so why shouldn't I help you?" That was what happened in these kinds of stories, right? "This treasure sounds important, but I don't think I can do it myself. We'll need to do it together."

Shinx met his eyes for a moment, Sean extending the metaphorical hand of help, and Shinx debating whether to take it.

"Okay." He nodded and Sean beamed. "We better hurry, to make sure they don't get away."

"Right." Sean nodded back and followed Shinx across the sand and towards a cavernous hole in the tranquillity of the beach.

Beach Cave was not like Sean had expected. At the same time, however, he never expected to see it firsthand.

A yawning chasm that seemed to slope down forever and descend into inky blackness, gusts of briny wind stung the eyes and left a churning feeling in the gut. Shinx hesitated for a brief moment before pushing forwards, Sean hesitated for a longer moment, but he didn't want to be left behind and he hastened to catch up.

Neither of them noticed someone watching them enter the dungeon.

It was difficult to run, Sean found, since claws would randomly unsheathe themselves from his hind paws.

It was strange trying to get them to retract. Feeling similar to the sensation of pushing spikes into his toes, but without the ungodly agony from doing so.

They continued moving down until the floor evened out. Once it did, Shinx paused completely. He took a deep breath as Sean looked around, then choked from the smell.

The walls were not too far from Sean had expected to see. Bluish stone, a damp light-magenta ground, and deeper pits of water were all around. The trip downwards had been somewhat dim, but strangely now that they were at the actual beginning, everything was perfectly visible. A light shone from nowhere, which was something Sean decided was best not pondering.

"We're really in the dungeon," Shinx whispered before a reverberating sound startled him and he squeaked, popping off a jolt of electricity that thankfully didn't hit Sean.

"This place feels even weirder than I remember," Shinx muttered before bumping into Sean. He jumped, and sparked with electricity, before realising it was the same pokémon that had come along. "Oh, sorry."

Sean licked his lips, tasting the air, and decided Shinx was right. This place did feel weird, and the smell was even worse. Salty and foul. There was a fine sort of dust that glittered even on the sludge all about that attracted the meowth's eyes.

"Have you ever been in a Mystery Dungeon before?" Shinx asked, taking a tentative step forward.

"I don't think so," Sean answered, looking around warily. "Not that I remember at least," he corrected, thinking over it.

"Oh, that's right."

He looked over at the meowth stepping awkwardly to avoid particularly slimy parts on the ground. "If you don't remember much of anything, does that mean you don't remember what a Mystery Dungeon is?"

Sean took a moment to respond. This was all too bizarre, and frighteningly lifelike, for a dream. He never had fantastic dreams like this, the most he ever dreamed about was flying. And even those felt floaty in a way this experience didn't.

This was just like a game he had played many times, perhaps too many, if there was such a concept. The first game starring pokémon he had played. This was almost painfully unusual, and he barely knew how to respond to the question. He knew what a Mystery Dungeon was for sure, but remember it in the scope of a being who had existed here the whole time?

"I… sort of?" Sean answered, shrugging.

"Oh, that's a bit awkward." Shinx frowned, turning away. They continued walking for a minute before Shinx turned back, holding an exceptionally guilty expression. "What do you know?"

"They change and have dangerous pokémon in them?"

"I guess that's about the gist of it." Shinx nodded. "Be careful though, don't separate from me. I've been in here before, the ferals aren't too bad here but they're creepy."

"Feral?" Sean frowned, glancing around. In the games you could recruit the dungeon pokémon. "What do you mean by feral?"

"THAT!" Shinx yelled, causing Sean to jump. Shinx's whole body crackled with electricity for a moment, pulling his fur up, before it was discharged into a focused strike of lightning. He seemed to have good aim, lancing a shellos in the eye.

Sean spun on the threat as Shinx had attacked, claws coming out reflexively. Already it was fleeing, but the shellos had tried to jump him from behind.

Panting slightly as his heart raced, Shinx gave Meowth a crooked smile. "Pokémon in dungeons are almost certainly going to attack adventurers. They don't listen to reason, they don't even seem capable of talking anymore."

He shook his head again. "It's really sad, and nothing seems to be able to help them. According to some really strong adventurers, sense can sometimes be knocked into them, but it seems to come down to pure luck on if it happens or not."

"How does someone go feral?" Sean asked once his heart had stopped pounding. He could still hear the electricity surging and the scream from his would-be attacker was still echoing.

"I'm not sure exactly," Shinx admitted, causing a rather unpleasant jolt of panic to thump Sean's heart. "It seems to happen when a dungeon forms around some wild pokémon or, even worse, a town. Everyone inside gets turned into them. Most adventurers are pretty safe, but if you get knocked out and NOT eaten or killed, and you are stuck in a dungeon for too long, it's been known to happen." He shivered slightly.

The matter-of-fact nature of how Shinx spoke about getting eaten sent a shiver down Sean's spine, but he ignored it in favour of smiling. "Sounds like risky business."

"It is," Shinx agreed, nodding his head. "But the rewards!" His head shot up high with determination blazing in his eyes, along with literal electricity crackling through his fur. "The romance of the adventurer. The skills you need to face the trials. The treasures you can find. Dungeons always have the best loot, some pokémon believe it's a way of luring us in, but if so the rewards are still worth it!"

"Sounds like you want to be an adventurer?" Sean laughed, causing Shinx to blush and fluff up his fur.

"…Maybe?" he admitted quietly "Is that bad?"

"Bad? I think that's really cool! I bet that's what the guild is for, right?

"Right. I… I thought you might already knew that. You offered coming into a strange place with a strange pokémon without any hesitation. That's what pokémon like the guild does! They're so cool, the Wigglytuff Guild helps everyone in need no matter what and everyone who goes through them turns into a really good explorer!"

"I couldn't just let you lose your treasure! What kind of, uh. Well, what kind of thanks for helping me would that be?"

"Mm," Shinx said, giving Sean some side-eye.

Sean gave an awkward smile. "What kind of friend would I be if I just let you down like that."

Shinx's ears flicked up in surprise and he glanced to him before glancing away. He didn't say anything, but he didn't seem offended.

"What do you want me to say?" Sean grinned.

"DUCK!" Shinx suddenly shouted. Sean just blinked at him dumbly, he wasn't used to following immediate orders for life-preserving measures. Not his own life at least.

Seeing he wasn't moving, Shinx tackled him out of the way of a powerful jet of water, it clipped Shinx's tail but did no harm.

The air was knocked out of Sean's lungs when Shinx used his chest as a springboard to leap up and fire a jolt of electricity, sending something else scampering with a cry.

"Ow," Sean grunted, rolling to his feet. "You're strong, you know that?"

"What?" Shinx's face went so red Sean could see it through the fur. "No, I'm not! They're just weak!"

"They'd probably take me out in a single hit, right?" Sean smirked, taking advantage of his obvious weakness to gain what he loved most. Minor abashment from friends and acquaintances.

"W-well," Shinx stuttered. "N-no. You're not weak. I j-just didn't want you to get hurt. Getting hit in the back isn't fun, I can tell from experience."

Sean nodded sagely. "Getting hit in the front isn't much better either. So, thanks for hitting me in the side." He paused for a moment and dropped the sage look. "Oh! I meant that genuinely! Sorry, I don't want to seem ungrateful. I really am thankful you saved me from getting hit by… something. What was it?"

"A Water Gun," Shinx mumbled. He clearly felt bad for tackling him and Sean reaped the consequences of his enjoyment. Guilt.

"Hey, I really do mean it," he said, scratching an arm awkwardly. "Thank you. That's twice you've saved me from getting attacked from behind. And I'm supposed to be helping you by getting that, uh… thingy back. Your treasure?" He had almost said Relic Fragment, and Sean didn't want to spill any accidental knowledge. He'd look creepy.

"You're already helping?" Shinx said softly. "I don't know if I'd have come in here if you didn't offer. So, thanks."

"Thank me later," Sean said, nodding. "When we get it back."

Steeling himself determinedly, Shinx continued leading the way through the dungeon, this time Sean kept a much closer eye on his surroundings. Already, he'd been nearly hit twice already.

Part of Sean was looking out for stairs, and wondered if he should ask Shinx about them, but held his tongue.

They continued on for much longer than Sean gathered a standard Beach Cave floor to be, so he reasoned the dungeons were more related to the Mystery Dungeon animated specials rather than strictly the games.

They stumbled across several enemies, each time Shinx zapped them with electricity and sent them scurrying back into the pools of water. The pokémon creeped Sean out, the emptiness of their eyes, viewing but not seeing, and their complete silence besides angry, or pained, screeching made him all the more uncomfortable.

An anorith dropped something after Shinx blasted it and Sean felt the overwhelming urge to grab it, pick it up, keep it tucked to his chest and purr on it forever. He shook the feeling off after only twelve seconds, did his best to ignore the small snort of amusement from Shinx, and they continued on.

It was a seed, not as big as the game would have implied, but still large enough that 'seed' was an odd choice of name. He wondered if it would grow into anything, then pondered where the seeds came from.

"What is this?" he asked as they entered another room, shaking the seed. It looked almost like a flower with lilac to red tints on it. Shinx gave him a curious look before remembering the memory loss.

"Looks like a blast seed to me. Keep hold of that, but not too tight. They can explode… actually that's entirely what they are for. A good weapon, I think it'll be useful later."

Later. The word struck a nervous chord with Sean as he realised what must be approaching soon. He could even distantly smell the sour, putrid, stench that the koffing had left even from the brief interaction that was had earlier. It bothered him the scent hadn't faded yet and it was even more unpleasant than Koffing earlier had been.

Determined to keep hold of the blast seed until the time was right, Sean continued following Shinx and letting him do all the work.

Pokémon would either descend upon them in a horrific rampage or would run as soon as they were noticed. For Sean, he much preferred the later. Shinx was more than capable of fighting what few feral pokémon did attack, but each encounter was making him uncomfortable.

Pokémon were meant to be nice and friendly, but the unholy gurgles these things made to the whites of their eyes, all left Sean feeling very out of place. He was glad Shinx was fighting fit enough for the both of them.

It wasn't like he didn't want to help. But he was having trouble just keeping claws unsheathed let alone actually fighting. The fact a battle was coming up left him feeling nervous.

"I don't know how to fight like this!" he thought to himself in mounting worry, paw holding tightly on the blast seed.

The ground began to change. Turning from the magenta ground to sand as they drew closer to the sound of waves.

"Here we go," Shinx whispered. "When dungeons change like this it means we're nearing the end or a midpoint, and this place is small. They came in before us. So, they should be at the end here."

"Do you want me to scout ahead?" Sean asked, feeling funny at the thought that had come to his lips without him even thinking about it.

Shinx shook his head. "Together." And they did.

Sure enough, a pair of Poison-type pokémon floated before them, backs turned and facing the waves.

"Nothing but waves past here." The lighter voice that belonged to Zubat rang out. Sean palmed the blast seed, considering giving the pair a taste of their own medicine and attacking from behind, but Shinx spoke up before he could try a dirty tactic like that.

"Uh… HEY!" he shouted, causing the pair to swivel around to them.

"Well, well," Koffing boomed. "If it isn't our old friend. And… you, what are you doing here?"

"Give me," Shinx mumbled, he glanced to Sean for support and received a nod. "GIVE ME BACK WHAT YOU STOLE FROM ME!"

Even Koffing and Zubat were surprised by his volume. "That's my personal treasure," he continued, at a more reasonable tone. "It means everything to me."

"Treasure you say?" Zubat asked, interested. "Hmm. This piece of junk may be more valuable than we thought." Zubat was wearing the Relic Fragment and the image instilled a surprising amount of anger in Sean. His claws flexed.

"It could be worth more than we had hoped, I'd say," Koffing agreed. "We ought to try selling it. We may just get a high price." The pair sniggered. "Woah-ho-ho, imagine what the boss would think? All the more reason not to give it back."

"What?" Shinx's expression mixed anger with desperation. "Give it to me, NOW!"

"If you want it so badly, why not try and take it. Heh-heh-heh." Zubat snickered before the pair of them just flew right for them, attacking without warning.

Zubat opened his mouth and screeched, a horrible shockwave erupted from him that knocked Sean and Shinx off balance. As they staggered from the audio onslaught, Koffing belched a terrific amount of smoke from the holes on his body, covering the formerly-pristine battlefield in a choking miasma.

"Woah-ho-ho take a load of this!" Koffing spat globules of deadly poison, firing indiscriminately into the smog.

A shout of pain from Shinx made him focus his shots, but the concentration kept him in place. Prime for Shinx's retaliation.

"Who-ho-hurg!" Koffing grunted as he was hit by a lance of electricity right in one of his pores, knocking him back and nearly deflating him for a moment.

Coughing, Shinx and Sean ran to safer air, taking it gulps of oxygen that wasn't flooded with smog. "You crooks," Shinx coughed, gasping for breath. "You play dirty."

"Heh-heh, what did you expect?" Zubat asked instead of attacking. He received a face of electricity for it. Sean would have been impressed had he had the focus to think about that.

His heart raced wildly, it was so much different to imagine a fight vs actually fighting one and he was being overwhelmed.

"Gyah! Enough of this." Koffing came zooming back, slamming full-bodied into Shinx and knocking him down. "Eat some Sludge!" He took in a gulp of air to gather as much Power as he could, and Sean acted on autopilot.

Koffing coughed; a brief feeling of puzzlement flew through his mind before everything went black.

"YES!" Sean cheered, snapping back to thought again. He had thrown his blast seed aiming for Koffing's mouth and got it in one shot. It wasn't a blast seed after all, but a sleep seed was almost as useful.

Shinx unleashed electrical hell on the snoozing Koffing enough to wake him briefly, before unconsciousness claimed him once more.

Zubat screeched again, disorientating both of them, and dove into a vicious tackle. He slammed into Shinx and bit down, pulling a cry from Shinx. He had knocked Sean back into the smog and he was blinded again.

Hearing Shinx's scream, Sean forced his eyes closed and focused on just where the sound was coming from. He toppled as soon as he tried to walk, but he toppled in the right direction.

The Smokescreen had faded but the stench was still there; it was building further.

Shinx tried blasting Zubat, but he had already released him and flew circles around the wildly-aiming Electric type. He screeched again and dove into another tackle, sending Shinx into the water.

"Heh-heh-heh," Zubat laughed, mouth spotted with a small bit of blood. He turned his attention to the meowth and swooped at him again.

The sound of wings fluttering through the air brought back severely bad memories for Sean and he dove out of the way on reflex.

Zubat didn't mind, he sailed up and moved to try again. Only to be blasted out of the sky.

"GYAH!" Zubat cried as the electricity overwhelmed him and he plummeted to the ground.

Shinx was soaking wet, and had shocked himself to do it, but the unplanned swim had cleared his mind and allowed him his aim back.

"Give me," Shinx panted, prowling forward and Zubat tried to flutter to the air. "MY TREASURE!" He pounced but missed as Zubat managed to rise into the air.

"Never," Zubat hissed and blasted him with another Supersonic. "You're weak, you have to rely on tricks. So, this is wh-"

He didn't finish his sentence. Sean, having recovered from his own ailment, had taken his chance and threw himself at Zubat. He snatched Zubat out of the air with a two-pawed hold and pinned him to the ground.

"Shinx, I got him!" He shouted, heart pounding as Zubat struggled. Zubat tried flapping his wings but Sean refused to let go. "This is just like holding a chicken, this is JUST like holding a CHICKEN!" he repeated in his head. "Just don't think about the time that chicken died."

Zubat tried a Supersonic but wasn't angled right and the noise bounced harmlessly off Sean's forehead charm. Holding onto Zubat as tight as he was caused Sean's claws to extend, and his captive hissed in pain as blood was drawn but did stop struggling.

"G-great," Shinx said, still dizzy from the confusion that the Supersonic had inflicted on him. "Just give me… okay." He dunked his head in the water and pulled himself up, eyes steady and focused on the task at hand.

"You've lost," Shinx said, running forward with eyes refocused. "Now I'm taking my treasure back." He yanked the Relic Fragment off Zubat's neck with his teeth and caused the bat-pokémon to eep with fear with those fangs near his neck.

Sean looked to Shinx with questions and Shinx nodded. Taking a breath, Sean threw Zubat away from him and scuttled back to draw some distance between them. Zubat did not take this as a time to attack, simply glaring with a scathing look and fluttering to Koffing's side.

"Weh…" Koffing groaned, waking up and slowly floating up. "How did we get roughed up so badly by THEM?"

"I dunno," Zubat answered, glancing past Sean and Shinx despite having no ideas. A smirk was curling at his face. "But they're gonna look worse in a moment."

"Wuh?" Koffing's eyes focused and he laughed. "Oh. Woah-ho-ho I see what you mean."

Sean and Shinx looked up from where they were checking the Relic Fragment for damage, narrowing their eyes. "What are you talking about?" Shinx asked as Sean's claws unsheathed again. "We beat you easily."

"If it were just us you'd be right, strangely enough," Koffing said smugly, causing Shinx to frown in confusion and Sean to gasp in horror.

The Smokescreen was long gone, and the piles of sludge weren't giving off much smell at all. Yet the putrid smell of utter foulness was only getting stronger. It had been only getting stronger through the whole dungeon. He'd briefly smelled it before, when he bumped into-

"SHINX," he shouted, spinning around to where they had entered from. "SKU-"

That was as far as he got before Skuntank descended upon him.

A meaty claw cracked Sean across the head and knocked him flying, Shinx could barely turn in time before Skuntank breathed right in his face.

The sheer stench was utterly overpowering, and he lost consciousness with a soft gasp. The last thing he heard was a strange laughter. "Chaw-haw-haw…"

"Ugh… what happened?" Sean mumbled as he blinked his way back to the world of the conscious. "Ah, arg!" He moved his head and then suddenly had sharp, stabbing, pains erupt from his chin, right side of neck, and his ribs.

"Ooh," Another groan caught his attention long enough to divert the pain for a moment.

Blinking away tears of pain, Sean forced himself to his feet. He was distantly aware that he was still very short, very furry, and very much not human. But most of his awareness was focused on Shinx, curled up in a ball and quietly sobbing.

"Shinx?" he called out softly, not sure what do say or do in the least.

Shinx heard him, despite the weak call, and uncurled, standing up. "Come on," Shinx muttered. He turned tail and began to walk out of the dungeon.

Sean hastened to catch up with him, stumbling with every step, although there was no need. Shinx trudged along so slowly that even with one leg going numb, Sean was able to keep up with him easily.

They exited the room and found themselves back at the room where they had started. Slope moving upwards to freedom.

Sean glanced behind him in confusion, but there was just flat wall where they had just come. Sensing his confusion, Shinx spoke.

"Getting to the end of a dungeon and then leaving the last room will bring you to the entrance again." He spoke every word with a distressingly flat tone, one that made Sean want to reach over and hug him. Shinx was already trekking up the slope, so Sean hurried to join him.

They reached the exit to the cave. Dusk had arrived and was bathing the entire beach in beautiful colours. Shinx didn't seem to notice, he just trudged forwards.

Sean tried to find the words to say, but his mind was entirely fixated on something else that he couldn't. Shinx reached a gouge in the sand, marking the spot where his treasure had been taken from him, and completely broke down.

"WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?" he screamed, burying his face in the sand and screaming harder. Sean stood frozen, awkwardly trying to move forwards and comfort the shinx, but his mind was too selfishly fixated on his own problems.

He traced his aching jaw, wincing at the sharp jab of pain he received for doing so. Skuntank had slammed into him, but he hadn't fainted until after Shinx had. He had felt the pain as sharp and clear as real life.

Sean had had dreams where he had fallen and hit the ground from great heights, been slammed into a shed once and knocked into the air. Not once had he felt pain.

His heart made various flips and clenches as the reality of his situation began to dawn on him. Not only was this not a dream in the slightest, but the story he knew was already going wrong.

Panic began to grip at him as Sean tried to remember every titbit of the plot at once, but each thread slipped away from him as Shinx cried harder. There were more important things to deal with than his own thoughts.

"Shinx." Sean found his words again. "I'm so sorry." He carefully stepped forward, then another, until he was by the little pokémon's side. He gently laid a paw, not a hand as he reminded himself, on the quivering ball that was supposed to be the spunky partner pokémon and sat down, remaining on the beach with him until he had cried enough.

"I'll never be an explorer," Shinx muttered not long after he stopped crying, bringing Sean out of his reverie.

Uncurling he came to his feet and gave a brief shake to get the sand off but gave up halfway. "What does it matter?" he mumbled and began to walk away. "Thanks for being there, but you've probably got better things to do than waste time with me."

"H-hey," Sean said and scurried over to him. "Shinx, don't say that. You will be an explorer and you're not a waste of time!"

Shinx paused and looked up at him, eyes bloodshot, but worst of all there was no spark to him. Literal or otherwise.

"Why do you care?" he asked. "I mean, you don't even know me. You told me your name and I didn't even tell you mine. I got you into trouble when you didn't know what you were getting into and then knocked out in a dungeon. I'm lucky you're not spitting on me right now, but instead you're putting paws on me and telling me I'm everything I'm not."

Sean didn't really know what to say to that. He knew the words were somewhere and desperately tried to find them. "W-well. I mean, we were in a hurry. I'm Sean." He put on a cheerful tone and stretched out a paw. "I woke up today with no memories except I'm pretty sure I used to be human. Who are you?"

The shinx blinked at that. "Human?" he asked, some liveliness returning to his expression. "You didn't say anything like that before…" he drifted off and eyes wandered a bit before he righted them back on Sean's face. "My name… well, it's Rai… Raigeki, which only my sister knows. You too, now, I guess. You can call me Shinx if you want to, strangers and all that."

"I know your name, and you know mine." Sean put a grin on, he knew Rai saw right through it though. "So, we're not strangers anymore."

"You're… very strange." Rai shook his head. "But I guess I'm not much better. I've had that Relic Fragment for years you see, it's the only thing I have left of my… well it's the only thing I really have. Had, I suppose." His ears drooped, and he sighed. "I was sure it meant something, something big for me. But I guess not."

Rai hesitated for a moment before going for broke. "You said you were human?"

Sean nodded, hoping he'd play this right. "Yeah. That's why I was so confused when I woke up. A talking shinx is, well, not what I was expecting. Having paws and a tail is weird too." Sean had mostly done his best to ignore the extra limb up to this point, everything else happening one after another. Now that he had time to focus he couldn't help but notice it.

"It's like having an extra arm," he said, swishing the tail up and down and side to side. "Except it can bend much more and doesn't have any fingers. This is really, really, weird for me."

"Not having a tail would be weird for me," Rai said, swishing his own tail in chorus with Sean's. "But I guess I can see your point… well uh… humans are kind of a myth around here."

"I could be wrong." Sean shrugged, defaulting to passively agreeing with the person doubting his claims. "I don't remember much of anything. Just that I'm Sean and that I'm supposed to be much taller and not have a tail. Or fur. And have five digits on each hand. And, well… I'm rambling."

"Heh." Rai smiled briefly. "You ARE a strange person."

"For sure," Sean confirmed, immediately working to get that smile again. "And you barely know me yet. Just think how weird I'll get later."

Rai raised an eyebrow as Sean revaluated what he had just said. "Um… not in a bad way? Sorry, I tend to talk a lot when I'm feeling nervous."

"Maybe I could use that," Rai said with the briefest smile. Twitching his tail and turning back around he said. "You've probably got nowhere to go. Walk with me for a bit."

As they walked, Sean took this as his chance to try and restore the track a little. "As I was saying, you are totally going to be an explorer. I mean, did you see how you handled yourself in that dungeon!"

"You mean getting knocked out by getting breathed on?"

"Not that part." Sean cringed, chiding himself internally. "I mean everything else. You walked us both through a Mystery Dungeon, protected both of us, fought two dirty bastards and beat them both." He paused and said. "I'm saying 'both' too much."

Rai gave a tiny smile again and Sean powered onwards. "The only thing I literally did was get in the way, hit Koffing with a Sleep Seed and hold Zubat. You battled them yourself, and everything before that."

With the words flowing, Sean finally felt confident again. "Even at the end, Skuntank had to get you with a cheap shot after fighting his flunkies. He wasn't game to even fight you head on. What does that say about a coward like that?"

"Smart I guess, smarter than me," Rai said, looking away from Sean. "They were right about ME being a coward though. You say I'll be some adventurer, but I can't even gather the nerve to step on the guild grate. When you asked me too, I just ran away. I don't even deserve to be an explorer."

"I don't think you're a coward," Sean said. "I mean it!" he added when Rai gave a bitter laugh. "Look at what you did today. No, seriously. Cowards don't do that. They roll over and take it. You charged in. That's brave."

"I had you there," Rai said, although there was less certainty in his voice now.

"And look how useful I was," Sean thumbed a digit at himself and laughed. "I don't think I could have gone in without you and wouldn't have made it through the second room without you. And honestly, until the very end, I was having fun. If you were an explorer I'd ask you to teach me."

"What are you saying?"

Sean swallowed and summoned all his nerve. "If you want, we can make a team together. The two of us can go to the, what was it? Wigglyfuff Guild and join together."

"Wigglytuff," Rai corrected. "And… and…." tears welled up in his eyes and he angrily brushed them away. "I completely failed today. You got knocked out and I failed to get my treasure back. Why would you want to make a team with me?"

"I like you." Sean shrugged, heart flipping all through his chest. He couldn't think about how everything had gone wrong and this was real and the world was ending and-

He really couldn't think about it. Not yet. "And I think, I really do believe, you'll be a fantastic explorer. I can only hope I can keep up with you."

"You mean it?" Rai's voice was tinny and filled with the kind of hope that was almost painful to hear.

"One hundred percent yes!"

Beaming suddenly, Rai tackled Sean, repeating thank you until the sun set.


And so, the beginning comes to a close. This gorgeous art is made by fruits/jatrick!

This won't be a plain retelling of Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. Twists and turns throughout the story is the norm for this one, familiar enough to remember but then done in another way. Right off the bat, the partner has lost the Relic Fragment. What other changes will Sean bring to this story? I hope you'll stick around to find out!
Chapter 2 - Team Ion


Bug Catcher
"Okay," Sean laughed, pushing Rai off him. It was nice to see the shinx smile again. "Should we go to the guild now?"

Rai paused his manic hopping and frowned thoughtfully. He glanced up at the sky where the stars were showing and shook his head. "No. It's too late for it today, the guild would be closed."

"How long were we unconscious?" Sean asked worried.

"Come on, you know where you woke up?" Rai asked and Sean nodded. "That's my home. We can stay there tonight."

He followed the shinx, wincing every third step. With the emotional period over, the physical pain was reminding him he had bruises all over him. They reached the crossroads, looking around again brought a stab of nostalgia through Sean's heart.

To their left was naught but a rock, but a future café would make their start there. To the right was a track leading off into mystery and adventure with a watering hole for thirsty pokémon. Straight forwards were a slope that quickly turned into steps, hewn out of the ground itself that led to the looming guild. To the left was where Rai was heading, towards Treasure Town.

Under his breath, Sean began humming the tune to Treasure Town, having heard it enough for it to be etched into his memory.

"Da-da-dun dun, dun, dun, dun daadada."

Taking another look around Treasure Town was wonderful, seeing it at night brought a whole new look. There were next-to no pokémon still around, mostly just those heading out an the nocturnal pokémon. The entire excitable town was relaxed and tranquil.

They walked for five minutes before Duskull's Bank came into view, the town was larger than the game could have shown, with Duskull manning the bank even at this time of night.

It amused him that the bank was still shaped like a duskull though.

"What are you humming?" Rai asked as they passed the bank.

"Oh… just something that popped into my head," Sean answered, smiling like a loon. He was enjoying the feeling of happy rather than the all-consuming fear that lurked beneath it. He was a pokémon! Holy shit!

"Well, this is Treasure Town." Rai paused to sweep a paw in a wide circle. "Definitely the best town in the land. Way better than Capim Town. There's everything a pokémon needs here, explorer or not." Rai smiled, he did love Treasure Town.

"Looks like a great place," Sean commented. "You've lived here your whole life?"

The question was innocent, conversational, he didn't intend on Rai flinching at it.

"W-well." He glanced away and Sean gathered that was an off-limits question.

"How's it like living at the cliff?" he asked instead, moving past whatever wound he had just poked at.

"Pretty nice," Rai answered, looking back at him with a glimmer of releif. "No wind or water gets in and the sounds of the sea are great for going to sleep to."

"Sounds great."

"It's a place to sleep." Rai shrugged. "If you're used to the waterfall nearby. Come on, we're both sore and tired."

The rest of the walk passed in silence. Several times Sean tried to gather the nerve to say something, but Rai had gotten very quiet and was looking firmly ahead. He gathered the shinx wasn't in the mood to talk.

Instead, Sean took in the sights of a place he knew so well yet had no true idea of what it was like. He saw shops he recognised, as well as buildings he didn't. They passed over the small, rickety, bridge and through the marketplace and further still.

He took a glance at Kangaskhan Storage, closed of course. It was shaped like a kangaskhan as well, very curious design choices.

It took nearly some time to pass through town, with them being slowed down by injuries, before reaching the cliffside. The waves were still crashing against the cliff, seemingly harder than they had in the morning.

"Here we go," Rai said, giving Sean a tired smile. "Home sweet home." Rai began to head into his abode, but Sean's attention was caught by something else.

A scrap of silver, fluttering in the wind, trapped under a rock. He stumbled over to it and tugged it out awkwardly with his numpty paws, missing fingers already. It was a streamer of silver, right where he had woken up.

Thinking this could be important, Sean wrapped it around his hurting paw and followed after Rai.

Cosy was about as nice as Sean could say about Sharpedo Bluff's dwelling. Cramped was a better word, not that he'd say such a thing out loud.

For one pokémon like a shinx it was snug, any more than three would be pushing it.

"Take some straw off the pile," Rai said as he moved to the small drinking well that took up most of the room. After almost dunking his head in the water and just inhaling the liquid, Rai pulled his head out with a gasp and caught his breath. "Feel free to have a drink too."

Sean quietly took a small amount of the bedding from Rai's pile and set it up like a pillow. Rai gave him an unimpressed look, gathered some straw in his mouth, and dunked more on his pile.

"That is your bed," Sean argued, but Rai was already slumping down onto his pile with a soft sigh of relief. He had done most of the fighting today after all.

Swallowing guiltily, Sean realised his throat was parched and moved to the well. The germaphobe in him was highly disinterested in drinking anything that had a shinx head in it, but the part that wanted water overruled it and he drank deeply.

By the time he was done, Rai was asleep.

Feeling excessively guilty for reasons he didn't want to think about, Sean laid down on his pile. Despite his exhaustion he couldn't sleep. Tossing and turning, he just tried to get comfortable. Eventually curling up like a cat seemed most pleasant and he tried to relax.

Nothing seemed to help much and there was the matter of the item he had picked up off the cliff. A silver stream of fabric; it radiated something that eased some of Sean's nerves.

It was difficult to sleep regardless. His new, much better, feline eyes could see in the dark much better than his old human eyes. He could see Rai trembling and not from the cold. He wasn't asleep, was he?

The feeling of guilt and sympathy lasted until he finally fell into a fitful sleep.

Waking up was greatly unpleasant for Sean.

The injuries from yesterday's unfortunate twist of events had dulled into an ever-present ache, the awful throbbing pain being what roused Sean.

Groaning, he rolled over, off his little patch of straw, and onto hard and cold ground. His heart thumped a little as he opened his eyes, taking into view the low roof of the small dwelling.

"Okay. Confirmed. I'm really somehow in the Mystery Dungeon world," Sean thought to himself as he tried to gather the energy the get up. There would be time to have a panic attack later, for now he had to stand.

Finding the will to stand was difficult, but he slowly realised that he was the only person in the room. Suddenly fearful of being left alone, Sean shot right to his feet, only staggered once, and made his way outside.

He was still holding onto the ribbon he had picked up, it was crumpled from sleeping on it, but he was not planning on letting the soothing feeling it delivered go just yet.

Sean looked around, taking a deep breath of the salty air and closing his eyes. When he opened them, Rai was approaching.

"You're up, Meowth," Rai said brightly, trotting over to him. Sean paused and blinked, it seemed that his panic was nothing but foolishness. "I'm glad you're awake, we both slept in a lot longer than I planned to. We should get going soon if we want to get into the guild today."

Balanced on the shinx's head was a small wooden plate, on top of which were two apples. Sean salivated at the sight as his stomach gave a harsh rumble.

He grimaced at the feeling of his stomach rolling as well, the memories of Skuntank's stench still haunted him. The apple was too delectable to pass up, however, and he accepted one of them from Rai.

He had it bitten to the core in three bites. After a moment of deliberation, he ate the core as well. After swallowing he had to ask. "What do they make the apples with here?" he exclaimed. "I've had apples before and they were all… average at best. That was wonderful."

"The Kecleon Brothers harvest them from dungeons, apparently," Rai said in between bites. "It's a fact that anything gained from a dungeon is top notch. Better to lure pokémon in a guess." He swallowed and shook his head. "Ah, that's better. So," he trailed off, growing shy. "Are you ready to go?"

Sean noticed that Rai was adamantly avoiding looking directly at him, but he caught a glimpse of the shinx's eyes anyway. They were red and puffy. He was sure his eyes were little better.

"I am," Sean said before falling into step with Rai. "I'm glad you seem better this morning."

"Mm." Rai hummed.

They entered Treasure Town, it was crossing the afternoon, but still much livelier than the previous night. For one, there were more than three pokémon around. There was no litleo to accost them this time.

Sean couldn't help but smile widely as he took in the many fantastic creatures, beings he had only known to be fictional, but now here and real in the flesh.

Metal too, a magnezone was floating around as well. "I wonder if that's Officer Magnezone?" Sean wondered to himself, but he wasn't sure how to phrase the question without seeming too knowledgeable. Magnezone was very shiny, clearly kept themselves in tip-top condition.

Kangaskhan was manning her business and Rai felt the need to explain as they walked. "I didn't mention it yesterday, but that's Kangaskhan Storage. She'll store and protect any item we leave with her. She's never misplaced a single item, however big or small."

Kangaskhan gave a cheery wave as they passed. "Good morning, Shinx, and Meowth too!" Which the pair returned. Past Kangaskhan's shop was where the marketplace truly begun.

Sean took a much closer look than he had the previous day. Where he had only ever known the Kecleon Market to be the only real store, now he could see several booths and shops pulled up like a shanty neighbourhood. A few were manned, most were not.

"Over there." Rai nodded in their direction. "Is mostly a big swapping joint or place where adventures might sell items they wouldn't sell elsewhere. That's the Kecleon Market, hi guys!" Rai spoke up loudly, causing Sean to wince.

"Good afternoon, Young Shinx," the green kecleon on the left said.

"And to your friend as well," the purple kecleon greeted, giving a bow.

Sean gave a wave as they passed. "Hello."

"They are the main pair to buy and sell stuff," Rai explained as they walked. "I got the apples from them earlier. They are really strong, that's how they get most of their items."

They continued walking, Rai getting twitchier as they approached the guild. Past the bridge and in the main town, the Wigglytuff Guild could be just seen from where they were. A big pink blotch against the blue sky.

Near the outskirts of the marketplace lurked the bank.

"Good morning, Duskull." Rai gave a nervous smile. Sean swallowed meekly as well. It was one thing to know about Ghost-type pokémon. Another to see one first hand.

Duskull didn't look so far removed from the depiction Sean knew it as; but the way its body constantly moved and rippled, yet didn't go anywhere, was creepy. The one red orb bouncing between empty eye-sockets was not pleasant to look at either. Yet at the same time he felt almost comfortable staring at him, the eye to the body reminded him of something… like a blanket perhaps?

"Hello," Sean said after Rai. It would not do to be impolite and stare.

"Most sincere greetings to you both," Duskull greeted, breathy and amused all at the same time. "Feel free to come by any time, Duskull Bank is your most worthy of stops."

They both gave nods and hurried on their way.

"Hoo." Rai breathed once they were clear. "Duskull's definitely good at what he does, keeping your money safe, but he gives me the heebie jeebies."

"He seems alright." Sean rubbed an arm, wincing as he was reminded how bruised he was under the fur. "But I'll trust you."

"So, that's Treasure Town, always a bit busy." Rai gave a smile, he still wasn't looking directly at Sean. "There's Exploration Teams all over it. I only recognised Team Ebony today, they don't seem to sleep at all."

"The shuppet and, uh… what was the bird?" Sean had seen the pair whispering to each other himself last night. He couldn't quite remember off the top of his head what the non-ghost member of the team was.

"Murkrow," Rai answered. "She's nice. She gets a bit fixated on things though."

"I see." Sean did. He could remember them, however vaguely.

As they arrived on the crossroads, Rai paused and Sean considered whether to give him a hand, or paw. Rai took a breath and continued onwards, wearing a fierce expression too determined for Sean to question.

"So, what do we do when we get there?" Sean asked, hoping to break the silence. "Everything went a bit quick yesterday for me to keep up."

"We gotta stand on the grate and get our footprints checked," Rai answered. "They'll let us in, then we just… ask to become apprentices."

"That easy, huh?" Sean muttered. It seemed odd, but he did remember it really was that easy.

"The guild keeps a track of all known wanted pokémon in the area," Rai said, changing the topic back. "If someone wants to get in, they gotta be cleared and if they are suspicious the guild will know by their footprint."

"Sounds like you've done your research," Sean joked and Rai gave an embarrassed smile.

"I've wanted to join them for… a while now," Rai admitted, scuffing the ground. "Every time I've tried to get the nerve to do it, I've lost it soon enough. Once I even made it inside, but when Chatot asked me what I was doing I made up a story about losing an item and wanting an explorer to find it for me… damn, I'm… ugh."

"Well now you've got me!" Sean grinned, pointing a claw at him and nearly poking himself in the chest. "We're in this together. Tell you what, I'll grab you by the tail if you try and run."

Rai gave him a perturbed glance and Sean inwardly cursed some excessively foul language. "I don't mean… like… um. What did I say?" He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his head; the words were gone and if he kept on chattering he'd start saying some highly thoughtless things.

"Nothing," Rai said, snapping Sean out of his thoughts. The shinx smiled and looked directly at him for the first time that day. "Glad to know I can… thanks. I might want to just mention, about the." He glanced around. "Human thing."


"It's not a really a pokémon thing to tell people your name right off the bat." For some reason Rai began to blush. "So, I'll call you Meowth and you call me Shinx when we're around others, okay?"

Sean nodded. He didn't quite understand, but he'd go along with it. "Okay."

Sean smiled and Rai smiled back. He was very cute. Sean could bet he was cute as well, he had a nose, that brought up the cuteness rating at least several levels. He could feel his ribs when he breathed in, however, glancing down he was very bony.

That was weird but… he had no time to dwell. They had reached the guild.

The giant Wigglytuff built into an entranceway was still horrifying. The empty eyes, paint chipping, the multi-coloured feathers tied to one side, and the weird totems in front of it. It looked threatening. "Maybe," Sean reasoned to himself as he and Rai stood frozen. "That's the point."

"You ready?" Sean asked, forcing his eyes away from the yawning chasm of The Wigglytuff and to the grate that laid like a trap before it.

"No," Rai answered honestly. "But I wasn't ready to lose my Relic Fragment either."

Stepping forward, missing the pained expression on Sean's face at the reminder, Rai stepped forward to the grate.

The holes were far too wide for him to stand on it and he hesitated. "I… uh… could you go first?" he asked, quietly and flushing in embarrassment.

"No problem," Sean said, smiling as Rai recoiled back from the grate like it stung him. He stepped over it, not nervous at all. He'd done this already, he was a pro.

There was a moment of nothing long enough for Sean to wonder if the guild was occupied.

"Pokémon detected!" a sharp, high, voice declared, causing Sean to jump and Rai to fluff up with sparking fur. "Pokémon detected!"

"Whose footprint?" another voice, that could only be described as intense, boomed. "Whose footprint?" Thankfully the owner of the voice wasn't shouting. Yet.

"The footprint is meowth! The footprint is meowth!"

"You again?" the voice Sean knew to be Loudred demanded. "Are you going to play by the rules this time?"

"We will," Sean shouted, voice echoing for Diglett below.

"Fine. Then get your FRIEND on the grate!"

Rai breathed in and out several times very quickly as Sean stepped off and looked to him. He was shivering like a leaf in the wind and Sean came over, thinking he might need to carry him over. The shinx was heavy too, or at least heavier than he was.

"You can do it," Sean said, hoping this measly attempt at cheerleading would help. Rai stared at him for a moment before swallowing and dragging himself over. He hesitated again before stepping onto the grate, looking back to Sean for support. "You know you can."

Rai nodded and stepped onto the grate. "Pokémon detected! Pokémon detected!" Hearing that for the third and fourth time reminded Sean of the pokémon detective movie he probably would never see now.

"Who's footprint? Who's-?"

"The footprint is shinx," Diglett interrupted, his voice growing very excited. "The footprint is SHINX!"

"WHAAT?" Loudred gasped before the gate began to open rapidly. "Get in here then."

Rai gave Sean a baffled look, but the meowth had no words of explanation for that. "Let's go," Sean said, jogging forward. Rai, much calmer now, ran after him and the two of them approached the mouth of the building.

"I wonder what that's about?" Rai asked as they stepped into the mouth of the building, the gate clanking shut behind them. Sean was relieved to see that, rather than a ladder to climb, there was a steep incline heading down in a spiral to the next level. He had been wondering how Rai was going to climb a ladder without hands or opposable digits.

Walking down to the second floor brought back another wave of nostalgia in Sean. Seeing the Wigglytuff Guild from such a different angle was strange, but even then, he felt at home inside its walls.

Several pokémon were up and about, looking over the notice boards. There were posters plastered up about pokémon who weren't outlaws, just famous. There was a very prominent picture of a lucario with a caption in strange runes that… Sean could read. Called The Legendary Lucario.

Sean found himself grinning widely again as he recognised each pokémon. Bidoof and Sunflora were looking over the job notice board while Corphish was glancing over the outlaw notice board. He spotted Chimecho giving Corphish advice as he worked out what mission to take.

The pair received a glance or two from the pokémon in the room, but no one approached. Sean was sure Sunflora didn't even notice them come in, already used to how loud Loudred could be.

"Ah, hello there," a voice chirped up from behind them. Sean turned, with Rai stiffly turning with him, to find a colourful bird having stepped up from the floor below them. "I am Chatot, Guildmaster Wigglytuff's right hand pokémon."

"Hello," Sean replied, Rai did not make a peep. "I'm-"

"May I ask what your business is here?" Chatot asked, cutting over Sean. His words were polite, but his tone was sharp. He hadn't quite taken in Rai's appearance, the shinx having shrunk behind Sean.

Sean adjusted, letting Chatot see them both. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of Rai. "We'd like to join as explorers!" Sean said, grinning widely.

It was funny how quickly Chatot's demeanour changed. Moving from a guarded and professional guise to a flappy and delighted one.

"Indeed? A new pair of pokémon who wish to become explorers?" Chatot rubbed his beak with a wing, seemingly speaking his mind out loud. "Splendid! Splendid! What a splendid day. Oh yes, you are aware of the difficulty of our program, yes? Of course you are." He nodded to Rai. "Splendid!"

"I-is the training really that difficult?" Sean asked, finding his voice again.

"Hmm?" Chatot asked before he focused on the nerves in both of their faces and fell into a flurry of flaps. "Oh no-no-no! Not at all, no, not at all. Our training is as easy as can be!" He gave a laugh, stiff and forced. "Yet we only deliver quality, oh most certainly yes! Come along you two, come along swiftly!"

"His attitude can change quickly," Sean thought to himself as Chatot composed himself.

"Follow me now," Chatot said, motioning them to follow him. "Let's get you signed up post haste with the Guildmaster. We don't wish to dawdle, chop-chop."

Sean quickly followed, reaching the second slope down before realising Rai was having difficulty following. "Um… Rai?" He remembered Rai's words. "Sorry, Shinx?"

Rai was shivering again and wearing an expression Sean could only call petrified. "No stun seeds around," Sean said, coming to Rai's side and pushing him gently. "Come on, we gotta go. Don't want Chatot to think we're lazy."

Rai began to move, and they descended to the second level. Chatot was waiting for them with an air of eagerness. "Come now, come now. We cannot leave the Guildmaster waiting."

Sean was able to quickly glance around, spotting the edge of Croagunk's Swap Shop and also saw Loudred. He gave a wave to the fellow Normal-type pokémon and received a swift nod in response.

Chatot took them to the left and to a pair of impressive doors. The light from a window was beaming into their eyes and Rai made a low, impressed sound. "Wow. We're two floors underground and we can see the sky."

"The guild is built into the side of a cliff," Chatot explained patiently. "It's only natural one could see the outside." He turned back to the doors and hesitated. "Now," Chatot said. "We are to see the Guildmaster. Behave yourselves around him. Do not speak unless spoken to. And on now account. I repeat, on NO account, should you be discourteous to our Guildmaster."

With that he called out. "Guildmaster? Chatot is entering with guests." And pushed the doors open.

Sean silently whistled. The doors were much bigger than Chatot, but he pushed them open like they were made of straw. Clearly stronger than he looked.

They entered a rather quirky room as Sean started to think of team names. It was beautiful at a first glance. Fresh flowers being set in pots. Light streaming in from two windows, one was broken. Wigglytuff always refused Chatot's requests to get it fixed, claiming he liked the fresh air. Lavender drapes made by the best weavers around, the same colour as the splash of purple on the guild's forehead outside.

There were also a pair of treasure chests busted open and sprawled off to the side. Pink was the dominating colour of the room, except for splashes of other colours, and Wigglytuff was there.

The big balloon pokémon was not facing them and was standing unnaturally still. Chatot took this in complete stride and hopped over to his side. "Guildmaster?" he asked. "I present to you the two pokémon who wish to join your guild as apprentices. Meowth and Young Shinx!"

Wigglytuff didn't respond.

Rai was frozen almost as still as Wigglytuff and Sean was busy glancing around in mounting excitement.



Wigglytuff spun around on them, startling everyone in the room. His voice was high and musical, fitting Sean's perception of the peppy, constantly cheerful, quirky wigglytuff he knew from the games.

"I'm Wigglytuff." He introduced himself. "I'm the guild's Guildmaster, the Guildmaster of the Wigglytuff Guild. Guildmaster Wigglytuff. You want to form an exploration team?" He didn't wait for their response, instead opening his arms like he wished to hug them. "Then, let's GO FOR IT! YOOM-TAH!"

Powerful sound waves blasted from him, streaming over Sean and Rai like a gale-force wind. Strangely the Hyper Voice didn't hurt, simply ruffled their fur a bit.

The most important effect was snapping Rai out of his funk. Blinking rapidly, he leaned on Sean to steady himself, his muscles having locked up from how tense he had been.

"First, we have to register your teams name," Wigglytuff said, oblivious to the stunned expressions he was facing. "So, tell me your teams name?"

"Team name?" Rai repeated, latching onto the last words as he began to return to the present. "Oh shoot! I had… I had… uh… help?"

With his voice bordering on hysterical, Sean quickly jumped in with the only name he'd been able to come up with. "Team Ion," he blurted.

"Team… Ion?" Rai asked, cocking his head slightly. "That's different."

"Y-yeah," Sean stuttered briefly, feeling everyone eyes on him. "It has something to do with electricity, I think, so I thought it'd be perfect."

Rai gazed at him. "What about you?"

"The only other name I thought of was ThunderClaw, and that sounds a bit… much."

To that, Rai agreed.

"All settled then!" Wigglytuff cheered. "I'll register your team name as Team Ion. Registering," he sang. "Registering… registered. YOOM-TAH!" He nearly blew them away again, but his clear enthusiasm was making Sean and Rai smile.

"Congratulations!" Wigglytuff applauded excitedly, Chatot did as well. "From now on, you two are an official Exploration Team! I present you this in commemoration. A Pokémon Exploration Team Kit." With that he pulled out a box from somewhere. Sean blinked, one moment Wigglytuff's paws were empty, then he had something in them.

Chalking it up to Fairy-type magic nonsense, he stepped forward. Rai joining him moments after.

"Wait. Is he a Fairy-type?" Sean wondered about the situation he was in, there was a litleo and other pokémon past Gen 4 so….

He was snapped out if it when the box opened by itself.

"A Pokémon Exploration Team Kit?" Sean asked as they peered in. Rai seemed to know what he was looking at, he had only the foggiest of memories.

"Yep," Wigglytuff answered. "It has everything an explorer might need. Quick, grab it all out."

With Wigglytuff nearly vibrating with excitement, Sean did the honours. He was the one with more dexterity after all.

"A badge," he said, pulling everything out.

"Two," Rai noted, as a second badge fell out of the pile Sean held.

"A map." Sean unrolled it, noticing a highly detailed map of the Grass Continent. He could spot various towns and landmarks he never would have known of. Treasure Town and Capim Town in particular stood out. There was some close places to Treasure Town. Quad Town. Sicilly. And the marks of some other guilds, the Clefable Guild in Blackstone Village a fair bit northeast and-

"A Treasure Bag!" Rai gasped, clutching onto it like it was a lifesaving gabite scale. Sean looked up from the map. "I've always wanted one. These things cost a fortune!"

"Your badges will be your official guild identification," Chatot explained, hopping over to Wigglytuff's side. "The Wonder Map is a wonderful tool to have to find your way. And the Treasure Bag is yours to keep. Now look inside before the Guildmaster pops from excitement!"

Rai did so, finding a pair of cloth items. He dug them out as Wigglytuff gave a high pitched 'eee' sound in excitement.

"That one's a Special Band, it'll make your Power moves stronger." Wigglytuff pointed to the scarf-like azure cloth. "The other one isn't complete just yet. I saw you had that silvery ribbon!" He beamed at Sean.

Sean glanced down, realising Wigglytuff had spotted the ribbon he had wrapped around his paw. "But you have no way to wear it properly. If you hand it over, I can combine it with this one to make you something awesome!"

Sean hesitated for just a brief moment before rationalising that Wigglytuff was perfectly trustworthy. He pawed over the bow and the band to the excited pokémon.

"Lalala," Wigglytuff sang as he twirled around. Each time he spun, and Sean got a look at what he was doing he had made progress. He spun nearly fifteen times before stopping. "Ooh. Dizzy…" Wigglytuff wobbled a bit but was steadied by Chatot. "Here you go. A super nifty bow to wear. It'll do wooonderful thiiings." He handed it over before falling back, landing on Chatot.

"Guildmaster!" Chatot grumbled, unprepared for Wigglytuff's weight. "GUILDMASTER!" He was nearly sprawled on the ground, Wigglytuff had to be doing it on purpose.

Wigglytuff bounced right back onto his feet with a wide grin. "HIYA!"

"Thank you," Rai said, and Sean gave his own thanks. "I really mean that… I didn't know it'd be so easy, you're very nice, Guildmaster Wigglytuff."

"Aww," Wigglytuff sniffled, tearing up. "Come here." Before anyone could so much as begin to refuse, Wigglytuff pulled Rai into a hug. It took about four seconds before he grabbed Sean as well and hugged him as well. "We have always believed you could do it, Shinx," Wigglytuff said warmly, setting the pair down.

Rai blushed.

"But first you had to come to us," Chatot added, hopping up beside Wigglytuff, ready to intervene in case their new apprentices needed more space to breathe. Wigglytuff's hugs could be debilitating. "Can see it as the first hurdle."

"Yep! But now we'll be having so much fun!" Wigglytuff cheered and did a dance around them before grabbing both of Team Ion plus Chatot for another hug.

"You will also be working hard," Chatot added, acting as the stern teacher in comparison to the dancing Wigglytuff, despite being smushed up with them in the hug. "There will be no shirking of work and there are few excuses accepted here. Understand?"

"We do." Rai nodded, determination replacing all previous trepidation. "Right, Sean?"


"Very good. Come with me you two," Chatot said, releasing them from Wigglytuff's affection. "I'll show you to your rooms."

"Have fun." Wigglytuff waved, doing another spin. "And have a good rest, you two look very tired."

"Thank you," Sean and Rai chorused as the doors closed behind them.

"Come," Chatot said, hopping his way past the window and to a corridor. "The apprentices rooms are this way."

"We get rooms!?" Rai cheered under his breath, hurrying to catch up with Chatot.

Sean grinned and raced after him, but not without glancing back and seeing Croagunk and Loudred staring at them.

Chatot led them past several pairs of rooms on either side of the corridor and to the final one. "Here is where you'll stay during your training here." They entered into a basic room. Having a pair of equally sized beds off straw and a window. It was somewhat roomier than Rai's place, but only due to the lack of a water fountain.

They stepped onto their beds, feeling them as Chatot continued. "You'll live here while you train with us. Things will start getting busy tomorrow so make sure you go to bed early tonight. Dinner is held when Chimecho rings her bell. You are expected to attend all morning briefings. Understand?"

"Yes," Rai said, Sean nodded.

"Very good." Chatot paused and considered something for a moment. "We are happy to have you with us, Shinx. You will do well here," he said before looking to Sean. "As you can probably gather, Shinx is well known. I must offer a thank you for providing him with this boost of confidence." He nodded once and turned to leave.

"Wait," Sean called out, causing the bird to pause and glance back.


Now that things had calmed down and Rai was no longer shivering in a half-panic attack, Sean was able to think clearly again. He noticed something rather pertinent to the time.

They had stayed the night at Rai's instead of joining the guild. It was only now occurring to him that they were supposed to have their first mission today. Spoink, or something.

"Is it possible we can have a job to do?" Sean asked, trying to speak as coolly and naturally as possible. No hint of desperation or pleading no sir.

Chatot's eye quirked in a slight smile. "Eagerness is a good sign, but just use today to prepare yourselves. Maybe introduce yourself to your fellow apprentices. There is no need to be hasty." Shaking his head, he continued hopping away. "Such eagerness, that might be tough to keep up with… the youth of today…" he muttered under his breath, falling out of hearing range soon enough.

Sean swallowed and glanced to Rai. He was looking much livelier than he had been earlier, a smile was spreading over his face.

"I did it," he whispered, joy beaming his face like no amount of light could. "I DID IT!"

Despite his own misgivings of screwing everything up ever, Sean couldn't help but grin wildly as Rai danced around the room. "I'm an official explorer now. I didn't run away like the last sixty-two times! I did it, I did it, I did it!"

He finished hopping around and turned to Sean, beaming smile still in place. "It's all thanks to you. Thank you, thank you!" He pounced on Sean and gave him a lick on the koban, the coin on his forehead, before freezing and leaping hard enough off him that the wind was knocked out of Sean.

"I'm so sorry!" Rai gasped before hiding his face in his paws. "I got to excited. I shouldn't have licked you."

Sean pulled himself to his feet. Being pounced on was not a feeling he was used to at this size, thankfully Rai had tackled him into one of the beds, so the fall wasn't painful. The shinx's tongue was somewhat staticky though and his forehead felt very strange.

Rubbing the koban, and fully realising he had a bit of metal fused into his head now, Sean gave a smile. "Heh, it's fine," he said bashfully. "Maybe a bit of warning next time?"

Rai peaked out from his paws and saw Sean was unbothered. Sighing in relief he propped himself up. "Sorry. I sometimes act without thinking, I can be thoughtless, sorry."

Sean waved him off. "Haha, that's the same as me. You're fine."

Smiling now, Rai stepped forward. "Well, you heard what Chatot said." Flicking his tail, Rai looked back to him. "Let's introduce ourselves to the other members of the guild."

"Look who's all confident now," Sean teased as they went, Rai grinned but the smile was somewhat tight.

"I got into the guild. That's the biggest step of my life!" he said brightly. Sean grinned.

Sean considered what meeting the apprentices was going to be like. He had seen, or heard, everyone he knew from the games on the way in, barring Dugtrio.

They exited into the guilds second floor and found that they had a small crowd waiting for them.

"Oh my gosh!" A pitch only Sunflora could make squealed out in delight. "Shinx did it!"

Rai and Sean had only moments to prepare themselves before they were swarmed by their guildmates. With only Croagunk, Diglett and Dugtrio abstaining from the attack on their personal space, everyone else went to clamber over them.

The image of various monsters rampaging towards him evoked a sense of primal fear in Sean and it was him who froze up under the attention. Rai was all bashful smiles and quiet introductions while Sean tried to reboot.

"And this is Meowth," Rai finished introducing himself and noticed Sean hadn't said anything. Hearing Rai introduce him as Meowth managed to bring Sean back to the world of the living and he blinked a few times to clear his vision. His tail was ramrod straight, but he didn't notice it.

"Ah, hello," he said, heart still hammering in his chest. He did a mental countdown and reminded himself he was good at socialising. His tail slowly began to relax.

Bidoof, of all pokémon, seemed to detect his anxiety and shuffled back. "Golly, I think we might have come on too strongly."

The rest of them saw it too and took a few steps back. Sean gave a nervous chuckle and rubbed his face.

He took a breath and reached out to Sunflora, giving a smile. "My apologies, you startled me a bit. I'm a meowth as you can see, but I'm happy for everyone here to call me-" Before he could finish introducing himself, Sunflora took his paw in her leaf-like limb and shook his whole body with impressive strength.

"Oh my gosh!" she repeated, beaming at Sean. "I'm so totally delighted to meet you. You're both so cute! I'm Sunflora, this is Bidoof, that's Corphish." She continued pointing everyone out and Sean nodded and said hello to everyone she pointed out.

"Skulking over in his creepy shop is Croagunk." Bidoof and Loudred stepped out of the way to let Sean and Rai spot Croagunk, who gave a lazy wave from his perch. "If you want to swap stuff, he's the guy. Although not at the moment."

"Someone blew my cauldron up," Croagunk called, smiling lazily. There was no reproach in his voice.

"Our main sentry is Diglett," Sunflora continued, "he's the one who read your footprints. And his dad is … uh…?"

"Here," Dugtrio said, rising from the ground. "We took a break from communing with the waves to follow the commotion. Shinx, it is wonderful to see you in our ranks at last."

"Th-Thanks," Rai said, perching down and almost burying his face in his paws as he was blushing so brightly. "For all this. Thanks."

"I'm Loudred, I'm one of the main sentries for the guild." Despite being pointed out by Sunflora, the others had decided it was only polite to introduce themselves. "There's no one better in the guild than me to come to for advice on outlaws. I know 'em all. GREAT to meet you." He rattled Sean's arm worse than Sunflora had, Sean guessed it was some tough-guy thing.

"Nice to see you," Rai said, smiling.

"Yeah," Sean agreed. "You seem strong." This time he did massage his arm.

Loudred puffed up proudly. "But of course! I'm the strongest apprentice here!"

"Second strongest!" Sunflora called out.

"FIRST STRONGEST!" Loudred roared back and the two fell into an argument.

"Hey-hey, I'm Corphish." A crustacean pokémon shook a paw each with his pincers, taking great care not to crush or pinch them. "Ignore those two." He had to speak loudly over Loudred. "Croagunk is actually the strongest but don't say that around them."

"Yup-yup," Bidoof agreed, stepping up to them. "Those two can get pretty competitive by golly. I'm Bidoof. I was the most recent apprentice before you two showed up. Gosh it makes me so happy to see some newcomers."

Sniffling slightly, he let himself be pulled back by Chimecho, who floated up as the last member of the mob. "It is great to meet the two of you," she positively sang. "I am Chimecho. I am the chef and nurse of the guild and I also manage the Exploration Teams in general as well as the representative of the Psychic Network. If there are any questions you may have, places you need to scout, or anything at all, feel free to ask."

That was a lot of things.

"Thanks for the offer." Rai smiled but Sean did have a question.

"Psychic Network?" he asked, that sounded new.

Chimecho beamed at him. "Haven't heard of it?" He shook his head. "Curious. Well, it's a simpl thing to explain! A collection of Psychic-type pokémon who have created a linked neural connection pathway that-"

"Chimes," Sunflora giggled as Sean was already looking foggy-eyed. "I think you're going too fast." Chimecho blushed and a few of them laughed. "It lets her talk to other towns and guilds, basically. That's about as much as we need to know."

Sean looked to Rai who bobbed his head. "That's about as much as I've heard."


"We might ask someone for advice soon. Chatot said we go on a job tomorrow." Rai explained. "At the moment we're just told to familiarise ourselves with the place and you guys too I guess!"

Sean tried to withhold his disappointment at the no mission. He was pretty sure the first mission was meant to be Spoink, but would it if they were a day behind on things?

A stab of nervousness went through him at that, and Sean wondered how he was going to handle what was to come.

"Well, good luck," Chimecho said. "Feel free to ask any questions. I'll see you all at dinnertime soon!" She floated off, leaving the pair with Bidoof and Corphish.

"By the way," Corphish started. "Well done Shinx. I was always rooting for you to join the guild!"

"Yup-yup, always knew you could make it," Bidoof agreed, bobbing his head.

"Ah… don't embarrass me." Rai blushed.

Bidoof grinned. "Knock-knock?" he asked, and Rai smiled.

"Who's there?"

"Snow," Bidoof said eagerly.

"Snow who?" Rai asked. Sean watched in amusement, not expecting knock-knock jokes.

"Snow point pretending you don't know me!" Bidoof finished and Rai chuckled.

Corphish shook his head at the antics. "Behave, Bidoof," he said, faux-seriously. "Seriously though," Corphish continued, "we're happy to have you here. I know you'll be an amazing adventurer. Super strong too, just like your sister!"

Rai's smile became fixed. "O-Oh, thank you."

Corphish blanched as he realised he'd said something wrong. "Uh… uh… hey-HEY what's that over there?" He scuttled off as quickly as his six legs would carry him, Bidoof mumbling something unintelligible before running off himself.

Bidoof glanced back, eyes meeting Sean's for a moment, before he ducked down and ran up to the next level. Sean turned to Rai who was blinking a little too much to be normal.

Swallowing, he decided to take a stab at asking some difficult questions. Only to default to something safer. "So, they ran off in a hurry?" He took a moment, Rai didn't respond, so he pulled it back to difficult. "What's that about?"

"Nothing really." Rai shrugged, turning around to walk back to their room. "My sister left a fair while ago, I've just heard about how strong she is so many times."

Sean heard what wasn't said and wisely decided to listen and not press further. He glanced between Rai and the slope leading to the upper level, debating. He quickly decided to stick with Rai, everything was still far to strange and different to consider being alone.

He heard the shinx sigh a little when he caught up and walked with him in silence back to their room. "I'm still really sore from yesterday," Rai admitted once they got to their room. Slumping down on the nearest bed he groaned. "I'm not used to getting pounded like that."

Sean bit his tongue and walked to the second bed. "Well, yeah to be honest I'm not used to getting beaten up either. But when we find them…" he trailed off warningly.

Rai rolled over to face him, consternation marring his expression. "Find them?"

"We'll find those Team Skull assholes," Sean confirmed. Not a doubt lingering in his words. "And we'll get the Relic Fragment back."

Rai blinked at him owlishly for a moment. "Noctowlishly?" Sean wondered, before Rai spoke.

"You're a very strange pokémon," he said plainly. Sean gave a chuckle, but Rai's expression was firm. "You told me you were a human… I'm not sure if I believed you, but you don't act like any pokémon I've met before."

"You've only just met me," Sean said. He knew it could be hurting his chances at being believed, but he still had to say it.

"Yeah," Rai agreed before surprising Sean. "Exactly." He smiled slightly before yawning and closing his eyes. "I know we only just woke up, and I even normally wake up early, but I'm still so tired."

Sean hummed his agreement. "I'm not such an early-delibird, but I don't sleep too easy either."

"Heh," Rai laughed, eyes still closed. "Been here a day and you're already saying stuff like 'early-delibird'."

"Thought it'd make sense," Sean said. He had planned the comment in advance.


They laid in silence for a moment, drifting off, but something occurred to Sean that wouldn't allow him respite until he had answers.

"Rai? You still here?"

"…Yeah. That's a weird way of asking if I'm awake though."

"About the name thing you mentioned before…?"


"What's the reason behind that?"

"I don't really know. It's just polite to call someone you don't know, or just acquaintances with, by what they are. It's a privilege thing, something for friends, family and mates to call you by your name. Pokémon that go about telling everyone their names are usually regarded as, uh… w-well, you shouldn't do it."

Sean digested that information for a moment, it made a comforting amount of sense. Still, there was one last thing on his mind.

"You told me your name. And you barely know me."

"You told me yours. Even if you didn't know the significance, you still did. I like to think, though, that we could be friends. Either way, I'm fine if you want to call Rai, as long as I can call you Sean. It's an odd name for a meowth, you don't look shorn."

He chuckled. "The other pronunciation for that would be seen."

"Seen? Sounds more like a Psychic-type name. Or something like a lucario or something."

"Heh. I got a lot of people calling me Seen. Ever heard of the Meowth Theatre? Could think of Scene?"

"Words are confusing."

"Yeah. Shorn, Sean, Shawn. Whatever, I'll get used to Meowth."

There was a bit of silence.

"I'll do my best. Goodnight Rai, and… thanks. You didn't have to help me out yesterday either, but you did."

"Goodnight Sean. And thank you. I never think I'd ever get to join the Wigglytuff Guild. If I had to lose my Relic Fragment to do it, well… that's just what had to happen."

Rai fell asleep first, setting a trend Sean knew would persist. Sleep did not come to him as easily, though. Rai's last words lingered in his head.

"Yeah… but you weren't supposed to lose it. That's not how the story goes. It didn't need to happen. But we will find it. We have to. Team Skull will turn up eventually, the expedition I think. I gotta make sure that happens…"

Timeline wise things are already messed up a bit. Normally this day would have the job request to find Spoink's Pearl in the Drenched Bluff. But they joined today. But what does tomorrow bring, a certain predatory Psychic….
Chapter 3 - An Upsettingly-Moist Excursion


Bug Catcher
"I've taken a fly around town, Guildmaster."

"Oh? How come?"

"Just curious about our new arrival to town."

"He was very thin."

"Indeed. I have learned that he was first spotted with Young Shinx coming from the direction of his dwelling. Loudred and Diglett confirmed he came to the guild initially but left after someone, assumed to be Shinx. They emerged again at the end of the day appearing rather dishevelled and walked to Shinx's abode."

"I am glad Shinx has made a friendly friend!"


"Do you not think so, Chatot?"

"I admit I hold some concerns. Where Meowth has come from and why he so swiftly struck up a friendship with Shinx."

"Friends appear in mysterious places, Chatot! Lala, like in cupboards and under sinks! Just because they're a little different doesn't mean they are bad!"

"I trust your judgment, Rhythm."

"I trust yours, Trill. Let's support them both! Shinx struggles with confidence, if Meowth is helping him with that then that's great! They might both need help though, and Shinx was never one to ask."

"Like his sister."

"Yeah. Was that all?"

"That was all."

"Sing me my bedtime song, please."

"Of course. Ahem."

"h… y… ...k… u…"

Sean breathed in and out. He was skirting wakefulness but was dozing just enough to know he was enjoying laying in one place, completely calm and comfortable.

"Hey… w…k… up…"

Rai smiled in his sleep. Enjoying a wonderful dream that he had finally gathered the nerve and joined the Wigglytuff Guild.


Sean and Rai yelped as their noses were pinched by something very hard. "Wake. UP."

With the claws coming out and electricity crackling to ward him off, Corphish stepped back to let Rai shock only himself and Sean.

"Ugh…" Sean twitched, tasting copper from biting his tongue. "That was worse than the electric fence I accidentally touched."

"What was that for?" Rai demanded, rubbing his nose and blinking the tears away.

"It's time for the morning briefing," Corphish explained, scuttling back and further away from the danger zone. "You don't want to be late. Chatot will lose his feathers. I'm doing you a favour, hey-hey."

Sean stopped growling and Rai stopped blinking. They glanced to each other before yelping again.

"Hey-woah!" Corphish was bowled over by the pair scrambling to the assembly. They refused to make fools of themselves so early.

"How did we sleep in so long?" Rai asked as they jogged. The distance wasn't far, and Corphish was gaining on them quickly.

"You call that sleeping in?" Sean replied as they exited the corridor and were stared at by the entire guild minus Wigglytuff and Corphish.

"It is for me," Rai muttered as they took places at the edge of the assembly, feeling awfully exposed. "I never sleep in that long."

"Almost late, young apprentices," Chatot chided, looking them up and down.

"You can thank me later," Corphish grumbled from behind them, before taking his place between Dugtrio and Loudred.

"Alright," Chatot called over the soft rumbling of the talking pokémon and quieting them. "Has everyone met our pair of new arrivals?" He received a positive response from everyone.

"Slept the day away I heard." Dugtrio turned to face them, three sets of eyes boring into them.

Sean averted his eyes, uncomfortable at the sight of something brown and cylindrical popping out of the ground and speaking with three faces. He wanted to ask some questions but dared not to learn such forbidden knowledge. It hadn't bothered him yesterday, but yesterday he hadn't been pinched and then shocked awake.

"Sorry," Rai giggled, nose going red. "We only meant to lie down for a moment. Guess our days before really weighed us down."

"Hmm," was all Dugtrio said before Chatot cleared his throat.

"Ahem. Either way, welcome to Young Shinx and Meowth. You are ALL expected to treat them well. You are all apprentices, you are all on the same footing even if some have more experience than others. Be polite and helpful if one comes to you for advice. Understood?" He was giving Loudred and Dugtrio a few pointed looks as he spoke, and both did their best not to roll their eyes at him.

"Sure, whatever." Loudred shrugged. "I'm cool with them."

"There were no issues yesterday, I imagine I will have no problem with them," Dugtrio said, bobbing briefly in place.

"Good, good. Now." Chatot flourished his wing at the door he stood before. "Presenting our most illustrious Guildmaster."

The doors opened and Wigglytuff strolled out. He had a smile, however vacant, plastered on his face.

"Guildmaster?" Chatot puffed up grandly. "Do you have words of wisdom to share with us this morning?"

Sean smiled happily, seeing the great Guildmaster Wigglytuff with his own two eyes beaming out at them tickled something young and innocent within him. He felt a grin pulling at his face, thinking of how amusing it was for Wigglytuff to stand around asleep with his eyes wide open.

"Sure do!" Wigglytuff said, completely throwing Sean's expectations out the window and into the sea below. "Don't shirk work! Run away and… uhh…" he leaned over and whispered. "Line?"

"Pay?" Chatot hissed back.

"Right!" Wigglytuff beamed before continuing as brightly as he was before. "Run away and far away!"

Sean found himself struggling to keep himself from laughing.

He kept himself under control, however. Chatot was staring at everyone with an intense enough glare that any amusement would not be taken well.

There was a tiny snort or titter than ran through the group, but everyone held flat enough expressions that Chatot couldn't determine which one, or ones, expressed such merriment.

"Is that all, Guildmaster?" Chatot asked, pausing his suspicious scanning of the crowd.

"Yup!" Wigglytuff turned to glide right back into his room but paused halfway, his back facing the crowd. "Oh wait! I thought of another one!"

"Yes, Guildmaster?" Chatot asked. Wigglytuff stood there in silence. "We are… uh… awaiting your words of wisdom." Wigglytuff remained motionless, causing Chatot to hop to his side. "G-Guildmaster?"

Wigglytuff spun back on the assembled apprentices, causing everyone to jump. "And three! Smiles go for miles!" With that he did a little dance, sang a little song, and twirled his way back into his room.

After closing his doors, he quickly opened them again. "That has GOT TO be our new motto. Remember that everyone." He slammed his doors shut again but was heard singing again so no one was concerned.

Chatot stood in silence, staring at the door, for a long moment before giving an imperceptible sigh and turning on the guild with a smile. "Let us all take our Guildmaster's wise wisdom to heart. So then… you heard the Guildmaster. On three! Smi… everyone. NOW!"

"Smiles go for miles!" Everyone parroted back and Chatot nodded.

"Could use some work," he mumbled before waving his wings at everyone. "Go. Do your duties for the day." The apprentices disassembled, besides Sean and Rai who remained where they were, exchanging looks.

"Ah yes, you two." Chatot hopped to their side. "If you'll follow me." He began hopping to the ramp that led to the next floor and the pair quickly joined him.

Chatot took them to their right and over to the job notice board. "As you were both fast asleep yesterday I doubt you were shown the notice boards, correct?"

Rai nodded, but Sean raised a paw.


"Is the board listed with tasks pokémon in the area want us to do?" he asked, hoping to sound informed.

Chatot nodded. "Correct. If somewhat of a simple understanding." Turning he gestured over the board. "It is part of Chimecho's duties to receive job notices from farther away through the Psychic Network and she and I scribe them. Dugtrio is then to update these requests. On this board you'll find pokémon who need something done, be it finding something or escorting someone. This is your job for today, I'll just select one of these…"

He hummed and hawed for a moment before plucking one off the board. "For a beginner team like the pair of you… THIS is the job the guild will have you do today." He handed it to Sean, as he was the one with the paws to handle it.

As Chatot had been deciding, Sean's heart pumped hard in his chest. His mind swirled with what was supposed to happen, but that supposedly happened yesterday while they were sound asleep. He didn't know what to expect, how literal the days in the game were, how likely cosmic chance was or if he'd already screwed everything up ever.

He glanced down at it fearfully and his heart did a strange jolt. His paws felt numb and Rai was the one who ended up reading it, looking down as Sean's paws were not that far from eye-level for him.

"Help! My best friend in the world has gone missing! I am such an idiot, we had a fight over the stupidest thing and now she's gone into a dungeon without me! My friend, Psyduck, said if I wouldn't go with her, she'd go herself! I haven't seen her in two days! She said she was going to the Drenched Bluff! Please! Someone find her! I can't go myself, I'm too weak! Signed, Clefairy."

Sean glanced down as Rai was reading, it wasn't english, but it certainly copied the exclamation point which was dotted all over the request. It bothered him that he could still read it, however.

"The Drenched Bluff…" Rai tasted the word on his tongue again. "That's not far from here… maybe two hours?" He glanced down at the request again, a small frown starting on his face. "But this is just a finding mission. I thought we'd be doing exploration."

"Hush please," Chatot said, giving them both a stern expression. "This is your first job. You cannot expect as difficult as a mission as that just yet. Exploring to discover or determine the limits of a new finding can be very dangerous even to prepared teams."

He softened his tone slightly as the two looked scared of him. "After each mission you will debrief with either myself or the Guildmaster about your efforts. There you will receive feedback. Understood?"

Rai swallowed, nodded, and smiled. "Then we'll prove ourselves like no one else! Right, Meowth?" He turned to Sean with resolute expectation on his face.

"For sure," Sean agreed. "We'll find Psyduck and get her back here in no time."

"Hmm," Chatot hummed and hopped to the side. "Well that is your task for the day. You best get to it, chop-chop."

With the mission in hand, or rather paw, they leapt into action. Rai did at least.

"Alright, let's go to the Drenched Bluff right now!" He was getting fired up, sparks were popping off him, and was running towards the ramp leading up already.

"Wait, we need the Treasure Bag," Sean called, causing Rai to slide to a stop. "And our map… AND our badges."

"Right." Rai nodded. "We left those in our room. Alright, I'll be back before you can say-" And he was gone, zipping down with speed Sean could only call unnatural.

"Adventure." Rai finished, zipping back into place after a few seconds.

"How did you go so fast?" Sean asked, blinking at the shinx with the Treasure Bag looped around him.

"Easy." Rai grinned, turning to aim to the upwards ramp. "Quick Attack."

He zipped up that as well, leaving Sean to try and run up as fast as he could. He had no Quick Attack. He was also clumsy and trying to sprint on two feet was decidedly harder than it used to be.

Rai was waiting for him. Perhaps because the guilds gate was closed. He was tapping a paw and staring at a crank. Upon Sean joining him, he gestured. "We need to turn that to raise the gate. I, uh… might have trouble."

They both looked down at Rai's paws and then to Sean's. Sean waggled his nubs and gave a grin. "Leave it to me!" he said grandly. With a flourish he strolled over and grabbed onto the crank.

He was relieved to find it easy to turn, lifting the heavy metal gate with ease.

"Okay!" Rai shouted, blasting into a sprint that kicked up a plume of dust. "Drenched Bluff, THAT WAY." He ran down the stairs before ending his Quick Attack, staring up at Sean who was taking his time with the stairs. "Come on. Adventure awaits!"

"These stairs have a much worse drop for me now," Sean replied. He could say that being a little over a foot tall, and rather scrawny at that, was rather disconcerting to someone who had been quite tall a few days ago.

"Plus," he panted as he reached the bottom. "Shouldn't we go into Treasure Town to get supplies?" The idea of rushing off into a dungeon with nothing but a bowtie was not something Sean wanted to do.

He was also feeling new waves of panicked nausea at the idea of what they might miss if they didn't. Or maybe it was just hunger, he could see his ribs poking out through his chest.

"Right… good point!" Rai ran at a normal pace towards Treasure Town, but Sean continued to have trouble keeping up with the shinx's pace. He hadn't focused on it the other day because of how much was going on, but he really could see his ribs if he bent the right way and pulled his skin taut.

Previously he wouldn't mind being thinner. But this was a bit much. "How much didn't I eat in the future?" he wondered to himself before frowning. "…Yeah. Yeah that's right. Lost local memories but kept real-world memories? Is that how this works. Gotta be, I don't have any first-hand memories despite travelling back in time. Hmm. This is really weird, for entirely new reasons."

Shaking the thoughts off, he focused on keeping pace with Rai. The shinx stopped for the minimum amount he could at Duskull's Bank before moving on. That, at least, Sean could approve of. His mind was elsewhere, thinking of the game. It was the next day, so Drowzee was around now wasn't he? Or was the day after? He couldn't remember for sure.

Puffing slightly, feeling hungry, and wondering why the marketplace was as far from the guild as it could be, Sean was left in Rai's dust. He was relieved the shinx wasn't still using Quick Attack to move faster, but he was still too fast.

"So, it's illegal to use moves in town," Rai mentioned just as a warning. "Even as a joke. It can cause someone to panic and attack back and then you've got a riot on your hands. Easier to just agree to not do it and then Team Magnezone doesn't get mad."

He kept his newly-keen eyes as vigilant as he could. Scanning the place for any flash of blue or yellow. He saw a few, the town was a bit livelier this morning, but nothing that stuck out to him. He did spot a spoink however, bouncing around merrily with a pearl on its head. That was a relief of sorts.

Wrapped up in his own thoughts, trying to remember painfully specific details of the game he knew, Sean almost walked straight into Rai when he stopped.

"Sorry," he said on reflex, "almost bumped into you."

"No problem," Rai replied before stepping to the side to reveal why he had stopped. "This is Team Razor Wind!"

Sean looked up, and up, and further up still. A zangoose, scyther and sandslash all stood before them, all with natural sharp implements of pain and death glinting in the sunlight.

"So, you're the freshy who's paired up with Shinx here," Zangoose said, smirking. "Well good luck. You're going to need it if you want to make it as an explorer."

Rolling his eyes at his thorny leader, Scyther nodded down at them. "Make sure you stock up on seeds and berries," Scyther advised, exceptionally more pleasant than his leader in just nine words.

"Always hang on to any Reviver Seeds you get too," Sandslash added. "Those things can and will give you the boost you need to keep going. Can be the thing that saves you in a long dungeon."

"And no mercy." Zangoose sneered, but he seemed to have advice like his teammates. "The ferals won't give you any. Nothin' but merciless monsters out there."

"Thanks fellas." Rai smiled, somewhat dourly. "We appreciate the advice from experiences explorers like yourselves."

Zangoose gave a scoff but gave Rai a friendly pat on the head. "One last thing. Keep some apples on you, always." He glanced at Sean with clear judgement of his bony frame. "You don't want to be stuck in OR out of a dungeon with no food. Come on guys." He jerked his head and the other two gave their goodbyes, heading off towards the crossroads.

Sean glanced to Rai who was smiling and asked. "Is that normal" Sean thought it seemed quite condescending to pat another pokémon like that. Without asking or anything.

"Zangoose is always like that." Rai shrugged. "He's nicer to me though."

"That was nice?" Sean thought before asking. "How'd you meet Team Razor Wind?"

"They're an Exploration Team! I just HAD to talk to them. Only took me three tries to get my nerve to approach them." Rai stuck his tongue out a winked before trotting forward again. "They're pretty awesome adventurers. Go for the tough stuff they do. Mostly rough dungeons. I think they're pretty cool."

Sean nodded. He could understand that. "If that was how Zangoose is nice…" He didn't want to see Zangoose not-so-nice.

Rai seemed to sense his misgivings and gave him an understanding smile as they reached a short line. They had reached the brothers Kecleon's shop and were waiting behind a marill and azurill.

"Ah that's right." Sean smiled as it clicked into place. "This is where we first see them. Dimensional Scream too. That's going to be weird."

"Thank you, Mr Kecleon," Marill said, young and boyish.

"Yeah, thanks a heap Mr Kecleon and Mr Kecleon," Azurill squeaked, much younger and higher voice, but still unmistakably male.

"You're welcome," the Kecleon Brothers said in chorus. The other pair of brothers smiles and went on their way, Marill holding a basket and Azurill a single apple. Azurill tripping right as he passed Sean, and the meowth bent to pick it up.

"Here you go." He smiled kindly and got a shy one in return.

"Thank you," Azurill said, grabbing the apple, before hurrying to join his brother. Sean waited. Nothing happened.

"Sweet pair," Rai said as they stepped up into the shopkeeper's space of business.

"Indeed," the green kecleon said.

"Hardworking and honest," The purple one added.

"Do you know if their mother is doing any better?" Rai asked as he glanced around the wares for the day. He received a pair of headshakes in response.

"No better." Purple shook his head.

"And to top it off, the family's treasure has disappeared." Green frowned, anger biting into his voice. Rai's face flashed with pain, although that might have been for the nasty reminder of his own misfortune.

"Oh, Mr's Kecleon's!" The pair of blue brothers reappeared suddenly, rushing to the market stall. "You gave us an extra apple," Marill finished.

"We didn't pay for this many," Azurill said.

Green smiled. "That's our gift to you," he said, receiving starry-eyed thanks in return. A lot of them.

Once the pair had left again, the two kecleon sighed in unison. "Do hope things look up for them soon."

"They deserve it," Rai agreed before pointing out what he had chosen to buy, four apples and a Sleep Seed. Sean stood in silence the whole time, feeling somewhat out of place. Rai was clearly well-known and friendly with them already. It seemed unnecessary to try and inject himself into the conversation, and he had no money to buy anything with.

What was bothering him more, however, was the lack of dizzy spells. He was almost certain the first Dimensional Scream happened after touching the apple. But not even a slight twitch of vertigo. He was feeling fine, fantastic even and he didn't like that.

He felt even better after Rai gave him another of those delicious apples, and he hated every moment of it.

"What's going on?" he repeated in his head. "Why isn't it happening? What do I do when…?" That's when he saw it.

"Oh no," he said, accidentally out loud. A small part of Sean felt relieved, then he shut that feeling away under bars of shame and self-loathing. He shouldn't feel happy or relieved for what was happening.

Drowzee was there. Drowzee was there. Drowzee was THERE.

"Wow you've really seen our Water Float?" Azurill cheered, rolling a happy twirl around the predatory Psychic-type.

"Indeed," Drowzee's oily voice reached their ears as Rai and Sean approached. He saw them and corrected his tone. "Certainly. I had no idea what it was, but thought it seemed unwise and potentially selfish to take it for myself. I left it where it was."

"This is so amazing!" Marill grinned, he had set the apples down and shook Drowzee's paw. "Thank you. We've been searching for weeks now. It's very important to our family, it only works for us as well!"

"Truly fantastic," Drowzee agreed, a glint entering his eye. "If you'd like, I could bring you there. For safety purposes, I am an experienced adventurer after all. None could guide you as safely as I could."

"That'd be great!" Marill smiled, but then frowned. "Oh, but… I'm sorry, we really don't have the money to pay for your services. That's why we haven't gone to the guild or anything."

"Think nothing of payment." Drowzee waved them off. "Helping you is all the reward I need."

"Really, Mr Drowzee?" Azurill gasped, pure joy filling his voice, and Sean thought he spotted something resembling not-evil enter Drowzee's eye before he blinked, and it was gone.

"Certainly. I was just up there, I know it'd be no trouble for me."

"So, what's going on here?" Sean had enough. He moved closer and said his words very loudly. All three pokémon blinked at him before the brothers spotted Rai stepping up next to him.

Rai glanced at Sean in confusion, he had been passively silent throughout the town. Now he was approaching someone? "Sounds like great news." Rai smiled and Marill and Azurill beamed back.

"Yep. Looks like we've finally found our Water Float," Azurill explained before turning back to Drowzee again. "Thanks to Mr Drowzee here. He's the nicest, kindest, coolest ever! Except for my brother."

Both Marill and Drowzee chuckled at that. "I don't think I'm that good," Marill started.

"Your brother is definitely," Drowzee began.

"Mr Drowzee is much better than me."

"The greatest to you. Your own personal hero."

Marill gave a chuckle and smiled at Drowzee. Drowzee smiled down at Azurill, but Sean saw only a leer.

"Well, we had best be off if we wish to get back soon," Drowzee said, stepping past Azurill on one side and Marill on the next. He bumped into Sean and he felt the bump as something harder than necessary. "My apologies." Drowzee smiled and continued.

Marill and Azurill waved their goodbyes and Sean waited. And waited. He wasn't sure about earlier, but he knew for certain that Drowzee triggered a Dimensional Scream.

There was nothing.

And that was a problem. Drowzee was going to take them to the mountain and scare them both really badly and they were meant to chase after them, but Azurill was so young and it reminded him of-

A sudden wave of panic gripped him hard enough that it almost felt like vertigo, and he shouted out, "STOP!" He was loud enough that everyone on the street heard him. There weren't many about, the spoink was still here, a few shopkeepers and teams were there.

Marill, Azurill and Drowzee did stop and turned with varying mixtures of concern, curiosity, and thinly veiled irritation. "Yes?" Drowzee snapped. "We are in a hurry if you don't mind."

Sean swallowed nervously. He hated this. "Why did I yell out?" he asked himself. But he knew the answer. He could let this play out right and pretend he had a vision until they saw the poster at the guild. Or he could stop the boys from getting hurt in the first place.

"I saw a Drowzee with a wanted poster," Sean declared, loudly, to the whole street. "So, I don't think it's okay for you to take those two without any questions." He hated talking without having any time to think about what he was saying, it made his heart pound and legs shake.

Sean nodded to himself, feeling quite accomplished in how coherent he managed to be. Rai gave him a horrified glance and said. "A wanted poster? An outlaw!?"

Marill glanced to Azurill worriedly but Drowzee kept his cool. "That is awful," he cried. "I understand your concern, applaud it actually, it is terrible when pokémon of your own kind act in such a manner to disparage their whole species. I know you understand as a meowth."

Sean frowned, thinking. Drowzee had not reacted how he had thought. He scarcely even seemed bothered by the sudden and loud accusation and Sean couldn't help but doubt himself.

"You won't forgive yourself if they're hurt," Sean reminded himself. Standing firm, he pointed the claw at Drowzee. "Prove it then."

Rai was glancing between Sean and Drowzee quickly with concern. Drowzee was hesitating but found his words soon enough. "Very well. How may I prove I am as innocent as you?"

The way he said that left a bad feeling in Sean's mouth and he pointed to where the guild could be seen. "Come with us to the guild and we'll check."

"Oh please," Drowzee scoffed, loudly and louder still. "You wish to waste the guilds time with this? Marill and Azurill have a sick mother and I don't have all the time in the world. They need their item, this could take hours for you to be certain."

"The wanted poster is up there," Sean insisted, lying through his teeth. "Won't take more than ten minutes."

Drowzee hesitated again and received a glance from Marill. "I don't mean to be rude, but… I have to think about my brother. Let's just go to the guild."

Drowzee stared at him blankly for a moment before looking up at Sean and Rai and nodding. "Very well. I have nothing to fear."

The crowd glanced away, deciding the matter resolved and most of everyone relaxed. Sean didn't. Neither did Drowzee. They were staring at each other, tensed and ready.

Right as Rai and Sean reached the trio, Drowzee moved. "YA!" Drowzee shouted, shoving Marill and Azurill into Team Ion's way with a hard shove and began sprinting away.

Sean reacted almost as quickly as Drowzee did and was in pursuit. He tripped over Marill but landed on his feet and kept running.

"Hold on!" Rai yelled, but Sean didn't listen. His heart was pumping hard, he wasn't thinking things anymore, Drowzee was quick but not as quick as a meowth. As if by themselves Sean's claws extended and then, as he fell further into the depths of righteousness, his claws began glowing white.

He reached within scratching distance of Drowzee and went to slash with Power-infused claws. Sean used Scratch.

It missed.

Right as he went to cut, Sean was tackled to the side. He rolled in a furry-feline-fracas before being pinned.

"Are you out of your mind?" Rai hissed, he had been the one to tackle and pin Sean. "I said you cannot use a move in town. You'll get arrested or be labelled an outlaw. NEVER do that!"

He had spoken low, under his breath, so no one else heard. Sean distantly noticed Drowzee disappearing, no one else reacting fast enough to even begin the chase.

"He's getting away!" Sean protested, Rai pushed himself off him and they both looked to see Drowzee disappear.

"S-sorry," Rai whispered, Sean still just taking in what just happened. "But you really can't use a move here. The last pokémon to do so, well… it caused a terrible fight and the town was badly damaged."

"But he… he… got away." Sean knew he was repeating himself now, but Drowzee was getting away. No. He HAD gotten away.

Flushing with a mixture of anger, frustration, and nerves, Sean glanced down.

Now that the adrenaline was wearing off he noticed he could feel something he had never felt before. It almost felt like blood flowing back into his arm after something had been cutting off his circulation, letting unrestricted blood flow to his arm again. It was like feeling the coolness of blood rushing to the tips of his fingers again, but somehow flowing even further than that.

Frowning, he looked over his paw. It didn't feel like he had bled but summoning that Power and the feeling surrounding it; that was the closest description he could give. His claws were completely white, and almost flickering like mist.

"M-Mr Meowth?" Sean started and felt himself return fully to the present when Marill's shaky voice reached him. The feeling faded and his claws returned to normal. Beside him, Rai sighed in relief. He had been blocking the view from anyone seeing the meowth's paw.

"Uh… yes?" Sean asked.

"Was Mr Drowzee really an outlaw?"

"Yes." Sean nodded, trying to reorder his thoughts. "He was."

Azurill popped up next to his brother and leaned against him, shaking slightly. "Does that mean he lied about finding our treasure?"

"Y-yeah. I'd say so."

The brothers shared a look and Marill gathered up the apples that had spilled when Drowzee had shoved them. "Th-thanks for stopping him. I don't know what might have happened if you didn't. We… we better get home. Thanks."

Pressed together, they walked out of the town, towards home, together. Sean wanted to stop them, say Drowzee could be out there waiting, but he doubted it strongly.

"Good work," Rai said, giving him a paw-pat on the shoulder. "You stopped an outlaw from taking them!"

Sean tried to smile but could barely manage it. "He got away though." It was all he could think about.

Rai nodded guiltily. "There wasn't much you could do. You put him in a situation where he had to run or else get arrested. He didn't take anything or anyone so it's a good thing!" He bumped his rump against Sean and knocked him over. "Oh, oops. I guess you're not used to that kind of thing?

"No… no not really."

"Come on then, if that wasn't too much excitement." Rai's lips twitched with a grin. "We've still got a Drenched Bluff to go through!"

"Yeah." Sean agreed, falling into step with Rai. It stunned him how normal Rai was acting, how no one else batted much of an eye after the situation went down. A few pokémon had come forward, but Drowzee disappeared too quickly.

"Shouldn't we mention this happened?" he asked as they passed by the guild.

"When we get back, I think, we explain everything that went down on the day."

"I suppose… someone could go looking for him."

"It's too late now," Rai answered, he gave a sigh and they came to a stop. "Look you, uh… you did a good thing stopping him there but by the time we tell Chatot what happened he'll be too far away, and he might get mad at us for, uh, 'shirking work'."

"That doesn't make sense," Sean said, crossing his arms grumpily.

Rai cocked his head cutely. "That's how it is here."

Knowing he wasn't winning this argument, Sean dropped it and they left town in a somewhat tense silence.

Hoping to break it, Sean asked. "How come moves aren't allowed in town?" Sean asked. He wondered what other rules and social niceties he didn't know because this was certainly going to be different than what he was prepared for.

"It's a peace thing really," Rai answered as they passed many trees. "Towns and civilisations seem to have that rule in common. If you have a disagreement, take it out of town or to a dojo."

Sean's mind immediately went to Marowak's Dojo. He had spotted it, he was pretty sure, but hadn't gone anywhere near it.

"Using Moves in town can upset the balance or something," Rai continued. "I think it's more to do with the fact that some predatory pokémon are, well, feared for what they could do. None of them eat anyone who's not a feral pokémon!" Rai insisted suddenly. "Well… not if they don't want to be an outlaw… um… but well, peace."

"Peace?" Sean asked. "You mentioned a fight happened once or something?"

"Yeah… Treasure Town was nearly destroyed by a fight that escalated from one pokémon attacking another, that led to someone trying to stop them, then a stray attack hit someone else and it all just went downhill from there."

"I understand," Sean said. He was still shaking everything that had happened off. Still trying to understand why Rai was unfazed by it. He found the words.

"You seem alright with it?" He looked right at the top of Rai's head. "Like that." He gave a twirly gesture, trying to show the befuddlement he felt. "Didn't just happen."

"Well." Rai shrugged. "Not much did happen. No one was hurt. No one was taken. The outlaw ran away. You seem a bit frazzled though?"

"It's not what I'm used to," Sean admitted, crossing his arms in a comfortable position. "I guess I'm still getting used to the fact I'm not in…" he trailed off. It felt almost taboo to acknowledge his beginnings, his world or the Dark Future. He could be confident it wasn't like this in that frozen hellscape.

"Well if it helps, you act pretty okay so far," Rai said cheerfully. He chuckled when Sean gave him a disbelieving look. "You need a bit of work, yes, but so far you are handling this all pretty well."

"So are you," Sean replied as they stepped past a trail leading to the left and further into an area Sean had never actually seen. He'd never seen the journey to a dungeon, the expedition didn't count.

An hour later he decided it wasn't all that great. He and Rai chatted intermittently as they walked, trying to get to know each other a bit better.

They started off with safe questions.

"What's your favourite colour?" Sean asked. "Mine's yellow. Black too, but that doesn't really count as a colour."

"Green," Rai answered. "What do you like to do to have fun? My eyes are yellow."

"Well my eyes are green." They shared a smile. "Read I guess." Sean doubted any of his other interests would make sense to Rai. Games was assuredly off the table. "What do you do when you're feeling bored?"

As they were nearing the Drenched Bluff, he had learned that Rai was excellent at reading the Wonder Map, they had moved onto slightly more personal questions.

"Even without touching them at all," Sean finished. "I guess it's not very notable here." He wiggled his ears for proof and Rai wiggled them back. "But humans usually can't move their ears much without touching them."

"That's odd to imagine," Rai laughed. "Hey, when did you- oh. I think we're here."

The entrance of the Drenched Bluff was not particularly inviting. Drenched was an apt word to use when looking at it. As were other unflattering terms like moist, soggy and squelchy. The sounds their paws made of the ground and having to deal with the feeling oozing between his claws, haunted Sean as they walked forward.

"Urgh, here's another fun fact about me," Sean groaned as they entered. "I cannot stand slimy things touching me."

"It's not great," Rai agreed, grimacing. "Hopefully the dungeon itself will be more manageable."

It was. To a degree.

The Drenched Bluff was wet and slippery. Similar to the Beach Cave there were deeper pools of water where terrible things lurked, they made sure to avoid those areas.

The walls were of a different stone, much greener and slimier than Beach Cave, but the ground was a mixture of the same green and a lot of moss and even more slime. There were many lileep around, but they seemed content to stay in one place and ignore them.

"This dungeon's a bit older than Beach Cave," Rai said as they slipped around. "So, it'll probably be deeper."

Sean tapped his explorer badge and realised no one had said anything about it having magical teleportation powers. "I guess we'll need to bring the psyduck with us as well."

"She's probably scared to," Rai added. "And hopefully not injured. This place shouldn't be TOO big though. Let's take our time and get this done right."

"You seemed like you were in a, wah!" Sean slipped over. Huffing he pulled himself up, ignored Rai's snickers, and said. "Hurry earlier."

"We didn't run to the dungeon," Rai pointed out, he frowned and grew very still. "Careful. Anorith." Sean froze as well before glancing around discretely. A horrifying fossil pokémon, all legs and natural grossness, peered out from a corner. It warbled at them before turning and leaving.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Sean made his way quickly to Rai's side, the ooze on the floor being used to slide himself all the quicker.

"You're safer," he said when Rai chuckled at him. "Shush. I'm still learning. Teach me wise master."

"Okay." Rai grinned back before going completely serious. "First things first. The lesson of how to not freak out over goo-" Whatever he was to say next was lost as Rai was launched back from a sudden hit.

"RAI!" Sean shouted and tried to run to his side, slipped instead, and nearly did a backflip. He grunted in pain when he landed and groaned when he realised the goop was getting into everywhere.

"Damnit," he grunted and tried to sit up. Before he could, a chingling floated to his side. "H-hello."

"Don't say hello," Rai groaned, shaking his head. "It hit me. Attack it!"

Chingling frowned and Sean's claws extended on instinct. It didn't like that and screeched at him, blowing him back as its eyes lit up with Psychic power. The Treasure Bag was separated from him and the chingling grabbed it gleefully.

"Chin~ling," it sang mockingly at him, and Sean stared in pain. This one was much more coherent than some of the pokémon he had seen in Beach Cave, its eyes were less blank, but it still seemed incapable of talking to him.

As he tried to stand, the chingling floated away, bobbing in the air mockingly as it went, a chime ringing from it.

"Hey!" Rai shouted, firing a bolt of electricity, but he missed when the chingling swerved around it. "No! The Treasure Bag!"

"I will get it!" Sean said grandly as he managed to stand and not fall over. He was able to use the slippery floor to his advantage and slide right across the room. "Get back here!" he snarled, claws out and ready for blood.

"Wait, don't go on without me!" Rai said, but it was too late. He was hit harder by the Confusion attack the chingling had sucker-punched him with and was having trouble walking in a straight enough line to pursue.

Rai groaned when he realised multiple pokémon had entered the room, emerging from the pools of water. However slow and ponderous, the shellos were coming for him.

"Get. Back. Here," Sean demanded as he ran after the chingling. It was digging through his bag, stealing things and remaining out of reach. He was navigating the floor surprisingly well, but he couldn't change direction as easily as the horrible yellow bell and the chingling kept swerving whenever he got close.

Leading him in a circle around one room, Sean was far to fixated on regaining his belongings that he failed to notice newcomers entering the room.

The chingling laughed one more time before a Water Gun his Sean in the back of the head. The sudden thwack knocked Sean to the ground, water stinging and running rivets into his fur.

"Chihihi." The chingling found the seed in their bag and immediately popped it into its mouth. It giggled for half a second more before dropping.

"Oww," Sean moaned, rolling onto his back. "Oh no," he gasped as he realised two anorith and a shellos had appeared out of nowhere and were surrounding him.

The one positive thing was at least the chingling was out, it had eaten the Sleep Seed that Rai had bought earlier.

"Okay, BACK OFF!" Sean hissed, extending his claws. He felt his fur puff up slightly and the fluffiness helped make him look bigger.

The shellos hesitated but both anorith were unperturbed by his threatening display. One clicked and the shellos fired another Water Gun, this one Sean ducked around. Taking a chance at his distraction, both anorith scuttled towards him, clicking and screeching.

Sean was tackled by one and had the lovely sight of an anorith's mouth close up. With its eight feathery legs flexing and twitching and pair of mandibles dripping saliva, Sean had the delightful vision of being pinned by a gigantic ancient spider.

He shrieked and threw the anorith off him with a burst of strength, it hit the roof with how hard he had thrown it. The other one came at him, mandibles glowing as it prepared an attack, but Sean lashed out blinding with his claws and hit it in the eye.

Blood sprayed and the anorith screamed, jerking back and rolling over before righting itself and scuttling away. The shellos lost its nerve and slipped back into the water. The first anorith was not so cowardly.


A bolt of electricity made it rethink its bravery and a second direct hit sent the anorith fleeing for the corridors.

Sean spun on the newcomer, instinct telling him to hiss and defend. Rai came trotting over, covered in slime, and beaming brightly. "Good work," he chirped as Sean remembered who he was. "Your claws are a bit… icky though."

Sean glanced down and found he had remnants of eyeball on his paw. Shivering in disgust, he retracted the claws and dunked his paw in the slime, exchanging one gooey feeling for another.

"That was NOT fun," Sean said as Rai reached their Treasure Bag.

"You did pretty well though," Rai assured him. "Knocked out the chingling and scared two others off."

"It ate the Sleep Seed," Sean muttered, coming to Rai's side and lifting the Treasure Bag off the snoozing chingling.

"Oh… well all the better. Less trouble, that thing was annoying."

Sean frowned slightly, it was a little jarring to hear Rai refer to another pokémon as a thing, but he shrugged it off. "Let's just find Psyduck and through here."

He was suppressing more shivers and trying to forget the scream of the anorith. He also ignored the dots of blood that were mixing in with the slimy floor. Denial was nice and safe.

Rai sensed Sean's discomfort and bumped him gently. He smiled at Sean's curious glance and Sean felt just the tiniest bit better. Rai seemed to be the physical sort, brushing up against him frequently as they had walked to the dungeon.

In a far more comfortable silence than before, they continued wandering the dungeon. With Sean sticking right next to Rai, mentally replaying the fight he had, he felt better. The shinx was quite adept at shocking their attackers and making them flee.

Very few creatures seemed to enjoy the feeling of voltage running through their bodies and few monsters bothered to try anything further after the first shock.

Soon enough, however, the floor began to change.

"Hold up," Rai said, coming to a stop. Sean stopped with him and gave him a questioning look. "We're nearly at the end of the dungeon. This looks like we're about to enter the last room, if we go too much further, leaving will take us right to the beginning."

Sean sighed. "Where's Psyduck?" he asked, not expecting Rai to suddenly know.

"We must have missed her," Rai guessed and turned back. "Looks like we're going for a trip."

Frowning at the end, Sean followed Rai back into the slimy depths of the Drenched Bluff.

An hour later, they were stumped. "I swear we've walked every step of this place," Rai groaned.

Sean nodded in agreement. "I swear I've seen that lump of goop before."

"They all look the same."

"Exactly! We've crossed this place so many times I'm recognising the slime. Soon I'll be giving them names. Like George, and Larry. Lenny. Carl. That one can be Carl."

"Don't let the dungeon get to you," Rai said worriedly, and Sean realised the shinx was actually concerned.

"Haha, don't worry. I'm just kidding. I haven't gone far enough that I'm naming slime."

"But you just…" Rai trailed off before shaking his head. More behaviour he didn't quite understand from the amnesiac human. "We're obviously doing something wrong. Even if Psyduck is constantly moving we should be finding her eventually."

"Well," Sean began, not sure if he should speak his mind or not. "I mean. What if she got attacked and wasn't able to get away?"

Rai's frown deepened, and he glanced away. "…Yeah," he said after a moment. "I'm trying to not imagine that could be the case."

"Sorry," Sean said. "But she could be. Or she might have escaped the dungeon herself! Positive thinking!"

"I know. I really hope not though. Yeah, positive thinking." He shook his head and stood firm again. "No! I refuse to let our first job be a failed one. There must be something we're missing. Maybe there's a passageway we've missed, or something we need to do to open one up."

"Or," Sean said, heart soaring as he realised something they had missed. "She's not on the dungeon FLOOR!"

"Huh?" Rai cocked his head, rather cutely Sean thought.

"Psyduck are Water-type pokémon!" Sean said excitedly, and he pointed to the deepened water ways they glanced at the make sure nothing was emerging to attack from. But had ignored otherwise. "She might have gone into the water! There could even be more dungeon past those."

Rai followed his paw and brightened. "Hey! That must be it." Rai immediately trotted to the water's edge and called out loudly. "PSYDUCK? PSYDUCK? IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, I AM SHINX. I AM AN EXPLORER FROM THE GUILD! YOU'RE FRIEND ASKED MY PARTNER AND I TO FIND YOU. IF YOU CAN HEAR US, COME THIS WAY. WE'LL GET YOU OUT OF HERE!"

He stepped away from that water and crossed the room to the second channel to call the same thing out.

"Come on," Rai said, jerking his head to the corridor. "We've got to do that in every room." Sean nodded, and they ran to the next one, taking a place in each water way to call Rai's message out.

They attracted a fair bit of undesirable attention, largely shellos popping out to spray water at them, but nothing Rai couldn't handle. Even Sean was warding them off with a few warning slashes with his claws.

"Is this going to work?" Sean asked after they exited their tenth room. "I mean. Should we maybe try and swim? She might be stuck or lost."

"I can't really swim," Rai admitted. "Can you?"

Sean hesitated. He could swim, or at least he was able to previously. But even if he still could, entering the water and exploring without Rai to back him up was not an idea he enjoyed.


Until he heard a cry. Both meowth and shinx spun in the direction of the previous room, exchanged a glance, before rushing to it.

"CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Rai yelled and soon enough.

"Yes. I'm over here," a feminine voice with a hint of a lisp, coming from one of the waterways.

"WHAT'S YOUR NAME?" Sean yelled out, feeling a wave of caution hit him at just trusting a voice in a dungeon. They do anything to lure you in. He shook his head, feeling a little strange for a moment. He wasn't sure where that thought had come from.

"I'm Psyduck," the voice called back. "I've been stuck here for ages now. I've hurt my arm and leg, and I can't swim. Please help me."

They could hear her much clearer now, with that last comment they shared another look.

"I can't swim," Rai said under his breath. Sean nodded, swallowed, and gathered his nerve.

"I can." He peered over the depths of the water, noted any possible dangers, and took a breath. "Shock the water if you think you have to," he said, before not letting himself overthink any further and leaping in.

The water was freezing. Drenched Bluff itself was pretty cold but the real chill was in the water. Sean gasped as his head broke the top of the water, taking in a lung of air. His body felt strange, clunky, like he was trying to steer something he had only watched other people control.

He flailed all five limbs, tail flicking and curling as he tried to figure out how to swim as a meowth. "Are you okay?" Rai called, concern painting his voice bleak. Sean knew Rai must be seeing him struggle and he called back.

He tried to put forth confidence. "Just a bit cold." He forced his feet to paddle, arms to wade and tail to just keep doing what it was doing.

Eventually he got himself back under control and Sean made his way slowly across the water. It got into his mouth and nose and soon all he could taste was salt, not a pleasant taste when it was all one could taste.

He reached a bend and glanced back to Rai, already seeming so far away. He knew once he passed this, Rai would no longer be able to physically help him. He was pretty sure salty water was more conductive of electricity, however.

He passed the bend and found himself staring at more dungeon, and a psyduck.

"Hello," he called, trying to smile and he slowly paddled towards her. Psyduck brightened greatly when she saw him approaching.

"You've come to rescue me?" she asked, voice shaking.

"Me and my partner, who's waiting on the other side," Sean answered, reaching the edge. He pulled himself out of the water, making sure he didn't gasp or otherwise imply weakness. He felt oddly tense, he couldn't place why but he didn't want to drop his focus on Psyduck.

Psyduck was scared, likely hungry, thirst, and clearly injured. One of her legs was covered in dried blood and was already showing signs of infection. The sloughy skin was not looking particularly pretty.

"How capable are you at swimming normally?" he asked as he laid a paw on Psyduck's shoulder.

She started shaking and crying. "I-I-I. Oh gosh, I'm so stupid." She lunged and buried her bill into his chest, gripping his shoulders and sobbing. Sean awkwardly patted her on the back while trying to imagine how he was going to do this.

He knew it wasn't going to be easy. But he had a bad feeling he was going to do exactly what he shouldn't and put himself at risk here.

"Okay, okay," he said, voice low and soothing. "You are safe now. R-Shinx and I are going to get you out of here. But the hardest part is going to be getting across this channel of water. It's not very long, but if you can't swim then it's going to be a lot harder on both of us."

"I-I can do a little," she whispered through tears. "I just can't keep myself above water. The blood too, the pokémon that live in the water attacked me because of it, I think.

That was another issue. Sean hadn't been bothered on his way in, but he knew there was no guarantee on the way back. Still, confidence, or at least the appearance of confidence, was key.

"Don't worry. You've got a Wigglytuff Apprentice with you. I'll keep you safe as we get across. Then there will be two!"

Psyduck nodded and he supported her as they walked to the edge. "Here's what we'll do," he explained stepping a foot into the water. "I'll go in first and support you until you're in. Then I'll keep a hold of you on your bad side, and the two of us will use one arm and one leg to paddle. We'll be across in no time, especially with your flippers!"

Psyduck choked out a laugh and nodded. Sean dipped into the water and didn't go under, paddling securely and waiting for her. Psyduck took a breath and let herself drop. She was much heavier than Sean was. At least five times as much, probably more.

Still, water was a strong equaliser, and Sean was able to pull her up, going down underwater in the process. He had his breath and pushed off from the edge, giving them a boost in speed to begin with. She was heavier than he had anticipated, so he change his plan slightly.

The air in his lungs began to burn and Sean loosened his grip on Psyduck slightly to allow himself to pull up to air without pulling her down. He took a breath and dunked his head again. Effectively pushing her along.

He relied on her to guide them as he couldn't open his eyes underwater, popping his head up only briefly to breathe and not opening his eyes as they were wet.

He could feel her flinch on occasion, pain from her leg as she instinctively tried to paddle with her injured foot. Something slimy touched Sean's foot, but he ignored it. It happened again, and he hoped they'd get out of the water soon. The fact that he was so light was actually helping him, allowing him to rise up and take a breath without plunging Psyduck down.

Then something bit his foot and pulled, dragging Sean and Psyduck down with barely a cry. Rai was in sight when this happened, and he shouted out in horror as he saw Psyduck simply disappear into the water. The shinx breathed quickly, then quicker, when no one resurfaced.

"Okay… okay!" He crackled with electricity but wasn't sure what to do. Sean had told him to shock if something happened, but Psyduck was there too now. He began pacing on the spot, debating whether he should try and jump in himself.

Underwater, Sean writhed, letting go of Psyduck, extending all four sets of claws and slashing out wildly. He was in water though, so his movements where slow and clumsy. He felt the feeling of blood rushing again and felt it go to the foot that was dragging him down. He pushed on reflex and the claws in that foot shone briefly with Power. He kicked out and something gave.

A warbling sound echoed through the water, but he was released. Eyes burning as he opened them, he grabbed the flailing Psyduck and hauled them both through the water up to air.

Rai gasped in relief when Sean and Psyduck broke through the water again and he stopped pacing. Both of them coughed for breath, but they were mere meters away and Rai held a paw out. Psyduck gripped it in a flipper and pulled. Easily pulling Rai into the water.

Sean pushed, hoping the Psyduck would grab the edge, and thankfully she did so. He coughed and wiped an eye, spotting no Rai. His foot hit something, and he looked down into the clear water, heart jolting as he saw Rai going down, flailing as he tried to swim.

He didn't pause to even take an extra breath before he went down and grabbed the shinx by the scruff of his neck. He exchanged places with him, forcing Rai up at the cost of pushing himself down.

Things were dark down there, but nothing was stopping him from swimming. Sean swan up and headbutted Rai before breaking above.

The shinx scrambled out of the water and Sean joined him, lungs and eyes burning. The three of them gasped for breath for several moments as they dragged themselves away from the water's edge.

"See," Sean found his words first, coughing for another twelve seconds after speaking, "piece of cake."

"I'm so sorry," Psyduck cried, covering her face. "I dragged you into the water."

Rai made a strange bleating noise before pulling himself to all fours. "It's fine. L-let's just get out of here."

Sean came to Psyduck's side as Rai came to her other and they helped hoist her up. The effort of that horrible experience combined with her exhaustion, injury, and hunger left her barely able to stand.

Sean kept supporting her when Rai had to shock something. The salt clinging to his fur interfering slightly with his electrical attacks. But there was no further catastrophe that happened.

"This is the end of the Drenched Bluff," Rai said as they reached a beautiful, oasis. All three of them were unimpressed, the beauty was not quite worth the near-drowning. "Let's go home."

They gave Psyduck the third apple Rai had bought, that the chingling thankfully failed to steal, and she was able to walk mostly by herself as they made the journey back to Treasure Town.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" After arriving back at the guild, they found Clefairy hanging around nervously. She spotted them as soon as they descended and nearly flew over to them. "Psyduck. I'm so, so, so sorry."

With tears in her eyes, Clefairy held Psyduck by the flippers as the duck pokémon also began to cry. "No, I'm sorry. What were we even arguing about? It doesn't matter. I never should have gone, and I almost died because of it." Psyduck's voice broke very quickly and soon both pokémon were crying and apologising in each other's arms.

Sean and Rai stepped back from the pair, smiling slightly as the reunion made everything more than worth it. Sean staggered his way over to Chimecho to speak with her.

"Well done," Chimecho said immediately upon seeing he was coming her way.

"Thank you." Sean smiled. "But I was just wanting to ask. Psyduck has a nasty wound on her leg, I think it's infected. Are you able to do anything about that?"

"Oh, certainly!" Chimecho responded and floated over to the pair and began speaking to them, being shown Psyduck's injury quickly. Clefairy's gasp was audible from the floor below and she devolved into tears again. Chimecho quickly took them away to somewhere private.

Rai stepped into place with Sean and they just sighed in relief. "Never thought about what happens after the adventure," Rai admitted, receiving a non-committal hum from Sean. They sat down and leaned on each other, enjoying a moment of peace and quiet.

They weren't in peace or quiet for long. Chatot came hopping up from below and spotted them immediately. "Ah, just the pair I wished to see," he said primly, ruffling his feathers.

"What can we do for you?" Sean asked, hoping Chatot didn't actually have something for them to do. Unless it was sleep.

"I saw you completed your job and on the way to the medical wing, Clefairy stopped me to hand you the reward for rescuing Psyduck."

At the talk of rewards, both pokémon brightened. Saving Psyduck was certainly its own reward, but something more was always appreciated. Chatot swung a small pouch into view and opened.

"Here we have, oh very lucky you two." He pulled out three items and another, smaller, pouch that jingled. "A Blast Seed. A Reviver Seed and a Sitrus Berry. All very useful items for apprentices such as yourselves." He handed them to Sean, because he had the bag, and opened the smaller pouch.

"A generous monetary reward also, very good." Chatot's feathers were puffing up quite a lot and Sean couldn't help but smile, knowing what was coming.

"It seems," Chatot said as he counted the money. "Clefairy has given you two thousand Poké!"

Rai beamed. "Two THOUSAND!?" He received more than a single glance at that. Chuckling embarrassedly, he said quieter. "Two thousand? Just for us?"

"Well," Chatot said, and Sean's grin became rueful. "After taking in account guild training, guild meals, guild accommodation, guild exclusiveness and the Guildmaster own cut of the profits. You're sum comes out to, this much."

He handed Sean two hundred Poké and Rai fluffed up. "Two hundred?" he only mostly whined. Chatot gave him a look that simply screamed him to dare and Rai sighed. "Fair's fair."

"Very good," Chatot said brightly, all smiles again. "You keep all item rewards. So, make sure you make good use of them. With this completed, your job for the day is done. You may relax or do whatever you like. As long as it doesn't embarrass the guild. After dinner you'll come to the Guildmaster's Chambers for debrief, okay?"

He began hopping away but paused to glance back. "Oh, and since you weren't awake for it at the time, dinner is served at the ring of Chimecho's bell. Listen for it as she won't ring more than twice." He continued hopping but right as he reached the ramp he paused again. "Also… good work today. ALL of it. I assure you the Guildmaster is very impressed."

At that he did leave, and Rai smiled somewhat goofily. "The Guildmaster is proud of US!" He whooped and ran circles around Sean, making him dizzy. "Oof. I shouldn't do that again," Rai groaned, lying down. "Let's just relax until dinner."

"Oh my gosh! I heard what happened it town today!" Sunflora came over to them, swirling in a giggly pile of plant and excitement.

"Yup-yup, you scared a felon off," Bidoof said, coming to Sean's side. "I can't imagine doing that! You must have been real scary."

"Hey-hey, I gotta say, that's not too bad new guys." Corphish also scuttled up to give his congratulations.

Sean waved them off, feeling embarrassed as well as ashamed. "I didn't catch him," he muttered. "Who knows where he is now?"

"Still a felon on your first real day, by golly. Not even in a dungeon, that's some spooky stuff yes-siree." Bidoof shivered. "Could be anywhere."

"We wanted to check to see if you were okay," Sunflora added, and Sean smiled.

"We're pretty good actually," he said, looking to Rai who smiled at him as well. "Bit salty. Literally I mean."

"What kind of salty would you be otherwise?" Corphish asked and Sean glanced around for a moment. This was still weird for him.

"In other news," he said, moving past the questions, "we DID complete our first real job," Sean nudged Rai and was bumped back. "RrrrShinx carried the whole thing."

"No, I didn't!" Rai shot back, with surprise passion. "You saved Psyduck. And me from drowning. It was even your great idea that figured out where she was."

"We wouldn't have gotten there if you didn't do basically all of the work," Sean replied. "I have to be useful sometimes or else people will wonder why you've got me on your team."

"Team Ion is as just as much your team as it is mine," Rai said, giving him a challenging look.

"Yeah," Sean agreed, stretching the word out as he tried to think of something to say. "I'm just saying that there was no way I could have even gotten through the dungeon without you." He left it unsaid that Rai could get through without him.

"I wouldn't have found Psyduck if it wasn't for you," Rai insisted and they both nodded at the same time.

"We're a team…?" Sean half-asked.

"We'll be the best team!" Rai nodded back.

It was after dinner and Wigglytuff had stopped dancing with his apple to eat it, and wasn't that the biggest, juiciest, looking thing Sean wasn't surprised he was obsessed with them. Just looking at the perfect apple made him want to leap across the table.

After dinner they followed Chatot and Wigglytuff to Wigglytuff's chambers. There was a draft coming through the broken window and Sean noticed behind one of the drapes was another door that led further. He wondered where? It had to be down as they were right on the cliffs edge.

"So, tell me! Tell me!" Wigglytuff beamed at them. "Tell me how it went, friendly friends!"

They had prepared for this, chatting with each other and were ready. Rai stood a little stiffly, but Wigglytuff's earnest cheer relaxed him.

"We had some trouble at first," Rai started, scuffing his paw slightly. "A chingling got a sneak attack on me and…."

"I'm not the best fighter," Sean admitted. "Still getting used to it." With Chatot behind him, he missed the important look he gave to Wigglytuff. Wigglytuff gave no indication of anything behind him, smiling approvingly.

"Understanding ones limits is the first step!" he said positively. "Continue, continue!"

"So, we made our way to the end of the dungeon," Rai explained. "Without finding Psyduck. We discussed what we might have missed and turned around before we got to the end."

Chatot nodded fluttering up next to Wigglytuff. "A smart choice," he said seriously.

Rai smiled at the praise. "And so we went around again."

This time Sean spoke up, "And still found nothing. We got worried she might have… been killed, or hoped she might have gotten out, but we had an idea."

"Meowth had an idea," Rai corrected smoothly. "To go from room to room calling her name."

"It wasn't just my idea," Sean said weakly.

Chatot cleared his throat curtly. "Did you consider that calling out might attract more ferals?"

Rai nodded. "We did, but at that point it was more important we find Psyduck. Meowth reasoned that since she could swim, she might be in a part of the dungeon we couldn't find, and trying to swim every channel would be more dangerous." Chatot nodded approvingly.

"Eventually she called out," Sean continued. "And I was able to swim over and find her."

"Chimecho mentioned she had a wounded leg," Wigglytuff said sadly. "How did you get her through?"

"I swam us through."

Chatot frowned. "That must have been risky, you are rather light for a meowth, and your species is not known to be avid swimmers."

"I didn't have much of a choice," Sean said. "Being as light as I am I was able to surface for breaths every few seconds while pushing her."

"Did anything attack you underwater?" Wigglytuff asked. Sean nodded. "I see. You did a valiant thing, but it's not right to risk yourself to that level, Meowth."

Feeling abashed, and from Wigglytuff of all people, he glanced down.

"Tell us how you resolved the attack?" Chatot asked gently.

"I scratched it with my lower legs and kept swimming."

"And I made a mistake myself," Rai said, ears tilting but he was ready to be in trouble with Sean and not the only one with a spotless record. "I reached out for Psyduck, but she ended up pulling me in. I can't exactly swim and so Meowth got her out and then went back for me."

"He was just trying to help," Sean added, he shuffled closer to Meowth.

Sensing perhaps their worries Wigglytuff smiled cheerfully. "It sounds like your first mission was a rousing success!" he beamed. They both blinked up at him, not expecting that.

Even Chatot nodded. "Quite so. It is good to go in with a plan of attack, but matters always change in the moment. Neither of you two would be expected to swim, and so developing a way to solve the problem and rescue someone in great need is very admirable. There are things to learn from this endeavour, perhaps arm yourself with a rope in your common supplies?"

"Ooh!" Wigglytuff bounced. "Or quick seeds! Go so fast you can run over water! Shinx can use Quick Attack, that plus a Quick Seed could totally be fast enough! And that'd be so cool! Swim really fast too."

"Quite. You enjoy the beach, do you not?" Chatot asked Rai, who nodded. "I would advise taking some time to learn to swim. Meowth could even assist since he has the skill!"

Team Ion smiled at each other, relieved they weren't in trouble and grateful for some tips of advice. Sean was glad they were taking the time to do this, it had never happened in the games, so he wasn't sure what to expect, but this was nice. It made him feel supported and Rai was silently agreeing on that.

"One more matter," Chatot said, growing serious again. "The tussle in town with Drowzee. Are you both okay?"

They nodded, Sean a little slower to do so. They noticed that and Wigglytuff hummed. "You can speak if there is anything you want to say."

"I, uh… I probably acted too fast," Sean said ruefully. "Since he got away."

"Not in the least!" Chatot barked, sounding angry but his words didn't seem so. "Preventing an outlaw from taking those young boys. That is far more important than capturing one."

"He… but he could do it again to someone else!"

"Perhaps he could," Wigglytuff said. "But he would have done it to them. You did a good thing, and a brave thing as well. We are both very impressed. You have a good heart, Meowth."

Blushing under the praise, Sean didn't know what to say and so just managed a, "Thank you."

"That is all," Chatot said. "Now," he added sternly. "It is expected you get a good rest and be up bright and active tomorrow. You cannot rely on your fellow apprentices to wake you in time, understood?"

"Yes, sir," they chorused.

"Sleep well," Wigglytuff hummed, doing a spin. "And dream good! Nighty night."

Excused, they went to their room in comfortable silence.

"Hey Sean," Rai asked, later that night as they lay in their straw beds.

"Yeah?" Sean answered, after thinking for a while.

"Why were you so sure Drowzee was a wanted pokémon?"

"I saw the wanted poster." It was technically true when looked at it from his perspective. The game had shown Drowzee's wanted poster. "I wanted those two to be safe, so if it was rude to call Drowzee out like that, well… I'd prefer to look like a jerk than feel like an idiot for letting two kids get kidnapped or something."

"That makes sense. I saw the poster too, later." Rai shifted, rolling over into a new position. "That was really brave of you, I couldn't imagine doing something like that. I'm glad the brothers weren't hurt. And thanks for saving me when I nearly drowned."

"Thanks for saving me all those other times. Too many to count really."

"Heh. Goodnight, Sean."

Rai couldn't sleep. He didn't want to doubt his partner, but he had checked the outlaw notice board. The Drowzee was there for sure, but upon seeing him looking at it, Dugtrio had mentioned he'd only just put it up. How had Sean seen it?

"Goodnight, Rai."

Sean couldn't sleep. He couldn't help but replay the events that led to Drowzee fleeing. No Dimensional Scream, acting as rashly as he did. He didn't regret saving Azurill from a traumatic event, but Drowzee had a role to play later. Sean couldn't help but worry, what he was changing with his presence, why it was changing, and what the consequences it would cause.

He believed in Rai. He wasn't so sure about himself though.

I think it's right for the guild to actually be shown doing some sort of training. Thus, debrief with Chatot and Wigglytuff. Seems responsible of them.

I also must thank Viroro for looking over this chapter and giving me some beta help!
Chapter 4 - Fracas With a Fiery Foe


Bug Catcher

Sean stifled a yawn as the guild gave their, soon to be routine, morning cheers. Rai was perfectly awake, happily shouting along, while Sean still disagreed with getting up so early.

"What's so good about it?" he thought mutinously as Chatot dispersed the group.

Loudred and Diglett went to their normal place, Diglett quickly burying underground as Loudred boomed his unnecessarily loud voice. Sean watched with a bit of interest as Loudred hopped over to a little cove in the shadow of Croagunk's creepy shop. He couldn't spot it from where he stood, but the previous night on the way to dinner he had seen that there was a lever and pully to open the gateway.

Croagunk himself reached his strange shop much faster than Sean had seen him move when dinner was called. The poisonous pokémon stroked the cauldron that laid bolted into it before moving further into the weird shop and out of sight.

The others had all already gone to the next floor, amidst a surge of chattering and multiple high-pitched ‘Oh my gosh' Chatot called out. "Corphish, if you will?"

Rai and Sean themselves didn’t leave yet. The rest of the guild knew what they were doing but they didn’t. Chatot would have to tell them.

"Hey-hey?" Corphish gave his usual verbal tick as he scuttled back over to them. "What can I do for you today?"

Chatot extended a wing towards the pair of feline pokémon. "Today I believe it would be best for Shinx and Meowth to tackle an outlaw." Rai stiffened up while Sean counted to three, even less comfortable with the idea. "As I have business to attend to today, I would like you to explain the outlaw notice board to Team Ion and help them select a suitable pokémon to go after. Understood?"

"I hear you loud and clear." He clicked his pincers before turning to the pair with a smile. At least, as best as Sean could tell. Crustaceans, even crustacean pokémon, didn't perform the most varied of expressions. "Let's get to it right away!"

Sean and Rai exchanged a glance before nodding. Corphish gestured and turned to lead the way up to the next floor. Before they reached the incline, he paused and turned back to Chatot, interrupting him before he entered the Guildmaster's chambers. "Does this mean I get the rest of the day off?" he asked eagerly.

Chatot immediately puffed up in fury. "Absolutely NOT!" he squawked, causing Corphish to deflate. "It will be no trouble for you to do this task. Afterwards continue with your work, understood?"

"Yes sir," Corphish replied glumly and Chatot nodded. He fluttered off and Corphish led them to the next floor.

"Over to the left here." He pointed, and they quickly followed. Sean continued stifling yawns as they walked, but Rai was perfectly chatty this morning.

"How long have you been part of the guild?" he asked, stepping into line with Corphish. Despite his knowledge of the guild, Rai was relatively in the dark about the apprentices.

"Hey-hey, it's been about." he paused before trailing off. Rai cocked his head as Corphish mumbled some stuff under his breath before shaking his head. Glancing around, he spotted Sunflora over at the job notice board and yelled out. "HEY, SUNFLORA?"

Sean, and Rai for that matter, flinched at the volume. It wasn't as intense as Loudred, but still very close to their ears.

Sunflora, equally as loud, and three times as shrill, screamed back. "YES?"

"The guild isn’t that big," Sean moaned to Rai, who nodded in agreement.





Satisfied, he turned to the pair and answered at a reasonable volume. "Seven months."

"Cool," Rai said softly. He rethought asking any more questions after that experience.

"Now, look at this board!" When neither feline pokémon looked, Corphish clicked a pincer threateningly. That got their attention. "Look. Here."

Rai gulped nervously as Sean's own breathing grew shallower. On the outlaw notice board there were surprisingly accurate pictures, along with scrawled letter Sean still had no idea how he could understand.

With one eye squinted, Corphish aimed a pincer for a moment before firing off a very weak, highly controlled Water Gun. It knocked a notice off without smudging a bit of it and he snatched it out of the air with a dignified flick of his pincer.

"Wow," Rai said, rather impressed.

"Nice work," Sean added.

"Meh." Corphish waved a pincer at their compliments, although there was an extra sparkle to his eyes as he handed over the job he had selected. "Take a read of it and tell me what you think?"

As Sean was the one with dexterity, Corphish handed it to him.

He quickly lowered it down so that Rai could read along. Sean read silently, although Rai still spoke out-loud.

"Help! That jerk Litleo stole my golden ribbon. I chased him for as long as I could, but he ran into a dungeon, and I can’t go in there. Please, could someone enter the Oran Forest and get my ribbon back before he sells it? Thank you. Signed, Charmander."

"A Fire-type?" Sean asked curiously. “Wait. Litleo?”

Rai was frowning, his eyes turned to Corphish who looked entirely normal. He stared, and Corphish stared back. Sean wasn’t sure what this was for or if he needed to give them a private room.

"Eh," Corphish said with a click of his claw. "I think this would be right to start with. Just some petty thief rather than someone intense. Like Drowzee!"

Sean cringed before grinning bashfully. "Yeah. I saw what his wanted poster said. Scary stuff.”


Sean and Rai jumped, tails going rigid as Sunflora shrieked right from behind them.

"Don't do that!" Sean tried to say, but his words were smothered in Sunflora's chest when she embraced him.

"What a brave pokémon you were. Standing up to Drowzee, saving the brothers, it just makes me… EEEK!"

She swung him around, giving Sean a sensation he hadn't felt in years when he was small enough that other people could swing him around, before settling him down.

"Oh my gosh you two are going to be, like, just the best!"

"Yup-yup." Bidoof was there too and made his presence known with the last verbal tic of the trio. "I got shivers when I saw Drowzee's wanted poster. The thought that he was in Treasure Town, and nearly made off with two of our youngins. It just makes me…" He began to shake, but it didn't seem to be out of fear. "Makes me...!" His voice rose to an intense crescendo before he slumped. "Well, I’m just relieved you stopped him."

Bidoof's little ball ears fell flat for a moment before he perked up again. "So, I'm glad we've got a couple of great new rookies in this here guild. Yup-yup, Meowth, Shinx, I think things are gonna improve with you two here."

"You… hardly know us." Sean was feeling somewhat dizzy with the praise. Part of him wanted to embrace, glorify it, even ignoring the dual shame and fear at failing to catch Drowzee as well. The rest of his apprehension was sourced in one simple matter. "You're all really nice," he said. "That's just… nice."

Meeting these people, seeing them close up and not as pixels on a screen. It was crazy, really. Loudred was not exactly pretty close up, and Sunflora was incredibly lively, constantly swaying and moving, stroking things around her. Bidoof was honestly a bit chubby, but he was twice as adorable as Sean could have ever prepared for with big happy eyes.

Rai stepped up beside him and bumped himself against Sean in a friendly gesture. "Let's bring in our first... Litleo." Rai was looking greatly uncomfortable, and Sean wanted to ask, but everyone was looking at them.

Or really at Rai with sympathy in their eyes? Okay, he was definitely going to ask once they were alone.

Smiling weakly at him, Sean tried to summon the same enthusiasm. Failing that, he attempted righteous zeal. Neither worked to really sell it. "Yeah. Let's… rustle us up a bad pokémon."

"You'll do fine Meowth," Sunflora said, easily sensing his discomfort.

"Hey-hey, I wouldn't pick something you couldn't handle," Corphish said. "Go get them Meowth. Shinx too!"

"Yup-yup, you'll do great by golly. Meowth. Shinx. I'm rooting for you two."

"Thank you!" Rai grinned as he hopped from side to side. His smile was overly large, and he was buzzing. "Come on, let's get going! To the Oran Forest!"

He went to run, but remembered Sean wasn't as fast as him. Waiting politely, if impatiently, Rai watched as Sean addressed the rest of the pokémon.

"Thank you," he said. "And, by the way, feel free to call me Sean. It's my name and I'm fine if you'd like to use it. You’re friendly."

He was smiling, remembering Rai's words from the two nights ago and expecting some sort of sappy, emotional, reaction. And perhaps a part of him was burning with curiosity of what the trio's name were.

What he received was Sunflora falling back with a gasp, Bidoof squeaking in shock before choking and Corphish rearing back with both pincers clacking.

Sean glanced to Rai in panic and saw the shinx burying his face in his paws, unable to deal with the second-hand embarrassment. Sean had made a complete fool of himself.

"What did I do?"

"N-no, that's fine," Sunflora said, coming back to her feet and being the first to speak. "Um… the time. Jobs. I have to go now."

"M-m-m," Bidoof attempted before ducking down and running after her. Corphish clicked his pincers one more time before picking up on Sean's utter confusion.

Still, all he said was "No thanks," and scuttled off without another word.

Sean turned to Rai for explanation, but the shinx was too mortified to say anything more than. "Let's get to town." And walking off without giving him time to process.

Once they had exited the guild and were alone, Sean had to ask., "What was that?"

Rai turned to him, disbelief colouring his face and voice. "You're kidding right? I told you!"

"What did I do?" Sean wasn't sure why, but he was embarrassed. He knew it was because of what he said, but the real why was a mystery to him. "You said names are a thing pokémon give to friends. I thought I was being friendly."

Rai looked him up and down for a few meters, seemingly coming to the understanding again that Sean really didn't know what he was doing in regard to social niceties.

Wetting his lips, Rai tried to gather the words to help the amnesiac understand.

"Amnesiac is one thing," Rai thought to himself. "But this really is just… he really wasn't a pokémon for all his life."

Sean didn't know it, but at this moment Rai fully believed his claim of being a human before.

"What I said about names is true," Rai began, deciding to just talk and hope for the best. "You tell them to family, if they don't know already, friends. And… well… mates."

Sean nodded, feeling that awkward feeling when you are embarrassed, and your tongue feels too big in response to it. "But… I said it to all three of them. As a friendly thing. They don't think… do they?"

Rai's nose was visibly red and his obvious level of discomfort at the topic was causing newfound horror the bloom through Sean's everything.

"Telling all of them. At once. In public too… that's what… uh…" with each stutter and hesitation, Sean's apprehension at what Rai had to say grew.

"Spit it out," he demanded before wilting. "Please."

"That's what night-mates do." Rai finally managed to say it. Using words that meant almost nothing to Sean.

"Huh?" He cocked his head before shaking off the weird tic. "What is a night-mate?" He already knew, he just didn’t want to think about what he just said.

"SHH!" Rai hissed, causing Sean to flinch in surprise. His features softened, and he apologised. "Sorry. Night-mate is… how do I explain it? A pokémon who…." He was going redder again and Sean held his own paw up.

"Okay. I get it." It was almost funny how relieved Rai became at the words, once the requirement to speak was gone.

"Yeah. Not the best thing to say to our guildmates. On our second day too…"

"Sorry," Sean drew out the word, emphasizing his regret. "I thought that was friendly!" he groaned, the implications beginning to really dawn on him. "What are they going to think of me?"

"Some really awkward stuff." Rai confirmed.

"Oh my… ffffrick!"

Rai was a blushing mess, but at least the ice of the day had been broken by Sean’s embarrassment. Rai’s blush began to recede as Sean thought about what he’d have to say to make them realise he wasn’t a ‘night-mate’.

The day was lovely. The sun was shining bright, and dewdrops still hung on many leaves and grass. There had been quite a storm the previous night, the rain having lulled Sean to sleep even when Rai started mumbling something.

One question remained on the tip of his tongue even as they entered the town, spoke to Duskull, waved to three separate teams and made their way to the Kecleon Market.

"No one's going to, uh," Sean trailed off, wanting to put this delicately. "P-proposition me, are they?"

He wanted vague and meaningless platitudes that'd let him ignore the complete fool he made of himself. He wanted a blunt and honest answer that would make him coil up in disgust but at be freed in understanding.

“I doubt Sunflora would have told anyone, yet.”


Sean pressed a paw against his forehead as Rai went up to order what they needed for the upcoming dungeon. Even the looming threat of an outlaw seemed like small-fry compared to Sean's embarrassment.

"I should just never speak again," he thought to himself as Rai gave plastic smiles and went through the transaction emotionlessly.

Oran Forest didn't seem so scary anymore. So that was a plus at least.

By the time he remembered he had something to ask Rai, he'd forgotten what it was.

"What IS this place?" Sean growled hours later.

They had reached Oran Forest, with Sean vaguely noting it was close to Apple Woods, and entered the dungeon. Whatever he was expecting, he had forgotten it in the wake of horrified shame.

Either way, Oran Forest was bizarre.

With Beach Cave and Drenched Bluff there was a sense of order to the chaos. The waterways were always there but they were difficult for their pair to cross and were mostly ignored.

With the Oran Forest, a dungeon made from trees rather than rock walls, the path was much more difficult to maintain.

There were still passageways and rooms of sorts. They were rather stunning, twisted pathways of multicoloured leaves and branches, warping together in a beautiful display of natural engineering. Walking through a passageway was like going through an overgrown tunnel, one where you couldn't even see the former brick and stone.

The rooms, however, and many patches of the tightly-woven passageways led into the untamed dungeon. Areas where there were even fewer rules than the ones these places scarcely obeyed in the first place.

A place where dangerous pokémon lurked and treasures unlike those that were found in the rooms could be found.

Rai had, however, strongly warned him off even considering stepping off the path.

"Places like Drenched Bluff are really only dangerous if you go deep into the dungeons, off the path and over the waterways. Until there aren't any passages anymore and only cave."

He defended them as he always did. Shocking the Bug types and the odd Grass type off.

"But places like this? Forest dungeons. They are some of the most dangerous. It's a lot easier to leave the path and can be a lot more difficult to find your way back. I've lived in Treasure Town for a while now and I've heard that there are no more cases of lost pokémon in dungeons than forest dungeons because of pokémon leaving the path. So, don't do it, no matter what you see or hear."

Being in a dungeon, however, brought topics to mind that focused on the task at hand, and both were happy to discuss them. Rai explained what he had bought at the Kecleon Market, guessing that Sean didn’t watch him while he did so.

Most of it was food, along with rawst berries to treat burns. They weren't nearly as blue as Sean had been led to believe, as both rawst berries were a nice green colour. Rai explained that they were unripe rawst berries, having the same effect as the ripe ones but with a substantially better taste. Also with a substantially higher cost, but the shinx couldn't stand bitter foods.

He didn’t bring any orans, but the reason was perfectly clear. The dungeon was named Oran Forest for a very good reason.

Lastly, Rai had bought a blast seed and sleep seed, citing that Sean had done well with the Sleep Seed earlier. "Plus, you need all the help you can get at this stage!"

“Thank you so much,” he gratefully accepted all the help he could get, especially if they were going to be fighting.

They went through the dungeon for what felt like hours before, finally, Rai caught something.

"Is that…?" He paused to sniff the air. "Smoke?"

Sean breathed in as well. Being small and a cat was still weird, but he was adamantly refusing to think about the fact that his body both felt right and wrong at once. At least the trade-off came with an enhanced sense of smell. Not as well as a canine, Sean was sure, but it was something.

"That's smoke," Sean agreed and they both thought the same thing.


Sean allowed Rai to take the lead for once, making sure to stick close to the far more competent member of their duo, as Rai led them down a few corridors and through three different rooms.

And then Sean remembered what he wanted to ask. “Do you know Litleo?”

Rai froze. That was a yes, then.

“We don’t know if it’s the same one from town,” Rai said lightly, but Sean wasn’t willing to accept that and move on.

“What if it is?”

Again, Rai paused. “I… well, he stole something, so we take him down and bring him back.” Under his breath he added. “Can’t believe that.”

“Why not?”

Rai blinked at him, maybe not expecting him to hear. “I… okay, I guess it’s fair I tell you. Litleo and I don’t get along. He’s a bully and has been picking on me for years for not getting into the guild. No one likes him, he’s crass and perverted when not being a bully. I guess I’m surprised he’s actually stolen something, he never actually did something like this before.”

Sean nodded slowly, taking that all in. “Oh. Are you looking forward to this then?” Rai had been very driven on the walk over, not talking much and staring right ahead.

To that, however, Rai shrunk a little and shook his head. “No.” And that was all he said.

Not comfortable with prodding further, Sean just let the matter drop and they continued on.

"Smells like he didn't go off the trail," Rai commented. "Or at least, not for long."

He slowed to a near stop and Sean slowed down with him. Both of their hearts began to pound as Rai spoke without turning back. "I think he's in the next room."

Neither of them had stopped completely, but the knowledge that a fight was coming was a little nerve-wracking.

Sean tried to psych himself up for it. "Come on. You actually fought Koffing and Zubat. Not well, but you at least tried!" He couldn't help but note the fact that he still thought this was a dream at the time, along with the fact that they were supposed to happen. No litleo was in the games. "Because the pokémon hadn't been designed yet." Sean quickly cut that line of thought off. It made his head hurt to think any more deeply into it all.

"Okay," Rai said, turning to Sean this time to meet his eyes. "You ready to do this?"

"Sure," Sean said, throat catching as his mouth went dry. He withheld the cough and smacked his chest to try and suppress the need. "In a week. Maybe a month."

Rai gave him an odd look. "Are… can you do this?"

Sean paused, looked Rai over, saw the light shake in his back legs and the pleading look in his eyes. He sighed and gave a smile. It was small and rueful, but genuine. "Yes, I'm right here with you. Let's do this."

Rai held his eyes for a moment before nodding. "Awesome."

He turned back and they both took a breath. Rai burst into a Quick Attack, leaving Sean in the dust for a moment, entering the room with a battle-cry.

The only occupant of the room, a small lion-like cub with a mohawk that looked like flames, started at their arrival.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, eyes tracking Rai as he moved.

"You're coming with us," Rai shouted, alerting Litleo to the fact that Sean was there too.

"Oh. Oooh? Heh." Litleo smirked, mohawk actually bursting into flames as he readied his Power. "And why do you want that? Huh, Shinx? You're a big bad explorer now so you think you take me?"

"You know what you did," Rai growled, sparking with electricity as Sean stepped by his side. "You stole Charmander's ribbon. How could you do that?" The words carried a lot heavier feel to it then they maybe should have.

"Like he was ever going to use it," Litleo shot back. "What use is it? At least I can use it! Look, just back off, I’m using it to get out of here. You won’t have to see me again, you’d be happier with that. Right, Shinx?”

Rai’s mouth fell open, taken aback before he growled, metaphorically shocking both Sean and Litleo. "Absolutely not you mudbray’s ass! You're coming back with us RIGHT. NOW."

Litleo, to his credit, recovered from his surprise at the supposedly meek and cowardly Rai's words with a growl. "Language, Shinx." He grinned, but as Rai began to spark he began to smoke. "You're going to have to knock me out."

And with that, he attacked.

Not wasting any time, Litleo took in a heavy breath as his mohawk burst into flames and he didn’t use Ember or Flamethrower. No, a kanji-symbol formed as he used Fire Blast!

Sean scrambled out of the way as Rai darted to the right with Quick Attack. Rai rushed forward, electricity bolting towards Litleo who similarly dodged the attack.

Sean couldn't help but watch the Fire Blast. There were many things he expected once it hit the dense 'wall' of the dungeon room. In its own way, a massive explosion and hole gouged out of multiple ancient trees was one of them, but he could hardly prepare himself for how real the battle just became to him.

"Holy shit," he whispered as, far more, minor explosions began ringing out from the battle. Both Litleo’s fire and Shinx’s electricity clashed in elemental barrages.

Thundershock's and Ember's danced with the pair constantly slamming into each other in impromptu tackles and speedy Quick Attack’s. Every so often, when Litleo found a reprieve, he'd charge and send a Fire Blast Rai's way. How he knew that move, Sean didn’t want to know, he was busy staying not on fire.

The constant explosions and bursts of electricity were, however, beginning to set the area on fire and Sean found that staring off into space may not have been the best thing to do in the middle of a battle.

Yelping as Rai nearly hit him with a stray Thundershock, Sean set his sights on the far wall behind Litleo and made his way there as quickly, and safely, as possible. Digging through the bag without looking, looking away from the fight spelled death in his mind, he felt around for the seeds.

Sean knew that the blast seed was pricklier than the smoother sleep seed. They still weren't very large, and it took time for him to find it whilst on the edge of the battlefield.

"This seemed so much simpler in the games!" Sean thought to himself, angrily pawing through the bag. The claws came out at one point, but after getting his paw stuck three-to-many times he forcefully retracted them.

He glanced down from the battle for a moment, moving his eyes from where the pair had stopped for a moment to growl and prowl around in a circle.


Only to look up when Rai screamed his name. He looked up to see a kanji-shaped plume of fire heading right for him.

Sean froze.

"I always feared that I was the kind of person to freeze up in situations like this." Was a distant, fleeting thought that ran through his mind instead of moving out of the way.

Fire Blast wasn't the fastest attack, but the distance between Litleo and him wasn't very far anyway. Rai tried to rush forward in a Quick Attack to knock him out of the way, but Litleo had hoped for this very action and sniped Rai with an Ember attack. When Rai was down, he leaped on him all claws and fire and savaged the shinx.

Rai yelled out and fired off a Thundershock. He didn't need to aim it with Litleo right on him. The harsh electrical whine and zap did two things.

It sent Litleo flying off him, trailing smoke.

And triggered a sense of recollection in Sean.

Sean leaped to the right, narrowly avoiding being clipped by one of the arms of the Fire Blast. He was safe.

Until the Fire Blast hit the wall of trees right behind him and exploded. Explosions had force to them beyond just their impact zone.

Right as Sean came back to his feet with a smile, he was blown forward by the concussive force of the blast and was sent sprawling. The bag too, was flung clean from him and landed on one of the burnt-out patches.

"Sean!" Rai yelled again, dropping his concentration for a second time.

Litleo had already picked himself up. Breathing heavily, one leg going numb, and with electrical burns over his body, he seemed more pissed-off than anything.

Not dropping his advantage, he breathed a concentrated Ember attack which impacted the side of Rai's head.

"Gah!" Rai fell down, clutching the side of his head.

"You did good, Shinx," Litleo huffed as he stepped forward. "Better than you believed you could. But you're not good enough. Not yet."

That was where Sean knew he was to get up and say something meaningful and profound. Dazed from the double impact, he could barely stand without wobbling.

"Hashamuh," he warbled before frowning. "That's not right. Try again."

"Noo…no-no-no." He waggled a paw as if drunk before pointing an accusing claw at Litleo. "WRONG!"

Then he fell down again.

"I didn't hit him that hard… or at all really," Litleo mumbled, confused and a little concerned by the display. "Anyway.” Motion caught his eye. “Oh." He saw that Rai had stood back up. "Fu-"

Rai used Thunderbolt!

A critical hit!

Litleo howled in a jolting scream as Rai put all the effort he could into the attack.

Sparking with electricity, Litleo wobbled on all fours. Twitching from the residual jolts he crumpled to the ground.

"Yeah!" Sean cheered from the ground. He forced himself back to his feet, noted that he really didn't feel THAT bad, and repeated, "Yeah! Rai you did it!"

Breathing heavily, sweating and burned, Rai turned to Sean with the second-biggest smile he'd seen him wear. "I DID IT?!"

"Nuh uh."

Team Ion's faces fell, barely having time to turn to Litleo before he hit Rai with a Fire Blast.

Rai was blasted back with a tiny cry, sent skidding along the leaves and dirt until he rolled to a stop, smoking.

"RAI!" Sean screamed, but didn't drop his attention from Litleo for more than a split moment. He already began to dodge as he turned back, leaping to the side and landing on all fours to avoid a second Fire Blast.

"How many of those can he DO?" Sean thought to himself as he raced around, avoiding Ember's and Fire Blast's.

“Who are you to call Rai’s name like you know him?” Litleo shouted over the din of battle. “Who are you to walk into town out of nowhere and convince HIM to join the guild!?”

Panicking he tried to dig a paw into the Treasure Bag but was reminded it wasn't there anymore. It was beyond his grasp, being unfortunately close to Litleo.

"Coward!" Litleo roared, firing fire with every breath. "Stop dodging and FIGHT ME."

"Nope," Sean replied, having fallen into complete panic mode and all the unthought-out comments that came with it. "Throw yourself into a river!"

"I HATE water," Litleo growled before deciding ranged wasn't cutting it and rushing forward.

"That's the POOOIIIINT!" Sean froze on that word as he began running for his life, jumping and zigzagging with every few steps. More than a few Ember attacks made contact with his back and legs and one well-aimed Fire Blast knocked him off his feet and he rolled onto all fours. But nothing severe made full contact and the energy of the flight-or-flight reaction was full in effect.

It couldn't last forever, though, and Sean was coming to realise that while this new body may be bestial and far more fit than his previous one endurance running was not something felines, or feline pokémon for that matter, were known for.

One perk of humanity he never thought he'd miss.

Thankfully it also meant that Litleo was suffering a similar fate. Both of them panting for breath and Sean finally saw his out. Rai wasn't back up yet, but perhaps he didn't need to be.

He'd done his job.

And Sean had a plan. He’d built it from scrap thoughts and tied it together with hope, but it was an idea. He had cycled around, and he had a straight shot for his salvation. He ran forwards in a burst of speed even as his muscles screamed at him to stop. He knew if he did, he wouldn’t be able to get back up.

Not stopping yet, Sean threw out an arm and grabbed the Treasure Bag in one swing. It was still in one piece, having been spared from the wrath of the earlier explosion. Everything had been jumbled, but for once the chaos worked in Sean's favour.

He grabbed the seed that jumped to the top. He ran for a few seconds more, not having the willpower to turn to fight right away, but his legs were burning, his lungs were burning, everything felt like it was burning. Mostly from the exertion, but also from all the flames being thrown at him.

Planting a foot, and extending those claws, Sean came to a stop and spun on Litleo. "HA!" Sean yelled victoriously and threw the seed with all his might at the unprepared Litleo.

Unprepared for defiance due to the Fire Blast he had already sent.

The seed hit the Fire Blast in mid-air and the explosion from the blast seed managed to cause enough push to detonate the Fire Blast as well, sending a ripple of painfully hot air across Sean's face. The Blast Seed was nowhere near close enough to do anything more than ruffle Litleo's fur.

"You're kidding," he groaned. Litleo had paused when Sean turned as well, but a smirk was relighting his face.

"Your only weapon I guess?" It was not a question. Not really.

"I have MORE!" Sean threatened, paw digging into the bag dangerously. When he didn't pull anything out Litleo laughed in his face.

"Coward and a liar." He shook his head, smouldering mohawk waving in the air like a fluffy target to bat at with claws. "Well, from some stranger who’s hoodwinked Rai, what was I expecting?"

The dig at his current species touched a nerve Sean didn't know he had.

Sean thought of Rai, down, hurt, possibly if not likely unconscious.

Sean grew angry.

"You're right actually," Sean said, letting the bag fall to the floor, paw clenched around the object he had hidden away. "I am." His face was feeling redder than he'd ever felt it. Even if the fur would hide the angry flush he was sporting. "You know what else I am?"

Litleo had paused, graciously enough, to let him speak. Such a thing would mystify Sean in times to come. The politeness in many strange and violent situations he found himself in.

"Beaten?" Litleo growled, snapping his teeth.

"Nope." Sean emphasised the p before running forward with all the speed he could manage. Litleo jumped in surprise before firing an Ember, not having the time to build the flame necessary for a Fire Blast. Sean covered his face with his other arm and ran through it. He'd experienced embers before. None as focused or painful as this, but he didn't let them stop him.

Sean got a view of Litleo's snarl before he punched him in the mouth, with the paw that held a clasped sleep seed. Forcing it into the litleo's mouth, he felt bones pop in his wrist as Litleo's head was knocked back from the force of it.

With the claws of his other hand, the arm that was blackened with now-burnt fur, he slashed Litleo across the throat with claws that glinted with black.

To his distant surprise he didn't draw blood, but the hit was still severe.

The sleep seed took effect, cutting short Litleo's pained yowl, and he staggered. Sean gasped as Litleo raised a mouth filled with crackling flames and he realised Litleo may have burned the seed out before it could affect him. He braced for agony, but nothing came.

"Heh," Litleo gave a weak laugh as his head drooped, coughing out some ash. "Little Shinx has someone huh? We'll see how long you stick around before," he trailed off as sleep took hold and he slumped to the ground.

Panting in a mixture of exhaustion and exhilarated fear anger, Sean raised a foot to stomp down on Litleo's head. But hesitated. The anger didn't rush out and leave him, but the sudden clear-minded bloodlust had. He lowered his foot before stumbling back.

Not finishing his attempt at a boastful moment, even to an unconscious opponent, Sean turned back and rushed to Rai's side. He grabbed the Treasure Bag again as he did so and fished out an oran berry.

"Rai?" He knelt by the shinx's side and gently shook him. He received a groan in response and was relieved to see he was still somewhat conscious. "Here." He held out the berry. To no response.

"Right," Sean mumbled to himself, he pulled the berry back and cut into it with his claws, without noticing how the juice stung his paws or how sticky it made them. He brought the smaller chunks to Rai's mouth and slowly stroked his side, where there was less burn. "This'll help," he coaxed and soon Rai took a nibble.

He remained kneeling by Rai's side, glancing back to Litleo every few seconds, until the shinx had eaten three berries.

"Ugh," Rai groaned and came to his feet. "That was unpleasant."

"Sorry my ha-paws," Sean corrected. "Taste so bad."

"Not that," Rai said, before glancing to Sean's face and seeing the small smile. "Right. Joke."

"You're a bit knocked about, I can't blame you for being a little slow."

"Ow." Rai whimpered as everything ached. "What happened to…!?” His eyes fell on Litleo, conked out and laying completely unconscious. "You beat… you… beat HIM!?"

"You sound surprised."

Rai immediately went red. “I-uh-uh.”

Sean laughed. "I forced a sleep seed into his mouth. He'll probably wake up soon."

As if cursing the devil, Litleo's eyes began fluttering and he groaned.

"Quick!" Sean yelped, scrambling back as if that'd help. "Take him out!"

"Wha?" Was all Litleo managed to say before a bolt of electricity brightened the room and knocked his lights out.

Team Ion sighed in relief when Litleo crumpled, not getting back up this time. Both of them still watched him carefully as they approached, Rai leading the way. He nudged Litleo a few times before nodding. "He's down."

"Alright then," Sean beamed, feeling immense relief wash over him. He looked over Litleo for a moment before realising. "How are we going to get him back?"

"Carry him I guess," Rai answered, looking over the… litleo they had defeated. His face was carefully blank, not looking happy or sad.

"Joy," Sean deadpanned before looking around. His eyes fell on the far side of the room, where Litleo had been camping as they entered, and wandered over there.

"Hey," he called, catching Rai's attention. "Is this a bag?"

It was. And inside were a few things, a rather nice sheet, food, equipment, and a gold ribbon. “Found it!”

Rai grinned. "Perfect! Help him onto my back and I’ll carry him back to town," Rai called, and Sean quickly joined him.

Before hoisting Litleo up, Sean had to ask. "Are we really taking Litleo to the police? How much trouble is he going to get into for this?"

"I dunno. More if he hurt Charmander, but… I doubt he’ll get in any real trouble for this." Rai sent another dark look down at Litleo. "But we can't leave him in here! In this state he may not be able to get out before a feral takes a chance.”

Dragging him out wasn't the most pleasant thought. Even if Rai was the one doing it. But no part of Sean, however vindictive, would have agreed with leaving Litleo in here.

Hoisting the dead-weight of an unconscious litleo onto a shinx's back. One of the many things he never thought he'd do, Sean positioned Litleo as best as he could before nodding to Shinx.

"Thanks for the orans," Rai said as he began to drag himself and his load forward. "You didn't need to give me THAT many. I feel better than I did before the battle, besides the pain."

"It's Oran Forest," Sean defended, shrugging and picking up another berry from the ground. "See. They're everywhere."

Smiling, Rai shook his head in bemusement. "You got me there. But you can't do that every time I get hurt. Unless I really need it."

"How will I know if you need it?" Sean shot back. "Especially if you're going to act like you aren't as hurt as you really are."

He meant it to be playful, but Rai cringed at his words nonetheless.

Talking quick to avoid Rai feeling any sort of bad, Sean quickly put his foot in his mouth and said, “I can’t believe made everyone think I was a whore today!"

Rai squeaked and nearly dropped Litleo. "I thought we weren't going to talk about this morning. At all. Ever. And don't say… that word. AND," he emphasized the word when Sean went to speak. "What do you mean 'everyone'?"

"I said it in front of Sunflora," Sean answered, deadpan and completely honest. "Does she NOT seem like the kind of person who would gossip that?”

"Th-that's a good point actually," Rai admitted before shifting sharply, shifting Litleo back into a more stable position. "She IS the town gossip. Oh dear, I didn’t think of that."

"I'm so embarrassed about it," Sean admitted. Part of him didn't want to speak of it, hope it'd be never brought up ever. At all. In all time. But a different part of him didn't mind making a bit of fun about himself, and another part of him just welcomed being able to talk to Rai.

He decided to listen to that last part.

"Did you see their faces? I mean wow." Sean laughed but Rai was blushing again. He almost stopped and apologised for making things awkward, but Rai actually gave him a small, teasing, smile.

"Not really," he admitted. "I was kind of burying my face in the ground. Just the secondary embarrassment was painful."

"I can assure you," Sean promised. "The full embarrassment once I realised what I said was just as bad."

"I would have thought it was worse?"

"Nah." Sean shrugged. "I don't know how you were feeling exactly. And, really, it WAS funny. Horrifying, socially isolating, probably going to have… uncomfortable moments to come. But we'll laugh about it!" To prove it Sean laughed. It was fake, but it wasn't meant to sound real.

"You're," Rai trailed off, a small smile on his face. "Very optimistic."

"What can I say?" Sean shrugged, it was true after all. "It's much more pleasant to see the good. Plus." He winked. "When you know exactly how to see the bad, it becomes a lot easier to figure out the good. Even if it's just a future thing."

"Wise… I think?"

"Not old enough," Sean said. "Unless you are calling me old in which how dare you!"

"I'm not saying that!" Rai yelped.

Sean paused, sighed, and apologised. "Sorry. That was a bit of sarcasm."

They lapsed into a bit of silence, cut only by Litleo’s snores. Sean decided the Oran Forest smelled very nice.

"A lot of what I say is meant to be joking," Sean eventually said, rubbing an arm uncomfortably. Then from pain when he was reminded what a number Litleo did to him. Glaring briefly at the unconscious Fire-type, he continued. "I really don't mean to bring up uncomfortable stuff for you, or mean it if I say something… short? Rude. Just. What I'm saying is, I don't care if you WERE calling me old. I know you weren't, and even if you were, me saying 'how dare you' is meant… playfully I guess is the word."

"I see." Rai nodded. He didn't completely, but he was getting the gist of what Sean was saying. "I guess I'm not used to someone who doesn't say exactly what they mean all the time."

"Are all pokémon really that blunt and straightforward?" Sean asked.

"Yeah." Rai nodded before frowning. "No. Most pokémon are; you can be sure that your friend or neighbour means what they are saying. It's kind of what keeps communities together, since outside of towns and such can be really lawless." Rai shook his head. "Are humans really so… dishonest isn't the word I want to use?"

"But it fits." Sean nodded. "I… I guess. Sort of? Not to sound bad or anything, but most humans will speak white lies, just little things, day-to-day. There's also sarcasm. Don't you have that?"

"Certainly." Rai nodded, and Sean relaxed. "But it's generally thieves and other lowlifes that use it."


"Yeah. Look I trust you." Rai turned to meet his eyes and Sean knew, even without the previous information on honesty, that Rai was telling the truth. "I also trust what you say. So, it is a bit weird to try and figure out what you are saying truthfully and what you mean as… a joke."

Sean nodded, this was just more things he knew he needed to learn if he wanted to survive here.

"This world is so strange," Sean said, completely honestly. "I'm serious there. It's nothing like I ever could have imagined." Sean smiled, a tiny bit of self-loathing fell into his face. "That's a lie. Not a complete one, I knew mechanically what this is. Culturally? Never would have seen this coming."

"I think your world would be strange," Rai responded, sticking his tongue out. "I can't imagine trying to get around there… so I guess this is really hard for you huh?"

Caught a little off guard, Sean nodded. "I've only been here, what, three days? I've already made a complete fool of myself in front of the guild and barely know how to talk to anyone besides you. I'm not even used to fighting. Like this, or at all really. You'd almost do better without me."

"No, I wouldn't." Rai rolled his eyes. “I wouldn't have been able to knock Litleo out without you. I'd be unconscious, lost in a dungeon. Maybe he'd help me. Maybe he wouldn't. I wouldn't even be here without you. Stop putting yourself down."

"I said almost," Sean pointed out but received a flat stare-back from Rai. "Alright. Alright. Jeez, I hear you. I'm awesome. I'm amazing. Best explorer ever, and he's chatting your ear off awkwardly right in front of you!"

Sean smiled and glanced over to Rai. Right on the edge of his vision he swore he saw Litleo smiling, almost nuzzling into Rai’s neck. By the time he had turned properly, Litleo was definitely still out of it. He resolved to keep an eye on him though.

"I wouldn't say 'best'," Rai said, smirking. Sean fluffed up a bit, then noticed the fur and began patting it down awkwardly.

"That's also weird. Having fur. Claws." Shivering he flicked his tail and noticed it. "Tail." They walked further in a comfortable silence before Sean said. "Wigglytuff though. Best explorer, right?"

"Maybe," Rai replied, smiling vaguely.

That caught Sean off guard. "Maybe? Who else? Team Ch-" He cut himself off right there, almost saying Team Charm. It wouldn't do to let slip something he, maybe, shouldn't know. "Chargelight?"

"Chargelight?" Rai replied. "Who are they?"

"No idea," Sean answered, honestly. "Made up a name in hopes of getting a winner."

"That what you did for our name?" Rai grinned and before Sean fluffed up again, he answered the question. "Wigglytuff is definitely one of the best explorers ever, he and Chatot. There are some teams which each could be the best explorer team, but I think the best current explorer works all alone."

Sean suddenly felt a wave of déjà vu, and along with it a sinking feeling. "Oh right."

"Dusknoir!" Rai said, utterly beaming upon saying the name. "He's this AMAZING explorer that appeared out of nowhere recently. He’s tackled some of the most remote dungeons on the continent, found like seven new ones, and defeated a few of the baddest bad guys around and brought them to justice." Speaking of Dusknoir seemed to open the floodgates and Rai continued gushing.

"He became really legendary when he, singlehandedly, saved an entire village that had been swallowed by a dungeon. Saving hundreds of pokémon before the dungeon could claim them. Dusknoir is easily the greatest one-pokémon-team out there. I'd like nothing more than to meet him one day and say thank you."

"Thank you?" Sean asked, deciding that was the most pertinent thing to focus on. "For what?"

Blushing slightly, realising he went a little too far into fanboy mode, Rai explained. "A… a month or so ago I lost hope I'd ever be an explorer," Rai admitted, looking very uncomfortable. "I just didn't think I could ever get the courage to even apply. No one thought I could do it either." He grimaced and his eyes flicked to where Litleo laid on his back. "I mean, the pokémon in and around Treasure Town who did know me were nice about it, but I know none of them ever thought I'd ever gather the nerve to even try to go through with it."

He sighed sadly. "I'm sure there are plenty who think I'm going to drop out as well. I won't. Not ever! Not when I have Dusknoir to meet and live up to! It was him who made me believe I could do it. When I learned about the village he saved, all by himself, it made me want to meet him all the more. And I'd never be able to do it, especially as anything more than just a nameless fan, if I didn't become an explorer just like him!"

Sean felt somewhat awed at that. He knew, subjectively, that the partner, Rai, looked up to Dusknoir. Never truly why though. Not in this detail.

Swallowing slightly, he nodded, shoving away the dark voice that spoke of Dusknoir's true intentions. What that meant for the future. What it meant for Sean himself. "He sounds amazing," he said, receiving a beam and a nod from Rai. "We'll definitely meet him one day."

It was no lie.

"And we got the ribbon back!"

Rai was explaining to a relieved Charmander at the guild. He had received word his job had been achieved and had come racing. "He wasn't easy to fight with Fire Blast, but we got there!”

Eyes sparkling in gratitude, the Charmander swayed his tail, staring at his gold ribbon. "Thank you so much!”

He put down a bag and danced off. Chatot came flapping in once Charmander was gone. "Excellent work you two.”

Sean and Rai came down to the lowest level for Chatot to distribute the rewards. "Well done you two, your first outlaw mission was a roaring success." Chatot chuckled to himself as if he spoke a grand joke. "Your tasks are done for the day. You may relax now, but only in ways that maintain the guild’s image! Come to the Guildmaster’s chambers after dinner as usual."

He gave a significant look to Rai before he hopped away, with a majority of their money.

Rai watched the bag of poké disappear with a mournful sigh. "Farewell sweet cash," he whispered before shaking it off. "We did it, Sean!"

Then Rai was dancing, and Sean could only smile and wonder why dancing around was socially polite but giving your name wasn't.

"Oh well," he thought to himself, catching Chimecho's eye and noticing how she turned away quickly. "Least we're back."

Once they were given an all-clear by Chimecho, she tutted over their injuries a bit but the nurse did good work, Sean decided to clear the air.

“Hey, Sunflora?” he asked awkwardly as pokémon mulled about. She looked up and politely trotted over to him. “I just wanted to apologise for this morning.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Sunflora assured him. “Just a bit of a surprise, it’s okay. I’ve put out the word for you.”

Oh. No.

“Pardon?” he asked, hoping he’d misheard.

“Yeah. A few pokémon seemed interested and-” He was going to die.

“I’m not!” He blurted out. “Just hit my head and forgot things!”

Sunflora froze. “Pardon?” she asked weakly.

“I was just being friendly,” Sean babbled quickly. “I forgot what that meant, I’m not I’m not a night-mate at all!”

Sunflora stared at him in dead silence for a moment. Then she snorted and giggled. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I tried to spread- oh my gosh. I’m so sorry, why didn’t you say that earlier!” She was giggling rather than getting upset at least.

“I was embarrassed,” Sean said, staring at the floor with his face on fire. She continued to giggle uncontrollably. “Can you tell whoever you told that… no?”

She nodded, still giggling. “It won’t be hard.” She giggled harder. “To clear up. Wow. Wow. Wow. Okay. Hooo. Okay. Serious Sunflora.” She slapped her face a few times with her leafy limbs. “Serious. You hit your head?” Sean nodded. “Sorry about that. It’s cool, I’ll clear things up for you.”

After a quiet dinner that grew in volume as Sunflora explained the mistake on Sean’s behalf, Team Ion followed Chatot and Wigglytuff.

“Do the others not do these debrief sessions?” Sean asked curiously.

“They do.” Chatot nodded. “But not after every mission. Besides, err.” He cleared his throat, it would not do to continue speaking that. “Never mind.”

Wigglytuff beamed at them. “Good job, Team Ion!” he cheered. “A difficult mission completed!” He flapped a piece of parchment in front of him, pretending to read. “Chimecho says you got a bit roughed up,” he said apologetically.

“Shinx, you were knocked out at one point?” Chatot asked.

Rai nodded. “Yeah. We thought we’d won but he wasn’t as down as I thought and got me from behind.”

“Shinx carried the day,” Sean added.

“Meowth finished him off though.”

Wigglytuff giggled at them sticking up for each other. “It’s good that you both did well! I am very proud of you both!” And then he rolled over to hug them. “We mostly wanted to ask… are you okay?” he directed the question more so towards Rai than Sean.

Rai nodded. He didn’t speak, however.

Wigglytuff clapped him on the back and gave them space. “That’s good! I want my friends to be happy! It’s okay if you’re sometimes not happy, though.” He did a little spin. “As long as you’re happy to talk about it with someone.”

“Thank you, Guildmaster,” Rai said honestly, he didn’t say anything more though.

“Very well. How did you two find this mission to go?” Chatot asked, taking things back onto track. “A farther dungeon, a sapient fight with a ne’er-do-well with some injuries as well.” Chimecho had noted that Sean had taken a bigger beating than Rai, but Rai had been the one knocked out.

He was curious about that.

Rai looked to Sean, who looked to Rai. “Well,” Sean began. “I guess pretty well. We won the fight, got the item back, and got home in one piece. Litleo was strong, I… I was afraid to fight him.”

They sparked their attention on him. “Afraid?” Wigglytuff asked.

Sean nodded, feeling embarrassed and casting his eyes away from them. “I’m… not the most comfortable with fighting. Rai keeps the ferals away from us most of the time, I want to help but….”

“That’s okay,” Wigglytuff said, and Sean looked up. He was smiling. “Not everyone is eager to get into a fight when they could get hurt. That can be good, meaning you might be more careful.” His eyes flicked briefly to Rai and Sean was reminded of the fact that Wigglytuff was a lot smarter than he let on.

“As long as this fear does not rule you,” Chatot added on, sharper than Wigglytuff was. “We’ll continue these debrief chats. If it begins to impede your progress, we’ll look into developing your confidence. For now...” He turned to Wigglytuff.

“For now keep at it as a team!” Wigglytuff said brightly. “Things are scary on your own, I get scared in dungeons all on my own. As long as you keep working on things together things will be alright!”

Team Ion smiled and nodded to him, and they were excused.

“I believe we should speak to Meowth about Litleo,” Chatot said quietly as they were left alone.

“If you think that’s best,” Wigglytuff hummed.

“I do.”

“On his own, then. We don’t need to cause difficulties to them yet.”

“Very good.”

"Causing the water to freeze like that, admittedly, gave me some thoughts I’d rather not feel.”

"The forest and everywhere else will go back to normal once the Time Gears are returned to their proper place."

"I know, I know. No need to remind me."

"Fair enough. Which location next?"

"Boulder Quarry. Should be the next least-protected."

"Boulder Quarry it is. Shall we set off immediately?"

"Hoo-ha-ha! You ask a question you already know the answer too. We're already on our way."

Ah Litleo. Such a curious boi.

Thanks to Viroro again!
Chapter 5 - A Day of Birds


Bug Catcher
Something of a different kind of chapter, one with scenes from the view of other characters as Team Ion goes about their day.

As the night-time guardian of the guild, and impediment of anyone wanting to sneak away in the dead of night, Chatot was the first to awaken.

With his eyes slowly widening from a squint, he yawned out loud for a moment. It was the only time his guard seemed let down, Chatot plucked at a few stray feathers before shaking himself ready.

Trilling slightly, he hummed a small song to himself to brighten his day and made his way down the floors of the guild.

His morning routine was always the same. Regime and order were the bedrock of civilisation, as taught by the lucario of legends, and never saw fit to deviate from his way of starting the day.

He slipped the large doors to the Guildmaster's Chamber open quietly and hopped his way to one of the tapestries. "Rhythm?" the bird pokémon called as he knocked on a smaller door behind it. "It is Trill. I am entering."

He knew that he didn't really need to call out his presence. Wigglytuff was simultaneously far too informal to care and wouldn't hear him regardless. No matter what, however, it was his routine.

His only response was a tremendous snore, so Chatot waited a moment, repeated his earlier action, and only then entered the room.

To those who knew Wigglytuff, which wasn't as many as one may think, Chatot was confident they would expect the Guildmaster's private quarters to be a similar reflection of his personality that his greeting room was.

Chatot was proud, although he would never reveal as such, to know he was one of the few who knew Wigglytuff entirely as he was.

Perhaps, Chatot considered, those beliefs would not be false, only misguided. Wigglytuff's bedroom was more in-line with his personality than people would realise. It was neat and almost spartan in its bareness.

No treasures, no knickknacks or items were strewn about. No crumbs of food or silly drawings. Guildmaster Wigglytuff's room was the same as the rest of the rooms in the guild. It had a bed and a window. A nice bed for sure, actual thatched straw with a blanket, and a window with a curtain, but far more modest than anyone would expect of such a legendary figure.

Besides Chatot of course, but he'd never tell.

"Rhythm?" Chatot asked as he peaked into the room. Wigglytuff was as asleep as normal, laying on his side and snoring lightly. Shaking his head and ruffling his feathers, Chatot hopped into the room and then onto Wigglytuff.

"Wakey-wakey, sleepy head," Chatot sang, as he always did to rouse Wigglytuff, always the same song, always as embarrassing as the first time he sang it. "It is time to rouse up from your bed. There are bits and bobs to find awake. And lots of friendly friends to make."

As soon as the last word passed his beak, Wigglytuff sprung up and captured Chatot in a hug. "Friendly friends!" Wigglytuff cheered and quickly spun Chatot around. "Thank you for singing my wake-up song," Wigglytuff said cheerfully, he knew that Chatot liked it when things happened as they usually did.

"My pleasure," Chatot said dutifully and not at all dizzy. In all honesty, he really didn't mind singing Wigglytuff to sleep every night or awake every morning. It was their routine, and he liked it.

As Wigglytuff carried him out into his greeting room, Chatot pried himself from the unusually strong grip of this particular wigglytuff and asked a question. This was something a little out of routine, but it was important enough that asking it now was appropriate. Chatot was nothing if not flexible, something he was sure of.

"Have you put any more thought into the expedition?"

Wigglytuff was humming under his breath and didn't seem to hear the question, continuing his own daily routine. Stretching, getting limber, testing his voice, but Chatot knew the Guildmaster was of a keen mind and was considering his answer carefully.

"Dunno," Wigglytuff responded, jumping into his big chair with a laugh. "I think it'd be cool to search for Fogbound Lake or find what's at the end of the Sand Dune of Spirits. What do you think?"

"I think your decision will be the best for the guild," Chatot said, fluffing his feathers up. "But if you want my opinion, the mystery of the lake feels more compelling. We don't know much of anything beyond hearsay. The Sand Dune of Spirits, of course, has its own mysteries, but we know much more about it currently."

"Mmm," Wigglytuff hummed again and began singing a little ditty under his breath. Chatot nodded, knowing the Guildmaster's mind was hard at work again. He would never presume to know truly what the Guildmaster was thinking about, claiming such a thing was folly.

"The apprentices should be rousing themselves soon," Chatot noted and looked to the door. "If I may be excused to prepare for the daily assignment?"

"Of course, Chatot," Wigglytuff said brightly. "Take all the time you need." With that, he went back to humming and Chatot fluttered his way out of the room.

Chatot didn't need much time to consider what he would brief the guild on, there was nothing particularly different from a normal day, he just had to wait for one tell-tale sign before he could really begin finding his words.


There it was. Even from the distance he was from the apprentice's rooms, Chatot cringed for their sake. Loudred was the best alarm the guild had ever had, even if he was abuse on the ears.

Quickly the apprentices shuffled into the room. Loudred was unaffected by his own volume, so he was fine. Bidoof and Corphish were clearly dizzy from being in the immediate vicinity of the bellowing cry. Croagunk too stepped a little gingerly, Chatot knew only he and the Guildmaster were sharp enough to catch the tell the stoic frog gave. Hadn't slept much again, clearly. He might adjust Croagunk's task for the day.

Sunflora and Chimecho arrived after them, both yawning and Sunflora rubbing both of their eyes. Chatot nodded, it was always nice to see inclusiveness, Sunflora and Chimecho were friends and the Grass pokémon never made an issue of Chimecho not having any digits to rub her own eyes with. Such camaraderie was greatly valued in the Wigglytuff Guild.

Diglett and Dugtrio appeared from the ground. The father and son had their own designated area of the guild to sleep in, to prevent them from tunnelling too much and damaging the structural integrity of the guild. Small inclusions, the guild was prepared for large and unique.

Lastly, the newest pair of apprentices arrived. Chatot couldn't fault them for being last, still growing used to the strict training of the guild and being the farthest from the hub of the guild. Farthest from Loudred as well.

Still, as long as they arrived on time he'd never need to have words about being tardy.

Nodding as he counted everyone as having arrived, Chatot flourished a wing and announced the Guildmaster.

Corphish did his best to smile and nod along as Chatot waffled on and on and on about whatever disaster he decided was relevant for the day.

He was pretty sure Chatot was rambling on about shows or circuses or serial killers due to his constant wild expressions and flapping of wings.

It's not that he didn't want to listen, it was just that Loudred tended to leave his, Bidoof's, and maybe Croagunk's ears ringing for the first half-hour of the day. Sometimes longer if he was in a mood.

And maybe he didn't want to listen. Chatot would go on for hours if you let him. Thankfully he only flapped and fluffed about for about five more minutes before stopping. Everyone began to speak so he quickly added his voice into the new morning cheer that they now had to do and Wigglytuff drifted back to his room.

Whether the Guildmaster was awake or not was hotly debated between the apprentices. Sunflora ran a betting ring on the matter too, among other things. One thing they could agree on was that he could get away with it if he was. Chatot wouldn't yell at him.

That was also bet on, actually. If Chatot was any more candid with the Guildmaster when they were in private. The girls, and Croagunk, giggled over the possible gossip but Corphish felt that was private to them and he had no business in it.

His hearing began to return as Chatot asked the newbies to stay back for the moment and everyone else departed. They had been in the guild long enough that, unless they were stopped for a special task, their jobs were business as usual. Corphish noticed as Chatot cast an eye at Croagunk as well, didn't stop him though.

Loudred and Diglett usually guarded the guild. Sometimes one of them would have other matters to attend to that day and someone else would pitch in, not often though. It baffled Corphish how strong Loudred was regardless. He barely trained or battled or explored yet was without a doubt one of the stronger apprentices.

Chimecho would go start attending to her stations. The medical bay, the food stocks, the Psychic Network, she was very much the friendly helper of the guild and rarely did jobs in dungeons. To valuable to send away for too long.

Dugtrio would probably stare out at the sea for an hour or two. Corphish could emphasize with him, being the only other Water-type in the guild, he missed the feel of the ocean some days. Although one can only be asked the exact same question about water so many times before you start getting annoyed and Dugtrio had long since passed that level.

They mostly just did the polite nod greeting nowadays.

Bidoof and Sunflora joined him, entering the middle level of the guild together. Bidoof immediately went for the normal job listings, and as Sunflora was chatting his ear off, difficult to do after a Loudred incident, she followed him. Corphish guessed Sunflora was planning to help him today, that was nice. Bidoof needed to get a move on if they were all going to graduate together.

Corphish decided he was feeling daring this day and scuttled over to the outlaw notice board instead. There wasn't much point in making a choice now, as Dugtrio still had his daily job to do, but he was fine to wait.

Chimecho came floating up before long and she smiled and said something to him, but she spoke far too softly to hear at the moment, so Corphish gave his usual reply. "Hey-hey how you doing today?"

Chimecho seemed to understand, it was hard not to when you lived across from Loudred, and moved off to Bidoof and Sunflora.

Corphish's hearing was almost back to normal levels when the newbies entered. Little Shinx, so meek yet determined, Corphish was very glad he had finally joined the guild. They were all rooting for him, it was hard not to know of the shinx's ambitions when he had lived in the area so long.

Even Chatot had been looking forward to him gathering the nerve. Corphish knew the bird would never admit it, but he had seen a sparkle in his eye and a chipper ring to his tone when he told everyone Shinx had finally joined the guild.

The other one though….

Meowth, Corphish refused to think of his name, was friendly enough. Maybe too friendly, considering what happened yesterday. Even though Sunflora had confirmed it was a misunderstanding, it was still a bit awkward.

He wasn't one to judge, not at all, but he wasn't the most comfortable with- "Oh they're heading my way. They are HEADING to ME!"

Corphish did his absolute best to appear casual, unconcerned, unjudging. Chatot would flip out tremendously if anyone treated the meowth differently.

"Can we speak to you?"

It was the meowth speaking, and Corphish couldn't say no even if he was wishing he was still deaf.

"Hey-hey, what can I do for you?" That sounded right. That sounded like something he'd say if he was fine.

"About yesterday," Meowth said. Corphish would not call him Sean, even in his subconscious. "I just wanted to clear up any misunderstanding."

"No misunderstanding at all, hey," Corphish said, clicking his pincers as that is normal corphish behaviour. "Hey-hey, Sunflora already explained."

The overuse of 'hey' would become more prevalent the more uncomfortable or nervous or stressed he was. Corphish couldn't help it, just as much as Loudred couldn't help bellowing everything he said.

"Oh good. Good. Thank goodness. Yeah, woke up without any memory, RrrrShinx is helping me."

"Hey, it's no problem."

At the very least Meowth relaxed. "Thank you, and I'm sorry for freaking you all out. I'm still learning all this stuff. Again, I guess."

"Hey-hey, it's fine. We'll forget about it, leave it in the past."

"Yeah." Meowth nodded. "And, uh, don't tell anyone I said my name, please? I can only imagine how awful it'd be if I got a reputation because of it."

Corphish nodded, he had no intention of ever letting it get so much to his thoughts let alone to his mouth.

Looking at Meowth, Corphish could see the mix of horror and humiliation and decided that it really had been an accident. He wasn't sure about no amnesia, but he could believe that Meowth really had been just trying to be friendly.

"There is just one thing you can do now, hey-hey," he said, receiving a dead-eyed glance from Meowth.

"Crawl under a rock?" he muttered.

"No." Corphish was a little confused at the response. "You're going to have to prove to everyone that you are more than the local night-mate."

"Oh. Great."

"There-there. It's something you're going to have to live with now, hey-hey," Corphish advised, he knew he was the best for the job when it came to blunt truths and plain advice. "Turn em down when they come to you, explain why, and prove yourself. It's all you can do now."

"Can't Sunflora just tell them the truth?" he muttered, wearing an impressively disgusted expression.

"She will," Corphish confirmed. "But it won't be enough. Plenty won't believe it, especially if she says it's because of amnesia. Some may even think it's a move too…"

Groaning, Meowth rubbed his face with his paw, almost poking himself with a claw in the process. "Fine. Let's just get a job and be out in the field."

Shinx, who was being quiet as ever, nodded and stuck close to Meowth. Corphish nodded to the pair behind their backs. They seemed good together, if that meowth got Shinx to join up and stay, Corphish wouldn't care about any doings or dealings the meowth might do. Shinx deserved a good partner, and if Meowth was that partner then everyone would respect that.

Scuttling back to the outlaw notice board, he saw that Dugtrio had done his job and began sorting through the updated pickings, picking a nasty Lumineon he could bring to justice. And if he was able to go swimming in the process? All the better.

Litleo was fuming.

Enough so that actual sparks were popping off his mane as it burst into flames every few seconds. The idea. The mere concept that fucking Meowth could beat him? Laughable.

It was a joke, that 'battle' they had until Meowth decided to grow a spine. Even then, he was easily creaming the basic cat until it hit him in the face with a sleep seed.

The type of cowardly move he should have expected, why would this opportunistic chump ever fight head-on-head without something hidden in its paw?

The pair had embarrassed him terribly. Not only by beating in in a battle but even dragging him back to town. Him? He was no outlaw, he just needed to be out of here. And they brought him back? He decided that was fine. He'll stay and be their problem.

It just added insult to, very literal, injury. They brought him to Chimecho who basically just gave him a common oran berry and then threw him out of the guild. Not like he wanted to stay there anyway but having to drag himself home was a little harder on him than he would have liked.

Magnezone fined him, of course, but he barely had anything to give. Those metallic eyes scanned through his home in silence before he just took the poké and left.

Didn't help his mood with all the pokémon giving him dirty looks. At least that was par for the course, gave them something to stare at. He made sure to stretch provocatively when a handsome guy began to look at him, but they glanced away quickly. Their loss.

Still. There was a blow to his pride that needed to be sated. So, he waited, early in the day despite his injuries, for the pair to emerge.

Sunflora and Bidoof exited first, the flower seemingly distressed about something. That was something amusing at least.

Thankfully he didn't have to wait long for the pair to emerge. Meowth looked most dissatisfied with the day, good, and Shinx seemed like himself. Meek and quiet. Laughable. He'd knocked Litleo right out, what did he have to look meek about? He knew what he'd have to do, as he always had to do.

He waited until they had stepped past the bush he hid himself in and began descending the annoyingly long steps down to the crossroads.

Now was his time. He considered pouncing, tackling Meowth down the stairs, that'd teach him a lesson. But Litleo rethought it when he noted that he'd fall as well, and he wasn't fully recovered from yesterday. His ribs still hurt, and fire was not the easiest to channel when in pain.

So, instead, he followed, stalking them quietly as they walked in silence. There seemed to be an awkward air about them, that was interesting.

"Trouble in paradise?" he couldn't help but say. It alerted them to his presence, but it was too good to pass up saying.

"YOU!" Shinx growled, switching from meek to fierce in an instant. It was almost impressive, it reminded him of who Shinx really was. "What are you doing here?"

Litleo noted how Meowth took a careful and measured step back, leaving Shinx slightly closer to him in case of attack. Coward, just as he knew already. Then Meowth stepped forwards, a move that almost took Litleo aback.

"Just wanted a chat," Litleo said. He wasn't lying either, it'd be idiocy to actually attack them here. That'd get him branded as an outlaw for certain.

"We don't want to talk to you," Meowth said and Litleo looked to Shinx.

"We? Or are you putting words in Shinx's mouth here?" He smirked as it immediately caused a reaction, Meowth's fierceness crumbled like the mask of sand it was and he glanced worriedly at Shinx.

"That's not true is it?" he asked, all adorably concerned he may offend someone. "I haven't been talking for you, have I?"

"Uh." Shinx hesitated, perfect. He quickly said. "No, I think we both talk!" Meowth mulled the words over, but Litleo could see that the damage had been done. He wouldn't be talking much today, but this shame wasn't enough.

"So, Meowth was it?" he asked, stepping closer and smiling as the pair took a step back. "Walk with me. I want to talk."

Litleo stepped past them, tail pointed and proud, and stepped a few steps down before pausing to look up. "Really? You're going to be this rude when I've come just wanting to talk?"

Meowth was hesitating. Whether it was an act or if he was genuinely concerned about being rude was up to opinion. Either way, he glanced at Shinx before shaking his head. "Whatever you want to talk about you can talk with both of us."

Litleo found it cute, really. Meowth gave himself a little nod, clearly satisfied that he'd said the correct thing to minimize whatever harm he thought could be caused. Litleo was far too intelligent for this pair, either going with him would hurt Shinx's precious feelings, or saying this in front of him would hurt. Either way, he'd leave this conversation feeling better.

"Just wanted to give you a little warning is all," Litleo said, cupping a paw to his mouth as if this was a secret. Meowth narrowed his eyes and stepped closer to Shinx. "Just about Shinx here. He's got a few issues is all and I don't want to see a fellow feline hurt."

Meowth was now frowning in confusion, showing a bit of doubt. Perfect. Shinx was, of course, experiencing a much more amusing reaction. A combination of outrage and horror and he tried to say something. Litleo spoke over him with his far stronger voice.

"He's known as a really unreliable pokémon in these parts. Can never muster the courage to stand up for himself and tends to drag anyone who feels sorry for him down until they get rid of him. You seem like a good pokémon, but you're only going to get yourself hurt with this pity. That's all, I'm going to walk through the Apple Woods for the day."

With that Litleo turned around and began strutting off. He didn't need to remain there to savour the response, although he wanted to. Such pettiness was beyond him. That should anger Shinx and make him push himself to prove otherwise. He was a genius, the secret key to that shinx-like lock.

Swellow was having an off day.

This would have bothered him just on principle, but worse of all he couldn't figure out why. Wurmple had been acting strangely around him ever since they decided to make an exploration team together.

Was it because they were hobbyists? Neither member of Team Tasty thought they were quite cut out for Wigglytuff's Guild, nor the infamous taxing of the rewards the apprentices went through.

So, they would go out together, each day, sometimes just to explore randomly, sometimes they'd take a job. They only had done one outlaw task, and Swellow thought that got their blood pumping.

The day was shining, but not too hot, everyone was pleased with the weather, it should be a great day for spending time with a friend and helping others.

Except Wurmple was so twitchy around him.

The only time he brightened up was when another pokémon, or better yet another team, came up to talk to them. Swellow didn't like to think about it, but he was beginning to get worried that Wurmple regretted teaming up with him.

Would he be happier on another team?

Swellow was quite happy with their little two-pokémon team. He loved exploring and taking down outlaws with Wurmple. The little Bug-type was so meek, but when it came to battle he was almost comically strong. He used String Shot like it was an art, combining it into a brutally-hard Tackle or a Poison Sting topped with a penetrating slam. He had beaten many enemies that Swellow had no idea how to defeat.

He was his most valuable partner, and he didn't want to lose him. He wished he was a little braver, enough to talk to Wurmple about this.

Fortune came as Ponyta clopped ahead, revealing a pair of pokémon approached them, Swellow tried to keep the conversation pleasant. Wurmple relaxed when someone else came up to them, so if it was just a social thing then he'd feed that hunger.

"Those are some good words," Swellow thought. "I should remember them to reassure Wurmple later."

The pair were the newcomers to the Wigglytuff Guild, although everyone knew Shinx. The meowth was someone knew, Swellow had seen him around yesterday, but they hadn't spoken.

Wurmple and Meowth immediately began a discussion, speaking lowly and privately. Whatever they wanted to talk about, it seemed perhaps it wasn't Swellow's business?

Shinx though. He'd seen Shinx happier than ever just yesterday, still beaming off finally joining the guild. Today though, today he looked very unhappy.

It seems misery would have company on this beautiful day.

"What's eating you?" Swellow asked, perhaps a little too loudly as he noticed Wurmple flinch.

"Oh, nothing." Shinx's expression immediately brightened up. Swellow was concerned, that was pretty bad acting to him.

"Come on Shinx, you really are a bad liar." It was true, the meek little guy was terrible at being dishonest, probably in fear it'd upset someone. Swellow thought he was a little too worried about other pokémon's thoughts and feelings, it was easier to go with the wind in his mind.

"I… just had a bad start to the day," Shinx admitted, scuffing the ground with one of his back legs. "Litleo... as usual."

Ah, Litleo. The Fire-type brat had been in the area for a while. A few years or so, about as long as Shinx. And he really did seem to love antagonizing Shinx, feline pokémon issues maybe? Swellow personally thought Litleo had a crush and couldn't deal with that.

"Maybe you should challenge him to a battle?" Was Swellow's suggestion. Things tended to be worked out in a battle, win or lose. If anything, it might help raise Litleo's respect for Shinx.

"I battled him yesterday," Shinx said, mouth pulling into a grimace. "He stole Charmander's gold ribbon. Meowth and I had to fight him in the Oran Forest to get it back."

"Did you win?" Swellow cocked his head, he hadn't heard any gossip about Litleo becoming a thief. Sunflora might be a little distracted perhaps.

"Yes!" Shinx insisted, he did look a little brighter now, reminded of his victory. "He was tough, but Meowth and I took him down. I think it's just made him hate me more though."

He was back to looking down and Swellow wasn't sure what to do. He had exhausted his wisdom with the battle suggestion.

"There-there," he said, patting Shinx with a wing. "Whatever he said can't be that bad. And even if it was, you've still got your partner here!"

Meowth was chatting with Wurmple, and they both perked up when he pointed the wing to them. "So, no need to worry!"

"Yeah… thanks." Swellow wasn't sure if he really helped, but Shinx didn't sound quite as despondent as earlier. "We'd better get going. We took a request to rescue Pidgey from Mount Bristle today."

Satisfied with his good deed for the day, he waited until Shinx and Meowth had left them to hop over to Wurmple.

"I'm feeling hungry today," he said brightly, thinking of the dungeon Shinx had mentioned. "We should go to the Oran Forest! Or even Apple Woods. Which do you feel like today?"

"O-Oran," Wurmple said. He was all stuttery and twitchy again. It did concern Swellow, but just talking to Wurmple made his day feel brighter, he could only hope that his words helped Wurmple.

"Well let's go! Lunch isn't going to wait for us."

Wurmple joined in on his whoop with a much less enthusiastic yay, but it was something and they were off.

Pidgey's day was a bad one currently.

Yesterday hadn't been much better. The day before that she thought was the worst, it was the day she realised she couldn't get through Mt. Bristle.

Today, however, was a new low. She was so hungry. She really hoped Oddish had put out a notice for her by now or was coming to get her herself.

She was sure a wing was broken. A stupid crazy machop had Karate Chopped her out of nowhere and now she couldn't fly. All the starly roosting in this dungeon only made it worse, they could still fly. They were mocking her, she knew it.

She had given up on crying, it was a useless endeavour by now, and just focused on trying to get to the top. She wouldn't even look for the legendary treasure if that was the price of survival, she just wanted to get out of the dungeon alive.

"-nother thing, he's an asshole. I know he's an asshole, you know he's an asshole, he's just angry because we beat him."

Pidgey felt hope sore into her heart.

"This isn't like the conversation we had on who's the most useless. He's right, others have tried to help me before, but they always had to leave eventually."

She immediately began yelling out, those were definitely at least a pair of adventurers. Maybe even there for her. "Hey? HEY? HELP ME PLEASE."

"I'm not going to leave. Where would I even- what was that?"

"I think. Pidgey?"

Relief almost brought her to tears as she replied. "Yes. Please help me."

The scurrying of limbs grew closer and closer and eventually a head poked into the small room she had been resting in. It was a shinx, he was quickly followed by a meowth.

"We're Team Ion, we're here to rescue you," Shinx said brightly and Pidgey did start crying from relief. She didn't care who it was, they were here to help, they wouldn't eat her. Especially not the shinx she knew of, assuming this was him.

They placed her in the Treasure Bag they had as fortunate members of Wigglytuff's Guild and moved with all haste to the top. Pidgey fell asleep halfway through, exhausted from her struggles up to this point.

She fell asleep to the conversation the pair had continued after making sure she was alright.

It made an interesting dream that's for sure.

Chatot was perturbed.

Something was off with the apprentices, and he couldn't fathom what it was. Even with his keen ear and intelligent grasp on social politics, he couldn't quite be sure.

Sunflora wasn't talking as much. That was strange in of itself. She was known to be a gossip, although a harmless one. Enjoying knowing things, but didn't spread things around hurtfully.

Bidoof was blushing each time he glanced to the right of him. Right towards the newly minted Team Ion.

Corphish was there as always. He seemed himself at a first glance, but a little vague and distracted on a second one.

Loudred and Diglett had acted perfectly normal throughout the day, and Chimecho herself seemed fine as well.

The Guildmaster was the Guildmaster, nothing different to say there.

Croagunk was smiling in a vaguely unsettling way, but that was rather par for the course, so he was sure that wasn't the problem with everyone tonight.

Shinx and Meowth. He had a feeling they were the guilty party here. Meowth seemed irritated today, acting perfectly polite, too polite, and rather distant. Chatot disapproved, he thought better of the apprentices to judge, but perhaps Meowth had done something?

No. Chatot wouldn't consider it.

Although Shinx didn't seem the type himself. So, what was it?

He wasn't sure what had happened, and clever questions didn't seem to be his pathway in considering that no one was talking. Perhaps it was to do with Litleo?

The debrief session went quickly as neither member of Team Ion had much to say about tonight's mission, the Guildmaster had cleverly questioned them about the top of Mount Bristle but neither had tried to pursue the dangerous little pile of rocks at the top.

That was good. Let what was in there remain lost.

Chatot sent them to bed and waited until everyone had entered their rooms.

It was uncouth of him to do this, but no one would find out. As his place of sleeping was on the top floor, no one would expect him to be elsewhere in the guild.

He carefully walked, not hopped, to the doors that contained the apprentice's rooms. He was not one for eavesdropping, but the needs must at times.

Pressing his head carefully to the door, Chatot listened intently. To his satisfaction, he could hear voices. The pair remaining up to talk was somewhat irresponsible, but Chatot wouldn't mention it for it as long as their work ethic was undisturbed.

"Rai, why does this bother you so much?" Came the meowth's voice and immediately Chatot felt uncomfortable. He was surprised they already had shared names, that was unusual.

"I don't know. It's just every day I seem to be getting reminders about being a burden. Litleo's a bully, but he's not the only one who thinks that, Sean!" And there it was to somehow render Chatot feeling worse. Now he had Meowth's name as well. Sean was a curious name though, would fit a mareep more than a meowth. He wanted to pull away, but it was too late now. He may as well learn more.

"I'm sorry." Meowth, no Sean, seemed to take a moment to build a breath or bravery to say his next words. "But his words shouldn't matter. You're not weak or a burden. You're not. Who cares what anyone says?"

"Words can hurt!"

Ah. It was Litleo. Chatot felt sympathy for the three of them, he had seen another side to that miserable pokemon before. He truly did not know how to act in the way he wanted to, did he?

Litleo had been taunting Young Rai about joining the guild for quite some time now, Chatot understood. At first, it seemed to Chatot to be an attempt at pushing Rai to spite him, but he always lost confidence and the bullying got worse. They were quite at odds now, and poor Rai was rather fragile to hurtful words.

"I… I know. I'm sorry. I just hate that he makes you miserable. I like you, you know. I don't care what he has to say. I'm not going to leave you, I'm kinda helpless without you. It'd make more sense if he was trying to tell you to leave me."

"It's just…." There was a long moment of silence, almost enough to make Chatot believe the conversation was over. "Just losing my Relic Fragment. It was everything to me, it was the only thing I had, and I just put so much of myself into it. I never used to wear it, only just the previous day did I decide it would give me confidence and I lost it."

"…I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. I would have given up entirely if it wasn't for you. I just wish I could get away from the thoughts that say Litleo was right about me. He said," he sighed. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm tired."

Chatot held himself against the door, waiting, wondering if anything else was going to be said. He was concerned, greatly concerned, about Rai. He knew nothing of some 'Relic Fragment' but if it was important perhaps he could help find something to replace it or bolster Rai's confidence.

Actually, that last thought gave him an idea.

"I can't let this beat me," Rai said suddenly, recapturing Chatot's attention. "This is it. This is my declaration. I'm going to stop being so weak and fragile, I'm going to stop letting everything get to me so easily. I'm an apprentice in the Wigglytuff Guild! I won't let them down. I won't let you down, Sean! This is it. I'm just going to have to learn to live without it."

"I'll be there for you all the time," Sean responded. "You don't have to be strong every day. When you're not, I can be the strong one. Er, emotionally at least. You're way stronger than I am everywhere else."

"I don't think you're as weak as you think you are," Rai responded, an edge of playfulness entering his voice. "You get hit a lot and you just shrug it off." Chatot smiled and pulled away from the door. Dramatic nighttime talks, but it was good to see the one proper team in the guild bonding like this.

He was concerned or Loudred, Sunflora, and Corphish. He knew they planned to build a team of themselves plus Bidoof, but Bidoof needed a great deal of help and they had promised to graduate together. He wondered what could be done to help Bidoof as well, or if he might need to council the four of them to make a different plan.

Still, he was proud. If the apprentices could all be so honest with themselves and vow to better themselves, he'd be a proud chatot. He'd never tell them that, of course, it would be improper, but he would be proud nonetheless.

For now, he had work to do. Shinx, or Rai, needed a confidence boost. Something to show the guild was believing in them both, something they could handle, but still, be important to entrust them with.

He'd stay up the rest of the night pouring over maps and rumours if he had to.

Chatot was the night-time guardian of the guild, but more importantly, he was the guardian of the apprentices.

He would not fail them.

These POV chapters as I call them are interesting to write. I like Chatot, he's a good bird under the taxing and stuffiness.

Lot's of birds in this chapter, actually.
Chapter 6 - Gazing Into Trouble


Bug Catcher
Got a big one here to make up for the shortness of the last chapter!

"Er… ahem."

Three days had passed since Chatot had eavesdropped on Sean and Rai. He had spent those days in deep deliberation. Several mysterious areas and dungeons had been considered, all but one had been discarded.

He was nervous about assigning this to them, the difficulty may be too much, but nothing else suitable was around. He only wished he had thought to assign them something special one day earlier, having already planned and then sent Sunflora and Loudred out on an expedition to a waterfall.

As true explorers they had discovered its secrets, and even got a dip in the Hot Springs for their trouble. The Guildmaster had been most pleased and they'd worked together well.

His planned assignment wasn't the only thing he was nervous about today, however.

"Everyone, listen up." The apprentices all stood at attention, picking up on the brevity of Chatot's words. It was very, very, uncommon for him to differ in how he addressed the guild each morning and even Wigglytuff was frowning. "I have an important announcement to make."

There were a few shared glances as Chatot hesitated. Chimecho had her head bowed in sadness. "Far to the northeast." The bird found his words. "And farther into its outermost reaches… there lies a place named Treeshroud Forest. In Treeshroud Forest… time has apparently stopped."

The sheer bafflement in Chatot's voice was drowned out and forgotten as the entire guild, bar Wigglytuff and Sean, all jerked back in horror.

"Huh?" Diglett was the first to speak.

"Eek! What did you SAY?" Sunflora shrieked.

"You're saying time stopped?" Corphish asked, minus his usual verbal tic.

"Yes," Chatot answered, nodding. "That is correct. Time has come to a standstill in Treeshroud Forest. The wind has stopped." Chatot shivered, he had only heard reports, but the idea was still terrible. "The clouds are motionless in the sky. Dewdrops lay suspended on leaves, waiting to drop, but never do."

Chatot shuddered and shook his head sadly. "In Treeshroud Forest, time itself has truly stopped." There was a raw aspect to his voice, still stunned from shock of what he had learned, unable to understand why such a tragedy had occurred but burdened with the knowledge of how.

The idea of a blighted land like that, it left him feeling chilled to the bone to even contemplate.

"T-time has stopped?" Dugtrio asked this time, all three heads blinking as he tried to make sense of what he was hearing.

"But," Rai spoke up. "How could something this awful happen?"

Sean turned to his partner. A small frown on the shinx's face was the only notion that something was wrong, something he wasn't quite understanding. "It's unthinkable! How?"

"Yes," Chatot agreed. "The unthinkable has happened. Why has time stopped in Treeshroud Forest? Well… it's because Treeshroud Forest was home to a Time Gear." A bad feeling swept into the stomachs of every pokémon in attendance, even Sean. "It's because Treeshroud Forest's Time Gear was… was stolen!"

"Huh?" Bidoof gasped.

"The Time Gear was stolen?" Croagunk asked, disbelief staggering his expression. "Who would do something like that?"

"I heard it was possible," Chimecho spoke, shivering in mid-air. She had been the one to receive the message on the Psychic Network, a call of panic waking her in the night. "But now it's really happened!"

"I don't get it!" Loudred roared, turning to rage. "Why would ANYONE take a Time Gear?"

For once his bellowing volume was both appropriate and helpful, working to snap everyone out of the stunned confusion the mere concept had left them in.

"Quiet everyone," Chatot hushed, for once not giving Loudred the stink eye. "Officer Magnezone has already started an investigation. The Clefable Guild will be leading the hunt for whatever vile creature dared to do this."

"The reality is indisputable. With no guardian remaining, no one was there to prevent the theft of the gear." He and Wigglytuff both twitched just slightly. "And if one Time Gear has been taken, then others may be at risk. The guilds have been asked to keep an eye out for any suspicious characters and to be notified immediately if we have any leads."

The apprentices all glanced around at the others, sharing determined nods.

"So, keep that in mind. Let us know if you notice anything. Anything at all, even minor suspicions, even dreams or feelings you may have, anything could be possible due to the unknown nature of the Time Gears. That is all." Chatot breathed out, feeling a weight leave him as he had done his duty. "All right everyone!" he said, far more animated than earlier. "Here's to another day of work!"

"RIGHT!" Everyone yelled, choosing not to say hooray after such horrible news.

"Corphish, Shinx and Meowth stay behind," Chatot called before everyone could thunder out.

Corphish offered a curious, "Hey-hey?" as he stepped into line with them but neither pokémon had an answer for him.

"You two have become quite good at your work," Chatot said to Team Ion, making Rai beam happily. "The Guildmaster and I are impressed with your defeat of Litleo as well as your work in dungeons overall. There has been no job that has proven too much for you and this is an admirable trait in a pair of apprentices."

"Thank you, sir," Sean said, unable to stop himself from smiling along with Rai. It was nice to receive a compliment, especially from the rather critical Chatot.

"So, you will now be assigned a mission worthy of a proper exploration team!"

Rai lit up, literally sparking, with glee but he managed to restrain himself from hopping around. Sean grinned but had a sort of tightness to his smile. Loudred and Sunflora had talked about their adventure in the Waterfall Cave. That was meant to be their thing.

"Hey-hey?" Corphish asked, reminding the pair he was there as well. "What does this have to do with me?"

"Well." Chatot hesitated again, and the fire lit within Team Ion spluttered for a moment. "There have been some differences of opinions regarding what mission the guild is sending Team Ion on. It HAS been agreed, however, that assigning a more experienced apprentice to accompany them, assist them, but not do the work FOR them, would be beneficial to their success."

Turning back to Rai and Sean he stretched a wing to Corphish. "It has been decided that Corphish will join you on this mission. Keep in mind that this is still YOUR exploration, you cannot expect him to do the work for you and we will be speaking to Corphish later to judge a fair report on how it went."

Swallowing in relief, Rai nodded. "That's fine, that's really fine. I just can't believe we're finally doing a real mission! Where are we going, what do you need us to do?"

"Let me see your Wonder Map," he politely asked, and Sean quickly pulled the object out of the Treasure Bag. "Treasure Town is here." Chatot pointed then moved his wing, along, and along, and along. With each passing moment, the nerves grew. Finally, his wingtip came to a stop. "Here is where we want you to explore."

"That's… far," Sean said feeling his entire mouth go as dry as ash. That was not the Waterfall Cave, he was certain of it.

"This dungeon is known as the Boulder Quarry," Chatot explained. "Within it is claims of a grand treasure, but no one has ever managed to find it. There is a puzzle to it, as you will find, that no pokémon has yet seemed to have solved. As apprentices of the Wigglytuff's Guild, we expect you to discern the mystery and find the treasure. Failure will be reviewed, success lauded."

Sean and Rai exchanged a nervous glance, this was not what either of them had really expected.

"That is a far distance for a pair of newbies, hey-hey," Corphish commented and Chatot nodded.

"Indeed. Normally you would need to pass through at least one other dungeon to even reach the Boulder Quarry, however, to alleviate the pressure of making it there, Wigglytuff's Guild has called in a favour and acquired a teleporter to move you straight to the entrance and to retrieve you when you are finished."

Corphish and Rai jumped at that, Sean was simply curious.

"T-Teleporter?" Corphish gasped.

"For US?" Rai squeaked.

"Yes," Chatot drawled, looking down his beak at them. "As you could perhaps tell, this is normally expensive, and we used a favour to get this for you, so we are expecting great things from the pair of you. You too Corphish, this will not be easy, not even for you."

Rai looked spooked, so Sean put a gentle paw on his back, and he relaxed. Taking a breath, he nodded firmly to Chatot. "Right. We will not let you down Chatot sir."

"We would not give you this mission if we believed you couldn't do it," Chatot said. "The Guildmaster himself seemed greatly positive on your chances here, it was his suggestion, do not disappoint him."

"We'll do our best," Sean and Rai said exactly together.

"Alright. Do you understand what this mission entails?" Chatot asked, just for confirmation's sake. He received a positive from all three and nodded happily. "Good, you'll find Alakazam waiting at the crossroads when you're ready. I'll leave you all to thoroughly investigate the Boulder Quarry then."

He turned to hop away but then noticed Rai's expression. Frozen. "A-are you alright?" he asked with growing alarm as Rai began to shake.

"Y-yeah," the shinx said, tears pricking his eyes. "Just a little overwhelmed and just so happy that I'm getting given this chance." He furiously rubbed his face until it was clear of tears and turned to Sean. "Right!" He spun to Corphish. "Right! Let's do this!"

"Hey-hey, just try and stop me!"

Chatot watched them depart before breathing out a hard breath and turning to the Guildmaster. They had talked in tense air about Treeshroud Forest, and both knew the matter weighed heavily on the other's mind.

Wigglytuff smiled sadly at him and the two stood in silence, thinking of old, soothing, memories.

"So, Corphish?" Rai asked as the trio entered Treasure Town. "What kinds of items do you take on explorations?"

"Food is important for sure," Corphish answered. "And depending on where you go I'd suggest two to six oran berries as well!"

"So… six for this one?" Sean asked.

"Yeah. This is going to be a tough one, so as many items as we can take should be the goal."

"I want a blast seed," Sean said immediately.

"Blast seeds, sleep seeds, stun seeds. Even x-eye seeds!" Corphish thought for a moment before nodding. "Orbs too. Can't forget them. Any that you can pack, you never know what might come in handy at an inopportune moment."

"I haven't used an orb yet," Rai admitted, causing Sean to wonder how the objects worked. "They seemed a bit excessive, but it might have helped when we had to fight Litleo."

The Electric-type and Water-type chatted away as Sean drifted off into his own thoughts.

"Did one day really mess things up that badly? What changed that is causing us to go somewhere else? And where are we even going? Boulder Quarry? Isn't that the Team Charm special dungeon?"

Unmindful to the thoughts the meowth of the group was experiencing, Rai and Corphish walked almost directly into a white, fluffy, stomach.

"Oof," Rai grunted as his head smacked into the surprisingly muscled abdomen of a larger person. "Zangoose!" Rai gasped. "Sorry for running into you like that."

Zangoose scratched the point where both pokémon had run into him with his sabre-sharp claws. "Whatever," he said to Rai, to Corphish, however. "Long time no see Corphish."

Zangoose's tone brought Sean out of his reverie and the expression on his face made him uncomfortable. The other members of Team Razor Wind were wearing dark expressions themselves, calm Scyther and cheerful Sandslash were all glaring right at Corphish.

"What have you been up to?" Scyther asked, scythe arms held firmly by his sides. "Throw any other pokémon out lately?"

The other time he had seen them, Sean hadn't been bothered by Scyther. He was a gigantic insect, but overall fairly friendly. He was getting some phobic reactions with an unhappy scyther though.

"Hey-hey," Corphish said, but his eyes were cold as steel. "Not lately though. Haven't had any ruffians about for a while since."

"Ruffians, are we?" Sandslash asked, crossing his arms and showing off his own deadly claws. "What's that make you?"

"Now-now guys," Zangoose said, waving down the anger of his teammates. "Let's give little claw here a chance to speak."

"I've got nothing to say to you, hey-hey," Corphish said sharply. "Now we've got work to do."

With that, he stepped past Team Razor Wind and gestured for Team Ion to follow.

"What are you hanging around with him anyway?" Zangoose asked as Corphish grew impatient. "Pretentious prick. Almost as much of a jerk as that hoity-toity Chatot."

"Shut your mouth Zangoose!" Corphish snapped, drawing some attention from other pokémon. "You won't speak of me, Chatot, or anyone else in the guild like that. Leave."

Zangoose made a dismissive noise but did jerk his head to his fellows. "Whatever. Have fun." He gave Sean and Rai an unpleasant smile before walking off with Scyther and Sandslash.

Corphish huffed but said nothing as Sean and Rai joined him. They continued walking in silence, but it could never last.

"So," Sean drew the word out. "What was up with that?"

"Those jerks insulted the Guildmaster one too many times," Corphish said immediately. "Chatot and I had to throw them out of the guild. They clearly are still furious about it, arrogant all three of them." He turned to the pair with a dark glare in his eyes. "You want nothing to do with either of them. You hear?"

Sean nodded quickly, Corphish was surprisingly intimidating when worked up, but Rai didn't, and they exchanged a glance when he turned away satisfied.

Little more than chatting was made as they stocked up on as many items as they could.

The day was quite busy despite the early morning. Team Ion and Team Razor Wind were not the only teams out this day and the Kecleon Market was receiving quite the boon of business.

"Hey-hey, do you have anything in storage that might help?" Corphish asked Rai as they waited in line. The ears of the shinx perked up and he brightened.

"Oh yeah, I do!" He beamed and turned to Sean. "I haven't introduced you yet to Kangaskhan. She's really nice, I think you'll like her."

"Go ahead," Corphish said, waving a claw. "I'll settle the supplies on this end. You get what you need."

Rai nodded and pulled Sean out of the line after he handed the Treasure Bag to Corphish. They walked the way they had on Sean's first day, heading in the direction of Sharpedo Bluff. Neither had gone any farther than Kecleon Market since joining the guild. It wasn't a far walk to Kangaskhan Storage, but certainly longer than Sean ever would have guessed.

"Good morning dears," Kangaskhan said to them as she spotted them coming up. "Oh! Is it, Shinx? I haven't seen you in days, dear." Smiling brightly, Rai trotted up to the large pokémon, Sean trailing behind.

Kangaskhan was enormous. She was thickly muscles, the pure power in her muscles barely contained by her skin, despite that she spoke with a maternal warmth that was easing to hear.

She waited on a small stand and laid out behind her was a considerable building. A warehouse was the best Sean could put into words, one that seemed to sink into the ground very quickly.

Scooping up Rai in a hug as soon as she could, Kangaskhan cooed for a moment before setting her sights on Sean. "And this must be your friend," she said, holding out another arm to grab him with. "I've heard a few good things about you Meowth, I've been hoping to meet you for a while now."

"Nice to meeee-" Sean squeaked as the breath was physically squeezed out of his lungs with just her affection. He realised how it was to really be small compared to someone tall and felt sudden empathy for all the people he dwarfed when he was human.

She soon set them down, Sean never more grateful for land in his life, and set her hands by her side. "Now what can I do for you. I cannot imagine this is a social visit for such exciting new apprentices of Wigglytuff such as yourselves!"

Smiling bashfully, Rai nodded. "I was hoping to get my Max Elixir and Defence Scarf from storage?"

"Of course, dear," Kangaskhan answered and turned to the door behind her. Sean noted that her pouch was empty as he regained enough oxygen to make rational thoughts again.

Kangaskhan disappeared into the complex and left the pair waiting. "She's really quick," Rai said to fill the silence. "And boasts a perfect protection record. She's never lost something, never been stolen from. No one would dare."

His expression was brighter than Sean had seen him yet. Ever since their first day, there was something lacking in the shine in his eye, even when he suggested joining the guild together, the raw emotions of having lost his treasure had weighed him down. Right now, however, Rai was positively glowing, and it was making Sean happier just to see it.

"Here we are dears." Kangaskhan had already returned with the items in question. "Would you like me to put it on for you?"

Rai glanced to Sean inquisitively and it took him a moment to gather what he might be asking. "I've got this bow," he said, flicking the silver fabric with a claw. He was quite sure of what it was and knew that the bow was best for him now. "I can carry the Max Elixir though."

Kangaskhan handed the drink to him before picking Rai up and expertly tying the scarf around his neck. "Now you look even cuter," she laughed, scuffing Rai on the head. He made a disagreeable noise, but Kangaskhan only chuckled and set him down. "Do well out there today," she said and sent them off with a smile.

"She's very nice," Sean commented as they returned to the marketplace. Rai fidgeted with the scarf and seeing his chance, added. "And you do look absolutely adorable in that."

"I'm not cute!" Rai snapped back, nose going red. "I'm not. You're the one who's cute with your bow!"

"Am I?" Sean grinned, adjusting the bow. "Why thank you, I guess it takes cute to know cute." He winked and laughed when Rai growled, running forward to dodge a pounce from the shinx.

"Get back here!" he yelled, but Sean just ran faster.

They laughed together as Rai did manage to tackle Sean but rolled off him immediately. There were a few pokémon watching, but Sean found it in him not to care. He helped Rai up and decided to care about possible social embarrassment later.

"Hey-hey, looking good," Corphish commented when he spotted them.

Rai immediately flushed. "I'm NOT cute!" he insisted, Sean snorting in amusement.

Corphish cocked his head slightly and clicked a pincer. "I didn't… anyway, you ready to go?"

"We're ready," Sean said, presenting the Max Elixir, Corphish held out the bag in response and sheepishly Sean took it. His paws were better at holding it than Corphish's pincers.

"So, who are we meeting again?" Sean asked as the trio began the walk to the crossroads.

"Chatot said a pokémon by the name of Alakazam," Corphish replied, leading the charge. "Said he used a favour for it too. Wonder what?"

"Guildmaster Wigglytuff and Chatot were explorers together," Rai said cheerfully, still brimming with energy. "I'm sure they met and helped many pokémon we haven't even heard of."

"Have you heard of Alakazam then?" Sean asked.

"Nope." Rai popped the p, and his overall cheerful dismissal gave Sean a laugh.

"It's difficult to tell who they may be," Corphish muttered. With a clearer voice, he explained. "Without a title or anything it'd be impossible to tell who this 'Alakazam' may be. I can think of a couple of famous alakazam, and since it was a favour."

"We'll just ask them ourselves then," Rai said and trotted forward. They exited Treasure Town and spotted their target.

Sean also noticed a small bear-like pokémon staggering about drunkenly. "Uh?" he said, realising the species of this pokémon.

"Don't mind Spinda," Corphish advised. "He's fine, just perpetually dizzy."

"Hellooo explorers," Spinda said, waving at the bush that they were passing. "Good luck… on your adventures." Even his voice sounded dizzy, each word a struggle to articulate.

"Thank you," Sean said politely as they passed.

"Excuse me," Rai said, walking up to where an alakazam rested against a tree, with eyes closed. "Are you the alakazam, the guild hired for us?"

Alakazam opened their eyes, and with a baritone voice he said answered with a question, "Are you Team Ion plus Corphish?"

"Yep." Rai nodded.

"Then I am here to transport you to Boulder Quarry, yes." Alakazam stepped off the tree and walked to them, holding up a pair of silvery spoons. "Are you prepared for your task?"

"We're ready." Rai turned to Sean and Corphish questioningly, receiving two nods in response. "Yep. Send us now please."

"Once the matters are resolved, would you tell Chatot that I have done my duty?"

"Uh… sure." Rai exchanged a glance with Sean, Alakazam seemed to be speaking only in questions.

"Very well, gird yourselves, will you find what you are looking for?" Alakazam chinked his spoons together and summoned a great amount of Power, channelling it through his focuses.

"Oh wait," Rai said, remembering he wanted to ask something. "Are you?" His question would go unsaid, as Alakazam judged his interruption to be for trivial reasons and completed his move.

The four of them vanished into thin air, leaving Rai's voice only on the wind for a brief moment.

"Totally wicked." Spinda staggered his way over to where no one was anymore.

"I feel parched," Spinda hummed. Looking blearily at the water hole.

"Oooh!" Spinda's whole body shook. "I've given me… a fantastical…. Tremendous… exciting… superb… spectacular…." Spinda kept rambling off large words for a few minutes yet.


The sentiment was shared between all three pokémon who were knocked sprawling from the teleport. Travelling through space was neither pleasant nor gentle.

"That felt…" Rai moaned, falling to his side.

"Ooh did someone get a mark on the metagross that hit me?" Corphish groaned, upside down with his legs all twitching in disturbing manners.

Sean couldn't even speak, just repressing all the urge to vomit after that. "Note to self. Never teleport again. I bet Alakazam did that on purpose." Thinking mutinous thoughts towards Alakazam helped and eventually he was able to stand without toppling over.

"Are we here?" Rai pushed himself on all fours and glanced around. Trees. Lots and lots of trees.

"Yes," Alakazam replied. "I will wait for you to return." And that was a dismissal, not a pokémon who was in the mood to chat.

"Thank you," Rai said politely. He got a nod for that.

"This is a forest," Sean said, he also noticed the many trees. Also, shrubs and bushes. It didn't bring to mind either boulders or quarries.

"Ugh, bleh." Corphish coughed and flipped himself onto his legs. "There was a forest dungeon on the way to Boulder Quarry," he said, remembering the map better than the pair.

They were situated in a pathway breaking a line between the ever-expansive trees. The Water-type in Corphish made him uncomfortable with so much plant life and the plant monsters that could come along with it.

"Which way should we go?" Rai asked, looking both ways. "We don't want to go into the dungeon."

Alakazam pointed with a spoon and gave them each a light Psychic tap to get them moving.

"Bit pushy," Corphish muttered as they walked.

"Um, excuse me?"

Corphish paused, each leg freezing in place as a voice that was very much not Sean or Rai, spoke up. They all turned in the other direction, spotting a bellossom quickly walking up to them.

"Uh, greetings kindly stranger," Corphish said, returning to Team Ion's sides.

"Greetings kindly team," Bellossom said, giving a curtsy. She spoke with a clearly feminine voice. Shyly, she turned away from their stares, covering her face with her dress. "I thought I'd do you a favour."

"What kind of favour?" Rai asked, cocking a head.

"Don't go to Boulder Quarry."

Team Ion plus Corphish all blinked once before glancing at each other. Sean decided to be the one to speak up, something here was off and was tickling some old memory. "Thank you for the warning, but we've got a job to do there."

"Right." Rai nodded. "We've been sent on a mission to find the treasure hidden within."

Bellossom shrugged and turned around. "It'd be best you give up," she advised. "I've lived in this area for a while, and I've learnt a thing or two about this dungeon. Trust me, the longer it's taking for this 'treasure' to be found, the more excited all you adventurers are getting. It's leading to rowdiness and violence. Do you really think it'll be worth it? If it even exists?"

Without waiting for an answer, she walked off.

"A little rude," Sean said after she was well and gone.

"Hey-hey, she may just be frustrated with having to deal with so many explorers," Corphish said, rationalising the event. "Especially if we've got some frustrated pokémon who may not be happy to see us here."

"Should we go?" Rai asked, taking a hesitant step forward. His earlier confidence hadn't completely burned out, but he was less jubilant than he was earlier.

"Of course," Corphish said, stepping forward. "We cannot let down the guild!"

Rai nodded and stepped into line, Sean catching up a few moments later. As they walked the forest path grew wider, the trees began to thin, and the grassy ground began to turn rockier.

"Looks like the right way," Sean said, wincing as his paw pads were poked by stones.

The trees ended almost immediately. Simply stopping at one flourishing point. The change from green life to sandstone rock was almost rude in its bluntness.

"Has this place been mined?" Sean muttered as they stepped into a clearing.

"Or just torn apart by pokémon?" Rai said equally as quietly.

Stepping into the clearing was like stepping into a room filled with tense people. There was no room, but there was a respectable amount of pokémon loitering about, all of which stared right at the trio as they walked in.

A few pokémon scowled and turned away in a huff and each of the trio stepped a little lighter as they realised the mood was quite dour at the moment.

"Hey-hey," Corphish said on reflex, waving a claw. "We should just go straight in."

"Agreed," Sean and Rai said in chorus. The entrance to the Boulder Quarry, a cave dungeon it looked to be, was right in front of them. There were a few spot-camps about, a few pokémon nursing injuries.

Sean, feeling extra vigilant due to the negative attitude the entrance of the dungeon was soaked in, took in every pokémon, keeping a careful eye for any sudden movements. His tail went straight, not that he even noticed, and each whisker quivered in the air.







Grovyle. He couldn't help but glance twice at that, a bit of a scarred creature chatting amicably to someone else.



Diglett, dig, diglett, dig! Trio-trio-trio.

The pokémon's name repeated in his head, hearing an old memory of the anime now playing in his head like an earworm. There was also a diglett approaching him.

"Hello," the diglett said, cheerfully and Sean's mind stopped repeating the earworm.

Blinking rapidly, he shook his head to clear out the fuzzies, his claws retracting and tail going limp. "What the hell was that?" he wondered as Rai greeted the only friendly pokémon in the area.

"Hello, Diglett. What can we do for you?"

The diglett looked over the three of them, saw Corphish and Sean, and ducked into the hole it dug a little until only its eyes were peering out. Oddly small for a diglett.

More comfortable speaking to the pokémon it had a strong advantage over in battle, Diglett turned back to Rai. "I can guess you are here to look for the treasure of Boulder Quarry?"

"That's right." Rai nodded, as Corphish took a small step back, gesturing Sean to do so as well.

With them farther back, Diglett seemed more comfortable, and it spoke a little louder. "I won't give you the tired warning of not going in, but I just want to make sure you're ready for what's in there."

"Is the dungeon filled with strong pokémon?" Rai asked.

"Y-yes, but that's not what I want to warn you about." Diglett shifted uncomfortably, fascinating for a pokémon that was mostly head. "See, since no one has been able to find the treasure for so long, some adventurers are getting frustrated. Th-there's one team here that is really angry lately, going too hard on the feral pokémon in the dungeon and even bullying other teams to try and drive them off." Lowering their voice to a whisper, the diglett said. "See Team Charge over there?" It gave a bare nod to a heavily bandaged trio. "Had a run-in with Team Gazer, they can't even leave yet because they wouldn't make it out there in their state."

Sean and Corphish shared a concerned look as Rai frowned. "Who is Team Gazer?" he asked, thinking it'd be best to know who to look out for.

"A really nasty team consisting of Beldum, Electrike and their leader, Beheeyem. They are really angry lately and might attack you if you run into them."

"Thanks for the warning, Diglett," Sean said with a smile, glancing at his teammates. "But we'll be okay. Right guys?"

"For sure, hey-hey," Corphish agreed, snapping his pincers. "If they try to cause trouble with us, we'll give them the old what for!"

"So, we'll be, oh." Rai blinked, he had turned back to finish talking to Diglett, but the Mole Pokémon was already gone. "Wow. Did you see Diglett leave?"


"I blinked, and it was just gone," Sean answered, rather surprised himself. He frowned as this seemed familiar to him, he didn't have time to ponder, however. Too many things going on around him.

"Guess the rumours are true," Rai muttered before shaking it off. "Let's go then!"


Sean deftly stepped between Rai and Corphish as they headed to the dungeon entrance. It was simply pragmatic, plus he really didn't like the looks he was getting. Could pokémon smell weakness? Fear? These were questions he was afraid of the answer.

Boulder Quarry was unlike the dungeons Sean had entered earlier. Being either underground caves, mountainous regions or forests, he was frankly more comfortable in the plain, rocky, walls that made up this dungeon. Looked more normal.

The ceiling was a little cracked, enough to poke through some angry red glows. That was still creepy wherever he went. Oran Forest, Mount Bristle, all the dungeons seemed to have it.

He was even less comfortable when they were attacked. Immediately.

A ninjask, absurdly fast bug came with only the warning of its wings beating, swooped them right as soon as the light from the entrance of the tunnel was obscured.

A Slash right for Sean knocked him flying, back stinging harshly from the surprise attack. He let out a high cry of surprise and pain before the wall he was slammed into shut that up.

The ninjask had moved so quickly, striking Sean with a Slash and then beating into him, all in the space of half a second.

Sean felt the old familiar feeling of blood on his face as the ninjask pulled a limb back for another Slash. Being bombarded with a Bubblebeam for its daringness.

Sean grunted as he was slammed into the wall again, Corphish's bubbles had quite a concussive force to them and had knocked the ninjask into him again, but the pressure on his back was alleviated when it pried itself off him and flew back into the air.

Rai tried striking it down with a Thundershock, but the ninjask was too quick and it zipped away.

"Sean!" Rai cried once he had finished growling in the direction the attacker flew off. "You alright?"

"Screw that thing," Sean groaned, peeling himself off the wall and grabbing his face. "Ugh, that's a feeling I haven't felt for a while. Is my nose bleeding?"

"You are bleeding!" he shrieked, causing Sean to wince.

"Ow, that hurt almost as much." Rai wilted for a moment, but perked up again, recognizing the annoyed comment for what it could mean.

"You're probably okay if you are sarcasm talking," he said, peering over Sean. He grabbed the meowth's head with his paws and pulled his down, examining his back. Thankfully the Slash had left only a mark in his fur, it wasn't bleeding like it felt it was. He didn't have much padding on his back though, so his bones stung as well.

"You look alright," Rai said, affirming his check-up with a nod.

"Thank you for that," Sean said, rubbing his face. Being pulled down was not a pleasant experience after being attacked.

"You're welcome," Rai said brightly, either missing or ignoring Sean's sarcasm.

"Hey, if you're alright we should keep going." Corphish gestured with a claw and the pair quickly stepped into line with him.

"I want to be in the middle," Sean said, squeezing between them. "If I'm going to be a target, they are going to have to get through you first."

Rai nodded, but Corphish rolled his eyes. "I'm weak," Sean complained and Corphish sighed.

Still rubbing his face, he hated the feeling of bleeding, they continued on their merry way.

"This place is horrible," Rai whined, an hour later. "It's so hostile!"

It wasn't merely the pokémon who were incensed, although they were attacked an unusual number of times, the real problem lay in the dungeon itself. It seemed like it was breaking down, either from age or to spite them. Rocks would fall from the ceiling, cracks would open up in the ground, walls collapse, blocking their path, and a stone bridge they found collapsed two-thirds of the way across, only quick meowth-senses saved the trio when Sean yelled for them all to jump.

While the dungeon was terrible, it was not the biggest issue. Even when they ran into eighteen different dead ends. What was truly offensive was the ninjask.

It showed up far too often. Appearing from the ceiling, zipping in from a pathway, descending upon them like a bug out of hell.

After the third attack, all seemingly focused on Sean, he started spitting in fury whenever it appeared.

After the eighth, all three of them were jumping at the slightest noise.

Then this time, the fourteenth time one particular ninjask had attacked. They were certain it was the same one as it always, without fail, attacked Sean first. No matter the threat level the other two presented, it went for him.

It was only then did they learn why.

"Wha? NO!"

The ninjask achieved a sharp Slash, cutting not through Sean, but through the strap of the Treasure Bag. Quick as lightning and ten times as shocking, it grabbed the Treasure Bag and flew off with it.

Rai unleashed enough electricity to be considered a Thunder attack and Corphish blasted Bubblebeam all across the dungeon, but even when taking multiple hits, the ninjask did not relinquish its prize.

They did not see the ninjask again.

"What even IS this place?" Rai growled. His enthusiasm had lasted longer than anyone had predicted, but eventually, frustration got to him. "Why is everything against us today? Do you really not want us here oh high and mighty dungeon?"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Sean almost raced forth into the unknown, and had to be pulled back by his tail by Rai. He yelped, still not used to that thing always being there.

"Okay. Okay. OKAY!" Corphish snapped, grabbing both of his partners by the tail and dragging them forward, ignoring their cries of pain and fury. "Let's just get through this horrible place and find this legend-damned treasure. Hey. HEY."

"Ow, okay, okay, ow, enough." Sean managed to free his tail from Corphish's unfairly tight grip. Part of him was thankful Corphish's pincers weren't as sharp as a yabby's, those would have sliced right through his tail.

After glaring at the odd limb for a moment, he still could barely fathom having this fifth limb, Sean turned to a wincing Rai and a calming Corphish.

"This bloody sucks," he said, rubbing some dried blood off his face as if to accentuate his words. The dusty fragments disappeared off his paws as he flicked it. "But think of the story we'll get to tell when we beat this fricken place!"

"It will be nice to beat this place," Rai grumbled.

"That's true, heeey," Corphish muttered. Both pokémon shook their heads and stared up at the walls, fury burning in their eyes.

"You will NOT beat us!" they said together, firing off water and electricity at the dungeon's ceiling.

"That… is probably taunting murphy," Sean deadpanned as the dungeon rumbled. He began to move. "For the love of – RUN!" he called as the dungeon began crashing down, Corphish and Rai shouting out and tearing after him in moments.

They made it out of the room of pure spite as the entire pathway collapsed, blocking any ability to backtrack from here.

"Let's hope this doesn't lead to a dead-end," Sean said cheerfully. "Or we might die."

Corphish stared at him in horror as Rai stepped into line with him. "How do you go from more optimistic than me to straight up depressing?" he asked, a little disturbed himself at the cheerful manner of discussing one's death.

"With sweet, sweet, denial," Sean answered, as peppy as he was before. "Can't let it bother you if you pretend it's not an issue." He smiled and continued walking, eying Rai's summersaulting of facial expressions through the corner of his eye. "Although, I AM an optimist," he said honestly. "That's why I think we've gotten through the worst of it."

"You think so?" Corphish asked, joining Sean's other side. It had been a bit of a joke at first, but both Rai and Corphish walked with Sean in the middle. It had shown to be much safer that way.

"Not in the least," Sean answered, receiving twin sighs from his companions. "We've lost the Treasure Bag. That sucks."

"Yeah," Rai said and then nodded harshly. "It DOES suck."

"Sucks terrible," Corphish agreed. "Sucks, sucks, sucks."

"Okay. Has the word sucks lost all meaning to you both now?"


"Your reputation would disagree, hey-hey."

"Hilarious. Anyway, look." Sean pointed, the ground was changing. "That's a good sign. We may be further into this, finally."

"Hey-HEY!" Corphish cheered, scuttling forward quickly. "Looks like we've reached the deep of the Boulder Quarry." He thought for a moment before clicking a pincer. "Didn't Chatot say that we'd come up to a right and left path soon?"

"Right and left…?" Sean said as his eyes suddenly widened.

"Oh, I'm an idiot," he thought before actually pressing a paw right into his forehead. He wouldn't hit himself, that would hurt. "Oh, my legendary pokémon, god, Arceus, Dialga, GAH! I. AM. An. IDIOT! There's a Time Gear here!"

It was all coming back to him now. The name of the dungeon had rung only the faintest of bells. He wondered if it had been a random dungeon you could find later at the end of the game.

"Team… the weavile one. That… was a past thing, wasn't it? Um, ditto! Duh, bellossom. Probably that diglett too. Good grief I am an idiot! Ah, what else, there was something else, wasn't there?"

"This is a charming place," Rai noted, looking around. His voice snapped Sean out of his rapid panic-thinking, and he glanced around himself. Looser earth, large stone cliffs narrowing slightly into a choke point. Bad feelings all around.

Sean's tail went still again as his pawpads felt the tiny rumblings from below ground. "Run," he said quietly, not moving.

"Pardon?" Rai asked before squeaking as Sean grabbed him and Corphish and tugged them forward.

"RUN!" he bellowed and tore off running, dragging them until they caught their feet and joined him. The walls exploded out as the ground shook. Sean leaped on reflex, narrowly avoiding a great horned head tearing itself out of the ground.

"Gyah!" Aggron roared. "WHO DARES-"

He blinked, the lairon who tore their way out of the walls blinked. There was no enemy.

"Hey?" He turned to see the interlopers running. "HEY!"

"Hey-nope," Corphish said, sending a Bubblebeam behind him. It distracted Aggron long enough for them to escape the area without the far slower and bulkier pokémon trying to pursue them.

"Uh… what do we do now?" one of the lairon asked.

"Just… go." Aggron jumped back underground, deeply disappointed. The six lairon exchanged glances before slowly shuffling away, all just as put out.

Huffing and puffing as the trio began to slow down, they all glanced back multiple times, but nothing seemed to be thundering its way over to them.

Slowing to a crawl, Sean, Rai and Corphish took a moment to catch their breath.

"Good… call," Corphish said, panting for breath.

"Yeah," Rai agreed. "Thanks."

"You're both," Sean puffed, "welcome."

Each of the trio breathed a sigh of relief before they began to laugh. "Help."

"Good lord," Sean laughed. "Did you hear how high my voice went?"

"My ears are still ringing," Rai giggled.

"I hope neither of you heard what I was chanting," Corphish said, abashed. "Those words are not fit for youths such as yourselves."

"Oh, you're not THAT old," Sean said, waving him off. Corphish accepted that until it clicked.

"Hey, hey! I am NOT old in the slightest!"

They broke into giggles again.


Only to come up short when a tinny voice finally reached them.

"Huh, who's there?" Rai stood, prickling with electricity.

"Hey-hey, show yourself."

"I'm hurt, please help me." That got them moving, Rai and Corphish rushed off without hesitation, and Sean took a slightly longer moment to join them.

"Oh," Rai's voice was high and soft as they came into a new clearing. There were stones, as usual, a surprising number of boxes, mostly pillaged of their contents, two paths stretching into unknown dungeons.

And a beaten and bloody shinx.

For a brief, horrifying, moment Sean saw Rai, but he could still see Rai standing frozen and purged that idea from his mind.

"A-are you… oh gosh!" Rai rushed forward, kneeling by the other shinx's side and looking over it in worry. "What happened to you?"

"It… hurts," the shinx said, a slight feminine undertone to its whimpers.

"Hey, I have this." Corphish stretched out a claw, opening it up to reveal an oran berry. "I found one earlier in the dungeon, saving it for a needed moment. You look like this is needed."

The shinx, she, looked up at Corphish with a shaky smile. "Thanks, but I don't think that'll do me much good. I just want to get out of here, but I can't make it past… them." She nodded back the way they came, images of a big aggron flashing through everyone's minds.

"We'll get you out of here," Rai said, laying a careful paw on the other shinx's shoulder. "Right guys?"

"How did this happen?" Sean said, ignoring Rai's question and looking straight at the shinx. She was curled up, barely moving as they came up to her, paws clasped over her face. Even then, he could still see her eyes.

"T-Team Gazer," the shinx squeaked. "I refused to give up on my own search for the treasure and they beat me up and left me here."

"Those CROOKS!" Corphish yelled, causing everyone to jump. "I am sorry miss, we will help you very soon, but this is going too far now."

"Are you sure?" Rai asked, stepping back slightly from the shinx. "She looks in bad shape."

"I don't think we can turn back just yet." He glanced to the other shinx. She averted her eyes when she saw him glance her way. "It shouldn't take us very long to get through this and find something to get us back. Like an escape orb!"

"Oh but, no one has managed to find the way forwards," the shinx squeaked, attracting their attention again. "Maybe it'd be better if we all gave up and tried again some other time? Going through either path just leads you back here pretty quickly."

"It shouldn't take us long to try them out then," Sean said, taking the oran berry from Corphish. It was a bit squished now, but still edible. "Have this, stay safe, we'll be back for you soon."

"O-okay," shinx muttered, sinking into herself more. "I'll find a spot to hide I guess, thanks."

She forced herself to her feet, licked up the berry, and slunk away. Rai still looked conflicted, so Sean put a gentle paw on his back.

"She'll be fine," he insisted. "She's walking and everything, mostly just worried I think."

"Maybe I should stay with her?" Rai asked, and Sean felt a small flash of something go through him.

"You alright?" he asked.

"Yeah. She just… I guess sort of reminds me of my sister. She shouldn't, my sister wouldn't ever ask for help." He blinked and shook his head. "Just daydreaming, sorry."

They had to go forwards. And forwards brought them to a path.

"Which one should we take?" he asked, Corphish still muttering angrily coming up behind him.

"The right path," Sean answered. "And I mean the actual right path, not right as in right-right."

Both pokémon gave him a confused look and Sean pointed. "Right."

"Riiight," Rai said, and giggled. "Heh."

"Yeah, yeah, very funny. Let's go," Corphish positively growled. Sean joined Rai and they stared after Corphish as he scuttled forward, pincers clicking repeatedly.

"He's really upset," Sean said lowly.

"Bad news. For Team Gazer."

They ran forward, not wanting to lose Corphish.

An angry Corphish made Team Ion realise just how he participated in throwing a powerful trio like Team Razor Wind out of the guild. Bubblebeam's and Razor Shell attacks knocked pokémon aside like tiny bugs, not there were many pokémon around.

"What is going on with this place?" Rai asked ten minutes into Corphish's rampage, he was thankfully calming down now.

"After that beginning, I wasn't looking forward to coming in here," Sean said. Currently, only a few pokémon even attacked, most either laying around unconscious or fleeing at the mere sound of them.

"Someone's been through here recently," Corphish muttered, shaking his head to clear the anger. "And I bet it was Team Gazer."

Sean and Rai tensed, but Corphish didn't start muttering angrily and blasting the walls again. He did take a long moment to do anything, but the muscles in his legs relaxed for a bit and he sighed.

"Hey-hey, sorry for that. I think I lost control a little there."

"Maybe a bit," Sean agreed. "You okay now?"

"Yeah, yeah. When we find those crooks, I'll show them what for, I can't waste all my energy on these pokémon."

He still held a dark glint in his eye, but Corphish had calmed down. To Sean and Rai, the steely anger was just as intimidating.

Sean urged them on, knowing that this dungeon wasn't particularly long, and indeed a few minutes later they spotted natural sunlight, rather than the odd illumination dungeons consisted of.

"Yes," Rai cheered as they all sped up. "See, that wasn't so hard."

They exited, only to find themselves back at the beginning.



"Looks like we're back at the beginning," Sean said primly, stepping out of the shadow of the right-sided dungeon. He walked halfway to where the second one beckoned and stopped, standing in front of the large stone wall that separated them. "And I bet the same thing will happen if we go through that one."

"Then what is the trick here?" Corphish asked as Rai sniffed around for the shinx that they had left.

"I bet that most exploration teams keep searching these two pathways," Sean said, pacing back and forth. "And get nowhere. If the solution was one of these paths, then someone HAD to have found it by now, right?"

"Hey guys, Shinx is gone," Rai called, catching their attention. "I can't smell her at all. Not even a path or anything. With her injuries I should be able to smell something." Rai was frowning but looked more perturbed than worried.

"Maybe she found an escape orb?" Corphish suggested, walking over to Rai. "Or someone helped her. Pokémon don't just vanish otherwise. There'd be signs of a scuffle in anyone else happened." He said this assuredly, he was the most experienced of the three of them after all.

"Hmm. Yeah, you're right." Rai was still frowning, but he shook it off to step up to Sean. "I heard you talking about this mystery. Do you have any idea on what to do?"

Sean smiled. He had been thinking over exactly what he was going to say as they explored the right-side dungeon. The right things to sound smart, but not too in-the-know that'd bring suspicion.

"I think there's another path," he said grandly, turning his back to Rai and Corphish and right to the wall. Walking forward slowly, Sean continued speaking. "So many pokémon must have gone back and forth, back and forth, and different times, trying different pathways in combinations, to find some key to unlock something they couldn't find. But I think they were looking for this key, and forgetting that not all paths are so obvious."

He'd been rehearsing this in his head, he hoped he sounded smart and not like an ass.

Stopping in front of the stone, Sean wondered how so few pokémon had ever thought to press against a few walls, or even just stumbled through it like a platform nine and three quarters.

He pulled a paw up and paused for a moment. Frowning slightly, Sean just stared at the paw that was now his limb. It gave him a sudden feeling of vertigo and he nearly stumbled.

"Sean?" Rai called, concerned, but Sean turned back with a smile.

"I'm fine," he said, turning back to the wall. "And I think, THIS." He blinked the feeling of incorrectness away and pressed forward, sinking the rest of his harm through the so-called solid stone. "Look!" He grinned and moved out of the way to allow his companions to see.

"Is your paw going THROUGH it?" Rai gasped.

"That's the entrance!" Corphish cheered. "Good work Meowth, you found it!"

Sean grinned and waved down their accolades. "It's nothing," he said, still grinning widely. He pulled his paw back and waited for the pair to join him. Corphish scuttled up eagerly and stuck his own claw against the illusion, whistling as it passed through as if there was no stone at all.

Rai, however.

"Shinx?" Sean asked, the shinx had frozen and was trembling in place. "Rai, are you alright?"

"Y-yeah. I'm fine. I'm fine," he insisted, looking every but fine.

"Seriously?" Sean pulled back and stepped to his side. "Rai, what's wrong?"

This didn't seem like the excited shakes from earlier, his brow was quivering, and he couldn't look at them. He didn't seem to realise Sean was calling him by his name, neither did Sean and Corphish was firmly looking away.

"Just a bit nervous I guess. Haha," he chuckled humourlessly. "Sorry, I'm going to get over this. Right. Now." He forced a step forward, and another, until he was right before the illusory wall.

"This is just so weird. I'm looking at solid stone, I need to step through solid stone," Rai explained, still shaking. "I can't help but be afraid halfway through it's going to not be stone and I'm going to be stuck."

"That won't happen," Corphish said immediately, but Rai just gave him a weak smile.

Swallowing slightly, Sean did his best to be mindful here and not sweet and patronizing. "We won't leave you, even IF that did happen," he said, Rai glancing up at him. "We'd get you out of the wall and you'd be fine. Alright?"

Rai took a deep breath and let it out with a shudder. "Yeah. Alright." He nodded and met Sean's eyes, he was still shaking slightly but not as bad. He even smiled something that reached his eyes rather than being a blank mask. "Can we all, you know, jump. Together?"

Sean nodded. "One," he said, looking to Corphish.

The crustacean got what he was going for. "Two."

Rai smiled, seeing they were leaving the final decision to him. He took another breath and braced his back legs. "THREE!"

"Jump!" Sean yelled, just in case Rai needed just a little final push. They all leaped forward, passing through the stone illusion and onto cool stone on the inside.

"Hoo wow," Rai breathed, finding his breath returning to him. He glanced over himself, checking that no parts were missing. "I'm in one piece. Oh." Rai let himself crumple to the ground in relief. "I did it."

Right as Sean knelt down to pick him up, Rai pulled himself up. "I'm okay now. Better than okay actually." He grinned at Sean and Sean grinned back seeing both the spark back as well as a glint of pride. "Let's find this treasure!"

"This whole place is covered in limestone," Corphish said, ten minutes into their new exploration. There were pools of water, constant dripping sounds, an unfortunate number of echoing screeches, all the standard cavern-fair noises.

Unlike the right path, there were fewer pokémon around. Unlike the right path, the pokémon that were about were angry that they were there.

It was down to Corphish and Rai for the most part. Sean was still uncomfortable in battle, he much preferred having a stock of items to make up for his inexperience, but the Treasure Bag was gone, and he was unhappy about that.

"Good grief, what it with this slowking?"

One particular enemy proved to be quite a challenge. Capable of shrugging off Rai's Thundershock attacks and Corphish was unable to get close enough to strike him with a Knock Off.

"Ah, blast it!" Corphish cried as he was thrown back by a Psychic attack.

"I don't have any blast seeds," Sean yelled back, ducking around Rai being thrown at his head.

"Oh haha," Corphish grumbled as he righted himself. "Okay, new plan. Sean, distract it!"

"Wha?" Sean spluttered, his heart made an uncomfortable flip. He didn't like being as close to the slowking as he was right now. Blank eyes, gaping mouth, the eyes of its crown all rolling about unseeingly. It was one of the creepier pokémon he'd seen, due to the extra eyes. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Scratch it or something, Rai and I need one good shot!" Corphish helped Rai up and whispered something Sean wasn't of the mind to hear. He carefully edged forward, fur going stiff and tail poking right up.

"Uh, nice slowking. My liege." Sean performed a delicate bow and then a rather poor curtsey. He had no idea what he was doing.

To his credit, the slowking did hesitate at the odd movements, but this didn't stop it from grabbing Sean in Psychic.

Sean made an awful sound as the feeling of the very air around him seemed to constrict around him and squeeze before lifting him up. That was the best he could gather about how it felt to be under a Psychic attack, and he wheezed as the slowking began squeezing the air from his lungs.

He tried to thrash, but even those movements weren't enough to break the hold of the slowking. Massive electrical trauma, however, was enough.

The slowking made a terrible screeching roar as Rai hit it with all the electricity he could, causing it to drop Sean ceremonially before twitching as electricity continued to arc over its body.

"Perfect," Corphish said, scuttling up as fast as he could, one claw descending into darkness. "It's Paralysed!" He slammed his Knock Off into the stomach of the slowking with all the force he could muster. Its eyes bugged out from the impact before it was thrown back by some extra concussive impact.

"Type advantage," Corphish scoffed, blowing on his claw. "He's not getting up quickly after that, let's get out of here."

Rai helped Sean up and supported him as the meowth forced air back into his bloodstream.

"That was," Sean managed before choking and needing to breathe rapidly again. "Not fun."

"Nope." Both Corphish and Rai said together.

Sean nodded and really hoped they wouldn't encounter any more obnoxiously strong enemies.

They did. One painfully durable marill rolled right over Sean. A dragonair blasted him with a Dragon Pulse attack. He was wrapped up by a seviper and blinded by a pair of volbeat and illumise.

"What is this day?" Sean groaned, beaten and battered, and without any items to cover the pain and exhaustion with.

"I'm kind of impressed with just how bad your luck is hey-hey," Corphish said, looking over the meowth with new respect. "They all seem to be going for you. And you are managing? I'd be down and out if I went through all that with no oran's, hey-hey!"

"Corphish is right," Rai agreed. "You're a bit clumsy but wow you can take a hit and keep going."

"At this point, I run on the power of spite," Sean growled, but the compliments were helping a little. "Spite to beat this goddamned dungeon!" Sean hissed and swiped at the ceiling, claws out and shining with Power.

"Calm down, hold it for later," Corphish said, and received a disbelieving stare in response.

"Who went psycho on the dungeon earlier?" Sean scoffed.

"Hey-hey!" Corphish clicked his pincers, trying to find words. "Hey… hey."

"Oh look." Rai pointed, desperate to move the subject away from potentially hurtful words being said. "That rock looks interesting."

"That is one perfectly flat rock." Sean nodded.

"Flattest I've ever seen," Corphish agreed.

They exchanged a look and then continued, leaving that in the corridors behind them.

"The room is widening," Rai pointed out as they walked. It was true, things were growing more circular, the dripping was even louder, and there were more pools of water around.

"Brighter too," Sean noted. "I think this might be it."

"Hey-yay, let's hurry up!"

They sped up. The exhaustion made by the trek being forgotten for a moment in the thrill of excitement.

"Oh wow, LOOK!" Rai squealed before rushing off with a Quick Attack. "Treasure! Treasure!"

Corphish whooped as he spotted the box as well. Sean was more subdued, he was sure he remembered this fairly well.

Up a few steps, presented proudly as if it was just for them, laid a gorgeous green and silver chest. It was huge, being wider than all three of them side by side and even Sean, the tallest of the three, only reached the clasp of the box with his head.

"What's in it!" Corphish demanded, jumping right onto the box and scuttling over it, clicking his pincers uncontrollably. "Open, open, open, hey-hey-hey."

"Calm your jets," Sean said, shooing Corphish off. He examined the lock on the chest for a moment, it was very simple: just a press and it would open. Touching the wood was a little odd, it was almost spongey but not quite.

Due to the dampness of the room? Sean wasn't completely believing that.

He pressed down and the box lid almost sprung open, not even needing them to push it up. Putting two paws on the brink, Sean hoisted himself up and glanced inside it.

To his surprise, there WAS something inside it. He wasn't sure about crawling into the box to get it, he was getting mimic vibes from this. The fact that he could feel air moving in there was just creepy.

"WELL?" Corphish couldn't contain himself any longer and he climbed the box. "WHAaaa?"

He paused, unbelieving, before slowly letting himself fall in. "Hey-Corphish!" Sean snapped and grabbed him. "Don't just throw yourself in there!"

He pulled Corphish out, finding the crustacean to not be too heavy, and let him fall on the outside.

"It's just a blast seed," Corphish said, voice flat.

Rai gawked and tried to jump up and into the chest himself. "What? No!" Sean grabbed him before he could fall in as well and held him steady until he let himself slip back. With no one else risking falling in, Sean let go and buried the creepy, not-wood, feeling touching the chest left on his paws.

"Is it a blast seed?" Rai asked softly. "Are you sure?"

"No mistaking it," Corphish said, still flat. "I've handled enough to know." He sighed sadly, and Sean slipped over to retrieve the seed from him. "Should have guessed it really," Corphish muttered. "A treasure hidden for THIS long? A puzzle you just had to walk through a wall for? Of course, someone's found it already."

"Someone's found it?" a new voice yelled out, attracting their attention.

"Wha? Who?" Rai began before a trio of pokémon stormed into the room.

"YOU!" The four-legged one roared. "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?"

"Statement: You three are thieves, bullies, and troublemakers," the floating one said.

"Team Ion, I presume?" the third, the bipedal one, the leader, the beheeyem asked smoothly. "I would like to say well met, but nothing would be farther from the truth.

"Wait," Rai said lowly.

"Electrike, Beldum, Beheeyem," Corphish growled. "It's Team Gazer."

"So, you know of us?" Beheeyem asked, reaching his arms forward as he settled into a competitive position. "Then you'll also know we are the ones who deserve the treasure. What have you done with it?"

"There was nothing here when we arrived," Rai answered, voice barely shy of yelling. "Just a box and a blast seed."

"Accusation: Lies," Beldum said, voice echoing around the cavern. "Directive: We shall stop you and bring you in for what you have done."

"You're not taking us anywhere," Corphish yelled. "We'll be taking cruel creatures like YOU in! How dare you harm Shinx?"

"How dare YOU harm Elgyem?" Beheeyem shouted. "Enough of this, you're going down!"

"THIS IS FOR EVERYONE!" Electrike yelled before he unleashed a torrent of electricity on Corphish. Rai jumped in the way of it, taking the hit, and sent his own Thundershock back.

Sean opened his mouth to cry for them to stop, but it was already too late. They were enraged and attacking and neither Rai nor Corphish seemed open to talking this out either.

Corphish aimed his sights on Beheeyem and nothing else, firing a Bubblebeam to start things off. The Psychic-type deflected the attack with a Psychic and backed away, throwing a Hidden Power barrage back.

Sean backed away as the situation devolved into a brawl. Team Gazer was not listening, even as he tried to shout above the chaos.

"Directive: You are going down."

Sean's whiskers twitched, and he dove to the side to avoid being slammed with a Take Down from Beldum.

"Woah, woah, woah," he said rapidly, backing away from the massive gouged hole Beldum's attack made in a wall. "I don't want to fight you!"

Behind him, a war of electricity, water bubbles, and Psychic attacks reigned dominant.

"I uh… don't want to fight in general," Sean corrected.

Beldum stared at him coldly for a moment. "Accusation: You are an outlaw and a coward." With that it rushed him again, however, Sean dodged the attack again.

"If nothing else," he thought to himself, nearly panicking. "I'm faster and I think Take Down is all it can do?"

While Sean was busy dodging, Rai fought Electrike with electricity. Twin beams of sparking power met in the middle of the two quadruped Electric-type pokémon as they tried to overpower the control of the other.

"Pokémon like you," Electrike growled, straining against the lightning battle. "Never win."

"Good guys… always… prevail," Rai grunted, pushing harder and harder. Sparks of electricity danced out every, leaving small burns all around them and on their fur.

Using jets of Bubblebeam's, Corphish blew himself out of the way of any attack Beheeyem tried, dodging over everything and even slipping through any Psychic grabs, all the while pinging him with whatever he could.

"Arg, enough!" Beheeyem threw out a pulse of power, knocking Corphish back before he raised his arms. "Everyone, GET READY!"

Electrike grinned and broke the electrical surge while Beldum waited patiently. From Beheeyem's flashing fingers a box began to take shape.

"No!" Corphish yelled, sending a torrent of explosive bubbles at Beheeyem. He took the hit unwavering as he channelled the bizarre powers he was tapping into. "Everyone, attack now!" Corphish demanded, Rai fell into a Quick Attack while Sean kept on staring fearfully at Beldum.

"Trick Room!" Beheeyem crowed as the move finished and a bizarre set of hexagons spread over everything, seeping into the walls, covering every inch of the area.

"Trick? Oh no." Sean grimaced as it felt like his entire body was subsumed by tapioca. His speed and agility abandoned him while Beldum now sped forward like a freight train.

Beldum's Take Down slammed right into Sean's chest and he was sure something cracked, knocking him flying off the small raised area he had stuck to and into the thick of the brawl.

Rai found his own speed, not severely decreased, but enough that Electrike now out sped, slamming him with a Tackle.

Beheeyem staggered as the toll of the Bubblebeam reached him and was still too slow to avoid Corphish's Razor Shell attack. He fell down with a cry, giving Corphish further opportunity to strike him with his other pincer, coated in Dark-type energy. The Knock Off was caught, however, as Beheeyem suddenly surged in speed.

He was not very strong, however, and Corphish swiftly overpowered the grab to strike him head on. Knocking him out.

"Leader!" Electrike yelled, splitting his attention for a moment long enough for Rai to Thundershock him.

"Re-evaluation: Target Corphish," Beldum said, switching gears stoically and rushing forward to smash into an unprepared Corphish. There was a nasty crack as Beldum's weight, speed, and deadly attack knocked Corphish into a wall before he collapsed.

"Okay, everyone stop right now!" Sean shouted but was ignored as Beldum turned to stare at Rai.

"Risk Assessment: Meowth is weak. Target adjusted."

"Oh no you don't," Sean jumped in the way as quickly as he could. He wasn't liking Trick Room. Gravity still worked the same, and every moment wasn't difficult, simply sluggish. Like his brain was taking its time directing the nerves to do things. "You're fighting me!"

He unleashed his claws and swiped at Beldum, harmlessly chinking off the sturdy Steel-type. The round head of the Beldum swivelled to him, single eye staring listlessly at his own.

"Inquisitive: You would protect him?"

"Yes, I will!" Sean declared, slashing Beldum over and over. "I'm your opponent, leave Rai alone!"

Beldum turned his whole body to Sean and then headbutted him. It wasn't even a move, not even a tackle, but the weight and hardness were still enough to knock his breath out.

"Declaration: Stop embarrassing yourself." Beldum swivelled back to Rai, who was staggering as Electrike headbutted him, and prepared another Take Down.

"Dammit!" Sean uncurled his other paw and threw the blast seed he still held, missing Beldum completely as the seed exploded harmlessly against the wall of the Trick Room.

Sean groaned.

Then Trick Room shattered.

"W-woah!" Rai gasped as he suddenly dodged, moving at his normal speed again.

"Rai, DODGE!" Sean yelled, warning of Beldum's rapid approach. But not as fast as before, and Rai was able to duck under the heavy pokémon.

Sean cheered as Rai blasted both pokémon with Thundershock, then was hit by a flying shinx when Beheeyem got back up and tossed Rai at him, slamming their heads together and sending Sean down.

"Oh, come on," Rai growled, rolling off Sean. That last hit finally seemed to do it and Sean did not look like he was getting up again, laying limply. Rai felt a burst of anger surge through his body, Sean was scared of fighting and he'd still jumped in to protect him from Beldum and now THIS?

"We will bring you down," Beheeyem declared and raised his arms again. "TRICK-"

For the second time in the same manner, Beheeyem was blasted with Bubblebeam.

"Room." Beheeyem coughed, Power fading before he slumped.

"Leader!" Electrike shouted.

"Concern: Beheeyem, what is the damage?"

They were also blasted with Bubblebeam.

Corphish had gotten back up and he returned to Rai's sides. "One more hit?" he asked, breathing heavily. Rai nodded savagely, crackling like a storm.

"One more hit?" Beheeyem asked, being supported by Beldum. Sean began to stir, and he raised his head and saw what was going on.


Rai, Corphish, Beheeyem, Beldum, and Electrike all paused as Sean yelled hard enough for them to hear him. Pulling himself up, using Rai as a brace, Sean continued without taking a moment to breathe. "Don't you all SEE what is HAPPENING HERE?"

He panted for breath, each inhale burning as he was sure his ribs were at least bruised for this entire mess. He was angry, both at the situation and at himself for letting it descend this far. He had the answer, and he had been too smug to give it away immediately.

"First!" He pointed a claw up. "WE were told that YOU Team Gazer were the bullies."

Team Gazer all exchanged a look. "But," Electrike began, but Sean was talking again.

"TWO! You were told that WE Team Ion were the bullies, right?"

"Well, yeah, that's what Elgyem said."

"THREE! We met a shinx at the split circle path that said YOU had attacked her."

"That's where Elgyem-"

"FOUR! Someone is OBVIOUSLY trying to turn us against each other."

"Wait," Rai began. "Why would?"

"FIVE! That person is HERE RIGHT NOW!"

Pushing himself off Rai, he stomped back up the steps as the five pokémon watched in abashed confusion. He walked to the treasure chest who looked impressively nervous for something without a face. Like a soggy box.

He extended his claws and raised a paw. "Now do I have to carve my name into you or are you going to give it up?"

There was a pause, Rai feared Sean had lost his senses in the anger, and Sean growled and began to slash.

"Okay!" the chest squealed, and Sean caught his paw before impact.

The five watching pokémon all gasped as the treasure chest rocked to the side several times before it seemed to melt, turn pink, and grow a face.

"That face," Beheeyem said quietly, putting the missing piece together.

"Doesn't that look like?" Corphish muttered.

"Okay, you got me," Ditto said, shamefaced and very nervous as six pokémon stared at it.

Sean narrowed his eyes at it but took a few breaths to calm himself down. "I'm beaten, tired, bloody and really, really, upset over all this," he said, causing Ditto to cringe. "Why did you do this to us? Why turn us against each other? Why everything?"

He knew why. Even in anger though, Sean knew the role he was meant to play.

"I," Ditto began before sighing. "It'll be easier if I just show you. Follow me." It sighed and turned around before pulling itself along the ground like a slug. Lots of rhythmic contractions.

Team Gazer exchanged a confused set of glances before following Rai and Corphish, Sean was already right behind Ditto, and he still had his claws out.

"First, I want to apologise for what I've done," Ditto said as they began walking a thin path, raised between a lot of clear water.

"Query: What have you done?"

"I told each team that the other was a set of crooks and bullies, transformed myself into bellossom and diglett to try and warn you off, ninjask to steal both of your Treasure Bags, shinx and elgyem to turn you against each other, and have been doing this for years."

"You have the Treasure Bag?" Sean snarled, causing Ditto to cringe.

"Y-yeah, sorry. I thought without your bags, you'd give up. A lot of teams rely too much on them and back off when they lose them. Don't worry, I've got them up ahead."

"Why have you been doing this? Hey-hey."

"I'm protecting the real treasure here," Ditto admitted.

The five other pokémon shared a set of looks, some suspicious, others grim.

"Why would you be leading us to it then?" Beheeyem asked, guarded for another trap.

"Because you'll understand why you can't take it," Ditto said before slowing. "We're here. Look up ahead." Along a craggy path lit with cerulean blue led to a treasure of a sight.

Sean felt the air rush out of his lungs for a whole different, much more pleasant, reason. Shining with a cerulean light, turning softly as if it was a cog that ran part of the world, the Time Gear was utterly enrapturing.

He vaguely heard gasps from behind him, only Rai's really penetrated the overwhelming feeling of want that gripped him suddenly.

"Look at that," Rai whispered, coming up against Sean and rubbing against his side. He felt the sheer tenseness of Sean's muscles, as he was beginning to spring forward. "Sean?"

Rai's small voice and innocent question managed to clear his head, and Sean blinked for the first time in a minute before bowing his head, forcing his eyes away from it. "It's beautiful," he said, unable to say anything more. He averted his eyes, even seeing it out of the corner of his eye was beginning to overpower his sense of reason again. He felt tears in his eyes, a sheer feeling of need to run over and grab that. He wasn't prepared for amnesia to still affect him like that.

It had to be. How long was he in the Dark Future? The sun of the day still stung his eyes a bit, he was still adjusting. How long in the darkness, only to see the key out of it in front of him?

He couldn't take it. He couldn't. He couldn't he couldn't he couldn't he couldn't.

"Astonishment: A Time Gear is the treasure?" Beldum asked, clearly amazed in the face of the Time Gear.

"Yes." Ditto nodded. An odd move for them to make. "And I have protected it for a long time. Only one other time has anyone actually found it, and thankfully no one was intending on taking it. Still, the fewer people who know of my Time Gear the better, it was part of the warning I was given. To guard it as best as I can."

It bowed its face in shame. "But I can't stand watching pokémon tear each other apart. I couldn't the first time, not this time. I shouldn't have shown you all, so you have to promise me you won't reveal this!"

"O-of course," Electrike said.

"Hey-hey, my lips are sealed. Especially with Treeshroud Forest having its Time Gear stolen, this one has got to be protected!"

"What about Wigglytuff?" Rai asked, frowning. "Shouldn't the guild know so we can help protect this one?"

"Wigglytuff?" Ditto asked suddenly. "Pink chap? Loves Perfect Apples? Much smarter than he looks?"

"That's the Guildmaster," Corphish confirmed. "Wait? You know him?"

"Indeed. He was the one who caught me out the first time, breaking up the feuding teams, and led to the first time I showed the Time Gear to anyone."

Rai and Corphish started back in shock as Team Gazer all exchanged one more look. Beheeyem had retrieved the Treasure Bags. "We swear we will not reveal the Time Gear," he said. Turning to Sean, as he was the only one not blinking in shock, Beheeyem continued. "Team Gazer apologises to you, Team Ion. In any other situation, I'm sure we would have been allies." He offered their bag, the broken strap being held together in Psychic.

"Thank you." Sean nodded back, and Team Gazer left.

"Wigglytuff has been here before?" Rai whispered, expression twisting as he wasn't sure how he should feel. Annoyed? Happy he'd done what the Guildmaster himself had managed? "Why were we sent to look for the treasure here then?"

"He… could he have forgotten? Hey-hey. The Guildmaster CAN be… no, the Guildmaster is not THAT forgetful. How would one forget a Time Gear?"

"Does he know where we were being sent?" Sean added in. "I mean, Chatot was the one who arranged it right?" Turning to Ditto, he asked. "Did you meet a chatot with Wigglytuff?"

"No." Ditto shook its face. "It was years and years ago though. There was no guild Wigglytuff had back then, I'm certain of that."

"Ages ago. Maybe he DID forget?" Rai wondered and sighed. "Well. We found the treasure, we just can't take it with us. I hope Chatot will understand."

"It's a Time Gear," Sean said brightly. "This is exactly what he'll like to hear with the trouble going on. Maybe that's what it was, to check it was still here?"

"Hey-hey, you're right. We should get back to the guild quickly, alert them." He looked to Ditto. "We'll send some guild operatives to help protect you? Okay?"

Ditto hesitated. "If Wigglytuff thinks it'd be the right thing to do… I guess. They'll need to be careful though, the less attention on this place the better."

"We better get going then," Sean said, receiving nods from his companions.

"Take care," Ditto said as they left the limestone cavern.

"What a day?" Sean said as they walked out of the dungeon.

"What a story!" Rai smiled, much more positive now.

"What an adventure. A Time Gear hey-HEY!"

It was with smiles that they left the Boulder Quarry. Sean wouldn't grow concerned until they were back at the guild, realising that a heavily guarded Time Gear could cause problems for later.

"So, it was a path in between the two entries? How fortunate for us."

"Don't get too smug just yet, we've still got to find the Time Gear and the day is going."

"We know it's in there, YOU know it's in there. We'll find it, the night is better for this anyway."

"Ha. Let's just get going."

"That meowth, however…?"

"I noticed too. He looked right at you for a moment, but… if it was him wouldn't he have come over?"

"Skinny though. Just like..."

"We'll find him, let's just get this done."

So, you may have been wondering, why Corphish of all the apprentices? To that I say, why not? In all seriousness though, he's got the least characterisation and reason to being there out of everyone. Dugtrio has more personality than him. And has a role at the guild. Corphish is the only one out of everyone you're most likely to not really care for, so I thought I'd give him some spotlight here!

And here we also get a revelation that Sean may not remember everything from the games too well. He's played the games many times, yes, but he can't remember every little thing. He figured out where they were eventually, but not everything is going to come to him right away. And as things change, it becomes even less reliable.
Chapter 7 - Trying Something


Bug Catcher
Chapter seven. Thank you to everyone who has come this far! We've still got a while to go!

Returning to the guild was done in a quiet affair. Alakazam was found waiting for them outside the border of the campsite and quickly warped them home. Sean especially was grateful for the quick exit, he felt eyes burning into his back, but glancing behind him afforded no answers.

"How was the adventure?" Alakazam asked after they appeared at the crossroads, but before an answer could be given he teleported away.

"He's a bit rude," Sean yawned. Now that all the excitement was over, he was tired. And sore. Sore everywhere. Even his tail hurt, the muscles at the root of his tail seemed oddly stretched out. "Hey, has my tail been doing stuff?" he asked as they began the walk up the trial of infinite steps.

"It was going up a few times during weird moments," Corphish answered. "You didn't notice?"

"Not in the least. Tails are weird anyway."

"Mmph." Was Rai's contribution to the topic at hand.

Corphish, having the most legs, was the fastest and he was the one to stand over the grate. They were quickly let in by Diglett and Loudred.

They trudged down and down further until they were at the lowest level.

"Ah, you three," Chatot said, spotting them. He hopped away from the pokémon he was talking to, Alakazam to the trio's annoyance, and looked them over. "How did you fare in the dungeon?" his voice was casual, too casual.

"We beat it," Corphish said, letting his body slump to the floor as his legs decided they didn't want to carry him anymore.

"We found the treasure," Rai added, slumping to his side.

"It was a Time Gear," Sean said, wobbling back and forth on his feet.

"A… A TIME GEAR!" Chatot screeched, flapping his wings furiously. "Well, well, well, well-well!"

"The guardian said Wigglytuff had already been there," Sean said, giving up and sitting down. "Guildmaster Wigglytuff I mean."

"Ah… pardon?" Chatot ceased his fluttering to blink at them instead. "The 'guardian' said the 'Guildmaster' had already 'been' there?"

Ignoring the odd choice of words to emphasize, the trio nodded.

"No." Chatot shook his head. "No-no-no. That cannot be right. It was the Guildmaster's plan to send you to the Boulder Quarry, overturning my suggestions for an easier dungeon. If he already knew what was there…?" Trailing off he looked to Alakazam and then past him to Wigglytuff's chambers. "Stay here, I'll return shortly."

There was no argument there, the trio just laid in place as Alakazam stared at them until Chatot came hopping out. His wings were a little frazzled, with too many startled flaps of the wings.

"Well, I have your answer," Chatot said, hopping to a stop. "Indeed, the Guildmaster has been to the chamber containing Boulder Quarry's Time Gear. Apparently, before he was well known before he even joined Team Charm even." Chatot's eyes did a curious thing at that mention. A twitch of sorts.

"In conference with the Guildmaster, he confirmed that he remembered the Time Gear. Eventually," Chatot added under his breath, remembering just how many times he had to word the question before Wigglytuff would stop dancing.

"But you will be pleased to learn that this was exactly the Guildmaster's plan! By confirming the Time Gear location, which is still there, we can send pokémon to guard it."

Of the trio, it was Sean who nodded. "We thought so too. Ditto, the guardian, said it'd be alright if the pokémon were careful." After a moment he added. "You need to walk through a wall that is in the middle of two path dungeons that just loop around. The rock wall is an illusion or something."

"You have done very well," Chatot said, sparking some attention from the other two. "Even if this adventure was perhaps not what you were expecting, you still solved a puzzle only the Guildmaster had previously properly worked out. This is very impressive. And to find a Time Gear at this sensitive hour, currently, that is worth more than any treasure."

Smiling through his eye, beaks didn't convey emotions well, Chatot tipped his head to them. "I will alert Chimecho that you need some medical attention, and I will inform Sunflora of her new task to be started tomorrow. That is all, you may rest now. After dinner, the three of you come to the Guildmaster's chambers for debriefing."

With that, Chatot hopped away, heading to the upper level to find Chimecho.

Corphish recovered better than they did, scuttling off after complimenting them. Rai was tired and drained from the experience and crawled off to have a cat nap, but Sean didn't feel as weary and decided to get to know Chimecho a little.

"So, uh, the Psychic Network has been mentioned once or twice but I still don't really understand what that's all about?" he asked as she went about her tasks in the medical wing. Cleaning tools, preparing some medicine-soaked bandages.

"Cut this would you?" she requested, levitating some dry cloth for him to cut. He did so absentmindedly as she began to explain.

"A properly trained Psychic can drift into a form of trance. This trance allows their mind to join a continent-spanning network of psychic emanations. No one Psychic can cross such a distance, however, with the network being a connection of impulses constantly, we can aid by creating 'platforms' so to speak. It's hard to explain to someone who cannot experience it themselves."

"Where did this idea come from?" he asked, really curious. Nothing like this was in the games. Even Super still used an orb system rather than a pokémon system. He supposed it was kinda like the Connection Orb in a way. Just with pokémon.

"From Lucario," she said as if that was an explanation. At her confused expression, she giggled bashfully. "My apologies. I am certainly not accustomed to someone not understanding who I mean when I say that."

"Is this lucario well known?"

She nodded. "The Legendary Lucario is the pokémon who built civilisation itself, starting a few hundred years ago even! It is said she is gifted powers from legends above legends and has awesome powers. It is said that she suggested the Psychic Network, after her own powers. She was the first pokémon to rescue others from dungeons, picking up on calls for help with her powerful aura!"

She bobbed in the air, her version of a shrug. "That's what I've heard at least. It can be hard to tell what is truth and what is just rumour distorted. The network is valuable, it's how we commune between towns and guilds swiftly, where outlaw notices tend to come from and the Federation in the middle of the continent can send out messages for aid for lost pokémon deemed to be in a dungeon somewhere."

That was a lot of information at once, but he was cutting cloth and took it all in slowly with a few nods here and there. "Thanks, Chimecho."

"It is no problem, thank you for your help."

With that, he was left to wander. His muscles hurt from getting beaten up all day, and he was dirty from all the dust and blood. He wanted to wash off, Rai licked himself which Sean adamantly refused to do.

"I don't think I've been alone for the entire time I've been here." Sean thought to himself as he walked to the beach to clean himself.

The beach was pretty, but he was distracted. He waded into the shore, still thinking deeply.

"Am I really in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon world?" He already believed in that fact, rational thought made it difficult to accept though. "Am I stuck here forever is the real question." With the aches getting a bit much, he sat down where he was standing. There were no seats at the table after all.

"What happened to bring me here? What is my family doing? Did I die… or did I just disappear? I hope they're alright." The thought hit him with a wave of emotion he hadn't let himself feel before, slightly tearing up as he thought of everyone he had left behind, Sean sank in on himself, fiddling with the Silver Bow he wore to wash it as well. "I miss them. I miss my friends, my family, my world."

If it wasn't for an interruption, he would have sat with those dark thoughts tormenting him until he fell asleep.

"Sean?" Rai's soft voice came from the beachfront, and he nearly jumped.

"Rai!" he gasped, covered in seawater. "What are you doing up?"

"I could say the same to you," Rai said, walking into the water as well. "I will actually. What are you doing on the beach?"

Sean hesitated, waiting in silence as the shinx walked towards him. "I." he trailed off, not able to admit it.

Rai came to a stop beside him and smiled. "Come on," he said, coaxing Sean out.

They sat in silence for a minute, an hour, a day. Sean wasn't certain.

"Okay, not a day," he said to himself before sighing, he needed to talk.

"I'm just thinking."

"About what?"

"Stuff… stuff about where I came from."

"Do you remember anything?"

"A… a little," he said, it wasn't even a complete lie although the half-truth made him feel even more guilty. "I remember I had family and friends. I was pretty happy I think. They're a bit blurry though, I'm not sure if I remember my mother's voice." The truth was painful to speak aloud, every day Sean had lived as a pokémon, he was finding it more difficult to gather concrete facts about his life before it all.

He still couldn't remember anything firsthand about the dark future, only what he remembered from the game. Even his memories of human life were blurry at best, the game was clear but even then he hadn't remembered Boulder Quarry right away. How long had he been in the Dark Future?

A brief thought flitted through his head. "I wonder how I reacted when I arrived in the dark future? I must have still remembered everything. Is that why things are already different? Did I make a change in the future that is affecting the past? That's a weird thought. I wonder what Grovyle thought about me?"

"I don't remember my mother's voice," Rai said suddenly, catching Sean off guard. As the meowth looked at him curiously, Rai gave him a small, sad, smile. "But I remember how her voice felt to me. Safe. Warm. Loving. It's taken me a long time, but I think that's enough. It has to be enough."

Sean met the shinx's eyes for a moment and gave a small smile back. "I hope you never forget."

"Never ever." Rai nuzzled him for a moment, before pulling himself up. "Do you want to come to the guild now? Or stay here a little longer?"

Sean swallowed, hoping he wasn't going to offend Rai. He wanted to say he'd come, but that'd be another lie. "Stay, I think. Just for a bit longer."

"Okay." Rai smiled and nuzzled him again. "I'm your friend okay? You've got me. Take all the time you need." With that, he turned tail and left to give Sean some privacy.

Sean smiled after the shinx and sighed, leaning back. Part of him did feel better, not completely and not in all areas, but some measure of support simply felt nice.

He had other stuff to think about. Team Skull, what they did. They hadn't really spoken of it, but… they had stolen the Relic Fragment. Maybe they should tell Chatot and Wigglytuff, both of who seemed pretty reasonable. That thing was important too, he couldn't just do nothing.

He waited until he was mostly dry, now covered in salt and sand, and walked back up to rinse off at the water hole.

Dinner and then the debrief.

Chatot had been flustered the previous night during debriefing, having already spoken for both parties and thus not much was left to be said.

Corphish had good things to say about Rai and Sean's efforts, however, and so they were rewarded with some additional items.

They went to bed in a good mood, hopeful even.

"Ahem! As I was explaining." Once again, Chatot deviated from his routine. Some apprentices were getting worried about him. "There is a lake far to the east. Many aspects of that lake remain mysterious. We hope to unravel those mysteries."

Chatot threw up a wing as he continued with a pronounced chirp to his voice. "And so, our guild is planning to mount an expedition for the first time in a while!"

"An expedition you say?" Bidoof cheered. "Yes, please. Yes, sirree!"

"Oh my gosh!" Sunflora squealed, doing a twirl in all the excitement. "It's been a long time since we went on an expedition."

"But," Loudred began, at a reasonable level. "That means you are going to be picking members for the expedition from all of us AGAIN! Right?"

"An expedition, I've only been able to watch the guild depart on those before." Rai hopped in place, sparking with excitement.

"Precisely," Chatot chirped. "We will depart in several days." He waited as the apprentices calmed down to continue. "Over these next few days, we will choose the worthiest apprentices. The chosen few will form the expedition party."

The crowd fell into cheers again, even Sean couldn't stop himself from grinning even as the static from Rai began making his fur stand up. This was a great way to lift the mood, he never quite realised the timing of the expedition came with the bad news from the other day.

"Everyone work hard so that you may be chosen for the expedition. Sunflora stay back for a moment. That is all."

"Oh wow this is so exciting," Chimecho gushed.

"Yup-yup! I've yet to go on an expedition. I would surely love to go this time."

"Let's work at it to get picked as members!" Loudred roared right in Diglett's face.

"Right," Diglett replied, unphased by the volume. "I won't be a weak link."

"Hey-hey-hey-hey-hey!" Corphish seemed stuck on that word.

"Imagine going on that, Meowth?" Rai asked. "Do you think we could make it?"

Smiling confidently at his partner, Sean nodded. "We can do it." In the back of his mind, he thought over everything that had transpired with a satisfied expression. "Boulder Quarry proves that."

"Thank goodness!" He cheered internally. "I haven't screwed everything up so hard we're not going to Fogbound Lake! Phew, things are going to be back on track." Feeling considerably better about everything, Sean recalled what was going to happen next. "Next up we've got… oh. Oh, that's not right. Is that right? Please tell me that is… isn't… Ah no… no!"

While Sean's mind fell to a trio of unpleasant figures, Chatot dismissed the crowd. "All right everyone, it's back to work as usual."

The thunderous. "HOORAY!" Did wipe Team Skull out of his head for a moment, but unfortunately, that couldn't last very long.

"Hey, Rai, can we talk quickly?" Sean said before Rai could race off.

Rai blinked at him before flashing him a smile. "Sure!" And went to move, but Sean was edging the other way. "Ah?"

"On our own."

He took him into their room, Rai looking a little worried. "I was thinking about Team Skull," he said. "How they stole your treasure."

Rai blinked once at the name before shrinking a little. "Oh. What about them?"

"Shouldn't we tell Wigglytuff and Chatot?" he asked.

Rai looked surprised at the notion. "Huh? We can't bother them with something that small." Sean cursed Rai's lack of self-worth.

"They stole from you," Sean pointed out. "And beat us up to do it at that. They'd listen to us, and it might help us get it back."

"I… I don't know."

"Trust me?" Sean asked, almost pleading. He didn't want to be stuck with them on the expedition, he didn't want the Relic Fragment to be lost or destroyed if they couldn't sell it.

Rai still looked unsure but gave him a nod. "Alright."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Sean hunted Chatot out right away.

"You two," Chatot huffed. "Surely you must be eager to get a move on! The expedition is coming up, you do not want to appear uninterested."

"We have something we wanted to tell you about," Sean said seriously, Rai still frowning behind him. Chatot glanced between the two and then nodded.

"Very well. With the Guildmaster or…?"

"With if we could," Sean said after looking to Rai for support.

Chatot led them in and Wigglytuff spun around on them cheerfully. "Excited you two?"

"Guildmaster, these two have something they wish to discuss," Chatot said stiffly, something in his tone unnoticeable to them but Wigglytuff picked up on it.

"Oh? Go ahead! Go ahead!"

Sean looked to Rai who opened his mouth, but nothing came out. So, he spoke up. "The day we met, Shinx got robbed by a trio of pokémon," he said, Chatot and Wigglytuff growing very still. "We tried to get it back, but they beat us and ran off with it."

"Who?" Chatot spluttered in rage. "Did. This?"

"Team Skull. A zubat, koffing, and their leader a skuntank."

"And what did they take?" Wigglytuff asked gently.

"M-My treasure," Rai said. "I called it the relic fragment because it looked like a piece of a bigger thing. A little stone with a symbol on it. It's not valuable!" he added quickly. "It's just a rock I don't think it-"

"Shinx," Chatot said seriously. "Do not undervalue the worth of sentiment. In any case, to be robbed is to be the victim of a crime. Why did you two not tell us of this before?"

Rai looked uncomfortable and Sean glanced away.

"I understand," Wigglytuff said softly. "There's no reason to be ashamed. You do not win every day, and that's not your fault."

"I still lost it," Rai muttered softly. "It's all I had left of my family."

Chatot held a stricken expression for a long moment, and he clucked gently. "It will be alright. This 'team' will be tracked down and brought to justice for this act. Look at me, Shinx." Rai looked up. "The guild stands with you."

Rai teared up a bit. "Th-thank you."

"Was that all?" Wigglytuff asked. Sean nodded, so he hugged them both. "It's very brave what you just did, thank you for telling us."

Rai chose an outlaw to track down that day.

Sunflora and Loudred had discovered the Waterfall Cave a short time before Chatot had sent Team Ion to Boulder Quarry, the excitement of their discovery had brought a few pokémon around, as well as some pokémon fleeing the law.

Sean had been silently impressed with Rai, leaping right through the waterfall without hesitation. He thought he'd still be able to salvage the words he had planned for the occasion, but Rai was too worked up to doubt himself.

If Sean had thought the Drenched Bluff had been uncomfortable, the Waterfall Cave laughed at that. There was thankfully stone as the floor, but an unpleasant amount of mud and slime scooped up the area.

The obsessive-compulsive part of Sean wailed at having to track through it all. The rest of him was far more concerned for Rai to even take notice.

Given time to prepare, Sean could appear as a quick thinker and clever conversationalist. He spent most of his time not speaking to Rai simply thinking about possible things to say in the future.

As it turned out, however, the reality was not so easy to deal with.

He had thought, a little, on Team Skull and had thought of a few things to say that'd hopefully lighten Rai's mood. Each time he turned to speak to Rai, however, he lost his nerve.

"Okay. Real people, real pokémon. It's not so cut and paste, but he's your friend. You don't have to say the perfect thing, alright? The perfect thing is not natural, it's not genuine, just… say… something."

While Sean continued to think away in a building panic, Rai continued crashing his way through the dungeon. On any other day, he'd be delighted to be here, jumping through a waterfall, combing through an almost completely new area for discoveries no one had found yet.

But they were here on business. Weepinbell was here somewhere, the cowardly crook was known for ambushing pokémon and threatening to eat them if they didn't give him their belongings. No record ever stated he had followed through with such a threat, but Rai was determined to bring the outlaw to justice.

And if stunning a psyduck with Thundershock before knocking it out with a Quick Attack was therapeutic, then he wouldn't complain.

"So, where do you think he is?" Sean started, gathering enough boldness to speak finally.

"Some corner," Rai answered, anticipating the rest of the question.

"Cool," Sean said. "Okay. Want to talk?"

"We've got a job to do here."

"Well, we can talk about that." Sean hesitated. "Still, we've got time, want to talk-"


Sean sighed, this time a little frustrated. "Come on Rai, please."

Rai stopped and sat down, grimacing at the slickness of the ground. "Alright. What do you want to talk about?"

"I… I dunno. How are you liking the guild so far?"

"Better than I imagined," Rai answered, but it was strict. He relaxed a mite. "Not as scary as I made myself believe." He glanced down then back up. "I started wearing the relic fragment to try and be brave. I'm glad that if I had to lose it then at least I got you."

Sean flushed a little. He wasn't used to being praised. "Thank you for not thinking I'm insane."

"You're welcome. The poké is still out on that one though." Sean laughed, but Rai had said it so seriously. He laughed too.

Rai took a breath and frowned. "You do smell a bit, haven't you been grooming or anything?"

"I… no?" The very thought of licking his fur made Sean cringe. "That's why I was in the beach last night."

"Ooh. That's why."

"Yeah. So, uh… if you got the chance to tell those three off for what they did, what do you think you'd say?"

"Pardon?" Rai blinked in alarm at the mere thought of speaking his thoughts out loud.

"Have you thought about it?

"Of course I have, but… I can't just say that."

"Sure you can."

"M-Maybe that's easy for you."

"Rai," Sean said bluntly. "There is no judgement here. I want you to tell me, what you wouldn't say to him because it'd be rude." He took a breath, Rai looked uncomfortable, so he tried another avenue. "What I want to say to them was that they are foul, disgusting, bullies who stink. Worse than me even."

Rai blinked, not prepared for such blunt honesty.

"I wanted to call Skuntank a shitstain on society." Sean could feel himself blushing, and he fiddled with his Silver Bow in response, it wasn't in his nature to speak so nastily about another. But Skuntank's actions had sparked something in him. His neck still ached a bit from that blow. He had been more concerned about how Rai was feeling, but now that he was thinking about how he felt.

"I think he's pathetic that he snuck up on us. The kind of sad, spineless, piece of loose trash that is so aware of his own pitiful nature that the only way he can feel better about himself is to try and drag everyone else down to wallow in misery with him. Lonely, probably, but it doesn't excuse anything. Now." Sean took a breath. "That's what I wanted to say, but never would. What about you?"

Rai still hesitated, but Sean's own words, the admission, the equality he was affording him with this honesty, was too great to simply shun.

"I… I hate them," Rai admitted, ears falling flat. "I've never actually hated someone before. I don't even hate Koffing and Zubat, they were just following him. He was the real person who took my treasure and then attacked us both out of nowhere. We'd won fair and square! What kind of person does that? Even this Weepinbell we're chasing down, I think he's still probably a nicer person than Skuntank. At least he only threatens, Skuntank makes it personal. Y-you're right, he has to be someone really pathetic to even want to do this kind of thing. I mean, that was MY TREASURE!"

Rai's sudden shout echoed through the slimy halls of the Waterfall Cave, and Sean waited silently as Rai grew angry.

"How dare he take that from me? It's the only thing I have left of my family. It's the only thing that carried me through all these cold nights without my sister. It's the only thing that gave me the strength to continue on in this unfair world. It's the ONLY THING THAT GAVE ME HOPE AND HE THINKS HE CAN JUST TAKE IT FROM ME!?"

Rai breathed heavily, his fur sparked, and angry tears dripped down his nose. Sean took a careful step forward, then another. He could smell the ozone and saw his fur begin standing up but continued unmindful. He'd been zapped plenty of times.

Twitching only once at the loud zap that stung his paw, Sean ran his paw down Rai's back, flattening down his fur and picking up a lot of static along the way.

"Thanks," Rai said, pulling his head back up. "I think that helped. I'm still upset, but… it's nice to get it out."

"I'm glad." Sean smiled brightly, ignoring the tears for Rai's pride. "Sometimes you have to just say it, leaving the angry thoughts to boil over in your head can't be healthy. I would know, I'm sure."

Rai smiled back and shivered, letting the charge dissipate. "Okay, we should get going. Hopefully, Weepinbell didn't hear that, or else we're going to have an interesting battle up ahead."

"Meowth, may I have a word?"

Rai had decided to do laps around town after taking down Weepinbell, most aggressively at that Sean almost felt bad for him. Rai was a lot stronger than he might have expected, the battle against Team Gazer showed that.

Sean, however much he knew he needed to get stronger, didn't want to run. Rai was more so just working out excess energy, he reasoned, leaving him to relax up at the guild.

Where Chatot came hopping over to him.

"Sure," he replied, standing with an immediate plunge of nervousness around his heart. Your superior needing a word with you was never a good thing and he began to lambast himself for skipping out on the run. Chatot probably knew and decided he was skipping out on training, and he was going to be in trouble and-

"How are you finding your tenure with us so far?" Chatot asked pleasantly.

"Oh!" Sean relaxed a bit, was this just a friendly chat? "I'm enjoying it so far. Learning a lot."

"I am pleased to hear that," Chatot replied. "Have you found any concerns to raise thus far?"

"No?" Sean replied, a little thrown. "No, things have been good."

"Good. How have you been getting along with the rest of the apprentices?" The question was a little sharper, a little more pointed.

"They're friendly. Corphish is knowledgeable, so I feel like I've learned a lot."

Chatot nodded. "Good, excellent, yes."


"I have noticed you do not socialise often," Chatot said carefully. "It has also come to my attention of a slip-up with names some few days ago. I hope this has not caused any division amongst you?"

Sean blushed. This was going to haunt him, wasn't it? Chatot of all pokémon was asking him this. He wanted to sink through the floor. "O-oh. No, I explained it to Sunflora, and things are fine. Bit awkward, but it'll blow over."

"Pokémon can be difficult at times," Chatot said strangely. "Impressions can be difficult to shift, but hard work and diligence is a powerful tool. No one has approached you on the street?"

"I stick around R-Shinx, so. No, besides some comments from Litleo and a few odd looks, no one's actually approached me."

He was flashed a curious look at the mention of Litleo, but Chatot nodded and dropped the subject.

"I suppose you might be interested to know that we have sent Sunflora to Boulder Quarry to aid in defence of the Time Gear. Excellent work the three of you in that excursion. Truly good…."

Debrief went quick and sleep was easy. With the mon on a mission, Rai charged for the jobs again, heading to the left again.

Whether he still needed stress relief, Sean still felt almost bad for Weepinbell yesterday, Rai chose another outlaw to track down this day.

Once he handed it to Sean, the meowth grew a little concerned.

"Uh, this is a." He hesitated, glancing at Rai. "A golbat."

"Yeah?" Rai asked, looking completely innocent. "Got to bring felons to justice and all that."

"Hmm." Sean decided not to make a fuss or point any claws. Nodding, he decided that this was fine.

Smiling, almost scarily, Rai began leading their way out of the guild.


Only for the entire guild to shake all over again. Sunflora had been absent during dinner last night as well as not present during Wigglytuff's episode.

As she had been sent to stand guard for the Time Gear first, trusting her as one of the most reliable pokémon in the guild.

Her voice had been caught by Diglett even before she arrived at the grate and had Loudred open up the guild to save her time. Fortunate, since she hadn't been planning on stopping.

"EVERYONE!" Sunflora screeched as she threw herself into the guild and down the incline to get to the second floor those few milliseconds faster. "THE TIME GEAR IS GONE!"

Gasping for breath, Sunflora fell to her leafy hands and shook. Her scream brought everyone to the second level of the guild.

Diglett and Dugtrio emerged from the ground on each of her sides and Sunflora grabbed a hold of Dugtrio and began to cry. Loudred and Croagunk came rushing up from below a few seconds before Chatot and Wigglytuff emerged as well.

Chimecho, the most immune to high voices, rushed to Sunflora's side and wrapped herself around Sunflora, easing her off the choking Dugtrio and letting her cry into her.

"Sunflora," Wigglytuff said, voice soft yet audible to everyone in the room. Even with their ears ringing.

The Guildmaster knelt by Sunflora and patted her on the back. He nodded to Chimecho, and she stayed wrapped around Sunflora as she cried her eyes out.

"Breathe, Sunflora, breath," Wigglytuff urged gently. "Take a deep breath… there we go. Let it out, breathe." He continued coaxing her for a minute, letting Sunflora regain control of herself naturally.

Once she was all cried out, he pulled her up. "Friendly friend. Have a hug." He wrapped her in a soft, warm, hug and Sunflora finally relaxed.

"It was terrifying," Sunflora whispered, still in Wigglytuff's embrace. "Everything in the deeper dungeon was just… wrong. Nothing moved, there was no sound, so many pokémon were frozen, unable to move, unable to live or die. I hope they aren't aware of what happened to them. It was so silent, so wrong."

She whimpered and choked out a sob when Loudred came up and patted her on the back.

"I got to the end of the dungeon, just hoping. But… but." She gave a keening sound, grating on the ears but filled with terror. "Ditto. It was… it was…."

"Shh-shh-shh," Wigglytuff whispered. "Take your time, Sunflora."

She took a shuddering breath before continuing. "Ditto looked like it had gone through a horrible fight and was… w-was trying to drag themselves out of the cavern. But, they were frozen, their face… they were so scared, they knew what was happening and couldn't save themselves."

Sunflora sobbed in Wigglytuff's arms, before being transferred to Loudred and Corphish, with Chimecho still wrapped around her, as Wigglytuff pulled Chatot down a level to speak with him alone.

Sean and Rai came up to the group hug that Sunflora was in the middle of, not sure what to say or do. They were still getting to know the other apprentices, it felt wrong to join in on the hug as if they weren't.

"Grovyle was there," Sean thought to himself as he watched Sunflora sadly. "I saw him. Holy- fuck. How didn't it click in my mind?"

They didn't join the hug, the apprentices just slowly broke apart on autopilot. Rai and Sean ended up wandering to the job bulletin board and selected a different job to do. Neither was in the mood for a fight with this sobering news.

"Alright, everyone." Chatot had returned without being spotted, receiving a few glances his way. "Loudred, Chimecho, bring Sunflora to her room. Everyone else, you should continue your work. We'll take care of her, but we can't let our work stop even now. Especially now. Continue helping, doing good, we'll find a way to fix this situation. Keep a stiff upper beak."

He waited until the group had given Sunflora another hug or three each before leading Loudred and Chimecho down.

He emerged right as soon as he was confident they could make it to her room.

"Very well. Shinx." The shinx's ears flicked when he realised Chatot had called him.

Stumbling over as quickly as he could. "Yes?"

"Loudred will be taking care of Sunflora today, leaving him unable to perform his duties. So, your task for the day is to take over as the gatekeeper. Alright?"

"Yes! Of course." Rai glanced back to Sean, who was watching with a concerned look. "What about Meowth? I don't know how he'll manage in a dungeon alone…"

"Not a problem," Chatot said, gesturing for Sean to approach. "While you two work d well as a team, it can be a good lesson to learn how to work apart. Meowth, if you would be able to spend your day sorting through the food stocks? With Chimecho also… anyway, take note of what is in good supply and what needs refilling and make your way to the market to obtain what needs to be restocked, alright?"


"Good." Chatot nodded and led them downstairs. He gave a few words to Rai as he showed him the pully, it was thankfully something a quadruped could manage, as well as the current list of outlaws and suspicious pokémon to bar from entering.

Afterwards, he showed Sean into the dining room and all the way to the back where a door lay. "In here," he said, oddly quietly, following Sean into the stockroom.

"Okay," Sean said, looking around. It smelled pleasant in the room, there were a few windows leading out to the sea that allowed light in. "Where should I…?"

"Be careful," Chatot said as the door closed behind him, giving them privacy.

"Pardon?" Sean said.

"Rumour spreads very quickly around here, Meowth," Chatot said seriously. "Especially with unpredictable forces around."

Sean looked only confused so Chatot ruffled his feathers.

"I believe you have run into Litleo again since bringing him down?"

"I…?" He paused, that wasn't what he was expecting. "Yeah? Yeah, we have." Litleo was around town, he glared at them whenever they crossed paths. Sean couldn't help but notice he was never with anyone.

"Litleo and Shinx's relationship isn't something for me to comment on," Chatot said stiffly, clearly uncomfortable. "However, there are extraneous details that it may be best that you are aware of."

How deep did this go? Sean wondered. Why did the partner have this backstory? He tried to push that thought away. It was wrong to think of Rai as a game character, it wasn't… it wasn't his reality now. He was actually here, and Chatot wasn't 90% tax man, but a concerned teacher wanting to help.

"Really?" Sean asked. "Is… is this something I need to know?"

Chatot ruffled his feathers slightly, but he didn't seem annoyed. "Perhaps not, but…." He sighed. "Litleo has shown some troubling behaviours over the years, undoubtedly caused by his family. He has long since had some sort of fixation on Shinx. I believe it wise just to tell you to keep an eye on him."

Sean nodded once, his gut twisted awkwardly at this warning. It felt wrong, wrong to imagine a pokémon could do anything that might need to be 'warned' about.

Chatot, however, seemed to read his face and his eyes widened. "Oh! You're not thinking I am implying he might hurt you or Shinx are you?"

Sean blinked, that's exactly what he was thinking. Chatot began to flap, flustered immediately. "Oh no-no-no. I am more concerned for him. Attention-seeking behaviour, or buying into shady sorts. No, I believe that." He immediately cleared his throat, cutting those words short. "Yes. Well. I just fear the damage to your reputation that can be caused, I think it best to not mention Team Ion's recent discovery of a Time Gear that has now gone missing, yes?"

Sean gave a nod. "I… what?" His paw came up to touch his bow, he'd found himself touching it when bored or nervous. It was calming in a way.

"You were the last to leave, the last to see that Time Gear, and with the guardian lost to the frozen time, if pokémon learn of you being the last there. They may mention that to another. The longer that chain goes, especially with matters of importance like this, the more likely it will become distorted, and its message twisted."

"Chatot, we didn't-"

"I know you didn't. But when no one knows who did, they are going to look at the stranger." Sean frowned, glancing down.

Chatot sighed, looking from left to right. "The guild has a tab with the Kecleon Brothers, so go through them if at all possible when restocking. That is all."

Chatot turned to hop and leave but hesitated halfway. Turning back, he said. "Is there anything you know? Anything that you may have thought unnecessary to tell? Anything you suspect but didn't want to say?"

Sean hesitated, torn between truth and lies.

"Th-there was more than us who found the Time Gear," Sean said, tripping over his words slightly. "Team Gazer, remember?" Was he damning someone to protect Grovyle?

"This is true," Chatot said sharply. "Hmm."

"Y-yeah." Ears drooping, Sean looked away from Chatot. He felt awful.

"Team Gazer…" Chatot muttered.

"But I don't think they did this!" Sean said quickly, returning Chatot's gaze to him. "They didn't seem the type, and we all promised not to say anything. I don't think they would have broken it."

Chatot stared at him for a moment. "Why do you think that?" he asked seriously.

Sean was flatfooted. Of all the things he expected Chatot to say, that wasn't it. "Uh."

"It is not difficult to let a small fact slip. You came straight back here and have had no time to risk telling anyone else, this Team Gazer on the other hand is unaccounted for. Hm. We should have considered that after the debrief, the Guildmaster and I."

Chatot raised his head at him for a long moment before holding up a wing. "We need to find this Team Gazer and see if they have any idea. They may have let something slip and we need to know if and where and who."

"Yeah, okay." Sean nodded.

"Is there anything else?" Chatot asked, waiting patiently. Sean shook his head after waiting for what he hoped was the appropriate amount of time, feeling guilt claw at him yet again as he lied once more.

"Alright. Do your work here, and do not worry." Chatot switched from serious back to pleasant in an instant, making it almost difficult for Sean to believe that conversation had just happened. "The expedition will still be going along. Work hard and you may be picked! That is all."

Chatot turned and hopped out of the storeroom, closing it softly behind him. Sean sighed, rubbing his face as he tried to bury the constant bad taste lying was leaving in his mouth.

"Should I have lied there? No. I had to. There's no way he'd believe me if I told him the Time Gears were needed. I have to protect Grovyle, maybe… maybe." Sean thought as he began looking through the guild's food stocks, taking note of only one magnificent perfect apple.

Figuring out what needed to be replaced wasn't difficult. But without a way to write anything down, Sean needed to rely on his memory.

Deciding that he couldn't hope to make just one journey, he decided to memorize a few items, retrieve them, and then figure out what ones he had to memorize next.

Rai smiled at him when he told the shinx he was going into town and the guild gate was opened for him without trouble.

As Sean left the guild, it struck him that he'd never left the guild alone. He glanced back at the blank eyes of the wigglytuff that loomed over the entire guild. He passed a bisharp on the way down and made his way into Treasure Town.

"This feels so weird," Sean thought to himself, looking around Treasure Town completely alone. "I don't have Rai to stop me from making a fool of myself. Oh boy, let's do this!"

Without someone to talk to, Sean just let his mind wander. Sunflora's news had shaken everyone, her reaction especially had drawn attention, but Sean could at least feel comforted that things were still going as they should be.

So, it wasn't the Time Gear or Grovyle that his mind focused on, instead, Team Skull was stuck in his thoughts like a tumour.

"It's shocking just how much changes when it's not a game." Sean considered as he went. "I didn't like them before, but hey the music was fun and Skuntank was… something not completely terrible in the end. We told Chatot and Wigglytuff about them now. There's no way they could come on the Expedition… unless?"

Wigglytuff was forgiving. If they agreed to give it back and then planned to steal it again, would they try that?

His mind worked feverishly, trying to remember all the mischief Team Skull caused throughout the story.

Sean snapped out of it by the time he spotted the twin kecleon and made his way through the transaction smoothly.

For the first run, he acquired a bushel of apples. A handful of mixed berries. A type of grain he wasn't sure existed in any world. And a set of seeds.

Even that amount was almost too much for him to carry.

"Wish I was taller," Sean laughed to the Kecleon Brothers and they chuckled as well as he stumbled off, arms filled with the items. "Never thought I'd think that again," Sean muttered once he was clear. "I was tall enough."

Carrying the items made him wish he'd taken the Treasure Bag, which was repaired easily after Ditto broke the strap. He couldn't change that now and had to walk with what he had.

At least the items obscured his vision, and he could pretend people weren't looking at him. Chatot's words were on his mind.

Diglett quickly called his species and Rai immediately opened the gate, Sean staggering into the guild with the last push to go.

The items weren't particularly heavy, but so many of them over such a distance were wearing thin even on his surprisingly strong arms.

He spent a little time resting in the storeroom before putting the items away and then walking back into town to do it again.

All the while, he thought and thought and thought about Team Skull, Grovyle, and a few thoughts about Dusknoir crept in as well.

He had a good idea of what was supposed to happen next, the one perfect apple tipped him off that it was probably that experience to come.

Weren't they supposed to be here already? Maybe since they had actually taken the item they were wisely sticking away from Treasure Town. That could be a problem.

Sean was mindless to less-than-kind eyes on him as he made his second trip.

With his arms so sore after the first trip, Sean decided to spread out the remaining items and made the journey four times in total, collecting all the items that seemed to need a refill. It wasn't the most thrilling of work, Sean was surprised he preferred the danger of the dungeons, but it had to be done.

The food made him hungry though. It still unnerved him slightly just how thin his body was, some weight had been put to hide a few of those ribs sticking out, but he restrained the desire to snatch something.

Chatot would know, Sean was sure.

An idea began to take root in his mind. A small plan for safekeeping, if and when something went wrong again. A little something.

He was scared to send the plot veering off too far, the world was at stake after all. However, something like this was small and innocent, surely it would be no harm?

Apple Woods was on his mind.

On one final trip into Treasure Town to top up the last of the baskets, Sean spotted someone and decided to approach them.

"Hello, Litleo."

In the original version, this and the next chapter were originally one before being split once it became too long. It also had Team Skull in it and Sean didn't even think of telling Chatot and Wigglytuff that Rai had been robbed.

In retrospect, a bad idea.
Chapter 8 - Imperfect Victory


Bug Catcher
Dinner had been a quiet affair.

The poor news and downcast nature of Sunflora sucked any enjoyment out of the event.

They still ate, of course. The labours of the day had left everyone hungry, and no one was so impolite to offend Chimecho, or Sean for that matter.

The meowth had offered his assistance to Chimecho in pulling dinner together. The Psychic-type had been a little shaken by Sunflora's breakdown and appreciated the help. He found he enjoyed helping her cut up cloth for the nurse's station or prepare the food. She did a lot for one person.

Neither he nor Rai spoke much besides chatting before they were getting ready to curl up. The day's labours had been much easier, so neither was nearly as exhausted as usual.

Before any real relaxation could be managed, a knock occurred at the door.

"Hm?" Rai asked. "Who is it?"

"Hey-hey," Corphish said, pushing the door open. Gesturing with a claw, Team Ion stood up. "Come along quickly, quietly too."

Sean shared a confused look with Rai before they both followed. Corphish led them quickly into the room he shared with Bidoof and Loudred. Sometimes Croagunk as well.

They entered the room, for the first time Sean realised, and found it surprisingly crowded.

Everyone besides Chatot and Wigglytuff were there. Diglett and Dugtrio looking like a secret third evolution so close together, Sunflora looking a bit more lively with a sun stone beside her, offering a glow to light up the room.

"What's up?" Sean asked as he shut the door behind him. The room was dim, but not so dark as to obscure anyone. He found his eyes falling on Sunflora first, she was doing better it seemed, but was still sticking close to Loudred and Chimecho.

"You've been part of the guild for over a week now." Chimecho began from where she was wrapped around Sunflora's arm.

"You've shown yourself to be great pokémon by golly." Bidoof continued.

"And it's time we embraced you as fellow apprentices and friends." Diglett finished.

"Oh wow!" Rai beamed, actually lighting the room with a brief jolt of excited electricity. "Really?"

"Yeah," Sunflora said, giving a nod. Her voice shook a little, but otherwise, she seemed alright. "And what better way than with a night of fun with everyone?" She grinned, joy filling her voice. "We're going to have such a good time! We'll play truth and more truth, tell scary stories, and just get to know each other even better!"

"Do you do this often?" Sean asked as he and Rai settled in the room, finding a comfortable place to sit.

"Once a week," Chimecho answered. "We apprentices all come together to just talk, spend time, and relax."

"We haven't had one since you two showed up, hey-hey," Corphish said. "Didn't feel right to leave you out, but with how things had been going so fast no one was sure when to even organise this."

"Croagunk suggested tonight," Dugtrio said, speaking up for the first time since they entered the room. He bobbed up and down slightly, close to Diglett, but mindful of the disturbance tunnelling through the room could cause. "After… today." Dugtrio trailed off.

Sunflora gave him a pointed look. "Oh my gosh. Don't fret over little ol' me, I'm a tough girl. Today just makes me all the more determined to find who's doing this and stop them!"

"Here, here." Chorused the apprentices.

"Meh-heh-heh. We shouldn't focus on the negatives of the situation," Croagunk said, catching everyone's attention immediately. It wasn't common for him to speak without being spoken to beforehand. "This Time Gear situation should leave our minds tonight. Tonight is the night we learn embarrassing secrets Sunflora will spread all around town."

"Don't say it like that," Sunflora insisted. "I won't spread anything no one wants me to."

This led to an immediate chorus of agreement towards Sunflora.

"Of course."

"No worries, yup-yup."

"Hey-hey, you can say whatever."

"I've got nothing to hide, you know me too well dear."

Sunflora's expression was a little flat once everyone was done. "Sure, sure." She regained her brightness in the next instant, however. "But, let's get started. We have to start soon or Chatot will know we stayed up late tomorrow morning."

A murmuring of chuckles went through the group. Even Sean and Rai grinned at how Chatot could act sometimes.

"Okay, everyone sit in a circle." Sunflora began directing them. "Loudred you go there, Corphish you can be next to him. Diglett, oh Dugtrio! Everyone move a bit close to the wall to get Dugtrio in, okay, Chimecho you can be next to me."

There was a bit of stumbling over each other as everyone followed Sunflora's directions. Soon enough, however, they were all seated. The room was cramped, especially with ten of them in the room.

"Okay everyone, here is the game we'll play to warm everyone up," Sunflora said, striding forward to stand in the centre of the circle before plopping a sack down. Chimecho had reluctantly let go of her to curl up, still slightly floating, in the circle with the others.

"In this bag is thirty plain seeds." Everyone but Sean grimaced at that. "Everyone is going to get three of these. The game we'll play is Truth and More Truth. Someone will ask someone a question, and they have to answer truthfully. If they don't want to answer, they can eat one of their seeds instead and that question can't be asked to them again. Understand?"

"...No," Diglett said.

"You'll pick it up," Sunflora replied because they'd played it before, and began handing plain seeds out.

Sean picked up one of the seeds, admiring it for a moment. He wasn't sure why everyone frowned, he hadn't eaten a plain seed though so he couldn't judge.

"Okay, like, I'm going to start," Sunflora said, sitting down in her spot. She immediately rounded on Sean. "What do you think of me?" she asked.

"I, uh." Sean blinked, not expecting her to go for him right away. "I like you? You seem really strong and brave, knowledgeable as well."

Sunflora beamed. "Oh my gosh thank you! Now you get to ask someone a question!"

Nodding, Sean looked out to the crowd. It was still strange to him, to be sitting in the south bedroom, looking at a set of creatures only known in fiction, to talk to characters that he'd only been able to see as pixels on a screen.

"Corphish," Sean began, choosing his target. He decided to start soft. "Why did you want to join the guild?"

"Eh?" Corphish clicked a pincer on reflex. "Hey... huh. No one's asked that to me before. Chatot just said 'you're in'." Corphish paused to think over the question for a moment as curious looks jumped around the group. The apprentices realised they didn't know why anyone had joined the guild, beyond just surface details. "I guess it goes back to when I lived in the place that would eventually become Drowned Cave."

Bidoof hissed in a breath of surprise as a few others wore expressions of alarm. "You lived in Drowned Cave?" someone whispered.

"Before it became a dungeon," Corphish reiterated. "I was barely even out of the egg when it happened, so I don't really remember. Just what my pa said. Me and him were apparently saved by a pair of explorers just in time to avoid going crazy like the others. I guess I just wanted to keep that going, help other pokémon, so no one would have to lose anyone else to random dungeons."

Corphish nodded, satisfied he had answered the question. He eyed Sean for a moment until Sean gave him a small smile and turned to Bidoof. "Since." He glanced back at Sean with a questioning look. "Meowth brought it up. What about you? Why did you join the guild?"

"Oh, uh well... by golly, nothing quite as good of a reason as you Corphish," Bidoof admitted. "I've just always wanted to be an explorer! Just someone decent that can help others. So, I left mama and my village to come here because I heard the Wigglytuff Guild is the best around, yup-yup."

Bidoof glanced around, wondering who to target his question to. "Not to seem unoriginal, but Meowth's question is just too good! Chimecho, why did you join the guild?"

"Well, it was a dark and stormy night," Chimecho began, soft voice almost reverberating through the air like a haunted chime. "I was lost, I was scared, I was being hunted. A terrifying electric pokémon wished to kill me for reasons I still don't understand, shocking me continuously over and over and over again."

Chimecho's eyes glazed over slightly as she lost herself in her memories. "The only thing I really remember thinking that night is that I didn't want to die. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to die. But die I was going to, as I couldn't defend myself, and they kept on attacking me. Then. Out of nowhere. A booming voice rocked what felt like the world itself and everything went dark."

"Oh my gosh. Chimecho..."

Blinking slightly as she returned to the present, Chimecho looked around and frowned. Everyone was staring at her with expressions of abject horror. "Oh! Do not worry, this is a happy story. The boom was a saviour, I'm not sure who though. I don't really remember what happened after it all ended." Chimecho giggled. "Once I recovered I sent a call for help out through the Psychic Network as I had been trained and was promptly rescued and taken to the nearest guilt to recover. That was the Wigglytuff Guild!"

She beamed. "They didn't have a dedicated member of the network here and a few other pokémon had graduated leaving a lot of things needing to be done. I asked if I could join to repay them and I was in!"

She smiled and turned to Croagunk, the only one not looking completely rattled by that story. Still, the gleam of compassion in his eye, meant more to him than the endless platitudes Chimecho had received over the years. "I may as well keep the trend going. What about you Croagunk, why did you join the guild?"

"I learned that the Swap Cauldron was here," Croagunk answered easily. "Meh-heh-heh. Once I found it couldn't be moved, I moved in. Simple as that."

Chimecho nodded happily, she did know the story and cuddled up to Sunflora.

Croagunk chuckled, turning to Rai. "Might as well break the loop, we all know why Shinx is here." There were a few smiles shared. "Instead I'll ask what you think of your partner there." He nodded towards Sean, chuckling as Rai's ears went up.

"Sean?" he asked. "Oh, I think he's amazing."

With Rai and Sean looking most uncomfortable, Croagunk chuckled again. "Meh-heh-heh, come on now. You know that's not enough."

"It's embarrassing," Rai mumbled.

"Yeah I'm cool just with amazing," Sean said, eyes darting. He didn't like compliments so brazenly given to himself.

"I don't know how to compliment people," Rai grumbled and pawed a plain seed. There were a few looks of disappointment, and a disgusted grimace on Rai's, as he ate the seed. "Too embarrassing," he said.

"Your turn then," Croagunk chuckled.

"Okay, uh." Rai turned right and left. It looked like he was going to ask a question of Sean, but then his eyes slid. "Loudred. Who had the idea to jump through the waterfall?"

Sunflora immediately smirked. Loudred glowered at them both.

"..." Loudred ate the plain seed. "Ugh, disgusting!" He was, thankfully, keeping his voice down. For Loudred at least.

After glowering at Rai for a moment longer, Loudred turned to his trusty partner. "Diglett! How do you memorise so many feet? Every time I've tried your side of the job I can't tell a blaziken from a lucario!"

Diglett and Dugtrio flinched at the question, with Diglett quickly eating a plain seed. "Eww. Dad." Diglett turned to his father. "Why do you like the sea so much? And don't just say it's majestic and wondrous, what's the real reason?"

Dugtrio stared at his son for a long moment before all three heads slowly bobbed. "Alright. I'll tell you. I met your mother by the sea." Diglett's eyes widened. "She loved it herself and shared that love with me."

Diglett took a moment to take that in before asking. "Is that the whole reason?"

Dugtrio ate a plain seed.

Ignoring the sigh from his son, Dugtrio turned to Sean. "Well you were the first to get asked and I was the last. So it feels right to ask you a question that has been bugging me since you joined." Sean nodded, leaning forward with interest. "Why do you walk like that?"

"Finally!" Loudred nearly yelled. "I've been wanting to know that forever."

"Yup, I gotta confess it's been on my mind too."

"Hey-hey, I went through a dungeon with him and not once did I give in and ask that. So... good on Dugtrio?"

"Why I walk like... what?" Sean asked, genuinely baffled before remembering something. "On two legs?"

"Yes." All three heads of Dugtrio bobbed. "I understand that meowth CAN walk like that, but it must be uncomfortable. They all walk on four legs, only going to two for brief periods, if at all. But you only seem to walk on two legs, that must take some dedication. So, I'm just wondering why?"

"I guess..." Sean glanced to Rai whose expression was rather blank. "I just do. I always have, I think. I mentioned the amnesia before right?" Nods all around, apprentices did not hide secrets it seemed. "I started walking like this as soon as I stood up and just have ever since."

It was true. Not even a half-truth. Simply not the whole truth.

With the question answered, Sean, turned to Croagunk. He'd given the embarrassing question to Rai, and he now wanted to get him back a bit. "If you had to kiss anyone here. Who would it be?"

Croagunk's pouches stopped inflating for the briefest moment, Croagunk's stare remained as impassive as ever. "Chimecho," he answered after a brief hesitation.

"OOH!" Sunflora squealed as Chimecho blushed and the others laughed. Sean grinned as well, it didn't seem to throw Croagunk, but it lightened the remaining darkness left by Chimecho's story.

With that, the apprentices grew a little more daring and ingenious in their questions. Diglett convinced Bidoof to reveal he liked knock-knock jokes because a friend of his was really clever with them.

Sunflora managed to corner Diglett into admitting he found feet fascinating, Croagunk convinced Loudred, Corphish and Bidoof into admitting they found Sunflora pretty, and Rai proved himself bold by asking Sean what Sean thought of him.

"I think you're the bravest, strongest, AND cutest pokémon I've ever met," Sean answered, unable to help adding a comment to make Rai squirm.

The apprentices found the need to wrap the night up once concerns were raised, that curfew had long since passed and Chatot might notice something amiss tomorrow.

In the end only Sean had answered every question given to him, a few others had Plain Seed's remaining, and he decided to taste one just to find out why everyone disliked them.

Croagunk chuckled. "I may need to start a list," he said as Sean exclaimed that he thought the seed was delicious. "You're a very odd pokémon."

Sean was granted everyone's remaining seeds and he took them back to the room with delight, setting them into a small nest on his bed before curling up on them. Rai giggled as he noticed Sean was purring.

Rai decided to abstain from commentating on that.

"Hey, Sean?" Rai asked, he was a little disappointed it snapped the former human out of his purr-fest, but he wanted to say something before they went to sleep.


"I know no one asked me why I wanted to join the guild." Rai smiled wistfully as he glanced out the window, watching the moonlight stream in. "Because everyone knows why. Or, well, they think they know why."

Blinking the sleep out of his eyes, Sean leaned up very curious. "I always thought it was something to do with wanting to be an explorer?" That was about all he knew from the game at least.

"That is true." Rai nodded as he turned to Sean. "I love exploring, I love helping out, finding new places, saving pokémon. All of that is true, but there is another reason why I wanted to join this guild."

Sean could see Rai somewhat well in the dark, he was thankful for the far better eyes this meowth body owned. Rai was still smiling, but there was a new edge of melancholy to it. "Rai? Why did you want to join the Wigglytuff Guild?"

"After I lost my parents, my sister and I managed to get to Treasure Town," Rai explained, falling into the old memories. "We had nothing, only the generosity of the people here. But... but I ended up getting really sick." The way Rai said that shot a feeling of worry through Sean's spine and he needed to take a moment to remind himself that Rai was fine. He reached over to feel his fur, just to quell the irrational fears.

"My sister... we didn't have money, and very few possessions. She heard of a rumour that a gabite scale is a powerful healing item, but she had no way to get through the only dungeon a gabite was known to live in. So she appealed to the guild, and they managed to get a Gabite Scale which saved my life, and didn't demand anything in return."

Smiling brighter now, Rai glanced up at the roof before coming down to meet Sean's eyes. "After that, I knew I wanted to do exactly, the same. Help other pokémon, help this guild, because they saved me. Without them, I'd probably…." He trailed off.

"Then let me say I'm incredibly relieved the guild was here," Sean said. "I don't know what I would have done if you didn't save me. Don't know what I'd do if I lost you either."

"...Goodnight Sean."

"Night Rai, sleep tight."

"And three! Smiles go for miles!"

"Okay pokémon, time to get to work."


Sean stifled a yawn through the morning cheers. He wasn't the only one.

Sunflora was doing better already. It had been shock and alarm mixed with fear that had led to the breakdown, she was determined to show everyone she was not to be underestimated and had the loudest voice among the cheers. The previous night's activities certainly helped too, she was brimming with bits of gossip to be shared.

Sean yawned again as the apprentices dispersed, getting a curious glance from Rai. "Didn't sleep well?" he asked as Chatot spotted them remaining. "You might have purred too much."

"Ah you two," Chatot said, as Sean tried to remember purring. Team Ion walked up to hear their orders. "Your task today is to obtain stock to replenish the larder," he said.

"Larder?" Rai asked. "You mean go get some food?"

"Indeed." Chatot fluttered his wings. "The guild's food stock is inspected every morning by Chimecho and I. It seems the guild's perfect apple supply has run out as have a few other things."

"Oh, damn, I forgot to mention that." He then heard Chatot. "Wait! But I restocked everything else!"

"Indeed." Chatot nodded to him genially. "But well… there is the occasional night-time grazer. Most commonly our most illustrated Guildmaster. As he should be able to!" Chatot insisted.

Sean found himself frowning. "So, you'd like us both to go to the Kecleon Market?" he asked. "Or just one of us again?"

"No, no." Chatot shook his head. "Chimecho will be able to replenish most of it by herself today. No, instead your job is to collect perfect apples as they cannot be purchased anywhere."

"Perfect apples?" Rai cocked his head in a manner Sean thought was adorable. "What are those?"

"They are very large and delicious apples," Chatot answered, a distant look in his eye. "But, more than that, they are the Guildmaster's favourite food. If there were no perfect apples, the Guildmaster." Chatot trailed off. "The Guildmaster w-would."

"…go on," Rai said. "If there were no perfect apples, what would happen to Guildmaster Wigglytuff?"

"The Guildmaster would." Chatot's voice rose with each word before he simply descended into silence, eyes screwed shut.

Rai and Sean exchanged a glance.

"…Yes. That is what would happen." Ignoring, or perhaps not seeing, their perturbed expressions, Chatot continued. "That is why I am begging you two to get some perfect apples."

"Wait… wait would happen to…" Rai sighed. "Sure, you can count on us!"

"Very good." Chatot fluttered his wings again. "Perfect apples can be found deep within Apple Woods. Here, I'll mark it on your Wonder Map."

Once he had pointed it out, right next to Oran Forest, Chatot spread his wings. "Now, listen, this may seem like a simple errand, but it is a crucial job! After all, this is all about the Guildmaster's… erk." Chatot twitched. "So, please don't fail."

"We'll get it done," Sean said as Chatot waved them away.

"Oh and one last thing!" Chatot called before they left. "Do keep your voices down at night. Raucous behaviour after curfew will be punished."

Rai and Sean's tails went rigid. "Yes sir!" they squeaked.

"Very good." Chatot nodded. "Otherwise keep walking strong. Especially you Sean." Chatot's eye twinkled before he returned to seriousness. "Now get going."

They hurried off, sharing a giggle at Chatot knowing what the apprentices were up to but not caring. He wasn't as stuffy as he presented himself.

The town didn't take long to plunder, Rai cut a dashing figure with his scarf in the wind, and they were off.

It took them a few hours to reach the dungeon. Apple Woods was very close to the Oran Forest, the two still containing different dungeons to explore.

When the trees began to thicken, the path became more worn, and the feeling of the area began to turn, Team Ion knew they had reached their destination.

"Chatot said we need to go to the deepest part of the woods," Rai said as they neared the true entrance of the Apple Woods.

"Figures," Sean replied. "Isn't it always at the end?"

"Yeah actually," Rai said after a moment to think. "Funny that."

They both smiled and headed in.

In terms of location, the Apple Woods reminded Sean greatly of the Oran Forest. Except it was apples that were all over the place, rather than oran's.

He enjoyed eating a few apples they picked up, after checking them for grossness. Each one was even more divine while fresh.

It was a picturesque place. Trees lined the dungeon as an impenetrable wall of foliage, soft grass pleasant to the feet after trudging over hard dirt and pointy stones, and food everywhere.

The occasional Bug-type that Rai scared off with electricity.

It was the most disconcerting dungeon Sean had ever entered. The sky was even more visible, a bloody crack against the picturesque trees around them, storming in silent violence. Some of the clouds reminded him of eyes, it was creepy and he preferred being enclosed in the trees to seeing the sky.

Even Oran Forest, a similar dungeon, hadn't given him the bad vibes this place did. It was too pleasant, too pretty, too chocolate-box to be anything more than a trap.

"This place is weird," Sean said, deciding to share his worries.

"You think?" Rai asked. "This place seems pretty nice so far."

"That's the point," Sean hissed, eyes darting about. "A dungeon? Nice? It must be some sort of evil trap. Are these dungeons alive?"

"Uh… maybe?" Rai shrugged and glanced about before settling back on Sean. "A few pokémon claim that they are. I've never seen anything to suggest these places are alive. Would they let us out if they were?"

"I suppose you've got a point there," Sean mumbled. "But you see my point about here? Where are the pokémon, other than when we came in? This feels like we are being led to feel like everything is hunky-dory and then BAM!" He smacked a paw into another. "We get swarmed."

"We'll keep an eye out," Rai said. "And maybe not wander into rooms that have a bit too much treasure in them. Okay?"

"Sounds good." Sean flicked his bow with a claw. The dust caught on their feet, even grassy dungeons like this had that same ashy powder all through them. Sean didn't like it.

They continued. Sean grew more unnerved the longer they went without being attacked, Rai enjoying his time in a pleasant-smelling place.

To pass the silence that had fallen over them, Sean began to hum. Just the only thing that came to mind; a bouncy beat of positivity. The Apple Woods theme.

He wasn't sure how accurate he was, it had been a while, but Apple Woods always did have a certain trick to its tune that he enjoyed.

Over time Rai began to grow a little unnerved himself.

"Hey," he said, trailing off already. "I'm kind of getting your point now. Where are all the feral pokémon?"

"I have a feeling I don't want to know," Sean said. "I resist the urge to look behind us."

Rai looked back. Nothing there.

He glanced at Sean, worry staining his expression. "I've never seen a dungeon this empty. Just a few here and there. It's like nothing is here."

"What am I?" Sean asked with fake exasperation. "Your imaginary friend?"

"Heh." Rai gave before turning away. Sean eyed him for a moment before sighing.

"It's been a while since I've put my foot in my mouth hasn't it?"

"No, no it's not that," Rai insisted, turning back to look brightly at him. Sean just faced him with an expectant look on his face and Rai bowed his head. "When you've got no friends for so long you can't help it."

"I'm sorry for bringing it up," Sean said.

"Oh, don't be sorry, I should apologise for getting weird about things again. Even when I swore that I wouldn't."

Sean shook his head. "You can't be strong all the time Rai, if you try you'll break eventually."

"You're very wise from someone with amnesia." Rai smiled cheekily at him. "I can only imagine what you're keeping locked up in that head of yours."

"Probably something really boring," Sean said, laughing him off. "Really boring."

"I don't know," Rai said flippantly. "I think it'd be pretty interesting. Get to know what you were like before coming here, what the human world is like. Sounds like an incredible mystery and I love mysteries!"

"Well let's hope we can work out what the mystery here is," Sean said, reminding them of the weirdness abound. "Before whatever happens, happens."

To break some of the tension, a butterfree came screeching out at them. Rai, already a little jumpy, zapped it and it fell to the ground smoking.

"Hm," Rai grunted.

"Yeah," Sean said.

They exchanged a glance, no more enemies came rushing out at them, and then moved on, leaving the butterfree to flutter up into the air again and wander off.

They continued exploring the dungeon, a few pokémon began to pop up as they went further. One particularly vigorous exeggutor required both of them to take down.

Eventually, however, all good and terrible things come to an end.

"It looks like we've come pretty far," Rai said as they entered a widening area. "According to Chatot, the Perfect Apples should be around here somewhere…"

"I think that enormous tree might be what we're looking for," Sean said, pointing forward.

They broke into a job, entering the clearing completely before coming to a stop before a gigantic tree.

The trunk was thicker than any tree Sean had ever seen, Rai too.

"Woah, those must be perfect apples," Rai gasped, looking up. On a few branches that pushed out of the thick leaves did indeed contain large, delicious, apples. Sean had seen the perfect apple yesterday and could confirm with confidence that these were it.

"All right then," Rai said as they took a few more steps forward. "How should we get them down? Can you climb?"

"I think so," Sean said, claws unsheathing. "We may have a problem though."


"Chaw-haw-haw, you're looking for some Perfect Apples?"

Rai started as the voice seemed to come from above them. "Wha? Who was that? Where are you?"

"Chaw-haw-haw." Was his only answer.

"Skuntank!" Sean shouted, claws extending. He was here? What were the chances, they came here to mess with the protagonists in the game, but there should be no reason they'd be here now.

They both looked up to see Skuntank claw his way out of the thick leaves, Koffing and Zubat breaching as well, and both took flight.

Skuntank leaped down, forcing Sean and Rai to jump back to avoid being flattened. "Chaw-haw-haw, Team Skull at your service," Skuntank said as Koffing and Zubat flanked him.

"Stop laughing," Sean snapped, his nerves flaring at the constant guffawing.

"Heh-heh, it's wimpy and wimpo. How have you been?"

"WHAT?" Rai snarled, Sean remaining silent to glare hatefully at them.

"Woah-ho-ho, I'm stuffed!" Koffing belched. "Those apples were good. What are two losers like you two doing here?"

"You ate the Perfect Apples?" Rai seethed. Sean glanced askew at Rai, a little surprised at how much anger was actually showing.

"There are still a few more on the tree," Sean whispered, alleviating some of the sparking rage.

"Right." Rai nodded and narrowed his eyes as he pulled on his power. "Let's knock these creeps out and take my treasure back."

"Chaw-haw-haw," Skuntank laughed. "Chaw-HAW-HAW. Knock us out? How rude. Why I was even going to offer you an apple for your earlier troubles, sorry about the tizzy back in Beach Cave. We are both explorers, we both work against our reputations to show others we are not what others perceive us to be."

"I am not a bullying creep like you," Rai said coldly before remembering Sean's words from the other day. He closed his eyes and took a breath, through his mouth, and calmed himself. "But if you are offering to help then give me back my treasure!"

"It's a tough reputation to beat as a Poison and Dark-type," Skuntank admitted. "Everyone views my kind as foul troublemakers. That is the camerupt on my back. But what about you, Shinx? Don't you work almost as hard to prove you aren't a useless coward that everyone sees you as?"

"Urk." Rai flinched back as Sean wondered, somewhat detached, how it was possible to despise Skuntank all the more. He didn't even acknowledge the demand, and his sharp eyes couldn't spot the Relic Fragment on their person.

"You want the apples, right?" Skuntank seemed to ignore Rai's reaction, although Sean knew he saw a smirk. "Nothing could be easier. Watch."

With that Skuntank stomped up to the tree and took a moment to prepare, before slamming his whole body into it. The tree shook. Skuntank did it again and several apples fell from the tree.

"Perfect apples," Sean said, a sudden wave of hunger ran through him, and he really wanted to grab one of those just to see if it was as tasty as was claimed.

"See? What did I tell you?" Skuntank returned to standing between Koffing and Zubat and waited patiently. "Go on now. Pick up those Perfect Apples and scuttle back to the guild. Chaw-haw-haw."



Rai and Sean didn't move.

"Hm? What's the matter? Aren't you going to pick them up? And after I was so nice and helped you out!"

"You're going to pull a dirty trick, aren't you?" Rai growled. "I'm not going to fall for another trap like the Beach Cave!"

He fell into a prowling position and hissed. "I won't be fooled by you. And I'm going to take my Relic Fragment back from wherever you've put it!"

"Colour me surprised," Zubat said. "They didn't fall for it at all."

"Aww," Koffing moaned. "How boring is that?"

"I knew it," Rai hissed.

"Chaw-haw-haw," he laughed, looking straight at Sean just to confirm he was doing it on purpose. "It's a little disappointing you aren't the trusting sort. You're the stupid sort though, so that evens out. You wanna go, little Shinx?" Skuntank's breath was foul. "You won't enjoy what happens."

Electricity crackled over Rai's fur as Sean grabbed a hold of an x-eye seed.

"You're going to give my treasure back," Rai warned one last time.

"Well now, aren't we feeling peppy, chaw-haw-haw-haw-haw," Skuntank laughed. "The last time we met you were knocked out with a single breath. Hell, your useless friend lasted longer than you did. Eh, whatever, we haven't been following you for a fight." That was alarming for Sean to hear. "I got a question about that rock of yours."

"Shut up!" Rai shouted, not listening. "I'm not going to back down. I'm never backing down to sad bullies like YOU! Because YOU are pathetic letting your pals fight us and then attack from behind like a dirty, rotten, coward!"

That looked like it stung a nerve as Skuntank's expression twisted and Koffing and Zubat shrunk back.

"Oh? Pathetic, am I? Alright." He nudged Koffing back further. "No. We're not doing the noxious gas combo. If these two want a fight, then we'll beat them with our paws and claws."

"Woah-ho… are you sure boss?"

"Heh… yeah?"

"Yes," Skuntank growled and turned to Team Ion. "In recognition of your courage, Team Skull is happy to accept your challenge. Get ready."

There was no way to get ready.

Without giving them time to so much as blink, Skuntank was upon them. One meaty claw slammed into Rai's head and batted him brutally. Sean pulled his paw out and tossed the seed as hard as he could, but Skuntank had spotted him preparing earlier and incinerated it with a Flamethrower.

Sean yowled and threw all the Power he could into his claws to Scratch Skuntank but got socked in the chest with a lightning-quick jab of Dark-type energy that knocked him sprawling.

"Ugh," Rai groaned, forcing himself up. "Oh." Skuntank and Koffing were already upon him.

"You're not even worth an actual battle," Skuntank said before he and Koffing belched fumes over Rai. His building electricity failed as consciousness left him.

"Chaw-haw, now." Skuntank turned on the remaining member of Team Ion, right in time to receive an oren berry. He caught it in his mouth of reflex before his face screwed up. "Ugh!"

He coughed hard as the false berry absolutely burned going down. He retched and shook his head violently, spitting smog and ash.

"That's it," Skuntank growled, voice warping in fury. He smacked Koffing out of the way and began stomping up to Sean, who was backing away at a respectable pace. "You're lucky I can't do much or else pokémon will ask questions." He pounced suddenly, knocking Sean onto his back.

Sean got a terrific close-up of Skuntank's face and received the Poison and Dark-type's burning saliva on his face. He choked on the smell as Skuntank breathed slowly on him, clouding his mind as things began to go dark, but not quick enough to be merciful.

Eventually, he lost consciousness.

"Chaw-haw-haw," Skuntank laughed as he devoured the remaining perfect apples. "That'll show them not to mess with Team Skull."

"Woah-ho-ho can't believe that got the nerve to even try."

"Heh-heh, they'll know better not to try again."

The three of them stood for a moment.

"Err, boss?" Zubat asked. "Weren't we gonna ask them about-"

"Forget it," Skuntank growled. "If they want trouble so badly they can deal with them when it comes. Let's skedaddle boys."

With that, they left Team Ion in the clearing, after ensuring the tree was stripped bare of perfect apples of course.

"Ugh, that was awful," Rai moaned as he returned to the realm of the conscious. "Oh… Sean!" He spotted the downed Meowth and rushed to his side, stumbling momentarily when he felt his neck throb with pain. "Sean! Sean!"

"Oh," Sean moaned, cracking his eyes open. "Cough."

"Are you alright?" Rai whimpered.

"Yeah…" Sean sighed and groaned as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. "I don't seem to be bleeding. Am I?"

"No… no you're not bleeding."

"Then yes, I'm fine. Just sore."

And wanting to vomit just from the memory, but he felt that information didn't need to be shared.

"Urf… we both got knocked out," Rai mumbled. "Again. Even worse than the first time. It still reeks."

Sean glanced about. "No perfect apples either. I'm sorry, Rai."

Rai jumped when he noticed that. "Oh no. OH NO!" He ran up and looked desperately up into the tree. "I don't think they left any. What are we going to do?"

"We'll be fine," Sean said, trying to ease Rai's panic. "Chatot will… well… he won't be happy, but we'll get through it."

He wanted to, really badly, explain why but couldn't say just yet. Rai would disapprove anyway.

"We're out of luck," Rai sighed, bowing his head. "Let's just head back to the guild and hope we don't get into too much trouble. Chatot will be mad, he was freaking out just at the thought of this."

"Right," Sean agreed, and they began to move. Leaving Apple Woods was easy, as they had reached the end of the dungeon the space warping let them out right at the beginning. It was still several hours of walking, however, both of them were sore from the complete mockery of a 'fight'.

"I'm really sorry, Sean," Rai said as they began the painful trek home. "If I didn't antagonize them, this wouldn't have happened."

Sean looked to Rai. He supposed it wouldn't be hard to blame Rai, but it wasn't his fault in the least. "You saw those three," he said firmly. "They were planning something no matter what. Even when Skuntank pushed Koffing away, they were going to stink us out no matter what!"

"That'd at least hurt less," Rai grumbled. "Less than knowing bullies like Skuntank completely outmatch us. My neck hurts too."

About that, Sean wasn't sure what to say. He was quite sure one never had a proper battle with Skuntank in the games. He briefly wondered how this might cause a change but discarded it as the result was still exactly the same.

"I can't believe we got a chance," Rai whimpered sadly. "To get it back and just lost like that. Dammit!"

"I'm so sorry," Sean said, he felt like it was his fault. Rai was strong, he wasn't. He was weak. The best he could do was take a punch, but Skuntank still overwhelmed him quickly.

"It's not your fault!" Rai snapped. Sean flinched from the tone, and he softened. "Don't blame yourself. You look like you do."

"It is my fault," Sean muttered. It was his fault Skuntank was there in the first place. What was it? What had changed to cause that? Had he seen him going to the beach and decided to follow? He bet that was it. It was his fault no matter what, he'd changed something.

He almost told Rai, almost considered it for a moment. Rai wouldn't understand, as Sean turned to him he knew he wouldn't. So, he didn't say anything.

They walked in silence the way back. Dread and anticipation being their company.

"WHAAAT!" Chatot screeched, hours later. "YOU FAILED!?" Chatot's wings fluttered continuously as he began to panic. "Are you serious? Oh no! What am I going to do!?"

He took flight, making a panicked lap of the room as he babbled. "Goodness gracious! What am I going to do!?"

"We couldn't help it, sir," Rai said, trying at least to explain. "Team Skull and-"

"Quiet!" Chatot snapped, coming to a stop and glaring at them. "I do not want to hear any of it. You leave me no choice, you will be going without dinner tonight."

"What?" Rai exclaimed. He had expected punishment, but not that. "B-but, Chatot."

"You failed to complete an important job," Chatot chastised, his eye narrowed into a terrifying glare. "Your punishment could be much more severe. I don't want to hear anything from you until debrief."

Chatot turned away, staring out the window with an expression turning to apprehension. "You've saddled me with this terrible task. I've got to report this to the Guildmaster tonight. Upon hearing my report, the Guildmaster is sure to… sure… s-sure to. AH." Chatot began flying about the room again, panicking once more.

"I will report this to the Guildmaster after dinner," he said, coming to a stop as the anger returned. "You two will come with me when I do so. If I had to face the Guildmaster's wrath all by myself, well, that would hardly be fair for something that wasn't my fault. Therefore, you two will come with me. It will be your debrief."

"Y-yes sir," Sean and Rai said together. Chatot was terrifying when he was angry. Sean fiddled with his bow with nerves.

Dinner came and went. Rai had to watch everyone eat alone, Sean having excused himself to wander Treasure Town before their comeuppance was due. Rai let him go, wanting to be alone himself. Rai regretted going into the dining room, watching everyone else eat was torture.

Once everyone was finished, Chatot waited outside the door for him.

"Where is Meowth?" he asked, having refused to look over to where the punished pokémon were supposed to be standing.

"He went for a walk," Rai mumbled. "I thought he'd be back by now…"

Chatot and Rai glanced up at the incline. "Hmph. If he thinks he can avoid this or leave us both to suffer while he gets away. Ooh boy will my wrath be severe."

Rai didn't want to consider that, although it was nicer than another thought that crept into his mind.

"They always leave." The thought sounded a lot like Litleo actually, and Rai shoved it away aggressively.

"Chatot," came the singsong voice of Wigglytuff. "Where are you, you my silly bird? I'm waiting so patiently."

"Urk." Chatot twitched. "We cannot wait any longer. To do so is to increase his rage with frustration. Meowth will be going without dinner the whole week for trying to skirt out of this."

Rai bent his head low as he followed Chatot into Wigglytuff's Chamber. He never expected to be facing this, alone.

"Hiya!" Wigglytuff chirped as they entered. "You brought me some perfect apples, didn't you? Thank you so much! Oh?" He cocked his head. "Where's friendly friend Meowth?"

"Uh, there's a… there's, uh, a slight…" Chatot stumbled over his words. "Uh… it's awfully hard to say this, but."

"Huh?" The confusion and concern from Wigglytuff was palpable. "What's wrong?"

"You see, uh, truth be told. These apprentices… Team Ion. Meowth and Shinx. Well, they failed in their mission to bring back any Perfect Apples, and… so, uh, to put it another way."

"It's okay," Wigglytuff said, causing Rai to blink in surprise. "I understand."

Feeling a weight leave him, Rai looked to Chatot who was not looking any better.

"It's all right. Nobody wins all the time. Don't feel blue, don't feel blue." Wigglytuff began to sing that, leaving Rai feeling somewhat okay with all this.

Right as he went to thank Wigglytuff for understanding, Wigglytuff turned to Chatot. "Where are the other perfect apples?" Once those words left his lips, Rai's relief plummeted.

Chatot flinched. "As I'd explained… um… they failed to get them, so, uh… In other words, the perfect apples. The number of perfect apples we have harvested… would be, uh…" Chatot took a breath. "Zero."

"Oh." That one word, one letter, sent a rivet of fear through Rai's spine as Chatot began to break down.

"Therefore, not even one perfect apple was obtained." The routine was broken, it was all falling apart. "That means, Guildmaster… you will have to make do without perfect apples for a little while. Yep! Until they grow back. That's what it means!"

To Rai's shock, and terror, Chatot began to laugh hysterically. To the point that he was tearing up.

"Um… Guildmaster? Guildmaster?"

Wigglytuff sniffled. Once. Twice. Then a small sob.

"Ah! Is he going to cry?" Rai thought in alarm.

Lip quivering, eyes watering, Wigglytuff began to tear up.

"COVER YOUR EARS!" Chatot screeched, clapping his wings over his head as Wigglytuff began to spasm. A single sob caused a shockwave, knocking them back.

"Hang on."

Wigglytuff perked slightly as Sean entered the room. Rai noticed he looked a little different but was too frazzled to determine why.

"I'm so sorry for being so late, Guildmaster, that door is really heavy, but I hope I can be forgiven." Sean reached into the Treasure Bag. "Because I brought this!"

With both paws, as it was really big, he held a perfect apple.

"OH!" Wigglytuff brightened immediately and raced forward. "For me? Thank you!" He plucked the perfect apple from Sean and balanced it on his head before dancing around joyfully. "Thank you, friendly friend! Thank you, friendly friend! Lalalala."

Staring in muted shock, Chatot caught himself gawking and composed himself. "That is all Guildmaster, we'll take our leave now." He swiftly gestured for them to exit and exit quickly.

"No problem, friendly friends!" Wigglytuff sang as he danced with the apple. "Have a good night, have a good night!"

Chatot closed the door behind them as he and Rai blinked in shock. With the door firmly closed, Chatot checked it several times just to give himself a moment to recover, the three just stood there in the dimness of the room.

Sean, as the least shocked, allowed himself a victorious smirk. "You're welcome."

"H-how?" Chatot managed. "H… how?"

"I used my time in Treasure Town to ask around," Sean answered, gesturing widely. "Eventually I found someone with a perfect apple and traded for it. I didn't mean to take so long, but it took a while to get. Those doors are heavy though." He massaged one of his arms with the other one before brushing his neck. "How do you do that all the time?"

Chatot barely comprehended the compliment and just shook his head. "Just… go to bed. I'll be able to think more in the morning. We shall debrief properly then."

He hopped away to guard the entrance or scream where no one could hear him. However, he then paused. "No. First, I apologise. I… shouldn't have placed such blame on you. You said you were ambushed? Yes, I… go to the kitchens, take something. I… think I need to relax, the stress is getting to me." He continued to mumble as he hopped off.

Sean gave Rai a smile and led him to their rooms.

Once they were safely inside, Rai found his voice. "Wow. That was terrifying. Chatot was panicking so much and Wigglytuff started getting so upset."

"I know," Sean said, not admitting just how well he did know. "Sorry about leaving you to that, I hoped to get back before Chatot brought us in, but I guess I was too slow."

"Just glad you're here," Rai said, smiling. Then he realised what he said and glanced away awkwardly. "Uh… you know?"

"Yeah." Sean nodded, unable to hide his smile.

"So, what DID you trade for a Perfect Apple?" Rai asked, turning back to Sean.

"Well… you know." Sean looked away, feeling a small bit of embarrassment claw at him. He toyed with his fur, tracing a scar he couldn't remember getting.

Rai frowned, looking closely at Sean, trying to spot why he was acting like that. He couldn't help but notice the scars himself, jeez there was a lot of them. Why did he look a little different?

A few hours earlier, Sean had left the guild with a plan in mind.

He held the Treasure Bag, containing all his items as well as all the money he shared between him and Rai that wasn't in Rai's bank account.

He walked down to the crossroads before turning left, walking the same path he had trudged home earlier, the path to the wider world, the path to his destination.

He walked as quickly as his tired muscles would allow. Sean was amazed at how well his new body recovered every morning, just a night's rest and he was back to better than new. The wonders of a pokémon body, he marvelled.

For the time now, however, he was tired and sore. Vindictiveness, however, and spite drove him forwards. Part of it was to spare Rai, and himself, the trouble of upsetting Wigglytuff and Chatot. Part of him couldn't help but worry that without the security of a game's code, Rai may not get picked for the expedition. Not willing to jeopardise that any further than his interference could, he aimed to interfere in a good way.

And if it was fuelled mostly in spiting Skuntank, then he'd be fine with that as well. Sean was honest with himself, spite was a good motivator.

Little more than spite and some curiosity would lead him to this pokémon's home, that was for sure.

Sean followed the path as best he could in the waning light, following a few directions his confidant had given him. He stepped off the path he and Rai normally walked to their dungeons, and into the living area of the pokémon who lived in Treasure Town.

There was much more to it than just the business section and guild after all.

Sean got lost, that he was certain, but he kept repeating his directions in his head until things began to make sense. After over an hour, he finally retrieved his sense of direction and found his target location. He was worried he'd get back late at this rate, but hoped he wouldn't get lost on the way back.

The house was built into a big tree. An old burrow was filled with what probably passed for trash. Little burns were all about, the tree house was not the healthiest nor was the place well looked after.

Sean hesitated for a moment. Spite, while wonderfully energizing, could only bring him so far. He hesitated, took a breath, and swallowed nervously, but ultimately working to spare Rai from fear and worry was worth this.

He knocked politely on the small door and received an insufferably smug. "Come in!"

The flap door shut behind him as Sean the meowth entered Litleo's heated abode.

"And I was thinking you'd arrive next week sometime," Litleo snarked as Sean entered. "Don't worry, I always get the boys to come."

His smirk unsettled Sean, and he completely ignored the lecherous tone. "Have you got the perfect apple?" he asked, not wanting to stay any longer than he had to.

"Come on, do we need to discuss business before pleasure?"

"I'm only here for the apple, Litleo."

"Yeah, I can…." Litleo paused and thought. "Ah, come on. You couldn't at least say, 'getting what I want' so I could make a sleazy remark out of that?"

"I knew you'd be looking for that," Sean answered, crossing his arms. "And my answer was the same as it was yesterday. No! It was a rumour caused by an accident."

"I can treat you real nice," Litleo purred but received a stone gaze in response. "Sheesh," he said, rolling his eyes. "You really do need to get laid, but whatever."

Turning to bask in Sean's spluttering fury, Litleo pulled out a small sack. "It's in there if you want to inspect the goods."

He was grinning again, waiting as Sean was forced to step closer to reach into the bag. Litleo ran his tail up against Sean's leg, but he ignored it. Pulling out a magnificent red apple, Sean knew that this was perfect.

Smiling slightly at the accidental pun he had thought, Sean nodded. "This is it." Unable to resist, he added. "It's perfect, thank you."

The pun received the desired reaction as Litleo recoiled. "Wow. Woooow. I don't even know what to say to that!"

"Better than nothing but innuendos," Sean muttered.

"Maybe. I can make the night perfect for us both if you'd like~?"

Rolling his eyes, Sean set the apple down. This was a transaction after all. "Okay, what do you want for it?"

As frustrating as Litleo's advances had been on him yesterday, confirming that the rumour was spreading as well, the worst thing is that he refused to give a straight answer on what he wanted in return.

"What do you think?" Litleo grinned.

Other than THAT, of course.

"I'm not having sex with you," Sean said flatly. "What. Do you. Want?" He put the Treasure Bag down next to the perfect apple. "You can have your pick of stuff here."

Litleo pawed the Treasure Bag for a moment before pushing it off the bench. "Nah. I think you're desperate. Not the good kind of desperate, but it could become the good kind of desperate if you want?"

"Please stop," Sean snapped, toying with his bow in frustrated discomfort. "It's a rumour. That is it. That is all it is. Why do you even want to, er, with me anyway?"

Litleo rolled his eyes. "Wow you are fun to rile up, I gotta say." Grinning at him again, enjoying how he could see Sean physically holding his reaction in check, just amusing him more. "Hey, I'm not gonna force you. And fine if you're not interested in all this." He gestured to himself giving a provocative stretch. "Then you've got some weird tastes. Or you're into Shinx. Although pretty similar in body shape...?"

Sean's glare slowly intensified.

"Okay, fine, I have a new offer. That."

He pointed to Sean and the meowth sighed. "This isn't funny you know?"

"Not you." Litleo rolled his eyes. "Although…?" Sean was stone. "No? Fine. I mean the bow you're wearing."

"My bow?" Sean frowned, he hadn't expected that at all.

"Yep, take it, take it, or leave it."

Grimacing, Sean looked down feeling his bow with his paws. As much as he liked it, he was certain there was a power in it, Sean was confident there was no real reason that he needed to have it.

Thinking about Rai, he sighed and began to tug it loose.

"Yeah, take it off."

Sean paused to glare at Litleo but continued taking it off even as the lecherous Fire-type whistled at him.

"Here." He held the bow out, but Litleo grinned at him again.

"Put it on me pretty please, I don't have the paws for it."

Now really staring Litleo down, Sean took a measured step forwards and then another, ready for anything Litleo may try. The Fire-type waited patiently until Sean was tying the bow around his neck.

"Don't I look dashing?" Litleo asked, bouncing over to look in a little reflective orb. It gave Sean a chance to look around, Litleo's house was fairly small, not much to see beyond a closed chest and a bed with what looked like a sheet.

That looked nice. He hadn't seen those besides in the hospital wing.

Litleo finished admiring himself. "Would I? I look much better then you with this, I'm sure. Silver on white? Nah. Silver on me though."

Rolling his eyes at the vanity, Sean grabbed the perfect apple and put it in the Treasure Bag. "Pleasure doing business with you," he muttered and went to leave.

"Almost," Litleo answered. "But come back any time! We can take turns taking it off. I could wear the bow, you could wear this necklace I bou-"

Sean let the door shut behind him before letting the shudders out.

"Ugh, creep." He thought to himself as he began the trip back to the Wigglytuff Guild, quickening his pace to get away from Litleo faster, as well as worrying about the time he had wasted. He hoped this would work.

"Your bow," Rai said, finally spotting what was missing. "What happened to… you traded your bow for the apple?"

"Ah… yeah." Sean nodded, it was weird not wearing it anymore, he'd barely noticed it there before, now that it was gone he felt like he had lost something. "That was the only thing… the trader would trade for."

"Who was it?" Rai asked, exactly the opposite of what Sean was hoping for. "Maybe we can trade back for it. I've got some money, maybe that?"

"It's fine Rai." Sean waved him off. "Not a big deal. Not even a deal. I barely noticed it."

"But it's the only thing you had!" Rai insisted. "Who did you trade it to? Come on, just tell me."

"Litleo," Sean admitted, causing Rai to pause.

"Lit… Litleo?" he asked, Sean nodded. "You traded your bow to him? HE had the apple?"

"Yep," Sean said. "It's really not a big deal Rai. Just the luck of the draw, calming down Wigglytuff and making sure our chances for the expedition aren't ruined was much more important."

Rai frowned but didn't argue that point. "What was he even doing with a perfect apple?" Rai grumbled, not actually asking the question.

He slumped down on his bed, feeling sleepy, and not in the mood for any more talk. Sean slowly made his way onto a comfortable position on his own bed, even hungrier.

He wouldn't admit it to Rai, and the shinx hadn't even actually meant to have that question answered.

"Litleo, wandering off the Apple Woods. He mentioned that those days ago." Sean ruminated as he began to slip off to sleep.

Running into the bothersome pokémon yesterday had seemed like a problem, especially since Litleo had heard about his name accident, but he quickly remembered where Litleo said he was going the other day, and a quick question told him that yes, he was strong enough to get to the end of Apple Woods. Asking him to fetch a perfect apple hadn't been easy, the Fire-type coming onto him several times over the discussion.

He hadn't even been certain he'd actually do it. But it was his best chance at obtaining a perfect apple just in case. Without risking someone mentioning this odd plan to an apprentice and bringing questions down upon him.

Smiling at the confidence that he had won this one, Sean fell asleep. He knew Team Skull would have trouble to brew later on, but for now he was victorious.

Sean actually trying a little bit. How nice.

I like Litleo, he's fun to write.
Chapter 9 - Peace and Fun the Day


Bug Catcher
"Ahem, one last item before we commence with the day's activities."

The next day had come, and Sean and Rai were rather miserable. Neither had slept well, the aches and pains lingering from the thrashing they had received stung poorly as had Chatot's attitude.

They had managed to get something to eat, and neither had gotten into trouble, but it still hadn't been easy to sleep. For Rai, knowing he'd gotten his chance and been crushed. For Sean, knowing they needed the Relic Fragment but were too weak to take it back left him very nervous. Still, they trudged down to the guild assembly.

"Within the next few days," Chatot said, holding everyone's attention firmly, "the Guildmaster and I plan to announce the members of the expedition party."

"Wow!" Chimecho cheered.

"By golly," Bidoof said. "The members are finally going to be picked!"

"Meh-heh-heh, who do you think is going to be picked?"

"Wooooo! Can't wait."

"Everyone, this is your last chance to make a good impression on the Guildmaster. Work hard and impress us if you want to be chosen." Chatot nodded, giving the apprentices a moment to chatter amongst themselves. "All right, everyone. Let's get down to work as usual!"


Everyone dispersed, Wigglytuff joining the apprentices meandering as casually as they could towards the mess hall as Chatot turned to them both.

"Ah, you two," Chatot said, gesturing for them to come up to him. "Let us adjourn to the Guildmaster's chambers now, chop-chop."

The doors had been left open this time, and with no Wigglytuff.

Chatot kept his beak raised as the doors slipped shut and he turned to them. "I will offer my apologies for last night," he said stiffly. "I may have overreacted a tad."

"A tad," Rai echoed.

To his credit, Chatot didn't cringe. "Er. Yes. Ahem. As the second in command, it is my duty to meet with the apprentices first to ensure certain things need to be done or not. In my panic, I entirely broke protocol. I did not listen to the reasons you had or took consideration of your condition. For that, I am truly sorry."

Rai nodded, relaxing a bit. "Team Skull was there, sir," he said, adding the sir after a moment.

"Beat us up again," Sean said, still feeling the ache in his ribs. They had seen Chimecho, yes, but Sean was beginning to realise that the guild's reputation was actually serious. The first few days he recovered from damage with a bit of pokémon magic and a night of rest, but he could feel his body still aching, getting taxed from adventuring so far so often and fighting so many ferals. The Guild gave them one day off a week, he learned.

And he knew Rai had to be feeling worse considering he did most of the actual fighting. He was looking forward to the one day they got to have off to rest and recuperate. That was sorely needed.

Chatot's eyes darkened slightly but he held his composure better than last night. "I see. Chimecho has sent word to the Federation about this team, they will not remain so free to do as they please for much longer. They will be brought to justice!" Heat entered his voice and he swallowed it done.

"Besides that, are you two alright? The Guildmaster can be… frightful at times and I have not missed the fact that you no longer wear the ribbon the Guildmaster made for you?" he added, offering a pointed look to Sean.

"That's what I traded," Sean mumbled. "For the apple." Chatot's expression flickered briefly.

"Why did the Guildmaster do that?" Rai asked, having noticed the pointed lack of Wigglytuff in the room.

Chatot looked harsh for a brief moment, a reprimand likely on the tip of his tongue for Rai's cheek in asking that. He paused, however, looking at them both, and swallowed it.

"The Guildmaster is… a pokémon of habit, much like myself. Breaks in the routine run the risk of upsetting him, and unfortunately, the Guildmaster has a great deal of strength that he must spend every minute of everyday restraining. To think of the control the Guildmaster exhibits every day to ensure that none are hurt. A taxing quality that would be nearly impossible for anyone else to bear. The apple is in a way his reward for his work, it resets the tension so to speak. Without it, he can… grow upset and when he is upset his control begins to unravel."

There was something to his words. Something that sounded off.

Chatot looked like he had more he could say, but was choosing not to. A stiffness to his posture and slightly raised beak, his eyes firmly on them both. It wasn't their business to ask why Wigglytuff could unravel, that was clear.

Neither of them had reason to push, however, and so Chatot left the matter to be closed. "While you two DID fail in your task to obtain perfect apples from Apple Woods, you still went above and beyond to acquire an apple through other means. So, before you begin your allocated jobs today I believe you have some friends looking out for you."

He gestured a wing towards the door and there was a scuffle of sorts behind it. The door was pushed open by Chatot with a flourish.

Bidoof squeaked when he realised they had been spotted.

"Come over you three," Chatot said, voice almost smug with their reaction. "And Chimecho, Guildmaster?" he said to the head poking out of the mess hall. "You may bring the full plate out, there is no need for deception."

Slowly, almost guiltily, and certainly warily, most of the apprentices emerged from various spots they had hidden out of sight, or where standing to look casual. As well as Wigglytuff leaning against the Swap Cauldron trying to look like he was meant to be there.

Only Dugtrio wasn't there, already at work doing his task.

Chimecho floated out, a pair of plates hovering in her psychic grip, stacked with food. Bidoof and Sunflora also stepped forward, shooting Chimecho a surprised glance.

"You got them food from the larder?" Bidoof asked.

"Yeah," Chimecho admitted, embarrassed. "When Chatot and I inspected it, I thought I managed to sneak some stuff without him realising."

"Oh my gosh, Bidoof and I snuck some food off our plates to give them!"

Rai was blushing now and smiling widely, Sean unable to hold back a grin himself. It was heartening to know the others had their backs, Chatot too it seemed.

"It would be amiss of me to turn a blind eye to thievery and food stashing," Chatot said sharply, causing everyone to flinch. "But just this once there will be no punishment due to the motive involved. I am proud that you apprentices have such tight bonds."

He waved a wing at Sean and Rai who made sure to split the food among everyone as a sort of breakfast. Once they were done, which took a very short time, Sean worried he may have eaten too quickly. He only hiccupped thrice thankfully.

"Now get to work!" Chatot said, shooing everyone. "There are jobs to do and pokémon to assist. Get going."

Chatot made sure to stare them down as the apprentices scattered, but once everyone was gone, and no one in eyeshot, he let himself smile.

An hour or two after Rai and Sean left Treasure Town they were accosted.

"You two," Skuntank growled, voice low as he emerged from the bushes. "Come with me."

"No way," Sean said, ready to shout for help.

Koffing and Zubat flanked him, but they were near the guild and Rai was feeling bold. "Give me back my treasure and maybe you won't get arrested."

Skuntank glared at him, and he shifted under Rai's return stare. Flames sparked at his mouth, Sean was ready to leap in or race off to get help. Either way, he was hoping someone would come soon because they weren't strong enough to beat Team Skull.

Sean stepped closer to Rai as the shinx and skuntank stared each other down.

"What are you three even doing here?" Sean demanded. "You know we've told the guild what you've done. Team Skull is getting bounties as we speak. Give the Relic Fragment back."

Eventually, Skuntank scoffed. "I'm trying to have a dialogue with you here and you keep on repeating the same thing." He shook his head, agitated and began to stomp off.

Rai blinked, Koffing and Zubat shared a confused look, but Skuntank was already exiting the town.

"Wait?" Zubat said, glancing back between them and Skuntank. "Weren't we…?" Skuntank was already leaving.

"Boss wait up!"

The pair of Poison-type pokémon quickly hurried after their leader and the air was cleansed of their presence.

"That was… weird," Sean said, it seemed like the entire moment had occurred and resolved with no reasoning. He also couldn't remember that happening, which bothered him

"Did I mess something up?" Sean fretted as Rai slowly pulled him away and back into line with him. "Don't tell me the apple is going to mess everything up!"

While Sean worried about things that may never be, Rai did his best to go back to happy.

"Just forget about those three," he advised upon realising Sean was distracted. "They're not anything but trouble for us."

"Should we run back to town and let the guild know Team Skull is here?"

Rai nodded. "Yeah, we better. Ugh, we already came this far. I want to know why they just did that and then backed off. It doesn't matter though."

"I'm amazed you are so chipper this morning," Sean said, rubbing his jaw. It amazed him how fast pokémon recovered from brutal beatdowns, even now he only had a distant ache in his head and neck from Skuntank pounding him over the face yesterday. "My head still hurts."

"Don't remind me. I wish they'd just leave us alone."

"And take your treasure?"

Rai sighed. "I kind of think they don't have it anymore. Koffing and Zubat said they were going to sell it. They probably wouldn't have come back if they still had it."

Sean's mind slid briefly to the Rainbow Stoneship before he shook his head. "Nope. We have to find your treasure! If they don't have it, maybe we can find out who they sold it to?"

"And how are we going to do that?" Rai asked, expression flat. "They crushed us just yesterday, and I really don't think they are going to still have it."

"Don't make me be the optimistic one," Sean said, frowning at Rai. "I'm the one who's supposed to be looking on the bad side of things and you tell me everything will work out! This is all backwards and it's freaking me out!"

Rai laughed at him, causing the meowth to scoff in mock-outrage. "We'll find it again," he said as sternly as he could. "We have to."

"Why do you care so much?" Rai cocked his head at him. "It was my treasure after all."

Sean blushed a little, hating to be questioned off guard. He was once again thankful that fur covered his face. "Well, you know, you're my friend and it was, is, really important to you. I think. So, what friend would I be if I didn't think it was important?"

Rai smiled softly and averted his eyes. "Th-thanks. That means a lot to me."

Sean smiled back. "No worries. Let's just get to town and then back to work."


Rai's energy returned and they raced back towards the town. Rai was super-fast using Quick Attack, but Sean found he was actually about on par with him otherwise. He felt a bit silly running on two legs, a brief dysphoric experience as he fell onto all fours to race forth and take the lead.

He caught himself and stumbled, clambering back onto two to try and wipe that weird feeling away. His eye started getting caught by shines around him, he wanted to scout into the woods for adventure or mystery, but again shook that off.

"So, today we've got the Waterfall Cave to go back through," Rai chatted as they returned from the guild after letting them know. They briefly stopped when Spinda staggered in their path, giving a wave to three separate spaces that none of them occupied.

"Keep an eye on this place," Spinda said, circling where a large rock laid dormant. "I've got biiiig plans for this place. You'll see, it'll be a wonderful place. So magnificently magnificent…" His voice, as dizzy as his walk, was still pleasant to hear as he wandered off.

"Two pokémon in the dungeon," Sean said as he looked through the pair of jobs Rai had chosen for the day. "How did two pokémon get lost in the Waterfall Cave at the same time?"

"Dunno," Rai answered, giving a tail flick. "Don't think they know each other either. Floatzel's new around here."

They walked past the crossroads and on the way towards the wilds. Both members of Team Ion glanced in the direction of the house Litleo owned, but neither commentated on Sean's lack of a bow.

For about twelve seconds.

"We'll need to get you a new bow," Rai said, pointedly not looking left anymore. "What kind I don't know. Maybe a Defence Scarf like me?" He proudly jutted his chest forward, perhaps adding a centimetre more scarf Sean could see.

"I don't know." Sean rubbed his jaw in thought. "I don't think I can pull off the cute look as well as you do."

Rai's pride immediately turned to outrage. "I'm. Not. CUTE!" he yelled and tackled Sean. "I'm not, I'm not, I'm not! I'm the cool explorer Shinx! Not the cute one! You're the cute one!"

Sean laughed, pushing Rai off him before running forward. On all fours. "Saying that isn't helping," he chuckled, trying to put as much space between him and the shinx as possible.

As Rai knew Quick Attack, this was a futile endeavour.

After pinning him again, and making him agree Rai was not cute, Rai let him up and Sean brushed the twigs and leaves off him.

"Don't know why you even bother," Rai said airily.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You still haven't bathed yourself," Rai said, screwing his nose up. "And now I smell like you."

"I'm NOT licking myself," Sean replied. "Humans do NOT do that to clean."

"Well, what do they do?"

"Bathe! In water. Running water, a shower. Or a bath, you wouldn't have showers here. I scrubbed in the ocean anyway."

Rai cocked his head, Sean had to bite his tongue or else he'd call him cute again. "What's a shower?"

Sean frowned and tried to think. For a brief moment, he couldn't visualise what a shower was and it made his skin crawl. "Um… a room where you stand, and water falls down on you? But nicer than that."

"Sounds really weird," Rai said. "But baths could be done in a better place than the brine. There is a hot spring not too far. Maybe after we complete the job, we can go there?"

Sean's heart leaped into his throat. "YES!" he shouted, before realising just how loud he was. "Yes. That sounds great. Really great. Amazingly great."

On the inside he chastised himself. "Hot spring. DUH! I was literally thinking about it the first time we went to the Waterfall Cave. How did I forget? Ugh, it'll be so nice to be clean again."

"Sounds like a plan then," Rai said, swallowing an amused smile at just how happy the human-turned-meowth became at the notion of getting clean. "We better get going then."

"Sounds good." Sean nodded.

"Not 'great'?" Rai teased, unable to help himself. Sean smiled eventually after trying to hold a dark expression.

"Just a minute you two!"

Only for both of their expressions to turn sour at the familiar voice.

They spun towards the direction the voice came from, to the side off the path, and tensed as Zubat came flapping up to them. Sean nearly attacked on reflex, his fur puffing up as he was surprised.

"Finally," Zubat moaned. "You know how hard it is to find someone when you have no eyes? Luckily I can smell you just fine." Sean flushed at the jab as Rai stepped forward.

"What do YOU want?" he snarled, not wanting to deal with this. "Trying to distract us so that the other two goons can sneak up on us? Just go away! Leave us alone, dammit!"

Sean was already looking around, keeping a close vigil on any potential areas Skuntank or Koffing could come out of.

"Look," Zubat said. "They don't know I'm here. They think I just doubled back to grab a mushroom I sensed." Under his breath, he added. "And I don't have eyes so what do they even think…? Whatever. I'm here because I want to talk to you two."

"I'm not interested in talking to you," Rai snapped back. "So, unless you're here to give me back my Relic Fragment, get lost!" He was sparking with electricity. "Or we could take you down and bring you in, one of three."

Zubat sighed, briefly covering his face with a wing before it went back to flapping in the air. "Look, I get that thing is important to you," he said, making Rai growl. "But I AM here to talk to you about it. Boss wanted to earlier, but you really don't like us."

"Can you guess why?" Sean said, equally as done with this entire situation.

"Yeah, yeah, we're jerks, bullies, bad guys. Whatever. I've heard it all before. If the two of you would get over yourselves and listen to me, you might learn something you need to know."

Sean and Rai exchanged a look. Neither was prepared for Zubat to appear so suddenly nor to be claiming to just want to talk. Sean nodded slightly, and Rai turned back to Zubat.

"Alright fine," he said. "What do you have to say?"

"Hey, I don't HAVE to say this," Zubat snapped. "I'm doing it out of the kindness of my heart." He ignored the twin snorts that came from the pair. "Not long after we hocked that rock with the weird picture, there have been pokémon around, coming up to us, and asking really weird questions. A couple of sableye, seemed like the shifty kind."

Sean frowned, Rai looked baffled, and Zubat turned from left to right. "None of them mentioned the rock exactly, but asked stuff about patterns, symbols, treasures, stuff like that. Weird stuff that seemed too specific to be coincidental."

"Who?" Sean asked.

"Heck if I know," Zubat answered. "Boss wouldn't talk much about it, he was the only one who officially met with buyers, and told us to avoid anyone asking about it."

Sean and Rai exchanged another look, much more concerned this time. "Why were they asking about my treasure? If they even were," Rai asked.

"I don't know okay?" Zubat snapped angrily. "All I know is that there were a lot of weird questions. 'Was it destroyed'? 'Who had it before'? 'Where did you get it'? Boss wouldn't talk about it, but if he was going to ask YOU about it, then there must be something off about it all. Boss always knows when a buyer is off or suspicious in some way."

"Takes one to know one," Rai muttered, Zubat again pretended he hadn't heard that.

"Fine. I don't know what you're talking about," Rai said, turning away. "And I really doubt it was about my Relic Fragment, I found it in Amp Plains. I know you three are thieves of more than just my treasure, you probably just have a reputation that these pokémon followed."

Sean hesitated longer than Rai, glancing between him and Zubat. "Why would you even warn us of this?" he asked, not wanting this opportunity to just go.

"Team Skull aren't a bunch of sappy good-doers," Zubat snapped, turning away himself. "But when something is skeeving out the boss enough for him to try and give you guys a warning, then I know it's worse than it seems. Just… be careful, alright?"

"Alright," Sean answered as he nodded. "Thank you," he added, more out of politeness than anything, but Zubat still looked surprised.

"Heh-heh-heh, whatever. This conversation never happened."

Sean and Rai walked in solid silence for a few minutes, going over what Zubat had said. It was Rai who broke the silence. "So, I was thinking maybe a joy ribbon for you?" he said lightly. "Because you get smacked around so much in dungeons, those things make you even stronger for going through that kind of stuff!"

"Sounds good," Sean agreed, absentmindedly feeling where he used to wear his silver bow. "Anything that'll help."

Sableye... that left him not feeling good.

Skuntank coughed pitifully as he tried to breathe. His legs burned as he did his best to stand, managing to pull himself onto all fours. He gasped as he was kicked in the side and crashed back down on the ground.

"B-boss," Koffing cried. "Ugh." He could barely float, bruises littered his lumpy skin. Zubat was completely unconscious. He had flown in with a screech when happening upon this scene, but his surprise attack had failed to startle their attacker at all.

Koffing put everything he had into moving and began floating to Skuntank's side. "Boss!"

He cringed as the green blade of their assailant turned to him.

"Stop," Skuntank demanded, freezing both pokémon. "Koffing, go. Zubat!" he barked, repeating the bat's name thrice before he stirred. "Get up and get lost. Both of you."

Skuntank pulled himself to his feet again, mouth burning with flames, and he breathed a near inferno at their enemy.

Their green assailant artfully dodged out of the way, before running a circle around Skuntank until he could fire no longer. Zubat and Koffing were gone, having taken Skuntank's orders and fled while they had the chance. Leaving him.

The assailant came to a stop, lighting one of their arms in a blade of green energy. "It seems you do have some honour," Grovyle said as he began to approach slowly. Skuntank was gasping for breath now, unable to hold himself steady. Grovyle waited until Skuntank's strength left him and he slumped back on the ground. "Covering for those two."

"What do you want?" Skuntank growled, glaring at Grovyle even as the world seemed to spin.

"Three things," Grovyle answered, stepping closer. The claws on one hand glinted dangerously as he reached Skuntank. "The first you can't give me, the second you seem unable to give me. The third." Grovyle reached down and grabbed Skuntank's head, lifting it up as the deadly pokémon groaned. "Tell me about that meowth."

"What?" Skuntank asked.

"The meowth with the shinx. Who are they?"

"Team Ion," Skuntank growled. "Grr, you're with those freaks asking about that stupid r-" Grovyle raised his blade to Skuntank's neck, and he stopped. "Fine. Bony little bastard."

"Skinny is he?" Grovyle asked. "What else?"

"What does it matter?"

"Just tell me."

"Scars. Lots of them. Sticks to the shinx like glue, and can't fight for shit. Tough little bastard though."

Grovyle nodded and seemed to think.

"Why do you care about what some pair of losers are?" Skuntank asked, forelegs scrabbling to gain purchase as he tried to pull back from Grovyle. "Why attack us over it? What is it worth to you?"

"I'm not interested in questions, Skuntank," Grovyle said, letting go of Skuntank and letting his head slump back down. Skuntank grunted softly as he was freed. "Only your cooperation. Now. Run. Do not come back. Touch them again I'll finish the job."

"Fine." Skuntank relented, waiting for Grovyle to grab the items out of the bag he wore. Robbing him blind was he?

Once he was done, Grovyle stood like a dashing thief. "Thank you Skuntank. Now leave. And take my advice," he said as Skuntank began to drag himself off. "Don't speak of this to anyone. We'll know."

Skuntank sneered at him, but a small glint of fear still shone in his eyes. Skuntank quickly staggered off and Grovyle sighed; it hadn't been his desire to have to be so rough, but he had to be sure Team Skull would not pose an unacceptable risk.

He looked over what Skuntank had owned, before stashing it carefully in his Treasure Bag. He looked west, the direction that Treasure Town laid, it was time to pay a certain famous guild a visit.

"I'm just saying it might be a bit difficult to carry both of them around if they're injured."

Sean and Rai's feet echoed constantly through the Waterfall Cave, splashing loudly on the wet floor.

They both avoided the water channels that existed in the dungeon. Rai still couldn't swim, and Sean hoped that he'd never have to swim through a dungeon again.

Part of him had an aversion to water. He blamed the species he now was.

After two hours of searching, they found nothing.

Rai, not to be dissuaded, took them to the last room, turned around, exited the dungeon, and then they went through it again.

The second go-around ended up being equally fruitless as the first.

Still, smiling fixedly with one eye twitching, Rai brought them through it again. It was exhausting at that point. Thankfully few of the enemy pokémon attacked them, many still being beaten or dissuaded from attacking earlier.

"What did the requests say again?" Rai asked wildly. "Are we even in the right place?"

Sean dug the pair of requests out of the Treasure Bag and read them out.

"Help, my daughter Cherubi has disappeared. She said she wanted to visit the Waterfall Cave and I let her because of the type advantage, but she hasn't returned. I feel terrible, but I'm not fast enough to get there quickly. Please someone save her ~ Cherrim."

"She should be here," Rai said. "What about the other one?"

"So, my sort of rival has been gone for a while. He's been acting a bit weird, but I heard him mutter about that new dungeon, Waterfall Cave, today and I think he might have gone there. Can someone check, just to see if he's alright? Help him if he needs help ~ Clauncher."

"Ugh. Let's keep looking."

They spent nearly four hours going through the dungeon, combing each aspect of it that they could, using moves to try and get them to respond, and Sean even swam through some murky water into multiple dead ends.

"This is bullshit!" Sean swore as they found no cherubi or floatzel yet again.

"I don't know what 'bullshit' means," Rai snapped. "But if it's a swear word then I'll say it too!"

"Tauros-shit then!"



After screaming at the walls, they broke into weary laughter. "This is just madness," Sean said. "Doing this over and over and expecting something different. It's late, I'm tired, you must be exhausted. We're not going without Cherubi though, how young is this pokémon?"

"Pretty young," Rai said in worry.

Sean only groaned in reply.

One more search still yielded no results.

"That's it," Sean snapped, grabbing Rai by the tail and dragged him along. "Maybe they found a way out, let's look outside."

Rai didn't resist and swiftly walked himself. "This sucks," he moaned. "We can't be looking bad at this point."

"The perfect apple will be enough," Sean assured him. "That looked good for us. Chatot was relieved, he'll probably think of us when thinking about the expedition, and Wigglytuff definitely will."

"…Alright. I'm worried about Cherubi too."

They entered the final room, and Rai sighed in relief and turned to leave.

"Wait," Sean said, stopping him in his tracks. "We haven't actually gone into the last room. Didn't Loudred yell something about some big gem? What if that's still here?"

"And if we get it!" Rai squeaked, dashing forward. "It'll look SO good."

Sean watched in disbelief as the shinx found reserves of energy to run with, before slowly moving after him at a sedate walk.

"Holy moly, look at this place?" Rai called from up ahead, Sean hastened his walk slightly.

Even his weary attitude was blown away by the gem room. Glinting stones glimmered from every surface, being lit by means Sean would never understand. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topazes, and much more shone from every angle and he was momentarily blinded with a sheer desire of WANT.

WANT the ruby. Eat good.

WANT the topaz. Look good.

WANT the dusky quartz. Give to F-

"Look at that thing!" Rai called, his voice snapping Sean out of the fit of avarice that was consuming him. Only to draw him in all the further when he set his eyes on the master gem.

A gigantic pink stone. He wasn't sure what kind it was, a light ruby, rose quarts, whatever it was didn't matter as he was drawn in by its shimmering glory.

Rai's words melted away into an inaudible chatter as Sean stepped closer. Thought had left him, all he could see was the gem and his own visage reflected in it.

Rai was still talking, voice muffled to Sean's ears, growing slightly concerned in pitch when Sean stepped up right to the stone. He wasn't thinking, thinking was a foreign concept to him now. He hugged the stone, and it moved in with a click.

That click suddenly returned Sean's wits and he blinked a few times as a new rushing sound began to fill his ears. "Oh." Was all he managed to say before a tidal wave was upon them.

"Seeean! You know what that does!"

Sean enjoyed swimming as a human. He had swum in pools and creeks, water holes and sculpted swimming pools. He had been in deep water several times, falling off a boat, diving too far into a waterhole, and had been caught in a rip and dragged out into the ocean.

Rai, however, had not. He did not know how to swim with anything more than instincts.

While Sean scrambled in the water to find some purchase to kick off from, Rai flailed and only managed to wiggle in place.

Eyes stinging, Sean opened them to spot the dark shape that was Rai in the dark caves waterway. He tried to swim closer to him, but the pull of the rapids and the burning in his lungs made it exceptionally difficult.

He saw Rai's terrified expression for a brief moment and doubled his attempts, slowing his own pull to let Rai come to him.

He reached out a paw, grabbed Rai, and lost his grip. Without taking the time to curse his three-digit stubby paws, Sean tried again, extending the claws and snaring Rai's fur. He felt something against him and grabbed with his other paw, claws digging into Rai's scruff and drawing blood. He had him.

Rai writhed against him, but his panicked eyes fell on him and realised it was Sean. He stopped fighting him and let Sean pull them upwards, up until their heads broke the top of the water. They both breathed in deeply and desperately before the water pulled them under again.

Sean refused to let Rai go, cutting him multiple times, as they came up for air before being dragged down. After what seemed like an age, but actually took a mere ten minutes, they were blasted upwards and into the open air.

"BRACE!" Sean screamed as they fell, clutching onto Rai in terror and simply hoping they landed safely.

Hitting the water from their height, and into a shallow pool, was not among Sean's favourite experiences in life. He actually rated it rather low on the list. Thankfully a pokémon's body was much tougher than a human's and was less prone to the effects of physics. After resurfacing, they were shaken, but relatively fine.

"Oh my, that was quite a fall." A laboured, yet still strong, voice said. Neither Sean nor Rai paid it much attention, merely floating in place as they tried to remember how to pokémon again.

"I'm so sorry." Was all Rai managed to say.

"Not fun," Sean agreed. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I'm not looking forward to swimming again. Or ever."


Blinking, they began to resurface to the realm of the aware and looked around. They were seated in a pleasantly warm hot spring, with a few pokémon staring at them.

Sean's adrenaline-infused mind didn't quite register who was what, but Rai at least recognised someone.

"Teddiursa?" he asked, slowly spinning until he was no longer floating on his back but standing on all fours. "What are you doing… here? Where are we? Wait."

"You are at the hot spring," the voice from earlier said, drawing their attention. Standing on a raised element of the heated rock, was an ancient torkoal. "Now are you alright? That was quite a fall." His voice was aged, yet strong.

"Two in one day," another pokémon, a mankey, said. "Well, two events. Four pokémon."

"Well this is what we were talking about before," Rai said, completely coming too. "Wow. We're at the hot springs? This place is ages from Waterfall Cave!"

"Quite the distance indeed," Torkoal agreed. "Seems to be a popular event these days since it was rediscovered." He seemed unenthused at the idea, hitting people with floods was maybe a bit dangerous.

"Meowth pulled us both up," Rai said happily, pointing right at Sean. "Saved my life! Thanks so much."

"It's nothing," Sean said, blushing. "You would have done the exact same thing."

"But I don't know how to swim." Rai chirped before grimacing. "Although, ow. Your claws are really sharp."

He turned his head, trying to see the back of his neck, and giving Sean a direct shot at the blood.

"Oh dear," Torkoal gasped. "Young pokémon, do not overtax your bodies. You should stay here for a time, soak in the waters. There are healing powers here, it will likely help that wound."

"Good idea." Rai nodded, sinking just enough to cover his neck. "Ah… and hey, we were going to come here anyway! What luck huh, Sean?"

Sean didn't respond.

"Sean? Oh, heh."

Sean was blissfully scrubbing himself down. Once Torkoal told Rai to stay put to deal with the scratches, Sean had realised he was in nice warm non-salty water and was taking this opportunity to the fullest.

It felt wonderful to get clean again. And it didn't come with hairballs either.

They remained in the hot springs for nearly half an hour before the topic of why they were here came up again.

"And we just couldn't find either of them!" Rai grumbled from the edge of the water. He bounced back from nearly drowning quite quickly, but he still wasn't keen on going too far. "I have no idea. You didn't see a cherubi or floatzel pop out of the sky, did you?" Rai chuckled, but no one joined in.

"Uh, yes," Teddiursa answered, after the moment nearly turned awkward. Both Sean and Rai's eyes snapped wide, and they turned their attention solely on Teddiursa.

"When did this happen?" Torkoal's voice took on an edge of hardness. He had been asleep most of the day.

"Mankey said…?" Teddiursa looked towards the pokémon.

"Only about half an hour before these two did."

Rai bolted up as Sean waded closer. "Are you serious?" Rai gasped as Sean said.

"They were together?"

"Yeah." Mankey nodded, looking a little uncomfortable. "I didn't think of anything before, we know Floatzel." There was a muttering of agreement.

"Why didn't you say something earlier?" Teddiursa's companion, Ursaring, asked.

Mankey sank in slightly, embarrassed. "I, uh… didn't want to make a scene, I was the only one here and Torkoal was sleeping. Cherubi seemed a bit dazed, I didn't know if I should say anything or not."

Sean and Rai exchanged a glance, the same conclusion coming to mind as they began to worry. "What direction did they go?" Sean asked, hoping Mankey would say towards Treasure Town.

"That way." The little bear pokémon pointed, and Sean saw Rai's face drop. That wasn't towards Treasure Town.

"We have to go," Rai said, splashing out of the water. "Now!"

"Right," Sean said, splashing to his side. He scooped up the Treasure Bag from where he placed it and they raced off, ignoring Torkoal and Ursaring calling after them.

"This can't be as bad as I'm thinking?" Sean asked as they ran. "Right? Pokémon are all happy-go-lucky, sunshine and friendship. They're not like…" Yet as Sean said it, Drowzee came to mind. Weepinbell came to mind. Darkrai came to mind.

"Let's just hope we aren't too late," was all Rai said, and they spoke no longer as they sprinted.

With an hour lead, neither was sure they'd be able to even catch up to floatzel and cherubi, but they had to try. If only for peace of mind.

Rai slowed for a period to examine some dried tracks, a long, thin foot. "These are floatzel tracks," he said, and they were off again.

They sprinted, then ran, then walked, and sprinted again. They reached a split in the road, and Sean immediately took them to the left. Rai called after him but followed soon enough anyway. He couldn't explain why, but stopping was not an option, and he had to find floatzel.

They sprinted, then ran, then sprinted again, before Sean slowed them to a walk. He was breathing too hard to stop for words, but both of them muffled themselves regardless as they walked up to a clearing.

"Do you have it?"

"Right here."

Peering out from behind a tree, Sean's eyes narrowed. He spotted two pokémon. A staraptor and a floatzel. And the floatzel was holding a sack that moved.

"I want to see-" Staraptor's demands would go unheard as Sean and Rai emerged from the trees, breathing hard and scowling deeply.

"Is this a set-up?" Staraptor squawked furiously, but Floatzel hissed and stepped back himself.

"I have no idea who those two are," he said, narrowing his eyes. "What are you two doing here?"

"What is in that bag," Sean said, voice low and dripping with malice.

"None of your business," Floatzel snapped back. The bag, or the pokémon inside the bag, quickly squealed.


The terrified scream sent both members of Team Ion straight into action. Sean went first, rushing forwards in a blind charge.

Floatzel tossed the bag to the side as Staraptor squawked and flapped into the air. A Thundershock from Rai nearly knocked him out of the sky, while Sean slammed into Floatzel's belly while lashing out with his claws.

A thin white line, yet no blood, was drawn on Floatzel before he responded, striking Sean as he was knocked back with a ring of water. The Water Pulse dazed him badly as it knocked him even further, but he shook the effects off fast enough to avoid a second one.

Judging him to be an easier target, Staraptor swooped down with a foot outstretched. Sean didn't have the ability to evade a second time and received a stunningly powerful kick to the chest. He felt it in a heartbeat, Staraptor moving so fast to strike him multiple times with feet, wings, and beak.

"So that's what a super effective move feels like." Briefly flitted through Sean's mind as he was knocked back into a tree. The attack was devastating, but left Staraptor in a position to be attacked by an even more furious Rai and he pushed every ounce of Power into his attack.

Rai used Thunderbolt.

Staraptor was blown back, jerking in agony as he crashed into Floatzel, and both tumbled down in a twitching pile of electrified limbs.

Rai rushed to Sean's side, but the meowth was already getting up. "DOWN!" he shouted, leaping to tackle Rai out of the way of a speeding floatzel.

Floatzel, wrapped in a wreath of water, bounced off a tree and came around for a second shot. Rai charged forward, summoning the same power he had earlier and used a second Thunderbolt. Floatzel howled in pain, but he was merely a distraction.

Staraptor came at Rai from behind, aiming for a healing wound on his neck. Sean leaped in the way and took a second Close Combat attack to the chest. This time, however, he grabbed Staraptor's other foot and refused to let go even as the deadly Flying-type battered him with his wings.

He was able to hold him for nearly ten whole seconds, struggling against the strength of the massive bird, throwing a paw up and punching him repeatedly. His bag flapped as it was knocked open, he snatched an item out of the air and slammed it into Staraptor.

The blast seed exploded and knocked them apart.

Sean rolled to a stop, right by the tossed bag, and weakly tried to crawl over to it. From the inside, he could hear crying, and the bag was still moving. "Are you okay?" he whispered, reaching the clasp of the bag. He managed to open it, ignoring the sounds of battle continuing, and a cherubi rolled out.

"H-Help me?" she whispered, and Sean nodded. Cherubi sobbed and scooted closer. "You're hurt."

"I'm fine," he answered, feeling a wave of emotion cross over him. Her voice, it struck a bolt through his heart. She sounded terrifyingly like his niece.

"Where's my mommy?" she whimpered, flinching back as a clap of electricity spooked her. Sean turned back to the battle, Rai was doing well to fight them, but he couldn't continue alone for very long.

"I want my mommy," Cherubi cried again. "I want my gacko. I want my gacko."

Sean's heart clenched painfully as Cherubi continued to cry. "She's a little child," he thought as he got to his feet. His claws on his right paw unsheathed as Sean's thoughts turned darker. "A child, and what were they going to do with her?" His claws began dripping with purplish darkness as Sean's mind went blank.

Sean's other paw extended its claws as the cold hatred gripped his heart, channelling powers he had no idea of. Both claws were gripped with darkness ringed in purple and the darkness began to extend, shaping into triple sabres each that extended far beyond his claws.

"MONSTERS!" He roared and burst forward with speed unprecedented for himself. Rai briefly saw him coming and stunned Floatzel, giving Sean an opening to pounce on Staraptor.

Staraptor screeched in pain as Sean's blades cut into his wing, through flesh, and nearly severing bone. His other paw came around as Staraptor flapped back and delivered a brutal slash from his face to his chest.

"SCREW THIS!" Staraptor shrieked and flapped out of reach, quickly making his way up and away as fast as his injured wing could carry him. Sean hissed after him, but the problem was not yet dealt with.

"Watch out!" Rai yelled, not in time to spare Sean from being struck in the back of the head. He fell to the ground as Cherubi cried out again, witnessing the underhanded blow.

Rai's own temper snapped, moving from explosive rage to steely rage and he unleashed a voltaic storm on Floatzel, blowing him back into a tree, then through the tree. The large tree crashed down, burning thanks to the electricity, as Floatzel completely lost consciousness.

Rai breathed heavily, having expended far more energy and Power than he ever thought this day would take. He quickly came to Sean's side, but Sean growled. "Cherubi?" And Rai quickly rushed to her side as well.

"Hey, hey, hey," Rai soothed, trying to calm the crying pokémon. "It's alright. It's fine. You're safe now. You're safe now. Hear me? Say it after me. I'm safe now."

"I-I'm safe now."

"I'm safe now."

"I…I'm safe now."

"You're safe now."

"I'm safe now."

"You're okay," Rai said, curling an arm carefully around her. It wasn't easy, being a large berry, but Cherubi seemed to appreciate it all the same.

"What happened here?"

Sean's overprotective instincts flared again when an unknown voice entered the clearing, and he was up again with black sabres on his right arm.

Ursaring quickly raised his hands. "Woah, woah, woah." Teddiursa peaked around Ursaring's legs and Sean blinked, recognising them as Not-Enemy. "Teddiursa and I came after you after Teddiursa convinced me something was wrong with Floatzel."

"Floatzel took Cherubi," Rai answered before glancing down at Cherubi. "Right?"

"Y-yeah," she answered, relaxing slightly now that it was safe. "I was exploring the new place, Waterfall Cave, and he was so nice and friendly, offering to help me around, and then wanted me to meet his friend. He seemed so nice, he promised he would take me back home right after."

Ursaring's expression turned dark, and he stomped his way to where Floatzel lay.

"I'm glad you're alright," Teddiursa said, rushing over to hug Cherubi. "You're alright? You're alright?" Mankey also popped his head out of the bushes nervously, taking in the battle and spotting Cherubi.

"Mankey also pointed the way to where Floatzel had gone," Rai said, smiling at the upset bear. "If it wasn't for him, I'm not sure we would have made it in time."

Cherubi didn't speak, she just pressed into Teddiursa's hug, and they both began to cry. Rai stepped back, letting them cry together, and waited by them as Sean came over.

"I think Ursaring's going to carry Floatzel back to Treasure Town with us," he said, pointing to where Ursaring now had the criminal slung over a shoulder.

"You two are exhausted and can't be leaving this criminal here, free," Ursaring snarled but made an effort to speak softer when Cherubi flinched. "So, I'll carry the lowlife for you."


"Thank you."

Mankey backed away, letting them past as he glanced between them all. He sighed softly, sadly, and followed.

Arriving back in Treasure Town was interesting. Cherrim had been pacing nervously around the entrance to Treasure Town, keeping an eye on the guild and the crossroads, and upon spotting her daughter, immediately rushed over crying in relief.

"Oh, my cherubi, my cherubi," she cried, leaves opening enough to embrace her daughter. "What happened?" she asked, repeating the question more forcefully when Cherubi burst into tears, and she spotted Floatzel being carried like a sack.

"This lowlife tried to kidnap her," Ursaring growled, causing Cherrim to freeze.

Cherrim uttered a soft, "No."

"I'm sorry miss," Rai said, stepping closer. "He did and tried to sell her to a staraptor out far beyond the hot springs."

"Cherubi?" Cherrim asked, glancing down at her daughter, hoping this was just a lie.

Cherubi burst into tears again, pressing against her mother. "I'm so sorry. I was so scared, I didn't know what was happening, and he seemed so nice, and he said he'd take me back, but he didn't."

Cherrim began to cry herself, pressing against her daughter. Rai shared a look with Sean before looking back to Cherrim. "Miss we are going to contact Officer Magnezone right away," he said, nodding to Ursaring to continue walking up to the guild with Teddiursa by his side. "He'll be in a lot of trouble for this."

Cherrim stopped crying long enough to start, before staring at the back of Ursaring, and the unconscious face of Floatzel. "That's…?"

Her bud began to glow as she softly pushed Cherubi to the side. "Put him down, I will finish this myself." She began to charge a Solar Beam, even in the dying light of dusk her will would gather all the power she needed.

"Miss no!" Rai cried, jumping to her side. "Let the authorities deal with this!"

"He tried to take my daughter," Cherrim replied calmly, still charging. "I'm not going to just let him go."

"Miss what he has coming to him will be worse than just a Solar Beam!" Rai tried to appeal to that area.

"I'm not intending on 'just' a Solar Beam."

"Miss!" Rai scrambled for a purchase. It was difficult to try and defend Floatzel, a big part of him felt this was entirely justified, but he wouldn't stand by to let her kill.

"Your daughter needs you right now." Sean's voice cut across the situation, and Cherrim hesitated. She glanced to the side, where Cherubi was still crying, but now looking desperately for her mother. Cherrim's bud slowly closed.

"Make sure he is punished," she said softly, brushing a leaf alongside Cherubi. "I'll be in next morning to properly thank you. For now, I just want to be with my daughter."

She quickly left, and the pair sighed in relief. They nodded to Teddiursa, who had been glancing back worriedly, before following them up to the guild.

It would be an interesting meeting with the authorities. That was to be certain.

The day was done. The jobs completed. The outlaws were given over to the authorities. The apprentices had all gathered for dinner, waiting for Chimecho to call them in.

Bidoof came wandering down cheerfully. "I got some new knock-knock jokes to share! Anyone up for one?"

Sunflora sighed and waved a leaf. "This another collection from Bell?"


"Go ahead."


"Who's there?" Dugtrio muttered.


Rai quirked his mouth. He felt like he'd heard this one before. "Snow who?" he asked. Corphish nodded to him.

"Snow laughing manner!"

Wigglytuff laughed. A few others smiled, but that was it.

"Hello?" A rather deep voice echoed distantly, Chatot and Loudred perked up curious.

"What could that be?" he muttered. "Diglett, sentry!"

"Pokémon detected!" Diglett squeaked excitedly and disappeared. "Pokémon… detected?" The change in his tone sent everyone back on edge.

"Who IS IT?" Loudred demanded.

"The footprint is Grovyle. The footprint is Grovyle."

Sean stiffened.

"Visitors at this hour?" Chatot muttered, looking over the outlaw notices. "I will go up and ask what he wants."

"Grovyle huh?" Loudred muttered, disappointed. He glanced to his helper sheet of outlaws and rolled his eyes.

"What do you want?" he requested firmly. "As you can see the guild is closed for the day."

Grovyle smiled genially on the other side and held out a hand. "I have come with information pertaining to Team Skull, if this is not a bad time?"

Chatot raised his beak, considering it for a moment. "Very well. Come in." He opened the gate, letting Loudred through before letting it shut again. "Everyone's down on the lowest floor waiting for dinner to arrive. You will not, I repeat will not be discourteous to the Guildmaster."

"I have always wished to meet an explorer as great as him," Grovyle said lightly as they began to walk. "And have heard much about his number two as well."

Chatot blinked and fought a blush, he was rarely acknowledged in Wigglytuff's legend. As was the way, they didn't need to draw attention to the other either. Still, it was nice when it happened so he was a little flustered already.

They came down to the lower floor and Chatot gestured with a wing.

Sean, feeling panic grip his very soul, did his best to hide behind Rai without looking like he was hiding. Grovyle's eyes drifted over the whole guild, taking in the curious expressions shot his way, before landing on Wigglytuff.

"I take it you are Guildmaster Wigglytuff," Grovyle said and Sunflora and Chimecho immediately swooned at the voice. Even Rai and Sean shivered slightly, and Sean's mind immediately went to interesting places.

Wigglytuff, with a new person around, and being directly addressed, bounced right up onto his feet and immediately clamped onto Grovyle, startling him. "I am Wigglytuff!" He beamed, shaking Grovyle's entire arm. "It is nice to meet you, friendly friend!"

Sean had to smother a laugh at the sheer look of bafflement that Grovyle was sporting as he was rattled by the handshake. He covered it up very quickly, though, and smiled. "It is nice to meet you myself. I have heard a great deal about you Guildmaster, although I wished to have met you under better times."

Wigglytuff's smile dimmed slightly as Grovyle pulled himself free. "I ran across a trio of troublemaking pokémon identified as Team Skull out near Sicilly. I did not realise who they were until a while after I had passed by them, and thus had to come straight to the guild to inform you."

"Sicilly?" Wigglytuff murmured. "That's on the way towards Craggy Coast." He shared a significant look with Chatot who nodded. "Yay! Thank you, friendly friend!" He then hugged Grovyle, to his apparent horror.

That was really hard for Sean not to laugh hysterically at. What was going on?

"Oh, this could be great!" Wigglytuff went hyper again and clamped back onto Grovyle, causing the same look of sheer bafflement. "We're going on an expedition soon, to Fogbound Lake, it's going to be fun, and exciting, and mysterious, and fun, fun, fun! AND it's in that direction! Oooh! Will you join us? Will you? Will you? Will you?"

Grovyle's expression of astonishment clearly didn't need to be faked at how quick of a turn of events that took. "I, uh." He blinked before regaining his calm. "I would be honoured to lend my assistance to the great Wigglytuff Guild."

"YES!" Wigglytuff cheered, grabbing Grovyle in a tight hug. Grovyle's expression turned to a brief moment of panic, but it was missed completely when Wigglytuff tossed him in the air.

"Three cheers for Grovyle!"

The guild cheered each time until Wigglytuff finally let Grovyle down.

"I… had best be going," he said, catching his breath and backing away. "I should not intrude any further on your time." He bowed his head but was putting distance with every word. Sean held his breath as Grovyle's eyes passed over him and he swore they stopped for a moment.

"If you'll forgive the intrusion, I'll see you tomorrow?" Grovyle asked.

"Of course, of course!" Wigglytuff cheered. "We need to get to know our new friend first!"

"Yes," Chatot agreed, going along with Wigglytuff's madness with ease. "We will need to adjust plans to accommodate this new arrival. So, we'll expect to see you bright and early, Grovyle."

"I am an early riser," Grovyle assured, giving a charming smile with his handsome voice. "Again, I'll be honoured to work with you. I think I'll need a night to process this."

"We have beds here!" Wigglytuff immediately said. "My room; and Team Ion has space in their room too!"

Grovyle glanced towards Sean and Rai for a brief moment before shaking his head. "No, no. That is more than alright, I have already organised my bed for the night."

"Aww," Wigglytuff moaned but perked up right after. "Alright! We'll see you tomorrow friendly friend!"

"Indeed." Grovyle nodded. "I look forward to it."

And then, as quickly as he arrived, he was gone.

Wigglytuff hummed a merry tune as everyone surged into the mess hall. Already spirits were raised greatly with this news. Chatot forewent his planned announcement before dinner and just had everyone dig in.

Afterwards, the guild had gone to bed in high spirits. A new person to join the guild, and everyone knew the Guildmaster was an excellent judge of character at that!

The apprentices all shared pleased goodnights and went to bed happily.

One pokémon, however, was not so relieved.

"That was a bit odd, but so is Wigglytuff," Rai said as he curled up on his bed.


"And he saw Team Skull? Maybe with the whole guild we can catch them. Even if they sold my treasure, they could tell us who they sold it to."

"Sounds good."

"Goodnight, Sean."

"Night, Rai."

Rai was happy. But Sean was not.

"Ahhhhh…" he screamed on the inside, desperately trying to hold it in so he wouldn't freak Rai out. As that would cause questions he couldn't answer. "What is going on? WHAT IS GOING ON? Why is Grovyle here? That wasn't supposed to happen. He looked at me. He looked right at me and stared. Just for a moment. I bet no one else noticed, but I did. Does he know? How would he know? I haven't even seen him, have I?"

Panicking further, he went deeper. "Oh my god. Oh. My. GOD. Wait. Wait. Could I have told him The Truth during the part of the future I don't remember? Would I? I don't know. Maybe? I don't remember. Would I have told him? The situation was pretty serious. Is that enough? Did I tell him where I would end up? But why wouldn't he have come for me sooner? Or… wait, I would have told him I would lose my memory, right? Ah. But. But. BUT. What's going on? I don't know. I WOULD have told him not to come here, so why the hell is he here. WHY THE HELL IS HE HERE?"

These were questions Sean couldn't answer. Everything up to this point had been handled fairly well, no severe differences in the story he was expecting.

This. This however, Sean had never seen coming. But as much as he wanted to sleep and just let this be a nightmare, the reality was irrefutable.

Grovyle was joining the expedition.

Ah good times. Not for Sean, he's not ready for things to jump out of his idea of the plot just yet. Even though this has been the case from the start, haha. He's clinging onto the side of a sinking boat, pretending the water is at least warm.

Grovyle is joining the expedition!
Chapter 10 - A Striking Expedition


Bug Catcher
Chapter ten! A milestone!

Sean failed to sleep. At all. For the panicked meowth, then next day passed like a blur.

"And THREE!"

"Is that all for today young Shinx?"

"Meh-heh-heh, this old thing is nearly fixed."

"Apple Woods seems so much nicer with Team Skull gone."

"Oh by the way, did you use Night Slash yesterday?"

"So, I hear that you came to this area only recently?"

"Yep, I found him outside my home."

"Grovyle seems nice, better than Team Skull I'm certain."

"Fun talk, goodnight Sean."

The next day was slightly better.


"Take care out there today."

"Thank you for your patronage."

"The Joy Ribbon, please."

"Hey look! Electivire is back."

"Ever thought about trying the dojo out?"

"Sean, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Just a bit sleepy."

"Look OUT!"

"I'm just saying, you're spazzing out a lot."

"Can't wait for the expedition."

"Chatot still has to announce the pokémon going."

"Grovyle's voice makes my back tingle… what? Like I didn't see that shiver when he talked that first night."

"Before we eat, I have an announcement."

"Can you believe it, Sean? Tomorrow the expedition party is going to be announced. I'm so nervous."

"We'll get in. You'll get in. I'm sure of that."

"Won't be the same unless we both get in."

During the morning of the next day, the world stopped spinning and Sean finally blinked the madness out of his eyes.

To his surprise, he was the first one awake. He looked over to Rai, snoozing peacefully. He smiled as one of Rai's back legs kicked out a few times, him making a mewling sound before sighing and burying his face in the straw. His eyes wandered a moment before he corrected. That was rude.

His body still felt a bit tired, but his mind felt clearer than it had since he arrived in this world. Rubbing one eye for a moment, he leaned up before quietly getting out of bed. Rai, despite his early-rising tendencies, was a fairly deep sleeper and didn't wake as Sean left the room.

The click of the door shutting caused another foot-jerk, but Rai did not awake.

The last time he had wandered the guild while everyone was asleep had been due to a melancholic moment, this time Sean was simply feeling restless.

Loudred's thunderous snores made him thankful that two doors were between theirs and his own room.

As well as pity Bidoof and Corphish. Croagunk was a question Sean didn't want to ask.

Bidoof would argue against the idea that Croagunk slept.

Sean continued walking until he was in the lower guild. With sunlight beginning to stream through the windows, the room looked far more pleasant than it had that other night.

Rubbing a muscle in his arm, Sean walked until he reached the second floor. He hadn't come up here the first time he was alone, so it was curious to look about the place, completely empty of bustling activity.

The job bulletin boards were empty, and Chimecho's station was unattended. There was no Chimecho Assembly in this world, she only took up position in the higher level to be a quick responder to anyone who needed medical aid, while the actual medical wing was near the kitchen on the third floor.

"Ah, Sean?" Chatot spoke from behind him, startling Sean into jumping. "My apologies for startling you," Chatot said, as he finished hopping down from the top floor. "I wasn't expecting to see anyone up so early."

"Sorry, Chatot," Sean said, slipping into formality. "I woke up early today, thought I'd wander about until everyone was up."

"Couldn't sleep?" Chatot asked, with a distinctive twinkle in his eye. "Too excited to hear the apprentices selected for the expedition eh?"

Sean grinned sheepishly but nodded regardless. He couldn't remember a great deal of the last day, or was it two, and didn't quite remember Chatot talking about this. He gathered it happened at dinner, however.

"Well, you'll need to wait until everyone else is up!" Chatot said, a gentle reprimand entering his voice. "Your eagerness is a positive look for you though. I wondered," he trailed off and Sean frowned.


"Ah, no worries!" Chatot fluttered his wings for a moment. "None at all. It is good to see eagerness and initiative. It is all well and good to work closely with your partner but acting under one's own initiative is healthy as well."

"Thank you," Sean said gratefully, if a little embarrassed. "I don't get complimented on initiative often that's for sure."

"Is that so?" Chatot nodded. "Hm. There seems to be more on your mind?"

Sean raised his eyebrows. "You can tell?"

Chatot chuckled. "One does not teach so many young pokémon without picking up on some meandering thoughts." He spread a wing and pointed to Sean. "Come."

He began hopping forward and Sean followed him. Chatot didn't speak, so Sean took it as permission to do so himself. "I'm just nervous I suppose. Not sure if I can keep up with Rai, not sure how this expedition is going to go. I thought I did, but now I… just don't know."

It felt less uncomfortable than he thought to speak of this to Chatot, freeing even, although he still had to censor some things.

"You seem confident you'll be picked," Chatot pointed out and Sean internally cursed.

"Uh, I mean." He scrambled for an explanation. "I like to think positively. Think of whens, not ifs. Even 'if' this expedition I'm not picked, the next one."

Chatot nodded. "Interesting way of thinking. Forgive me for pointing this out, but you don't seem the most driven or confident normally. During the debrief sessions you often downplay your contribution."

"I'm normally pretty tired," he half-joked. "I'm not the most expressive in general. I… I feel like Rai is doing significantly better than me."

Chatot stopped, they had reached the bottom floor and had been moving towards the mess hall when he paused. "I know of your amnesia, but I have not asked to what extent exactly?"

"I don't really know."

"Hm." Chatot looked up to a window, the first rays of sunlight were coming through. "Many years ago I knew someone who felt much the same. Like their contributions were not equivalent to their companions. I assure you that she was treasured yet, and I can see each day how Shinx looks to you for support and courage. Obvious growth is not made in a few weeks, you are doing fine, Meowth."

Sean opened his mouth to say something, he didn't know what he wanted to say. Or what he felt. Why he was so restless this morning?

"Yes?" Chatot pressed gently.

"I'm human," he said, cringing as soon as the words left his mouth. Try as he might, wish as hard as he could, he couldn't take the words back.

Chatot, to his credit, reacted with just a blink. "I see." And spoke with a somewhat clipped tone. He cleared his throat and went to speak, but movement caught his attention. "We are out of time for privacy," he said quickly, and Sean turned to see the apprentices Bidoof and Corphish stumbling their way into the room. "I am behind schedule, we will speak later." With that, he raced into Wigglytuff's room.

Sean stood around awkwardly, hoping that neither Corphish nor Bidoof had heard him. They hadn't, only noticing him when they were standing right in front of him.

"Oh golly!" Bidoof squeaked. "I thought you were Chatot for a moment."

"Hey...," Corphish yawned. "Are you that tired Bidoof?" Corphish asked, nudging Bidoof with a claw. Bidoof yawned in response.

"Meh, Chatot just ducked into Wigglytuff's room," Croagunk said, coming out of nowhere and causing Sean to startle hard. He puffed up his fur slightly as he scrambled back from the poisonous frog.

"Don't DO that!" he gasped, clutching his chest. "Where the hell were you?"

"In my shop," Croagunk replied easily. He settled in next to where Bidoof and Corphish stood and gave Sean a lazy glance over. "I'm always up and about working on my Swap Cauldron, I'm getting close to finally fixing it, so I've been getting up earlier and earlier."

"Oh," Sean said weakly. Croagunk gave him a somewhat amused look before settling in to stare forward with a neutral expression.

Sean waited for a tense moment for Croagunk to say or do anything, but he didn't and he slowly relaxed. He gathered that surely Chatot would have known... but then again he kinda blurted that out.

Corphish and Bidoof weren't awake enough yet to talk, so the four of them waited in silence. Chimecho came around, Chatot returned, and they left for the mess hall as the others began to stumble in.

Loudred roared something that was just noise, and scrambled in, waking Rai and Sunflora in the process.

Diglett and Dugtrio appeared from the ground, with Diglett disappearing once Loudred had been reassured he wasn't late for the reveal of the expedition crew.

Within a few minutes, Diglett had detected someone, and Grovyle was allowed in. The Grass-type chose not to stand off to the side, instead choosing to stand with the apprentices. Sean was displeased considering Grovyle chose to stand with Rai and himself.

And Rai was very happy to see him.

"Good morning, Grovyle!" he said with unbound cheer, even more than he had greeted Sean with earlier.

"Oh, and I get a 'you're up early' while Grovyle gets all the smiles," he thought mutinously as Grovyle returned with an easy smile.

"Good morning to you too, Shinx," Grovyle rumbled, causing most of the apprentices to shiver.

"Why did he have to have the greatest voice of them all?" Sean bemoaned as Chatot shushed everyone.

"Ahem." He cleared his throat. "Now then. I shall announce the expedition members at this time." Chatot was almost beaming as he displayed a sheet of parchment that Wigglytuff had been too excited to hold on to.

The apprentices waited eagerly as Chatot said. "The chosen members are written on this memo. Step forward if your name is called."

"Ooh, it's finally happening!" Sunflora gasped, breaking the silence Chatot had enforced.

"By golly, my hearts-a-pounding," Bidoof added, sending everyone into a roar of voices.



"I'm so nervous dad, do you think we'll both get picked?"

"If the sea is my life, son."

"Meh-heh-heh, you are all worrying a little much for one moment."

"Oh, you can't say you're not excited too Croagunk."

"This is it, this is it." Rai sparked with anticipation.

"Yep." Was all Sean could manage, throat closing up with paranoid, desperate, hope that he hadn't wrecked everything ever.

"You'll both be fine," Grovyle said as Chatot shushed everyone again.

"Without further ado," he said, raising his voice to compensate for everyone's ringing ears. "I will announce who has been chosen."

The whole crowd stilled.

"Our first member," Chatot began magnificently. "In commemoration of his feats in dual-discovery of the Waterfall Cave, catching the deadly outlaw Shiftry, and dedicated hard work at the gate is Loudred!"

"YES!" Loudred roared, voice squeaking as he did so. He raced up ahead before turning around with a beam on his face, his whole gigantic mouth closed in a grin. "I KNEW I'd get picked, it makes perfect sense. It's only natural if you think about it. WOO-HOO!"

Chatot was unphased by the volume, even if everyone else was remembering how jittery Loudred had been for the last two days.

"Next up, in recognition of his mentorship and discovering a Time Gear, is Corphish!"

"Hey-hey-HEY!" Corphish cheered, scuttling up. "Got it. I got picked, yes!" He bounced a claw off Loudred's fist in celebration. That brightened Sean and Rai.

"Next on the list is due to credit for hard work and diligence in the face of difficulty. The next member is none other than Bidoof!"

Bidoof started in sheer shock. "Really!? Really and truly? G-golly. M-me, I'M going on the expedition?"

"The Guildmaster makes no mistakes," Chatot huffed. "Now come on up."

Bidoof didn't move. "Y-yup, j-just give me a minute," he sniffled and Chatot nodded.

"We'll continue then." He glanced further down, seeming to read. "This member shares credit with Waterfall Cave." Sunflora beamed. "And has a rather long string of impressive work under her name. Let us welcome Sunflora!"

"OH. MY. GOSH!" Sunflora danced her way over and high-fived Corphish and hugged Loudred, who looked most pleased with this turn of events. "Yippee!"

"As our guardian of the food and diligent crafter of our meals, Chimecho is coming as well."

Chatot's smile only seemed to brighten in his eye. Turning the page over he cleared his throat. Sean couldn't help but notice that the first side of the paper was blank.

"Diglett for his memory and hard-working attitude in identifying the visitors to our guild. Dugtrio for always changing the jobs, even if a little late at times. Croagunk because we still need to apologise for breaking his beloved cauldron. Rai and Sean for their dual discovery of a Time Gear plus their endless hard work and determination to improve."

Outright chuckling at the baffled expressions he was receiving, Chatot tossed the page aside revealing there was nothing on either side. "That's right! The Guildmaster has decided to bring the entire guild along! Hee-hee-hee."

The expressions turned to smiles as Wigglytuff laughed as well. "It was Chatot's idea too!" he insisted. "I just said yes."

A few smiles were sent Chatot's way, but he glared them all back with a fierce glare. "Oh, hush now. It was the Guildmaster's decision entirely."

He got bombarded with hugs regardless. "Ack! Get off!"

"Meh-heh, sorry to bring this up." Croagunk's low, clear, voice cut through the celebration. "If we were, indeed, to bring everyone, the guild would be left completely undefended."

"Don't worry." Wigglytuff waved his concerns off with cheerful smile. "We'll lock up REEEAAALL tight. No one could get in, or out! Hahaha."

Croagunk nodded, satisfied that Wigglytuff did know what he was doing.

"Alright everyone settle down," Chatot said, once he had removed all the various pokémon from his person. "Let me explain the schedule. Right after this, I will hold a briefing on the expedition. As such, the chosen members, each of you, should prepare to embark on the expedition. Go to Treasure Town, go to the shops, the bank, to Kangaskhan, and begin determining your inventories, we will be monitoring your ability to meet the coming challenges. Thus, when you feel you are ready return here. That is all, dismissed!"

With that, Chatot and Wigglytuff moved into Wigglytuff's Chamber while the rest of the guild converged into a circle. Grovyle stepped to the side, simply watching them as Sunflora shrieked, "I could scream, I'm so happy that everyone is coming on the expedition!"

"The Guildmaster and Chatot have done it again," Chimecho agreed. "I'm so shocked, I'm tingling."

"I couldn't help but believe we wouldn't get picked," Rai said, glancing to Sean. "I'm so relieved that we all get to go!" Sean just flashed him a smile.

Bidoof sniffled, the circle had converged to where he had been standing, as he still couldn't move. "By golly, I'm mighty happy they are even letting me come along on this here expedition. And not just me, everyone gets to go! It's like a dream, without all the tremors that come with Loudred's snoring."

"HEY!" Loudred shouted. "You're lucky I'm in such a good mood."

"If we are all going," Dugtrio raised, "then that likely means we are going to be tested in a different way than any of us may have previously thought. I propose we apprentices all work as one in this expedition in planning our inventories, show Guildmaster Wigglytuff that we are worthy of his training!"

Everyone nodded.

"Hey-hey, that's the spirit!"

"YEAH! That's the SPIRIT!"

"Dad's really good at raising spirits, I'm all pumped up now!"

The apprentices all fell into a chatter while Sean smiled, glancing at everyone's faces and enjoying the sheer positive energy the pokémon all put out. "Never thought I'd ever be in the middle of this." He smiled, thinking to himself.

"We need to work with Grovyle as well!" Rai said, snapping Sean out of his happy place. Rai, turning to the mentioned reptile, invited Grovyle in. "We may have only known you for a couple of days, but I know this expedition will be so much better with you along. So, let's all work together. Alright?" He extended his paw in a very non-feline like greeting.

Grovyle stared at Rai's paw for a brief moment, hesitating. Sean felt that he was the only one who caught it as Grovyle smiled and stepped forward. "Certainly," he said, clasping Rai's small paw with his larger hand. "I look forward to working with you. With you all," he amended, looking up to nod to everyone. Rai moved to make space for Grovyle, and he stepped in between the shinx and meowth.

"We all agreed?" Sunflora asked, reaching a leafy limb in.

"YES!" Everyone responded, reaching a limb in themselves. Even Grovyle.


The apprentices all broke ranks then, some falling into duos, others going off alone in their excitement, all with the same goal. Storm Treasure Town of its valuables.

Grovyle joined as well, walking with Team Ion until they reached the crossroads. "I'll see you both soon," Grovyle said, waving them off as they made their way into Treasure Town. Sean resisted the urge to glance backwards, doing anything potentially unusual was a complete no-go with Grovyle around.

Skipping and humming in joy, Rai zipped ahead to the marketplace, leaving Sean to cough in the dust cloud he left behind.

"Wait up," he called, but Rai was already too far ahead. Shaking his head, Sean hurried to catch up, crossing the bridge to find the Kecleon Market being swarmed.

Everyone from the guild, besides Chatot and Wigglytuff, were all in line, Loudred and Sunflora loudly haggling with the Kecleon Brothers.

"Oh wow," Rai said, glancing at the line. "They're tearing Treasure Town to shreds."

"To shreds you say?" Sean asked, before biting his tongue. Rai offered him a loopy smile.

"Let's go to the rest of the market," Rai suggested, far too energised to stand politely in line. Sean raised his eyebrows but followed. They hadn't really entered the row of stalls any further than one or two in.

"Good morning!" the first stall owner cheered as Team Ion stepped up to her. "Welcome to Team Glee's shop of wonder and happiness!"

Rai smiled and began looking through what they had for sale while Sean looked between the three pokémon manning the stall. A togepi, politoad, and ledyba. They rang a distant bell or three and he decided to chat while Rai decided.

"Where did you find these items?" he asked, as Rai poked at a blast seed.

"All through Mount Bristle!" Ledyba answered before the other two could so much as open their mouths. "We went to give an oran berry to Whiscash, so we also brought some water because he probably needed it too."

"He had water with him." Politoad frowned, before perking up again. "But he was really thankful we came to help him and gave us this really pretty rock that he found while adventuring."

He held up an uncut amethyst and Sean didn't need to fake the pleased sound he made at the beauty of it. Even as a human he had loved gemstones, especially amethyst, and enjoyed collecting them.

The three members of Team Glee chattered on as Sean stared, transfixed at the amethyst. Politoad had set it down, right on the table, to free his hands for some gesturing. He couldn't hear the trio, it sounded like he was underwater.

Sean blinked and shook his head. "Stop dozing off like that!" he reprimanded himself, blinking a few times to get some moisture back into them.

Rai ended up buying all of their apples and berries before they moved on to the next stall that caught his eye.

Or, rather, caught Sean's eye.

Team Ebony, the glitz and glamorous pair who couldn't agree on what treasures to seek out, were chatting happily behind a table that was covered with gems, pieces of glass melted from battles involving Fire-type pokémon, dusty old things that reeked of intrigue, and other wonderful things that drew Sean to them like a moth to a flame.

"Good morning, Meowth," Murkrow said politely when it was clear he was heading right for them. Rai barely noticed Sean's disappearance, spotting someone selling orb's and hurrying toward them.

"Good...?" Sean asked, before blinking again. "Good grief, why does that keep happening?" he muttered to himself. "Uh, hello Murkrow and Shuppet. How are you going?"

"Glamourous as always, darling," Murkrow answered, sweeping a pitch-black wing before the treasures that laid before her.

"We're good," Shuppet answered, bobbing up and down happily. "We've finally found some treasures that are valuable, don't you think." Levitating a dusty relic in her smoggy grip, Shuppet jutted it out until it was nearly touching Sean's non-existent nose. "Look at this thing! Isn't it so rare and valuable?"


"I believe Meowth has an eye for style," Murkrow cut in, picking something up in her wing and butting Shuppet's item out of the way. "See the polish, the glint, the allure of this glass? The most beautiful glass in the entire Grass Continent I would believe."

The glass was pretty, it appeared to have been caught in some oil and had a rainbow shine about it. As the item was twisted, lumpy, and overall disturbing in its aesthetic, Sean made sure simply to nod approvingly.

"No one wants to buy a stupid piece of gross glass," Shuppet snapped, pushing Murkrow's wing back away. "This… thing is clearly the most valuable item in Treasure Town, no the Grass Continent, NO! The world. I bet this thing is the most valuable thing in the world. We just need to figure out why, but I can let you figure out for the low-low price of three thousand Poké."

"Psh," Murkrow scoffed. "Overreaching much? Most valuable thing in the world? Try the most valuable thing in that dusty old box you found it in. Because it was the ONLY thing in that box. I'd wager that the box itself was worth more than that piece of ugly, dusty, junk."

"And your weird chunk of glass is better?" Shuppet butted heads with Murkrow, both of them growling now. "I bet I can find something more worthwhile than that in a bad dream."

"Your taste in treasures IS a bad dream."

"You're like a distracted dustox when looking at a charizard's tail! You'd fly right in thinking you saw something shiny!"

"Oh? Like that time, you jumped right into the middle of a monster house because you thought you saw something interesting? And it was a TRAP of all things?"

"At least I'm trying to find worthwhile things."

"Shiny things ARE worthwhile."



"Mirror starer!"

"Dust lover!"

Sean backed away, leaving the pair to their argument as they began spitting louder, and more obtuse, words.

It wasn't hard to find Rai, he had moved on from the orb seller, and was speaking to a trio who were not selling but had come in after noticing the same roadblock surrounding the Kecleon Market.

"And so, the whole guild is going on an expedition!" Rai beamed to the perturbed trio, making up a bellsprout, ponyta, and a camerupt.

"I just… asked where you found the orbs," one of the three, a bellsprout, managed to say.

"Hello." Sean beamed as he stepped into place by Rai, who was currently trying to hide his face. "I don't think we've met before. I'm." He paused a brief moment, just to remind himself not to say Sean.

"Sean, right?" Ponyta said, causing Sean to flinch. "I think I've heard of you."

"Hahaha," Sean laughed, fake and bright. "No."

"You walk on two legs," the deep voice of camerupt rumbled out. "Are you sure you're not Sean?"

"I am," Sean said reluctantly. "But anything you may or may not have heard is probably a complete fabrication that has no basis in reality whatsoever."

Camerupt blinked as Ponyta said. "We heard you told everyone in the Wigglytuff Guild your name, making them think you were advertising because Sunflora." Because Sunflora was a pretty apt description that all of them understood. "But that it was just an accident because you were trying to be friendly with nothing ulterior about it."

"Oh." Sean swallowed, regathered his bearings, and nodded shamefully. "Then yes. That's me."

"Oof," Bellsprout said. "Can't imagine doing… a-anyway, s-so you're going on an expedition?"

"I miss those," Ponyta sighed. "I remember the expedition that discovered The Pillars, that was a fine adventure."

Eager to move past two sets of prior awkwardness, Rai jumped back up happily. "YES!" he shouted, before flinching at his own volume. "Yes. To discover the mysteries of Fogbound Lake. The whole guild is setting off, we've even got a really cool addition with an explorer called Grovyle joining too."

"Grovyle?" Ponyta asked. "Never heard of him."

"Nothing to me," Camerupt rumbled.

Bellsprout, however. "Oh? Grovyle? Has a large, brown, Treasure Bag he wears as a satchel like he's delivering mail or something?"

"Yes!" Rai beamed. "You know him?"

"He knows him?" Sean screamed internally.

Bellsprout shrugged, as best as he could at least. "Never met, but Grass-types gotta know other Grass-types. I've heard of him, he's apparently very strong, uses lots of powerful moves, and is very smart with item usage. I could have sworn he had a partner though…"

Rai cocked his head. "Partner? For Grovyle?"

"Yep." Bellsprout nodded. "Just what I heard at least. Could just be a friend, or rumours going the way they normally do. Some pokémon are claiming the Great Dusknoir doesn't work alone either!"

Rai and Bellsprout shared some hearty laughter over such a preposterous notion.

"So, Braixen over there was selling Orbs." Rai pointed with his tail, and Team Flame made their way off in that direction.

"Nice guys." Rai smiled, turning to Sean. "I think we've got enough stuff to get us going steadily. Should we head back to the guild now?"

"Hm?" Sean asked, noticing Rai was speaking to him. "Pardon?"

"I said I've got the stuff." He patted the Treasure Bag as proof before slipping the band off to let Sean pick it up. "And we should head back to the guild."

"Sounds good."

They left the marketplace and began making their way back, spotting Loudred and Sunflora up ahead, while Bidoof and Corphish spotted them from behind.

Treasure Town was truly busy this morning, pokémon were everywhere. Even without the guild having sieged the place, the town was busy.

"Wonder if something else is going on?" Sean wondered after pointing out the business to Rai.

"Nothing besides the guild's expedition," Rai answered, not beaming upon speaking of it like before. "Hey… are you alright?"

Sean turned to look at him curiously. "Yeah?"

"That sounded like a question, not an answer." Rai pointed out. "I've just noticed you've been… off for a couple days. You barely talked to me at all yesterday or the day before. And you're still dozing off a bit, like when we were talking to Team Flame."


"Bellsprout's team."


They continued walking, Rai facing Sean and wearing an expectant look on his face. Wetting his lips, Sean found his words. "I, uh… don't know. I've been having a few odd dreams, flashes of stuff. Did you know it's impossible to see a face in a dream you haven't seen in real life?"

"Really?" Rai asked. "That's cool." Then he frowned. "Have you seen someone in your dream? Wait. Are you remembering stuff?"

Sean shrugged. "Not… quite. Maybe, sometimes stuff happens that I wasn't really prepared for. I'm really entranced by jewels apparently, I remember looking at that." He lowered his voice. "Time Gear and couldn't look away. I might have done… something if you hadn't snapped me out of it."

"Probably because you like shiny things," Rai said, waving him off. Then his expression twisted into horror. "I, uh… you probably wouldn't be used to meowth instincts and that's why I said that. Not that all meowth are like that! It's just…"

Watching Rai get flustered was fun, but Sean spared him with a chuckle. "I get it, don't worry. No offence taken, you're too nice to offend me." He grinned. "Adorable too when trying not to stare at Grovyle."

Rai scowled at him, and Sean laughed, racing forward to avoid being swatted. "I'm. Not. CUTE!" he yelled as they passed Duskull Bank, Sean laughing his head off.

Duskull chuckled at the antics and nodded to an amused Corphish and Bidoof. "He is cute," Duskull said, getting twin nods in response.

By the time they reached the guild, Rai had forgotten their conversation. Sean hadn't, and was relieved Rai had let it go.

They waited in excited silence until everyone arrived ready.

They wouldn't be leaving for the expedition today. Things still needed to be planned, put into place, and give the town some time to prepare for the absence of the Guild for a while.

"All accounted for, it appears," Chatot said, looking over the assembled pokémon.

"Uh, Chatot sir?" Bidoof piped up. "Grovyle isn't here yet."

Chatot nodded. "Grovyle has already been briefed, we'll be meeting him on the road."

With that explanation out of the way, he began talking. "Let me explain the expedition once more. First, the objective: Exploration of Fogbound Lake. It is a lake that is located far to the east. However, it is perpetually enshrouded by a dense fog. As such, its actual existence has never been confirmed."

"So exciting," Wigglytuff said, cutting in. "The mystery makes me so happy!"

"Indeed," Chatot said drolly. "It is merely the foggy mirage of a spot that lives to this day on rumour alone. It is also rumoured." Chatot smiled, eye glinting. "That a treasure of unimaginable beauty lays hidden there."

"A treasure hunt?" Murmured the apprentices.

"Yup." Wigglytuff beamed. "It will be fun, fun, fun!"

Chatot had everyone open their wonder maps and instructed them to look to the eastern fringes of the map, laid with only a shape of the continent, no landmarks were featured on the map. Sean couldn't decide if the first time he had seen the map made him happy or disappointed there were no clouds for the unexplored areas.

Just undetailed portions.

"With the distance this expedition is embarking upon, we will need to make our way through several dungeons that cut down the most time." Chatot pointed to the bottom of a mountain. "Therefore, we will be heading through Drenched Bluff to a small dungeon called Tiny Meadow."

He made sure everyone was following. "Little can be found there but it acts similar to The Crest as a shortcut dungeon, from there we will embark through a craggy coastline collection of dungeons into the mountains here." He pointed to Mount Horn. "And that will bring us to camp at the foot of the foggy forests. That will serve as a base camp to mount our next move."

He hopped back to give the apprentices some time to think. "Now if we were to travel as one group, our mobility would be severely restrictive, and the dungeons would turn truly vicious against us. So, as you may be expecting, we will set off in smaller teams."

The apprentices shared glances, wondering if the choice of teams was up to them. Chatot answered that immediately. "I shall announce those groups now." He glanced to the left portion of the mob and listed off four names. "The first group shall consist of Sunflora, Loudred, Diglett, and Croagunk."

"You guys BETTER not hold me back," Loudred warned after the four had glanced around.

"Meh-heh-heh, you should talk," Croagunk chuckled.

"The next group shall consist of Dugtrio, Chimecho, Corphish, and Bidoof."

"We are a solid group," Dugtrio said, looking among the others.

"I swear to do my best," Chimecho chimed.

"Oh golly, I'll do my best not to hold you guys back," Bidoof said.

"Hey-hey, we'll all do our best to support the group!"

"Now let's see." Chatot turned to Wigglytuff. "The Guildmaster and I shall travel as a pair. This is acceptable yes?"

Wigglytuff started as if struck. "Me? I get to go with Chatot? Yippee!"

Chatot cocked his head slightly. "Really, you're actually happ… nevermind, don't push it, Chatot."

Turning back to the group, he nodded to Sean and Rai. "Team Ion shall travel as a team, and Grovyle has requested to join you if that is alright?"

Sean, having had a sinking feeling the entire time, was not surprised, although still dismayed. He tried not to show it, not difficult to do when Rai jumped in joy. "REALLY!?" He approached Loudred levels of noise. "We get to go with Grovyle? Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"I… er, presume that is alright?" Chatot asked as everyone stared at Rai in jealousy.

Rai continued repeating yes as if stuck, Sean looked to Chatot with a deadpan look. "I think the answer is yes."

"Very good." Chatot nodded happily, relieved there were no issues. "Well then." The group turned back to Chatot. "Okay pokémon, time to get to work! Move out!"


The whole guild thundered out, each excited to get started with this. Sean was swept into the excitement as well, he hadn't seen much of the world beyond a few hour's walk from Treasure Town. This would prove to be interesting, one way or the other.

Grovyle was waiting for them by the time they reached the crossroads, and he was pleased to learn that Team Ion was happy to have him along.

"If you don't mind the presumptuousness," Grovyle said, pulling them to a stop as the others began to plan their paths. "I have been briefed on the charting. A clever duo that Guildmaster and Chatot. This turns several weeks of travel into several days, jumping through a list of known dungeons."

"I think that's a great idea!" Rai smiled, barely even glancing at the map Grovyle had laid down. "What do you think Sean?"

"Sounds good," he agreed. That, at least, sounded calming. He wasn't completely certain on Mount Horn, but he knew he remembered the Craggy Coast. "Crazy how some dungeons leap through that much space." He wasn't aware of it beforehand.

Certain dungeons had entrances and exits that crossed a far greater distance than the road within them would imply. He'd heard of The Crest, which was to the North towards Capim Town. A short dungeon that crossed quite a lot of space and was used as a common shortcut across the coastline. Tiny Meadow was similar, just to the East.

It did make sense, however, if he was to compare this event to the games.

"Excellent." Grovyle rolled up his map and stashed it in his own Treasure Bag. "Shall we be off then? Start running, get ahead of everyone else." He winked at that, and Rai nodded, the trio falling into an easy walk with no troubles.

Sean was uncomfortable. There were few, if any, situations of his whole life he could remember that left him feeling this uncomfortable. "What I can barely even remember," Sean thought grumpily. It was true, and disconcerting to him, but memories of his life as a human were getting somewhat fuzzier. He could still remember what he needed to, he hoped at least, but even remembering what he looked like was difficult.

"If it wasn't for Rai, I'd probably forget my name." Sean did his best not to look at Grovyle and just let Rai chatter away. That was fine. It was fine how brightly Rai smiled at Grovyle. It was fine how happy he was that Grovyle had asked to come with them. It was fine he barely even glanced at Sean as he spoke.

It was fine.

This was fine.

Everything was fine.

Grovyle had smiled as he waved Team Ion away as they travelled into Treasure Town one more time, preparing to grab their gear for the expedition. He waited until everyone was gone, and Spinda too had staggered off up the guild, before spinning on a heel and swiftly walking down to the beach.

He passed the morning krabby and corsola, ignored the shellos that had escaped from the Beach Cave, and avoided the dungeon entirely. Instead, he went up on an angle, covering his tracks in sand as he did so, jumping up the short cliff and into the bushy areas that no one bothered to go into.

They had scoped this spot out to be the best place they could find that was close to Treasure Town.

He walked a new, yet memorized, path, tapping trees as he went. Soon enough, he found their hideout. A hewn tent.

"Back already? Miss me, did you?" The speaker, a riolu, smiled as Grovyle ducked into the hideout.

"I had some time," Grovyle answered, without answering the question that was really asked.

"Sure. Anything new on our friend?"

"I'll be travelling with them, so I'll figure it out soon enough."

"Can't have too long by myself," his companion said, crossing his arms. "You look worried. I'm perfectly capable of doing this by myself you know."

"Have you memorised everything?" Grovyle asked.


"The dungeons?"

"Beach Cave, Mount Bristle, Amp Plains, Drenched Bluff, Waterfall Cave, Spring Cave, do I HAVE to go on?"

"The cover story?"

"I made the damn thing up!" His companion grinned. "I think you suggested three whole words to it. More verbose than usual, Striker."

"You have the escape plan ready?"

The riolu raised an eyebrow ridge, before striding over to pull down a segment of the tent they were in. Grovyle, or Striker as he was known here, nodded approvingly as he saw that everything was packed and ready.

"Knew you'd ask."

Striker the grovyle scowled at the eye-roll his companion gave to his sensibleness.

"So, as soon as I heard you, everything was ready for me to book it. I'm not an amateur here." Riolu crossed his arms and grinned proudly.

"I know," Grovyle said, crossing his own arms now. "You cannot blame me for being concerned. You've been stressed lately, we both are, I know you normally wouldn't miss something, but it has happened a few times since we've been travelling here. You sure you're alright?" He tapped the riolu's head.

The expression his companion wore softened before he shook his head. "Yeah, you're right. Ugh, stress, world-ending catastrophes aside. Look, I've got berries, seeds, orbs. I'm amazed you let me keep so many, with YOUR love of the things."

Smiling slightly, Grovyle plucked an orb out of his bag and admired it. "You just don't understand them like I do." He pondered the orb, before placing it back in the bag. "Very well, be safe, run if you have to. Any sign of a sableye, even a bad feeling about Dusknoir, and you are leaving. Alright?"

"Alright. Come on, it's like you don't trust me to do the smart thing."

"I don't," was Grovyle's flat response, not reacting as the riolu grew mock-outraged. "Sean, I'm serious. Don't do anything stupid, find where the Relic Fragment is if those three sold it anywhere local, but if you come under risk, get out of here. Please, I don't want to risk you any more than I have to."

"Alright," Sean the riolu sighed. "I promise to try and not be reckless or stupid. Now." He smiled, a little sadly, but mostly encouragingly. "You have an expedition to catch! Better get going, and don't get caught taking the Time Gear please."

"I won't be so obvious," Striker replied, a smirk over his face. "Take care, Sean."

"Not a goodbye?" the riolu smiled.

"Just a see you later."

"Give them hell and bring it all home."

Grovyle nodded and raced off to reach the crossroads, just in time for the guild to trample down in eager excitement.

"I will be careful," Striker the Grovyle thought as he spotted a certain meowth and shinx. "But first I need to learn the truth."

Well then.
Chapter 11 - Things Get Harder


Bug Catcher
The real size of the world blew Sean's breath away.

In his experience in geography, a continent was quite a lot larger than the map implied it was. At least most continents were.

Majority of the dungeons they had gone out to explore were within walking distance of the town. Sometimes it was a few hours, but they could always make it there, get through the dungeon, and back all in a single day.

This was different. They had to walk for most of the day just to reach the first leg of their journey. He saw rolling plains, the sea crashing against the coast, and types of trees he didn't even know existed.

"This world really is gorgeous," he thought to himself, smiling as Rai beaned Grovyle with a million questions. "I get why exploration is a big thing. It's exciting seeing these places even the games never showed."

There were some smaller towns close by to Treasure Town. Quad Town, Sicily, a little place called Feore? Feiore? He wasn't sure how it was spelled.

He was not offended that Rai barely spoke to him; the shinx focusing instead on barraging Grovyle with a thousand deadly questions.

He was a little worried. Grovyle being right there and ready to hear whatever. And not an inane fear that Rai liked Grovyle more, that was not even on the cards, nor was he afraid of Grovyle. More that Rai would ask too many questions and Grovyle would let something slip.

To be hit with this many questions would be daunting, even for one without something rather large to hide like Grovyle.

Not that he was paying much attention to how Grovyle answered. No, just a glance here and there whenever it seemed appropriate. It would be suspicious if he completely avoided Grovyle's existence, so a cursory glance now and again was the right action.

Sean's tail swish and flicked. Did he really need to hide? Would he have told Grovyle the Truth? The big capital T Truth? He felt like he would, wouldn't he? To give him hope in that terrifyingly dark place.

Sean had noticed that the night left him faintly uneasy for reasons he couldn't quite place, he reckoned it had to do with the Dark Future. All that he must have experienced. He was kinda impressed he'd survived, but he was certain he had Grovyle to thank for that.

And by not saying anything, it felt like lying. By omission at least.

Still, every time he turned to the pair to open his mouth to say something, something struck him right in the throat. Like a spider had crawled into his open mouth and made a nest in his oesophagus. He just couldn't spit it out. Something wild gripped him.

He caught Rai's eye and went to speak.

What if he doesn't believe you? His mind screamed. What if he thinks you're insane? What if you didn't tell Grovyle anything? But why else would he be here. What if what if what if?

He couldn't survive here on his own, he just couldn't. It felt faintly irrational, but his rational mind wouldn't listen.

He just smiled awkwardly and commented that the weather was nice.

"The last I heard from my sister, she had gone to the Water Continent," Rai said, winding down on the latest story that he was telling to Grovyle. He had already covered moving to Treasure Town from Amp Plains. Sean nearly using a move in town on Drowzee. Everything but the Ditto's secret from Boulder Quarry. And a basically everything else Sean had gone through with Rai. Now he was talking about personal stories. "She's an incredible luxio, I wonder if she's evolved all the way yet…? Oh, I've been talking so much. What about you, do you have any siblings Grovyle?"

"Never asked me if I have siblings," Sean thought mutinously as he also thought. "Because you have 'amnesia' you lying fool."

Sean glared down at the ground. His feet paws were poking their claws out and he took the effort to force them to retract.

"No, I am an only child," Grovyle replied, nodding down to Rai. Then he looked across. "What about you, Meowth?"

Sean didn't react, still not particularly used to being addressed as Meowth, as well as doing his best to ignore the pair. "Hmm?" he asked when he realised both pokémon were staring at him. "Pardon? I didn't catch that."

Rai opened his mouth, almost like he was going to say something, but faltered and closed his mouth again as Grovyle repeated the question. "Do you have any siblings?"

Sean felt trapped, boxed in, outwitted in a game he didn't know he was playing. "What does he mean by that? I can't say yes, cause then Rai would know something is up. Do I say no, that's a lie though, would Grovyle be able to tell!?"

"Uh, I…"

"You can't say amnesia. So, say something NOW!"

"N-no. Probably." He gave a weak shrug while mentally lambasting himself for backing out of the lie. "Come on, you lie basically every day. Grovyle isn't that scary, who cares if he knows? It wouldn't completely wreck the entire world if the story changed like that would it?"

Unable to take that chance, Sean smiled vacantly until Grovyle looked away.


While Sean began a whole new tirade of mentally screaming two words, Rai took Grovyle's attention again and began spelling out how their first outlaw mission went.

The chatter was a pleasant hum in the back of Sean's mind as he continued to freak out over possibilities and suspicions he had no idea were feasible or not.

Still, despite the chaos of Sean's mind, the waves continued to crash against the cliffs as the Craggy Coast drew closer.

"I believe this is the entrance to our first proper challenge," Grovyle said, hopping up to a sheer opening into a dark cave. Sean grimaced as he looked at it, the entrance giving the feeling of a jagged hole torn into the side of a cliff. It was not particularly inviting, and Sean felt like something was missing, but he couldn't put his paw on it.

Dungeon entrances always threw him a little. It was like seeing a mirage on the road behind the drivers seat, a gas-like ripple. Only, this mirage didn't fade once he was close enough. It remained. Subtle enough that if he wasn't looking, he might not notice it.

He wondered if this was how pokémon got lost in dungeons, not even seeing the entrance before it pulled them in.

"Hoo." Rai breathed out. "This is the start, the real start. The start of our first expedition!" He turned back to Sean, beaming brightly and Sean lavished in having his attention again. "Let's do our best, Meowth!"

Sean noticed Grovyle's eyes on him and gave him a curious look. Grovyle smiled. "Are you both ready?"

Rai looked back to the entrance and murmured, "This is a true expedition…."

He froze, eyes being drawn into the dark cave, the yawning chasm pulling him in, pulling him towards an uncertain future. An unknown future. An exciting future!

He crackled with electricity. "Let's go already!" he yelled passionately. "The rest of the guild won't be waiting on us for sure!"

Rai raced to the mouth of the cave and began hopping from left to right. "Hurry up you two!" he cried, unable to contain himself and sparking several times.

"Very ready then?" Grovyle chuckled, as he turned to the meowth who was playing it cool. "This will be an adventure I'm sure." He nodded towards Rai who whined at them to hurry up. "Alright?"

"Right," Sean replied, feeling his throat try and restrict to stop the words. He didn't meet Grovyle's eyes. "Craggy Coast awaits." He hurried forward, smiling far too widely at Rai once he reached him and quickly stepping further into the cave.

Rai waited for Grovyle, and the two of them entered right after Sean, watching the meowth's tail flick back and forth as he did his best to appear natural.

"This is going to kill me," Sean thought, grimacing as Rai and Grovyle began to talk again. "Through worry I'm going to mess everything up or whatever is going to attack me in there, I'm not sure."

He resolved to keep his eyes fixated on what was in front of him and ignore what was behind. He had the bag, he had the items, and Rai was strong enough to fight even without Grovyle.

Sean knew he was the one who needed the help, but he wasn't accepting it from Grovyle.

The cave was a new low when it came to dankness.

The Beach Cave was wet, Drenched Bluff and the Waterfall Cave were slimy, this cave was wet, slimy, and salty.

So much salt, Sean feared he was going to absorb it through his feet. Even breathing was uncomfortable with how the scent of salt permeated everything.

"I'm going to smell like this for weeks," Sean complained. He had fallen back into line with Rai and Grovyle fairly quickly, not willing to put himself in the line of fire just to avoid maybe interacting with Grovyle.

Rai remained between them, however, that was unchanging.

"It probably will," Rai replied cheerfully, nodding wisely. Sean took it vacantly, moving on to the next problem, until Rai's tone registered with him.

"Hey!" he snapped. "What are you implying there?"

"In all the time I've known you," Rai replied with a smile. "You only clean off in the hot springs. No hot springs around here, just salt water and our tongues."

"…Saved your life," Sean mumbled, turning away with a pout.

"Sure did!" Rai agreed, grinning brightly.

"You don't bathe?" Grovyle asked, staring down with concern after dispatching a whiscash with Bullet Seed.

"Weirdest meowth ever," Rai said. "I get not wanting hairballs, but he prefers the water I think."

"I don't like this water," Sean growled, flicking a foot rapidly to free it from something particularly offensive.

"Did you know that Meowth can swim!?" Rai gasped, turning his full attention back to Grovyle as he found another thing to tell him of.

"Indeed?" Grovyle looked over Sean again, appraising him. "Interesting."

"I thought so too." Rai nodded. "Swam in our second dungeon to save a lost psyduck. Even saved me from drowning when I fell in." Rai trailed off into embarrassed laughter and Sean sent a smile his way before going back to glaring at the surroundings for surrounding them.

Sean wasn't sure what to take from Craggy Coast. The place was unpleasant, every dungeon was unpleasant, but the dungeon itself wasn't much of a problem.

It was almost relaxing, adventuring with Grovyle. He was so powerful, often with a type advantage on top of the ferals in this dungeon. Anything Rai didn't scare off, Grovyle easily laid low.

Sean was not relaxed though. Grovyle made the dungeon easy but strung his nerves like a harp each time Rai began to say a little too much.

"We talk every night, well not for the last few because Meowth's been uh… tired."

Didn't help Sean's nerves that Grovyle kept looking at him each time Rai would talk about him.

"He almost used a move on Drowzee in town, but he didn't! Everything worked out fine, even though Drowzee did get away. I wasn't fast enough to chase him down."

What was worse was when Rai realised he had been excluding Sean from the conversations and tried to add him in.

"Remember when we fought Litleo?" Rai asked, tearing his eyes from Grovyle for a few seconds to grace Sean with his attention.

Sean flinched slightly, startled at being addressed so suddenly. "Oh, yeah definitely! Big battle, I was only mostly useless."

"You weren't useless!" Rai immediately said, annoyed and also resigned to this discussion.

"Ah." Sean patted where his nose was. "I said mostly."

Rai gave him a flat look. "Don't get cute with me, there is no way I could have done that alone."

"You are the cute one here," Sean said, smirking as Rai puffed up. "Can't turn that talk on me, I'm the master here."

"I'm learning though," Rai warned, grinning again. "I'll figure your 'sarcasm' out one day."

"Hmm," Sean hummed before glancing to Grovyle. Things weren't different, but he felt a little better now that things were still normal. "Litleo was our first real battle together," he explained to Grovyle. "At least where I did something of use."

"He distracted Litleo," Rai interjected, happily knowing Sean was embarrassed by praise. "Tricked him into lowering his guard, and got him with a sleep seed. I was barely conscious at the time, but he got me some berries and I was back up."

"Just in time," Sean cut across, pushing the credit back. "To knock him out right as Litleo was getting up."

"An impressive win," Grovyle said, nodding down to the pair. "Some of the greatest teams are built from a common foe."

"Have you worked with anyone before Grovyle?" Rai asked innocently as he absentmindedly zapped a krabby. "

Grovyle was silent for long enough that he could only answer with. "Yes. Some time ago."

Rai nodded and didn't press further. Grovyle's clipped tone was explanation enough.

Not to be stopped by awkward silences, Rai had enough of those in the first few days with Sean, he decided to change the subject. "Meowth's been doing really well though." The shinx smiled as he felt Sean's eyes bore into the back of his head. "We went to a dungeon called Waterfall Cave not long before the expedition crew was announced."

"Indeed?" Grovyle asked pleasantly, keeping his eyes on the walls around them. He scared a gastrodon off with a quick Bullet Seed. "Preparing for the expedition?"

"Well," Rai trailed off awkwardly before righting himself. "We took two jobs that day, hoping to look like we were really dedicated."

"Understandable," Grovyle said nodding. A hint of a smile even twitched at his lips. "It appears to have paid off well."

"Yep!" Rai beamed, sending a Thunderbolt at an enemy to send it skittering for the depths. "It wasn't looking too good at first," he explained as Sean added something.

"We searched the dungeon three times looking for those two!" Sean frowned as the memory of what followed came to him. "I bet Floatzel knew we were there too."

Rai nodded, solemn. Turning back to Grovyle, he explained. "We were looking for two lost pokémon, but as it turned out Floatzel had kidnapped cherubi!"

Narrowing his eyes, Grovyle asked. "And you caught him?"

"We did." Rai nodded and looked to Sean. "We ended up going to the end of the dungeon and accidentally triggered a trap," he trailed off, looking hopefully at Sean.

Happy to continue, Sean brightly explained, "Was some sort of water trap on a big gem. Pushing it in triggered the trap and washed us all the way to the hot springs."

"His first proper bath." Rai smirked at Sean. "Also saved me from drowning."

"Ah yes." Grovyle nodded. "You mentioned that earlier I believe?"

"Did I?"

"You did," Sean said flatly. "You said everything. Well… mostly everything."

"Not my fault!" Rai said. "Grovyle asks such good questions and I had to tell him… most of it, you know?"

Rai was looking at Sean, Sean was looking back. There was something in the yellow eyes of the shinx, something pleading.

"We got directions from the pokémon at the hot springs," Sean continued with a cough. "And hunted Floatzel down just as he was handing Cherubi over."

"And we battled him!" Rai yelled, jumping forward and sparking dangerously. "Floatzel and Staraptor. They tried to fight back, but Team Ion was too good for them!"

Grovyle chuckled at Rai's exuberance and sidled next to Sean, making the meowth truly uncomfortable. "You have quite a partner there," he said, and Sean nodded stiffly.

"Yep," he croaked, cleared his throat, and tried again. "Yep." Still croaking.

Grovyle gave him a curious look, but before he could do anything, Rai returned. "I didn't get to tell the best part!" he said excitedly.

"Hm?" Grovyle glanced back up to Rai.

"That battle was when I figured out how to use Thunderbolt properly!" He fired the very same at an enemy creeping up on the pair, knocking it flying with a screech. "And Meowth did something new too!" With that, Sean's interest was piked.

"Huh?" he asked dumbly. "Me? When did I do anything besides Scratch?" He extended his claws and channelled some Power through them to demonstrate. "I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything fancy."

"You did seem pretty mad," Rai agreed, shaking his head. "But no Scratch attack I've even seen involves a long, black, blade thing. That was definitely a new move!"

"Long black blade?" Sean repeated, glancing at his right paw. "I don't really remember."

"How don't you remember?" Rai cocked his head, concern filling his voice. "You nearly cut Staraptor's wing off. That's what scared him away in the first place."

"Everything is a bit of blur after I realised what was going on with that whole 'deal'," Sean admitted, getting another concerned glance from Rai as well as one from Grovyle. "It's nothing," he insisted. "I just got really angry, and we were tired from doing the same dungeon three times!"

"I guess," Rai mumbled, considering it. They all stood in silence for a moment; Grovyle decided to break it.

"That does sound like Night Slash," he said, perking Rai up and getting a disbelieving look from Sean. Privately, Grovyle took it as a victory. The meowth had barely looked at him at all, and only for brief periods. He was fully staring at him now.

"You've seen a Night Slash?" Rai asked eagerly. "I've only really heard pokémon talk about it in the streets, or the guild. You don't get many Dark-type pokémon in Treasure Town. And the poochyena brothers have never showed it off."

"They likely cannot learn it, despite the matching typing," Grovyle explained. "I have seen a Night Slash before. Many times. I once helped someone learn it."

As soon as the last words left his lips, Grovyle froze up. Rai, ignoring any odd reactions in delight, immediately squeaked. "You can teach MEOWTH!"

Sean froze as well, and the two met eyes for a moment, looking away quickly. "He doesn't need to take that time," Sean quickly said. "It'd probably take days, if not weeks, and Grovyle has better things to do."

Rai pouted and looked to Grovyle who had regained his composure. "I." He was clearly hesitating, a look that would have thrilled Sean had it not been so confusing to see. Striker glanced at Rai and received the full brunt force of Rai's hope. "Could give a tip or two," he sighed, giving into the cute shinx.

Rai immediately beamed again and ran around Grovyle in happiness. "Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Meowth, this is great!"

He tackled Sean in happiness before rolling off bashfully. "S-sorry. I'm being a bit… much again."

"I'm fine," Sean said, pulling himself into a sitting position. Grovyle stretched out a clawed hand and Sean took it without hesitation, getting hefted up to his feet. He fought to prevent a disgusted look from crossing his face, his back was all damp now with cave slime.

"You are curious," Grovyle said, causing a painful heart jump in Sean. "I've never met a meowth who stands like that."

"I know!" Rai said, cheer returning. "It's so weird, but a good weird!" he quickly corrected. "I think it's cool. Unique."

"Other meowth can stand," Sean mumbled, stepping into his own space.

"Yeah, but Croagunk thinks it's weird and cool too," Rai said wisely as they began to walk again. "Meowth's weird in lots of ways, but that just makes him who he is! Who is wonderful, it's all good things I swear!"

Sean chuckled at Rai's scrambled attempts to praise him. It was nice to hear. Grovyle had relaxed around him, so he hoped that there was no suspicion there.

"I don't know, he seems interested but maybe just to seem polite? There has to be something I did that got him to come to Treasure Town early, risk being seen on this expedition. There has to be. But if I did tell him… wouldn't he tell me? Should I tell him my name, just to see? What would Rai think though?"

Sean watched Grovyle as Rai continued to chatter on. Grovyle was very alert, very twitchy, and almost brutal in how quickly he'd dispatch any pokémon that dared to even look at them. But he replied to Rai's questions easily and showed no odd signs when Rai would get Sean to add his own two cents.

Sean smiled and began to relax himself. "I guess if he does know something, nothing wrong seems to be going on. He'll take the Time Gear, and everything will be back on track. A few bumps here and there, but the expedition looks like it'll be easier than I expected. Grovyle is really strong, I don't even have to do anything!"

Happy to enjoy being lazy for once, Sean continued strolling alongside Rai and Grovyle until they returned to natural light and not the distorted angry light that peaked through the cracks of the dungeons roof.

"We're almost through!" Rai said, voice echoing through the widening passage. He picked up speed, trotting forward and driving Sean and Grovyle to run to keep pace with him.

The mouth of the cave yawned, and the trio were expelled.

"Ah!" Rai sighed as they emerged on a wide, rocky, path. "Can you smell that clear air?"

Sean breathed in. The terrible salty smell still stuck to his fur, but the air of the mountains was clear and pure. "Smells like victory."

"We are through Craggy Coast," Grovyle said, stepping up behind the pair. "But we are still quite a way from the base camp the guild wishes to meet at.

Grovyle pulled out his map and he and Rai began talking as Sean stepped away. He climbed one of the rocky edges that closed the path in, digging his claws in to hoist himself up, before taking a full view of the location.

"Do you want me to scout ahead?" Sean asked the pair. Rai hummed, Grovyle frowned at the map and flicked his eyes to him.

"No, we should be fine to go as a group," the deeply-voiced reptile said.

Dozens of snow-capped peaks spread out as far as his eye could see. Sean smiled, this wasn't the first time he'd been in a place a little like this, although this was a nicer place. The sun was still in the sky, although it was getting close to the horizon.

"We just need to cross this mountain and we should be at base camp," Rai called, catching Sean's attention.

"Right," he said, climbing down. "Just this dungeon and we're there?"

"Correct." Grovyle rolled up his map and stored it back in his bag. "But for the moment I believe we should rest. Eat, drink, and prepare for the next journey."

Sean wholeheartedly agreed with that, and he quickly joined the pair before walking to the entrance of the dungeon.

"It'll be a while before we get to base camp," Rai said as they sat down. Sean sighed as his weary leg muscles finally got to relax. "It might be a good idea to stay here for the night, it's not a great idea to rest in a dungeon." He offered a pointed look at Sean that he knew was just educational.

But felt like Rai was judging him, as if he would.

"This place appears well secured," Grovyle agreed, popping his neck. "And if I am correct, I may need all my strength for the next dungeon. Mountain dungeons are often home to Flying and Bug pokémon."

"Yeesh." Rai cringed. "Yeah I can see why that might be a problem. We'll just need to do better!"

"We did let you do most of the work." Sean grinned, receiving a scoff from Grovyle. "I'm still pretty useless, but I can throw a seed… occasionally accurately."

"Don't trust him with a blast seed though," Rai warned, catching Grovyle's curiosity.

"Why not?"

"Because they NEVER WORK!" Sean shouted, yelling at the sky. He calmed quickly though. "I don't know what it I." He pouted, crossing his arms. "Every single time."

Rai giggled, but Sean's disgruntlement was judged not due to be mocked, so he instead sat down on his belly. "I'm hungry, Meowth you have the bag."

"I do." He quickly swung the Treasure Bag around and opened it, glancing up when he noticed movement.

"I too have brought provisions," Grovyle said. "Would you consider pooling the food to be allocated equally?"

"Of course." Sean smiled and the two with some dexterity quickly set the food into three piles. With Rai already drooling, Sean hastened to make sure he didn't lose a paw to the hungry shinx's mouth.

They ate in silence, peaceful silence. Rai took this chance to rest his throat, having talked most of the day away.

With Rai giving them a blissful reprieve, Sean and Grovyle enjoyed some silence.

It was, unsurprisingly, Rai who broke the silence. "So, what you said earlier," he said, speaking to Grovyle. "About giving Meowth some tips for Night Slash?"

Sean cringed as he had thought that forgotten but Grovyle nodded. "Indeed." The Grass-type looked to the sky, the sun was setting now, but everything was still perfectly visible. "We should begin during this rest period, it is unwise to try and learn a new move in a dungeon. The stress can help." He gave Sean a sly look. "But can also go catastrophically wrong. Practise first, alright?"

"I understand." Sean nodded, withholding a sigh as he stood up. His legs twinged in discomfort, but he had to move. Things needed to be done, no point in complaining about them.

Rai remained sitting, simply rolling over to watch as Grovyle led him a few meters from the little camp they had.

"There are some important tenants to learning a new move," Grovyle explained, positioning himself in a combat stance. Sean felt a little nervous about that. "The first is will. You need to do it with determination and perseverance. The second is desire. You need to want to do it with all you can muster. The third is the actual training itself. Mastering those wants and needs until it becomes routine."

The leaves on Grovyle's arms flashed green and Sean immediately recoiled as Grovyle slashed out, Leaf Blade slicing a few stray bits of fur off his head. "HEY!"

Rai bolted up, but Grovyle had already stepped back. "That was Leaf Blade. For me to learn it, took simple dedication. A Grass-type move for a Grass-type pokémon." Grovyle lowered his arms, and Sean tried to still his pounding heart. "Many types are channelled without much trouble, and as you yourself are of the Normal-type, you have a typical capacity to channel other types with a little more ease than myself using a Ground-type move."

Grovyle began walking towards him, and Sean had to force himself not to back away. "A Dark-type move, however, is different. Some types require a little… more, when utilised outside their normal scope." Grovyle's arm leaves glowed again as he called a second Leaf Blade, Sean missed the subtle light in Grovyle's eyes.

"What do I need to do for a Dark-type move?" Sean said, impressing himself with the levity of his voice.

"The idea is simple," Grovyle said, and slashed. Not at Sean but sending a green blade of energy back at Rai.

Rai squeaked and leaped for cover, not that he had to. The Leaf Blade, somehow sent as if it was a bladed beam, had been aimed well above his head and off to the side, but the sudden attack had startled him.

"HEY!" Sean yelled, claws extending right as Grovyle had sent the attack near Rai.

"I'm okay!" Rai immediately called. "But what was that?"

His betrayed look didn't seem to move Grovyle, but the reptilian pokémon turned away from it regardless. "My apologies, Shinx," he said blankly. "How do you feel about that, Meowth?"


"How do you feel about someone hurting your partner?"


Grovyle nodded and smiled. "Look." He stepped to the side, just enough for Rai to spot Sean's paw and gasp. Sean blinked, seeing his claws not shining white, but beads of black pooling near the base of them. His blink broke the spell, and his claws returned to normal.

"What the?" Sean blinked again and shook his paw. When nothing happened, he turned to Grovyle. "What was that?"

"Night Slash," Grovyle answered. "Or, at least, the beginning of one." Grovyle sat down, satisfied. "For you to use Night Slash, emotion is needed," Grovyle explained. "Negative emotion usually. Anger is among the easiest to form, and brings a substantial amount of passion with it. It's an easy way to get you started.

"So, I need to feel… angry?" Sean asked, sitting down himself now that it seemed okay to. Grovyle stood up.

"Currently? Yes." Grovyle nodded. "You aren't trained enough to be able to channel the emotion without losing yourself to it. In time, perhaps, the memory of anger, or other emotions, can be enough to utilise Night Slash."

"Hm," Sean hummed, looking over his claw. He noticed Grovyle standing and got to his feet with a groan. "Is there anything you can do to help more?" He didn't mean to sound a bit ungrateful, but then Grovyle sat down, and he felt justified.

"I could attack you," Grovyle said, shrugging at Sean's horrified look. "Attack Rai. Steal your belongings. Insult you until you hate me."

"Please don't." Sean sat down.

"Then you tell me?" Grovyle said, standing back up. "What could I do? I'm not a Dark-type. Grass-type if you didn't realise."

"I realised," Sean said, standing up. "You said you could help teach me earlier!"

"I said I could give you a few pointers," Grovyle corrected, turning his back and walking back to the campsite. "You will need to figure the rest out yourself."

"Wha?" Sean blinked, paws twitching. "Well that isn't very helpful!" he said, voice rising. "You can use Leaf Blade! Isn't there something there that can help? Something similar?"

"Leaves are not claws," Grovyle said, sitting down where Sean had left his bag. He dug into it and pulled out an apple. Biting into it like an asshole, Grovyle glanced back. "You gonna just stand there?" he said through chomps.

"Enough!" Sean yelled, claws extending completely before the shadows left by the setting sun began to lengthen. Darkness pooled, sharpening into solid blades of pitch darkness that extended onto the ground. Sean breathed deeply, trying to calm down before he heard clapping.

Grovyle smiled, clapping politely. "Well done," he said, nodding to Sean's right paw. Sean frowned, glancing down and stared in surprise. Unlike before, the Night Slash was fully realised and didn't disappear as soon as he saw it.

The three dark blades did disappear quickly, however, leaving his paw clean and without even a hint of the shadow. "Huh?"

"Grovyle was winding you up," Rai said, from where he was sitting. He had watched them with concern before figuring out what Grovyle was trying to do. "To get you to get angry enough to do Night Slash for real! Right?" He looked to Grovyle for confirmation, perhaps a little desperately.

Grovyle nodded, smiling. "Correct. I do apologise for doing that, but some things have to be learned through ways we'd prefer not to employ." He opened his own bad and pulled an apple out. "To replace yours," he said, setting it into Team Ion's Treasure Bag.

Sean was still blinking, mind whirring as it took all that in and sorted it. "Oh," he said, once things were in the right place. "Oh. Okay, uh… thank you? I think."

Grovyle chuckled, gesturing Sean over. "That'll be enough training for one day. You already seem to know Night Slash, as that was impressively well done for a first try." Sean came, with a little hesitance. He didn't like what Grovyle just did, but the reasons he could understand.

"I seem to know it?" he asked, confused.

Grovyle shrugged. "You were already forming the sabres. Either you have some experience in the move already, or you are a very quick learner."


"I needed to do that," Grovyle explained as Sean sat down, next to Rai. "In order to give you a baseline action to work from. From what Rai said, you've used Night Slash before, but you don't remember doing so due to the chaos of the time."

"Right." Sean nodded, shifting closer to Rai.

"But now you have used a proper Night Slash, and you remember if. You remember what I said about emotions fuelling this?"

"I do."

"So now you'll know. And if it helps, you can picture THIS moment to fuel future attempts." The brightness that Grovyle said that with threw Sean for a moment. Grovyle seemed to realise it himself and turned his head. "It is late now," he said uncomfortable. "It would be best if we got some rest. A long day tomorrow, we need to be ready."

"Sounds good," Rai yawned, curling up next to Sean. "Night, Meowth. Night, Grovyle." Rai was warm and soft next to him, it felt nice.



Sean did not sleep well.

"All right gang!" Rai spoke brightly. The night had passed a little coldly, rather uncomfortably, and the trio was up earlier than usual, even for Rai. "We have to get moving. The base camp is on the other side of Mount Horn, and we can't let the guild down!"

Sean shot a bleary eyed, but curious, glance around. He had seen the entrance of the dungeon yesterday, and like Craggy Coast, something felt like it was missing. It had been bothering him, but not enough to take precedence over his several-hour-long-panic-attack Grovyle had caused.

"AH! That's right," Sean thought, realisation flooding him. "No Kangaskhan Rock thingy, whatchamajig, whoosits. The weird storing rock. Makes sense I guess."

Satisfied he'd figured it out, Sean followed Rai quickly as he urged them forward, Grovyle stepping in after him.

Things went well. For about five minutes.

"Rah, Thunderbolt!" Rai roared, blasting a butterfree with enough electricity to knock it out. Sean cringed as the pokémon hit the ground with a slap.

Grovyle grunted, weathering a dusty wind before forcing a Bullet Seed through and pushing the venomoth out of the room.

Sean kept them going as best as he could. Carving up berries and keeping their energies high. He felt bad, but there really wasn't a whole lot he could do. Not without going right up to the enemy at least.

"I need a ranged attack," Sean thought as Rai zapped pokémon in triplicate.

"We need to go," Grovyle huffed, pokémon were absolutely crawling through this dungeon. And all of them seemed after them.

"You're not injured, are you?" Sean asked as they began to run. Grovyle and Rai sent back as many moves as they could to slow the pursuers down. Sean only looked thrice, each time he saw a lot of bloodthirsty monsters. He ran faster.

"No," Grovyle answered. "But I am getting worn out. These pokémon are taking two to three times as much effort to knock out and there are so many."

"Just send them running then!" Rai said, unleashing the storm on every pokémon in the air. One fell, the others turned.

"If we don't knock them out," Grovyle argued back. "Then they will likely seek us out later when we are weaker."

"Feral pokémon don't leave dungeons," Rai snapped back, he was exerting electricity constantly and the drain seemed to be getting to him. Sean shoved an oran berry down the shinx's throat.

"What if they pursue us into a corner?" Grovyle demanded, felling a pineco and slashing out with a Leaf Blade to relieve a natu of consciousness. "We are already in a corridor."

"Just drive them off!" Sean said, tossing what he hoped was a blast seed at the horde. It wasn't, it was a quick seed.

The aerodactyl that ate it, suddenly roared and beat its wings, moving shockingly fast and slamming into Grovyle.

Grovyle was smashed into a wall as the aerodactyl swooped off, scrambling to fly. Rai shouted at it, trying to zap it, but its speed gave it the chance to evade.

"Crap, crap, CRAP!" Sean yelled as the aerodactyl came around for another run. "SORRY. FUCK!"

Sean's eyes had met the bloodshot eyes of the aerodactyl, and he realised a nightmare was literally coming true.

Several things happened in swift succession.

Grovyle had pulled himself from the wall, and slashed out, knocking two pokémon back and clearing a path to a different corridor.

Rai had unleashed electricity, zapping everyone. Grovyle and Sean included, and managing to force most of the attacking pokémon back.

Sean had frozen up as he stared hunger in the eyes, then was electrocuted and he yelped and jumped towards the path that Grovyle had opened.

The aerodactyl screeched and Sean screamed as cruel talons clamped around his body, pulling him into the air as the super-fast aerodactyl flew off with him.

"SEAN!" Rai cried in horror as Sean was carried off.

Rai and Grovyle went into immediately pursuit, abandoning the opened path. Sean screamed and struggled in the vice grip of the aerodactyl, its talons had drawn blood and no matter how many times he hit it, a simple Scratch attack couldn't pierce its rocky skin.

The wind rushed back, tickling his whiskers, and Sean screamed anew as everything began to shake. The aerodactyl took several turns, too many and too rapid for Sean to figure out. In desperation he tried to bite, but only stung his teeth in the process.

They arrived in a room and the aerodactyl released him. While flying full speed. Sean slammed into a wall headfirst and crumpled down in a heap.

Everything was spinning, his head pounded, his torso stung with a few gouged scratches, Sean wanted to vomit, wanted to scream, even wanted to cry a little.

Nothing embarrassing could be done yet, as the problem was still there. The aerodactyl had swooped off, shaking the speed off, before circling him, flying down closer. Sean flinched as a globule of drool hit him on the back of the head, and he realised what this monster was planning.

Sean's paws tore into the Treasure Bag, having thankfully not lost it in the flight, as the aerodactyl came for him mouth open. Sean tossed a seed and, with how well the last one went, the aerodactyl swallowed it before pulling up.

Sean rolled anyway and felt the wind rush past him again as the aerodactyl ascended. Then it fell. Fell quickly as a puppet whose strings were cut.

It crashed to the ground, asleep, and Sean got to wobbly feet. "Okay," he said, repeating it while backing away. "Okay. Okay, okay. Okay. Okay. Okay." He wanted to say more, just to hear it himself, but he was stuck in the shocked state of one word. "Okay."

He turned tail and ran.

"RAI!" Sean found his voice as he barrelled down a path. "RAI CAN YOU HEAR ME?"

The walls of the dungeon were pure rock, and the sound reverberated through the dungeon in a ceaseless, useless, echo. Sean grimaced, staggered as a wave of vertigo hit him. The fight or flight response was wearing off, he felt the front of his head and felt blood. The koban was fine though, barely even a nick on it.

Sean gasped in pain as he felt his torso throb, looking down there was two cuts on his front, and he could feel at least one more on his back. "Of course," he breathed. Thinking clearer, Sean opened the bag and fished around for an oran berry.

"Come on," he said, looking in and moving stuff around. "I had like ten of these. Where did they go?" There were no orans. He had been too hasty with them, giving them to the others at the first signs of tiredness. "Great." He threw the bag down. "GREAT. RAI? GROVYLE? CAN YOU HEAR ME?"


Sean's body shivered as he stood painfully straight. "Now is NOT the time to freeze up," he thought furiously, considering how well that had just gone, and forced himself to turn around.


Part of Sean, a part very detached from this whole situation, was rather impressed that not one, not two, but three personal nightmares all happened in the space of two minutes.

A parasect scuttled forward. Eyes blanker than any feral he had seen thus far. Foggy white, blackened veins bulging in those empty orbs, mouth opened in a gormless, hungry, gape. It carried a wretched stink, an earthy musk that left him lightheaded upon first gasp and continued to make his vision spin as he began to hyperventilate.

The same detached part of Sean observed that the gigantic mushroom was the real enemy, and not to touch it or else he might catch the zombie plague. The rest of Sean flipped the shit out.


Sean's scream was loud enough that Rai and Grovyle easily heard him.

"Where is he?" Rai scrambled forward. "HURRY!"

Sean scrambled backwards as fast as he could, slamming headfirst into another wall, this time bruising the back of his head. The parasect's mushroom quivered and it breathed out a lungful of spores.

Sean was having none of this. "NO!" he screamed, turning tail and running three steps into another wall. He jumped in panic, hitting another wall. He was boxed in at a dead end.

Sean desperately clawed at the walls, hoping in an irrational way he could dig his way through before it got him.

"Seect," the parasect moaned, its dry voice carried a weak tremble of something Sean's mind translated as hunger and charged.

Sean spun, both paws forming dark sabres, and flailed wildly, striking the parasect multiple times while screaming bloody murder. "HEEELLLP!"

He headbutted the possessed bug and slashed it with his claws. Its blood ran freely, oily mucus dripped as well from his feral attack.

Sean leaped forward, chipping the mushroom with his claws and he continued to thrash out wildly, and landed on the other side. The parasect gurgled something and tried to turn to him, puffing out more spores, but Sean was running again, and it crumpled to the ground. He tripped over his Treasure Bag and grabbed it on reflex, continuing to run in a blind panic.

He hit a few more walls as he ran on all fours, this proving to be faster than on two. He turned, twice, thrice, and found himself in a long hallway. Sean sprinted forward, no longer screaming loudly, but a high-pitched eeee.

"Where is he?" Rai shouted again, as he and Grovyle tore up a longer hallway.

"What is that sound?" Grovyle asked, detecting something getting closer.

"EeeeEEEEAAAH!" Sean cries, zipping past their view at the end of the corridor.

"SEAN!" Rai yelled and ran forward in a burst of speed. "MEOWTH, COME BACK!"

Sean was in no state to listen and continued running. The meowth detected something trailing him, and only ran faster as Rai continued to yell after him. Sean collided with a wall when he failed to turn, the loud crack causing Rai to wince. The meowth scrambled back to all fours and continued sprinting off right as Rai tried to pounce on him.

"MEOWTH! DAMMIT!" Rai was able to keep him in sight, but Sean was shockingly fast and fitter than he had seemed beforehand. Rai was getting tired, Sean seemed to be sprinting non-stop. "SORRY ABOUT THIS!" Rai called, before charging electricity.

"Shinx!" Grovyle called from behind him, managing to catch up. "You'll need to knock him out, just zapping him is going to make him run faster!"

"What?" Rai inwardly cringed. He rarely went so far as to knock even a feral out, but his closest friend?


"Maybe it's for the best," Rai agreed.

"I'll tell you when to fire," Grovyle said as they sprinted side by side. There were too many turns so far, but Grovyle knew where the best point was.

They entered a room, too small, and continued pursuing.

They entered a corridor, but it ended too quickly.

Another room, Grovyle slashed an enemy down. They continued running.

"I'm," Rai gasped. "Getting to the end of my rope."

"Have you charged enough?" Grovyle asked eyes firmly ahead, far less fatigued.



They entered a long corridor, nothing but walls for dozens of meters. Rai yelled out and he fired all the electricity he could at Sean, blasting the meowth off his feet. Sean rolled to a stop, and twitched once, before slumping on the floor.

Rai, gasping for breath at this point, staggered to Sean's prone form. "Meowth?" he managed, weakly. He nuzzled Sean with his nose. "M-Meowth?"

Grovyle knelt down, pressed a finger to Sean's neck for a moment, and nodded. "His heart is beating, he'll be fine."

"I-I can't b-believe I knocked h-h-him out!" Rai stuttered, wave of crashing guilt slamming into him. "What k-kind of f-f-f-f… friend am I?"

"A good one." Grovyle laid a gentle hand on Rai's back. "He was too panicked, he was pushing himself far too hard to run like that. Look at these wounds." He pointed to the bleeding parts on Sean's back. "This needs to be treated, and running like that, exhausting himself like that, was going to do damage. You had to do this, or he would have gotten hurt."

"But isn't he hurt now?" Rai's voice was low and weak.

"He is," Grovyle agreed. "But compared to what he would have been had you not knocked him out? This is nothing."


"Okay?" Grovyle repeated until Rai accepted it.


"Good." Grovyle nodded, looking Sean over. "I think it'd be best to tie something over his chest; this scratch seems the worst."

"My scarf!" Rai said immediately, pulling the defence scarf off. "Here."

Grovyle took it after a brief hesitation and quickly tied it around Sean's chest. "That will have to do for now. We don't have enough berries to soak it, so…" Grovyle pulled out a berry regardless and coaxed Sean into swallowing it. "Thankfully we've gone forwards, rather than back. I'll carry S… Meowth for the rest of the way."

There was just a moment of silence, normally unnoticeable, but Rai realised in that moment he had been shouting Sean's name. Grovyle didn't quite look directly at him, a quiet offering to just pretend it didn't happen.

He took it.

"I can do it!" Rai insisted, staggering to his feet. "I should do it."

"Shinx…." Grovyle trailed off at the desperation in Rai's eyes.

"I have to do it," Rai said softly and Grovyle slowly nodded. "Very well." Grovyle tied Sean in place with his joy ribbon and the two conscious pokémon set off.

So, you have to focus really hard on something you felt

Can be something good, but, uh… not a whole lot of that there.

Excuse me. There is much good here to focus on!

Right. Well, even so, stuff like anger is easier to start with.

That rush of emotion, that's the rush you gotta direct into your claws.

It's all intent.

And once you've mastered your intent.

"Ugh… what happened?"

For Sean, waking up was not pleasant. Probably among his least favourite awakenings.

"O-oh. You're awake?"

Sean's mind was a little foggy, but he could place that voice anywhere. "Rai? Ugh."

"S-sorry." Rai moved, and Sean jolted slightly, but he was a bit more comfortable now. He took a moment before realising that he was moving.


His eyes cleared a little and he realised he was quite low to the ground. Also, on a shinx.

"You are awake. Good."

That was Grovyle, Sean was sure. That voice couldn't be mistaken. He was also sure he should be feeling bad about that, but he was a bit too foggy. "What happened?"

"We are not certain," Grovyle replied, still walking. "You were carried off by a hastened aerodactyl and we did our best to pursue, following your screams." Sean felt Rai cringe at that memory. "Next we saw of you, you were running in a blind, instinctive, panic."

"Did I hit a wall and conk myself out?" he asked, feeling how bad his head ached. Muscles too. Everything hurt like he'd been squashed by a steamroller.

"N-no," Rai answered. "Y-you were panicking so badly you didn't understand us and I… I knocked you out." Sean didn't have time to register that before Rai was speaking again. "I'm so, so, so sorry. You just were running to fast, we couldn't catch up, and you were injured, and you were hurting yourself more, and bleeding, and Grovyle said if you kept running and I didn't knock you out you'd hurt yourself more, and I did it. I knocked you out, and I'm so sorry."

Rai crumpled to the ground and burst into tears. "PLEASE DON'T HATE ME!"

He shivered, feeling Sean's weight press down on him, and for a moment his guilty conscious thought Sean was pressing him into the ground where he belonged for hurting him.

Then the arms of the meowth were around him and Rai thought Sean was going to throttle him. He wasn't. Rai gasped when he realised Sean was hugging him, also saying something, but he hadn't heard the start.

"-erstand. Ow, I think I did do something bad to my chest, oh gosh I'm bleeding all over you!" Sean rolled off Rai, horrified he'd bled on his friend, but dragged Rai down and on top of him. The ribbon was still tying them together.

"Hello," Sean said to the whimpering shinx on top of him.

Rai sniffled, and a few tears hit Sean's face. "You don't hate me?"

Sean hugged him again. "Never. Sorry for bleeding on you though."

Rai sagged in relief, accidentally crushing Sean underneath. "Ow, ow! Rai!"

"Oh!" Rai squeaked, jerking up, and tugging Sean halfway up with the ribbon. "Ah, get this off!"

"Here," Grovyle said smoothly, adding his hands to the mix to get them separated. "We tied you to… Shinx as he insisted on carrying you in penance for knocking you out."

"Really?" Sean asked, breathing easier once Rai was off him. "Thank you."

"It's nothing," Rai said, looking away. "We uh… didn't have much to treat you with, Grovyle managed to get an oran berry down, and my scarf to go over the biggest cut." He pointed to Sean's chest, and he glanced down in surprise, having not felt it.

"Ah. Thanks again. For… a lot now. Heh." Sean rubbed the back of his head bashfully. "I went a bit crazy. I'm remembering a bit more, that aerodactyl was going to eat me! I got him with a sleep seed though, then I ran and found a dead end."

Grovyle felt just the slightest bit vindicated at that but didn't say anything.

"I got cornered by a…" Sean shivered. Then shivered again and rubbed his arms. Shivering one more time, he managed to say. "Parasect."

Both pokémon looked at him blankly. "And?" Grovyle said.

"It's a freaking zombie bug mushroom monster!" Sean snapped, shivering again. "Ugh, gah, AH! Just thinking about it makes me was to scream again."

"You don't like parasect do you?" Rai asked.

"Obviously," he snapped, sarcasm positively dripping from his tone. Sean didn't mean to snap, he was sore and still a little freaked out. To his surprise, Rai seemed to relax again.

"You're alright," he whispered, turning away for a moment to regain his composure. "I'm really glad you're alright, Meowth."

"I am too." Sean nodded, giving a quirk of a smile. Rai returned it and Grovyle shifted, catching their attention.

"We are almost through," he said, pointing forward. A dim light shone, and Team Ion sighed in relief.

"Thank god," Sean muttered, walking forward with a wince. "I'm ready to be out of this horrible place."

"Do you need me to carry you the rest of the way?" Rai asked, quickly trotting besides Sean, but Sean refused.

"I can manage the rest of the way. But… thank you."

Grovyle caught up himself, having paused for a moment. "By our chosen path the base camp shouldn't be more than an hour's walk from the exit."

"We've done it," Rai breathed as they exited the cave to a very foggy area. "We've made it over Mount Horn!"

They walked in silence the rest of the way. Sean was aching, Rai was exhausted, Grovyle was deep in thought.

They followed a pleasant track until the sounds of pokémon talking reached their ears.

"Hey everyone!" Rai called, letting his voice move forward as he didn't want to step away from Sean. "We've arrived!"

They stepped into base camp. There were a lot of wigglytuff-themed tents around. Personally, Sean would have been creeped out if he wasn't so relieved.

"You are somewhat late!" A sharp voice only Chatot could manage caused Sean and Rai to cringe and even Grovyle to snap to attention. "Everyone else arrived hours ago!"

"Sorry, we uh, had a little…" Rai trailed off, cringing under Chatot, remembering the last time Chatot was upset with him.

"Things didn't go to complete plan," Grovyle cut in smoothly. "A situation occurred during our trek through Mount Horn and Sean was knocked out and badly hurt."

Chatot's rage, and the attention of the apprentices close by, turned to Sean who weakly raised a paw in greeting. Sunflora and Bidoof gasped at the scarf he was wearing around his chest and the dots of blood that had gone through. "Hey."

There was a brief moment of silent. Sunflora whispered. "Oh my gosh." Before Chatot flapped to attention.

"Chimecho! Chimecho! You are needed post haste!" His voice carried far and Chimecho, along with the rest of the guild, came out of the mist.

"What is, oh my word!" Her confusion turned to concern once she spotted Sean and came floating over quickly. "Come this way immediately." Sean was relieved and followed as Chimecho took him to her own tent. The one she had her supplies in.

"Get set up and get ready for the briefing," Sean heard Chatot say to Rai and Grovyle before he was pulled in and everyone's eyes fell off him.

Chimecho had him seated on a rather soft bed, it was stuffed rather than just a pile of straw and gathered a few bits and bobs in Psychic before turning back to him. "You're safe now," she said softly, and Sean felt something grow in the back of his throat. He realised he was about to cry and forced it down. "Shh-shh-shh," Chimecho soothed. "You don't need to worry, you are safe here."

Sean covered his face. He didn't cry, but he did shudder a few times as he let some of the lingering panic wash away into the pain. Chimecho stripped the scarf and ribbon from him and replaced them with cloth soaked in sitrus juice.

"It is a repairing agent when applied like this," Chimecho explained when he asked. "Eating them is an energy boost not unlike eating an oran berry, but sitrus' are more useful as bandages than oran's."

She gave him water as well after washing the blood and dungeon dust off him and told him to rest up for now.

"You'll recover well from this, nothing too serious. It just looked worse than it was."

Sean couldn't help but feel like it hurt just about as bad as it was, but then again he had noticed how fast he recovered from the trials in the dungeons. Nothing like a human body. Even stamina wasn't much of an issue, despite felines not being known for having that in excess.

Wigglytuff was ecstatic that they had finally arrived and immediately pulled Grovyle to the side to bombard him with friendliness and tales about the dungeon. He was confident Sean was in the best care with Chimecho and wasn't super worried.

Rai was quickly met by the rest of the apprentices, and he began to tiredly explain the whole story.

Chatot, once sure Rai was in good company himself, hopped off to Chimecho's tent. She was just poking her head out when Chatot came by.

"Oh, Chatot. Meowth is doing well, I've just got him resting for the moment."

"Very good, Chimecho. I would like a word with him before he goes to sleep if this is possible?"

Chimecho hesitated. "He shouldn't be doing anything strenuous," she said uncertainly.

"I just wish to speak to him," Chatot reaffirmed. "It shan't take more than a few minutes. Then I will be back to address the guild."

"Very well. I will just… go check on Rai. And Grovyle, of course. Maybe he'll let me… um, I'll go!" Blushing, Chimecho floated away. Chatot shook his head, bemused, before hopping into the tent.

"I require a word with you," Chatot said blandly. Sean nodded, and he waited in silence as Chatot hopped further into the tent. "First, are you alright?"

"Yes, sore but... I'm fine now."

"How bad are your injuries, honestly?" Chatot's tone brokered no argument.

Sean hesitated, unsure of how to word it. "They sting," he said. "And I bled a bit, but nothing too bad. Chimecho said it looked worse than what it was. It was the parasect that freaked me out, but nothing really happened there. I'm fine now."

"I want to ask something, and you will answer truthfully," Chatot said sharply, Sean swallowing fearfully, he felt very tired, he really hoped Chatot wasn't going to ask what he knew he was going to ask. They hadn't had any time to deal with that little thing Sean had let slip.

"The other morning," Chatot began. "You revealed something to me. Something difficult to believe. Something that is very odd to claim. Something to my knowledge has only been proven true thrice in history. Wartortle and Gengar as well as Dewott in Paradise some years later. You said you were human, correct?"

Dewott in Paradise? That sounded like Gates, but Sean didn't jump onto that. "Yes," he answered. He felt that Chatot was giving him a chance to take it back, despite his earlier words. He didn't, he didn't want to lie on this day.

Chatot breathed out a sigh. "Human? Near-mythical beings that once existed and only exist here and now in the most… concerning of times. This is a... bold claim, Meowth. Although." Chatot glanced away, thinking. "It does explain a few things. Your name to begin with, your mannerisms to continue with. And…." The Time Gears going missing.

Sean stared at Chatot. The bird had begun to pace back and forth, a few feathers sticking up as he began to flap.

"Human! Human! What a ridiculous claim. Hee-hee-hee. What a fanciable fable to spook poor old Chatot with. I know it is customary for new recruits to try and pull a fast one on myself, but."

Sean felt a little insulted, but at the same time a little detached from it all. He glanced down at his paws, wiggling three nubby digits back and forth and the yellowish bandages that were tied on his furry form. "It's the truth," he said, Chatot stopped pacing. "I was human, but now... I'm not."

"Enough," Chatot snapped. "I don't know why you think this is funny-"

Sean's tail flicked irritably. "Chatot sir," he began, but Chatot cut over him.

"Meowth, enough." The meowth closed his mouth. "Do you have proof? Can you back up this claim with any evidence? Any powers you have not yet shown, items you possess, skills a meowth couldn't do?"

Sean couldn't.

"You have amnesia," Chatot continued, gentler this time. Although to Sean it sounded more like he was trying to convince himself. "Whatever happened, whatever knocked your memories out, must have not taken everything. Humans are a popular legend, you may have simply found them fascinating. Perhaps you lost your memory searching for one, and only that remained in your head."

Sean frowned, he knew that wasn't the truth. His tail flicked again as he claws began to extend. He sighed and forced them back. "Chatot I..."

Chatot waited. Sean, for a moment, wanted to tell him everything. Everything he hadn't told Rai yet. "Told Rai this and he believes me."

Chatot raised his head slightly, observing him. "...He is a good partner then," Chatot said, settling on that above all other things he nearly said. "Nothing good can come out of this claim, Meowth."

"Why?" he asked, feeling daring enough to push.

Chatot's face became one of many emotions at once, a torrent that shifted too fast for Sean to nail down any of them.

"…is it true that a human stopped the meteor from falling?" Sean asked. Chatot's eyes closed in obvious pain. "And…?"

"And Paradise," Chatot managed with a gruff. "Not that we know much of what went down, they hold their secrets close. Stoke the rumours, get tourists. Paradise is growing quite well under Dewott's leadership, so there is nothing outright to say she came across to solve a… problem."

He went back to pacing.

"The Time Gears, sir," Sean pointed out.

"Yes," Chatot's reply was clipped. "Yes, I…." He sighed heavily. "Are you sure, Meowth?"

"Is Sean a name a meowth would have?" he asked.

"Sounds more like a mareep's name, yes. Shorn, rather… unusual for a meowth. You said you have amnesia?"


Another check in his corner. Chatot seemed to be wavering. Sean really wanted to have him on his side. Another flash of temptation hit him, to explain what he really knew.

As soon as he caught Chatot's eye, his throat closed up. Like that aerodactyl had clamped its jaws around his neck, threatening to bite if he even squeaked a word of it out.

The sudden flash of fear of what would happen. What Chatot would do. If he told him he was a character in a game. Would he even understand? Would he hate him too. Attack him to get rid of something that should not be.

Chatot seemed to take his hesitation as something else and his voice softened. "Meowth, do not worry. Whatever the truth is, you are not alone."

Somehow, that just made him feel even worse and he nodded miserably.

"Good." Chatot nodded. "Now I should return, the Guildmaster wishes to address the guild soon."

"Chatot?" Sean called after him before he left. His eyes were drooping, he just wanted to sleep, but something was more important first.


"Don't tell anyone. Please."

Chatot stuck his beak up. "Of course not. I would never-"

"Not even the Guildmaster."

Chatot paused. "Eh? Why would you feel the need to specify exclusion of the Guildmaster?"

"It's just…" Sean's eyes were drifting, and things were spinning again. "I'd prefer to tell him myself." Sean slipped asleep and Chatot waited for a moment, before sighing lightly and hopping out.

He hadn't promised, Sean fell asleep before he could demand anything so bold of him. To not tell the Guildmaster, Chatot barked a laugh at that.

"I'd prefer to tell him myself…." Echoed in Chatot's head and he sighed. He hated promises.

I like Chatot if you couldn't tell by now. I think he's a decent sort. Can be harsh, but Wigglytuff is soft. They make a good duo.
Chapter 12 - It's Real Foggy


Bug Catcher
So, in the original story this and the next chapter were one, but I decided to split it into two here.

"Ow," Sean grunted as Chimecho removed the bandages.

"And… there we go!" Chimecho had taken them off as gently as she could, but the bandages tugged at Sean's fur a bit and he didn't enjoy that. "Your wounds look healed, I'll just clean the rest of the blood off."

Sean sat still as Chimecho did her work, the basin of water she had growing steadily pinker as she scrubbed dried blood off his body. "Those pokémon did quite a number on you," she commentated. "Not the first either," she tutted.

"Pardon?" Sean asked.

"You have a lot of scars underneath your fur," Chimecho said, brushing several faded lines she had found between the fur. "Here and here and there and here."

While she counted the scars, Sean mused. "My head still hurts but thank god for a pokémon's healing rate. If I was still human those marks would take weeks to disappear."

He blamed all the pokémon that seemed drawn to attack him for everything else.

"And… done!" Chimecho pulled back, formally white cloth pink and red and black. "All spick and span and ready to go!"

"Thank you so much, Chimecho," Sean said gratefully. He stretched and stood up with a wince as it pulled at his still-recovering body.

"Here are the items you were wrapped in." Chimecho hovered over Sean's ribbon and Rai's scarf. "All cleaned and ready to be worn again!"

"Thanks again," Sean said politely, taking both. He fiddled with the pair, not wrapping either of them around his neck just yet.

She set the objects away into a pot to be washed later, some to be discarded as well. As she turned back, he was still there, and she smiled. "Something on your mind, Meowth?"

He shrugged. "Not much, I don't know. Just a little curious."

"Oh?" She beamed. "About what?"

A lot of things, actually, but Sean didn't voice them all. They would be busy soon. "Just since I have you here, I was still curious about that Psychic Network thingy?"

She nodded, it wasn't the first time someone had been curious. "What would you like to know?"

"Where did it come from?" he asked seriously. "I've never heard of anything like that, it's hard to even imagine really."

And it was. It wasn't in the game, he knew that. He saw no connection orbs or anything like that either, just these pokémon who developed their web of communication.

Chimecho hummed for a moment as she pondered the question. "Exactly where? I can't say. It's been a thing for many years now, I do not know how long exactly. I do know a little of the history, others in the network have been kind enough to explain."

She smiled at him. "I don't see many pokémon wondering about history, ah, if Indeedee could have you for an hour she'd talk your ear off," she giggled.

He smiled back as she sobered, finishing putting her tools away. "Well, as I understand it, the network was designed by The Legendary Lucario." She said Lucario with emphasis that Sean immediately thought was a little unusual. "As a way of building community and surviving dungeons."

"Lucario did this?" he asked. He remembered the Lucario rank in Rescue Team and the brief bit of history we had of that person.

Chimecho bobbed in the air, her version of a nod. "Indeed. It is said that Lucario was the first explorer, rescuer, all things to do with dungeons and beyond. She could find people within them during the times that no one knew what dungeons were and began to teach others. The network was made by her to act in her place as she left to help others."

Her eyes were a little far away. "Oh, imagine meeting her. That would be a highlight of my life."

"Meet her?" he asked, a little thrown. "Sorry, I thought the dungeon stuff, Explorer Federation business was pretty old."

"Oh, it is," Chimecho replied. "Lucario. Well, goodness, cannot even begin that history in the time we have. Excuse me, it's a little funny to me." She giggled. "Everyone knows about Lucario." Again with that emphasis. "It's something taught in school even and even wild pokémon have heard of her, at least that's what I've heard. Hard to imagine anyone who hasn't."

He felt a little in the deep end as Chimecho giggled again. "I apologise, I'm not meaning to laugh at you. It's simply so odd, you are a charming young pokémon, Meowth."

She smiled and then turned to the tent flap.

"Chatot would like to speak to everyone again," Chimecho said, leading him out of her tent. "While you were sleeping he went over a few things, but said he'd talk again once you were ready."

"Kind of him," Sean said as he stepped out into the glorious day. Fog was still there, glorious fog.

"Meowth!" Rai called, bounding over to him as soon as he saw him. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," he said, brushing non-existent dirt off his shoulder. "How about you?"

"Better 'cause you're better!" Rai said, nuzzling him along the side that hadn't been wounded. "Was weird sleeping without you there."

"Here's your scarf back, thanks for giving it to me." Sean began to hand the scarf over before realising Rai couldn't really put it on himself. "Should I?" With an affirmative nod from Rai, Sean clumsily tied the defence scarf back around Rai's neck before putting the joy ribbon around his own.

He fumbled a little with tying them, but he was getting more used to his paws.

"Ahem, attention please," Chatot called to gain Sean and Rai's focus, everyone else was already waiting quietly, but old habits die hard. "With everyone now at the base camp safe and sound, rested and recovered." He didn't look at Sean, but everyone else did. "We will now proceed to our exploration of Fogbound Lake!"

Smiles were shared, and glances spun as Chatot turned around. "As you can see, we are in a densely forested area. Somewhere within this forest, Fogbound Lake is supposedly concealed… but so far, that has been nothing more than a rumour."

"Exploration teams of all types and pokémon have mounted many attempts at finding the lake," Wigglytuff cut in, Chatot bowing out gracefully to let the Guildmaster speak. "But so far the lake hasn't been found. No one has been able to crack the mystery."

"Hey-hey-hey, so is it there or what?" Corphish started, taking the limelight for himself. "Is Fogbound Lake really there or have we come this way for nothing?"

"Silly Corphish," Sunflora said, shaking her head. "You'll wreck the hopes and dreams saying stuff like that."

"YEAH!" Loudred roared. "DON'T SPOIL THINGS NOW!" Sean couldn't help but quirk a small smile he swiftly hid at that.

"Hey…." Corphish hunched down in his shell.

"Um, may I?" Chimecho asked. "Um… while we were travelling, I heard about a certain legend."

"A legend you say?" Chatot asked.

"Yes." Chimecho nodded, swaying in the wind. "A legend about Fogbound Lake. According to the legend, Fogbound Lake is home to a pokémon called Uxie. Uxie is supposedly exceedingly rare, perhaps even a Legendary Pokémon, and has the power to wipe the memories clean of anyone who meets its eyes. That is why, even if someone was to find Fogbound Lake, they wouldn't remember it after Uxie removed their memories, effectively muzzling any attempts to reveal the truth about the existence of the lake."

More than a few eyes turned to Sean, Rai's most noticeably.

"I've heard of this legend myself," Grovyle commented. "Best to be careful, most legends are built from a kernel of truth."

"G-golly, that sounds terrible." Bidoof shook in place. "Positively hair-raising yup-yup."

"Meh-heh-heh, I've heard of this legend myself," Croagunk said. "I grew up in the Bubbling Swamp that we passed by. That legend's been around for some time, no one has ever proved it, but, how would they? It's never completely faded either. Meh-heh-heh, perhaps there is some truth to it?"

"What would we do if our memory was erased?" Dugtrio gasped. "The implications are terrible!"

"Are you… talking about we as in all of us, or we as in you?" Sunflora asked curiously.

"We as in Dugtrio! We might forget our love of the ocean, that would be an utter outrage!"

"You're so weird sometimes you make me go eek!" Sunflora exclaimed, shaking her head. "Not your love of your son?"

Dugtrio puffed up in outrage. "No amount of amnesia would ever make us forget our love of our son!"

"Ahem," Chatot coughed politely. "You should all realise that places of this sort can be expected to have a folktale, or a legend attached to them. Our guild has overcome difficult challenges and obstacles when conducting successful explorations before!"

"That's how the guild earned its reputation of first-class right?" Sean asked.

"That's right." Wigglytuff nodded. "We never give up. Never surrender! Yoom-TAH!" His voice nearly blew the guild away, but everyone managed to hold firm, getting a satisfied nod from Chatot in the process. "Hahaha so don't worry. Everything will be alright. Let's believe in success for this adventure too, and let's try! Let's try! No reason not to try, lalala!" His overwhelming positivity reinvigorated the whole guild.


"Let's move on with our plan," Chatot said, bringing the conversation back to its role. "The Guildmaster and I shall remain here to gather intelligence from the teams in the field. You. All of you shall go off in teams to explore this forest. Be aware that this forest is enshrouded in a deep fog. Once you enter it, your visibility will be severely restricted. And electric attacks." Chatot turned to Rai. "Will be affected by this to a degree as well, so be aware your attacks may not be as effective as normal."

"Right." Rai nodded. He also relied on his eyesight to score his hits; he knew this would be doubly difficult.

"The Guildmaster and I believe that Fogbound Lake has defied discovery due to this constant fog," Chatot continued. "There has never been a recorded time of this fog being lifted, possibly meaning it is being kept in place by some means. Therefore, your search is twofold. One, search for Fogbound Lake. And two, find a way to lift this fog."

"I'm guessing Defog wouldn't work?" Sean asked as the apprentices nodded.

"No move has ever been able to shift the fog," Chatot answered, shaking his head. "If you accomplish either task, return to base camp and inform either the Guildmaster or myself. That is all. Alright everyone, let's give it our best as always!"


"Let's all try our best!" Sunflora said right after the cheer.

"It'd be nice if we made a discovery or two," Bidoof agreed, sharing a smile with Sunflora.


"We'll find the lake," Chimecho agreed as everyone staggered from Loudred. "I'm sure of it."

"Dad?" Diglett asked, coming to his father's side. "I was thinking, maybe we should try looking under the ground. Maybe the lake is underground?"

"Not this one," Sean thought as Dugtrio beamed.

"Ah my son, my pride and joy, you make me proud. Let's look underground." He nodded with all his heads at Diglett before looking to the group. "Alright everyone, we will be off. A lot of ground to cover." And with that, Diglett and Dugtrio disappeared into the ground.

"Hey-hey-hey, we can't afford to dawdle either!" Corphish hopped to his feet.

"Yup-yup, we need to hurry."

"Meh-heh-heh, let's give it our best shot."

"Let's get this done Sean!" Rai turned to the meowth and received a nod from Sean. "We'll search every inch of this place!"

"You two," Grovyle said, stepping up to them. "Have any ideas on where to start?" Sean felt uncomfortable as Grovyle seemed to barely glance at Rai as he came up to them, speaking right to Sean.

Rai nodded, bouncing in excitement. "We're both fast and have good eyes! I can glow and Meowth worked out the pathway through Boulder Quarry! We've got this!"

"Boulder Quarry?" Grovyle asked.

Sean tried not to wince. "Sure did," he said, as Rai turned an expectant look on him. "Hard to explain, weird place."

Grovyle eyed him for a moment before nodding. "Forgive me for this, but I believe it'll be better for us if we were to split up from here. Cover more ground that way." He then smirked and damn was it a good look on him. "I'm eager to get ahead of you two, see if you can catch up."

Rai immediately reacted, sparking with electricity. "We'll give you a head start," he said confidently, also a really good look on him and Sean's eyes drifted from Grovyle's smirk to Rai's confident grin.

Grovyle and Rai eyed each other for a moment until Rai's grin began to crack a little under the pressure of being stared down by Grovyle. Then, Grovyle laughed.

"Very kind of you, I'd better run then. Take all the advantages I can get. Best of luck you two, and keep working on that Night Slash." And then he was off, dashing incredibly fast into the mist.

Rai breathed out a sigh of excited emotion as Grovyle disappeared, Sean was still staring. Rai shook it off and then flashed a grin at Sean. "What's with the look?" he asked.

Sean finally blinked and he shook his head as well. "Oh, uh. I don't know if I've seen you look that confident before, it's a nice look."

Rai went red. "U-Uh, well. That, I."

Seeing Rai's confidence begin to go up in smoke, Sean immediately tried to backtrack. "No! It's good. Really good. I bet we can do it as well, get ahead of Grovyle. Impress the whole guild! I know we can do it!"

And at that moment he resolved to cheat his hardest in the trials coming up. Because Rai deserved to look that confident all the time.

They waved to Chatot and Wigglytuff as they went by.

"Chatot I'm bored."

"It's been a minute. Please don't do this already."

"But Chatoooot."

Their voices fell quiet quickly though as Team Ion wandered the mist.

"Creepy place," Sean observed, withholding a shiver. "Charming."

"So, I was thinking," Rai began, not looking at him. Sean didn't move his eyes off the trees either, it felt like something was watching them. "What Chimecho said about the legend, Uxie I think she said."

"Yeah?" Sean asked when Rai didn't continue.

"She said that Uxie could remove memories… do you think that's what happened to you? You came here, and then Uxie took your memories?"

Sean frowned, the topic wasn't a huge surprise, but he hadn't looked forward to it either way. "Maybe," he said, not willing to just say no. "I don't feel any déjà vu or anything. It doesn't feel like I've been here before."

"Probably would be part of Uxie's goal though?" Rai said, feeling confident in his points. "Maybe if we meet this Uxie, we can ask them? Even if they didn't take your memories, they might have an idea of what did or a way to get them back!"

"Let's focus on finding Fogbound Lake first," Sean said, distractedly rubbing the chill off his arm. His eyes went left and right, looking for that stone he remembered. "If Uxie's there, it would be a good idea to ask."

"Good, let's find Fogbound Lake then!" Rai didn't rush off like he normally would, sticking close to Sean instead. They both preferred it. The forest was difficult to see through, and very quiet.

A subtle shift in the feeling the place gave out caused them both to avert their eyes and glance to each other. The trees in the mist became more oriented to positioning and the fog only seemed to grow heavier.

"I think we entered the dungeon," Sean said, feeling the bottom of his stomach drop. They didn't have the stone!

"Yep." Rai nodded. "No doubt."

"Let's get to this then." Sean gave Rai a confident smile he didn't feel. Grovyle was not with them, the fog was still there, and everything was coming back to the way he liked it.


Sean's smile fell as Rai began leading him through the dungeon. He was sure the stone was meant to be on the path in, was he completely wrong? Was it further in? Or had someone already grabbed it?

In a different part of the dungeon, Grovyle began his journey to the Groudon statue. "Alright," he said to himself, patting his bag and the key hidden within it. "Time to do this."

"Um… Rai?" Sean asked once they had gotten well into the dungeon. "You don't need to work so hard."

"What do you mean?" Rai asked, sending a furret to the land of dreams with a powerful zap.

"You are kind of doing… everything for me."

Sean and Rai had been storming their way through Foggy Forest for nearly an hour at this point. Sean had his claws ready, ignoring the occasional jab of pain through his abdomen, and had a plan of attack.

Rai electrocuted every enemy they had come across. From the Flying-types to the Normal-types to the Grass-types. He had refused to allow anything to get even within talking distance to Sean, exerting his electricity through the fog.

He was even carrying the Treasure Bag.

Sean, being completely honest with himself, didn't exactly mind having less work to do, but this was getting excessive. Rai's electrical attacks were being dampened by the fog and the shinx was having to push himself a lot harder to make them effective.

"Well, you know." Rai shrugged, rolling his shoulders and avoiding the question. "I'm pretty strong, and I attack from a distance all the time! I don't see the problem!"

"The fog IS making it harder for you to hit stuff," Sean pointed out, literally pointing a claw to multiple scorch marks across the room they were in. "Took you four tries to hit that noctowl."

"I'm still getting better with my aim!" Rai insisted. "Thunderbolt takes some time to master, that I know."

He demonstrated his greater proficiency by striking down a zigzagoon on the first shot. "That's all well and good," Sean said, crossing his arms. "But you're doing everything. I'm not even carrying the bag, and I'm the one who uses items."

"I didn't think you needed the weight on your back," Rai continued to insist upon his point. "It's not like I can't get an item out if I need it."

Sean stared him down for a moment. "Rai, please," he said softly and the shinx wilted.

"I… you got really hurt in Mount Horn," Rai said shamefully. "Part of that is because of me, I just want to make it up to you."

"Rai, I'm fine," Sean stressed the word. "And I forgave you as soon as I woke up."

Rai shifted, still looking a bothersome mix of guilty and defiant.

"Can I at least have the bag?" Sean asked, stretching out a paw to Rai. "I feel better with it anyway. I mean, if something happens and you can't protect me, what am I supposed to do without it? It has all the seeds that I use, like that sleep seed I used on the aerodactyl."

Sean's light, almost flippant, tone towards getting carried off caused a small shiver through Rai, but he did concede the point. "You do good with the seeds, that's for sure," he said as he shrugged out of the bag.

"Crammed it down the beast's throat." Sean grinned proudly, feeling a lot better with the Treasure Bag slung around his shoulder. "And this isn't even heavy, I'm sure I can manage," he added to Rai's concern.

Smiling at his friend, Sean decided to lead the way for once. "I've got a paw on three seeds right now," he said as Rai shot him a mixture of annoyed and concerned looks. "And I'm fine. Barely even have any new scars under all this fur!"

Sean's bravado remained as they made their way further into the dungeon. The fog was still smothering everything in its oppressive embrace, but it could do nothing to Sean's keen eyes.

"Here comes a hoothoot," Sean said, spotting the bird flying towards them. Rai squinted, trying to get a lock on the slow bird and began to charge electricity. "Let me take this one," Sean said, sweeping a paw out to block Rai's line of sight.

"What?" Rai asked as the claws in that paw extended.

"Let me," Sean repeated before dashing forward.

Heart pumping furiously in his chest, Sean readied his claws as the hoothoot spotted him and swooped down at him. "Scraaah!" Sean yelled, beginning to say the name of the attack before just slipping into a battle cry.

Hoothoot's beak shone white as Sean's claws did and Scratch met Peck in an almost embarrassingly underwhelming moment. Hoothoot's dive had given it some extra force and Sean yelped as his paw was pecked hard.

Recoiling, he managed to sidestep the hoothoot tackling him and the bird landed in the dirt. "Ow-ow-ow!" Sean yelped hopping on his feet and shaking his paw. "FfffRICK!" With his other paw's claws glowing white, Sean slashed out with that one, delivering a much better blow upon hoothoot's face.

The feral pokémon screeched loudly and darted back, right as Rai decided to step in and shock it with Thunderbolt. Hoothoot crumpled like a sack of bricks and Rai came trotting over to his side.

"Good battle!" he said politely as Sean stopped making a fuss. Admiring his paw, he quickly found there was only a small spot of blood and even then, it wasn't flowing. He felt an odd fascination with the drop of blood for a strange moment, wanting to see it change.

"Thanks," Sean breathed, a little relieved Rai had stepped in. His heart hammered in his chest, and it was just a hoothoot. "That… thanks. I feel better knowing you have my back."

Rai brightened and nodded to Sean. "And I'm happy to know I have you to do the same."

"Yeah," Sean sighed, rubbing his injured paw against his hip to wipe the blood away. "Let's keep going."


Without any more dawdling around, Team Ion stormed the Foggy Forest with the force of a stiff breeze.

Pokémon fell before them once Rai had shocked them enough times or Sean threw seeds with the precision of a champion shot-putter. In a feat of great irony to the pair, Sean had the stronger presence in this dungeon.

The eyes of the meowth were keen and sharp and were able to spot things that even Rai's eyes didn't pick up on. A sharp slash with his claws or a precise seed thrown at the right angle was enough to ward a considerable number of pokémon off.

Needless to say, Sean was feeling much better about the hoothoot from earlier.

"And that makes twelve," Sean said as a furret scampered off into the fog. He flexed the claws on his left paw at the retreating figure for a moment before retracting them and beaming in delight. "Scared that one off for a while I bet!"

"You're doing fantastic!" Rai cheered, simultaneously happy for his friend, reassured Sean was in fact healed, and relieved that he could restore some of his energy. Shocking enemies through all this fog was really dragging him down.

"I know, I know," Sean said waving him off facetiously. "You're too kind."

"How can I be too kind?" Rai asked, cocking his head as Sean gave him a bright look of adoration.

"Never change," he said, poking Rai on the nose. "You are far too cute as you are."

"Change is good though," Rai insisted before fluffing up and barking. "Stop calling me cute!"

"Who's going to hear me?" Sean laughed, running forward through the empty room they had entered.

"I AM!" Rai yelled, chasing down the slower pokémon.

Sean dodged Rai's first pounce, but he couldn't avoid the second one due to laughing far too hard. "Ah, you're too heavy, help! Someone help!"

Growling, Rai pressed down on him, really pinning him now. "Who's cute now?" he asked pleasantly.

"You," Sean replied without hesitation, even with his mouth pushed into the grass.

Rai growled, but he wasn't the only one. "Eep!" Was all Rai managed before something tackled him.

"Pleh, what's going on?" Sean yelled spitting out grass, tone changing to alarm as he pulled himself up. Yips and barks from the two pokémon wrestling. One was Rai, Sean could tell, especially when the yellow light of electricity blasted the other one, off Rai.

"Oh, go to distortion!" he yelled at the pokémon that had attacked him. Sean had to bury a snort of amusement once he saw Rai's face, all concern being washed away. A big blotch of green paint was striped across his face, and he gave Sean an equally filthy look for the laughter.

Rai shot off a Thunderbolt, but the smeargle avoided it by rolling to the side. Its tail waggled in a few rapid positions, green paint somehow remaining in the air as the tail swept through. Like it was painting the very air.

"What's it doing?" Sean asked in surprise, he could guess but this was just weird.

"I don't know, but I don't like!" Rai answered, charging a second Thunderbolt. Before he could, however, the smeargle finished sketching Rai's Thunderbolt and the green paint turned bright yellow before it sunk into the smeargle's body.

"That's weird," Sean said, backing away as the smeargle turned to him. "Looks like it's going to AH!"

The smeargle flashed with light and used Thunderbolt, blasting Sean off his feet.

He landed with a crash and a groan. "Why does this feel familiar?" he asked before twitching as the remaining electricity caused his limbs to spasm.

Even now, the smeargle made no noise, simply staring forwards with glassy eyes narrowed into a foggy fury.

Rai, upon Sean getting blasted, abandoned charging electricity and instead chose to just charge the smeargle himself. "BACK OFF!" he roared, slamming headfirst into the smeargle's chest.

With contact made, Rai unleashed the built-up electricity and for a moment the fog around them lifted from the light and energy the attack gave off.

Smeargle did not get back up.

With the threat unconscious, Rai calmed down and turned to where Sean had fallen. To his surprise, Sean was already up and rubbing his neck.

"Ow," Sean said to Rai's wide-eyed staring. "Also, wow. You really took that thing out."

Sighing in relief, Rai trotted back over to Sean. "Glad you're alright," he said, rubbing against him for a moment. "When you got shocked I…." He glanced away, shame flashing across his face.

"I'm okay," Sean said, pulling himself up with Rai to hold onto. "You don't need to get too upset when I get hurt though, I don't want you winding yourself in a dungeon." He groaned as he popped his back, the tingly feeling fading as Rai absorbed the lingering voltage off his body. "I'm pretty tough."

"Shush," Rai said, but without any heat to it. "You really are tough. That joy ribbon must really be doing some work."

Rai trailed off, but to his relief, Sean laughed. "Yeah, this thing was a great idea." He fiddled with the bow the joy ribbon had been tied to. "Not quite as snazzy as my bow, but much more useful really. I'll be stronger than you in no time!"

"I don't think it works quite like that." Rai began but shrugged as Sean pointed the way. "As long as we are both alright!"

"I survived Boulder Quarry AND the disaster that was Mount Horn," Sean pointed out as they left the room. "I think I can take some Foggy Forest and come out swinging."

They continued fighting through the dungeon, beset at every turn.

Multiple pokémon began to appear at once and Sean and Rai were forced to fight back-to-back to divert and defeat several enemies all at the same time.

Try as he might, Sean couldn't quite form a Night Slash yet. His claws would glint black for a moment as he tried to remember what Grovyle had said, but his mind continued to flip back to the aerodactyl or worse the parasect and distract him.

Rai was getting tired. He had eaten most of their supply of orans to keep his energy going and two of their three apples. Sean didn't mind, he was the one who suggested it. Even with his better capacity to fight, Rai was still the powerhouse of the duo.

To Sean's dismay, he accidentally used the blast seed they had on a duo of pokémon. Except he missed his throw, and the explosion occurred a few feet before the noctowl and skiploom, it managed to scare them off at least.

They fought their way deeper into the dungeon until the roaring sounds of water attracted them. The walls of the dungeon began to melt away into proper trees and plants, the oppressive air of the dungeon drifted away, and even the fog was a bit lighter here.

"Wow," Rai gasped as they entered a wide clearing. The fog, while thinner than the dungeon, was still quite thick when looking up, but had mostly lifted on the trail to a large stone statue. "Water is coming down in waterfalls all over the place."

All around them, lined with shrubs and pleasantly cool grass, water fell from great heights. It splashed out in a fine misty trail, invigorating the pair as they were cooled and refreshed by the mist of the falling water.

"But, where are we?" Rai asked, glancing around. "Is this the deepest part of the forest?" He looked around a little more, but there was no object of interest blocking the back.

Sean smiled as the thunderous sounds of water crashing down filled his ears and he shivered pleasantly. Rai caught the movement and turned to him.

"Are you cold?" he asked.

"Nah," Sean replied, shaking his head and rubbing an arm. "I just enjoy the sound of water. Gives me goosebumps." He shivered again, enjoying the tingly feeling the sound of rushing water gave him. It felt a little different with a meowth's ears and yet also like there was no different.

The world was sharper, brighter, in many ways compared to his old self and yet it felt normal. Delving into the feeling was what made him uncomfortable as memory and instinct began to come at odds.

Further conversation was halted as they had stepped too far into the clearing and the sound of water crashing down completely drowned out all other noise.

Sharing a look, they walked forward quickly to escape the loudest part of the waterfalls.

"Meh-heh-heh, what do we have here?"

Both Sean and Rai jumped in alarm once the low voice reached their ears. Spinning around they found Croagunk standing inches from them both. "How long have you been there?" Sean gasped, clutching his chest dramatically as Rai wheezed.

"A few minutes," Croagunk answered. "Exited the dungeon about a minute after you. I said hello, guess neither of you heard me. Meh-heh-heh."

Sharing a nettled look with Sean, Rai pushed a smile forward. Croagunk was unsettling occasionally, but he was a good guy still. "Sorry, the waterfalls were so loud."

"Meh-heh-heh, no offence taken." Croagunk waved them off and they stepped aside as he walked forward, eyes trained on the statue. "I'm more curious about this sunken statue to be honest."

They were much closer to it now and the pair hurried to keep up with Croagunk. The venomous frog was surprisingly quick, striding through the softened, squelchy, ground as if he'd grown up in it.

"Very possible," Sean thought as the three of them came to a stop. "That's fun." Sean grimaced as he got a first-hand look at Groudon.

Or really it was a second-hand look. This was a statue. A gargantuan statue that was still likely nothing in comparison to the real thing. Sean's mouth curled in a few bizarre directions as he looked over it.

Face: Gigantic and snarling, mouth wide enough to eat him in one gulp.

Body: Rough and spiky all over, perfect for battering his feeble meowth form into paste or impaling on any one of those barbs.

Hands: Thick and crushing, wide enough to crush the organs out of him.

Feet: Broad and also spiky, capable of crushing or spearing in equal measure.

Everything: Absolutely terrifying. This was the form of a deity, the embodiment of the land, the one who lifted the earth from the primordial sea, a being so ancient and powerful that Sean was nothing in comparison. It was covered in moss that had tiny little things wriggling through it.

"What is this?" Rai breathed, amazed. In his eyes, it was a relic of an ancient time before they had writing or history that was recorded, crafted by limbs he may not even recognise. Ancient, unknown, mysterious.

"Dunno," Croagunk answered, shrugging. "Has to be a pokémon, but what kind?"

"I've never seen a pokémon like THAT before," Rai said, taking a deep breath and calming his nerves. "Okay, it's just a statue, maybe there's something to this thing?" He stepped forward without, much, hesitation and began looking over it closer. "Sean, you've got good eyes, take a look!"

Sean's instincts told him not to stop looking at the monster's face, but the rational part of him mutinied and he shook his head. "Just a statue," he confirmed and strode forward with his own confidence. Now was not the time for dilly-dallying, he knew where to look.

"Rai, here," Sean called once he had gone around to the statue's left side. "There's something here and, err, I can't read it."

"An inscription?" Rai asked, gaining Croagunk's interest enough for him to come around himself.

"Meh-heh-heh, looks like it," Croagunk confirmed. "Footprint runes, local dialect too. It says…" Croagunk stared at it for a brief moment, Sean was a little surprised but had nothing to say about this. "Reignite the life that burned within Groudon. Then the sky shall blaze with the sun's heat. The path to treasure shall be revealed."

"The path to treasure!?" Rai gasped. "Croagunk that's incredible! The key to finding Fogbound Lake could be right here!"

Croagunk's easy grin never shifted as he chuckled, "This is a mystery we've got to solve then."

"Shouldn't be too hard," Sean said, smiling a little bitterly as he just had an idea. He gave Rai a meaningful look, only to receive a questioning one back.

"Shouldn't be too hard?" Rai repeated, frowning. "Um… reignite the life that burned within Groudon. Then the sky blazes with heat. The path to treasure shall be revealed. This seems pretty tricky; do you have some idea Sean?"

They didn't have the stone. He hadn't had time to think about it up to this point, but it was occurring to him now. Who else knew about the inscription ahead of time? And had gone ahead of them?

"Dammit, Grovyle. I need that."

"Uh… Sean?" Rai asked as Sean had gone very still indeed. "You figured something out?" He could be optimistic.

"Uh no." Sean's voice was very hoarse, and he cleared his throat. "Besides the fact that it looks like there's a piece missing in the chest here."

"Uh…" Rai frowned and looked around, settling on the statue for a moment. "Huh. Yeah, between all the moss." He gave it a light shock to clear a bit out. "I wonder… hmm, Fire-type attack maybe could do something? Any that make ash or so?"

"Not that I've heard of," Croagunk answered, stepping back from the statue. "I reckon this could be the key forwards, I think we'd better get back to base camp. Maybe the Guildmaster has an idea?"

"Yes, that's right!" Rai nodded. "Wigglytuff is a legendary adventurer, he'll know something I'm sure!"

Sean wasn't sure. He was pretty sure now that Grovyle had grabbed it on his way in, but maybe he'd just missed it… he resolved to look more carefully.

He didn't enjoy the idea of going through Foggy Forest again though.

They began to walk back, passing the thunderous waterfalls and enjoying the spray of water again. Rai was energized, Croagunk was… Croagunk, he was difficult to read at the best of times.

Feeling uneasy about the whole thing, but determined to get this done right, Sean glanced back to the statue.

"Oh." He blinked, but a flash of green only reaffirmed his belief. "Oh, you son of a bitch."

He thought fast, but his mouth moved faster. "Hey, Rrrrshinx?" he asked, mind going blank as he had nothing prepared.

"Hm?" Rai asked, stopping and glancing back at Sean.

"Maybe we should look around here for a bit?" he asked, eyes trained on where he saw movement. "I mean, we only just got here, and it isn't like all three of us need to go back to base camp?"

Rai looked to Croagunk who shrugged. "Could be a good idea," he said.

"Yeah!" Rai smiled and broke from Croagunk's side to join Sean's. "We might see everyone back at the statue!" he said and Croagunk nodded.

His eyes focused on Sean, and he felt like Grovyle was staring at him again. Croagunk just smiled good-naturedly. "Good luck," he said, giving a wave and disappearing into the mist.

"Okay," Rai said, walking back with Sean. "Where should we look first?" he asked, quickening his pace once he realised Sean was powerwalking.

"To the right, I think," Sean said firmly, still acting on autopilot. His mind was yelling at him to slow down, but Sean was not listening to Sean at the moment.

"Uh, okay," Rai agreed, turning right as Sean was already crossing the path. He glanced back to the statue, but Sean didn't pay it a second look. "Where are we going?" he asked, a little alarmed. "Shouldn't we look around the statue first?"

Sean came to a stop, breathing raggedly for a moment before shaking his head. "Sorry, I think I saw someone go this way," he admitted, gesturing forward with his paw. The claws were extended, and Sean made a conscious effort to pull them back in.

"You saw someone?" Rai asked. "Who?"

"It looked a bit like…." Sean hesitated, he knew Rai really liked Grovyle and he wasn't jealous about that at all. "Grovyle. But I don't think he saw us, he probably didn't even realise we were here."

"Grovyle?" Rai cocked his head, and for once Sean didn't call him cute for it. "He probably would be this far, if not further. Maybe you're right if he's around he might have some idea!"

Smiling suddenly, perhaps a little too much in Sean's opinion, Rai bounded forward. "Hey, Grovyle? Are you here?" he shouted, voice carrying in an echo but drowned in a waterfall before long.

"Doubt he'd be able to hear you," Sean said, figuring Grovyle wouldn't emerge even if he did. "We should just look."

"Yeah, yeah, okay let's go."

"Do you even see the path to Steam Cave?" Sean wondered as he and Rai walked carefully. The fog had grown incredibly thicker in a few short moments, limiting their vision to just a few meters. The sound of water falling slowly began to drift away as the fog seemed to drown it all away.

"Where are we?" Rai whispered. Whispering seemed right, the area had gone eerily quiet.

"Somewhere," Sean answered, falling back to sarcasm in face of his nerves.

"Yes, I can see that," Rai grumbled.

"I can't," Sean responded, smiling despite himself.

Rai gave a small giggle, and he felt a bit better.

"I think we should stick to the left," Sean said, angling them in the direction he chose. Their feet squelched on soft ground. It wasn't quite mud yet, but it was right on the edge of it. Sean had left the horrific feeling in the back of his head as the fog was of greater concern.

"Normally we'd be able to find the entrance no problem." He frowned, thinking further. "Should we even look for it? Can it be found with all this damn fog? Okay, I'm going to call out."

"Grovyle?" Sean called, voice almost immediately being lost to the fog. "GROVYLE?"

"GROVYLE?" Rai joined in, voice only a little higher. "GROVYLE?"

"Good lord this place is unsettling," Sean commented after their shouting did nothing.

"I'm amazed we can even breathe through fog this thick," Rai mumbled.

"A charming thought," Sean said dryly, stepping forward into new territory. "Wha?"

He froze, and Rai froze with him, having also stepped onto new ground. They looked down, even this close the fog still fuzzed up their features. Still, both could see they stood onto ground no different than what was before, except it was different.

"Is the ground warm?" Sean asked after a moment of them staring at their feet. He lifted his foot, grimacing at the moist feeling.

"Yeah," Rai answered, after testing the ground out a little more. "Really warm."

"It wasn't warm before," Sean said, his mind automatically thinking about horrible land monsters, which led him to think about a real Groudon being right underneath them.

Rai thankfully spoke, moving him away from such thoughts. "No, it wasn't. This is… weird."

"Could be…" Sean paused as a thought slammed into him. "Steam Cave! It must be warm, we might be close!" He held his tongue, not sharing that amount of knowledge. Instead, he nodded firmly to Rai. "There might be something ahead. Remember what the statue said, about reigniting fire or something? This is warm, this might be what we're looking for."

Rai's eyes widened before he grinned widely. "That's really clever!" he gasped. "I hadn't even considered that."

Sean chuckled, rather pleased. "I won't say race ya, maybe hang onto me?" he suggested.

Rai grinned. "Let's link tails!" he replied, snaking his tail to curl around Sean's. "That way we won't lose each other."

Sean felt a little odd as their tails wrapped around each other, sometimes the tail still gave him strange bursts of feeling not himself and having a fifth limb was the worst of it. He swallowed it down though, pushing the funny feeling to the bottom of his stomach.

The fog began to thin as they walked forward as the air itself began to heat up. It didn't go away completely, but the hotter air caused it all to rise a bit further and the pair were able to see further.

They were able to see the death and/or pain coming in time due to this.

"Woah!" Rai froze and yanked Sean's tail, causing the meowth to yelp. "Sorry, that pool of water just ahead, that must be boiling hot."

Sean grimaced, both in pain in his leg and from the realisation he had gotten unfortunately close to stepping in that. "Okay, more careful," he said, backing away and going a safer route.

Sean and Rai pressed together, confident the other would spot any danger they missed, and stepped forward carefully. They reached a few dead ends in terms of boiling water and had to back away.

"I didn't think there would be a maze here," Sean grumbled as they had to carefully turn back again.

"Wish one of us could fly," Rai said, agreeing with the sentiment. "Chatot would be really helpful here."

They continued, making their way further and further, turning back, going way back, going further, circling back, going further and further and further until finally.

"There!" Rai called, pointing forward with a paw. "I think I see something!"

The pools of water suddenly seemed to part, instead of the frustrating maze there were simply two large pools on either side. Neither raced forward just yet, wary of a trap, but nothing happened as the two walked up to a cave opening that was positively belching at them.

"Mouth of the beast much," Sean said, frowning at the fissure-like opening.

"We can go in through here I'm sure," Rai said, stepping up to look over it. The heat from the cave had caused a blind spot in terms of fog, but steam was also wafting out of it anyway.

"It's going to be so hot in there," Sean moaned. "Steam from a cave opening? Oh my god."

"It's too late to get cold feet," Rai joked, getting a Look from Sean. "Heh."

"You are funny," Sean said completely flatly. "Hilarious."

"Thanks." Rai smiled, blissfully ignoring the expressions of bemusement that crossed over his friend's face. "Whatever is in here probably lifts the fog, my pulse is racing just thinking about this."

"Maybe it's the real entrance," Sean joked, being completely serious. "And we've just bypassed the lifting of the fog?"

"Could be," Rai agreed, surprising Sean. "Either way, something important is in there and I can't wait to find out!"

Sean nodded, smiling at the enthusiasm of Rai. "Right," he agreed, nodding. "My pulse is going like crazy myself. Whatever's up there…"

They drew closer, and took in the cave entrance for what it was. The sight was shimmering because of the heat, no. It was the curious optical illusion of the dungeon entrance.

Rai glanced to Sean, but the meowth was staring forward with a fixed expression of determination. "I think it's a dungeon," he said, less sure now.

Sean nodded. "It must be." Even though he had assured himself he'd cheat for Rai's benefit, Steam Cave was still something else now that he was here. They'd found a way around the missing stone, he wondered how no one had found the dungeon.

And then remembered that people had and Uxie simply removed their memory afterwards. What was coming up there, the Groudon illusion. Yet one that was dangerous, nonetheless.

He did not feel ready to go up there.

Rai was looking at him, reading his expression of nervousness and dread. Something he didn't know the true context too, but he could make a guess. Fear of meeting Uxie and knowing for sure if his memories had been tampered with here.

Or not.

Sean looked to him and there was a look in his eyes. One that knew more than he was telling. "Ready?" he asked.

He was willing to do this. Go forth into this. Rai felt warmth in his chest at such a brave pokémon. He wanted to be like that. To be afraid, to be weak even, and still do the bold and brave thing. He knew there was a pretty sharp difference in their strengths, but even though Sean had been carried off by the aerodactyl, he'd survived.

Rai believed Sean could do this and hoped that he could do the same.

He nodded. "Let's show the guild who they're messing with!" Rai said with confidence he wanted to feel.

And Sean, seeing the confidence he wanted Rai to have, banished his own fears and grinned back.

With that, Team Ion entered Steam Cave.

A small bit of my ramblings here at the end. Just some differences between the original and this version. Sean being more supportive and brave for the sake of Rai, as well as that bit of world-building at the start.
Chapter 13 - And Now It's Hot


Bug Catcher
"Ah, Croagunk," Chatot chirped when he spotted Croagunk emerging from the forest. "Have you found something to report?"

Croagunk chuckles, "Indeed, Chatot, sir." He nodded. "At the end of the Foggy Forest there is a statue of a pokémon looks to be known as Groudon."

Chatot blinked. "Groudon, you say? Hmm, curious."

"You know of it?" Croagunk asked, spotting the gleam of familiarity in Chatot's eye. The second-in-command always did love to show he was in the know.

"Well of course!" Chatot scoffed. "Who do you take me for? I am the head of intelligence for the guild." He flapped once but then nodded. "Groudon is a Legendary Pokémon whose myth claims as the being responsible for creation of the land by raising it from the sea."

Croagunk watched Chatot in silence before chuckling again, "Sounds like a powerful being."

"Indeed. I think it may be a good idea for me to view this statue myself." Chatot paused to glance around at the empty base camp. "The Guildmaster has already gone ahead."

"I spotted the Guildmaster racing to the end of the dungeon," Croagunk explained. "I said hello, but he didn't seem to hear me."

"Probably chasing an apple," Chatot muttered, Croagunk withheld a chuckle at that one. He was clearly not meant to hear, or at least he wasn't meant to comment. "Nonetheless, we should go forward from here. No one else has returned, so they are likely still moving through the dungeon themselves. Despite having only just returned, will you accompany me, Croagunk?"


Once Chatot was ready, and Croagunk had a chance to have something to eat, they pushed back into Foggy Forest, leaving the camp unmanned.

"So, Sean is a human?" Croagunk asked right as the dungeons hold closed around them.

Chatot squawked, flapping his wings, his feathers going everywhere before screeching, "He told you?" Croagunk waited for him to compose himself. "Uh, of course. My apologies. I know how… close you two are?"

"Meh-heh-heh, nah I just overheard him telling you back at the guild. Thought my ears might have been playing tricks on me, seems not." He chuckled again as Chatot took that in.

Chatot was aghast for a moment, frozen in a half-step as Croagunk went ahead, paused, and glanced back at the frozen Chatot. "I will not tell anyone," he said conversationally. "I was just curious. Makes sense, considering how weird he is. Liking plain seeds of all things, meh-heh-heh. A nice kid though"

Chatot slowly relaxed and nodded, unable to say anything at first. He quickly joined Croagunk, and they began their trek through the dungeon.

"Are you concerned?" Chatot asked after a few minutes of silence, broken up by them expertly dissuading ferals from attacking them.

"Nah," Croagunk returned. "I know the rumours, but it's been par for the course so far. Considering the mess with time lately, I'm actually kinda relieved at the thought. I know the guild can help him if he needs it."

Chatot nodded, that was true. "A level head, thank you, Croagunk."

"Meh-heh-heh, if only the cauldron was workin'. I might be able to help him and Little Shinx gear up a bit." He gave a slow wink to Chatot who fought to not roll is eyes at the obvious ploy.

And then had to fight down a smile as he impressed at the cunning. It was not a bad idea, all things considered. He had some things to think about, and Croagunk was strong enough to handle the ferals himself.

"Oh my gosh!" Sean howled, channelling Sunflora and Ponyta at once. "This is the worst. Possible. THING!"

Rai had no words, he was too busy rolling around on the damp floor, crying with laughter.

Their initial entry into the hot and humid Steam Cave was even more unpleasant than Sean had feared. It was hot. It was humid. It was very uncomfortable.

He was reminded of the fact that felines don't sweat and had to pant a lot to keep his temperature at a reasonable level. As did Rai, although his discharges of electricity were able to serve a similar purpose, to the meowth's jealously.

The moistness of the ground was unpleasant, but nothing worse than wandering the heated quagmire previously.

The issue that Sean faced, however, is that after a little while his fur began to stick up. And up. And up some more until he had the appearance of some ballooned out puffball.

"My fur isn't even this long!" Sean shrieked, Rai collapsing ever harder into laughter. "Even after getting shocked in Mount Horn, this damn fur wasn't this puffy!"

Coughing now, Rai staggered to all fours, blinked the tears out of his eyes, spotted Sean and fell back to the ground in hysterical laughter.

It hadn't helped that Sean had crossed his arms, put on his sternest glare, and pointed it right at Rai. Giving him the best view of the scandalised ball of fluff.

Soon enough, however, Sean couldn't put up the façade any longer and laughter began to build in his own chest. "Rai's laughing so hard," he thought as he burst into laughter himself. "That's worth any embarrassment." Sean wasn't shy about making fun of himself for the amusement of others, and with Rai's reaction, he felt pretty good.

Eventually, the novelty wore off and Rai was able to at least stand and laugh. He faced away from Sean and the pair began the journey again, sniggering occasionally after a funny thought of spotting Sean out of the corner of his eye.

Sean made sure to continue scowling at all things that weren't Rai, after assuring him that Rai's laughter didn't bother him. He caught sight of himself in a clear pile of water and couldn't help but snort.

"Humidity doesn't agree with me."

It wasn't all fun and laughter though. The further they went in the more relentless the enemies became.

To both of their surprise, not that either would say such a surprise out loud, they made an effective team.

"Get ready, Rai!" Sean called, delivering three brutal Scratches to a snubbull's head, reeling it back with red lines over its skin as Sean darted back, distracting the snubbull enough for Rai to blast it to dreamland.

"Duck," Rai commanded right after blasting the snubbull away. Sean followed suit, feeling the puffed-up fur on the back of his neck move as something zipped past.

"YAA!" buzzed a yanma, sending off a green shockwave that sent both members of Team Ion sprawling.

Sean got to his feet first, having been better braced for the attack, and he sprinted forward, catching the Bug-type's attention.

Buzzing in anger, it dove after him glinting white. Sean dived to the side, avoiding the swooping tackle, and rolled back on two feet.

Extending his claws, he yelled and thumped his chest, "Come at me then!" And the yanma came for him.

Sean grinned and ducked down again, giving the recovered Rai a clear shot to fry the yanma and knock it unconscious.

"Awesome!" Sean cheered, hugging Rai before tapping his paw with his own. "Yeah." It wasn't lame at all.

The energy continued as they pushed forth. "Hoo." Rai blew a bit of fur out of his face. "We've come pretty far, how much further do you think is left?"

"No idea," Sean said cheerfully. Without the existence of actual floors as per the game, he could only guess. And he had but one guess. "Hopefully not much longer. I really want to stop looking like something you pull out of a shower drain."

"What's a shower drain?" Rai asked as they left the battlefield behind them. A few pokémon twitched as electricity still was being grounded, others were just lying around unconscious.

"Basically, it's like a bath that moves constantly. Falls onto you like you're under a warm soft waterfall. I miss them."

"Hang on. Do you not actually know how to bathe!"

Sean paused. "Pardon?"

"You don't know how to bathe yourself?" He sounded so genuine Sean couldn't find a response at first.

"I. We go to the hot springs."

"No! I mean, like how shinx and meowth bathe."

"I'm not licking my fur!"

Rai cocked his head. "Have you tried?"

"Er." To be honest he hadn't. "Why would I want to?"

"Well, you're not human anymore," Rai pointed out, then he brightened up. "My sister taught me when she still lived here, I can teach you!"

He was so happy with the suggestion Sean almost agreed. However, he then remembered how awkward that would be. "Uh… I'm alright, Rai. The hot springs work."

"But it takes you so long to dry off!" he complained.

It did. They needed a fire to hang him over to dry him out after trudging back from the hot springs, the walk only downgraded him from wet cat to damp cat.

"I still miss showers. They're much better to get clean with."

"Oh. So, then what do you?" Rai paused as the ground changed. "Huh. I think we're farther than I thought."

"Oh, please let this be over," Sean said, rushing forward. He slowed quickly, remembering what lurked above, and Rai caught up as they entered a waypoint.

"This is a fun room," Sean commented, looking at all the nothing. No Kangaskhan Rock here, Sean noted. "They definitely don't exist. Wouldn't make any sense anyway."

"Why?" Rai asked. "There's nothing in… oh sarcasm, gotcha."

Sean smiled, giving Rai a pat on the back. "The sass training is going well," he said vacantly, receiving an amused look from Rai. "Right now, can we have a small break?"

"I bet we've climbed far," Rai commented, nodding. "Can't be much further from the top!" At Sean's pleading look he relented. "We should take a small break so the last leg of it isn't too hard."

Sean sighed in relief, sitting down and leaning against a wall. Rai joined him, unable to stop a groan of relief when he laid down as well. "Heh, you're tired too," Sean said, and Rai poked his tongue out at him.

There was a deep, distant, rumbling. Akin to stones falling down a cliff far, far, away.

Rai blinked as Sean's heart clenched. "Huh? What was that?" On his guard, Rai looked back and forth carefully. No one was now. "Did you hear that or am I hearing things?"

Another rumble, this time they felt it.

"No, I felt that," Sean said, voice an octave higher than normal. "Yep, that sounded big. And scary." He cleared his throat, shook his head, and stood up. "But no matter what, we shall prevail!" Did he sound brave? He hoped he did.

He clenched a paw and raised it at the roof and shook it vigorously. "Hear me foul phantom, you cannot scare us off!"

"Uh…?" Rai cocked his head at Sean's antics but decided to put it aside for now as Sean chuckled awkwardly. "Okay! It's not that far to the top I'm really sure, let's go?"

"Yes," Sean said, still glaring at the roof. His heart was pounding, and his paws were clammy from all the steam, but he knew what was coming. This was right. This was correct. This was supposed to happen.

"Oh, wow that is a loooooot of endoprhins," he thought as waves of adrenaline spiked through him. "Things are back on track now and no one can stop us! Ahahahahahahahahaha!"

While Sean laughed maniacally, Rai dug a pair of apples and an oran berry out of the bag Sean wore. "Here," he said, passing an apple. "We should eat before we go."

While laughing between glorious bites of delicious apple, Sean nearly choked, and he decided to end the madness.

"One oran berry?" he asked once his breath was caught.

Rai smiled. "Cut it in half, please." Sean quickly sliced it in twain with a single flick of his wrist

"Love doing that," he admitted as he took his half. It was their last Oran Berry, and both felt a bit better once it was down. "It's the little things that is cool about being a scrawny meowth and not a tall human."

"How tall were you?"

"Tall enough to carry you under one arm if I wanted."


They began to leave, silently electing to race a little out of the midpoint.

A distant, almost high-pitched, bellow rocked the entire cave, causing both of them to stumble and freeze. "That sounded like…." Sean trailed off.


They shared a nod and raced forwards.

"My-my, what is this?" Chatot gasped and even Croagunk was impressed.

"I wonder, did those two manage a miracle?" he wondered out loud as the fog melted away. "Or did they have a hidden trick in the bag?"

The rest of the dungeon was a breeze without the fog and only moments after they had exited the dungeon, did another voice reach them. "Oh my gosh, Croagunk and Chatot!"

They turned to find Sunflora and Loudred rushing to them.

"By golly, the fog's just plume faded away." Bidoof and Corphish were panting, running to catch up.

"Well-well, someone has clearly made an excellent discovery," Dugtrio said as he and his son emerged from the ground.

"Wow look up there!" Diglett gasped, causing everyone present to look up.

"M-my word!" Chatot squawked as everyone's eyes turned up. Up towards the towering plateau standing like a headstone against the blue sky. Waterfalls descended from it, thundering down around them. "With the fog gone, it seems only one reasonable conclusion can be made. Fogbound Lake is in the sky!"

"Everyone over here!" The familiar voice only belonging to Chimecho called out and the eight pokémon looked down and then forward. Chimecho bobbed up and down in greeting, floating by a fearsome statue and two other pokémon.

"Guildmaster!" Chatot called, easily deducing the pink pokémon to be his most treasured partner.

"And Grovyle too, oh my…." Sunflora swooned as the eight of them rushed forward.

"Hello, everyone," Wigglytuff greeted as they got close, bouncing on his feet.

"Guildmaster, are you responsible for the lifting of the fog?" Chatot demanded, fluttering up to him. To his surprise, Wigglytuff shook his head.

"No, no. Not me, I couldn't figure this one out. It was Grovyle! Grovyle!" He pointed a stubby arm to the Grass-type, who had been standing a little apart from Wigglytuff. "And Chimecho too!"

"It was nothing," Grovyle rumbled. "Merely a trinket I picked up that Wigglytuff and Chimecho deduced the value of."

"Indeed?" Chatot asked, turning his gaze from the two to the floating Psychic-type. "You also assisted in the discovery here?"

"Oh, it was nothing," Chimecho sang, smiling at everyone individually before turning back to Chatot. "I was simply admiring the statue here and noticed there was a large hole in its chest." Looking now showed no such hole, but a gleaming red stone instead. "Wigglytuff asked if either of us had found anything that could fit, and Grovyle offered up a stone he had with him."

"It was really warm too," Wigglytuff giggled. "When I put the stone in, the statue's eyes went really red like it was going to stand up and attack us! But instead, it just got brighter and brighter and I had to look away, like this." Wigglytuff demonstrated covering his face and diving to the ground. "Then once the light was gone, the fog was gone too! Then you were there, and we were here, and everyone found each other!"

"Exceptional work you two." Chatot nodded to Chimecho and Grovyle. "And the Guildmaster of course."

"But we're missing some friends." Wigglytuff almost frowned. "Meowth and Shinx, this is terrible, this is terrible!"

"Meh-heh-heh, if I may Guildmaster?" Croagunk asked, stepping forward. Chatot stood out of the way to let Croagunk speak. "Those two remained here when I came to alert Chatot of the statue. They said they'd look around for clues, you didn't see either of them?"

Wigglytuff and Chimecho shook their heads.

"Perhaps they went further?" Grovyle suggested. "It'd be easy to get lost in that fog after all."

"Then we must go forward then!" Wigglytuff declared, pointing to the right. "After Team Ion. They must have found their own way, they are very brave and very skilled. But we cannot let them have all the fun alone, everyone let's go!"


The guild thundered and began running forward.

"Hey, Chatot?" Corphish asked as they began storming forward.


"Do you know what that statue was?"

"Of course," Chatot huffed. "As I explained to Croagunk earlier, that was Groudon. The Legendary Pokémon whose myth states created the earth by rising it from the sea. It must be inconceivably powerful."

"Ooh imagine fighting someone like that," Wigglytuff said, shivering. "That'd be so scary and so fun!"

"Please don't go looking for Groudon," Chatot begged.


"This way," Grovyle said, racing forward faster than anyone else. They arrived at a steaming quagmire, boiling water in all directions, but a path could be found.

"Chatot, we don't have any time to spare," Wigglytuff said and Chatot nodded.

"Correct sir," he flew up and over and quickly directed the guild along the quickest path, his keen eyes missing no path.

They continued going until they reached the yawning mouth of a very hot cave.

"Hey-hey, that's the way in!"

"We can't just stand here! Oh my gosh, we've got to hurry!"

"We'll need to go in smaller groups," Wigglytuff said, frowning. "It'd take far too long with this many, along with how dungeons react when more than four enter. No, everyone split yourselves into groups of four! Chatot and Grovyle, you take someone's place each. Bidoof and Diglett, you come with me."

Direct orders from Wigglytuff had the group split apart in moments. The group led by Grovyle entered first, then Chatot's, and lastly Wigglytuff smiled at the two members of the guild he had asked to come along with him.

"Excited?" he asked eagerly, getting rapid nods and no words in response. "Yay! This'll be so much fun. Yoom-TAH!"

With the whole cave shaking for a moment, undoubtedly stirring the feral pokémon within into a rampage, Wigglytuff led Bidoof and Diglett into Steam Cave.

After battling what felt like three whole swarms of Bug-type pokémon in a very hot place filled with Fire-type pokémon, Sean and Rai were ready for this to be done.

"We've climbed way up," Rai said as the entire cave yawned open, allowing into a canyon of sorts. "This place." Rai frowned as Sean felt it. "This place feels… strange, somehow."

"Everything feels tense," Sean said. "Like the air itself if waiting for something." He looked around, taking in the sheer cliffs around them, looking hard but not impossible to climb with claws.

"It's making my skin crawl all over." Rai shivered. "This place feels dangerous, I feel like…." He appeared spooked, tensely standing straight, staring at the cruelly curved tips of the cliffs. Something flickered in his eyes.

"Feel like you're getting crushed?"


"Me too."

They shared an uneasy look and Sean attempted a comforting smile. The ground rumbled.


The ground rumbled again, and a bellowing roar shook the entire plateau. "The roaring! Something's here!"

Something stepped forward. A single stride, shaking them to their bones.

"S-something is," Rai whimpered, stepping back with each thump. "Is c-coming."

Every step caused them to bounce on the ground from the sheer intensity, the footsteps grew more rapid and soon enough the entity emerged. Rai's bravery was buckling, and Sean felt primal terror welling up in his chest as well. He repeated to himself that Groudon was just an illusion, but it breathed, it snarled, and he could even smell burning sulphur as it approached.

"W-w-what is that?" Rai squeaked, unable to even yell it. "It looks like the statue," he whimpered, tears welling up. "That thing really exists? Groudon?"

Sean was similarly flat-footed and barely able to think in the presence of such an overwhelming creature. Every instinct urged him to run, every little voice that ran through his head told him to run.

Groudon was massive in comparison to him. His bulk blotted out the sun where they stood, each breath he took was loud enough for them to feel, and each twitch and shiver that ran across his body was perfect in its realism.

Only. Groudon would be certainly larger than this behemoth. It had to be, the ravine wasn't that wide and Groudon if it truly raised the earth must be a kaiju, surely. He tried to convince himself, then it began to speak.

"You! Have you come to desecrate this place? DEPART NOW!" It spoke like a volcano erupted, shaking the plateau, each word rumbling with the ancient power of an eternal being. He had to give it to Uxie, he could believe how a display like this could scare people off.

"W-wait, we've only come for Fogbound Lake," Rai said, words spilling from him in panic. "That's all we're here for, to see if the legend is true, we just want to see it!"


Groudon flexed into a battle position, to Sean it looked like he was going for a hug.

"O-Oh gosh no," Rai whimpered, shivering like a leaf. His eyes were wide, and pupils were dilated, yet no matter how he tried, he couldn't move.

Sean could see Rai's fear in the side of his vision and that changed the awe-inspired terror plunging through his chest.

He knew Groudon was a fake.

He knew they could defeat an illusion.

He knew he would not let anything ruin Rai's confidence again.

They hadn't come this far to back away because he was useless.

"PREPARE FOR MY WRATH!" Groudon overblew its dramatic statement and Sean snarled.

"How about no?" he said coolly, cutting across Groudon's excessive volume and Rai's squeaking.

His brazenness seemed to stun the massive creature for a moment. "You… YOU DARE CHALLENGE GROUDON?"

"Not in the least," Sean replied, crossing his arms and smirking at the screwed-up look Groudon's face took. Even now he could see the plastic nature of this, Groudon didn't have a confused or perturbed expression and so its face just froze into its angry expression. "You are not Groudon."

"W-wha?" Rai managed, tearing his eyes off Groudon to stare incredulously at Sean. "WHAT?"

"Yeah." Sean nodded, forcing the smirk to remain on his face. "The real Groudon couldn't possibly be this small, and really, the sun isn't looking too strong here."

Rai's expression turned to puzzlement at that last comment as Groudon regained his composure.

"YOU DARE CHALLENGE GROUDON?" The sunlight suddenly grew more intense.

"You just said that," Sean said, rolling his eyes. He waved a paw in the sunlight with a pitying look. "That's the best you can do? A Sunny Day? Is that even real, I still feel all moist from the cave."

Groudon's face twitched as he said moist.

"S-Sean, I really don't think you should be saying this," Rai whimpered, spotting the building anger.

"It's fine, Rai." Sean shot him a confident grin and extended his claws. Somehow, he felt okay. This was exactly how things were meant to be and that simple fact built his confidence. "How about we show this fake what for?"

Rai almost seemed to consider his words.

Then Sean was sent flying back.

Groudon had stomped and a stone erupted from the ground, slamming into Sean and punting him back into the dungeon. "HOW IS THAT FOR REAL?" it roared as Rai gaped in wide-eyed horror.

"SEAN?" he yelled, but there was no response. "You." As if a switch was flicked, Rai turned from frozen terror to burning fury. "HOW DARE YOU!?" Rai unleashed the thunderstorm, unleashing his most powerful Thunderbolt to date.

It did dick diddly to Groudon.

"HA. IS THAT ALL?" Groudon rumbled and Rai's bravado vanished.

"Eek," he squeaked, dodging a stone for him before sprinting off in a Quick Attack to avoid Groudon's fist coming down to flatten him.

Groudon leered down at Rai, face distorting and turning in a horrific mix of grotesque and terrifying. Rai couldn't help but freeze as a dark shadow fell upon him. He blinked and saw Groudon's body flashed before the light peeled off it like a serpent's skin and compressed into a shining ball of energy flung right at him.

The shinx tried to move, but his legs felt sluggish. His mind cried for him to move faster, but his legs weren't responding and the Ancient Power smashed into him.

Rai cried out as he was sent body-first into one of the rocky cliffs and crashed to the ground, a perfect target for Groudon's next attack.

It breathed in deeply, drawing power from the earth around it, and summoned a wave of mud that blasted shinx back and down.

He hit the ground hard and couldn't get back up again. Rai tried, but the mud was sticky and slippery, and he fell each time he tried. The dizziness probably didn't help.

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND!" Groudon rumbled, stomping closer as not even the mud shivered from its false steps. "AND NOW FOR YOUR ARROGANCE, YOU SHALL-"

Movement caught the awareness of Groudon, but its form no matter what form that is, was still sluggish and unwieldy.

Sean had exited Steam Cave once more, and he was rather perturbed at being kicked away as if he was a football. And even angrier that it had beat on Rai afterwards, the fury burned through his body until it settled in his paws.

With both paws dripping with Dark Energy, long sabres of darkness formed and sharpened past the claws that bore them.

Sean came running out of nowhere with speeds Rai hadn't seen him demonstrate before, having been unconscious or away.

Groudon's eyes widened when it saw what Sean was doing but was unable to stop him as Sean jumped onto and off his knee, carving six deep gashes in the Groudon's chest.


It roared, and the voice changed, becoming a higher pitched, but lower voice, for just a moment. Sean kept running up Groudon before kicking off and doing a backflip off its head. All the while being the coolest he'd ever known. He landed on all fours and growled at Groudon. "Didn't hurt much anyway."

"See, Rai?" he called, pointing at his work with a victorious grin. "See what I mean?"

Rai looked up and gasped. The scratches had left a pretty deep mark, but rather than blood there was just gaps that were flickering in and out of existence.

"What IS that?" he asked, and Sean nodded in victory.

"An illusion."

Groudon growled at them, and the wounds faded. "You challenge Mighty Groudon?" it hissed, quiet yet loud. "You scoff and mock and claim to know when you are but impudent whelps crawling on a world that does not know my sacrifice? You will not go any further."

Sean grit his teeth. "You're not Groudon."


"Enough, Uxie!"

Groudon paused.

Rai perked up, pulling himself from the mud as if it wasn't even there. His body still hurt, the illusion was real enough to inflict actual damage, but his spirits bolstered Rai ran forward charging another Thunderbolt.

He unleashed it on Groudon's chest, blasting a scorch mark as it grunted, yet it didn't move to strike back.

"Rai listen very carefully," Sean said as he began to run forward. "Aim for the gouges I'm about to leave!" His right paw generated another Night Slash as the fake Groudon stared at him. Sean darted to the right, avoiding a kick, and ducked under an Ancient Power. He stabbed forward with Night Slash before slicing up, opening another hole in the illusion. "NOW!"

Rai let off a battle scream as he flooded the gaping hole with electricity. Despite striking the Groudon earlier and doing nothing, striking the inside of the illusion did something far more.

The Groudon screeched before collapsing utterly into nothingness as the electricity suddenly exploded outwards, blasting Sean back and knocking Rai off his feet himself.

"GYAH!" A different voice yelled out as something else flashed, and something else hit the ground with a soft thump.

"Ugh," Rai groaned, picking himself off the ground. "Sean? Sean!" He turned around to find Sean weakly raising a paw and doing his best to give a thumbs up.

"This doesn't work without a full hand," he groaned, and Rai sighed in relief.

Sean began to pull himself up, steadying himself on Rai once the shinx was there to provide his support. Together they limped forward, staring warily at the yellow pokémon that had appeared after the false Groudon had been destroyed.

"I do not believe that was completely necessary," Uxie sighed, picking himself up. Sean immediately shut his eyes, but Rai did not, cocking his head at the pokémon. "You made your point, if you'd taken some more time to speak you may have avoided winding yourselves."

"Who are you?" Rai asked, too tired to really demand answers.

"As I said earlier, I am the guardian of Fogbound Lake. As you said, I am Uxie. And I cannot allow you to pass."

"Rai close your eyes," Sean snapped, throwing a paw up to try and shield Rai from Uxie's gaze. He followed Sean's demand, remembering something Chimecho had said earlier.

"Hmm," Uxie said, looking at them with crimson eyes. "You know of my power then?"

"Uxie?" Rai ventured.

"Yes. I am the protector of the artifact here. Many have come to claim Fogbound Lake's bounty, but all have been repelled. Often by the fog, often by the dungeon, often by the illusion, and lastly there is no one who has escaped my gaze. If I will it, I will force your eyes open and extract this day from your minds. Here you are, exhausted and weary, while the illusion takes only a small portion of my power. Fight me, and you will fail."

"How did that work anyway?" Sean demanded.

"The illusion I create requires a steady link to control it and supply it energy to form its moves," Uxie explained, he had no issue in answering questions. As the being of knowledge, he enjoyed it. Very few adventurers had ever really asked him anything. "It is not unlike a Substitute, although more actively controlled. Unfortunately, that means I need to have a mental connection to it. Normally it would be as powerful as I can empower it and any wound inflicted on it would not be passed to me, simply draining my Power. But your usage of the Dark damaged my control and staggered my safeguards, the electric attack didn't quite strike me directly, but I did feel it. None have managed that, so I suppose that is commendable. Pity you won't remember."

"Wait we're not here to take anything!" Rai insisted, cringing as they both felt Uxie summon his Power to take them down. "I'm being honest! Yes, we are adventurers, but we are with a guild and the entire guild is on its way. All we wanted to do was find Fogbound Lake, sure a treasure would be nice but if it is so important to you than we'll all leave without it."

Sean and Rai held their breaths. Sean wasn't completely certain about Uxie, he was rather sure that Uxie had emerged unscathed in the game, so he may be more ticked off at them than normal.

"Well… okay, I believe you," Uxie said plainly, causing them both to sag. Was it that easy? He lowered his Power and closed his eyes. "Very well, let me welcome you to Fogbound Lake. I have my eyes closed now."

"Great!" Rai opened his eyes and beamed as the pixie-like pokémon. Sean was not so trusting and kept his eyes closed, but Rai began to trot forward, and he was forced to feel around. "Don't mind him. I was hoping to ask you a question or two?"

"Indeed?" Uxie almost smiled, but emotion wasn't what he was known for. Voice even and tone as level as it was before, Uxie said. "Very well, it might be best to discuss on the way."

"Sure." Rai nodded and began trotting alongside Uxie and Sean reluctantly opened his eyes. Uxie wasn't facing him, and he kept close to Rai without getting super close to the Legendary Pokémon. "My friend has lost almost all his memory and I was wondering if you might have taken it?"

"Hmm." Uxie turned to Sean, and he quickly glanced away. He had seen Uxie's face, the jewel on his head was quite alluring, and he had kept his eyes closed, so Sean buried the doubt and looked back. "The last pokémon who reached past the illusion was a ledian. I have only taken the memory of a meowth twice, and both occurred decades to centuries ago."

The sun was setting as they walked, and Rai shot Sean a questioning look. "Well, what about a…." He trailed off, giving Sean another meaningful look and Sean started as he realised what Rai might be asking.

"Yeah, you can say it," he said.

"What about a human?" Rai asked proudly, catching the tiniest change in Uxie's expression. "Have you taken the memory of a human recently?"

Uxie examined Sean curiously and he felt a presence somewhere around his head. It was an uncomfortable feeling and he tried to shy away from it until it disappeared.

"…No. It has been a great many centuries since I have seen a human," Uxie said, causing Rai to wilt. "Whatever is the cause of your friend's memory loss, I am not it."

"Do you have any idea what it could be?" Rai asked, clutching at straws now.

"Memory loss from damage to the brain is often temporary or only partial, a greater range of memory stolen is almost always the act of a being. Despite having great command over the mind, my own abilities have been greatly reduced. Along with the rest of those you all Legendary Pokémon."

Sean frowned. "What? What happened?"

Uxie cast him a blank look. "A grand sacrifice to preserve the world a great many cycles around the star in the wake of mankind's hubris. Has this been forgotten?"

Rai and Sean shared a look.

Uxie seemed disappointed. "I do not leave the lake, I am not aware of the activities of the outside world outside of the time I must scare people off."

"That sounds lonely," Rai said, frowning at him.

Uxie shook his head. "Far from it. I am able to commune with my siblings at any point in time."

"Oh." Now Rai seemed wistful.

Rai sighed but smiled anyway. "Thank you for answering at least."

"You're welcome. Now look forward, we have arrived."

Rai aimed his gaze forward and smiled as they came up to the dark waters of a lake at dusk. "Wow it's getting so dark outside now. This is… this is Fogbound Lake isn't it?"

"Indeed." Uxie confirmed. "It may initially be a little difficult to see at night but, behold." He turned around, keeping the exact same plain tone as he gave the grand announcement. "Fogbound Lake and its relic. Can you guess what it is?

In the dusk's light, the clear water of the lake twinkled as if the stars had fallen into it. Above the water were hundreds of glinting lights and volbeat and illumise danced in the sky. In the centre of the lake a great azure shine welled up. The lights of the pokémon twinkled like stars, creating shooting displays of light across the calm water of the lake.

"This lake is so big, can barely imagine a place this big on the top of a plateau."

"This place is beautiful," Sean said, stepping close to the water's edge. "It's like the stars are in the sky, water, and air."

"Water constantly wells up from far below this place," Uxie said, not quite sounding bored but close to it. "It flows up so heavily it has long formed this enormous lake." Uxie turned back around. "Now cast your eyes to the glowing centre of the lake. You see it?"

"I see it." Rai confirmed. "That blue, sort of green, light coming from below? It looks… familiar."

"Step forward for a closer look," Uxie said, and they did as he asked.

Sean swallowed painfully as his eyes fixated on the glow that the Time Gear emanated. Just like back in the Limestone Cavern, his pulse quickened, eyes dilated, and he was nearly overwhelming by the Need To Have It.

"That's awesome." Rai beamed, recognising it. "A Time Gear! And it's all safe here too, that's incredible! No one would find it here."

"And with my protections in place, the Time Gear has remained safe," Uxie said. He turned slightly to where Sean was creeping forward, Rai catching his friends movement as well. "I guard it, it is the sole reason why I am here. Since this continent's flow of time was damaged and the gears scattered to stabilise it."

"Meowth?" he asked, but the meowth didn't hear him. "Uh… Meowth?" He stepped forward and bumped Sean lightly, causing him to jump.

"Woah! What was that for?"

"You seemed out of it again," Rai explained, cocking his head. "What was that?"

"Just… trying to get a closer look," Sean said, looking down. "Sorry, shiny things distract me a bit."

Rai giggled, and Sean felt better.

"A Time Gear!" a high and cheerful voice cried. "A Time Gear! Oh well, that's too bad." Rai started as Wigglytuff came trotting up to them, Bidoof and Diglett barely keeping pace with him and panting for breath.

"Hoo, golly that wasn't easy," Bidoof groaned, lying down in relief.

"The Guildmaster is…" Diglett puffed. "So strong, and so fast. It's incredible, it feels like we had to fight most of the enemies though. What was with that?"

"We can't take a Time Gear," Wigglytuff said, pouting. He spotted Uxie and raced up to him. "WOW fantastic lake, friendly friend!"

"And who might this be?" Uxie asked, turning to Rai as Wigglytuff was staring out at the lake in open-mouthed amazement.

"That's Guildmaster Wigglytuff," Rai said, then glanced back to the others. "And Diglett's the one in the ground, Bidoof is the one lying down. They're members of the guild like we are, we're all here together."

"Glad to meet you, friend!" Wigglytuff cheered, shaking both of Uxie's arms. "Friend! Friend! New friend!" He danced around a bit before going back to the lake's edge. "Gaze upon this amazing view friends! I'm delighted we came, right everybody?"

As Wigglytuff began to hum and sing a bouncy tune, Uxie detected more pokémon arriving and sighed. "It appears even if I had chosen to erase your memories, it may not have worked with so many people able to note a blank spot."

"By golly this place is gorgeous," Bidoof gasped, having gained the energy to trudge the last steps. "Those lights are beautiful yup-yup."

Uxie turned to face him and Bidoof cringed. "Mighty fine place, all thanks to you I bet!"


"Oh my gosh, we're finally here!"

The crowd of pokémon raced forward, relieved to be out of the hot and damp Steam Cave, besides Croagunk who rather enjoyed it.

"Hello to one and hello to all!" Wigglytuff beamed as the guild came forward, cautiously upon siting Uxie.

"Guildmaster," Chatot squawked, flapping his wings. "You got ahead of us; who is this, and what is going on?" He spotted Sean and Rai and sighed in relief. "Thank goodness, you two are here as well."

A leafy-green head stepped forwards. "Impressive work you two," Grovyle said, striding past Wigglytuff. He gave a short nod to Uxie before making his way directly to Sean and Rai. "It appears you were far ahead of us all."

Sean's eyes fixed onto Grovyle and that's right, that was another problem. He wouldn't… he wouldn't do something with everyone here, would he?

Oh, but how mad were the guild going to be when Uxie told them what he did? Sean realised something, he could help this. He could 'remember something' thanks to seeing Uxie, back Grovyle up. Maybe, just maybe, they could explain this?

Uxie's words of why he guarded the gear came back to him and his chest began to feel funny as he began to think over what to do.

"It was tricky, going through the fog," Rai admitted, beaming up at Grovyle. "We actually left that Groudon statue because Meowth thought he saw you!"

"Indeed?" Grovyle asked, turning to Sean. "You have sharp eyes then."

"You were there?" Rai gasped as Sean grappled for words.

Grovyle nodded. "Yes, I had found something I thought could be of help, so I quickly returned to the base camp to alert Wigglytuff. I found him on the way, however, and he and Chimecho discovered the way to lift the fog."

"What was it?" Sean asked, hoping he sounded perfectly curious.

"A strange stone I found," Grovyle answered. "Warm to the touch, by placing it in the heart of the statue the fog was lifted."

"Ooh," Rai hummed. "That would have been cool to see!"

"Bit bright at first," Grovyle said smiling. "But the area is beautiful with the fog lifted. You'll need to look around once you are down."

"Never mind all that," Wigglytuff said, waving them closer as a rush of sound boomed from behind them. "Look out there! It's spouting, pretty-pretty!"

The volbeat and illumise had scattered temporarily before flying in practised routines around the absolutely stunning vision that was the lake spouting.

"Yes, the lake geyser erupts every once in a while. It sends up water, just like a fountain. And the Time Gear casts illumination from below. This is how the lake is refilled," Uxie commented, but no one really heard him.


"Oh my gosh, even Loudred is amazed."

"Hey… hey… that's beautiful."

"Oh my, so shimmering. Absolutely lovely, I'm so happy I came here."

"Heh, even I gotta admit that is stunning."

"Dad… I think I get why you love water so much."

"My son, this is… astounding, even for water."

"Yup-yup, that's the prettiest gosh darn thing I've ever done seen. I wish I could show this to Bell."

"What an incredible find, Guildmaster."

"Pretty, so pretty. I'm glad we all came here! This is treasure enough."

"Meowth?" Rai asked, catching Sean's attention away from the water and light show. "This is magical. I can't believe we got here first." He looked so happy.

"You did it." Was the only thing Sean could manage as he looked at Rai, the problems about the Time Gear problem banished for a moment. "You're amazing."

Rai glanced away from the lake and to Sean for a moment. "Sean? We've been partners for a while now, I-I was wondering..."

"Truly magnificent." Grovyle's deep voice didn't even manage to shake one person out of the glory of the Time Gear water display, but it did pause Rai. "Meowth, could I have a word with you?"

"Hm?" Sean grunted, transfixed by the azure light show and Rai.

"Perhaps some other time," Grovyle sighed, glancing around. Far too many pokémon really to have a private conversation. "But as it seems, I believe it is time for me to go."

His first words didn't shake anyone out of it, the second sentence caught the whole guild's attention.

"What?" Was the general consensus.

"Indeed." Grovyle nodded. "While the time I have taken here has been a treasure I will remember always, I do have urgent business back in Treasure Town. I do not regret coming along and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to explore with you, Wigglytuff Guild. But it is time for me to leave, and I will be my swiftest when alone."

'No wait!' was on Sean's lips. He was pretty sure he was meant to be doing something, explaining something, together to solve this.

Yet, if Grovyle wasn't confident to try. It surrendered the brief flicker of an idea he had, it was too risky, especially with Uxie right there. Maybe later, he said they'd talk later.

"It was great having you," Wigglytuff said, stepping forward. "Thank you for coming, friendly friend." Grovyle braced, but it was barely enough to withstand Wigglytuff's hug. "Hopefully we will see you again soon."

"Yes," Grovyle grunted, coughing from his lungs being manually constricted. "I may have to stay in Treasure Town a little longer. S-Meowth and Shinx, I hope to see you soon. But I have to go now… please?"

Wigglytuff released him, not without another squeeze, and Grovyle shot a shaken smile across the guild. He nodded to Sean and Rai and disappeared into the night, Sean's eyes following him until he was out of sight.

"Wonder what Grovyle wanted to talk about?" Rai wondered out loud, Sean paid him no mind.

"I'll work it out," he thought, but he had no time to dwell as Wigglytuff was addressing the guild.

"So sorry to have disturbed you," he apologised to Uxie, giving a few bows. "We had a fantastic time, ten out of ten, would go again! Friend, friend, friendly friend!"

"I shall not take away your memories of this place," Uxie said, startling a few guild members who hadn't realised who he was. "There would be no point and I am willing to offer you trust. But I must ask you to keep this place a secret, trusted to no one but each other."

"Absolutely." Wigglytuff nodded. "Thank you. We all know what we need to do. The Time Gears have started going missing! This one must stay safe. We won't breathe a word to anyone about this place, I swear it on the name of Wigglytuff's Guild, Wigglytuff, Chatot, Audino stamp approved! But maybe if you permitted, occasionally a guild member could check up on you?"

"Please hold true to that promise," Uxie asked. "And I am not certain if repeated visits are a good idea. If someone is indeed stealing Time Gears, raising the chances of being followed and discovered are perhaps not worth it."

"I understand," Wigglytuff said.

"But I am not amiss to the company of the guild," Uxie added. "Not commonly, but I would permit it if someone were to come covertly every few weeks or so. You will not have to face the Groudon I materialise to do so."

"There was a Groudon?" a few members of the guild squawked.

"An illusion of one," Uxie confirmed, generating the illusion and spooking most of the guild.

Except for Sean, Rai, and Wigglytuff. "Hello, friendly friend!" Wigglytuff cheered, coming up to shake the illusion's massive hand.


"This is one of my defences for Fogbound Lake," Uxie said, having the Groudon roar and stomp its foot, causing most of the guild to stumble. "It is quite formidable."

"The Guildmaster defeated this?" Chimecho gasped and swooned.

"No," Uxie answered, confusing them for a moment. "The shinx and meowth did." Eyes turned to them as both of them blushed.

Wigglytuff wrapped Sean and Rai up in a hug themselves while beaming. "Well done you two! Three cheers for Team Ion!" The guild cheered.

"Hip-hip-HOORAY!" Wigglytuff tossed them both into the air. "Hip-hip-HOORAY." He caught them and tossed them again. "Hip-hip-HOOOOORAAY!" He caught them one last time and let them down.

While the pair of them staggered into the arms of the other apprentices, Wigglytuff turned his affection on Uxie.

"Great work!" Wigglytuff beamed and hugged Uxie too, to his clear surprise. "We'll make sure the Time Gear stays safe! So safe! Even safer!"

"Indeed. If you would release me now?"

"Okay." Uxie floated back for some space. "Let's be on our way. Chatot, if you will?"

"I'll hop to it, Guildmaster!" Chatot affirmed, fluttering his wings and turning to the guild himself. "Everyone, we are going back to the guild. This expedition – The Quest to Find Fogbound Lake – Has been a rousing success!"

"HOORAY!" The whole guild, including Chatot and Wigglytuff, cheered.

Chatot and Wigglytuff stepped aside with Uxie to talk to him a little about the situation as the rest of the guild continued to admire the spectacle, talk about the adventure, or ask Rai and Sean about fighting Uxie's illusion.

In time, however, they had to go. "Take care, Wigglytuff Guild," Uxie said, seeing them off with almost a smile. "It was nice meeting you, it is nice to hear of the world in these times."

"For the first time in centuries, I allow my guard to drop," Uxie muttered as he trembled, barely able to support himself with his normally formidable Psychic powers. "And on the day, I am winded as well? How foolish can I be?"

"Uxie? UXIE!? Talk to me, what is going on?" a feminine and passionate voice reached Uxie's mind.

"My Time Gear has been discovered by the Thief," Uxie answered, consciousness beginning to fade as things began to flash black and white. "A cunning one able to pass for innocence with ease."

"Uxie, listen to me, focus on my voice." A steadier voice overcome the panicked yelling of the first. "Can you move? You have to get out of there quickly, has the gear been taken?"

"The thief has reached the middle of the lake," Uxie replied, mental voice equally as even and unbothered even as his body was tilting to the ground. "It won't be long now. I believe I will not be able to escape in time."

The azure light of Fogbound Lake was snuffed out as the thief snatched it from its resting place. Grovyle breathed in deep as he breached the water and climbed onto the lakefront, grimacing as he placed the gear in his satchel.

"My siblings know," Uxie said as Grovyle began to escape, raising a hand to snare him in a Psychic grip. It was too weak to hold him for the time freeze, but enough to say his piece. "You shall not succeed."

"I am saving the world," Grovyle answered and Uxie frowned.

"You would end it," Uxie said, voice still flat. "Like you would end me."

"For what it is worth," Grovyle said, stepping forward as Uxie tried to rise up straight and blast him into the water, "I am sorry, but you will understand soon."

Uxie began to open his eyes, but it was to no avail. The Spirit of Wisdom fell. Grovyle sighed sadly, watching as time began to stop along the lake. Uxie would not escape, he would not move any further to warn anyone else. And especially not the guild.

"I had best hurry, lest the guild discover my presence and actions." He darted off, as Uxie's mind became crowded with his siblings shouting at him.

"Uxie, move!" Azelf commanded and Uxie found the willpower to try, but not the strength.

"Uxie, MOVE!" Mesprit screamed, pushing all her passion through to her brother as she could. Uxie found a reason to try and began to float again.

He glanced behind his shoulder and grit his teeth. The water was freezing in a kind of coldness that no ice could ever match, he could not escape. He knew it, cold logic against their passion and will.

"Cancel the connection," Uxie demanded through their link, it took all three of them to break it. A hint of emotional will crept into his voice as he pleaded with them, "Quickly if I am frozen while still connected to you, you wi-"

Time froze.

The lights of Fogbound Lake grew still, yet ever there. The volbeat and illumise's glow still remained, yet now their light cast a shadow across the frozen, yet not icy, water.

Uxie stilled, mind locking into place, going blank, heart freezing, but not stopping, eyes open, yet not shining.

Mesprit screamed in agony as the connection to her brother was frozen in time, she unable to end it, her mind unable to comprehend the inconceivable wave of

From her yellow brother. Things went black and white and purple and colours that do not exist as she writhed in agony, the Underground Lake shaking as a maelstrom of energy began to unleash a reckoning on it.

Azelf cried out in no less pain as Uxie did not go silent, it was not silence from Uxie but a complete lack of anything that cried out in an agonizing crescendo across their mental link. It was a silence that pounded on the ears like distortion on a radio.

Azelf grit their teeth and pushed their whole WILL into resisting the agony, into ending the connection the ever-present nothing that they were joined with. Whether it took a second, an hour, a day, or longer Azelf wasn't sure, but they refused to be dragged down into the scream they heard from Mesprit.

The Being of Willpower resisted until it was gone. But once it was gone, they wept for their brother, their sister, and for the world.

Cute stuff, well not the ending but otherwise.

I can't wait for what's coming, I hope we remember who begins to make his Great appearance after Fogbound Lake~
Chapter 14 - Crumbling a Little


Bug Catcher
A branch cracked.

With heightened hearing, edged to outright paranoia, the riolu hidden in the trees tensed. In a practised motion he tugged a retractable cord and the spartan camp he had dwelt in for the last week was all wrapped and ready to be absconded with.

He was right in the middle of hoisting the heavy cloth around his shoulders when he heard some tapping.

It was rhythmic. One tap. Two taps. Three taps. All while someone glided through the brush as if they were part of it.

Sean the riolu relaxed slightly and smiled when he spotted the green crest on the top of his visitor's head.

"Sean?" Striker the grovyle whispered, sliding through the trees.

"Here," Sean whispered back, relaxing almost entirely now that he was certain there was no threat to him. "Glad to see you're okay."

Grovyle smiled and hopped to his side. He looked him up and down with a critical eye before nodding. "Impressive," he said warmly.

Rolling his eyes, Sean have him a tiny shove with a blue paw, more a tap. "We can talk impressive in a minute. How are you? Any clue on that meowth? How did the expedition go?"

"Fruitful in one way," Grovyle began as the riolu placed their entire home back down. "Disappointing in another. Did you find the key?"

Sean shook his head. "Nope. Judging by the question, that was the disappointment?" Grovyle nodded. "And Shinx doesn't know where it is either?"

"It doesn't look like it," Grovyle confirmed. "And he gave no indication that he has any idea." Sighing with frustration, Grovyle crouched down and Sean sat down as well. "I did obtain the Time Gear, however," he said, and Sean smiled. "And got a closer look at our… friend."

Grovyle opened his travel bag and held out the cerulean gear, grimacing as he did so. Sean quickly opened up the bag he stored the gears in, opening the bag quickly for Grovyle's sake. "Three down," Sean sighed and gave the still-grimacing Grovyle a concerned look. "You alright?"

Striker grimaced. "Still feels like the cold stone of the future," he said, rubbing his hands to try and rid the feeling the Time Gear left on him. Sean reached forward to clasp Striker's hands with his paws and held them until he stopped shuddering.

"One bastard of a deterrent in taking those things," he joked, and Grovyle gave a small, grateful, smile. "Two to go. Past the hump! It'll have to be easier now won't it?"

"Don't swear." Grovyle smirked, but Sean's tone was far too innocent to be anything but sarcasm. "Easy now, do not give us bad luck now."

"I won't jinx us," Sean laughed and Grovyle chuckled as well. "Hehahaa… so, did you get any idea on 'Meowth'?"

"Yes," Grovyle said, beginning to frown. Sean felt the shift in tone and sat up straight. "Odd."

"Odd? Odd in what way?" Sean asked, the riolu's ears twitching.

"He has told Shinx his name to begin with," Grovyle said, causing Sean's ears to twitch again. "And said it was Sean."

Sean blinked. Twice. Thrice. Then a fourth and fifth time just to be sure. "Oh… well… that… huh. That actually makes sense really."

"Say again?"

"Yeah." Sean frowned thoughtfully, pulling himself to his feet. "Getting separated from us. What better way for us to find out where he is? Broadcast name that we'd both recognise."

"Dusknoir would recognise it as well," Grovyle pointed out, before giving a tired sigh. Sean didn't even need to give him The Look, he realised it as soon as he said it. "Of course. Of course, he'd do that, the fool. To get 'his' attention as much as ours."

"I mean, it'd definitely pull some heat off us," Sean sighed, shaking his head. "Can't help but wonder if he actually planned to get separated from us now."

"Unless he knew something would attack us," Grovyle said dryly. "I feel this was just a coincidence based on what else I learned. He didn't seem to completely recognise me, I fear he may be suffering a bout of amnesia like you did."

"Hm," Sean grunted, rubbing an arm absentmindedly. Grovyle noticed it was the same arm that he had shielded himself with during their trip through time. "He did take as bad of a hit as I did."

"Is it aching?" he asked, concerned.

"Huh? Oh, no I'm fine," Sean said, dropping his arm to his side. "Just thinking."

"As am I," Grovyle said as he began to frown again. "I believe that the usage of your name hasn't been intentional."


Grovyle sighed and looked up. "He was rather… distant through most of the travel, I'm not sure how much of me he recognised. He stuck much closer to Shinx, kept me at arm's length."

"That is weird," Sean agreed. "And it can't be because…? No. Wait, he never talked to you?"

"At first he was very quiet," Grovyle said. "It was hard to tell at first since Shinx would not stop talking, but no matter what he seemed uninterested in engaging me in conversation. I travelled with them across two dungeons and several days. If it wasn't for what Shinx himself told me, I wouldn't have been certain it was him. Shinx blurted his name out when we were separated, otherwise, I'm not sure if I would have guessed. I couldn't quite find a way to get close enough to examine him for scars, but I could see some."

"Like me, he can't remember it all," Sean mused. "And since he woke up away from us…."

"Like you." Grovyle nodded. "And unlike you, he didn't have either of us to help stir those memories. They are still there I'm certain, he seemed to recognise me, but not why or how. Or what it meant."

"So, he may not know," Sean theorised before frowning. "He might recognise you, but not know why. Holy shit, what if he thinks you're a bad guy? We can't fight a friend! Does he know you took any of the Time Gears?"

To Sean's relief, Grovyle shook his head. "Thankfully that incident shouldn't be discovered for some time. I succeeded in trapping Uxie in time, although he said he has warned his brethren about me."

"Not about me!" Sean grinned cheekily. It dropped after a second. "Jeez. And I thought things were bad on this side."

At that, Grovyle's eyes sharpened. "Yes? I notice you haven't shared any news. No sign of the key is one thing. Has something else happened?"

Sean's expression turned quite guilty. "Don't freak out on me," he said, and Striker crossed his arms sternly. "I mean it, Striker. I've been careful." With the grovyle blinking just briefly off guard after his name was used, Sean explained, "Dusknoir is in the area."

One of Grovyle's claws snapped closed around nothing and clenched as his jaw tightened. Sean cringed away as Grovyle took a moment to calm his nerves. "You agreed that any sign and you'd leave," he said softly.

"Yesterday," Sean explained. "I was in the marketplace and there was a big commotion. Apparently, Mount Bristle had a Shadow Pokémon problem and with the guild gone, the locals were a little panicked. I decided to stick around a bit to get some more information, and then he was just… there."

"As he does," Grovyle growled, he was scanning the brush around them for any sign.

"Yeah. He calmed the townsfolk, especially when they realised he was 'The Great Dusknoir' and he went off to 'dispatch of the threat' returning this morning with the good news."

"I wonder how many sableye did the dirty work for him," Grovyle snarled before stalking up and down the small clearing. "He's here? Now? The guild won't be far behind me, he's clearly here for them. He knows Fogbound Lake has a Time Gear, he'll want to check it out. Especially if they tell him I was there, and they have no reason not to. Dammit!"

Sean watched this quietly. It was a rare scene to find Striker losing a bit of his cool-guy composure. He supposed he should feel honoured, there wasn't really anyone else Grovyle would show this side to. He needed to be cool, calm, and collected for everyone and everything else.

There wasn't much he could do. Letting Striker simple curse and growl, cut up some trees, and mutter obscenities under his breath was the best option here. He tended to regain his composure fairly quickly.

Striker continued to mutter and attack trees for a minute longer than Sean had guessed before he pulled himself together.

"Get that thing on your back," Grovyle ordered, gesturing briefly to the tent. "We're leaving."

Sean didn't move.

"Sean?" Grovyle asked, bordering on growling at him for once. "I said we need to leave."

"Striker," Sean began soothingly but the Grass-type recoiled from his voice.

"That's your 'you're not going to like this' voice," Grovyle snapped. "And I already know I don't agree."

"I think I should stay here," Sean suggested.

"I was right," Grovyle said, sounding mock-surprised. "I don't agree. I'm not letting Dusknoir get his filthy traitorous hands on you."

"And how will he?" Sean asked, stopping Grovyle in his tracks. "He's looking for a human named Sean. You know what he'll see when he sees me? A riolu named Riolu."

"I'm not risking you." Grovyle glowered, taking a step forward. "You know as well as I do that you can't keep your nose out of things. If something happens, you'll do something stupid and get yourself caught."

"Well, what happens when Dusknoir learns about someone 'else' named Sean?" Sean demanded, standing his ground. "If Shinx is as chatty with names as you say, he'll find out sooner or later. Or if he pals with the guild and gets a good look at him, you know he'd recognise him."

Striker took a deep breath. "If he… recognised me, he'll probably know to keep his distance," he suggested, but it was weak.

"And what's he supposed to do if Dusknoir does figure it out?" Sean asked.

"Dusknoir won't… do anything until he has all three of us," Grovyle said slowly and deliberately.

Sean nodded. "I've got an idea. It makes sense to split up again. We both know the last two lakes are guarded by Azelf and Mesprit. How much help am I even going to be there? I'll be an even deader weight in battle, and it'll also show the last one that there are two after the Time Gears, rather than just one. I won't do anything stupid, no matter how much I want to. Saving the world needs to come first."

Striker took that all in, thought it over, and gave his companion a fragile smile. "Arguments are so much more enjoyable now that we can actually discuss things." His smile fell, and he sighed. "You and your rational good points." He tried to focus on all the holes and flaws of Sean's idea, but the pragmatic part of his mind won out. "Very well. You have to swear it this time though. Swear you will not endanger yourself. Not to save either of us."

"Striker," Sean said sadly before nodding. His companion's expression was immovable. "Alright. I swear."

The grovyle nodded. "I will be holding you to that," he warned. "You don't have nimble enough fingers to do some alien human counter-deceit this time."

"I'm still not apologising for saving your life," Sean retorted, feeling new confidence fill him now that he'd won the argument. He wiggled his paws, but Grovyle was right. He couldn't cross his fingers if he didn't really have any. "You all thanked me, I could tell. Except you, who just shouted 'gro, grovl, vle' at me for two hours straight."

"Heh, Guardian covered-" Striker stiffened up as did Sean. "I… I apologise. Slip of the tongue."

"It's fine," Sean said, waving him off. "Really. Nothing wrong with thinking of the good times every now and again."

"…Perhaps." Striker shook it off and looked to the path he had come. "Well, Giratina's plan has changed now. I intended on remaining for longer in Treasure Town, but with Dusknoir here that is impossible. You will stay here, continue searching for the key. Keep off Dusknoir's web of information. Be nothing more than-"

"Than the friendly, if a little naïve, young explorer," Sean finished with a grin that befitted one brain cell. "I'm good at that."

"I'll continue for the Time Gears," Striker continued as if Sean hadn't spoken, but an amused tilt to his jaw was visible. "I had some time to think when travelling back and I have decided that searching for Mesprit and her lake is the better choice. Finding the right entry, any entry at all, is not going to be easy. Azelf's location is at least somewhat known."

"Good choice. I would have suggested it anyway."

"I'm sure you would have." Striker nodded. "Lastly, but first to be done, I am going to speak with 'Sean' and see what he remembers."

The riolu blinked. "Is that the best idea? If he doesn't remember much you might make him suspicious."

"I'm certain he knows more than he lets on," Striker said.

"Like you?"

"Possibly. I don't intend on telling him anything without good cause, I just plan to ascertain what he knows. Let him speak. I already told him I wanted to speak with him before I parted from the guild. If he refuses to speak with me, or I cannot get him alone, I'll move on. But what he might know could factor into our plans. And if possible, I'll warn him about Dusknoir."

"If you think that's best," Sean said with a shrug. "You're the most careful guy I know, so it should be fine. Probably best you don't mention me for the moment."

"Certainly not!" Striker nodded and they fell into a moment of silence.

"Well," Sean began, breaking the silence. "Guess you'll be taking off right away?"

"Indeed." Striker nodded. "I am sorry. This wasn't my intention."

"I know," Sean sighed, giving a reluctant smile. "I know. We've got important work to do. I'll find the key to the Hidden Land. I was hoping to have you there to give me a bit of assistance there. And I'm guessing you don't have anything of Shinx's I might get a Scream from?"

"Nothing specific," Striker confirmed while shaking his head. "But we could give it a single shot anyway? See if anything helpful comes up."

"Still weird that here the Scream shows me any random thing," Sean muttered as Striker stepped closer. "At least the future was consistent." He clasped Striker's clawed hand with his softer paw as Grovyle sat his bag down and opened it.

Feeling a little foolish, Sean held hands with Striker while he rifled through their things. He touched food, berries, a scarf, and an unnecessarily large number of orbs. He wouldn't say that, Striker would get uppity at him again, but he'd think it viciously.

"Anything?" Striker asked after a minute.


They dropped their grips and let their arms flop down against their hips. "Worth a try." Sean shrugged. Striker quickly secured his belongings in his travel bag and swung it into place.

"I should be off now," he said, and Sean nodded.

"Don't do anything stupid," he said and got a grin out of his friend.

"Same to you," Striker said wisely. "Same to you."

Sean gave him a light shove. "Now get out of here," he commanded. "Rob some gods. Save the world. Let me find the key."

"Good luck, Sean," Striker called as he disappeared.

"See you, Striker," Sean muttered, pushing the faint feeling of sadness away.

He had a key to find.

The guild had chosen to duplicate the original plan, except in reverse. The various apprentices split into their same groups before setting off on the exact journeys that had brought them to the Foggy Forest in the first place. Except for one small exception.

"Since the two of you came through the mountains with a partner," Chatot said to Team Ion as everyone was packed and ready. "I think it may be pertinent for you to exit with someone as well."

"Yes! Friends work with friends," Wigglytuff parroted next to Chatot.

"Indeed, so for your trip back, you will be travelling with Croagunk. Understood?"

Sean and Rai exchanged a look before the fur on their necks stood up. Croagunk was right behind them. "Understood," they said together.

"Meh-heh-heh, glad to be working with you," Croagunk chuckled from behind them.

With everything in place, the guild split up once more.

Croagunk didn't mind travelling through Mount Horn and Craggy Coast on the way back. "It was fun to wade through mud again," he commented at one point while being attacked by a triple beedrill trio. "This is alright though."

Saying this after getting lanced by a beedrill was cause for some concern between them.

Otherwise, Croagunk fit in well. He didn't talk much, didn't inspire the same kind of attention that Grovyle had, Sean was thankful for that small mercy, and was a very competent battler.

The comments Croagunk made were somewhat strange though. Or vaguely insulting.

"Meh-heh-heh, good catch." He complimented Sean, after managing to be in the perfect spot to get slammed by Rai. The shinx getting blasted back by a Solar Beam.

"I'm a good landing pad," Sean groaned as Rai rolled off him. Croagunk darted forward with a fist seeping purple, Poison Jabbing the bellossom right in a weak spot.

"You're all pokey," Rai coughed, coming to his feet. "Warm at least."

"I'm aware of that," Sean said dryly, coming to his feet as well. He brushed some dirt off his face, tail, body, and legs. Everywhere, he was filthy all over again.

"Good grief." Rai shook his head at Sean. "Just clean it off."

"I will," Sean insisted, Rai gave him a disbelieving stare. "We'll just stop by the Hot Springs."

"Meh-heh-heh, I was wondering about that earlier." Sean turned his attention to Croagunk as the amphibious pokémon plodded along. "But it makes sense."

"It does?" Rai asked, cocking his head, Croagunk just chuckled.

Sean's concern over whatever Croagunk meant by that was forgotten when they were attacked by some new enemies.

Thunderbolt and Poison Jab finished off two, while a Scratch and half a Night Slash managed to send the last one fleeing.

"You are really strong, Croagunk," Rai commented cheerfully as they continued on, barely slowed.

"Meh-heh-heh." Croagunk's cheek pouches inflated in for a longer moment before shrinking again. "You're not too bad yourself. Both of you, you'll be graduating in no time."

"You are much stronger than us," Sean pointed out. "Why haven't you graduated?"

"Eh, can't," Croagunk answered. "The only treasure I care for in the world is bolted to the floor of the guild."

The smell of salt ended up sticking to Sean after they exited Craggy Coast, and Rai refused to go through the next leg of the journey smelling nothing but salt.

Croagunk had no issues, so it was decided on a small detour before arriving back at Treasure Town.

"Ah… this feels wonderful," Sean sighed, leaning back in the water. Rai nodded in agreement, bobbing up and down as he did so.

"You two are welcome here any time," Torkoal said, voice a little laboured but otherwise strong.

Croagunk remained in place, rooted in the dimmest corner of the Hot Springs. His expression hadn't changed, by the inflation of his cheek pouches seemed to have slowed. Sean gathered that meant he was enjoying it.

"I hope we haven't been bothering you," Rai said meekly towards Torkoal.

"Not at all," the aged pokémon insisted.

"He won't clean up otherwise," Rai explained, giving Sean a cheeky glance. Sean rolled his eyes in response.

"Just because you enjoy coughing up hairballs, doesn't mean I will."

"I do NOT cough up hairballs!"

"Hm, sure, sure."

Rai growled and pounced, dunking Sean into the soothing water of the Hot Springs. Sean thrashed and splashed water everywhere before resurfacing, dunking Rai's head down for half a second before springing back.

"Come here!" Rai called as Sean paddled for his life, breaking into laughter as he did so. Thankfully Rai did as well, and the laughter disabled him from pouncing again.

Torkoal chuckled and let them wash away the stresses of the expedition. He chose not to ask them about it, determining that if they wished to speak of it, they would. And Croagunk was known for not being the chattiest of apprentices. No one else populated the Hot Springs this day, the regulars having left before Team Ion arrived.

To their regret, the time to leave seemed to come too quickly. "The guild will be worried," Sean said out of the blue and Rai agreed.

Croagunk remained Croagunk and made a creepy laugh.

"You're right," Rai sighed. "Don't want Chatot to get upset at us or something, not when we're going so well."

"You two take care then," Torkoal said, overhearing them. "And come back any time."

Rai shook the water off, showering Sean as he got out. "Thanks," Sean said.

"You're welcome," Rai replied brightly, causing Sean to snort. He awkwardly tried to shake the water off, still not completely accustomed to fur, and nearly lost his balance. Thankfully Croagunk caught him.

After nearly falling back into the Hot Springs, Sean decided to walk the water off. They waved to Torkoal and left the Hot Springs, now on the regular path that led straight to Treasure Town.

After a few hours of aimless chatting, something happened.

To their surprise, green and leafy stepped out of the trees to block their way. "Grovyle!" Rai beamed, delighted to see the clever adventurer again.

"Good afternoon, Shinx and… Croagunk," Grovyle said with a grin. "Sorry to have vanished off so suddenly, seems I didn't have to rush, and I apologise for that."

"Oh, no that's okay," Rai insisted. "We got back through the dungeons alright, that Night Slash is really helping!"

Sean smiled at Rai for that.

Grovyle nodded. "Well, if you don't mind I can show him another trick?" He raised an arm and flicked it, a blade of green slicing off his arm into a projective that struck against a tree, leaving a noticeable mark.

"Oh, cool that's so nice of you!" Rai beamed and grinned at Sean. "Who knows what he can show you?"

"Meh-heh-heh. Probably something dangerous."

"Something that can hopefully form a stronger partnership," Grovyle said, eying Croagunk for a moment. "Say… Croagunk?"


"I wasn't able to share this earlier, but I had been thinking about it throughout the expedition. Your Swap Cauldron, I believe I may have an idea that may help."

"Oh?" Croagunk leaned forward, omitting his usual chuckle. "There isn't much left I haven't tried to repair it."

"The issue was stability was it not?" Grovyle asked, getting a nod from Croagunk. "I've spent a lot of time having to prepare things that will last. Have you tried incorporating scizor carapace into the cement?"

Croagunk's pouches froze as his expression… didn't change, but the pause was enough. He chuckled and shook his head. "You are very clever, Grovyle. Not easy to get hold of it, but…." He looked away, staring past everyone and nodded. "I'll see you back at the guild, Team Ion, I have business to address."

Croagunk began to drift away, moving quite eagerly to try a new idea to repair his beloved cauldron. Sean waved.

He turned to Rai. "Now, forgive me for being presumptuous but I had learned that you were recently stolen from?" Rai flinched and almost shrunk, Sean curled his tail around Rai's in response.

"I heard a rumour that some stone object with a strange marking has been spotted." Rai gasped and bolted upright. "I overheard someone speaking about it in the marketplace but was unable to find who it was."

"My Relic Fragment!" Rai said before frowning. "Or… it probably isn't. There are lots of rocks with markings on them."

"Don't think like that," Grovyle said gently. "Yes, it is not always easy to raise your hopes, but it is equally as damaging in time if you disallow yourself from feeling no hope. Perhaps it could be, or someone may have an idea or lead for you?"

"You're really wise." Rai smiled, it was nicer than his normal ecstatic grin. "After Team Skull took it I…." He trailed off before shaking his head. "I really should start asking around, they probably did sell it, thanks."

"You are welcome," Grovyle said warmly. "Now, I can give your friend some assistance while you return to Treasure Town. Who knows, Meowth may be back before you are."

"Oh, I can wait," Rai said pleasantly. "Sean would probably get lost if I left him alone." Rai gave a laugh, but Grovyle did not.

Sean was still facing Rai, but he was watching Grovyle through the side of his eye.

"I wouldn't wish for you to lose this chance," Grovyle said, keeping his face neutral. "If needed, I can show him the way back."

"I wouldn't want to inconvenience you!" Rai shook his head.

"It is no inconvenience," Grovyle said firmly. "I will tend to Sean, you find your lost treasure."

"Oh, uh..." He glanced at Sean and remembered that Grovyle had wanted to talk to him about something. He realised this must be something private. "Okay. I guess I'll just… see you back at the guild?"

"Sure," Sean said giving Rai a smile. "Don't worry, I won't trip over my feet too much! You need to find the Relic Fragment, I'll feel better at least."

Rai smiled, gave Grovyle another curious look, and ran off, calling out. "Croagunk wait up!" The new pair watched until Rai was a small dot to their eyes before Grovyle turned to Sean. "It would be best we take this off the path well-travelled."

Swallowing nervously as a thousand and four scenarios flashed through his mind, Sean followed Grovyle off the path and into the woods. Before today he hadn't left the path at all besides the one time he found his way to Litleo's abode. And even then, that was just an alternate path.

"So, how secret are the techniques you're planning on teaching me?" Sean asked airily. Grovyle gave him an unimpressed look before it morphed into a thoughtful one.

"This will have to do," he said, coming to a stop. Sean looked around, this didn't seem to be a simple random spot. A small clearing Grovyle had led him to, surrounded by a thicket of trees that stretched their branches far enough to blot out the shine of the sun. Only brief rays fell through the leaves, lighting what was clearly a campsite.

There wasn't much, befitting someone who was constantly on the move. Just what appeared to be a swag made of hewn reeds and leaves with a bag sat on top of it.

Grovyle gestured for him to sit, but Sean declined. He was feeling a mite too nervous to sit around easily.

"First, extend your claws," Grovyle commanded, and Sean quickly obeyed.

"Going straight into it I guess," he thought, flexing his paws and letting his claws come out. With a taloned hand, Grovyle grabbed one of his paws and examined it. He checked the top, bottom, how long his claws were, before letting it go.

"Perform a Night Slash for me, if you are able," Grovyle said, and Sean took a breath.

With the claws on his right paw twitching and trembling, he tried to force the sticky unpleasantness through his arm. His arm began to wobble as he tried to call upon this Power. His claws began glinting black, but none of them extended into the sabre-like blades that was Night Slash.

"Hm," Grovyle hummed as Sean gave up, breathing slightly harder for his effort. "Not great," he said, and Sean flinched. "Not terrible at least. Watch me."

Grovyle's left arm shone green before it cracked and spread to his leaves, lengthening them into glowing green blades. Grovyle lifted one of his arms vertical and let Sean see how the Power had sharpened along his arm.

With his right arm, Grovyle did the same until the time came to shape the Leaf Blade. Instead of running along his arm, the energy moved and shaped along his hand, becoming a smaller set of sickles.

"In time you may be able to do this," Grovyle said, slashing out with both arms and the green energy seemed to fly right off his limbs, cutting small branches and leaves down from where he had aimed the attack. "However ranged attacks of this kind take a considerable amount of time and dedication to properly master."

"Well that's pretty awesome," Sean said, glancing back as another branch fell down. "It doesn't sound like you're teaching me that though."


"Then what are you teaching me?"

Grovyle didn't answer immediately, instead, he glanced to where he had sent the Leaf Blade's.

Sean wet his lips and decided to make a stab at the topic below the surface. "Why did you want me alone?" he asked and Grovyle's gaze fell back on him. He didn't outwardly react to the almost deadly look in Grovyle's eyes, on the inside he screamed a bit. "You clearly wanted Rai to leave… is there some super-secret move you have to show me completely alone? Or…?"

"Or," Grovyle answered, and Sean breathed out heavily.

Leaning against a tree, Grovyle crossed his arms and stared him down. Sean stared back, wincing upon first meeting Grovyle's intense gaze, but gathering his nerve and staring him down himself.

Soon, Grovyle cracked a smile. It was bizarrely friendly and even more strangely comfortable to see. "Do you know me?" he asked, and Sean's roiling nerves quietened completely. There was no point in being nervous about what had already happened. "You've acted somewhat… oddly ever since I first met you. I think at least. You are quite difficult to read."

Sean swallowed dryly and wet his lips with a damp tongue, feeling the scratch of his inhuman tongue drag roughly across feline lips. "I'm not sure," he said, clenching his paws and doing his best not to shrink away. Something about this felt every flavour of wrong, he felt hot and itchy.

Grovyle nodded, the tension in his shoulders seemed to sag away as he sighed. "What happened to you?" he asked the wind. "Alright, tell me. Who are you?"

"I… what? I'm Sean. Sean the meowth."

Grovyle nodded. "Indeed. What about you especially? What are your hobbies, what do you like to do?"

"Why are you asking these things?" Sean asked, mind just going blank now. "I'm an explorer. I like… exploring things."

"Where do you come from?"

"T-Treasure Town."

"Do you?"

Sean was silent.

"Sean," Grovyle said, the name common and known to his tongue.

Sean flinched. "I have amnesia okay!" he yelled, surprising Grovyle with the energy. "I don't know why you're asking me these things! What do you want to know?"

"I want to know what you know about me," Grovyle retorted and Sean's fragile web of lies and the pressure to keep up the act cracked.


Sean's voice didn't carry far, the forest consumed his words before it could spread to delicate ears. But what had been said, had been said.

"I do not do well under pressure," Sean commented to himself, feeling suddenly very detached. Like he could just float away.

"Do you know that you are as well?" Grovyle asked softly, far gentler than Sean's emotional outburst. It still caused him to cringe.

"Ah… uh… fine, yes! I know! I know I'm from the future. I know you are from the future. I know the future we come from is a hellscape nightmare land of pain and horror and death. I know you are the one taking the Time Gears to stop the never-ending nightmare the world ends up as. But I don't remember being there!"

Grovyle took a few moments to take all that in, all while Sean cursed himself to the deepest pits of hell for releasing so much. "I hate lying," he thought miserably. "I hate it so much… but surely I can be honest with Grovyle? Someone. At least for some of it."

"I see." Grovyle said eventually. "That is… more than I had expected to be honest." Sean covered his face to breathe into his paws for a moment before dropping them.

"I don't remember… much of anything," he admitted. Which was, technically, the truth. At least in this context. "Just that where I come from is horrible and we are back trying to stop it somehow. I don't remember… you very much at all."

Grovyle frowned. "What do you mean by that?"

"I remember what we are doing. You… I don't remember, just that you're pretty awesome and that you are here to save the world. Also, pretty awesome."

"What do you remember clearly?"

Sean rubbed his face, took a few breaths, and tried to figure out what he was going to say. He decided to go with the truth, at its most technical.

"I woke up on the cliff on Sharpedo Bluff," Sean said, staring down at the ground. "I didn't really remember much. Just… my name is Sean, and I was human."

Grovyle stared at him for a very long time. "Amnesia indeed. This complicates things, you really can't remember much?"

"What do you mean? I'm not acting the way I used to?"

"No." Grovyle shook his head. "If that shinx hadn't said your name, I may not have recognised you at all. You are considerably bolder these days. It's… nice to see."

"Me? Bold? Good lord. Well, I mean, the future is a place of death. I can only imagine how freaked out I would have been."

"So, has your memory been returning at all?" Grovyle asked, but Sean shrugged with a dismissive sound.

"Kinda? Parts of my memory have been going further," he admitted, frowning as he tried to remember what his mother's name was. "And when I woke up I didn't really know what I was doing."

Sean licked his lips again, he cursed himself on the inside for being such a hesitant person, bold his ass. He knew he'd said enough that Grovyle could make his own conclusions, but he had to say it. If just to prove he could. "I only really remembered the stuff I've said. I know that the future is terrible, and we came back in time to save it."

Grovyle nodded, sighing out a held breath. "And you remember how we planned to save it?" he asked, just to reaffirm what Sean had already said.

"Time Gears."

Grovyle smiled. "You remember the important parts then, which is a relief." Grovyle stepped forward, Sean instinctively stepping back at the sudden movement. The wood gecko pokémon paused, a frown touching his lips. "But you are…."

He trailed off into thoughtful silence and Sean stepped forward himself. "I want to help you, Grovyle." Grovyle frowned further at that, Sean baffled as to why. He hadn't even reached the bad part yet. "But I don't think I can. I'm just not strong, not brave, not bold at all. Groudon was a… fluke I think, wasn't even Groudon and I knew that." He shook his head and looked back, eyes trailing over the plants they had walked through.

Grovyle mentally placed that last line aside for later consideration, he hadn't been aware there would be something like that to scare people off.

"You have other obligations here," Grovyle said, nodding. "I am relieved you still know of our mission, I wouldn't wish to make an enemy of you. I don't think our actions will remain shrouded for much longer. Uxie is frozen in time." Sean spun back on Grovyle at that.


Grovyle nodded, a pained expression darkening his face. "With the guild having found the Time Gear and Uxie being such a powerful telepath, I'm afraid it had to be done. I thought this might buy us some more time to act, without being seen. But this will likely not work as I had hoped. Uxie will be fine once time is restored."

"I see." Sean frowned, glancing away. "Ah… this is really weird for me at the moment," he said, hoping to lighten the mood. "I feel really tense, and I don't know why."

"You were always the careful sort," Grovyle replied, nodding. "Kept us all alive in the future." He went to clap Sean on the shoulder but rethought that.

"So," Sean said, turning the topic back to what he wanted to say. "You said I have other obligations here?"

"Indeed." Grovyle nodded. "I found my way onto the guilds expedition in the hopes of getting close to Shinx." He smiled a pleasant grin. "Then I find I may not have needed to. You've done an admirable job there."

"Okay…?" Sean asked, frowning. "Why exactly?"

"Right, you wouldn't… Shinx is in possession of, was in possession, or will be in possession of a required item to find our way to Temporal Tower." Grovyle stepped over to his other bag and ruffled through it quickly. "This," he said, turning back with a scrap of parchment in hand.

He thrust it towards Sean who took it carefully. On the parchment was a, surprisingly well drawn, imitation of the symbol on the Relic Fragment. "This glyph was found in Brine Cave, and we know it to be the key to the Hidden Land. Our only lead to this is Shinx, Team Skull was of… little help in that field."

"Team Skull?" Sean asked, mind spinning with everything being said. "O-okay, slow down please."

Grovyle sighed. "I have to be brief, I can't stay in the area much longer."

"Why?" Sean asked. "You froze Uxie."

"Dusknoir is in the area."

Sean paused, the feeling of remembrance washing over him like ice water. "Oh."

"Yes, 'oh'," Grovyle said. "You remember the threat he poses correct?"

"S-sort of."

"Do not let him find anything out about you," Grovyle ordered, rolling up the picture and thwapping him on the head with it, lightly. "We don't need any greater risk to this operation."

"Okay just…" Sean mimed some walls around him before pushing out with his paws. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to find the item," Grovyle replied before handing him the scroll. "Take this with you, but keep it hidden. I'll be back in Treasure Town once I have acquired the remaining two Time Gears. I am not certain how long this will take, we have an idea of where Azelf is hidden, but Mesprit will be much more difficult to find."

Sean nodded, before frowning. "Wait. So, you were just telling Rai a lie in order to make him leave?"

"Yes, unfortunately. Knowing I had something secret to discuss with you could cause unnecessary complications."

"And what if?" Sean began as Grovyle stepped back to grab his belongings. "What if Dusknoir figures out who I am?"

Grovyle stared at him for a long moment. An inscrutable expression Sean had no way to decipher. "You'll be alright," he said eventually. "At best, we will free you. Even if things go to their worst, Dusknoir won't harm you. Minimise any interaction with him and don't let him get a close look at you. Understand?"

Dusknoir wouldn't harm him, what did that mean? "Y-Yes, I got it all."

"Good." Grovyle packed his swag into the bag and swung it in parallel to the other one he wore. "This went considerably better than I had feared," he said, giving Sean a confident smile. With a nod he said. "I really wasn't sure how much you remembered, I thought you simply had a vague recognition of me. This is good news, thank you. We are back at full strength or at least closer than before."

Sean managed to smile back as Grovyle began leading him back the way they had come. "I'm not allowed to tell any of this to Rai, am I?"

Grovyle was silent for a bit, only the sound of them walking through nature. "It would be best not to," Grovyle said. "The more who know, the greater the risk Dusknoir will find us. Telling him would only place him in great danger. But on the occasion everything goes wrong, it may be a good idea to find a way to let him figure out what needs to be done."

"One last question though," Sean said, pausing Grovyle. "In the future... what did you... what did you know about me?" Had he told Grovyle everything? He wanted to scream it, he hoped so badly he had.

Grovyle turned back, a contemplative expression flitting across his face. "Despite it all, you were very brave," he said after a pause. "Always someone to count on. Always... made what we were doing worth it."

Sean swallowed, that wasn't quite what he meant to ask, even if it did make him feel good. "And how much did you know about me?" he asked.

Grovyle's expression was curious, a little perplexed. "...Enough," he answered.

"Well..." Sean thought. "That answered nothing ever."

Grovyle came to a stop and pointed. "Keep going forward, you'll know the way back to Treasure Town soon. I will part ways here, reducing the possibility we could be connected together. Deny everything if you must, stay close to your allies, and find the glyph item. Tell Shinx that I have given you a tip on how to launch a Night Slash. And good luck."

"You too, Grovyle." Sean waved and Grovyle waved back, another pained look in his eye. Once Sean was out of sight, Grovyle smiled sadly.

"Take care of him, Sean," he whispered, then disappeared into the forest.

The sun had set, and night had fallen by the time Sean found his way back to Treasure Town. The moon had risen to cast its gentle light upon the world as nocturnal pokémon began to start their day. Sean noted a large number of hoothoot and was able to see small differences in feather and beak length as he went.

He was quite bored but also anxious which was an uncomfortable combination.

Spending the walk back thinking over his and Grovyle's conversation slowed his pace down a bit. It couldn't be helped, Sean compulsively thought over everything he did and did not do.

He couldn't decide if he had done the right thing exactly by revealing so much to Grovyle, or how much he didn't learn from their conversation. "Feels like I did all the talking," he thought as he kicked a stone.

Then winced as his shoeless feet were stung from the impact.

"Whatever that was," he thought as Treasure Town began to come into view. "I've probably sent everything sideways. How much point is there anymore at trying to keep the 'story' on track?"

His dour thoughts were to be interrupted, however, by something blue, yellow, and relieved to see him. "Sean!" Rai called, bounding over to him and snapping Sean from his reverie. "You made it. I was just about to come looking for you."

"It was a trip." Sean smiled, relieved that Rai was still Rai. "That's for sure. I spotted about thirty-seven and a half hoothoot."

"Thirty… seven? That'd oddly specific." Rai's expression grew grave. "And a half?"

"It was a noctowl, I'm pretty sure," Sean clarified, leaving Rai to breathe a sigh of relief.

"That's good. I heard a Shadow Pokémon was in the area, but someone mentioned it was handled."

"Shadow…?" Sean frowned, but Rai was looking very uncomfortable now. Deciding to shelve that for now, he asked. "How did the treasure hunting go?"

Rai's discomfort faded away like sand pictures on a beach before he shook his head sadly. "Nothing. No one's heard of anyone talking about it. The place was getting quiet, so I'll try again tomorrow."

Dammit, Grovyle. "It'll turn up. What about Croagunk? Did you catch him? He was going off pretty fast."

To Sean's concern, Rai flinched at that. "YES," he half-shouted as his fur puffed up before he restrained himself. "Yes, I caught up with him. Didn't talk about much though, just creepy laughter and creepier comments. You know?"

"Normal Croagunk then." Sean nodded wisely, and Rai nodded as well, tension sliding out of his shoulders. Without speaking, they began to walk the rest of the way to the guild, enjoying a spot of silent companionship as they did. Rai boldly linked his tail with Sean and smiled when Sean gave him a questioning look.

Diglett and Loudred let them in quickly and Team Ion officially returned to the guild.

"Last again!" Chatot squawked, giving them a disciplinarian look-over. "Hmm. If the cost was clean fur, I suppose we can live with it." Sean blushed as Rai sniggered and he enjoyed a bit of gentle ribbing from the rest of the apprentices before Chimecho called them all to dinner.

They had a surprise waiting for them post-dinner, Chatot said but then just sent everyone to bed. Tomorrow would be a day off for everyone.

Afterwards, Sean and Rai relaxed into their familiar room with far comfier beds. Not just piled of straw now, and even had quilts. "Much nicer than the cold, hard, unloving ground," Sean sighed as he began to wriggle his way to comfort.

"It is nice," Rai agreed, curling up into a tight ball on his own bed. "Kind of cold, though."

"I don't mind the cold," Sean said as he found his comfortable spot. One leg splayed out onto the ground, torso twisted enough to let his tail breathe with his face pressed into the softness, one arm tucked in, while the other one remained free.

Rai would have been concerned if Sean wasn't a feline pokémon. For him, this contortion was perfectly normal.

"That expedition though," Rai said, opening his eyes to stare out their window. The sounds of waves crashing against the cliff were distant, but audible enough for them both to feel comforted. "Another Time Gear."

"Yeah," Sean said, not trusting himself to say more.

"Grovyle too," Rai's tone took on wonder again and Sean tensed for a different reason. "He was amazingly strong, and smart too. I'm not surprised he figured out how to lift the fog, pity we couldn't go back with him."


"Not that going with Croagunk was bad!" Rai insisted, realising he may have been being rude. "He is a really strong pokémon."

"Really strong. Fun too."

"Fun… I guess you could say that."

"Heh," Sean chuckled and wriggled again. "You don't feel comfortable around him?"

"Not like I feel around you," Rai said plainly, and Sean wasn't sure how to respond to that.

"Well… thanks, I feel comfortable around you as well."

Rai's smile was hidden in the darkness, but Sean was pretty sure he could feel it. "What about Grovyle, though? What did he want to teach you so badly? I didn't ask earlier, since he seemed like he wanted to see you privately."

The beginnings of guilt began to claw at Sean's conscience. "Oh just… this really cool way to do a ranged attack. Like, he did Leaf Blade, but was able to fire it like an energy attack."

"Oh, that's really cool! It takes a lot of skill to pull that off, not surprised he can do it."

"Yeah, he's pretty skilled."

"He didn't want anything else?"

Sean frowned into the straw. "What do I say? I can't… I can't lie again, not to Rai." Sean didn't think he could tell the whole truth either, so he took a mixed option. "He actually told me he might know me."

Rai bolted up in bed. "What? Really?"

His sheer excitement made Sean feel several orders of magnitude better, as well as distantly guilty all over again. He nodded but gestured for Rai to keep his voice down. "We're not… certain, because of my amnesia. But… well… he did seem kind of, vaguely, sort of familiar to me too."

"This is going to backfire so hard on me," Sean thought but decided that Rai's delighted expression more than made up for any possible repercussions for this.

"This is so cool, we might be able to figure out your memories soon!" Rai beamed, laying back in bed but still grinning widely. "Funny that Uxie had no idea, but Grovyle did."

"A bit, yeah." Sean smiled and eased back into his comfortable position. Only to find it wasn't working anymore, so he had to splay in a different way. "He had to leave though, he said he's got some 'urgent business' but should be back… eventually."

"Oh, well." Rai got comfortable himself but didn't wrap himself up so tightly again. It felt better to relax a bit more. "I bet when he does come back he'll be able to help you. Wow, Grovyle's getting me onto my treasure again, and he recognises you. I'm so glad we met him. How lucky are we?" Rai smiled one more time before finally deciding he should go to bed. One last thing though. "Did he tell you anything about yourself?"

"Just that I was 'the careful sort'." Sean answered, closing his eyes with a smile.

"Heh, that's pretty funny considering what you did to Uxie's illusion."

Sean chuckled. "He also said I seem, I dunno, considerably bolder."

Rai was silent for a bit. "You are. I feel braver when I'm with you."

Sean didn't know how, but he was grateful he was having a good effect. "Thanks."

"I never got to ask, with Croagunk there I dunno... but how did you know Groudon was an illusion?"

"I... dunno. It just seemed impossible. I guess I just latched onto the hope that it wasn't and it helped me notice what wasn't adding up."

"How'd you know about the sun thing?"

"Human knowledge."

"Ooh. That's really handy. You're remembering stuff then?"

He shifted in bed. "Kinda? Maybe Grovyle being there helped?"

"Maybe." Something seemed to linger in the air, something unsaid.


"Goodnight, Sean."

"Night, Rai."
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Chapter 15 - The Gang is Gathering


Bug Catcher
"WHAAAAAT?" Loudred roared the next morning. The morning announcements had been given and everyone was preparing to go about their day.

Everyone had stepped apart, the notice board workers were mulling about while the sentries went to their posts.

Loudred's screeching brought everyone back down to the lower decks, concerned about what their guard was throwing such a fit about.

"Is it a dangerous outlaw like Salamence?" Bidoof guessed.

"Oh my gosh, what if it's Team Charm?" Sunflora gasped. "Loudred would totally throw a fit over them showing up!"

"Hey-hey, I've always wanted to meet Team Raider."

"YOU CAN'T IDENTIFY A FOOTPRINT?" Loudred screamed, causing everyone who had made the critical mistake of getting closer to the noise to flinch.

"I can't tell what I don't recognise," Diglett explained patiently, Loudred not even phasing him. "And that's that."

Sean had woken up feeling better rested than he had since he had arrived here. Sleeping without his conscious being so guilty led to nicer rests, he found.

He was feeling so good, the expected arrival of Dusknoir didn't scare him. He just edged his way further into the room as Diglett pulled himself back underground.

"Diglett is an outstanding sentry," Loudred growled, he was speaking quietly for himself. Still loud enough for everyone to hear. "For him to be stumped by a footprint is rare. If Bidoof or Sunflora were doing it, THAT I'd understand."

"You DID NOT just say that?" Sunflora yelled, storming up to Loudred. "You take that back right now."

"Oh YEAH?" Loudred yelled back. "What if I don't?"

"What if?" Sunflora spun to Bidoof who wasn't making a peep. "Tell him, Bidoof! Tell him what he'll get if he doesn't take those hurtful things back."

"Uh." Bidoof nearly panicked when an angry Sunflora and Loudred's burning eyes fell on him. "Uh… yup-yup, knock-knock, by golly?"

"HA!" Loudred laughed. "Bidoof won't."

"What's that?" Diglett's voice reached them all and Loudred paused. "You want to meet our Guildmaster? And you… oh." He quickly popped his head up to the assembled guild. "He says he's Dusknoir! Guess that explains it, he doesn't really have feet."

"D-Dusknoir?" Loudred gasped as the whole guild began murmuring. "W-well DON'T KEEP HIM WAITING!"

"Loudred you operate the door levy," Sunflora pointed out and Loudred immediately ran for it.

The rest of the apprentices who were peering out of the doorway ran into the room as Chatot yelled for order.

"Under no circumstances will you be discourteous to our guest," he said sternly, as well as quickly. "No asking for autographs or bothering him for exploration tips. You will not embarrass the guild. And now I'm… going to get the Guildmaster." He quickly fluttered off right as Sean's whiskers twitched as a shadow began to descend from the path leading up.

"Oh, that's a weird feeling."

Rai was frozen stiff, ecstatic expression of pure excitement on his face. Waving a paw in front of him didn't register at all.

And then, Dusknoir appeared. "Good morning," Dusknoir said pleasantly, and Sunflora, Bidoof, and Loudred all fainted.

"Oh, that's a reeeaaallly weird feeling."

He was of a similar consistency as Duskull. Dusknoir's upper body was more set and solid than Duskull's unstable form and brawny as all hell. There was a modest and somewhat worn grey ribbon tied to his right arm. Or it may have been a scarf, Dusknoir's arms were very thick. His lower body tapered to a wispy, genie-like, tip that was constantly moving as if it was blowing away in the wind.

Which, as Sean looked closer, was more accurate than he had expected. Dusknoir's lower form seemed to be utterly fading into nothingness as it flowed off him, but then a more shadowy texture replaced it as if a never-ending river of Dusknoir.

"What is this feeling?"

Dusknoir's single eye roamed through the guild. Unlike Duskull's eye which seemed to bounce without stopping, between his eye sockets, Dusknoir seemed to have control over his eye. Sean edged himself closer to Rai, to hide a little against him, as Croagunk came to stand with them.

Thankfully, Dusknoir's attention never had the chance to stop on him, as he was distracted when Chatot returned with Wigglytuff.

"Thank you for visiting," Wigglytuff said joyfully as he trotted up to Dusknoir. To the surprise of everyone, he didn't immediately grapple Dusknoir in a full-body beartic hug. "What an honour to be visited by The Great Dusknoir!" He still did clasp both of Dusknoir's large hands and shake them vigorously though.

With a voice as smooth as honey, Dusknoir said, "No, no." Shaking his head. "Think nothing of it. The honour is all mine. There is no greater honour than visiting the Wigglytuff Guild. It's far more famous than I." He then winced slightly. "And no need to refer to me as 'The Great Dusknoir', Guildmaster, I assure you I did not give myself the title."

"No need to be modest!" Wigglytuff insisted. "We are all friends here!"

"Thank you for your hospitality," Dusknoir said warmly. "As friends, I insist you call me Dusknoir." Wigglytuff giggled. "I have been meaning to visit here for some time. Once I heard the guild was mounting an expedition to find Fogbound Lake, I simply had to come around to hear the good news."

"Unfortunately, we didn't find anything," Wigglytuff said, still smiling even as his cheer dimmed slightly.

"Oh? You didn't find the lake?"

"Nope!" It was a little surprising to Sean to see how easily the lie flowed off Wigglytuff's tongue, not a hint of deceit in his face. "It ended up as a waste of time. Didn't learn a thing. We got to have fun as a guild though! And even make a new friendly friend!"

"…I see. That must have been quite a disappointment for your guild."

"Can't win them all," Wigglytuff replied, shrugging the idea of disappointment off. "And it was so wonderful to stretch our legs a little, wasn't it, Chatot?"

Chatot, who had been similarly besotted by Dusknoir's appearance, puffed up a little and fluttered his wings. "Indeed, indeed, it has been some time since the entire guild has endeavoured upon a task and many rewarding experiences were gained."

"I am certain it was rewarding indeed," Dusknoir said warmly, nodding to the guild as they were all still staring. "Returning to roots, I imagine?"

For a moment, just a moment, something else seemed to cross Wigglytuff and Chatot's faces. It was so brief that no one was certain they saw anything.

"I overheard your guild was travelling with another explorer?" Dusknoir asked. "Is this true?"

Wigglytuff's expression turned from mildly disappointed to ecstatic all over again. "Yes! Friendly friend Grovyle! He was able to help Team Ion through some dungeons and even I got to explore a bit with him!"

"Grovyle you say?" Dusknoir pressed. "What are they like?"

"He is an incredible friend! Very smart, very strong, very wise, very clever! Very resourceful, even if we didn't find anything in the end it was still worth it to gain a new friend. You should come on an expedition too, Dusknoir!" Wigglytuff gasped and then danced in place. "Yes! Yes! The next expedition the guild mounts, we could bring you! You! And invite Grovyle again! It would so much fun, so much fun!"

Dusknoir had been silent through Wigglytuff's moments before giving a slow nod. "Very interesting," he said and glanced out to the rest of the guild briefly. Sean fought the urge to crouch out of view, Rai was still a perfect statue, but he knew that'd be foolish. Thankfully Croagunk got bored of standing in place and decided to make his way to the front, walking in front of Sean in the process.

"Meh-heh-heh, we at the Wigglytuff Guild would be happy to learn from you Mr Dusknoir," he said as Dusknoir's attention fell on him.

Dusknoir nodded cheerfully before addressing the whole guild. "Well success of not, every expedition comes with knowledge and experience gained. I had hoped to come here to hear of your latest triumph."

"We didn't learn much," Wigglytuff said. "Sorry."

"Not at all," Dusknoir insisted. "It gave me an opportunity to visit you, and the timing wound up quite fortunate. When I arrived, there was some worry in Treasure Town I was able to solve in your absence. And so, I plan to stay in Treasure Town for a short while. May I visit with you occasionally during my stay? Your guild constantly receives the latest news. Any information would be of great help on my own explorations."

"No problem!" Wigglytuff beamed. "Other exploration teams visit us all the time. You will always be welcome here!"

Dusknoir paused briefly at that before nodding. "My thanks."

With that, Wigglytuff bounced his way to where the apprentices were all standing and addressed them all. "Everyone! This is Dusknoir. He is going to be staying in Treasure Town for a while! Mind yourself around him. Dusknoir is very famous and quite knowledgeable. So, I'm sure everyone would like to get advice from him. But let's not overdo it, we don't want to be a nuisance."

"And may I reiterate," Chatot said, hopping forward. "Do NOT embarrass us by asking the Great Dusknoir for autographs!"

"No, no," Dusknoir chuckled, waving him down. "If it is autographs you want, I'd be happy to oblige." He swiftly began to receive requests for such a thing, Chatot staring enviously.

"What does an autograph from a pokémon look like?" Sean wondered. "And holy crap, I never realised I wanted one from Dusknoir this bad!"

"But… information? I'm afraid you flatter me. I have very little information, even I am still learning new things. However, I would be delighted if I may be of service to anyone. If there is anything you wish to ask me, please do not hesitate. I would be happy to oblige."

The apprentices all began to cheer in various ways. The quadruped pokémon stamped their feet, while other pokémon clapped.

"By golly, this is such an honour to have the Great Dusknoir here among us."

"Oh my gosh! I'm so glad to have the chance to meet you."

"Hey-hey, I better get some waterproof parchment for you to sign, Great Dusknoir."

"Okay, everyone settle down," Chatot said. "You are dismissed to your daily work."

The guild gave a cheer and Diglett and Dugtrio buried down as Dusknoir turned to Wigglytuff. "I believe I'll go for a wander through Treasure Town. Feel free to approach me with anything. Good day."

"You too, Dusknoir!" Wigglytuff replied and Dusknoir floated out of the room.

"I can't believe you spoke to Dusknoir!" Chimecho said as soon as the apprentices were free to talk again. Floating above Croagunk excitedly

"Meh-heh-heh," Croagunk chuckled, giving a side look to Sean and Rai. "Well, he said he was just another pokémon."

Sean gave Croagunk a small smile and Croagunk returned to tinkering on his Swap Cauldron. He had only just put out the order for scizor carapace, but he had other work he could do for the time being.

Sean turned to Rai. The shinx still wasn't moving. "Uh, RrrrShinx? You okay?" He waved his paw again and, when that didn't work, gave him a slight push.

Rai began to tip over but blinked. "Hm?" He caught himself and shook his head. "Woah! Headrush."

"I'm not sure if you were breathing," Sean said, only half kidding. "Is Dusknoir that big of a deal?"

Immediately the entire room turned to stare at him.

"…Yes, I know I'm handsome, no need to stare."

"Oh my gosh. You don't know…" Sunflora said slowly. "About the Great Dusknoir?"

"Hey… hey? Have you been living under a rock for the last year?"

"YEAH? How could you NOT know of the GREAT DUSKNOIR?"

"Okay, first." Sean held up a paw. "Ow, volume. Second, amnesia."

Comprehension and a bit of shame took over the expressions of everybody. Rai had to ruin his fun though.

"I told you about Dusknoir," he said innocently, turning to cock his head at Sean. "Don't you remember?"

Sean hesitated, and everyone's eyes narrowed. "Well… I think I'm going to get a head start in Treasure Town," he said calmly as he began to move towards the incline. "Do some shopping… you know…." he licked his lips, Sunflora's leafy hand twitched, Bidoof's nose twitched, Corphish's pincer clacked.

"Get him."

Sean tried to run. He tried to evade. He really did. But he failed and was subjected to nearly half an hour's worth of Dusknoir facts from half of the guild.

Rai laughed off his pleas for mercy and instead took the time to go do the shopping, ignoring Sean's bargains to do it for him.

They eventually released a shell-shocked Sean who stumbled his way to the job bulletin board, grabbed a random piece of parchment without reading it, and continued stumbling his way outside.

He met with Rai who was loitering outside the entrance to what seemed to be a bunker. He smiled upon seeing Sean and began chattering at him.

All Sean could hear was white noise.

"Dusknoir's biggest record of rescues in a single dungeon is thirty-seven," he said numbly. "His favourite colour is either blue, yellow, orange, green, grey, black, white, purple, brown, red, blue, yellow…."

He finally came back to life after Rai had him imbibe something and he blinked as the noise receded. "Where am I?" he asked, looking around a faintly familiar place."

"Welcome… welcome." A dizzy and laboured voice greeted them, and Sean looked up from his cup to see Spinda wobbling in place. "You're in Spinda's Café! The greatest, most wonderful, most amazing, spectacular, tremendous, exciting, glorious, fantastical, funtastical, remarkable place you'll ever be!"

"Spinda's opened a shop," Rai explained as he led Sean to a table to sit at. "Has an exploration project going on as well. See them." He pointed to the other side of the, surprisingly roomy, building to where a wynaut and wobbuffet stood. "Project P. A recycling place that sponsors local explorers that aren't part of the guild."

"Why not the guild?" Sean asked.

"Well we get sponsored anyway I guess," Rai explained. "They didn't make it exactly clear. This seems like a pretty nice place though, Spinda had it built over only a week or so!"

"So that's what he was doing…" smaller lies were easier for Sean.

"Yep. But anyway, we've got a job to do! I picked out a mission in the Sunny Meadow today."

"Ah. I should… return this I grabbed then?" Sean looked down at the job he had taken, and his eyes widened. "Yep. Return this."

"What is? Oh." Rai leaned over to read it. "…Yeah, let's leave that for someone else."

After returning a job asking to arrest a pokémon on the other side of the continent. Sean and Rai set off for Sunny Meadow.

"Okay pokémon, time to get to work."


A few days after the expedition, it was Team Ion's day off and they planned to wander out in a direction they hadn't gone yet.

"Ah, you two," Chatot called them over, Sean blinking sleep from his eyes. Day off or no, Rai still got up at dreadful times. "Before you leave to your own devices today, I would like you to go to Kecleon Market and ask if they plan to stock perfect apples."

"Perfect apples? Are we running low on them again?" Rai asked, having only twitched briefly at the word.

"Yes. The Guildmaster recently made a trip to Spinda's Café and… well, after a taste he decided to empty the entire stock of them in one night. I tried to stop him, but, well… the Guildmaster can be persuasive at times."

Chatot gazed off into the distance and Sean noticed his eyes were a little bloodshot. That certainly explained the musical, but also rather loud, singing he had heard last night.

A glance to Rai made it clear he had realised it too and was fighting to keep a smile off his face.

Chatot ignored their cheeky smiles. "But yes, the challenge of going all the way to Apple Woods and back every few days is quite difficult. And we cannot allow the Guildmaster to go, no-no-no." He shivered. "So, it would be of a great help if the Kecleon Brothers begin to stock them. We will pay handsomely. Anything to avoid… urk."

"If it's so much trouble, we could go get some?" Rai suggested but Chatot rounded on him in disbelief.

"You? No-no-no-no-NO! After the exceptionally near miss the last time, I cannot trust anyone with this task. I'll go retrieve them if necessary. You just ask if Kecleon is willing to sell them. Understood?"

"Understood," Rai replied, bowing his head slightly.

"Good. I know it is your day off so relax well after this."

They quickly left Chatot's side and walked to the middle floor in companionable silence.

There was an immediate, noticeable, divide in the room on this fine morning.

"Hm?" Rai cocked his head, looking right and left. To his right were the apprentices, all pointedly not looking at the job bulletin board but the outlaw notice board. To the right were three pokémon, speaking lowly among themselves.

"Wonder who they are?" Rai asked as Sean took in what pokémon were there.

Weavile, arbok, drapion.

"Ah," Sean thought, recognising that.

Rai was already wandering over there, not particularly perturbed by the energy in the room. "Good morning," he greeted brightly, and the three pokémon ceased talking. As one they turned to look at him and Sean quickly joined Rai's side.

He knew a little meowth didn't really help the cred of a tiny shinx, but he doubted Team A.W.D would do anything untoward inside the guild.

"Hello," Weavile said suspiciously. "What do you want?"

If Rai was put out by the unfriendly tone, he didn't show it. "Just curious about what jobs are posted today." He moseyed up to the board and began reading through them as Sean stuck very close to his side.

The whispers started up again and Sean's sharp hearing caught a bit.

"Still no word on Zero Isle."

"No one in thisss placce hassss been of any help."

"Stop whinging. We are not a group of whining children. The guild is the last place we'll check out before moving on."

"I was thinking we might get something from the café for later," Rai said, eyes sliding off the job listings. "Sound good?" Rai asked, and Sean nodded, happy to get out of there. As they were walking, however.

"Hey, you two?" Weavile called and Rai paused, Sean stopping as well. "Come over here for a moment."

Rai came over without hesitation, leaving Sean to wonder a bit about him, before he too came to meet Team A.W.D.

"I wonder why Arbok gets his initial first. You'd think it'd be Weavile, she's the leader, isn't she?"

"Tell me something?" Weavile asked, softly and with a purr. "Have either of you heard of Zero Isle?"

"Zero Isle?" Rai repeated.

"Yeah." Drapion nodded. "Rumour has it that the greatest of treasures can be found there. Some say it is the ultimate dungeon with the ultimate prizes, in the shadow of a great disaster, that even knowing where it exists draws you in eventually, for the temptation is too great."

"Drapion," Weavile said warningly, and he cut himself off with a grunt.

"…My apologies, Lady Weavile."

"We have been looking for clues about Zero Isle," Weavile said, looking back to the pair with a deadly gleam to her eyes. Sean couldn't help but eye her wicked claws. "We thought the Wigglytuff Guild may have some idea?"

Rai shook his head. "Sorry, I haven't heard of it. But we are only the newest recruits here! Someone older might know, Guildmaster Wigglytuff or Chatot?"

"Hm," Weavile hummed but besides glancing to the path to the lower areas, didn't move.

"We'd prefer not to involve them in this," Drapion said helpfully, getting another glance from Weavile. He cringed harder. "My apologies, Lady Weavile."

"Well, this is likely a waste of time anyway," Weavile said, looking back at them. She opened her mouth to dismiss them, but then her eyes fell on Sean. "What about you, Shy-Eyes?" she asked. "You look like you have something to say."

"I…." Sean glanced to Rai who looked surprised before shrugging. "I don't really know for sure. But I've heard it's an island to the south of here."

"Really?" Weavile asked, curiosity lighting her eyes. "And how would you know of this, small meowth?"

"I don't know," Sean repeated, meeting Weavile's eyes. "But when you said Zero Isle, it just sounded… familiar."

"Hm." She eyed him for a longer moment before clicking her claws. "Arbok, Drapion, we're moving out."

"Yes ma'am," they chorused and Team A.W.D left.

Sean relaxed once they were gone. He wasn't sure why he did that, but he did remember that the horrible dungeon was on an island to the south of here. "Directly south too I think."

Rai cocked his head at Sean once they were gone. "How have you heard about this place? Even I haven't."

"It just… came to me," Sean admitted. "I hope I'm right, I think I am."

"Maybe seeing Grovyle has helped some memory come back?" Rai beamed and got excited. "This is really awesome!"

"Yeah." Sean smiled at Rai's joy. "But we do have a day to get through. Let's start this."

"Right." Rai nodded, and they left for Treasure Town.

Even with the size of Treasure Town, the Kecleon Market was still large and easily visible from the other side of the bridge.

There seemed to be a greater amassment of pokémon around the marketplace than usual. Even more strangely, everyone was in place and was clearly pointedly looking away from something.

Rai gasped as he spotted the brawny figure of Dusknoir speaking to the Kecleon Brothers and said. "It's Dusknoir! Oh wow, I wonder what he's saying?"

Sean gave him a look as Rai began to speed up. "We've got shopping to do as well! With Kecleon too! I wonder if he'll talk to me if I go up to him?"

Sean stared uncertainly at Dusknoir. He'd managed to avoid Dusknoir pretty well up to this point, and Rai was too nervous to approach him directly. Sean knew Rai was hoping he'd do it first, give him that push, and he felt guilty he was avoiding it. He wanted Rai to keep getting bolder.

"Uh… maybe?"

"So, we should do it?" Rai breathed excitedly.

With Grovyle's words flashing through his mind, Sean glanced around looking for an out. Beedrill. Darmanitan. Machoke. Litleo. Electivire. Marowak.


Sean pointed to the powerful Ground-type. "I've actually been meaning to talk to Marowak," he said as Rai gave him a crestfallen look. "And it's not like I'm any good at the shopping. So, I could do that and you… talk to Dusknoir, that way we'll save lots of time! Productive. Energetic. Dynamic usage of time." Sean couldn't think of any more adjectives to spout. "That stuff!"

Rai cringed a little. "I, uh."

Sean gave him a friendly tap, maybe this would be the best of both worlds? "He seemed pretty nice, give it a shot!

"Alright… we'll meet back here?"

"Right here." Sean nodded and raised his paw for Rai to headbutt, but Rai was already running across the bridge. "…This is fine," he said, feeling awfully unpleasant Grovyle flashbacks.

Sean watched the shinx trot off with nervous excitement, going straight up to Dusknoir and beginning the chatter. Sean smiled slightly, he did like to see Rai happy but ducked away when Dusknoir looked up to where he was staring.

"Okay… Marowak is… not here. Where did he go? To the Dojo I guess."

Turning tail and walking quickly in the direction he remembered the large building to reside, Sean took in the image of Treasure Town on his lonesome.

He smiled.

"This place is beautiful," he thought as he looked around. He'd been here for a while now, but everything was still so fantastic.

Being able to watch a beedrill do his morning errands, carrying a postbag. Watching a teddiursa and ursaring gossip away like they did every day. Seeing a machoke carry a heavy piece of timber for a much smaller rattata while chatting pleasantly.

Seeing Flying-type pokémon soar above the town. See Water-types pop out of the stream and then wrap water around them to allow them to swim into town without issue.

A gothitelle and gardevoir combining their psychic might to carry a large, heavy, table between them, floating in place with it.

A pair of sableye melting into shadows and disappearing.

There were pokémon he didn't even recognise! And Sean just wanted to go over and ask them a thousand intrusive questions about what they were and where they came from. He didn't though.

Even a magmar having set up a temporary shop stall and was roasting fruits for curious pokémon to buy and enjoy.

"This place is wonderful," he said quietly. Sean wouldn't deny to himself that he did miss many things back home, even if those things were fuzzy at this point. But the Pokémon World was still a dream few could ever live out.

Sean was snapped out of his reverie by someone waving a blue furred paw in front of him. He blinked quickly, eyes focusing as he realised he had drifted off into daydreams in the middle of the street. "Oh sorry," he said, reflexively stepping out of the riolu's way.

"Oh, no need. Just making sure you were awake." Chuckling, the riolu reached out a paw to him in the classic sign for a handshake. Sean quickly took it, realising his folly and received a surprisingly vigorous shake. "I'm Riolu."

"Good morning," Sean said with a growing smile. "I'm S… Meowth."

With a smile touching the lips of the canine pokémon, he tilted his head slightly. "I heard your name is Sean."

He said it completely innocently as if it was no surprise whatsoever. Sean, however, recoiled with a fierce blush that darkened his lips. "IT'S A RUMOUR!" he yelled, causing some attention. Wincing at his own volume and the fact he just screamed in the face of someone he had met thirty seconds ago, Sean lowered his voice. "Sorry. Yeah, my name is Sean, but I swear it was just a misunderstanding due to… misunderstandings."

To his relief, Riolu nodded wisely, unbothered from his outburst. "Yeah, I heard," he chuckled. "Apparently you told the town gossip, and she took it all the wrong ways."

Blushing harder in two different kinds of shame, Sean sunk in on himself. "I can't believe I did that. It's so embarrassing. No one's really bothered me about it, but I can't help but wonder…".

"What they're all thinking?" Riolu asked, receiving a nod. "Don't worry. Mistakes happen, and word has spread it was just an accident. The worst you'll hopefully get is teasing. Sorry about that, by the way."

"Oh, no need to apologise!" Sean insisted. "I yelled in your face. I'm the one who should be apologising. Sorry."

"Second time you've apologised," Riolu pointed out. "Probably best to save those. Who knows what could happen next?"

He said it teasingly, but Sean grimaced. "Who knows," he sighed. "I tend to… um… hello."

"Hi." Riolu frowned slightly and glanced around.

"Sorry, I tend to start spilling my life story to anyone who listens," Sean apologised. "And I only just met you."

"Third time you've said sorry," Riolu said, raising his paw and wiggling the digits. "I only got three of these nubs to count on per paw."

"Heh." Sean smiled and relaxed. "We're probably in the way, want to step off the streets?"

"It's stuff like that," Riolu started, but decided not to finish that thought. Sean's expression was enough.

They stepped south, got out of the way, and continued the impromptu chat that Riolu had started. "So, if you weren't coming over to tell me I was in the way, what do you want?" He quickly grinned and then thumped his chest with false bravado. "Heard about the glorious exploits of Team Ion?"

"Yes actually." Riolu beamed, pausing Sean in his mock-bragging. "I'm new in town, moved in just before the guild left, and have heard some cool things that everyone's been up to."

"Oh!" Sean said, not sure how to react to this positive fame. "I see. Welcome to Treasure Town, we only get one calamity a season… joking of course. Um, what can I do for you?"

"Nothing really." Riolu shrugged. His eyes never left Sean's face, flicking all over him with pure excitement that Sean could actually feel himself.

It felt nice to meet someone so happy just to talk to him,

"I've done a bit of exploring here and there, and I just like to talk to teams that are around." After a moment of thought, Riolu added. "Do anything cool on the expedition? The locals here seemed to think it was a pretty big deal, but nothing's really happened since the guild returned."

"No," Sean said, sticking to the cover story. "Complete bust. A bit disappointing, but Shinx and I had fun getting there anyway. I think he may have had a better time of it though. Mount Horn was awful," he added darkly.

"I've heard of that place," Riolu said with a wince. "Let me guess… aerodactyl?"

"YES!" Sean cried. "Horrible thing carried me off! I didn't even know what I was going to." Was all he managed before being interrupted.

"You got carried off by a flying rock monster?" Litleo said from Sean's left shoulder. Startled, Sean jumped with a yelp and spun around on the invader-of-personal-space as Riolu tensed up.

"What the hell?" Sean demanded, retracting his claws after they had unsheathed themselves in preparation. "Don't sneak up on me like that."

"Or I'll get The Paw?" Litleo asked and chuckled. "Could be funny."

"Um, hello?" Riolu asked, stepping back into the conversation. "How can we help you so… suddenly?"

Litleo looked Riolu up and down and made an agreeable noise. "Nice," he commented before ignoring Riolu completely. Turning to Sean he asked. "So, I heard through eavesdropping that you got carried off by a monster rock monster of monstrous monstrousness?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Sean replied, giving Litleo a flat look. His eyes fell on the Silver Bow that Litleo was happily flaunting. "Thank you for the concern. I hit it with a sleep seed." Sean glanced aside as he remembered what followed. "I wish the aerodactyl was the worst part though."

Litleo perked up, intrigued, but Sean shuddered. "No. I'm not thinking about that or the glassy, hungry, so empty eyes… ugh."

"Sounds like you had a great time on the expedition!" Litleo chirped, smiling cheerfully. "Sorry about the utter failure in the whole 'finding something' goal. I've been great, been a bit bored during the guild being gone." He ignored the way Sean and Riolu were just staring at him.

"A Shadow Pokémon popped up in Mount Bristle," Litleo continued. "But The Great Dusknoir showed up and handled THAT problem. Anyway, I think the pleasantries are out of the way and I have something I want to talk about."

"What do you want?" Sean asked, a little interested even if the news recap of the past few days was completely unnecessary.

"I've been curious about something for a while," Litleo explained, cheerful expression falling away into a more thoughtful look as he trailed a claw through the dirt. "And I'm serious here. Tell me, Sean. Did you know that your partner had some fancy rock for a few years? It had a symbol on it that looked like this."

Sean blinked, not expecting that from Litleo in any sense of the word. Beside him, Riolu adopted a similar expression of surprise, but he masked it immediately. Looking down found an impressively accurate picture drawn into the dirt of the Relic Fragment's glyph.

"Uh… yeah?" Sean said. "That's a surprisingly good picture, although it's a bit wobbly. How did YOU know about it?"

"I've known Little Shinx for years," Litleo explained, waving a paw dismissively and brushing the sketch away. "And the symbol looked exactly like this. He never displayed it or anything, but a couple times I saw him looking at it. Talking to it sometimes too, especially after his sister left. But he never wore it in public."

"Okay," Sean said slowly, frowning. "But why do you care? I didn't think you liked Shinx?"

"Don't like him?" Litleo asked, gasping. "Perish the thought. I like him plenty, he just needed a few good pushes. I'll admit that I go a… little far at times, it's just so fun and no harm is really done." He said this like it was no big deal.

With narrowed eyes, Sean stared at Litleo. He looked too innocent to trust, but his voice was quite earnest. "Alright," Said allowed, not making any judgement. "Still, why do you care? How did you even know he lost the thing?"

"Well, that's easy." Litleo rolled his eyes. "I bought it off someone who bought it from someone else, who bought it… you get the picture."

"WHAT?" Sean yelled, masking Riolu's quiet gasp. "YOU have it?"

Litleo's expression twisted slightly. It was almost pained and almost guilty, but not either of them exactly. "I… did have it."

Sean's racing heart slowed, and he sighed. "You sold it didn't you?"

Litleo shook his head.


"I lost it," Litleo admitted as Sean's stomach began flipping again. "Or, rather, it got stolen." At Sean's disturbed expression, Litleo explained why he was really here. "I'll be honest with you, Sean. I was intending on giving it back, really, in fact, if you had JUST STAYED at my house for two seconds more I would have shown it to you. But you left in a huff, and I thought, eh another day."

While Sean began to soak in the feeling that brought, Litleo continued.

"Then the expedition was announced, and I decided 'you know what? I'm going to give it back as a welcome home present'. Bury the bad feelings between us and start anew! But." Litleo frowned, lip curling into a sneer. "The day before you got back, my house got ransacked. And you know my house is nice, how dare someone invade it!" Shaking his head in impotent fury, Litleo's breath sparked a few flamed but he restrained himself.

He was in town after all.

"I got home to find the whole place torn up and so messy. It took a while to put everything back, I don't have hands after all."

"No one helped you?" Riolu asked. Litleo looked at him like he was stupid.

"No," he said slowly. "Then I had to work out what was missing. The weird rock with the weirder symbol. That was taken."

"That's all?" Riolu asked softly, frowning in concern. Litleo's face said something else, but he smirked it off.

Litleo shrugged. "Some food was taken, but that doesn't count. I'm not even too sure if any of my snacks were taken, but I think I have less. Shinx's rock. That's the important thing. And I'm thinking that whoever took it was looking just for it. I have some pretty nice stuff, and I put the rock somewhere safe. My whole place was taken apart, and that was the thing that was taken? Someone must have known I had it."

Sean was resisting the urge to bury his face in his paws and scream. It'd feel so nice, so exhilarating to let the madness loose. But he didn't, he took some heavy breaths and put his paws down.

"Okay," he began, looking anywhere but Litleo's eyes. "I still don't know why you are telling me this. What?" he demanded. "You had the Relic Fragment and now you don't? Are you doing this to mess with me or something? Raise my hopes only to dash them?"

"Normally," Litleo said, nodding. "Yes. That sounds like something I'd do. But not this time. Look," he insisted. "I'm serious. That rock belonged to Shinx, and someone was after it. Who's to say they aren't after Shinx too? If they knew so much to the point they knew I had the stupid thing, it wouldn't surprise me if they knew it belonged to Shinx first."

"You?" Sean said, in disbelief, hearing between the lines. "You are worried about him?"

Litleo narrowed his eyes. "I don't know what high horsea you think you are riding, but I'm not your enemy here. I've known Shinx for years, he's probably the only…." He trailed off briefly, something pained flashed across his face. "Point is, I'm allowed to be worried about him. You've known him for, what, a couple months? Try five years and then you can look down on me."

"Oh." And now Sean felt like shit. "Sorry, I didn't think."

Smiling again, Litleo nodded. "Yeah. You didn't, but that's fine. You're cute, and you ARE his friend. So… I forgive you," he purred, waggling his eyebrows.

Thrown off, Sean glanced to the side and saw Riolu. Litleo looked Riolu up and down again and nodded. "Nice. Anyway, when's Shinx getting back from mooning over Dusknoir?"

"He's not 'mooning'," Sean said.

"Did you SEE him?" Litleo asked, raising an eye.



Sean stepped forward, out of the corner, and looked in the direction of the Kecleon Market hoping to see his friend. To his relief, Rai was trotting over the bridge alongside another pokémon and was beaming brightly enough to actually shine.

"He's happy about something," Sean thought as Rai spotted him and immediately began sprinting over to him.

"MEOWTH! MEOWTH! MEOWTH!" Rai shouted, reaching him within a few moments. "GUESS WHAT?"

Rai hadn't even acknowledged Litleo standing only a few meters behind Sean, or Riolu for that matter. Instead, he was vibrating on the spot with excitement.

"What?" Was all Sean dared to ask.

"SOMEONE'S SPOTTED MY TREASURE!" He squealed, causing everyone to wince. "I can't believe it, but they described what it looked like, and it was exactly the same! Team Skull must have dropped it or sold it and it's wound up somewhere else!"

"O-okay," Sean said, ears ringing. "Where is it?" Then the words Rai was saying clicked and his heart leaped. "WHAT?"

"I KNOW!" Rai beamed.

"And where is this supposed to be?" Litleo asked, not content to remain standing aside and ignored. Rai started in surprise.

"When did you get here?" he demanded, eyes narrowing slightly. He spotted the bow Litleo wore and growled. "That was Meowth's."

"I've been here the whole time," Litleo drawled. "Longer than you. I was just chatting to Sean here and Riolu here, thought I'd share a bit of news with him. I traded fair and square for this swanky bow, I offered something else, buut… well, Sean knows."

Sean glanced to Litleo and withheld a shudder. "Yeah, he told me something important."

"That can wait," Litleo cut through and shut Sean up for the moment. "First, who's your friend and where did he say your treasure was?"

Rai frowned and took a step to the side. Farther away from Litleo and closer to Sean. He glanced behind him as the pokémon he had been walking over the bridge with reached them.

"Don't run off before I tell you where it is!" the sableye gasped, panting for breath.

"Right." Rai nodded, deciding to ignore Litleo for the time being. "Where did you see my treasure?"

Sean had a sudden sense of déjà vu once the sableye came up to them, something that only grow heavier when he began to speak.

"At the end of a dungeon about a day from here," he explained, pointing to the exit of Treasure Town. "It's called Amp Plains."

Litleo gasped and Rai stiffened. The sableye looked between the four pokémon he had reached, from Rai to Litleo to Riolu to Sean. Sean withheld a shudder, experiencing large diamond eyes boring into your own was not pleasant. The sableye had a mouth too wide and claws too long.

It looked away.

"That's where I saw it alright. Right at the end of the dungeon. Now, can I have the apple?"

Rai rolled it over and the sableye took that as a good enough goodbye and stepped away before melting into a shadow of a braviary.

"So… Amp Plains?" Sean asked, Rai didn't react.

Looking between the three of them, Riolu decided it was time to say goodbye. "It was nice meeting you, Sean," he said. "You too, Litleo. And you too, Shinx." He waved and stepped off, he had some thinking to do.

Sean glanced between Rai and Litleo. There was that insufferable look on Litleo's face, while Rai was still staring forward perfectly blankly. "So… Amp Plains huh? Sounds scary. But we can do it!" Rai was still not blinking. "Rai? Are you alright?"

That received an answer. "Oh?" he croaked. "Yeah, I'm fine. Bit parched."

Litleo snorted. "Yeah, he's not fine," he said, getting a spark of anger from Rai.

"I don't need you to talk for me," he said hotly. "Especially lies. I'm fine."

"Because staring into nothing upon hearing two words is totally fine," Litleo shot back. "Forget it." He turned to Sean. "He's not going to Amp Plains. Not in a million years."

"What?" Rai growled.

"It's totally a trap too."


"And you really aren't ready for it." He gave Rai a pitying look. "You know that."

"WHAT?" Rai's whole body sparked, and Sean needed to lay a careful paw on him to calm him down. The crackling electricity popped and sparked when he touched him, but it didn't hurt anymore. "I can do whatever I want," he said tersely, turning away from Litleo. "And I want my Relic Fragment back."

"It's not there," Litleo insisted, trotting up to get in Rai's line of sight again. "I wanted to tell you under better terms, but I'm going to have to do it now. I bought the rock from machoke who bought it from whoever. I'm sure it gets back to those Team Skull thugs eventually."

"YOU HAVE IT?" Rai yelled.

"NO! STOP YELLING!" Litleo yelled back, managing to cow Rai. "I was going to give it back to you after you returned from the expedition." Rai gave a disbelieving snort at that. "But my home was ransacked yesterday, and it was stolen."

"Ransacked?" Rai asked, frowning as some of his anger left. "What? Why?"

"The only thing that was taken was your treasure rock thing," Litleo explained. "That's all," he insisted. "And I think you might be in some kind of danger. Whoever stole it, knew I had it and I had hidden it pretty well. They only took the rock. And you were the one who had it first, so whoever took it might be after you for some reason."

"What?" Rai asked, alarmed now. Zubat's words flashed into his head. "Why would someone be after me?"

"How should I know?" Litleo asked. "But I do know someone is up! Right after I lose it, someone just HAPPEN'S to know where it is? And in Amp Plains? Why would it be there of all places?"

At that, Rai's uncertain look vanished. Sighing, he shook his head. "I'm not sure I believe you ever had it." He ignored Litleo's insulted expression and shook his head. "No… no it makes sense that it would be there. That's where I found it."

He sighed again and looked at Litleo. "Look, thanks for… the concern I guess. But I have to get it back. Even if your crazy idea is true, and I don't think it is, I still have to try. It's the only thing I have left."

He glanced to Sean with a pleading look. "Will you help me?"

"Of course I will," Sean said, almost offended Rai had to ask. "I'll follow you anywhere."

Rai smiled, small and genuine, and stepped forward to butt him gently with his head. "Thanks."

"So, you're really doing this?" Litleo asked as Rai stepped back. "Going to Amp Plains to fall into an obvious trap?"

"Yep," Rai said. "I'm stronger now. Stronger than you."

Litleo scoffed and Rai smiled before beginning the walk. "I've got supplies, so let's go right away. It's going to take a while to get there."

Sean nodded and gave a small wave to Litleo.

"What are you waving for?" Litleo scoffed, stepping into place. "I've GOT to see this."

Rai stopped. Sean stopped. Litleo stopped.

Rai moved. Sean moved. Litleo moved.

"No," Rai said once it sunk in. "You are not coming."

"You," Litleo said teasingly. "Can't stop me."

"Why?" Rai gasped before shouting. "Sean run!"

He bolted off, Sean scrambling to catch up. And Litleo kept pace with them easily.

"I'm as fast as you," he said dryly. Once they left Treasure Town, Rai used Quick Attack and bolted off in a burst of speed.

Leaving Sean with Litleo.

"He'll figure it out," Litleo said as he and Sean came to a stop. Rai went a surprising distance before realising he'd left Sean behind, coming back with an embarrassed scowl.

"You're not coming with us," he said darkly, and Sean decided he'd just stay quiet and hope the problem avoided him.

"So, Sean," Litleo began conversationally, ignoring Rai completely. "Have you heard the story of Shinx and The Very Rude Tentacool?"

"Stop calling him Sean!" Rai demanded as Litleo began to regale Sean with embarrassing stories. At no point did Litleo let them leave him behind, even when Rai attempted periodically to do so.

All that Sean could think was that things were getting interesting.

Sean and Rai walked farther than they ever had for a dungeon run.

Avoiding other dungeons, giving polite greetings to similar pokémon wandering the well-worn tracks. Sean was amazed at how much there was.

Rai would point out other paths that would take them to smaller villages, other dungeons he hadn't heard of, and other interesting places.

The air was pure, the path was scenic, the day wasn't particularly hot, it would have been lovely even on his sore paws.

Except they weren't alone.

"And that is the thirty-eighth reason why Shine Village is better than Brooklet Crossing," Litleo said, tied in an argument with Rai. "It also is closer to the Dammed River dungeon, and we all know how cool that place is."

"YOU are a FIRE-type," Rai snapped back. "Why would you ever want to go do Dammed River? And Brooklet Crossing is closer to Simple Valley, that's a far better dungeon than 'Dammed River' so there."

"Excuse me for liking a challenge once in a while," Litleo shot back, but he was still grinning widely. "Going soft AND senile in your old age, are you?"

"I'm two months older than you," Rai grumbled. "I still don't understand why you like Shine Village so much. If it's so good, why don't live there?"

"And miss my best buddy, Shinx?" Litleo gasped and shook his head. "Never." He then bumped his side into Sean, who had been strategically not involving himself in their ramblings. "Don't worry, Sean, I still love you."

He moved in, and Sean pushed him back, tapping the bow as he did. He felt a small jolt from touching the silver bow and recoiled, but Litleo didn't seem to notice, already moving back to Rai.

"So a thirty ninth reason why Shine Village is better than Brooklet Crossing," he began, and Rai moaned in despair.

They walked until the sun began to set, and continued walking. They walked until the grass began to thin, and continued walking. They walked until the trees stopped growing, and continued walking.

Night had fallen, and Sean's legs were screaming at him now. All three of them were not so much walking as stumbling forward at this point.

"We're… almost… there," Rai panted, stumbling as a shot of pain went through a back leg. "Just a bit further."

"Rai, we've got to stop," Sean moaned, collapsing onto his paws and knees like he'd just lost a card game. "We can't go through a dungeon like this." He wanted to emphasise some words, but he was parched and tired and couldn't find the energy.

Litleo stopped too and slumped onto his side. "You really are crazy," he groaned, blinking wearily at Rai who also stopped and fell down. "I'm not sure if it was to get here in a blind hurry or you wanted to drive me off. Either way, we're here."

"We are?" Sean groaned.

"Yeah, the entrance shouldn't be much farther than this." Litleo feebly gestured with a paw, and Sean held his eyes open enough to spot a narrowing of the dark rocks in front of them.


Rai tried to rise to his feet, saying. "Come on, we'll go in and out and make our way back by morning."

Sean had long forgotten about names with how casual Litleo was with his. "Rai, no!" Sean said, finding some energy to stop the mad shinx. "Please just sit down, you're going to hurt yourself." He crawled forward and grabbed the shinx's tail, Rai stiffened before slumping to the ground.

"Okay maybe we can rest for a little while."

"I see Rai likes his tail being pulled," Litleo commented, slumping with a relieved sigh. Rai was too tired to shock him for that.

There were lightning-shattered trees around and Sean pulled himself up to collect some bits of long-dead wood. Most of it was scorched, but he couldn't care enough to look for less burnt wood.

He dumped some twigs between the three of them and Litleo breathed sparks on them until they caught fire.

Sean gathered a little more before giving up for the night and just resting against the Treasure Bag. The night was cold, but with the fire burning Sean and Rai weren't chilly themselves.

"Thanks," Rai said quietly, one of Litleo's ears perking at the word.

"Pardon?" he asked, grinning lazily. Rai gave him a reproachful look and Litleo's grin shifted into an actual smile. "No problem."

Rolling off the uncomfortable bag, Sean upended it to find some food and water. He tossed an apple to both quadrupeds and put some water between them. They dined in blessed silence, the cool fruit and clear water soothing their throats and bringing the tiniest bit of energy back to them.

"So the two of you are close right?" Litleo asked, breaking the silence the other two were deeply thankful for. When neither replied, Litleo continued as if they had given the obvious answer. "So, why don't you trust each other?"

"Excuse me?" Sean asked, mildly alarmed but mostly confused.

Rolling his eyes, Litleo said. "Well not YOU, more him." He jabbed a paw at Rai. "You haven't told him about what this place means to you. Why not?"

Rai turned away, mouth tightly shut and Litleo sighed. "I get that it's hard-"

"No," Rai said sharply, turning back to Litleo. "You DON'T get it."

Litleo grew comfortable, resting his head on his paws and staring at him with doe eyes. "Why don't you tell me why I don't get it then?"

Rai hesitated, frustration and something Sean couldn't figure out flickered across his face. He pursed his lips and swallowed, turning away. Sean glanced to Litleo, expecting yet another retort to anger Rai and wondered if he should say something beforehand. But Litleo was content to wait, he could see Rai was staring towards the dungeon.

He gave a silent gesture for Sean to look at Rai as well and he saw where Rai was looking. The need to know burned in his chest, and he debated on if he should say anything.

"I was hatched here," Rai said, voice clear in the silent night. Only the crackle of the fire gave anything else. Sean raised his eyebrows, not that Rai could see it, but he had already gathered that was the case.

Everything else, however, he was less sure about. From Rai's discomfort and Litleo's remarks across the day, he had a bad feeling about what Rai was about to say.

"I lived here when I was just a cub, with my mother and father, my two brothers and older sister. We were happy here; this place has commonly occurring thunderstorms which energize electric pokémon like us."

Sean swallowed, Rai wasn't facing them, just looking to the entrance of the dungeon.

"I don't remember much. I don't remember what my father smelled like, or what my mother's smile looked like. I don't remember their voices, only… only how they sounded when we were attacked."

Rai's eyes were bright with old tears, and Sean wanted to get up and do something, and yet he didn't. Rai was shaking his head slightly, staring sadly into the fire. "All I could really hear were the cries. Arashi and I were lucky but my brothers... it was just howls and the screams of the monster's broken words. My sister and I… w-we were the only ones who made it. She carried me all the way to Treasure Town."

Rai looked to Amp Plains. "This was our home, this is where I found my treasure. At the end of the lightning fields, in a small closed-off area, with this big glyph that matched the one on the fragment itself. I thought it meant something, I showed it to my family, and no one thought it was much, but they still supported me to find out what it meant. Even if it meant nothing, just finding out would be enough."

Rai shook his head. "I know it's stupid, but it's all I have left of my family. My sister left a long time ago to find her own path, I haven't seen her in ages." Rai sighed and crouched down, resting his head on his paws. "Happy now?"

Sean glanced to Litleo, who did not look happy. He didn't look shocked either. "If that's what the weird rock means to you, then it's worth coming here," he said and looked to Sean. "Even if it is still an obvious trap."

"I," Sean said, voice cutting off. He looked to Rai, almost disbelieving. Rai gave him a sad smile and Sean swallowed, got up, and curled up next to him. "We will do this together," he said. What else could he say? Sorry was truly not enough. Could never be enough. He looked to Litleo, who had a sad glow in his eyes. He had a feeling it wasn't Litleo who couldn't really get it.

"Thanks for telling me," Sean said, and a thousand words came to his lips as he nearly told him everything. But he looked again, and Rai's eyes were closed, Litleo was there, and Sean didn't speak. Instead, he went to sleep himself.

Three cattos.

The 'theory' that if the Sky Partner was a shinx then something must have happened to the luxray pack in Time and Darkness was in mind when I was making Rai's backstory.
Chapter 16 - Static Electricity


Bug Catcher