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Chapter 38 - Light the Way


Bug Catcher
I am.

I… am.


Meowth sat in silent horror.

The drowzee was swift and effective, pulling the dreams from Rai and absorbing them. I might have been relieved, but Rai’s relaxing afterwards struck me as more limp than relieved.

Each particle of ephemeral energy that floated from Rai towards the drowzee seemed to glimmer in the light. Like a stream of images amid the light, I thought I could see them.

A tower. A path. Holding someone until they were gone.

Who was that person that Rai cried over?

Meowth…? Meowth? Meowth wasn’t sure.

Feeling like a dreamless state, Meowth might just float away. Where to go? M. M. M?

Not sure.

It was so hard to cling onto.





Rai. Rai and Mane.

Mane and Rrrr?



Little Leo.

Lightning Strike.



Rai and Mane.















Scout. Rai. Mane.

I am Scout!

Scout raised his head and called out loudly, yet not a single person stirred as he bellowed his name to the world.

He had no lungs and thus could not run out of breath.

His cry continued. He had no lungs, he could not breathe. He could not speak, thus he could not be heard. He could not exist and thus his voice grew louder and louder and louder .

And then, finally, the drowzee stopped. Flinching back as a constrained blast of dark rings struck it straight in the gut, causing it to regurgitate everything it had pulled out of Rai and send it smashing through the woods.

Scout stopped screaming as all three sleeping pokemon jumped to their feet.

“What was that?” Lucario snapped, looking back and forth dangerously as Rai and Mane sparked and smoked.

Rai went to run towards the wreckage in the trees but Keira placed a bone gently over his shoulder. “I’ll go,” she said, stepping forward confidently.

Whispering to each other, Rai and Mane pressed their bodies together and kept an eye out all around them, Rai’s golden eyes seeking any other threats.

“My head,” Rai complained as Mane growled. He shook it slowly, giving a moan of pain.

Mane just pressed firmer against him, keeping his head up as Rai lowered his. “Did you find it?” he called as Keira returned.

“A drowzee,” Keira said with a frown. “Dreamy Woods and all. Pretty daring little shit to sneak up on us.”

“But what attacked it?” Rai asked, alarmed at the notion they were being fed upon.

“I’d guess myself,” Keira replied, glancing back at the trail of destruction. There were burned out ring-like marks in the bark of trees that she poked at. “A Dark Pulse. Little bastard probably moved onto me and I reacted. It happens.”

The scale of the damage implied that could be the case. Several trees had holes blasted through them, and the trail of carnage went beyond what their eyes could catch just from here.

“Is there others?” Rai asked, worried.

“Can you look with your ‘aura senses’?” Mane added.

Lucario offered him a strange expression that disappeared as she said, “No.”

“No? Why not!”

“Because I can’t,” she replied, an edge of frustration bleeding into her voice.

The look Rai and Mane gave was almost complete non-comprehension.

“Wut?” Mane asked. “But… you’re literally a lucario. THE Lucario . What do you mean you can’t? We were taught in school that the whole creation of Rescue Teams in the first place was you sensing people trapped in dungeons! Isn’t that the foundation of Rescue Requests?”

Lucario glared at him and he balked a moment before refusing to back down.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Lucario replied. “But not everyone is made to standard. I got it. I can’t control it. It just explodes out of me at random points. When that happens, sure, I see everything within several hundred units but I can’t just decide when that happens.”

“Oh,” Mane echoed.

Lucario snorted at him. “Yeah, well, I’ll forgive you because I’m nice like that.” She began to stretch her legs, cracking her spine with several twists that caused Mane to cringe and Rai to regain a little colour in his face, grinning playfully at Mane’s discomfort.

As they began to discuss the next move, Scout found his panic receding slowly. They were okay. They were okay, they were fine. Rai and Mane were fine. A little tilted from the rude awakening but they were tough. They. Were. Fine.

“Darkrai?” Scout whispered, as if someone could hear him.

“Darkrai?” he repeated, louder this time but still nowhere close to the cry he had just put out.

Scout stepped forwards, between Rai and Mane as they argued with Lucario over whether they should turn left or right. She kept on changing her answer when they almost agreed.

His paws ran through Rai as if he wasn’t there. Rai made no motion, no matter how small, that he could sense Scout. Scout stood in front of him as Rai’s eyes passed through him, feeling so lonely.

Mane didn’t catch his eye with a wordless motion that would elicit some sort of offended reaction.

Rai didn’t catch the silent communication and loudly get an answer that would cause him to go so red he’d hide under his paws.

Not even The Legendary Lucario had any idea he was there, a distant look in her eyes that he could not recognise if he had a hundred years to study it. Only that there was a part of her that wasn’t here in the conversation.

He couldn’t even cry.

Scout slowly took a step back from them. Then another. Then another. He walked until he could no longer hear them, but a part of him always could.

“Darkrai,” Scout said as he walked backwards until he found the nightmare bringer.

Darkrai floated with a tepid serenity amid humid plants. He was still but stiff, floating but frozen. He was not facing Scout as he walked in.

Scout had trouble keeping track of time like this, so he could not tell exactly how long they stood before Darkrai acknowledged him.

What he could see was the slight tremble in Darkrai’s arms. Just slight, just ever-so-slight that it was easy to miss yet impossible to ignore once he recognised it.

“I heard you,” Darkrai murmured softly.

Scout couldn’t find the emotion he was supposed to feel, each feeling slipped out of his paws like sand before he could cling on. “Thank you,” he managed.

“...you are welcome, Scout,” Darkrai responded, his back remaining pointed at Scout.



Part of Scout wanted to step out, run back. He’d given his gratitude.

The rest of him kept him rooted there.

Darkrai slowly sighed, his shoulders slumping and he turned to face Scout. “May I ask you something, Scout?”


“What would it take?” he asked softly. “For you to trust me?”

Scout was silent a moment. “I’ve only spoken to you a few times. And I know you’re tricky. I know what the distortion we pokemon from the future cause.” He knew what it might do to Rai.

Darkrai’s eyes softened. “The distortion is minor,” he said. “And self-correcting. Indeed it is true that Palkia may be angered but it would never go against Arceus. It would not know about you.”

“Unless you told it,” Scout returned.

“I would have to be suicidal to attempt such a thing,” Darkrai replied. “In which case, Palkia would find fault with me, not you.”

They lapsed into thoughtfulness.

Darkrai lowered himself into the earth until he was eye level with Scout. “Scout. I can see how much pain you are in. Not only the pain of being alone for so long. Not only the pain of seeing those you love in pain themselves. But also the pain of your doubts, I know you want to trust me but you cannot bring yourself to. Do you fear it would be selfish?”

Scout flinched.

“Have you not earned the right to be selfish, just this once?”

“Once?” Scout murmured back. He shook his head. “I’ve been nothing but selfish. You don’t… you don’t know what I did wrong.”

“Perhaps. But I also know that we ourselves are rarely sound judges of our own actions. Tell me. Did you not do your best to support your partners?” Scout frowned. “Did you not do your best to stop Dusknoir?” That word ended on a slight edge but Scout didn’t dwell on it.

“Did you not do your best to save the tower? To the point where your body was breaking apart? You died to save the world, more than even Grovyle and Celebi did. You gave everything and you still think you should have done more? You did more than anyone could have asked you to.”

Scout had his paws together, staring blankly at the ground over them.

Darkrai nodded to himself. “I think I know what I should do. I will give you space for now. But I will return and I will prove myself to you.”

With that, Darkrai was gone.

Scout just did not know what to do.

“You’re leaving already?” Mane whined. “We took forever to find you!”

“Okay.” Lucario rubbed her ear. “First of all, oww. Second of all, you probably found me easier than anyone has in decades. What did you do? Call around a bit until you found me and got a teleporter over? You’re lucky Mawile is persistent.”

She gave them both a bop on the head to beat the point in.

“Why are you hitting me?” Rai complained, rubbing his head as Mane gave up and slumped to the ground.

“You encourage his behaviour.”

“I do not!”

“You totally do,” Mane said, grinning up at Rai until he blushed.

“Hit him again.”

“Harder this time~”

“Ugh.” Lucario grimaced. “I’m going to need a shower, the subtext between you two isn’t even subtext, it’s just text. You really need some time alone and I am am going to be nice and give you that time.”

Mane continued to smirk as she turned to look forwards. “In more seriousness, I need some time to get some stuff done. And, no offence, I don’t like people. I need to air out my thoughts alone. Go back to your home. What was it, Treasure Town? Go back there. I will meet you in Treasure Town.”

“Why should we trust you?” Mane asked, coming to his feet again. “Okay, maybe it wasn’t too hard to find you this time but if you just disappear there’s no chance we’ll be able to find you again, is there?”



“So, I’m not giving you the choice here,” Lucario pointed out. “I’m going. If you follow me you’ll lose me and you’ll probably piss me off and I won’t be as eager to punch Arceus in the face for you, just for me. Behave, hornball and I’ll behave as well. Look, I want to help you guys, I just really do need some time alone to get some stuff in order.”

Rai bumped Mane before he could speak. “Alright,” he agreed, nodding and Mane shut his mouth. “But please don’t take too long. We don’t need Armaldo getting on our backs about timespans.”

“Yeah, you got something better to jump on your back.” She gave a finger gun to Mane who grinned. “Okay, that’s enough socialisation for me. See ya, boys.”

And within the blink of an eye, she was gone.

The dust being kicked up by her exit proved she didn’t teleport, just ran really, really , fast.

“Think we’ll actually see her again?” Mane asked.

“If she tries to stand us up we’ll use our fame to start a worldwide hunt for The Legendary Lucario. Pretty sure we could get Team Go-Getters to help.”


And so, right as they had come into Dreamy Woods, they turned around and left. Lucario was right. They couldn’t just chase her down, even with Quick Attack that speed was obscene.

Still, they had some hope. They had convinced her to help them, and if anyone could do something as big as get Arceus’ attention, it would have to be her.

“Hey, Rai, I want to ask you something?” Mane asked as they walked the quiet trail.


“Um… I’m not really sure how to start,” Mane said. They were alone now, just the two of them.

Rai smiled and gave him a soft bump. “Take your time.”

Mane smiled back, something small and happy. He studied Rai’s face for a bit, Rai acting as both of their eyes on the trail.

Rai eventually glanced at him. “See something you like?” he teased.

“Yeah,” Mane replied, blushing slightly.

Rai snickered and gave him a gentle flick with his tail. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re really cute?”

“I dunno. Maybe. I’d like to hear it again, though.”

“You’re cute.”

Mane went redder and poked his nose at the ground as Rai giggled at him.

He raised his head, smiling as the tension in his shoulders relaxed slightly. “I love you.”

Rai’s giggled stopped, but his smile only grow. He licked Mane on the cheek. “I love you too.”

They nuzzled each other, tails entwining before Mane gave a little sigh. “Remember how it all began?” he murmured.

Rai nodded. It had been surprisingly easy to fall into comforting each other. And from there, something more began to build.

“Do you remember what we… talked about that time we really… talked about us all?” Mane asked.

Rai had to think for a moment before nodding. “I think I know what you’re trying to get to,” he said.

Mane brightened. “Yeah?” Then the nervousness returned. “And…?”

Rai swallowed and licked him on the cheek again. “I still want you both. Is that okay?”

All the anxiety in Mane melted away and he sighed in relief. “Yes. Yes . More than okay.”

Rai giggled at him again. “How long have you been thinking about that?” he asked. “I know you get into your head a bit, especially if stuff is going on.”

“I didn’t want to bother you,” Mane muttered.

Rai bumped him again. “Hey. You’re never a bother. Alright?”

“I feel like one sometimes.”

“Then I’ll tell you until you believe me and then some more after that just to be sure. I love you, Mane. Nothing will change that.”

If Mane’s eyes were a little bright, well, that was okay. It was just them after all.

After they walked together, tails entwined and right against each other, Mane spoke again, “What if he… says no?”

Rai thought for a moment. “I guess we’ll just have to stay strong.”

“...what if he just wants you?”

“Hey.” Rai pulled him close. “Scout loves you too, you know? I don’t know what the future might have in store for us, but we’ll tackle it together, alright?”

Mane smiled and nodded. “Alright.” He licked Rai’s cheek in return. “We can only talk to him and hope for the best.”

Scout walked besides them as they spoke. This was not a new thing. He was there from the start of it all. He gave them privacy, of course, but he couldn’t exactly miss the talks they had about him when their relationship began to evolve to what it was now.

For the longest time, he didn’t know if he’d be revived or trapped like this forever.

He still didn’t know.

There was little to do besides think when he was in this state.

And yet, that was one thing he’d never put much thought into. He wouldn’t let himself.

It was something they’d have to talk about.

Sooner than you think, Scout.

Rai and Mane stopped as something moved between them and the rest of the path. They froze, uncertain what they were looking at. It was tall and looming, something dark and sinuous, a plume of smokey essence billowed from its head and its legless body grew two stilt-like protusions that sunk into the soil.

“Greetings,” the stranger said. His voice was like a whisper that was not as quiet as one, a hushed tone that carried far. Rai and Mane were on their guard, attached at the hip as its visible eye crossed from Mane, to Rai, to something next to them that was not there. “I am Darkrai.”

“Darkrai?” Scout asked, horrified. “What are you doing? What are you doing!?”

“My apologies,” Darkrai murmured softly. “But it is the only way to make you understand.”

“What-Who?” Rai asked, confused as it didn’t sound like this Darkrai was talking to them.

“What’s the big idea… Darkrai, I guess?” Mane added, smoke pouring from his nose as he was on guard to strike at a moment's notice.

Darkrai raised his hands in a placating gesture. “I mean you no harm,” he said. “I only wish to help. May I have but a minute to explain in silence and then I will answer what you have to ask?”

Rai and Mane exchanged a look as Scout shook his head at them.

“Okay,” Rai said, not one to judge off appearances or creepy entrances. “You have a minute then.”

“Thank you. I am one of the guardians of dreams, a pokemon you would refer to as Legendary. I was also a Time Gear Guardian, the one of Treeshroud Forest. With that connection to time and my command over the realm of dreams, I can interact with memories others lose. I know the time that was changed. And I know the one who was lost to change it.”

Rai cringed a little as Mane almost growled.

“And I can see him besides you.”

They stopped.

“...what?” Mane managed.

“What?” Rai growled.

Darkrai raised his hands again. “I am being serious, you two. Scout remains by you especially, Raigeki. He was there when you went to the Hidden Land. He tells me that Dialga could see him but Celebi could not.”


“Enough!” Mane yelled, sparks bursting out of him and causing Darkrai to recoil. “I don’t know what kind of game you think you’re playing here, but-”

“Let me prove it,” Darkrai said.

Mane froze. “...how?”

Darkrai turned to Scout directly, his eye meeting Scout’s ones. “Scout. You have spent so long in your state. Please. I am exposing myself to them.”

He turned to the two. “It is my accursed aura that gives you the terrors in the night, every night since the visitors from across the sea returned to you. I wish I could not bring harm to those who rest, but I do anyway. I only do it because I have the power to bring him back to you. But he does not trust me.”

“T-Tell them why!” Scout snapped.

Darkrai nodded. “In the Dark Future I was a king. It was I who attacked Riolu, Grovyle, and Scout himself, fearing the loss of the kingdom I had gained in the wake of the disaster. And I have come to realise this was wrong. That if I ever was to be the being they believed I to be, I would not pursue a realm of such cruelty. He does not trust me and for that good reason. But I am doing all that I can. This is my last option, to expose my neck to you.”

Rai and Mane were utterly stunned by everything that had just walked out in front of them out of the blue.

Mane was speechless and Rai was stuck on syllables, trying to get a word to respond out.

“...etih?” Rai managed.

“This is overwhelming,” Darkrai said apologetically.

“You think!?” Mane spluttered. “What the fuck are you even saying to us? If. If. If Scout was there, why wouldn’t Dialga have said anything!?”

“Scout told me that it refused to help you,” Darkrai said softly. “Did it not offer to strip the last of your memory of Scout away? He is attached to you, Raigeki. Reliqnishing that memory would relinquish the last bond holding him in a position to be helped. I can only theorise that Dialga in its weakened state fears Palkia’s reprisal too great to help. And, it cannot be blamed as such.”

“Paradoxes cause a distortion in Palkia’s realm, something Palkia has killed Dialga over in the past. With time so fragile and Dialga so weak, it may not be able to survive such an encounter. It is a callous decision but a warranted one for something of Dialga’s station. But. I am not so important, nor as easily found. If Palkia takes umbrage with me then it will only be due justice for what I have done. But all I wish is to offer Scout one last chance, a chance he does not believe he deserves to have.”

“...Scout?” Rai asked, softly.

Scout’s knees would have buckled had they been real to begin with.

“...are you really there?” Rai continued.

Mane looked stricken and did not know what to do.

“He is,” Darkrai said.


Darkrai pointed and Scout froze as Rai’s eyes nearly met his own. They were still searching, still seeing through him, but they were looking for him.

Mane squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head. “Big talk,” he muttered. “Big talk! If he’s really here, then do something!” he yelled at Darkrai.

“That can only be his choice,” Darkrai said softly. He offered his left hand to Scout. “Take my hand, Scout. It’s all you need to do.”

“Scout?” Rai whispered again.

Mane’s eyes squeezed shut again. “...fuck,” he whimpered.

And that was the straw that broke the camerupt’s back.

Scout tried to touch Rai’s face but he passed right through him. He nearly fell over and gave a ragged sob. “Fine!” he yelled. “Fine, Darkrai! Fine, you win! I can’t take it anymore!”

And he ran at Darkrai, almost looking ready to attack him. He pulled himself to a stop right in front of him, glaring at him in a mixture of grief and rage. “This was a dirty fucking trick! I swear to god, if this is all a trick I’m going to destroy you for everything you put us all through!”

Darkrai closed his eyes, visibly fighting back flinches. “All I wish is to help,” he whispered, sounding almost as broken as Scout felt in that moment.

“No affecting my memory,” Scout said. “No… implanting something in me. No tricks. Just… just me.”

“That is all I want to do,” Darkrai said.

Scout stared at his hand for a long, short, moment and then grabbed it.

His paw touched something for the first time in months and Darkrai’s eyes craned into a squint. “Brace yourself,” he grunted and then pulllllllllll-

Scout felt something pull at absolutely everything. His past, his present, his memory, his spirit, everything within him was harshly jerked forward. The last thing he knew was the sensation of his skull striking something eternally wide and thin, smashing right through it.

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Scout gasped. His lungs burned, his eyes burned, his skin burned. He could feel his tail burning. He could feel his fur burning. The flame. The flame. The flame. The flame. The flame returns.

Deep in the woods, there was a fire.

"GAH!" Scout cried, writhing for a moment before his stomach cramped and nearly tossed him into a sitting position. He gasped for breath, his eyes streaming with tears. His whole body felt like he had taken a hundred Force Palms along every scrap of skin.

It was like he was a bruise. His entire everything felt like a bruise with the pressure of the air, of his lungs expanding, pressing against it.

But, as all pain goes, it began to fade. His ears twitched, he spat blood out of his mouth as he had bitten his tongue and wiped his mouth. Scout shivered in place for a moment. He was so hot; he was so cold.

"Ugh…" he slowly began to take deep breaths, focusing on just breathing. It didn't help, except it did. His mind focused on purely breathing, and other aches began to take a back seat.

His heart thumped hard in his chest. Scout swallowed a few times and then opened his eyes.

Giving him a brief sensation of confusion as something blue and black and another black and tan slammed into him.

Not for an instant was he alarmed. A part of him recognised them. A part of him always would recognise them.

It took his senses a good couple seconds to remember how to translate language but once it did-


Rai and Mane were actively weeping as they covered him with themselves, as if protecting him from the outside world. As if marking him as theirs that no one could take away again.


By the time Scout’s fur was soaked with tears, Rai finally managed to pull himself off him. “D-Darkrai, thank you.”

He looked around, an expression of confusion crossing his face. “Darkrai?”

“You know,” Mane sniffled. “He’s got a funny name. Dark Rai. Should I be worried he’s your evil twin?”

“He just brought Scout back!” Rai retorted, looking around urgently.

“Guess even evil you loves this dork.”

“Guys,” Scout managed, his voice trembling like glass on the brink of shattering. “Please.” He grabbed them both with a paw each and pulled them back onto him. “Please don’t let me go.”

Sensing everything not being said in an instant, they both fell silent and pressed against him. Scout was shaking like a leaf, as if he was freezing cold and needed something warm to cling to.

He began to cry. It was soft at first, soft and weak and then it grew harder, uglier, until he was howling into their fur, begging them not to let him disappear again.

It had been months.

Scout had lost track of the time but Rai and Mane had not.

Over half a year of trying to pick up the pieces and get through the days until the pain dulled enough to function again. And they had. They had done it. They had done it knowing that they’d never see him again.

And they welcomed Sean onto their team, but he wasn’t there to replace Scout. Nothing could. There had always been a void next to them, one all of them were aware of but rarely acknowledged.

But Scout had been there.

All that time.

Every minute of every day.

And they began to realise that as he cried into their fur, babbling nonsensical things about ‘games’ and ‘stories’, bundled into a verbal mess that no one would be able to make heads or tails of.

Mane, always the more fragile one, buckled under the onslaught first and did what he knew helped him when he couldn’t handle things. Rai leaning into him, almost smothering him as if protecting him from anything that could hurt him. Cracking into sobs as well as Scout screamed into their fur.

Rai held out longer, trying to be strong for everyone. But strength has its limit and he’d been taking that duty wordlessly, stubbornly, all this time. He tried to press onto Scout as well but his legs lost their strength and he collapsed onto him, unable to speak, unable to do anything but cling onto him as well.

There were things they still had to talk about. Serious things. Even unpleasant things. For now, however. For now they wouldn’t care for any of those things.

They were back together now.

And that’s all that mattered.

Scout had fallen asleep at some point in the reunion and Mane carried him back to Shaymin Village where Alakazam almost tripped over his beard when he saw them.

There was no denying the radiating feelings of joy from Rai and Mane and whispers about Lucario the miracle worker were bound to spread. The name Darkrai was mentioned but only the shaymin understood even a fraction of the implications and gathered together to discuss it.

Scout… looked different. Not much different, he had the same scars as he had before and even some new ones from the injuries he’d collected from the Dark Future and onwards. His fur was a darker colour, bluer than the creamy white it was before.

Neither Rai nor Mane cared about how he looked. If this was the consequence of Darkrai then it was hardly anything more than cosmetic. Alakazam transported them back to the Wigglytuff Guild’s teleportation quarter and bade them goodbye, their reward for their salvation of time finally in their paws.

The Guild’s reaction was… something to say the least.

"You know… I gave you a month to find a lead, not… this." Armaldo stared in visible surprise. His mouth hadn’t dropped open but his eyes had almost bugged out when they trotted in like the cats who caught the canary.

The pokémon of Team Sunrise were not at the guild when they returned; neither was anyone who regularly went out on missions.

Scout was woken up when Loudred, coming to welcome them back spotted Scout and bellowed. “OH MY GOSH!”

He yelled it so loud that later on Sunflora was bound to try and sue him for stealing her catchphrase. Because she could hear it from the track she was walking back on.

Diglett wasn't the cuddliest of pokémon, but Scout received a headbutt of joy to his sternum before Diglett blasted through the walls to go into town to find his father and tell him the good news.

Loudred's bellow of shock managed to stun Armaldo long enough that he wasn’t able to catch Wigglytuff when he exploded out of his chambers. One of the doors actually came off, that Armaldo at least caught before it could shatter against something.

Team Glee lurking on the floor above quickly started a party. They had no idea what was the response of that explosion of joy that Wigglytuff made but it didn't take much for them to instigate celebrations, good times, and general merriment.

Diglett's headbutt of welcome had been painful yet was nothing compared to the strength of Wigglytuff's embrace. The fact he didn't break any bones was a testament to Wigglytuff's control more so than anything else.

Once he was finally released, he was set down to meet Armaldo properly. Scout was cringing by that point and not just because of his bruised ribs.

Armaldo was big. Easily the biggest pokémon in the guild. He towered above everyone, multiple vibrant feathers sticking out, covered in a heavy exoskeleton that looked and functioned like armour, and with two piercing eyes.

Armaldo was towering, scary, and definitely a hardass. That wouldn’t be a problem. Only… Scout knew why he was here. Who he was replacing. And too much was happening for him to grasp onto any one feeling.

Armaldo looked over Scout once before turning to the beaming Rai and Mane. With a sigh, he asked, "How?”

"We like to exceed expectations!" Rai beamed.

"We really ARE this good," Mane added.

Chimecho, who was attracted by the commotion, gasped when she spotted the meowth. She tried to tug him back with Psychic, but that didn't work, leading her to fly right to him. "Meowth!?" She zoomed in close as Scout turned, grinning at the nurse.

"Chimecho!" He hugged the floating Psychic-type, and she smiled softly at him.

"How? She'll be. Everyone will be. I mean… this is wonderful!" She did a loop-de-loop. "But wait. Your fur, did Mane set you on fire?" She came in close to inspect him. "No… this isn't ash or burnt fur. Why is your fur such a different colour?"

"I'm not sure exactly, but when I was revived, I came back like this."

"I have to ask as much as I know you won’t like to answer it," Armaldo grunted, clicking his pincers and bringing Scout's attention to him. "But I must ask. How are you so certain this is the same pokémon that was erased from reality? Especially if his fur is such a different colour?"

"Look at his scars! We know Meowth. Trust me.” Mane positively leered. “We know.”

"He felt like Meowth!" Wigglytuff agreed. "When I hugged him. His Power feels different, yet similar. Hm. Are you a Dark-type now?"

“He must be,” Chimecho hummed. “I attempted to pull him towards me but it didn’t work.” She tried again, but still nothing. “Curious.”

“I’ve heard of rare accounts of pokemon shifting types,” Wigglytuff said, rubbing his chin. “Usually with the effect of a move. And in some very dubai-woobi cases some magic crystals, but crystals do everything in legends,” he giggled as Armaldo looked at him.

“It was a pokemon called Darkrai,” Rai explained, Wigglytuff’s smile flickered briefly. “He… well he said a lot of stuff and then brought him back!”

“We figured it was just some side effect of that,” Mane added, looking Scout up and down. “ Dark rai sounds like a Dark-type after all.”

"Hm,” Armaldo grunted, still eying Scout cautiously.

"Do you really think we couldn't tell who our friend is?" Rai asked seriously.

"Hm. Whatever, I trust you wouldn’t be duped.”

"Is there anything I can say or do to convince you?" Scout asked.

Armaldo gave him a hard stare. "No. But I can also tell I am in the minority here. Don't expect special treatment from me. I'll judge you on who you are now, not who you may have been. Understand?"

"That's fair."

Satisfied, for now, Armaldo waved a claw. "I assume you'd like to see Team Sunrise next? They are in town working with Kangaskhan."

He didn't mention they were working with her as they needed to recover from working with the children of Treasure Town.

Armaldo was relieved there was an age requirement for the guild. Wigglytuff or Chatot, or both, had been sensible enough to instate such a thing. He could not imagine the headache of dealing with children on top of everything else.

Back on his way to the Shaymin Village, after accidentally falling off Sky Peak, a young Ampharos sneezed and tripped over.

The whole of Team Ion thanked Armaldo and remained for Scout to go up to Croagunk to say hello. He hadn’t left his shop but had leaned over, watching happily. Or what passed for happy for Croagunk.

"Meh-heh-heh. It's good to see you again, Meowth," Croagunk said with a grin.

"Good to see you too." Scout smiled. Croagunk was the good sort, not big on words. They shared a nod, and they entered the middle section of the guild to observe the party that was forming rapidly.

"When did Loudred come up here?" Scout yelled over the beatboxing.

"I honestly don't know," Rai yelled back.

“Let’s just duck through,” Mane suggested.

The party honestly didn't need them, so they hurried out, although everyone shouted cheers when they spotted the meowth. Team Glee were performing a song and Wigglytuff was already dancing and causing a ruckus.

As they approached the steps leading down, Scout surrendered to the urge to look back. The big, empty-eyed, wigglytuff-head with a plume of feathers was there as always.

But there was something to the left of the guild now. Looking over the cliff.

He didn't look further.

It felt so odd to be walking into Treasure Town again, feeling the gravel under his feet, rather than just drifting along and feeling the eyes ON him, rather than passing right through him.

Whispers began breaking through a few pokémon. A meowth, walking with a VERY happy Team Ion? Duskull's eye followed them, Team's Tasty and Seedgey paused their discussion on lunch and turned as one, Vigoroth actually paused for a few seconds to rub his eyes.

They didn't stop to talk, but still passed greetings as they went by. Rai and Mane's tails were straight and proud, and Scout was pressed right between the two of them, not allowed to disappear on them again. His legs were still a bit weak as well but he was walking.

There were more shock and confusion than excitement in the faces of the townsfolk. Scout didn't blame them. It was hard to believe.

Scout hadn't seen Darkrai since he had returned. Part of him was glad of that. Part of him was uneasy. And a part of him was almost sad about not seeing him. Rai and Mane wished to thank him but he’d vanished before they composed themselves enough to address him.

Scout hadn’t yet gone into detail about his experience up to this point. His brain was having trouble processing it all. In that state he had not slept once but he floated in and out of spacial awareness, with things like emotions difficult to grasp a lot of the time. He could almost only remember himself in the third person, unable to fully grip onto the experience from his own point of view.

There would be time to pull it apart later. They crossed the bridge and stepped into the traders' area. They walked past the shanty marketplace. And waved to the Kecleon Brothers who nearly fell out of their shop.

Kangaskhan wasn't much farther ahead.

It was Guardian who saw them first.

He had been ordered to bring a rather heavy set of items out to the owners. Most pokémon didn't give Guardian too hard of time now. Few were exactly friendly, but few were directly rude as well.

Guardian dropped the box upon seeing them. It thankfully just hit the counter and spilled only a few old pieces of metal. Still, Guardian was not listening to the shouts of the owner or Kangaskhan's apologies.

He wasn't actually at Kangaskhan's Storage anymore.

His one eye may lack depth perception to a degree, but it was sharp and clear of cloudiness. He had looked into Scout's eyes more times than he had numbers to count, thankful he had someone he could protect. Someone who would protect him back.

He knew Scout's eyes. He knew his son’s eyes.

Scout, to his credit, didn't jump too hard when Guardian, a large, bulky, and rather slow dusknoir, suddenly appeared in front of them and caught him in a desperate embrace.

"Scout?" Guardian gasped, the arm that held the old scrap of cloth Scout had once worn as a blanket, then a scarf, fluttered in the wind. He didn't mean to ask, he already knew, but Scout nodded anyway.

"Hi." Scout didn’t know what else to say, looking up at the wide, desperate, eye of someone who had loved him enough to try and destroy the world to preserve him.

Guardian had a thousand things to say but they all vanished in an instant as he took his son in his arms. Guardian completely broke down in the middle of the street during the busy time. With dozens upon dozens of pokémon watching.

The Great Dusknoir did not care who saw him cry for his child.

Scout's mouth twitched into a shaky smile, and he slowly pressed his arms back against Guardian. He couldn't properly hug him as Guardian's chest was too wide for him to wrap his arms around, but it was the intent that mattered.

Guardian shuddered with sobs, and Scout felt himself wavering as well.

He didn't remember everything, or even most of the things, from before he travelled back in time with the others. He couldn't be sure if that was responsible for a simple inability to remember so much, who remembered everything after all? Or if his odd amnesia still held some effect on him.

He couldn't recall everything from the Dark Future. But he could remember some things. Like laying on a Dusclops to sleep. Sneaking up on his foolish guardian and pouncing on his head, batting at the wispy not-quite smoke coming off the top of his head.

He remembered feeling hungry and scared but never feeling like he had no one to feed or protect him.

He remembered enough of Dusclops, later called Guardian, as his Father.

That didn't make what Guardian had done okay. But Scout had seen Guardian's state during the short time Team Ion crossed paths with Team Sunrise. It wasn't okay yet, but… it could be okay eventually.

“I’m back.”

"Can you still like… purr?"

"I… yeah?"

"Cool. Do it."

Scout purred. It was still a funny sensation and one he never would think to do. Saniya giggled and scratched behind his ears.

That caused some genuine purring.

He was cozied up with Rai and Mane, the two weren't really eager to give him any space lately, but he found he didn't really mind. Having wanted to be with them for as long as they had missed him left him as clingy as they were.

After Guardian had stopped weeping long enough to carry him back, Scout was set upon by the rest of Team Sunrise. Kangaskhan also cried a little and let them off work today. With no other place to go for privacy, Rai led them to Sharpedo Bluff and into his old home.

It was a little dusty, and there was nothing soft to sit on, but the pokémon made do.

Guardian hadn't let Scout go for the first half-hour, squeezing down gently when he questioned himself if Scout really was in his arms, which happened a lot.

It wasn't the warmest to remain in the dusknoir's arms, but it wasn't the coldest either. Guardian was alright, and Scout knew that.

There was just a little time he needed to grow accustomed to the idea.

Guardian hadn't really wanted to relinquish his returned son to anyone, but Saniya convinced him to. "Two things. His fur is different, and I can't levitate him. What's up with that?"

It led to the explanation Scout feared he'd be getting to know well in the coming days. He was persisting as some sort of memory ghost after he disappeared, floating by them all that time before being revived by Darkrai.

Sean had to excuse himself briefly and Striker followed him. They returned barely a minute later, Sean’s joy matching Rai and Mane’s in some ways.

He had told Rai and Mane a little more of the context to Darkrai, but not everything. Not enough.

"I need to tell them," Scout thought, but as he opened his mouth the words got stuck, and he swallowed them.

Instead, they continued talking. He asked Team Sunrise what they had been up to.

"Then Vigoroth really ran us through the wringer, he's crazy." Saniya beamed, she almost twinkled in the sunlight.

All good times had to draw to a close, and as the sun began to move closer to setting than was okay, they got up to walk to the guild.

"Scout?" Sean asked as they headed out of Rai's home and into town.


"I'm happy you're back." Sean wasn't exactly looking at him. Scout wasn't sure if he was embarrassed or if it was something else. “I’ve really… really missed you.”

"I'm glad you're okay," Scout replied, smiling. And gave him a hug. Sean stiffened a little before pulling Scout into a similarly-tight hug as Guardian.

"Okay, I just thought of something!" Saniya loudly exclaimed. "Were YOU the thing that kept tickling my neck? I swear I could feel something going on, but I couldn't pinpoint it."

"Yes." Scout nodded. "Dialga said that you wouldn't be able to see me, but you'd probably have some… some sort of sense."

"Glad I wasn't having a stroke."

"I'm glad too."

Throughout it all, Striker had said very little. Sean had also been quiet, but Striker's silence was different.

Sean was quietly relieved, unable to find the words to express it and embarrassed to say the words when he did find them.

There was a caution to Striker’s eyes.

He knew Scout wasn't telling them everything. He had sensed that way back when they had returned from Fogbound Lake and spoken to each other. And as much as he tried, he could not forget Scout raising his claws to Sean's neck to threaten everyone into calming down.

Things were okay now. Yet, Striker was always a cautious soul.

Approaching the guild had Scout slow down, spotting something off to the side. He swallowed, coming to a decision.

"Can I just… take a moment?" Scout asked. "By myself."

The group didn't argue, they saw what he did, and let him go. Scout himself didn't want to be alone, but he felt like he needed to be for this. It was time to stop putting it off.

The waves crashed distantly over the cliffside. He walked a little to the side, moving around the guild. The others entered the guild as Diglett and Loudred raised the gate for them. He felt chills on the back of his neck, a distant feeling of panic trying to claw up his spine as he found himself alone but he forced it down.

He wouldn’t be afraid. Not here, at least. To back down here was the worst thing he could imagine. He had tried to be strong for everyone and he’d been strong for him first.

There it was. A simple headstone, with no pomp or spectacle to it.

Here lies Trill

Res̵t In Peace

I will always remember you

Scout quietly made his way to the gravestone, hesitating on the final steps. He didn't want to step on the grave after all. Or maybe he just didn't want to believe this was possible.

"Chatot?" Scout said, softly. He walked around the side of the grave, touched the headstone. It was clean of dust, being tended to every day.

Scout wasn't sure how to feel. He knew he was sad, but something was blocking him from really feeling it. He almost felt blank, hollow, unable to reach the aha moment he knew he was supposed to.

The grave was here. There was no question as to who it was, but part of him simply could not grasp it. Part of him that would not grasp it. This wasn’t how the story went.

"He would have been so happy to see you," a voice spoke softly from behind. Scout jumped; he hadn't heard anyone approach.

Wigglytuff gave him a sad smile as Scout stared at him, fur raised slightly and eyes wide and confused.

"He told us what happened in the Dark Future," Wigglytuff said, coming to his side. "Especially about you. That's the biggest thing I was afraid of. That he died with regret. I know he didn’t, though. He’d never regret saving someone."

"I'm sorry," Scout said. He could barely feel himself say it.

Wigglytuff embraced him. "It's not your fault," he said softly, but that only hurt Scout more. "He'd just be happy that you are safe and well. He’d have flapped the place down, given everyone the day off, and ‘let himself’ be talked into singing. H-He would have….”

Scout stared into Wigglytuff's belly, not understanding why Wigglytuff was hugging him. It WAS his fault. Didn't he know that? Hadn't Chatot told him everything?

He continued to stare as something heavy fell over him, and Scout felt something press down into his stomach hard enough that something finally gave way. He grabbed onto Wigglytuff and pressed against him, wanting to say everything as it all began to overwhelm him. Wigglytuff hummed something as he held them.

Scout repeated that he was sorry again and again, Wigglytuff didn't see anything for him to be sorry about.

They remained as they were until Scout had calmed down, and then just sat at the grave, thinking about Chatot.

Picture(s?) in this chapter done by Bograbbit: https://twitter.com/bograbbit?lang=en

The coloured one is also cropped, as in the original story Keira was present and standing awkwardly in the distance being all "Aww, how cute" lol. You can see the uncropped one in Chapter 40 of the original story on AO3.
Chapter 39 - Dies are Cast


Bug Catcher
"Can you all come with me," Scout asked, another day or two from their return to Treasure Town. The town bustled with excitement that he had returned but a part of him expected a little more.

They had, after all, just let Dusknoir talk all over him and then throw him into jail. Only Mane and the guild had stood up for him, and of the guild only really Chatot had tried to intervene.


Scout had been thinking, and he knew it was time.

Behind him walked Rai and Mane, never letting him out of their sight for long. He might have thought it clingy if it wasn't for the fact that he was so grateful he didn't have to ask them not to let him be alone.

Further along, came Sean, Striker, Saniya, and Guardian.

Despite being asked what this was about, Scout didn't quite explain. "I just think it'd be nice for the seven of us to talk."

Scout's whiskers twitched as they left the guild. Behind him was Chatot's grave, and a heavy weight pulled at his stomach with every step.

"Once you have the chance… you do need to tell others you trust." Chatot had said that. It was bordering on eight months ago now, but to Scout, the words felt as fresh as they did when they were first spoken.

"You know, I've wondered what does happen in dungeons if more than four pokémon enter?" Scout asked as they headed through the town. The pokemon at this hour flashed Team Ion smiles and Team Sunrise complicated expressions.

Scout wondered if he saw guilt in the eyes of the pokemon when they saw him, and then saw Guardian. He noticed they didn't meet his eyes and hurried away.

"Bigger distortions, splitting parties, more dangerous ferals. Some even say Shadow Pokémon can begin to show up," Guardian explained.

"How long does that take?"

"Anywhere from a minute to an hour… what are you thinking, not even Beach Cave would be safe in that regard?"

"Just curious," Scout replied. "I thought we could head to Sharpedo Bluff. It's a nice place."

Nice was not the word many would use. It was loud, extremely loud due to the waterfall near it. Perfect to talk if you didn't want people to listen, but also remote as it was Rai's home and most of the townsfolk still left the place alone out of respect.

It wasn't with much hesitation or nervousness that Scout stepped up to the cliff he'd nearly fallen off on his first day in the past. He didn't get too close though, even if about six different people would catch him if he fell.

"Why are we here?" Mane asked. "And why are you acting all weird."

"Sorry," Scout sighed, stopping and turning to everyone. He looked between Rai and Mane, curious and cautious. Between Striker and Guardian, guarded and open, and Sean and Saniya, smiling and daydreaming. "I think this is far enough."

"For what?" Mane asked.

"I'm just being careful. Dungeons are… weird places, but I think this is private enough. How's everyone been sleeping?"

A question he'd been asking the past couple of days, of a lot of people. An odd nightmare surge across town had passed, knowing it was unlikely Darkrai would know to come on an evening they were really going to talk, he began to ready himself.

Scout sighed and took a breath, looking over everyone again. From those who were purely happy to be around him, to those who didn't express things as clearly, to the people he trusted most in the world, they were all here.

"Rai… I was never entirely honest with you all the time we were together." Rai straightened up slightly. Mane noticed that Scout was on one side and everyone else was facing him so he stepped across to sit next to Scout, pretending not to be really happy at the grateful glance Scout flashed him.

Rai didn't join them, feeling that maybe it was better for this to sit where he was. Everyone else was background for a moment, it was like it was just them on any other night. Only, his chest felt fluttery and not for the usual reason.

"And I think you know that," Scout continued, letting the word hang.

Rai digested it for a moment before offering a shallow nod. "Yeah," he said, half sighing. "There was never anything big just… a lot of things that added up. Like Limestone Cavern and Ditto or the perfect apple thing." He looked to Mane. "He didn't know why you asked him either."

Scout gave a strange little smile. Almost happy that Rai had noticed, and likely noticed far more.

"Like Drowzee," Rai added suddenly. "That wanted poster wasn't up when we left but you just knew."

Scout nodded, that was always something that hung on the back of his mind. That Drowzee got away. Sure, he 'redeemed' himself in the end, but… things were different here, who knows what he would have done. What he has done now that he never got punished?

"Did you have more memory than you told me?" Rai asked softly.

Scout nodded. "Yeah. But… it's even more complicated then everything with the Dark Future and all."

Sean and Striker frowned at that mention, that wasn't what they were expecting.

"Did you know about the Relic Fragment?" Rai asked sharply. His paw raised to the empty string he still wore as if still feeling the weight of the fragment. His face flashed across several emotions at once, too difficult to really tell what they were.

Scout hesitated. They both knew that was an answer in itself, but he still said it, "Yeah. I knew."

"How?" Sean cut in. They both looked to him. "Um, sorry for interrupting. But, we didn't even know about that until we arrived here and I had a Dimensional Scream at the Brine Cave mark."

Rai's eyes flickered in something fragile, something that he never showed anymore. Those tiny doubts that played around in the back of your head like little devils, ready to lay you flat with bad thoughts in the late hours of the night.

"Rai, everything between us was real," Scout said, sensing what he was going to think. Because he knew all of them were going to be thinking it in a moment. "I swear. You were my rock, my guide, everything to me. I was so scared and confused when I arrived but…." He frowned at himself, glancing to Mane who listened silently.

They stared at each other for a moment.

"I had a conversation with Mane," Scout said softly. "In the Dark Future."

Mane's face creased into a frown. Some things of that time he couldn't remember already, but that memory was burned into his mind.

"He helped me see things differently. How I've constantly lied to everyone and when someone tries to call me out on it, I deflect, or turn it them, or I punish myself to make up for it. I don't mean to, but it's… a problem and I was thinking about when I could only watch you all."

Mane chewed his lip slightly. "Not that I wasn't right but…"

Scout shook his head. "You are entirely right, and I'm sorry."

"I never thought you were doing it for bad reasons."

"Maybe." Scout nodded. "And you said that. But I still lied. Lied because I thought that I knew what was right." Scout glanced down at the ground to take a moment and a breath. To Team Sunrise.

He raised his head and found his eyes on Sean first. "I knew from the start what had to be done. About the Dark Future, about Guardian, and the Relic Fragment, and where the Time Gears were. I knew all of that. Right from when I first woke up. Not on the beach." Scout shook his head, it seemed so obvious now. "But here on Sharpedo Bluff." He pointed to the very spot he had woken up at.

Frowns crossed faces. Sean glanced to Striker, Guardian gave Scout a questioning look, and Rai opened his mouth before closing it.

Scout nodded. "I also knew that Drowzee was an outlaw before he even spoke. I knew where the Limestone Cavern Time Gear was, and that Ditto was going to try and stop us. I knew Striker was good, although I only knew him as Grovyle, and that Dusknoir was an enemy. I knew a lot of things, I thought I knew more. But even though I never knew as much as I thought, I still knew enough that I should have acted differently."

"How did you know about the Relic Fragment?" Sean asked, before glancing to Guardian. "Guardian did thanks to Dialga but… did he somehow tell you?"

Scout shook his head. "No. Nothing like that." He took in another breath and sighed it out, not quite able to look directly at anyone. Rai was still frowning, eyes trained on where he had found Scout.

"You gonna tell us?" Mane asked.

"Or are you going to keep pussyfooting around?" Saniya said, before giggling.

Her joke broke some of the tension and Scout gave a smile. "Heh. I like that one." He swallowed and nodded, looking at Sean again. "When I told Chatot this, he couldn't really understand because… because well he just couldn't fathom the kind of thing I had to compare it to."

"You told Chatot?" Rai asked, almost offended and then sad.

"After Mane helped me realise," Scout explained. "I wanted to make sure I could gather the nerve, so I told him. He, uh." Scout's lip curled slightly, but he composed himself. "He told me I had better tell the people I trust once it was all over. I hoped I'd have him here to help me, but…"

His lip twitched again, and this time he couldn't entirely compose himself. "S-sorry," Scout said, wiping his eyes with his arm. "I think it was my fault he died, in some way."



"That can't be."


"No," Scout said, voice strained. "Please just… let me explain. It isn't like I did anything directly to cause it, but… if it wasn't for everything I did and didn't do, he… well." He shook his head again. "Okay. I'm going to start running us in circles if I don't just start explaining myself. You all might want to sit down or something."

Guardian lowered himself, but everyone else remained standing. Tense or jittery in some fashion.

"Sean," Scout began, meeting the human-turned-riolu's red eyes. "You ever played a video game?"

Sean blinked, of all the things he imagined to come out of Scout's mouth it wasn't that. "Uh… yeah?"

"Imagine playing a game… playing it several times in fact. Playing it enough that you know it inside and out. The plot details. The characters. The twists and the turns. Heck, even the music." Scout gave a soft laugh before humming something pleasant and oddly fitting for the town they were near.

Sean's face was slowly creasing into a frown.

No one else quite understood what he was talking about, but that was okay. He had some experience, he just hoped Sean would be able to help in a moment.

"Now imagine you wake up… and you're in that game."

Sean stilled. Scout felt himself come to a stop as well, twin breaths tensed, waiting for something.

"Huh?" Saniya asked, breaking the moment again. "What does all that mean? I want to play!"

Sean pursed his lips before wetting them. "I… don't know what to say to that." He frowned deeper and looked up at Scout, eyes set and serious. "You can't be for real here?"

Scout shrugged helplessly. "I don't have ANY idea how something like this is possible. But…" he lowered his head, closed his eyes, and gave a pained sigh. "I… I don't know if I'm actually Scout. Or if I've taken his body."

He said it. It never feel right to say, not the first time, not all the times he had wondered it, and certainly not this time.

He didn't want to look at the reactions, but he had to. Arms closed around him and Scout gasped.

"You are Scout," Guardian said, quietly. "I may not understand what you speak of, but I know it."

Scout gave him a watery smile, wanting to lean in, but he pushed himself out instead. "Armaldo said it best, even if he didn't actually mean it in this exact context. How can you be so sure I am? Am I actually the pokémon you knew? Or am I just close enough that you can convince yourselves that I am?"

Saniya floated up to him next and grabbed his face. "You're talking depressing stuff here," she said, seriously. "It's okay to question who you are and all that, but… I may act silly, but I did look you over and inner in the future. I can't anymore, cause of your new type, but… you ARE Scout."

"You're different," Striker said, speaking up for the first time. "There's no question there. But… how could you NOT be Scout?"

Sean didn't speak up. Rai and Mane didn't know who he may have been before, and as such had nothing to offer.

Scout smiled sadly. "In the time I was stuck as some sort of memory ghost thing, I was able to recall at least some memory of who Scout was. Enough so that I knew that Scout did NOT know the things I do. Not in practice at least. If I haven't somehow robbed his life from him, then something still happened. Can I even be considered the same person then?"

"People change," Guardian said, softly. "Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Most of the time, however, they simply change."

"They can change back, too," Saniya said, laying a gentle hand on Guardian's arm. He managed a grateful look.

"I guess," Scout sighed, "but we're straying. The fact of the matter is. I know things that I could not possibly know. I knew that someone was supposed to be found by Rai. I knew that Team Skull was going to come for him, having spotted his treasure earlier."

Rai blinked at him.

"It's not that I saw them go. I just knew they were going to. I knew what was going to happen, and I thought I was supposed to be there. Not to stop you from getting robbed in the first place, but to join you in Beach Cave to get it back. Only…" Scout's voice turned bitter. "Skuntank was NOT supposed to be there."

He hated that. Of all the many things he hated, there was something about that one specific moment that truly bothered him. It was inconsequential in the long run, they had gotten a Relic Fragment in time, but the change still nagged at him. How was that possible? Was it a flip of the coin, or was something else different?

Striker and Sean's appearance could not have led to a butterfly effect so far so quickly. His existence was tied to the future, not the past, nothing they did should have affected that.

"I don't know WHY he was there," Scout growled, grabbing at his head. "And I'm so sorry, Rai. At the time I… I honestly thought this was a dream. It was only after he knocked me out did it really begin to dawn on me that it wasn't. You weren't supposed to lose the Relic Fragment."

Scout gave a weak laugh. "That's just one of the boundless mistakes I ended up causing," he said softly. "It wasn't even supposed to be me. I wasn't supposed to exist. It was supposed to be the human who woke up, not at the bluff but at the beach. That's why I thought I was human."

"You said your name was Sean though," Rai said, unable to quite believe everything else yet.

"Yeah. I guess we really DID have some sort of head-knock memory transfer. How the hell that is supposed to work. Or maybe my name really IS Sean, and that was the name of whatever human monster is possessing Scout."

"Stop saying that," Guardian demanded, before softening. "Please."

"I'm sorry," Scout muttered. What part of it, even he wasn't sure.

Sean had taken a few moments to try and digest what he was being told. "Are you saying… you don't think we're real?" he asked, lowly.

Scout was horrified. "NO! That's not what I mean at all!" he said, raising his paws. "That's not what I mean."

"You're saying you played a game and we were the characters!"

"Sean I…" Scout looked away. "No. I don't believe that. Heh, have you ever heard of multiverse theory? Lucario implied there were other worlds, and if I remember right, you're from a different world to this one too. I, or some part of me, is just from a world where they THINK this is fiction."

Sean took a breath. He didn't look much happier, but he was thinking it over.

"Actually, I have been wondering," Scout said, pressing his interest for a moment. "What version of the pokémon world are you from?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"My perception has it all as a made-up franchise. But there were multiple realities in that, this one is one of them. I'm just curious, which one you might be from."

"How am I supposed to know?"

"Uh… ever heard of an Ash Ketchum?"


"Maybe not the anime then."

Sean grimaced and shook his head. "This is almost too much. You cannot be serious; this has to be some sort of joke you have thanks to my memories."

"Why would I lie about this?" Scout asked, before hearing himself. "I… why would I?"

Sean had no answer for that.

Striker raised a claw. "I'm still having trouble following."

"I was hoping Sean could help me here," Scout said.

Sean sighed. "Imagine a book you read or a theatre play you watch. Characters acting out a role, always the same, because books don't change, plays don't change. Or, at least, they're not supposed to. Scout's saying he's experienced something like that, except about us and this world."

That helped. Glances were shared, voices were raised, and questions were asked.

It all kind of melded into a cacophony Scout couldn't discern.

"Please one at a time!"

Rai was the first to speak. "Why didn't you say anything like this before?" he asked, eyes wide and questioning. He would always think the best of Scout. He didn't growl like Mane, or demand like Striker. Just ask and expect Scout at his best.

There were few things that filled Scout with as much shame as that. Rai thought the world of him, and he knew that he shouldn't.

"Because I'm a coward," Scout said, bluntly. "Because I am a liar. Because I was scared that you'd hate me, or not believe me. Or that I'd ruin everything. You know, beyond just spouting excuses to create pity and all."

Scout shook his head. "Also, deflective statements to try and make myself seem better as I am aware of what a piece of shit I am. Can't really avoid those it seems." He nodded to Mane.

He looked down, unable to meet their eyes. "I told myself it was to preserve the best ending that I knew of. Because failure meant that the world would be ruined and plunged into… well, the Dark Future. I thought that if I kept things on track, I would get us to that ending and things would be fine. Only…"

He wanted to tear his fur. "Things were already changed from the start. I shouldn't even exist; I don't know where I came from or how."

No one really had an answer for him.


"I… found you," Guardian said, quietly. "After losing my previous companions, I wandered, alone and going mad… at one point, I remember this with crystal clarity, I had a choice between two directions. It was like I was pulled to travel one way, and along with it I found you with your parents…."

Scout nodded. "Okay… so probably a coinflip, fifty-fifty chance situation. That's… reassuring to hear, I think. Thank you."

"You don't need to thank me. You saved me as well."

"Even so. That happened in the future, I don't know how that could have affected the past. There are so many questions, how things went, what things 'happened' and what things just weren't shown. I knew about the Dark Future because of the story. Still, you didn't see much of it, so I didn't know what the Planetary Investigation Team was really like. There are so many things I could say, but… it's really just inconsequential. I know what went wrong."

"You've said a lot about all the bad things you've been doing," Mane said, glaring holes through him, but whether it was about this or about Scout talking so badly of himself wasn't clear. "Haven't heard what they are besides lying."

Scout shrugged. "Lying is the most of it. There were things I could have done to make things easier for us, or harder for 'the enemy'. Uh, sorry Guardian."

"None taken."

"I could have done more. More about Team Skull. More to help Sean and Striker. Getting Mane to get an apple earlier wasn't something that happened in the story since he wasn't a character, but it did get us out of trouble."

"I wasn't in this story of yours?" Mane growled, positively smoking.

"No. It was for kids."

"Oh. Well, that makes sense. Still." He stretched out very 'strategically'. "How could all this not be included?"

Scout gave a breathy chuckle. The laughter was a little insincere, Mane being more provocative was a bad sign, not a good one.

"I'm much happier you are here," Scout said, softly.

Mane blinked and stopped stretching. He even blushed slightly. "Well… of course you are. I am the best."

Scout nodded and took another breath. "Okay. Going through everything I did wrong will take us hours. Days. Weeks maybe if we have to come in here every time." He glanced around uneasily. No Darkrai or anyone else though

"We have all the time in the world," Saniya said. "But, uh, that sounds depressing and bad for your mental health. Or maybe it would good for you to get it all out so we can tell you it's okay? Or, is this something Azumarill should do? You need to go to her anyway." Saniya was at risk of chattering, Striker slipped a hand around her arm and she closed her mouth.

"Let me just say, you're taking this a lot better than I would."

"I'm just debating on how much I should be upset," Sean said, but he grinned briefly. "This isn't exactly the easiest thing to hear, you know?"


"I still am not convinced you aren't Scout," Striker said. "While you said that this change did not occur until after we travelled back in time, can you be certain?"

"No," Scout admitted. "But I LIKE to think that, as bad as I am, I would have let something slip. I like to think that, had I known things were changed from the start, I would have actually tried to work with what I knew, rather than trying to force everything to fit what I thought."

"I think you would have," Rai said. Always thinking the best of him.

"Perhaps. But… we DID travel through time." Striker gestured to Saniya. "Surely there is some explanation to be had there. Travelling back in time, something may have happened to you there to allow you to understand the history of the world. Combine that with the head-knock with Sean and believing yourself to be him."

"Mixing that with my knowledge of video games…" Sean said, rubbing his jaw.

"Do you think that could be it?" Striker asked, looking to Saniya.

"Uh… uh… yeesss?"

"You don't sound sure."

"I'd have to confer with Giratina. Or… Dialga… or even the other Celebi that apparently exists. That one that I need to kick in the face." She grumbled. "Halving our Power between us. How greedy can he be?"

Scout nibbled on his lip. An actual explanation, for a moment, he doubted himself.

"No… no, I don't think so," he said, shaking his head. "Even… even ignoring that I knew all this from the perspective of what WE were going to be doing as some sort of time nonsense… the story didn't end with Dialga."

Everyone came to a stop.

"What do you mean?" Sean asked. "Was it not over? Or… post-game? Oh my gosh, there's post game isn't there?"

"Yep." Scout nodded. "In the story, Darkrai damaged the tower himself although he claims he didn't this time. But when the Dark Future was averted, he tried something else. A world of darkness to rule over."

That got some concerned looks.

"That sounds… unpleasant," Rai said. He was the only one who hadn't seen the Dark Future in person.

"Yeah." Scout nodded. "And… what a perfect transition into the last and worst topic of the day. All that." He looked straight between Rai and Mane, they were realising what he just said.

"Wait, DARKRAI!?" Rai yelped. "That Darkrai that brought you back?"

"Mr handsome voice?" Mane added, equally as alarmed.

"Oh. Oh my gosh," Sean said, hitting it next as the remaining three clicked together.


"The guy?"

"Who revived you?" Guardian thundered.

Scout wanted to sit down, but he also was restless.

"He came to me after months of being stuck like… that." Even the word choked his voice briefly. Imagining that state filled him with horror and he tried to avoid it always. "I don't know what he wanted with me. He. I told him I knew what he was, but he told me so much about how he wasn't that anymore. I don't even know what to think. He's the reason why Sean is a pokémon."

Sean blinked. Striker did as well. "What?"

"You got attacked," Scout said, before amending. "WE got attacked when travelling through time. It was Darkrai who attacked us, trying to stop us from changing the past and ruining his darkened world. A world he claims he was the hero in."

"I tried t tell him to go away. But he kept coming back. And... I don't want to give excuses, but… I just… it was hell to be stuck like that. He was the only one I could speak to." Scout was shaking now and Rai and Mane jumped to his side without hesitation.

He gave a strangled sound, a mix of a gasp and a whimper that they were pressing against him. He felt unworthy but was too selfish to lean out of the comfort.

"How…?" Guardian began, but he couldn't find the rest of the words.

"Darkrai claimed that he had changed," Scout muttered. "He said that legendary pokémon can perceive changes in reality, like time, through dreams and he's seen what the world would be like. He said that the previous Darkrai was killed by… Soothe and that by changing time, she would be erased."

Saniya twitched heavily at that. "Soothe," she whispered, almost too quiet for anyone to hear. Her memories of the audino remained crystal clear despite everything.

"He claimed that these things had made him realise what he was aiming for was wrong, and that he HAD to repay the debt he had to us with a good deed he could do. He was the one who removed that drowzee from hurting you," Scout said, patting Mane's neck. "We talked so much. He made so much sense. He sounded so true. But… he was a master manipulator in the game. He nearly…."

He couldn't say that.

"Nearly convinces the characters to do something awful." Was what he said instead. "And then he goes straight to Rai and Mane. I don't know if he just got frustrated, that he really wanted to help and I just couldn't trust him. But he forced it. I'm so sorry Rai, Mane, everyone. I might have really fucked up and I put you all through so much, all those nightmares, he just would not stop."

He was shrinking, almost crumbling over Rai and Mane now. They supported him, leaning back up. Rai was licking his face, his tears while Mane served as a sturdy rock to keep him up. He was warm. So warm after being so cold for so long.

Throughout it all, Scout babbled and repeated that he was sorry. He was inconsolable, they knew the time had passed to discuss everything he had said seriously and, perhaps, they needed the time to adjust to everything as well.

Before they left, however, Scout had one more thing to say. "I told you all that in here because it's the only place I could think of that he may not hear. You can't talk about this outside of dungeons. Darkrai might have changed but… if he hasn't, I've almost certainly made a colossal mistake in accepting his offer. I actually don't want you to completely trust me."

"That's weird to say since we have to mostly trust your word on all that," Mane snarked. At least he wasn't making outrageous remarks, that'd be a very bad sign. Perhaps Azumarill's services really were useful?

Scout smiled. "Yeah. I think I'm 'sound of mind', but he might have planted something in me. I don't know how effective it might be, but… maybe we should all share some sort of code word to make sure I'm alright in the head."

It didn't take them long to decide on the word dawn as their safe word. There was something almost nostalgic about this for Team Sunrise.

Code words, sneaking around, being careful. It was all reminiscent of a time they were having more and more trouble remembering.

"I think this information needs to be shared with Guildmaster Wigglytuff and Armaldo," Rai said, as they reached the end of town, having walked through, clustered together, in silence.

"Eww, the bug?" Saniya gagged.

"I'm serious. If Darkrai really is a danger, they should know."

Scout nodded. "Yeah. I was thinking I'd tell them next. But only them. Not the rest of the guild… at least for now."

"You're not expecting us to lie?" Mane frowned. He didn't like a lot of what had been spoken, but he wasn't going to start biting heads off.

"If they ask if I'm from a world, or just have some sort of memory that I am, that this is a story then yeah please do. But I doubt anything that specific will come up."

"If nothing else," Guardian rumbled. "Just say that it's something private between you and Scout. Not all secrets need to be told."

Mane grumbled but accepted it.

Scout continued to lead the way as they left. That had gone better than he had hoped, but it wasn't the end of it.

Saniya sighed. "Okay," she began, fluttering to Scout and grabbing his tail. "Sorry about this everyone, but I've got to have a one-on-one chat."

Without any further hesitation, and ignoring Scout's yowl of disagreement, she zoomed them down the slope and into Beach Cave before anyone could so much as raise a hand or paw to stop her. "Don't follow us," she called back. "We'll be just a few minutes."

"Okay-okay-okay, STOP!" Scout demanded, pulling himself free of Saniya. He grabbed his tail, holding it away from the grabby hands of the celebi. "What is so important?"

"What do you know about Soothe?" Saniya asked immediately. That was one thing pokémon tended to appreciate about her. For as wacky as she could be, she didn't dance around the point if she had one to make. "And are you Gabriel?"

"I… pardon?"

"Soothe," Saniya repeated. "Audino. Purple fur instead of pink. Tells just the best jokes." She smiled a little in memory. "I'll need to tell you them again. And Gabriel. Name. Giratina said they were getting another Giratina from a different reality to get some 'Gabriel' human. Sean is Sean. Is your name Gabriel?"

"No, that name doesn't mean anything to me." Scout shook his head as the memory of Saniya and Chatot talking about Soothe returned to him. "And Soothe? To be entirely honest… nothing."


"She wasn't in the story I knew," Scout admitted. "I haven't really had time or… presence of mind to wonder about her and all. But now that you bring her up… hmm."

"You know… nothing?" Saniya asked, almost sagging in the air. "And you're not? Dammit, Giratina."

"Sorry," Scout replied, frowning. He shook his head. "I really don't know anything. Hearing about her was a bit of a shock really. But, uh… Wigglytuff might know something about her. Hm." Wigglytuff. That was a thought.

Scout's frown deepened as his mind clicked a piece together. It was an obvious piece, but he was a little slow sometimes. "Soothe killed Darkrai… or the previous one." He looked up to Saniya sharply. "What did YOU know about her?"

Saniya hovered in the air in silence for some time before she sighed. "Not much, to be honest. I met her… uh… you know I can't really remember. It was ages ago… or ages to come… in a future that no longer exists… hoo, paradoxes are FUN-KEY!"

"If you're asking me about her…" Scout began, but he didn't really know how to complete that line of thought.

"Yeah." Saniya nodded, understanding what he didn't. "She was my first attempt to save the world and, well… I've wondered. She might not have known where the Time Gears were, but… she had how many years to find them? Who knows? I do. I even gave the guys, you too even, some code words to say to her if you found her, and I've asked pokémon here, but no one says they've seen her around."

"A shiny audino is hard to miss," Scout agreed.


"Uh… story term for a differently-coloured pokémon… like you, actually."

"Me? Oooh! Shiny, I LIKE IT!" Saniya giggled, but she was more subdued. She sighed. "Sorry for dragging you in here, probably didn't even need to I guess."

"I'm sorry I don't know anything," Scout said, giving her a guilty smile.

She waved him off. "It's fine. She was always a bit mysterious, but she was also my first friend. Giratina was more of a… parent I guess. I'd like to know stuff about her, but… I suppose I won't get the chance, will I? If she's been this quiet for so long, who even would know? And everyone will forget about her eventually."

"We will?" Scout asked before he shook his head. "Right, Dialga, paradox thing. I really don't like that." He remembered a sableye with a sharp grin. Danny, he had named him. He wanted to hang onto that. The game had preserved them as well. Another ache hit his chest, right next to Chatot.

"Neither do I," Saniya said. "The Dark Future isn't a fun place to remember, but… I still don't like the thought of losing those memories. What am I? But a collection of memories? Even more, than a normal being is. Stupid legendary thing."

"Are you… okay?" Scout asked. Saniya snorted at him. "I mean… do you want to talk?"

"I've got a therapist now!" Saniya beamed, immensely proud of this for some reason. "But she did say to share stuff with the others. Hmm… I don't want to burden you just yet; you should probably come to see her too. With all." She gestured wildly. "THAT going on with you. Hoo boy, she could earn that Poké working on you!"

"I feel like I should be offended," Scout said, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "But your friendly tone and overall cheerfulness make me question everything."

"That's me!" Saniya beamed and giggled, flying around him a few times. "Let's get out of here. Oh! And let's not tell them what we talked about; we'll make them think it's some super dramatic secret!"

"I don't know if I want to keep any more secrets," Scout said, walking after her. They hadn't entered too far into the dungeon and could still leave through the entrance.

"It's not like it'll be a real secret!"

Scout chuckled wearily and followed on. He felt tired, this day had been very long and emotionally draining, but he had one last pair to have a difficult conversation with.

"So… you are telling me you have some sort of extended knowledge of the world and various important events?" Armaldo clarified.

"That's one way to look at it, yes." Scout nodded.


After returning to the guild, Scout didn't go to Armaldo and Wigglytuff immediately. They had dinner first. Scout had loitered behind after sending Mane and Rai off to speak to the pair. It felt scary to be alone for even that half a minute, but he counted his breaths and reminded himself he wasn't alone.

Understanding he had something important and private to discuss, Armaldo took them to Wigglytuff's library and used a Mute Orb to give them secrecy.

As long as they remained within a certain threshold, and this wouldn't take too long, no sound would escape the bubble.

And so, for the third time in his life, Scout said everything he hadn't said.

Chatot had been incredulous but understanding. The Team's Ion and Sunrise had been questioning and somewhat difficult to face. Armaldo and Wigglytuff listened to Scout in thoughtful silence, only speaking up to ask for clarification on something.

"You said that… events went a lot different from what you expected?" Wigglytuff asked. "What exactly?"

Scout grimaced slightly, but it was better to rip the band-aid off now. "Chatot, he uh… wasn't… he didn't die in the story." Wigglytuff was dead silent. "It's what I meant earlier b-by… sorry."

"Before we get emotional," Armaldo said, cutting in. "If I understand right, you didn't do anything specific to get him killed. Right?"

"Never! I even tried to warn him about Kabutops… unless that…"

"I warned him too," Wigglytuff said, softly. He looked, for lack of a stronger word, heartbroken but there was no rumbling of a Yoom-TAH coming, so Scout felt only sadness in kind.

He was guilty, however. "I didn't mean for it, b-but… I am afraid my interference caused a change big enough that-"

"You said things were different before you even woke up," Armaldo grunted. "I highly doubt you did anything that could feasibly be considered killing him. Chatot made his own decisions, don't take the meaning of his sacrifice away from him."

Wigglytuff swallowed heavily but managed a nod. "He always chose to do what's right, even when it wasn't easy," he whispered, closing his eyes and taking a shuddering breath.

Seeing that his old student needed time to compose himself, Armaldo spoke up, "Regardless, another point is raised. You touched on this Darkrai baddie. What can you tell us about him?"

Eager to move on from that topic, Scout immediately went into everything he knew about Darkrai. "Darkrai is a powerful legendary pokémon, he's a Dark-type if that wasn't clear, and can create nightmares just with his presence. Or it's involuntary, just being around him asleep locks you into nightmares."

"This darkrai, he… look I don't really know WHY he's evil, other darkrai are spooky but… good. This one… in the story, he was the one who damaged the Temporal Tower and led to the collapse of time as he wanted to rule a world of darkness. After it was stopped, in the story, he moved on to messing with space and Palkia."

Thinking hard, Scout tapped a claw. "He… powers up his nightmare abilities… somehow. He actually locks Azurill in a nightmare that no one besides Cresselia, Darkrai's dream-based counterpart, could wake him up from. And in dreams, Darkrai can enter them and even disguise himself AS Cresselia."

"He claimed when I was speaking to him that he didn't cause the tower and it happened as a consequence of the Time Gears being removed to stabalise a different disaster in the past but he was a master manipulator in the games and I know I can't trust anything he said."

"We'll need to make sure the family is safe," Armaldo said quietly. "Especially with Team Sunrise possibly causing Darkrai to notice them with their sessions with Azumarill."

"From what you've said," Armaldo began. "It sounds like you do have something more to say. Do you have some idea of Darkrai's first move?"

"I think I am Darkrai's first move," Scout admitted. "He could see me when I was stuck as that memory ghost thing. This is where things get complicated."

Both pokémon listened in complete silence, no questions, as Scout told them of his meetings with Darkrai in more detail. How the nightmare bringer claimed he had changed, how it was Darkrai who brought him back to the world.

"Shinx and Litleo were desperate," Armaldo grunted. "And you're saying he did not show until after Lucario had departed?"

"Oh. Yeah, that's true." He hadn't approached them until she wasn't there.


"How was Darkrai stopped?" Wigglytuff asked, having composed himself. "I presume he was?"

"In the story, yes." Scout nodded. "He was stopped when Cresselia turns up to explain about him, and he asks… I suppose Team Ion to meet him in the Dark Crater for a showdown. It's a trap, he's got allies, and after he was beaten, he tried to escape."

Scout frowned as that memory came back. "That's the hardest thing, he was able to open a time/space hole, the same kind of one Dusknoir was able to open, to escape with. He was only stopped when Palkia intervened, attacked him as he ran into it, and caused HIM to lose his memory. Same thing he did to Sean… and me, he was the one who attacked us travelling back in time and is the reason Sean turned into a pokémon."

"Who was his allies?" Armaldo asked, letting Wigglytuff think over what else was said.

"Uh… I know there was a magcargo… I think… uh… I'm sorry. I can't really remember besides that. There might have been an arbok." Scout frowned, wracking his brain. It was too blurry and minor of a memory to really grab onto.

"Can you give us a rundown on Darkrai's actions in order?" Wigglytuff asked. "Before we get too ahead of ourselves."

"Things are definitely different for this time," Scout pointed out.

Wigglytuff nodded. "I understand. But knowing what Darkrai would do could help us work out what he will do. Give us an idea of his pattern."

"You're taking this very well," Scout said, a little surprised. "Do you actually believe me?"

"I think belief is too strong of a word," Armaldo grunted. "But we've been dealing with Mystery Dungeons all our lives and recently had pokémon from the future come to change time. What you're claiming is a little difficult to believe, but it's not something we can immediately dismiss."

"What Armaldo said." Wigglytuff nodded. "If nothing else, I believe you believe what you're saying."

With a somewhat crooked smile at that remark, Scout went into the spiel of what he could remember. Darkrai tormenting the heroes with nightmares. Locking Azurill into a nightmare and being confronted there. Being kidnapped by Palkia, stopping the space dragon, and Darkrai locking it into a nightmare as well.

Throughout it, the two pokémon listened and asked questions when Scout paused for breath. Asking for clarification of events, or how Darkrai may have committed his foul deeds. Scout couldn't answer everything, to his regret, but he wasn't told off for not knowing.

Once they had gone through everything Scout could think of, and all questions had been asked, Scout had another thing to add.

"I had one more thing I wanted to ask."

Scout hadn't asked any questions of his own so far, so that caught their interest. "Alright, go ahead." Wigglytuff nodded.

Girding himself, Scout nodded. "Okay. When Darkrai was talking about why and how he changed, he mentioned… he mentioned the previous Darkrai getting killed and this being why he was... well, evil."

Wigglytuff went very still.

"He also said that a contributing factor to his 'change of heart' was knowing that the pokémon who killed him… Soothe, was now erased from reality. I just… I don't know who she was. She was not part of the story that I knew, but Chatot told us that you and he knew her and what she did. So… I just have to ask… what happened?"

Wigglytuff closed his eyes in pain. Armaldo gave him a curious look. He hadn't seen his protégé in some time, but a distant memory or two were tickled of a certain Team With No Name having three members. Chatot, Wigglytuff, and Audino.

"If you… don't want to answer," Scout started, seeing Wigglytuff's reluctance.

"I'd like to hear this as well," Armaldo said. "I remember hearing about her. And if she has a connection to Darkrai, this is something we should discuss."

Wigglytuff swallowed, he trembled slightly but steadied himself. "O-okay, um… uh…" Wigglytuff glanced between Scout and Armaldo, visible fear flickering across his face. "Okay… please don't get upset."

Armaldo didn't have much of an expression at the best of times but the look on his face had even Scout cringing just being around it. "I don't like that you're starting with that."


"You know I won't do that."

Wigglytuff sighed and rubbed his face with both paws. "This isn't exactly easy for me to talk about. Please, I don't think I can talk about this if you're going to get upset with me."

Armaldo took a deep and heavy breath. "I will… try to keep calm."

Knowing that was the best he was going to get, Wigglytuff began.

"Ch-Chatot and I met Soothe in… well, in Brine Cave. After Kabutops-" Wigglytuff spoke the name with clear anger, startling Scout. "-attacked us, I ran to the back with Chatot bleeding… ah..." It was clear that it hurt to think about this. "Okay, okay, Soothe saved his life, and we ended up inviting her to come with us. She agreed, and soon she became our third member. Things went amazing for about two years… then…"

Wigglytuff smiled before sniffling briefly. Remembering happy as well as painful memories. "I wanted to travel to Treeshroud Forest," he admitted, quietly. "And we took a few months to get there. On the way Soothe… she… she became quieter, sullen, withdrawn. Chatot and I were a little worried, but there had been times she'd be somewhat depressed, and she always bounced out of it."

He began to frown deeper; these were not pleasant memories for the Guildmaster. "Once we reached the end of the dungeon we encountered… well, we didn't know what the Guardian was, at first, I later learned that it was the legendary Darkrai. But… upon sighting the Time Gear and Darkrai, Soothe… she…."

Wigglytuff swallowed and bent his head. "I… can't really describe it. I don't want to. It doesn't matter how she did it. She just… she inflicted mortal wounds on it. Something just… snapped within her. Chatot he… he was so good, he knew this wasn't right, and he tried to talk sense into her, stop her."

Wigglytuff touched the old scar on his stomach, mostly hidden with his soft fur. "She turned on him. I saved him and got this scar, and I had to fight her. She briefly seemed to recognise me after she struck me, but then… well. She seemed to lose herself completely and began… she began… she began… uh." He cringed again.

He fell silent. Just silent, not wanting to say anything more.

Armaldo hissed in a sharp breath, he connected the dots. There was little Little Rhythm wasn't brave enough to talk about, but he'd been off about a certain phenomenon for many years now. "A Shadow Pokémon?"

Wigglytuff nodded, dead silent.

"How? Did Darkrai attack her?"

"No. She attacked him first."

"So…" Armaldo frowned deeply, but it softened slightly as he looked down at Wigglytuff. "I am guessing there were no other periods where she may have been slain?"


"So, she was likely a Shadow Pokémon manipulating you from the start."

Wigglytuff didn't respond to that one. He didn't have to.

Scout raised a paw. "What… exactly is a Shadow Pokémon? I mean… the ones I know are… something, but the way Dusknoir explained it all that time ago makes them seem… different here."

Armaldo gave him a perturbed look as if the idea of other types of Shadow Pokémon existing disturbed him. "Shadow Pokémon come in two known variants. You have ones who are obvious and those that are subtle."

"When Dusknoir explained it," Wigglytuff said, thinking it better he not fall entirely silent. "He was more relating that lesson to the subtle kind. They are a great deal rarer than the obvious, or at least we think so. Them being impossible to actually detect helps conceal them greatly."

"The obvious kind are half-mad," Armaldo continued. "Or more like entirely mad but can speak and act in broken ways. Vestiges of their former mind coming out as if on an automatic movement, like your heartbeat or breathing. They have a visible purplish glow to them and are erratic and violent. They are highly dangerous but are much easier to deal with."

"The manectric in Amp Plains," Wigglytuff said softly. "That's the kind he refers to. They are… terrible things, wretched and in so much pain that they'll destroy everything around them to sate that burning within them."

He looked down, Armaldo didn't continue, staring at him.

"While the subtle are… well, as the name implies." Wigglytuff shrugged. "They act the same as they did before. They sound the same. They are still… sane in a way. Even though they can act and behave like a normal pokémon, they aren't. Something has been taken away from them inside. And all Shadow Pokémon are driven to create more of their kind."

"How… does that happen?" Scout asked. He hadn't expected a lesson on this, but it was morbidly interesting.

"Two ways," Armaldo said. "Dying in a dungeon seems to be a way. Although it's not reliably truthful. There might be other factors involved we don't understand yet. But such reasons were a large part of why Rescue Teams were formed in the first place, first guided by the lucario your partners met even."

"While the second way," Wigglytuff added. "Is being killed BY a Shadow Pokémon. Thankfully, if there could be any thanks in this situation, subtle ones do not necessarily create more subtle ones, and they appear to be extremely rare themselves. They are an insidious agent that can enter any town or village and lay in wait for time. But never forever, the burning Hunger within them wins eventually…."

"No matter how well they hide behind the mask of who they once were," Armaldo said, gravity in his words. "Their true nature comes out eventually. Two years would be unheard of, assuming she hadn't slated it in times you were not watching her. Either way, Soothe clearly reached her limit."

Wigglytuff looked away. "Now that I understand that she was from the future it… perhaps makes sense. Trill told me a little about how the Dark Future was. I could not imagine a world so cruel."

Scout nodded, and Armaldo rubbed his jaw. "Hmm… I have never heard of a Shadow Pokémon slaying a legendary pokémon before… with the revival that legendary pokémon go through… but if Soothe truly was a Shadow Pokémon, which seems likely, then I wonder."

"You think Darkrai could be a Shadow Pokémon?" Scout asked, alarmed. He looked down at himself.

"It's a possibility we can't ignore," Armaldo said. "I don't know if the infection that Shadow Pokémon spread could supersede a legendary pokémon's revival, but if it could… that may explain why Darkrai went from a peaceful guardian to someone who would end the world. He would tell any lie to gain your trust, but to what end is unclear."

"It'd also mean that he's definitely bad," Scout said, frowning deeply.

"Yes," Armaldo said, narrowing his eyes at Scout. "It would."

Things fell into an awkward silence. Scout looked at his body in a new way, while Armaldo and Wigglytuff stewed in silence. Armaldo in concern, Wigglytuff in guilt. Oh so heavy guilt.

"I have something more I have to say," Wigglytuff began, bringing their attention back to him. "I… uh… uh…" he frowned, looked like he was about to cry, but withheld himself. "About Soothe."

He lapsed into silence, trying to find his words. And something bubbled up in Scout's mind. "She was still alive," he gasped, Saniya's words coming back to him. "Before time was changed! Saniya, uh Celebi, said so."

Armaldo went stiff and turned to Wigglytuff, who positively cringed and Scout realised he had spilled it before Wigglytuff could. Oops. "Explain."

"W-When… during the… uh… I couldn't go through with destroying her," Wigglytuff babbled. "She was my friend! I couldn't be sure if she was really a Shadow Pokémon and, and, and… uh… I-I-I-I thought I might be able to find a way to save her."

Armaldo was stone silent.

"There are ways, myths say!" Wigglytuff stated. "Legends of humans purifying Shadow Pokémon. And, uh… there has to be some way. There HAS to be."

"It is my understanding that you killed her," Armaldo said, lowly. "Rumours travel far, even if they aren't spoken of out loud. I heard she was slain, and that you and Chatot never wanted to speak of it."

"Chatot… didn't know," Wigglytuff admitted, the words falling like bitter droplets. "Until he returned from the future and confronted me about it, away from everyone else."

"You… allowed a Shadow Pokémon... most likely a subtle type... you allowed her to go free… for over fifteen years?" Armaldo asked, deadly calm. Wigglytuff swallowed. "Meowth. We will need to continue speaking another day... or night. Leave, now."

The anger emanating from Armaldo was palpable, and Scout was already edging away. "N-no worries. Uh, goodnight."

Neither of them responded. Wigglytuff bracing and Armaldo almost crackling with energy. Scout ducked out the library doors and then through Wigglytuff room.

The Mute Orbs effects were useful but held a certain limit to how much volume they could block out. Even as Scout moved to open the large, heavy, doors of Wigglytuff's meeting room, he could hear Armaldo start yelling.

"WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE, RHYTHM?!" Scout gave up and just ran for his room, letting Wigglytuff take this wholly and entirely.

He had things of his own to fret about for the night. His mind swirled with thoughts of Darkrai and Shadow Pokémon. Rai and Mane were waiting for him as he slipped into their room, and their presence helped.

The three of them didn't need to say anything, Scout was quickly pulled into the bed and surrounded with shinx and litleo warmth. It was like they were guarding him from anyone else who tried to steal him away, and Scout found himself feeling safe there.

Even just running through the guild by himself flushed his body with adrenaline, of fear that when he slammed into the room they wouldn't be there, or they wouldn't be able to see him and he'd come to, finding that all this closeness and life again was just a hallucination.

It wasn't. It wasn't. It wasn't. It was real. He was real. Everyone was real, forget the complications of a game and story and fiction. They were all real. And he had them close to prove it.

He could deal with whatever was coming tomorrow.

And so, Scout tells everyone the truth.

In the original, this chapter and the previous were one and it was Chapter 40 which was why it wasn't split. That meant that not all the chapter was this extended moment, rather only about half was. Which, I think hurt the chapter more than doing it on Chapter 40 helped.

I fixed a few small things, but otherwise, this chapter is pretty similar to the original. There is an important change happening in the next chapter, however.

Stay tuned~

I also have a discord server. It's part story based, part general and people are pretty fun there! I might start posting invite links to that again, but you can ask me if you're interested!
Chapter 40 - The Times We Talk


Bug Catcher
This chapter actually has a bit of flashback content to it.

The assembled guild stood in quiet awkwardness. No one had gotten a perfect night of sleep as at some point in the night as the Mute Orb's effects faded and the distant sound of yelling had encroached into the sleeping quarters. It was still going on as well.

Now the guild was stood in line, waiting awkwardly for some direction to be given. No Wigglytuff, no Armaldo. Just yelling.

The yelling stopped suddenly, and a few pokémon breathed sighs of relief. The doors to the Guildmaster's Chambers slammed open, and Armaldo poked his head out.

His eyes were bloodshot, his feathers were nearly wilting, but he growled at them, nonetheless. "What are you all just standing around for? You know what jobs you need to do. MOVE IT!"

A near-deflated Wigglytuff could be seen through the gaps in Armaldo's stance, looking exhausted before Armaldo slammed the doors shut and went back to yelling.

The apprentices wisely chose to scatter.

Not being sure what else to do, Team Ion fell back on their standard code of action. The job boards.

"Is it okay for me to be just jumping back into this?" Scout asked as they looked over the regular job notice board.

"Do you feel like you're going to murder us?" Mane asked far too casually. Team Glee glanced over in concern.

"Mmm… no."

"Then let's find this hidden chamber," Rai said, selecting a mission to Mt Bristle. They'd be escorting Pawniard up through the dungeon, looking for a room locked with a keyhole.

The pokémon was all over them when they arrived to meet her.

"T-Team Ion is taking… me?" Pawniard said after Rai had introduced her. She started to hyperventilate, and Scout handed her an apple to calm her down.

It did not help.

"I will plant this apple and grow and ORCHID IN YOUR NAMES!"

An hour later, after Scout managed to find a bag for Pawniard to breathe into, they were off.

She was friendly, very friendly if a little chatty.

"I'm so happy for you that you got your partner back, why is he blue now?"

"I once cut down a tree on this road for Machoke. He thanked me, and I was so happy."

"Did you really fight Groudon?"

"I bet you absolutely whooped Dialga!"

"Can I get your pawprints! All my friends won't believe me unless I have them!"

"You three are so cute together. Aww."

Rai and Mane, who were somewhat accustomed to this by now, took it in polite stride. Scout, however, was increasingly flustered.

"Oh my god," he thought panicked. "Fangirls exist!"

Still, he couldn't be too annoyed. It felt good just to be talked to again, even if she was really just talking TO him.

"You know I tried to go to Mt Bristle by myself, but the machop here just wailed on me. Like wham bam no thank you, ma'am. Machoke is nice, but they are NOT!"

"I found this key four weeks ago when on a walk. It has these scriptures on it, see." She shook her key around a great deal when talking. "Mt. Bristle. Ledyba said it's My Bristle, but there's no dungeon called that!"

She was, fortunately, able to fend for herself. She shrieked VERY loudly when any machop appeared, but all other ferals were dealt with sanely.

"SAVE ME!" she cried when a machop got within ten meters of her. A shock from Rai sent it fleeing. "Thank you! You are so strong and brave and wonderful and-"

It took most of the day, but they found the door the key reacted too. "Okay," Pawniard breathed quietly for once. "Okay." She stepped forward and slotting the key through the ancient keyhole. Bumpy stone and orange rust were all the door showed.

She turned the key.

Something clicked. It almost sounded like a snap, and the key was drawn into the keyhole like a frog snapping up a juicy fly. They stepped back as the door rumbled and groaned before simply vanishing from sight.

Pawniard raced in and cheered. "TREASURE!" Her voice echoed greatly in the room, raising her already loud voice to a clangourous rave.

The room was fairly nondescript. But there was a ruby chest in the middle of the room. Pawniard made short work of the lock, slicing through it with her deadly hands, and pulling it open. "Oooh," she gasped, pulling out something made of cloth. "This feels great!"

Team Ion took a look at it as Pawniard passed it around. A cloth similar to the colour of the night sky, almost silvery in parts mimicking stars. It felt wonderful as Scout ran it through his paws. As soft as silk.

"This looks like a good one," he said, passing it back to Pawniard carefully.

"Thank you so much for bringing me here!" she said, beaming at the three. She carefully laid the cloth around her neck like a scarf or a shawl. "Okay! Let's get back to Treasure Town, and I can give you your reward, eee, I hope you like it!"

The night would begin to fall by the time they returned. But for the first job after Scout's revival, it was a good one.

In bed that night, all cuddled up together, the felines had a short conversation.

"Things were a bit quiet today," Scout said.

"Were they?" Mane asked. "Were they really?"

Scout gave a short laugh. "She did talk a lot. But I mean."

"I know what you mean," Mane replied. Rai shifted, pressing against them both. "I'm still thinking about everything you had to say."

"Do you want to talk?"

"Not yet."

Scout accepted that, so the three of them drifted off.

Armaldo did, eventually, stop yelling at Wigglytuff. He needed a day to recover his voice, but once he could actually make words again, he went to Azumarill to talk.

"I've got another one that needs your help," he coughed. He needed several days for his voice, but he did not believe in laying about.

That was Wigglytuff's job, apparently.

And with that, Scout was expected to meet with Azumarill after completing their work for the day. Jobs that took them more than a day away were disallowed for now.

"This is ridiculous, he's not dangerous," Mane snapped. "Scout isn't going to hurt anyone."

"What makes you think I'm sending him for your safety? He spent how long in some post-death state? He needs to talk to someone professional about it," Armaldo replied. In the battle of glares, the powerful former outlaw tended to win over the strong former almost-outlaw. And Mane backed down as soon as he realised Armaldo was just looking out for Scout.

And so that was that. Scout began to meet with Azumarill.

The first week of meetings went okay. But as he grew more comfortable, more things began to get unveiled.

"I'm just… so angry at myself," Scout said, eying the ground. "Everything I did. Everything I thought I knew. I'm an idiot who put everyone at risk, and I keep doing it! Why do I keep doing it?"

"It is often ourselves who know the answer," Azumarill replied gently. "But need a push to determine it."

"I just don't know what is so wrong with me in the past. How did I think anything I did was smart or... or…? I don't know!"

"What was his problem?" Azumarill asked.

"He wasn't good enough," Scout said, not thinking his words through at all. He blinked and recoiled slightly.

He blinked a few times, stunned at his own declaration.

"He wasn't good enough because of someone else's expectations," Azumarill said.

Scout shook his head. "No… I wasn't good enough because of my own expectations." He fell silent, just trying to mentally work through what he had just said.

They'd need to continue on this point later, Azumarill decided, as Scout had closed up again. She knew she'd get nothing more today.

Things continued to be relatively stable until Saniya came to talk to Scout again.

"May we go for a walk on the beach?" Saniya asked. In the beach had become a euphemism for traversing the Beach Cave dungeon to question Scout about things they couldn't really discuss elsewhere. "Just the two of us."

"Keep him safe," Rai asked, and Saniya nodded.

"Always do."

Saniya tested out some short distance teleportation to warp them right to the beach, they appeared above the water and Scout fell in, before entering the dungeon.

"I'm going to stink like salt tonight," Scout complained as they entered. "And I can't even go to the Hot Springs. It's too far and too late."

"I said, sorry." Saniya pouted. "Forgive me?"

"Yeah, alright."

"You're the best!" Saniya cheered and celebrated by blasting a shellos into the puddle it oozed out from.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" Scout asked as they walked. Saniya didn't seem keen on stopping, so he couldn't imagine this was a long conversation or else they would have stopped by now.

"You know how we're all forgetting stuff about the future? Even me even though I'm a super-awesome legend and even have time powers?"

"Indeed, I do."

Saniya frowned. "I remember more than my sweet Striker or Guardian or Sean, of course, but I still am losing stuff. For example, I don't really recall what was binding me when Guardian tried to possess Striker. I know it was something, probably a Ghost-type but…"

"A spiritomb," Scout replied, knowing the answer.

She gave him a brief surprised look before nodding happily. "Thanks. But that's the thing. I remember more, but I'm STILL losing recent stuff. Uh, mentally speaking."

Scout nodded, he was following but wasn't sure where Saniya was going with this and why they had to speak about it privately.

"I still remember Soothe," she said, wearing an expression of confusion and the furrowed brows of concern. "And it's been… uh… carry the one." She counted on some fingers. "Over 18 years since I last saw her. I still remember her name, her species, even her colour. Although that was pretty and shiny, like me!"

Scout nodded again. "Wigglytuff definitely still remembered her as well," he reminded. He had told everyone in the know by now what had gone down when he spoke to the leaders of the guild. "It'd be nearly as much for him since he's seen her."

"You'd think she'd be one of the first things I'd forget," Saniya said. "Maybe not. She was my first real friend. She was the first person I trusted enough to save the world. But… but even then… all logic dictates that I should at least have trouble remembering what she was or sounded like. Nope." She tapped her head. "It's all still here."

"You think she's still around, don't you?" he asked. Saniya nodded. "I think… you should talk to Wigglytuff about this. If Soothe still IS around, she could be dangerous."

Saniya nodded again. "Yeah, that's… what I was thinking. But it doesn't… it doesn't make any sense. You and me, Striker and Guardian. Even Primal Dialga. Everyone disappeared when the time changed. Everyone but Sean and that's easily explained. Hmm."

Scout wished he had answers for Saniya. He really did. The mystery twinged at his head as well. This audino, not a part of the story, but acting so far before it really began that he couldn't really claim that she couldn't be possible.

Mane wasn't in the 'story' after all, and he was around.

"Okay, that's all I wanted to talk about," Saniya said. She didn't look happy exactly, the prospect of Soothe being dangerous simply did not sit right with her.

As they continued through the dungeon, she found it impossible to simply keep in her head. "Do you mind if I… tell you about her?" Saniya asked, almost shyly. "I never really talked about Soothe before, even with you guys. I didn't want to make you feel like I was comparing or anything. And I'm totally not!"

"Go ahead," Scout said, smiling. "I'd like to hear about her."

Smiling gratefully, Saniya began. "Soothe was so weird. She was often grumpy but was really funny at the same time. She had the driest comments to make about stuff. Like the time-frozen water. She even taught me what a pun was! She said they were awful but would laugh when I said one, and we'd get into a 'punny war'."

Giggling at the memory, Saniya sighed. "And she loved knock-knock jokes! The worst ones you could imagine! Hahaha, you know when Bidoof first told me one I nearly cried."

After they returned to the guild, Saniya did go to Wigglytuff to inform him of her suspicions.

"I didn't say HE could be here," she said, glaring splinters at Armaldo.

"And he didn't say I couldn't be here," Armaldo replied. She stuck her tongue out at him but quickly shrugged it off.

"I'm going to cut to the chase," she began, giving Armaldo one more look as if it was his fault she wasn't going to ramble on about beans for thirty minutes. "I think Soothe is still around. By this point, the two of us should have forgotten her existence, it's been so long since we've both seen her. But I still remember, and you do too. Don't you?"

At dinner, Wigglytuff didn't attend, and Saniya chose to go to bed early. Leaving Armaldo to make an announcement to the guild.

"If any of you get any word or view, an audino with lavender fur, do not approach. Do not make any indication of noticing her. Leave as soon as you can and alert someone here. She is potentially highly dangerous but determining IF this is the right audino is essential."

"How many lavender audino's are there?" Bidoof asked.

"Likely not many but being careful is essential. Do you all understand? Do not engage. Do not go looking either, just keep an eye out. Say it back to me."

He got a vague return, and Armaldo made them repeat it again. This time it came out clearly. "Good. You may eat now."

There were a few known gluttons in the guild. Loudred, Paras surprisingly, Dugtrio. None could pack away food like Bidoof could, however.

Yet, tonight, he was only picking at his food, a concerned frown on his face.

"Uh, Armaldo, sir?" Bidoof asked, finding his appetite to be lost. Bidoof talking during a meal was unheard of, and a few pokémon couldn't help but pause to look at him.

Armaldo finished chewing a bite and swallowed, staring at the small, plump, pokémon. "Yes?"

"I, uh… by golly. This might just be me plum misremembering, but I reckon uh've seen a lavender audino before."

Everyone paused now.




"Shut up," Armaldo snapped, shooting glares at anyone else talking. "Explain."

Bidoof was, surprisingly, one of the only people who never so much as twitched when Armaldo glared at him. He began confidently, "It was when I first was on my way here, yup-yup. To Treasure Town to join the guild. I reckon I was lost, or I thought I was by golly."

He was frowning in thought. "I met a real perty audino with that light purple fur on my way, and she pointed me in the direction of the town. I remember it, I reckon, because." He began to blush. "She was awful pretty and being purple instead of pink was noticeable."

"And what did she say exactly?"

"Nothin, to tell the truth," Bidoof replied, frowning slightly. "I just asked her the way, and she pointed. I was too nervous to try and talk more by golly. I just thanked her and scuttled off."

"Hmm, this was when you joined the guild, correct?"


"A couple years ago then… well, it was worth bringing up. Thank you, Bidoof." Armaldo went back to his food, the discussion over. Bidoof found his own hunger coming back now that he had said his part and the guild returned to raucous eating.

Armaldo eyed Bidoof a few more times, but the brown mouse didn't seem to have any other revelations to share.

A single lavender audino one time didn't mean much. Differently coloured pokémon certainly existed, a pink celebi existed with them right now while your normal celebi was green.

But still. It was something.

Beach Cave wasn't the only place they could talk. Just the most convenient. No one had been having nightmares, so the occasional comment was slipped by Sean or Rai, but nothing too big.

While on work at nearby dungeons, Scout was allowed to go a little farther now but still not more than a day away, the three of them talked.

It was often Mane who asked the harder questions.

"You ever use what you know about people to manipulate them in some way?" he had asked seriously. "And I don't mean just to get an advantage but, say, befriend them?"

It was a serious question, one Scout wanted to immediately reject but one he forced himself to think about. "Sometimes I worried I did," he admitted, giving Rai a guilty look. "But the story never really went into many lives up to this point. The only ones I sort of know are Bidoof and Wigglytuff and even then only a part."

"Well, did you ever try to befriend someone because you thought they were important?"

"Yeah… I think that's fair to say I did."

Rai's questions weren't as confronting to be heard, but he had a unique way of asking them that made Scout think all the same.

"Did you know I was from Amp Plains before?"

"I didn't, no. All I really knew about you was that you had the Relic Fragment and wanted to join the guild. Also, that you were really brave, you just weren't confident about it. That wasn't as true as I thought though, you were pretty confident even from the start!"

"Can I ask… why didn't you trust me enough to tell me the truth?"

Scratch that. Rai was excellent at asking difficult questions. "I… I don't know. Any answer I thought I had feels so stupid now."

"Well you ARE pretty dumb," Mane said, half-joking. "You're lucky you're cute."

"Come now Mane, people may think you only love me for my looks."

Mane smirked and gave him the up and down look. "That's part of it."

Scout turned away, ears going pink. "A-anyway. The only reasons I had were all because I was afraid. I was afraid you wouldn't believe me. Both about Dusknoir a-and if I told you how I knew."

Rai opened his mouth to object, but hesitated. "I… can see why you'd be worried, I guess it would have been hard to understand it. It still is hard to understand. It just hurts that you didn't trust me."

Scout looked down. "I'm so sorry."

Rai gave him a light bump. "It's okay. I forgive you, you're telling us now. Better late than never and all that."

Mane offered a smile, he may have been mad but he wasn't angry. They continued on the job, shifting to talk about Team Sunrise and what they were up to.

As the dungeon got a little safer, Rai offered a little more criticism.

"Hey," Mane said, bumping Rai. "Lay off him."

"Huh?" Rai asked, falling onto his side from the sudden bump.

"Huh?" Scout asked, thrown by Mane coming to his defence now.

"I thought you were the one being critical?" Rai said, cocking his head the other way, the other ear twitching.

"Well, YEAH!" Mane scoffed. "But if you're going to be all nit-picky, I'll need to be the unreasonably forgiving one."

Rai gave him an odd look. "I'm not unreasonable."


Scout chuckled before sobering. "I get that you're mad."

Mane's tail flicked out sharply before he shook his head. "Look I'm not MAD-mad. I just think you're a bit stupid, but that's how you've always been. I'll get over it."

"You shouldn't have to get over it," Scout replied.

"Mmm. I still think it's stupid I wasn't in this 'story' of yours." Mane pouted. "That's just not fair."

Scout frowned at the reminder before he smirked. "Well, I like it a lot better with you in it," he said with an almost smug smile. Then, to Rai and especially Mane's shock, he leaned over and gave Mane a peck on the nose.

Mane spluttered at him, going violently red. "What was that for?" he demanded, fur popping with sparks..

"Because you're cute," Scout replied, grinning.

"ME?" Mane squawked. Rai looked like christmas had come early.

"Rai's cute as well," Scout said and gave him a kiss on the forehead, causing the shinx to nearly combust. "Both are so cute."

Rai growled without any heat to it, but he didn't know who to tackle at the moment.

Mane laughed, and the others soon followed. "Nah," Mane said, shaking his head. "If you've ever seen your reflection, you'd know YOU'RE the cute one of the team. I'm the handsome one and Rai… well, he's the fluffy one."

"Cute and cute," Scout said. He received a double tackle from Rai and Mane.

Mane pinned him and Scout booped his nose with a paw, causing him to growl.

"You look good under me," Mane growled, and Scout became aware of their position.

"I, uh."

"Off!" Rai said and tackled Mane off Scout, the two rolling and scrabbling for a moment before Rai had Mane pinned. "I'm the top cat," he said proudly.

"Yeah, yeah," Mane said, dismissively but he was getting flustered. "Now off."


"Oi! Off!"

"Nah. I'm going to take a nap." Rai then curled up on Mane and closed his eyes, smiling at the offending noises Mane was making.

"I am NOT your personal bed."

"You're warm and comfy," Rai hummed, nuzzling Mane for a moment.

"Well, YEAH, I AM the best. But still, OFF!" Mane's voice rose to a squeak several times as he spoke, with Rai still not getting off him.

"I'll make you get off," he warned.

"If you were serious, you'd have done that already," Rai replied. Mane closed his mouth, he had him there.

Scout smiled as he watched the display. It certainly wasn't the first time he'd seen something like that between the two. Mane caught him and said. "Stop your smirking," he demanded.

"And come over," Rai added.


"Like you don't want that," Rai whispered.

Scout chuckled awkwardly. "I'm… I'm good."

"He'll make you," Mane said, giving in.

"He's right," Rai replied lazily.

Scout stood up. "Like you could catch me," he said and ran off. There wasn't much space to run in the dungeon ending, as soon as they left they'd end up at the start of the dungeon.

Rai leapt off Mane, knocking the wind of out the litleo, to give chase. Scout WAS quite fast and more agile than Rai, especially when he dropped to all fours.

But Rai could use Quick Attack.

Scout dodged him once, twice, thrice.

Then Mane got him.

Mane was the heaviest of the three and completely took Scout out. Rai crashed into the pile of cats and laughed.

"Your prey, my fair leader," Mane said, putting on an approximation of Scout's manner of speaking.

"Thank you, good sir," Rai replied, doing the same.

"You two are BOTH heavier than me," Scout complained from somewhere below, muffled by fur. "This isn't fair."

"Chimes has got you on her special diet," Mane retorted, poking Scout in the ribs. "Those shouldn't be showing."

"She's just trying to fatten me up to eat me," Scout whined.

"Because she's evil?" Rai giggled.

"Exactly. Someone's on my side for once."

Mane snorted and gave Scout some room to breathe, without actually letting him out. Scout took overdramatic gulps of air, and then nearly choked when Mane gave him a lick on the cheek.

"I don't need you to get hairballs as well," Scout said on default, voice going high and squeaky.

Rai glared at him then grinned and licked the other cheek.

"Stoooop," Scout pleaded, covering his face with his paws.

"He's so embarrassed," Mane laughed and leaned in close. "I wonder why. We're all friends here."

"The best of friends," Rai said, laying across Mane and giving a matching smirk down at Scout.


"Cause that's ALL there is."

Scout shifted in embarrassment. "I… I thought… you two… were…"

Rai cocked his head just slightly. "Were what?"

Scout was very red. "You know I was… always there the past months?"

Rai blinked innocently and Mane went. "Ooooh. See something interesting did you."

"Mane, please get off me." Seeing Scout was flowing into discomfort, Mane did do as asked and released him, knocking Rai off in the process.

The two sat down on their haunches, watching Scout as he brushed himself off, not meeting their eyes.

"It's kinda funny," Rai was the one to start speaking. "We talked a lot about how we would like to talk to you about… it all, but I guess you saw it all already?"

"I… it's hard to really remember clearly," Scout admitted, picking at his fur at imaginary dirt. "Dunno if it's because of some physical limitation or I just don't want to remember what it was like. But… I do remember a lot of that stuff."

"Does it bother you?" Rai asked, Mane remained silent. "Can you look at us?"

Scout rose his head, flicking his eyes up and held for a moment before glancing down again.

"...do you both?"

Rai nodded. Mane's tail flicked. They shared a look.

"I felt… I did feel stuff I didn't really want to think about," Scout admitted. "Even… even though I know I'm a pokemon, my mind is… I still think of myself as human and who knows what really is going on with that. Where I came from… humans don't… they don't be with things that aren't human."

"You're not human now though," Rai pointed out.

"I know." Scout swallowed, looked up again. Rai was gentle, Mane was unreadable. "Don't the two of you… I mean… just each other?"

Mane slowly let out a long breath. "I think I know what you're saying there. Two-person couples are the norm, sure, but it's not… uncommon for more than that, especially with feline pokemon." His and Rai's tails had entwined, a single show of their anxiety as this conversation began.

"I guess."

Rai gave a slight smile. "You know, I imagined a lot of stuff over the last couple of months. Things I'd like to say, big gestures and all that. I can't seem to remember them now."

Mane nudged him. "What about that Fogbound Lake idea?"

Rai's ears flicked up. "Oh! Oh yeah!"

"The what?"

Then, Rai began to blush really, really, hard. "O-O-Oh, u-u-uhh. W-Well, I actually. When we. The-that, you know? Time. Um."

"Come on, Rai!" Mane cheered him on. "You know what you wanted to say that day."

"It's not that easy!" Rai retorted.

"Wait… what, Striker interrupted us at the lake," Scout said, remembering.

Rai's blush deepened but he also scowled. "He sure did," he muttered.

Scout was blushing as well too. "Back then?"



Scout glanced between the two of them. He was surrounded again, how did this happen?

Rai breathed out a hard sigh. "Alright. I can do it. Scout, I had a really big crush on you for months. I wanted to tell you that at Fogbound Lake but… I lost my chance. I realised I felt a lot more when I lost both of you to the portal to the future. It was way more than a crush. You made me feel brave, like I could do anything, that I could have a friend, a partner, and someone I could help as they helped me."

Scout looked almost ready to faint from it all.

"I wish you had felt safe enough with me to tell me all… all that stuff, but I guess I can't really be mad at you because I couldn't quite find the right moment after Fogbound Lake to talk about all this either. But now that you have told me? I'm glad. I'm happy. It doesn't change anything, I just know you a little better and that means you should know me a little better. I… I wasn't. I realised I wasn't completely sure until you got stuck in the Dark Future."

He looked to Mane. "And when you tried to apologise for not being Scout." Scout gasped slightly, turning to Mane as well who glanced away. "I think that's where it started for me too." Back to Scout. "When you were gone and I thought I might never see you again? Realise I might never be able to tell you that I… love you. That's when I really knew it. I love you, Scout."

He did fall over when Mane gave him a gentle brush. "Funny thing is, so do I." Scout caught himself on the ground and looked up at Mane, trying to hold a tough and cool expression even as a blush crawled over his face too.

"We didn't have the same bond as you and Rai, or heck even Rai and I. I was jealous of you, jealous you got to be with him while I was hated. I saw what you did for him though and I was even more jealous but I tried to be happy especially after I joined the team. When we were going through the Dark Future I realised why. I think we bonded pretty good there."

He flashed an almost-dorky smile then back to cool. "I've definitely been… into you but also when we lost you… it took me a while to really, really, realise how much we really did lose. Rai and I got together and I guess saw why but it became more." He swallowed. "I didn't really realise how much you meant to me until just the other day. When you told us all everything. I know I've been distant, I've been mad at you, but it also made me realise that… it doesn't matter that I'm mad at you."

He sighed. "I get why you did it and I know I'll get over it. Realising that, that it really doesn't change the way I feel. Heh, I guess you could call that love."

Rai put a paw on Mane's own and they smiled at each other before facing him.

"You don't need to say anything," Rai assured him. "...it's gotta be a lot to take in. We're friends first, even Mane and I. It won't change anything."

Scout was trembling just a little bit. Part of him had known all of this, the rest of him was just not prepared for how it made him feel.

"I… I-I do," he managed weakly. "I think I need… time. To… understand it all. Understand myself. I know… that I do." He looked to Mane specifically. "Both of you. You mean more to me than anything. I couldn't have lasted trapped like that if it wasn't for both of you. I just…"

He couldn't find the words exactly. He had to get used to the idea? That didn't seem like it meant anything. He had to get over himself? That just sounded wrong.

Mane nodded. "You need time. That's okay. I needed time."

"Heh, you sure did." Rai licked Mane's cheek and the litleo blushed.

"We can keep the lovey-dovey stuff on the down low for a bit," Mane suggested, no matter how hard that would be for him.

Scout chuckled at him. "Nah, don't. I think… you've already been doing that, I think I just need to get used to the idea. Can't do that if you're running on eggshells."


"Yeah. But, you know, try and hold yourself in check a little, don't want to scare me."

"We wouldn't want that," Rai agreed.

Mane nodded. "Allllright, we'll be cute and handsome and sexy, but only a little."

Only a little.

Some time ago.

Sean soaked his feet in the hot springs, sitting on a warm stone ringing the heated pond. He sat alone although the springs had several pokemon floating about.

It was the teams day off and Sean politely excused himself from Rai and Mane's company. He got the feeling they'd enjoy having some time to themselves.

With nothing really to do, he decided to wander out to relax here. Torkoal sometimes told stories he had heard and thought that might be interesting to listen to.

The old town leader was resting on the largest stone overheading the hot springs, a contented smile on his face as he watched and listened to young pokemon enjoying the water.

Sean felt a little shy. He was common enough around the town now that no one stared but he still felt somewhat of an outsider. Rai always put himself forwards to draw eyes off Mane and Sean, he was a good friend the shinx was.

He edged his way along the rim, getting closer to Torkoal. He wanted to talk but had nothing to say, leaving him feeling flat-footed.

He missed Striker. He missed everyone. He didn't feel as confident as he used to, despite the task in front of them he never gave up hope.

Now, now he just felt lost.

"You look troubled." Sean startled as Torkoal spoke, the elderly pokemon still had strength to his voice. "What brings you here today, Riolu?"

Sean glanced down, he hadn't noted how close he'd gotten nor realised how obvious it was on his face. "Um, nothing really."

"I do not see Shinx or Litleo around?"

"They're doing their own thing," Sean answered, rubbing an arm. "Figured I'd just… relax out here."

"Aye, fair enough, the springs are a good place to wash off the troubles of yesterday."

Sean smiled at the warmth in Torkoal's voice and sat a little more comfortably.

"...so, you must have travelled the future time quite extensively?" Torkoal began.

Surprised, Sean replied, "Oh! Well, yes, the world was pretty… different to what it is here though." A flash of a memory, a frozen Treasure Town went through his mind. The memory was blurry, the features vague, but he could still remember it.

"I suppose there would be. I have lived a long time and witnessed how the world has changed just in my time." He smiled, reflecting on pleasant memories. "Did you ever encounter the Circh dungeon, Riolu?"

"Circh?" He thought for a moment. "Haven't heard of it. A lot of places were named differently though."

"Ahh, yes. Well, Circh is something of an enigma in our time," he said. Sean thought of Guardian, how he researched as much as he could. He wondered if Guardian would have liked to share stories with Torkoal?

"How come?"

"Well, it is a strange place to be sure," Torkoal explained. "You are familiar with the difficulties of dungeon exploration. Feral pokemon as the most consistent danger. And yet, within Circh's walls there exists not a pokemon to be seen. It is empty. Entirely empty."

Sean blinked a few times, that didn't compute for a moment. An empty dungeon? "That sounds… kinda creepy."

Torkoal gave a raspy laugh. "Haah. Yes, quite apt way to describe it. Not only is it empty of pokemon but also of tangible treasures. Theories state that dungeons are alive and seek to draw people inside with treasures, if true it certainly works." Sean felt a wave of goosebumps. "And yet Circh has none of this."

He turned his head, looking away from the springs into the woods. "What it does have is a ruin. Pieces of pottery, lumber and brick make up the dirt walls. Eventually, if you are to persist through the unsettling place, you will find a dungeon zone that is expansive and wide. There is a ruined village with nothing in it. No one knows where it came from, but there are theories of course."

"The wildest legends state," Torkoal continued, "that there is an entity within the dungeon. Bipedal, strange, pale as a wraith. It is no pokemon that any have seen. These legends have inspired great curiosity and yet none have ever verified such a thing. It is only… there is a feeling to the place, I have gone just once many years ago. It feels… like something bad has happened."

Sean was fascinated, enraptured by the story. "Where is Circh?"

"It is a fair hike from town," Torkoal said. "But if one knows what dungeons to take, and is strong enough to pass through, the journey can be done in about half a day's walk for able bodied pokemon."

"What dungeons?"

Torkoal smiled at him. "Ah, my memory is somewhat short these days. I believe the Arrowroot Dungeon is one of them, but you may need to ask around to find the best path. If you do go, good luck. The dungeon has never been stated to be dangerous, just… unsettling and I do not believe a former human has ever walked within it."

The look in Torkoal's eye told him that he thought the same of the dungeon and Sean nodded. "Thank you, Torkoal! Elder Torkoal."

Torkoal chuckled at him. "Not a worry, Riolu."

Sean's feet dried on the run back to town.

It would be a time before he'd get the chance to feed his curiosity. Part of him wanted to experience it on his own, and so he didn't tell Rai and Mane what he'd learned and rather the three of them just enjoyed everyone being in a good mood for the first time in forever.

Sean did ask around. From Marowak he learned of Track Ridge and from Spinda that Mini Hill and Deep Forest were the last remaining spots he had to slip through. He built himself a strategy and armed himself with Striker's favourite things.


There were tricks to dungeon travels. One of the sneakiest tricks that he'd learned at the guild that even Striker hadn't known was that at a certain threshold in pathway dungeons, using an Escape Orb would skip the rest of the dungeon and place you on the side you were heading rather than back where you began.

It was hard to effectively judge that, Wigglytuff gave him some shakily-worded tips for how to mentally measure his way and then he was off.

He found a day to set aside and told Rai and Mane he was going to go to Circh.

"Really? Nothing's really there," Mane said.

"You've been there?"

"Once. Creepy place. You do you, though."

"You want to go alone?" Rai asked. Sean gave a nod. He returned it. "No worries, stay safe."

Circh looked different from the very beginning.

Most dungeon entrances appeared like a mirage, a ripple of gas in the air. Easy to miss, but once seen impossible to lose. The gate that entered into Circh was an old archway that sunk into darkness that seemed to stretch on forever without a hint of light.

And it was so silent. He noticed that next.

Regular dungeons held the drift of wind through corridors and the distant scuttling and shrieks of feral pokemon. There was nothing in Circh. Nothing but the sounds of his feet echoing through the corridors.

The walls were what Torkoal had said of them. Mostly plain dirt packed into the shape of the labyrinth, poking in sections were shards of what looked like pottery and the occasional chunk of petrified wood and more-formed lump of brick.

He could hear his breath in his ears. The tassels that hung around his head quivered. Sean always did his best to control that bizarre sixth sense, it hurt his head to feel something his mind had never been prepared to feel.

Yet, even holding that aura at bay he could still feel that something was wrong. Like a sighing breath as a heart slowly stopped, this place was as silent as a grave.

He kept walking.

Sean wasn't sure how long he walked for, tensed and ready for something to jump out at him. It felt like hours, it might have been hours, but nothing happened and eventually he stepped out into a vast area.

The walls of the dungeon melted away into reality again, reality that hung on inside the dungeon realm. Packed corridors became wide-open spaces and for a moment one could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped into a whole new world entirely.

Only the sky, red and roiling remained as a reminder that he was indeed still within a dungeon. He remembered what Torkoal said about dungeons possibly being alive but wondered if this dungeon was different to the others?

Said to be no treasure or feral to guard them. Was this the only place that tried to keep people away rather than draw them in?

If so, why?

He stepped forwards. A dirt trail, packed down under the weight of many feet over many years, led his way towards what was a town.

Seeing the town for himself made his chest hurt.

Low-roofed houses, built of brick, waterwheels and little fences with gardens of dust. His step stuttered a moment, his mouth was dry.

Sean was human in all but body. As a human he had gone to school. He had learned about history. He recognised this.

Not personally, no, it was nowhere that he had been. He recognised the mark of human hands all the same, however.

Saniya had once said that humans existed in their world a long, long, long time ago but she didn't know what happened to them.

Sean picked up something old and undeterminable. Whatever it was, someone had made it once. Someone human. He examined it for any idea, but it seemed like just a lump of something old and forgotten. He tossed it to the side, it tapped off a brick fence and fell inert in the grass.

He began to explore. He pushed open doors and took a look through houses. He found old chairs, beds that disintegrated to the touch, kitchens with fossilised wood once used to burn to cook food.

Chimneys and fireplaces, washrooms and places where clothes had been kept. No toilets, whatever this place was, it was older than toilets.

Wildflowers grew all over the place. Poking stubbornly through packed dirt and broken things. Strangely, the sight of the flowers slowly made the complex feelings he had begin to recede to calmness.

"There really is nothing here," he said to himself, looking left and right. It seemed to be a chunk of an old village, he couldn't tell how much of a village there was here nor if it'd be the same if he came back. Dungeons were strange after all.

"There is me."

He reacted immediately to the voice. Having just relaxed and lowered his guard, hearing something speak pulled a squeal out of him and he jumped, doing a roll, and spun around on whatever it was that snuck up on him, fists raised.

His defensive posture broke immediately when he saw what it was.

His mouth fell slack and his arms dropped, unable to believe what he was seeing. Sean blinked once, twice, three times.

The human in front of him offered a smile that was tinged with something sad. "I am sorry for startling you," she said.

She adorned herself with a smart, navy-blue, dress top that melded into a white dress of sorts that flowed around her waist. Her legs were further covered with stockings and she wore gloves along with a broach with a sapphire inside it. Her hair was a golden blond and tied into a ponytail behind her.

He just stared, not understanding how he was seeing what he was seeing.

"You'll catch flies with a mouth so open," she said politely.

Sean's brain rebooted, he blinked a couple dozen more times and yet the human in front of him didn't disappear. He went into detective mode and immediately said, "Are you a zoroark?"

She blinked back at him, a slight frown reaching her face. "Goodness no."

"A ditto?"

"A what?"

Sean gestured. "How…? How?"

She offered him a politely confused expression. "I am not sure what you are asking me, Riolu." She offered a gloved hand. "Perhaps we should begin with introductions. I am Violet."

Violet. Violet. Violet could be a pokemon name!

"Uh… I'm Sean?"

"You don't sound sure."

"No, that's Scout," he said on reflex, then his chest hurt again and his expression fell.

She seemed to see it all and her eyes softened significantly. "Are you… are you alright, Riolu?"

She spoke with such empathy in her voice he was nearly overwhelmed. He realised his aura senses were getting loose and realised he might be starting to hit them both. He forcefully quelled them, grabbing his tassels to lower them but it hurt and he grunted.

"Riolu, are you hurting yourself?" she asked, sounding alarmed.

"It's… fine," he grunted out, upper chest feeling tight before it finally gave in and he relaxed with a sigh.

Her eyes explored him for a moment, worry lighting the clear blue before she closed them with a nod. "Where did you come from?" she asked.

He felt like he should be the one asking that question, but he answered anyway, "Treasure Town?"

"You don't sound sure," she repeated, although a ghost of a smile flickered across her face at the tease.

"No. No. I am. I'm just… I wasn't expecting… well I guess I kinda was expecting but actually seeing is different from a vague believing, do you get me?"

"Not in the least."

"Sorry," he said, taking a breath to try and reorganise his thoughts. "I'm Sean. I am Sean. I'm from Treasure Town… sort of, it's where I'm from now. And, uh, I wasn't expecting to find a human here."

She smiled at him. "It is lovely to meet you, Sean. Violet." She looked to extend her hand to him politely but then just held her own hand, playing with her fingers a moment. "It's been some time since I've had another visitor here, forgive me if the place is a little…."

She looked around, embarrassment on her face. "Run down."

He winced as he looked around as well. "You live here?" he asked, trying to sound as polite as he could.

"Well." She shrugged. She gave him a meaningful look. He looked confused and her expression melted into another smile. "I must say it is nice to speak to someone who didn't immediately run away screaming. Or attack me. You looked very surprised to see me, more than others. May I ask why?"

"Oh, uh, well this'll sound pretty crazy but I am human too! Or, well, I used to be. Something about time travel turned me into a pokemon."

"Goodness, really?"

"Really. Oh, I guess that's why you can understand me, right? I'm still speaking human?"

Violet gave him a loopy smile. "It's difficult to tell, I was able to understand the language of pokemon nonetheless so I may not be the best way to test that."

"You believe me?"

"I see no reason why you would lie," she replied. "But if so, I prefer the company more than anything. It has been a lonely time here."

He swallowed, the more he looked at her the more tumultuous his stomach became.

"...how long have you been here?" he asked carefully.

"I don't know," she replied.

"Are you…?" he wasn't sure if he should ask, what if this was dangerous?

"A ghost?" she asked lightly. His ears flicked up in surprise. "I believe so. That would explain a lot of things. It's hard to remember." She tested her lips and spoke something Sean didn't understand.

"...what was that?"

"Just a prayer," she murmured. "Hm. What did you say your name was? I am sorry, I have already forgotten it."

"Oh, it's Sean."

"Violet, a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"You as well."

They lapsed into a beat of silence. Violet wasn't looking at him, instead staring blankly at a row of bricks.

"...uh, Violet?"

She blinked. "Oh! Hello you a… oh, sorry Sean. Yes. I am being a terrible host, I don't even have tea." She stood up sharply. "I shall make some."

She began to walk so he quickly followed. He noted her feet did make sound on the ground, a slight crunch on dirt and grass was brushed by her dress.

He felt quite small behind her though. It had been years since he'd seen another human he'd almost forgotten what they looked like. Tall, lanky compared to many pokemon, with long arms and legs with a big head. He wondered how tall he would be if he wasn't a riolu.

Then wondered how tall he'd be as a lucario, like his… well, that wasn't something to think about right now.

She walked him to one of the destroyed huts and struggled to open the door. She managed it before he could offer help and ducked inside.

He loitered outside, unsure if he wanted to follow an apparent ghost into a building but then her smiling face returned with a pile of rubble on a plate.

"This is," she began proudly. "...this isn't," she said, frowning at the plate. She set it down with a sigh sounding a mite frustrated and rubbed her face. "Goodness, I am terrible sorry, Arrvast."

"Uh… pardon?"

"I called you the wrong name didn't I?" Violet asked. He gave an apologetic nod.

She appeared very sad for a moment. "Well, I must stop leading you in circles. Perhaps we should just forget the tea. Tell me about yourself? What is it like being a pokemon?"

That was a question no one had ever really asked him. Striker kinda had but didn't have the context of not being a pokemon.

Thus, with a simple question it suddenly spilled out of Sean. "It's so cool and weird! I always imagined being a pokemon as a kid, I used to draw and make up cool things that I liked to pretend to be, my favourite was even a lucario I called Orion after Cynthia's lucario! But no one ever told me about how weird it was to have these aura senses, they give me a headache and I can't control them when they're active so I'm always getting a headache trying to keep them in check and my gosh I just vented at you."

She looked surprised during the sudden rant before giggling when he apologised at the end. "Oh my," she said, a teasing bent to her voice. "I must admit, I wasn't expecting that."

"I sound like Saniya now," Sean said, blushing.


"Oh. She's a friend… I guess was a friend."

Violet's amusement faded into compassion and she said. "Would you mind telling me about her?"

He wasn't sure for a moment, but then remembered what Rai had to say on so many occasions. To never let the heroes who gave up everything be forgotten. He held onto their memory every day, as long as someone remembered they weren't entirely gone.

"Saniya was a celebi, a legendary pokemon that sent my friends and I through time to change the future and save the past. Even though she lived in the worst place possible, she never, ever, gave up her smile. She was bright when everything else wasn't and I know she would have loved the sunrises she brought back to the world."

Sean would go on to talk with Violet for hours, telling her all about his friends and family. From brave Striker to cheerful Saniya. He talked about Scout's heartfelt perseverance and everything Guardian had done because he loved him so much. He talked about the strength that Rai held every day to preserve their memory and the summits Mane had climbed to be better than what people had tried to say he was.

Violet listened, asked questions, and just let him vent emotions that he had trouble talking about with anyone. Even Azumarill hadn't heard as much of the things he told Violet that day.

He wasn't sure what it was exactly that caused him to bare it all to her. Maybe it was just the surprise of seeing her. Maybe it was the softness in her eyes. Maybe he just had to talk to someone and Violet was the lucky girl that day.

Afterwards he felt a little less heavy.

"I think I have to go," Sean said, looking up at the sky. It didn't change at all, but he'd been talking for hours and his throat was sore. "I only get one day off."

"Ah." She seemed sad for a moment but smiled swiftly. "Well, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you, Sean, and to hear so much of the world outside this little place. I am… I am very glad people still continue to live." The words were heavy for reasons he didn't have time to learn. "If you ever feel the need, do come back. It was a lovely day, despite the lack of tea."

Sean smiled. "It was. Maybe I'll try and bring some next time!"

She smiled back at him. "I won't keep you any longer Sean."

"And I'll try not to keep you waiting." He said. He considered a moment and then offered his paw out. She looked at it for a moment, his paw wavered.

"I'm not sure if I should," she said softly. He lowered his paw. "My apologies, such rudeness is unbecoming."

"No! No, it's fine. I guess it's better not to… risk something?" He wasn't sure why he couldn't touch her. He wasn't familiar with the notion of actual ghosts that weren't at least pokemon as well.

She gave him a grateful smile and walked him to the end of the dungeon.

"You're not able to leave?" he asked. She shook her head. "I understand. I'll be back."

"Take care," she said and then he was off.

He decided he would bring Rai and Mane next time.

Some time ago.

"Knock-knock." Timber said, smiling happily at the old door he knew each line by heart.

"Who's there?" Returned the lovely voice he held so dearly.

"Chew." Timber grinned, he'd been working on this one.

"Chew who?"

"Chew through that tree, and you get Timber!"

Bell giggled in return. There was no pause this time, he grinned proudly.

"What do I owe the pleasure today, Timber?" Bell asked, amusement in her voice still.

"I, uh, wanted to just come talk," Timber replied, scuffing the ground briefly. "I like talking to you, yup-yup." He blushed and was glad she couldn't see it. It was easy to talk to a door. He didn't have to worry about what he looked like or what he was doing.

"You're very sweet. I like talking to you too." Timber beamed at that. "What would you like to talk about?"

Timber immediately fell into some excited chatter about the recent town gossip. Sunflora shared her juiciest bits with him more often nowadays, and it gave him great material to share with Bell since he knew she didn't exactly go out often.

He'd known her since almost his entire time in Treasure Town, and not once had he ever seen her around. Of course, he didn't know what she was, so that hampered it slightly.

She knew what he was, however, and hoped that if she did see him in town, she'd come to talk to him.

But he doubted she left her house anyway. He wondered what it was that kept her locked in there, too shy to leave. But he was too polite to ask.

"Oh, that reminds me," Timber said. They had been discussing recent events in the guild, and he was reminded of the other night. "The guild's been put on watch for someone!"

"Oh?" Bell asked, voice dripping with interest. She always loved to hear about the guild's actions.

"Yup-yup. Armaldo was all stern about it, you know how he is. They want us to keep an eye out for a lavender audino, but not to approach or nothin. The one they are looking for could be dangerous, they say, but haven't really told us much more."

"A lavender audino?" Bell asked, curious. "I've only heard of pink ones."

"I've actually met one!" Timber said, proudly. "She, I think it was a she as she looked pretty, pointed me the way to Treasure Town! So, there's probably a couple around, I reckon."

"Possibly. Hey, Timber, knock-knock?"

Timber beamed. "Who's there?"


"Atch who?"

"Bless you." Bell giggled.

It took him a moment, it often did with hers, but he got it and laughed. "How are you so clever?" he asked.

"Oh… you know," Bell replied, all coy. "I have a lot of time to think them up."

Timber understood and shifted the topic to the recent dungeon he had managed to clear with Paras, Flaaffy, and Marill. The four of them made a surprisingly good team.

Eventually, however, he had to say his goodbyes. "Before you go?" Bell asked, slipping some paper under the door. "Would you be able to get me these things, soon?"

"Of course!" Timber replied, taking the paper up and stashing it safely in his saddlebags. "Anything for you, Bell."

"You are too good to me, Timber," Bell sighed, but there was a smile to it. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight Bell."

Timber walked off, feeling light and happy as he always did after a good talk with Bell.

On the other side of the door, the lavender audino stood up from where she laid against the hardwood and stretched, popping her back.

"The Wigglytuff Guild is looking for me now, are they?" Soothe wondered, walking to her desk and beginning to comb through some of the many papers she had stored on and within it.

She found what she was looking for, near the bottom, yellowing with age and faded, but the sketch was still clear enough.

Her own copy of the map to Star Cave. She couldn't simply lay the other one out for Bidoof to find without copying it for herself.

She had never gone herself, but perhaps it was something she should consider.


Oh, hey Soothe.

This chapter actually has received the most alternate work put into it from the original. In the original we didn't see what Rai and Mane had to say to Scout, I cut the scene off after they tackled him. And also, Sean's first meeting with Violet was vastly different.

But that's because in the original story he does disappear with the rest. This time around he didn't, so I figured he'd find her earlier.

This was a lot of fun.

AO3 version has two pictures in this chapter.
Chapter 41 - Stars Align


Bug Catcher
One month had passed, and then another. Team Sunrise, having NOT run off and ended the world, were given a tiny bit more freedom, while Team Ion continued going strong.

Scout was having night terrors, but no one else was, so it was decided that was probably not Darkrai. Being buried beneath Rai and Mane basically every night helped stave them off until it was only every so often he'd begin trembling in his sleep.

His sessions with Azumarill were going well. She was pleased with a lot of progress her new patients were making. Striker still was unhealthily attached to orbs, but that was more of a quirk than a genuine problem.

Eventually, Wigglytuff badgered Armaldo enough that the pair of them called Team Ion into Wigglytuff's meeting room.

Wigglytuff was seated on his far-too-large throne bouncing happily in place while Armaldo skulked around the side like a treasonous adviser.

"We have called you in for an important question," Armaldo began, ominously.

"You are to be offered the Graduation Test!" Wigglytuff said, ruining several hours of dramatic planning.

Armaldo gave him a Look.

"Sorry," he said, not very sorry at all. "I'm just too excited to hear their answer!"

Shaking his head, Armaldo nodded to the surprised trio. "Yes. Team Ion have proved themselves as exemplary apprentices of the Wigglytuff Guild, and it has been decided to offer you the option to attempt the Graduation Test. You can accept or refuse. If you accept, we will discuss further, if you refuse the offer will be retracted for now but will be offered again."

"U-Us?" Rai asked, wrapping his head around the idea. "We are some of the most recent entries! I thought Sunflora, or-or… Corphish would have been offered this first."

"Who says they haven't?" Armaldo asked.

"Several pokémon have been offered the chance," Wigglytuff explained. "Sunflora, Loudred, Corphish, and Croagunk. Croagunk made it clear he is not interested in graduating, whereas the former three want to graduate together alongside Bidoof."

"A plan that may not work out," Armaldo muttered. "Which I think they are beginning to understand."

"Bidoof seems smitten with the newest arrivals," Wigglytuff said, sensing how Armaldo's words could be taken. "He may not wish to join a team with Sunflora, Loudred, and Corphish anymore. They have been offered, recently, but are considering the question for now. But it was decided that you deserve the chance as well!"

Team Ion shared glances. Scout had told them this was a possibility already, and they had discussed the merits of graduating or not.

This was going to take another conversation, however,

"Can we talk as a team?” Rai asked as the leader of Team Ion. He stood confidently, and both Scout and Mane stood a bit straighter as well.

“Of course,” Wigglytuff answered and they were excused.

"Yes," Armaldo said, smirking. "And if you think you know what to expect, I am confident you may be surprised." He eyed Scout knowingly, and the meowth swallowed.

"So," Mane said as they arrived back in their room. "How much do you want to bet this isn't going to be just fighting the guild?"

"Based on the look he gave me," Scout said, "no bet."

"We'll be fine!" Rai insisted and tackled Scout into Mane. "Now, we've got to talk! Are we ready for this?"

“You ask with Mane squashing me?” Scout grumbled. Mane intentionally squished him more until he complained about it.

“Do we still have to pay the 90% if we’re out on our own?” Mane asked.

“Nah,” Rai answered. “The cost just decreases to 40%.”

“Hmm, do I be mad about that or happy about that?”

“It’s more than double what we’re making now,” Scout pointed out.

“We wouldn’t be living here anymore!”

“Licence and blah,” Rai laughed. “It’s not a problem Mane, we’ll be able to afford more pamperings for you, just think of it that way!”

“So, you want to try it?” Mane asked, eyeing Rai pointedly.

Rai swallowed but he’d come a very long way from where he had started. He nodded. “Yeah. If we were a normal team, maybe not but we saved the world! I think that means we know what we’re doing.”

“Pretty sure it was you two,” Mane said, gesturing with his tail. There was a scar on his neck and he couldn’t turn his head all the way without it twinging at him.

Rai almost deflated but Scout said, “To be specific, it was Rai. He was the one who walked through time stop.”

“Oh yeah.” Mane turned to Rai with a grin and Rai blushed. “He always downplays that, y’know?”

“I know. Never wanted to smack him so much than when I saw that.”

“H-hey, I was focusing the story on everyone who… gave up everything.”

For a moment, Scout’s smile turned to something a little sad then a lot sad.

Mane saw it and offered Rai another pointed look and Rai’s ears tilted. “Sorry to bring that up.”

“What? No, no don’t worry about it. I’m… dealing.”

Looking unsure, Rai didn’t approach but Mane was bolder and saw nothing stopping him from leaning against Scout. Mane was very warm, Scout knew, but Mane’s touches recently were a little of something else. Maybe it was in his head, or maybe he was just letting himself see it now.

Scout sighed and gave him a hug. “Thanks,” he said. “I don’t want to bring the mood down. Graduation Exam! I think we can do it. Not only is Rai a world-saving badass, but I’m not too bad either. Remember when we started, Rai?”

Rai brightened, gaining an amused smile. “Scared of shellos.”

“Not even I was scared of shellos!” Mane said teasingly, but he still leaned against Scout. “Heh. I remember too, Rai carried your fight against me.”

“I basically finished you off!”

“Yeah, the very last hit with an item.”

“Well, I’m cool now.”

“You are cool,” Mane agreed.

“Very cool,” Rai also agreed.

“Kinda cute.”

“Sorta handsome.”

“I love the funny tilt to your voice.”

“Couldn’t imagine a life without you.”

“Stooop,” Scout said, covering his face. “I can’t deal with compliments!” They laughed at him but did back off.

“I think we’re agreed then?” Rai asked, turning to Mane.

“Well, I’m outvoted,” Mane started.

“Do you really not think we’re ready?” Rai asked seriously. His golden eyes flashed to Mane’s red ones but found just a teasing glint to them.

“I’m just playing the contrarian,” Mane replied. He stretched and ‘accidentally’ smacked Scout gently in the face with his tail. “I think Team Ion can handle anything those old farts can dish out.”

“Don’t let Armaldo hear you say that,” Rai hissed.

Mane’s smirk deepened.

Rai would leap on him and call for Scout to help him take Mane down in revenge.

Much later on, after dinner, they approached the older duo.

"Armaldo. Guildmaster Wigglytuff," Rai said, stepping up to them as Chimecho levitated the plates away. "We've come to a decision."

Whispers broke out through the apprentices, they had been walking off, but this was interesting.

"No eavesdropping," Armaldo barked, and so the apprentices began to slink away. Slowly.

Rolling his eyes, Armaldo nodded to Team Ion. Wigglytuff beamed.

"We accept."

Because this outcome had been prepared for, Wigglytuff ushered them into his meeting room with a bounce and beam while Armaldo moved in after them. The former outlaw closed the doors and made his way up to the library.

"Armaldo's just got all the information we have!" Wigglytuff explained. Soon enough, Armaldo returned. He knew where he had kept the information and had no patience for dilly-dallying.

"Here's your assignment," Armaldo said, passing the information to Wigglytuff, who promptly dropped them between Team Ion and himself. Armaldo sighed, sitting down, bones creaking as he went.

Team Ion all stepped forward to take a closer look, there were numerous pieces of paper all set in a pile, although that scattered slightly after Wigglytuff dropped them.

"We want you to track down an outlaw," Armaldo said as Rai pawed the top paper over to read. "Pyroar. We don't know where he is or what he's currently up to. Still, there are dozens of accounts of blackmail, mugging, several counts of kidnapping for reward, and taking hostages when in danger."

"He's been quite tricky to capture," Wigglytuff said. "Clefable's guild has put an additional reward out for his capture, but even they haven't had any luck."

"A predominantly outlaw-focused guild, that is," Armaldo explained, as Team Ion only had a foggy idea of other guilds. "Situated outside Blackstone Village, you may want to go there to get any information they have on him."

Scout’s ear twitched and he frowned feeling like he had something at the tip of his tongue but it didn’t last and he shrugged it off.

Team Ion finished staring at the picture of Pyroar and reading about his crimes. Mane looked up first. "Pyroar, huh?" he asked, deeply unimpressed.

"Don't get sassy," Armaldo warned. "It was determined he would be the most appropriate challenge for you."

"Yeah, but a pyroar? I feel like you're saying something to me."

"So, you want us to track this outlaw down?" Rai asked, wanting to make sure they understood exactly what was required of them.

"Yes," Wigglytuff said, leaning down to pick up the documents he had dropped. "The Wigglytuff Guild is proud to be an exploration-first guild, but in light of your deeds, it was decided choosing a task that could test your strength, teamwork, and resourcefulness would be better than… the other idea."

"Battle against the whole guild?" Scout asked, only a little snarky.

Wigglytuff gave him a perfectly-innocent smile.

"While we do not doubt you can bring Pyroar to justice," Armaldo said, taking the documents from Wigglytuff. “As there is no intention to send you into something we don't believe you can handle, finding Pyroar is going to be the challenge. I've gathered what information I can on his movement and history, it’ll be up to you to interpret it.”

"You don't have a time limit on this task," Wigglytuff continued, it was only due to Wigglytuff speaking that Rai and Mane didn't interject with sassy comments about a time limit they HAD received not long ago. "And you'll have the full support of the guild in this endeavour. You can't bring anyone with you, but you can take your pick of items and request any help leading up to your leave."

He magicked something into his hands and passed it to Scout. "This is just an extra bit of identification in case any other guild tries to give you a hard time," he said, nodding to the envelope he gave.

"Due to your fame having spread, there may be pokémon doubting your authenticity so hold onto that," Armaldo said, rifling through the documents he had.

He organised them and passed them to Scout as well. "Read through this carefully, again you have no time limit on this task." Rai and Mane had to bite their tongues. "But you should still take the time needed to plan out your path, your gear, and anything you may need to do before you leave. This task could take months, and while you'll always be welcome back here, you won't be graduating until you complete the task or give up."

"What if Pyroar is captured by someone else?" Scout asked, glancing over the wanted poster on the top.

"If he's got some other guild after him," Mane said, nodding, "what then?"

"Then you'll fail," Armaldo said. "If he disappears entirely, dies, or is captured by someone else, you will not complete this. If you find allies you must still do the bulk of the work capturing him."

"Thank you, Guildmaster and Armaldo," Rai said, deciding to speak for the team. He stood up straight, and his companions followed suit. "We will not let you down!"

"Good luck," Wigglytuff said.

"Be smart." Was all Armaldo offered.

Team Ion left and decided to go to their room to discuss this.

"Any incites on this?" Rai asked Scout as they settled down to start looking through the documents.

"Nothing at all," Scout replied, shaking his head. "Never heard of a 'Pyroar' bad guy. Or about the other guilds. Could be cool to finally learn a bit more though."

"Well, then this'll be fun!" Mane grinned maniacally, sparks had been popping off him as soon as they had been told their target.

"You okay?" Rai asked, concerned. "I mean… a pyroar is a bit of a… choice."

"Heh," Mane smirked. "I thought it might be a dig at me, but even if it is I'm going to take this a different way! I get to beat up my own evolved form, that's like… the dream!"

"If you need to talk about it, don't hesitate," Rai said.

Mane gave him a scoff and then a genuine smile. "Okay, we've got to read through this stuff and figure out a plan."

Nodding to this, they began. There was a lot to go over that didn't actually say a lot. Armaldo had given them clippings of Pelipper Post and other news outlets that carry information on Pyroar.

Most of it repeated the same general information. Nasty fellow. Quite a thug, known for browbeating and blackmailing to get his way.

"This guy's not dumb," Mane pointed out as they discussed their findings. "If he's slipped away this many times. It says here that Team Force took him on and he still got away. I have no idea who that is, but it's probably impressive."

"Trio of Fighting-type's," Rai said, always knowing his teams. "So, yeah. If he got through them, he must have some smarts."

"I noticed a bit of a theme in my reading," Scout said, pulling up some papers. "Pyroar seems to like anywhere he can drink stuff other than water. So, if I know my RPG's, then we might be able to get something from bars and taverns around."

Not long after, they agreed to split up to get some things done.

Knocking gently, and being called in, Rai walked up to Wigglytuff. Mane and Scout were off doing their own tasks, Rai's was meeting with the Guildmaster.

"I'm sorry to bother you so soon, but I had something I wanted to ask," Rai began, taking a seat. He hadn't really spoken to Wigglytuff one-on-one much, with no Scout, Mane, or even Armaldo it was just them.

"Go ahead." Wigglytuff smiled, he was sitting on his throne but always welcoming.

"I was just wondering since you're quite the explorer, where you'd go first for some information on tracking this outlaw down?"

Wigglytuff's smile broadened, happy and proud at once. "I did have a few thoughts while looking into Pyroar's movements. I'd check out the Swanna's Feather, it's a rather exciting tavern in Meadow Town." Exciting was clearly a fun word here, based on Wigglytuff's giggle. "But the best place to look would be places with clientele willing to offer information for a price."

Rai thought for a moment, thinking over the map. “That sounds like a leading comment.”

Wigglytuff smiled innocently.


Wigglytuff's smile became something else. Fonder, but also sadder. "Oh, you know of it?”

“Kinda. The reputation at least.”

“Fissure is a rather colourful town Northwest from here,” Wigglytuff said. Northwest was where they had noted Pyroar had been last seen headed. “Do you have your map?"

Rai pulled the Wonder Map out, and Wigglytuff got off his throne to inspect it. He knelt down with Rai and drew a mark with something pink. "It's not usually marked on exploration maps because it's a rather unwelcoming place."

"Unwelcoming?" Rai repeated, Fissure certainly didn't inspire positivity with the name.

"Many pokémon who disdain the standards of society gather there as it is safer than the wilds. Undoubtedly there are criminals there, but not even the Clefable Guild would attempt a raid there. There are many pokémon loyal only to each other there. It's fine to visit for information, but if you go I implore you not to stay very long."

“The Clefable Guild is close to that, isn’t it?” Rai asked. Wigglytuff nodded. “Do you think Pyroar would risk getting that close to the main jail?”

Wigglytuff hummed. “There are better pokemon than me to ask that,” he said lightly.

Rai heard it and nodded, stepping back to leave. "Thank you, Guildmaster."

Wigglytuff nodded. "Fissure is a great place for information, but at a price Shinx. That price is usually money, but some pokémon may ask for something else. It is worth going to, but again. Don't remain there for long."

Rai agreed and thanked Wigglytuff one more time before seeking out Armaldo.

While Rai met with the Guildmaster, it was Mane's duty to speak to Chimecho. Chimecho was always of great help to anyone polite.

"Hey Chimes, can you help me?" Mane asked. He was not a polite pokémon, yet Chimecho seemed to not only tolerate him but like him.

"How can I be of assistance, Litleo?" Chimecho replied, beaming. Other pokémon may have an issue with Mane, but Chimecho never did.

"The team's got a graduation test," Mane began. "And we've been told to track down, get this, a pyroar outlaw. I think that's a bit on the nose but whatever, I like a challenge. The other two are doing their own thing, we were hoping that you could get into contact with a few pokémon, see if they have heard anything about this 'Pyroar' bastard."

Mane pulled up the documents he had carried in, and Chimecho levitated them out of his mouth. "Pyroar, huh? Hmm…" she stared at the paper for a little longer than was normal, and Mane coughed. "Oh, right. Yes, I can ask around. It may take me a while to do so, however."

"We don't have a time limit," Mane said, rolling his eyes. "THIS time." She giggled at the tone in his voice. "Thanks, Chimes. I… mean it, really. Thanks for being so good. You're probably the nicest pokémon in this place."

Chimecho gave him a soft smile. "You are very sweet, Litleo. I wish others would see you for that, but they are too preoccupied with their own ideas to see how things really are."

"You and me both," Mane replied, nodding. "I'll get out of your space now." He stepped back, turned around, before pausing. "Would you like a drink or something to eat that I can get for you?"

"Some water would be lovely for later," Chimecho said. Mane brightened and dashed off to get her some.

She sighed softly and floated into position to begin to meditate and reach out to the other Psychic's to ask around, she read over the items Mane had given her to help focus and to learn what questions she needed to ask.

As Rai and Mane did their work, Scout headed into the guilds storeroom. He breathed in the spices and smells, remembering old times, before looking around.

As Wigglytuff had given permission to take what they need, it was Scout's job to get a good idea of what they could take. Armaldo did as Chatot once had and checked the larder, but occasionally he was busy with other work, and it was down to Marill or Flaaffy to do it.

Marill was okay, Flaaffy was thankfully a perfectionist. The written record of items seemed up to date, but Scout still looked through them to get a feel.

He was just beginning to write things down when Mane popped his head in.

"Can I get a cup?" he asked. Scout, close by to the cups, quickly retrieved one.

"What do you need it for?" he asked, passing it over. Mane briefly took it in his mouth before considering what he was about to attempt.

He spat the cup out and frowned. "I was going to get Chimes some water, but… hmm, she's going to have my drool in it."

"Didn't know you cared about that," Scout said, stepping back to go back to his items.

"Anyone else, whatever. Eh, Flaaffy's alright. Chimes is nice though."

"And evil," Scout interjected.

Mane rolled his eyes. "And eevillll," he said, putting on a mock-imitation of Scout's voice. He grinned and leaned over to lick Scout’s cheek, but caught himself just in time. Scout had frozen up a little.

The two fell into a moment of silence. An awkward kind. "Uh…" Mane said, twisting a foot. One of Scout's ears flicked, but he didn't verbally respond.

"How about you get her some water and then go find Team Sunrise," Mane said after a pause.

"Pardon?" Scout asked, turning back to Mane in confusion. His tail flicked out hard, knocking a couple of folded scarves onto the ground. "Shoot." He quickly turned to pick them up.

Mane did not make any mention of Scout bending over in front of him and instead said. "I'll take over this job, I think you should spend some time with them."

Scout didn't reply at first, quietly spinning one of the scarves into a circle before setting it in its place. His tail flicked again, but he didn't knock anything off this time, only nearly whacked Mane in the face.

"Awkward with them or awkward with you?" Scout hummed. "Tough choice, I got to say. Tough indeed." Scout finally turned around, leaning back on the shelf and curling his tail around his leg.

For once, Mane actually did wear a somewhat flustered expression. They were in private after all, Mane did not always feel the need to keep an ever-present cool, calm, and collected manner of behaviour.

"Look, sorry, I will do this at your own pace. But I do think you ought to actually check in with them. Dusknoir was freaking out just as hard as Rai was when you didn't come back, he's just a lot better at hiding it. And ever since you've been back… you've pretty much avoided him. Not just him, all of them really."

Scout frowned and chewed on his lip, glancing away.

"I get it's weird," Mane said, stepping closer before reconsidering and stepping back. "I really do. Maybe not how weird, but I get it. You were their friend too, I think you still are, but you're not going to figure it out one way or the other if you avoid them forever."

Scout continued to be silent, dwelling on Mane's words. "I don't get how you are so observant," he settled on, giving a heavy sigh. "Seriously? How do you work that stuff out so much?"

"It's easy when you're as awesome as I!" Mane smirked. Scout raised an eyebrow. "Do you want the peppy answer or the depressingly sad answer that involves figuring out how to read people just so I know what ones will not kick me and what ones I can safely walk by?" he snapped.

Scout blinked and seemed to recoil without moving. "Sorry.”

Mane’s guard dropped as he realised he’d done it. "It's fine," Mane sighed. "Sorry for snapping.”

“I know you don’t mean it.”

Mane managed a grateful look. "Thanks. Now shoo, give Chimes her water because she's wonderful for helping us all and being so nice and eeevilll and go see your old pals."

"Alright. Promise you won't work too much while I'm slacking off?"

Mane rolled his eyes. "It's counting items. Between the three of us, you'll probably be the one working the hardest. Tata."

Scout retrieved the water, delivered it, and smiled at Rai talking to Armaldo and trying to not look scared of him.

“I have to ask, what did you do to these poor things?”

“Uh… grew.”

Sean glanced up as a tinkling sound reached his ears. It took him longer than he’d care to admit that she was laughing at his remark.

He smiled as well, tail wagging without thinking about it.

“Is that a reflex now?”


She pointed. “Your tail.”

Sean looked back at the traitorous limb and grabbed it in a paw. It continued to wag a little even as he tried to quell it. She was laughing at him again now.

“I forget it’s there sometimes,” he admitted. “Sure couldn’t do that at first though.”

“Goodness, that would be difficult to adjust to.”

Sensing the question, he replied, “Yeah. These were worse.” He tapped one of his tassels and it swung against his head. “That was like, imagine living your whole life without being able to smell and then suddenly you could. Sure, the body naturally does it, but I wasn’t expecting to ‘feel’ what other people were feeling all of a sudden.”

She smiled, nodding along. Her hands worked as she listened, a needle and a thread through Sean’s raggedy old pants. He’d been talking about them last time and she suggested he bring them here and she could sow them back up for him.

There were a lot of holes, she said she didn’t mind the challenge. Better to work with her hands than do nothing as they sat around.

Sean was sitting in a place very few would expect him to be. The sky was red and angry, cloudy essence shifting above them as if whipped in a violent storm. It was the sky of a Mystery Dungeon.

And yet, there was not a hint of tension in his body. There was no risk or danger to him here, not here, not in this place.

“But yeah, the tail was weird too. It’s kinda like having another leg, that’s the closest it feels like. Just… poking out my backside.”

She gave a short laugh, almost like a cough at his statement and then smiled, shaking her head at him. “I’ve never heard a pokemon describe their tail like that before.”

Before him, sat a human. His friend. A ghost. Violet.

“How many pokemon have you asked about that, Violet?”

“Ooh, a few here and there,” Violet responded. She finished pulling a thread taught and checked over her patchwork. “Looks like the worst split is complete.”

“Thank you so much.”

She waved his gratitude off. “It’s not a problem, Sean. I appreciate your visits, so knowing there’s anything I can do for you is all the thanks I need.”

There was not much to be said of Circh.

There were no feral pokemon. There was not much of anything. It had been said at the end was a graveyard, but if there were any graves here Sean hadn't found them.

Not a headstone to be seen, but a grave nonetheless.

So, here he was. Sitting in a dungeon under a terrible sky, in a ruined village, chatting with a ghost.

It was a place that felt like something had happened. Some disaster had passed but stolen the breath of the land away with it, leaving fragments of what was in its wake. His aura senses had hurt him the first time he stepped inside, but he couldn’t figure out what he had felt or why it had hurt.

It was different around Violet herself.

By all accounts, Violet was a lovely person. She smiled frequently, her eyes soft with kindness, and let him talk about anything he wanted to. Even things he hadn’t been comfortable talking about with Azumarill, he felt at ease with Violet.

Because of that, he had something he wanted to ask her.

“Hey, uh, you know the second time I came around?” Sean began, a little awkwardly.

“You seemed quite relieved I wasn’t a figment of your imagination,” she said, starting on another hole.

“Yeah… it wasn’t actually the second time I had come around. But the fifth.”

She paused in her stitching a moment, a flash of something over her face. “Oh, I see.”

He swallowed. “I actually had, um… I’d brought Rai and Mane here.”

“Ahh,” she said, understanding in her voice. “And I had not shown. I hope they did not give you a hard time about it.”

They had… but in a nice way. Encouraged some extra trips to Azumarill. Azumarill herself also knew, he doubted she believed him either but she at least listened politely and noted he was doing better from a mental standpoint.

“Yeah, it was fine. I just wanted to ask… since the guys and Saniya returned… would you be here if I brought them? I haven’t told them about you, I don’t think Rai or Mane would have mentioned anything either.” He hadn’t told them he continued to visit her, he knew they knew where he was going though.

Violet stitched another line. “I’m not sure,” she admitted.

“...do you have other places that you….” He trailed off.

“Haunt?” she asked, a ghost of a smile on her face. He blushed a little, glancing down. “Not that I know of,” she said lightly.

Violet seemed physical, she was holding a needle and thread after all. At times he wasn’t sure she was even a spirit. After all, Ghost-type pokemon were alive. But… just what was this then? She avoided letting him touch her.

It wasn’t something he had managed to ask much about. Violet was content to hear about him and his life, but said little of her own.

Even though he burned with curiosity. Her accent was faintly kalosian with a blending of galarian into her. She used strange manners of speech at times and didn’t seem to understand when he didn’t understand them.

And this village… it was hard to tell considering the wreckage, but it had to be very old. Her dress was strange, there was a lot of strangeness all about this.

“Do you just… choose when to appear?” That didn’t seem right. She seemed surprised when he said he’d visited before.

She folded her hands in her lap. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said softly. Her eyes flicked down for a firm moment before looking back up. “You are welcome to bring anyone here that you wish, I’ll set a tray of tea and-”

She paused and Sean got to see something he never enjoyed seeing on her face. There was a cloudy flicker in her eyes, staring firmly but unfocused at the ruin around her. It was like she was seeing something that he couldn’t see.

“Tea,” she said vaguely. “I forget where it is.”

“That’s okay. I can bring some.”

That seemed to snap her back and she smiled. “Tea of a pokemon’s society? That must be lovely. My, I think pokemon brew the best. You should have tasted the tea dear Nelia brewed, goodness was it the best even when we had nothing to flavour it with.”

Her eyes drifted off again and she continued knitting, only it was unfocused and began to just string random patterns across his pants. Sean didn’t comment, his eyes tilted down a little as he listened to Violet murmuring nonsense to herself.

Despite the curious delusion, she still held a sort of timeless grace. He could believe her as a noble’s daughter in some far-off time, dancing in balls and being kidnapped by dragons that she won over with a heart worth more than any gold.

It shouldn’t be like this.

“I’ll ask them,” he said, she smiled at him and handed the pants back, careful to not let his paws touch her fingers. The holes had been patched, a few errant lines of string were still there though. He accepted them gratefully. “When they’re able to.”

“That’d be nice. Take care, Sean.”

“Take care.”

It was a long trip to make for a couple hours of chatting at most and so Sean didn’t make the trip that often. He had told the rest of Team Sunrise what he was doing, mostly, while they were stuck sorting boxes in Kangaskhan’s Storage.

They didn’t fault him for wanting to do something else but there would be questions. He hoped they would come with him when the restrictions on them finally began to loosen. And hoped, even more so, that Violet would be there the next time.

It was… nice to be around Team Sunrise.

Scout had been given a break from preparing their trip after Pyroar to reconnect with Team Sunrise. He was grateful for that, even if he didn’t want to be too far from them, part of him felt a similar familiarity with these familiar strange non-strangers.

Still though, when Guardian hurried off without a word whenever someone asked him to do something, Scout felt a gnaw in his stomach. And Striker didn’t look all that much at him either, most of that talking was Saniya, with some Sean comments here and there.

As much as Scout was happy with that arrangement, he knew this wasn't the point of this. Spending time with Sean and Saniya was fine, nice even. But they weren’t the ones where something difficult was between them.

"Um, Guardian?" Scout asked after Kangaskhan had called for Pidgeot's stuff. "Can I come with you?"

"I would be honoured," Guardian said, after a brief pause. Sean smiled at them as Scout hurried to Guardian's side, and they walked off.

Despite this step, it was only a small one. And Scout could not think of anything to talk about on the walk, leaving the two to just drift along in tense silence.

"How have you been?" Scout asked; finally, voice breaking slightly at the start. He cleared his throat, loudly, just thankful for the noise.

"I have had no complaints," Guardian replied. "How have you been?"

"Fine. Getting the chance to graduate is exciting, and I'll finally get to see more of the grass continent." He began to ramble but cut himself off, wincing.

"Great job," Scout thought. "Talking about leaving this place to someone who isn't allowed to. Perfect, you are smart. You sure do know what words to say. Yes, smart job, idiot."

Guardian was not upset at what Scout had said in the least. Just puzzling over him as Scout frowned at himself.

"May I…?" He paused. "It is not my place to ask. Not anymore." Guardian concluded and just stopped talking.

"May you, what?" Scout asked, he had stopped lambasting himself to hear Guardian's rumbly voice.

"It is nothing," Guardian assured. "Do not worry. Oh, we're here." He smoothly turned to float back a few steps, having already passed Pidgeot's items. The box was large, but nothing Guardian could not handle.

The walk back was slightly less tense but just as silent.

Later on, while retrieving with Saniya, she asked about it. "How did it go?" Saniya cocked her head, speaking quietly as if this was secret or something.

No one was sure why, but Saniya sometimes liked to whisper-chat as if she was discussing secrets.

It was usually the weather, or a particular type of flower she had seen and decided needed to die.

"Very awkward," Scout replied, also quietly. Quiet begat quiet, plus he didn't want Guardian to overhear somehow. "We managed 'how are you', and that's about it."

"Drat," Saniya cursed then gasped, covering her mouth as if she had spat a filthy slur. "My apologies. He didn't ask you anything else? Didn't try and start up any conversations or nothing?"

"No. I was the one to speak first."

Saniya sighed. "Every time he fails to follow my genius advice, I am going to fine him more. He's currently up to 1,200 Poké, time to double that."

"He wants to talk to me?" Scout asked, surprised.

"Uh… yeah?" Saniya replied, giving him an odd look. "We talk like every day, you and me. How Guardian's been trying for weeks to gather up a series of talking topics to have with you. How he's so sad and depressed and really wants to get to know you again? That stuff?"

"I don't… recall anything like that."



"Hm." Saniya tapped her chin. "Oh! That's right. He asked me not to say so I've just been thinking it at you, which doesn't work since you're Dark-type now. Hahaha, oops. Pretend I didn't say that!"

Scout narrowed his eyes. He may not technically know Saniya as well as the others from Team Sunrise, but he had known her long enough, plus some memories resurfacing, that she tended to know what she was doing more often than not.

It would not surprise him if she grew weary of Guardian not following her advice and deciding to just 'accidentally' tell him.

At the same time, she might genuinely be that thoughtless. He was getting convinced she had a grand total of three marbles in her head that only occasionally clinked together to make a single thought. Or maybe they were flint because that thought often involved fire.

Saniya giggled at his expression, the half-narrowed eyes sliding off into the roof when Scout was doing some mental gymnastics. It was a cute look on him, she decided, so she booped his nose and then flew ahead to grab the box.

Time went quicker than Scout had realised, Saniya and Sean were great company and the time just flew by, but Kangaskhan popped her head in to inform them she was closing shop for the day.

Scout had walked with Guardian exactly twice, both times failing to get anywhere. He could empathise with Guardian's apparent tongue twistedness because he could not gather the nerve to broach conversation himself.

However, he hadn't even gotten one time with Striker. Striker tended to disappear before he could even begin to ask. No one said anything about it, but Sean started to frown a little after he vanished again on them.

Walking through Treasure Town with them was interesting. After the day began, Team Ion didn't usually run into Team Sunrise much. The latter team always had some job to do in town, and they were very good at being on time.

By the time Rai, Mane, and Scout entered the town, they were busy somewhere out of the way.

Leaving it a curious feeling to get the idea of how Team Sunrise was noticed by the town. It had been nearly three months since they had returned. Scout had seen the drama their return had caused initially when ghosting around.

He found himself overall flummoxed.

On one hand, he was happy as, for the most part, they were ignored. The same way any member of the town was, or random exploration team. A few eyes came to them, then left as that pokémon had no business staring.

On the other hand, the few that didn't ignore them rubbed him the wrong way. It was either gawkers that reminded him of the somewhat weird reception Team Ion got when they were around or suspicious glares.

Pokémon following them with their eyes to make sure they weren't up to trouble. Or ones ready to intervene when Guardian tried to eat a baby or burn the town down. Again.

"Okay, that one's fair, I guess." Scout thought. Guardian was an enigma to many pokémon around. He hadn't done anything wrong since his return, and he had changed sides.

But at the last minute away from almost everyone here.

He understood why Guardian was still distrusted, even if he didn't really like it.

There was another thing he didn’t like but he didn’t have the nerve to bring it up with anyone. Still, the fact no one was bringing it up with him was making him more upset.

The next day would not be so kind. After spending the rest of the evening going over plans for their leave with Rai and Mane, they had destinations and certain places to decide upon that needed to be agreed as a group. Mane didn't think Brooklet Crossing was even worth considering, Rai considered Shine Village to be a waste. After a compromise was mediated with Scout's assistance they had dinner and went to bed; Scout was feeling pretty good about the next day.

"So, it didn't go too badly?" Rai asked.

"No, it was still a bit weird. I can't really think of what to talk about with Dusknoir. And I kinda got the feeling Grovyle was avoiding me. But some progress was made, I was able to 'get' a lot of Saniya's jokes which was nice."

"Maybe instead of talking about your day," Mane offered as they settled down for bed, "because I know that's what you defaulted to." Scout laughed nervously. "Ask him something about yourself, something you don't remember that he might."

"That's… not a bad idea."

"Could be a conversation starter at least," Mane sighed, rolling around to get comfortable. Rai shifted out of the way because Mane was tossing straw around and he was licking his leg.

Scout curled up in his own pile and drifted off, Rai and Mane going to sleep against each other.

Scout couldn't help but notice that Striker was watching him. Not even discretely, any time he looked up and over, the grovyle would be staring and wouldn't glance away politely as if he hadn't been.

He wanted to ask. Striker hadn't been staring at him yesterday, or at least it didn't seem like he was.

It wasn't until Guardian and Saniya returned with the last of their boxes and joined the pair that Striker stopped.

He remained off on his own task but stopped staring at Scout.

"You've… done great guys!" Spinda said after all the furniture was assembled, or repaired. "How about… you five… take the rest of the day… off!"

"Thank you, Spinda," Sean replied happily. "We might stop around later?"

"Feel free, always happy to… have you!"

"Should we get something to eat?" Sean suggested as they walked back into the bright day. It was only somewhat past noon, Scout guessed, by the time taken and position of the sun.

"Food! Yes!" Saniya answered for everyone and zoomed off into the marketplace.

Sean chuckled. "Better go after her before she slaps Goodra again."

"I won't be cleaning that up again," Striker warned. So, Sean hurried up.

"Is that what happened?" Scout asked, looking up at Guardian. The Ghost seemed startled that Scout was addressing him directly.

"Yes, Saniya refused to bathe unless Striker helped her." Guardian shrugged as Striker side-eyed them. "You know how she can be."

Scout nodded.

Striker ended up racing off after Sean, leaving Scout and Guardian alone. They both peeked a glance at the other before looking away when noticing the other was looking.

"So…?" Scout began, like the waves as the beach everything Mane had suggested had just flowed away from head.

"Hm." Guardian pondered for a moment. "If you would prefer, I may remain outside of town. It would not do your reputation any good to be seen with me after all."

"What?" Scout gasped. "No. What? No. No. I don't care who sees me with you, they all joke I'm a hooker anyway."

Guardian's fingers twitched at that, his eye also flickered. He made no comment.

"Dusknoir I…" Scout trailed off, he just didn't know what to say.

"I believe I see Litleo," Guardian said, softly. Scout's ears perked at that. "By the Kecleon Market. I would not mind if you went to him."

Scout hesitated, on one hand, he wanted to go, on the other hand, Mane could help him find the words again, but on the tail end of it, leaving felt rude.

"I'll be back," Scout settled on and walked away. Guardian just watched him leave before choosing to make his way to where Sean and Striker were trying to pry Saniya off Goodra.

Thankfully, Goodra was not offended.

Spotting Mane made Scout unreasonably happy, and he almost skipped his way over to where Mane was speaking to the Kecleon Green, Rai was nowhere to be seen, and Mane's expression was neutral.

"And... that'll be 980 Poke!" Green said pleasantly. Mane scowled, checked the items over again, and scowled harder.

"Really?" Mane asked, glaring at the modest collection of items on the table. 'Really? I... fine, whatever."

Green beamed and held his hand out for payment but blinked. Mane was turning around. "Uh..."

"I said whatever, which means I'm off." Mane began to storm away but nearly walked into Scout instead.

"What's going on?" Scout asked, glancing between Green who was wearing a most composed expression now and Mane who was looking most frumpled. He looked to all those items that were on the counter, and Mane was leaving them. What was going on?

"Overcharged," Mane grunted. "Again."

Scout blinked and glanced to the Kecleon Brother's, who were holding their most business-like expressions. "Well, okay, don't we need them?" he asked, a cute sort of frown on his face. "Maybe there was a mistake. Hang on."

He approached the counter himself. "Good afternoon!"

"Good afternoon, Meowth!" Green and Purple chorused back.

"How much was all this stuff again?" he asked, looking over the collection of seeds, berries, and a couple orbs.

Green nodded. "Of course, of course. That'll be 400 Poke for you! It's fantastic, truly fantastic, to hear you have an opportunity to graduate! With your salvation of time, along with Shinx, we both think you deserve it."

It irked Scout that Green was disregarding Mane, and Sean for that matter, in that assessment. "Oh, just 400? I was expecting something like 800 or something, I thought you might have miscounted a little from your price to Litleo. Not that much."

Green paused, Purple did too from where he was serving a different counter.

"Just a little harmless fun," Green said after his pause.

"Is it?" Scout asked. "Or are you price-gouging Litleo because he's not with me or Shinx?"

"What are you doing?" Mane hissed.

"I… do not like what you are implying here, Meowth," Green said quietly.

"And I don't like you treating my friend like a criminal," Scout said, not quietly. They were attracting attention now. "Or, I don’t know. Me. We can find this stuff elsewhere."

And with that, he walked off.

Mane quickly joined him. There was silence between them for a moment.

"Holy shit, did you see his face?" Mane whispered, almost afraid to laugh. He could feel the Kecleon Brothers staring after them but did not give them the gratification of looking back.

"It was hard not to laugh, I have to say." Scout grinned back. He was trembling slightly, not from fear but from the nerves he had felt in doing that.

“Why did you do that though?” Mane asked. Scout flashed him a glower that had nothing to do with him. Mane just rolled his eyes at it. “I don’t really care, Meowth. It’s always been like this.”

Scout’s glower intensified. “Mareep-flocking fuckers,” he muttered quietly.

Mane blinked at him in shock. “ What did you just say?”


“That sounded like a whole lot more than nothing.”

“I just… I don’t really like… it’s nothing.” Scout began to avoid his eyes and Mane, deciding that this was not something to press at the moment, dropped it. He thought back on what Scout had said to Kecleon though.

"What are we going to do, though? Rai wants those items." They began to head to the guild, ready to share Scout's surprising boldness with Rai.

"Oh... I'm sure we'll be fine." Scout said, tossing a seed in his hand. Mane nearly tripped at the sight.

"You... stole?" He lowered his voice, someone could hear, and Scout stashed it away.

"Call it repayment," Scout said, smirking slightly.

"For saving the world?"

Scout gave him a Look . "No," he said softly. And that was that.

Mane swallowed, he wanted to comment but didn't. "The Kec's will kill you if they realise," Mane said instead.

Scout shrugged, and a claw popped out. "I don't think we'll have a problem," he said, reaching the guild. They entered the guild, and Scout looked around, spotting his target quickly.

"Sunflora!" He beamed. She beamed back.

"Good afternoon, Meowth. How's Team Sunrise? And Litleo, back from shopping?" she asked, nodding to Mane.

"Indeed." Scout nodded. "We had some fun and got into only a little bit of trouble." Sunflora giggled. "And I was wondering if I could ask you a favour?"

"Oh?" Sunflora's eyes lit up. She liked favours. Ones owed to her at least. "What do you need?"

"I was hoping if you could spread the word that the Kecleon Brothers are still prejudiced against my good friend Litleo and are resorting to petty price raising when me or Shinx isn't around. Probably doing it to other teams as well, not local ones though, but visitors. Not the best look on the town probably. I dunno."

Sunflora blinked. Scout's expression remained steady. "Uh...? What happened?"

Scout shrugged. "Nothing too bad, you don't need to demonize them or anything. But I was hoping you'd do this for me."

"Uh… I'm not sure. I don't like spreading nasty rumours."

"Not a rumour," Scout pointed out. "Plus, who better to spread the word than you! You did excellent when you told everyone I was a prostitute." Scout laughed. Sunflora did too, it was not as happy. "So, I thought of you right away!"

Abashed now, Sunflora gave a reluctant nod. "Okay, I'll do this. As long as we're cool?"

"Of course, we are!" Scout beamed. "And thank you."

Sunflora opened her mouth to receive a promise of a favour in return but rethought it and closed her mouth. She nodded, and they parted ways.

Mane was again silent for a moment as they came to the third floor to meet up with Rai. "I've never quite been so attracted to you as I am right now," Mane said, causing a most perplexed expression to cross Rai's face as he overheard that.

Scout simply laughed.

"Where did all that come from?" Mane asked as they approached Rai.

"Where did what come from?" Rai asked. "Also, hi!"

Mane quickly explained. Rai’s face darkened, but not because of Mane not returning with the items. "How often do they do this to you?"

Mane shrugged. "I'm usually in town with at least one of you, so I don't really get it anymore."

"Any more ?" Rai pressed.

"Rai, come on," Mane said. "I'm the town bastard."

"That isn't far," Rai snapped. "Not now, and not back then either."

"Well it's how things are," Mane replied, almost snapping back. When Rai frowned, he sighed and glanced away guiltily. "Sorry, I know you're just being nice."

"I'm not just being nice," Rai sighed.

Scout glanced between them with a frown. "Hey, I did get this at least." He pulled out the blast seed.

Rai smiled at him before cocking his head. "Why just that?"

A smirk began to slide onto Mane's face, what a nice reminder. "He may not have paid for it," he said.

Rai's eyes widened. "Where HAS this all come from?"

Scout grinned and, gently, tossed the seed to Rai. "I don't know. Something about Team Sunrise has been reminding me of a few memories I've sort of been remembering. It's something Scout would have done, so I wanted to try it. What better reason than to stand up for Mane!"

"Well, as long as you don't stop being cute, I think I can handle you being cheeky," Mane laughed. Surprisingly, Scout took being called cute well.

"I am the cutest," he agreed and then booped them both on the nose. "But you're both alright. Haha."

Rai decided this was grounds for a tackle-hug. He didn't do it for long, Scout was beginning to squirm, and he didn't want to make things weird again. This time, however, Scout was able to maintain eye contact.

"As much as I would love to continue being assaulted," he teased, making sure they knew that was a joke, "I should get back to the future people. Dusknoir knows I came to see Mane, but…"

"You haven't talked to him yet?" Rai said, gathering that was the case.

"You have such faith in me," Scout said, not even offended. "Yeah, I haven't."

"Remember, ask him about you as an adorably little cub," Mane suggested, "or ask about that weird old scarf he has tied around his arm. That could be something important to him?"

"I will. Thanks."

They waved him off. Once they were alone, Mane bumped Rai over. "You scared him off again," he said, also teasing.

"You were the one to call him cute," Rai defended, bumping him back. They soon started wrestling with each other.

Once Rai had Mane pinned, Mane said something softer, “I think Scout’s carrying a grudge,” he said.

Rai cocked his head. “A grudge? Against who?”

“I think it might be the town,” Mane said. “One of the things he said to Green, it just… he said he doesn’t like them treating me like a criminal, or himself .”

Rai frowned, chewing on it for a moment. “Think we should talk to him?”

“Yeah, but maybe not right now. I might just be reading into it.”

“Well, I’m glad he told them off! I can’t believe they’ve been doing that to you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I’m usually with you so no one minds me.”

“But when I’m not?”

Mane glanced away.

“Mane! I think I have a grudge against the town now!”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you,” Mane sighed, grumbling to himself. “You love them and they love you. I’m just-”

“I don’t care what people think you are,” Rai said firmly. He was still on Mane, he went nose to nose. “I know who you are.”

Mane slowly blushed and managed a weak, “Yeah that’s the other reason. I don’t care what people think about me . As long as you don’t agree with them.”

“I’m gonna make everyone know you’re the coolest most awesome pokemon in town!”



“You cannot.”

“My influence is unlimited, I walked through time.”

Mane opened his mouth, Rai licked him from lips to nose. He couldn’t argue that and closed his mouth, steaming in embarrassment. Rai finally got off him and helped him up. “Okay, I’m gonna go back to town to get the stuff. Do you wanna come?”

“And see you chew the Kecleon Brothers out?”


“I’m there.”

Team Sunrise had become known. And Treasure Town, even before Team Ion’s fame began to spread, was a popular hub for teams to travel through.

Gossip that came from the town had a habit of spreading quite far and wide.

And one such thing had reached the ears of the Outlaw Guild. Guildmaster Clefable of the Clefable Guild sent first a message to Chimecho.

The answer that was given was apparently… unsatisfactory.

A powerful aggron arrived in town, bearing the insignia of the Clefable Guild’s officers and a letter.

Diglett informed him that Wigglytuff was in the town at the moment and he headed there next.

“Guildmaster Wigglytuff,” Aggron said, towering over the Fairy-type.

“Oooh, a new friendly-friend!” Wigglytuff said joyously. He danced a little. “Friend, nice to meet you friend.”

“I am not here on friendly business,” Aggron said gruffly. Wigglytuff continued to dance, even offered some silly faces to endear him.

It all seemed to bounce off his armour of contempt. “Stop that.”

Wigglytuff pouted. “That’s okay, friend. Do you like to dance instead?” he added hopefully.

“I come bearing a demand from Clefable herself,” Aggron said sharply. “The pokemon known as The ‘Great’ Dusknoir is a criminal of the highest order. A threat to the entire world, his schemes would have rent us into eternal darkness by his own admission. I have come to bring him to justice, where is he?”

“Boo,” Wigglytuff said, pouting. “That’s not a friendly thing to do! Dusknoir is repentant and is serving his sentence with us, us! The Wigglytuff Guild!” He seemed delighted to say this. “He’s moving boxes, and helping train people. He’s very smart! He can do so much good now! Hooray!”

“That is not the way that justice works,” Aggron said. Out in the outskirts, Team Magnezone slunk into town. Despite having no real face to show it, each looked deeply uncomfortable.

“BZZT! Officer Aggron, you have arrived. BZZT!” Officer Magnezone said.

“Where is Dusknoir?” Aggron asked.

“He’s currently doing his job for the day,” Wigglytuff hummed. “With his team! We shouldn’t bother them.”

“Are you going to try and obstruct me?” Aggron demanded.

Wigglytuff gasped, shocked at the thought. “But we are on the same side, friend! There is nothing to do here!”

Aggron’s eyes narrowed. “Wrong. Dusknoir will be tried for his crimes and submit to justice.”

“Not with you,” a deeper voice than even Aggron’s spoke up. Pokemon who had gathered to stare at the exchange parted as Armaldo came stomping through. A single magnemite sheepishly ducked into the shadow of Team Magnezone, receiving a slight nod from Officer Magnezone.

“I urge you to repeat that,” Aggron said. “I must have misheard. It is not likely the Wigglytuff Guild is aiming to become an outlaw guild to protect an attempted apocalypse bringer.”

Armaldo did not look impressed by the shiny badge and shiny armour and important packaging that Aggron had brought with him. His eyes just focused on the loud pokemon in the middle of town. “Dusknoir is under our jurisdiction. He is already serving his sentence. We told the Clefable Guild that already. Through Chimecho. Twice. Has Abra suffered an injury and could not pass that along?”

“The Wigglytuff Guild’s ‘jurisdiction’ in exploration is superceded by the Clefable Guild in outlaw management,” Aggron pointed out. “For petty criminals our Magnezone branch is more than equipped but for something like this? You are threatening a stance of breaking the rules of the Federation. You will surrender him to the Clefable Guild.”

“Um, friend, you might want to check your records again,” Wigglytuff said with an apologetic titter.


Armaldo didn’t smirk but he sure seemed like he should be. “The Wigglytuff Guild is not an Exploration Guild,” Armaldo said.

Aggron just stared a moment.

“Yup,” Wigglytuff said happily. “While we mostly lean towards Exploration because it’s so much fun! Ours is a multidisciplinary guild. Check the records with the Federation! Check the records with the Federation! We have just as much right to manage criminals as we wish,” he said pleasantly.

“And while we normally work alongside Clefable’s Team Magnezone branch,” Armaldo added. “That’s entirely out of choice, not necessity.”

Aggron was silent for a tense minute. “I will be checking with the Federation,” he said with thinly veiled anger.

“Perhaps you should have done that first,” Armaldo retorted.

Aggron finally scowled at him and stomped off, grinding his teeth together. Armaldo snorted at him as he left and Wigglytuff sighed, “I hoped he’d be a lot friendlier than that.”

Armaldo shrugged it off and returned to the guild, offering a brief nod to Team Magnezone. Wigglytuff beamed at them as well and then rolled off. There was no apparent reason he was in town today, he just was.

“BZZT! Let’s return. BZZT!”
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Chapter 42 - Themselves Together


Bug Catcher
“Scout, a moment?” Chimecho said right before Scout could exit the guild to return to his business with Team Sunrise.

“Oh? Uh, coming.”

Chimecho smiled at him, floating around the middle floor of the guild in her little ‘office’ spot. Scout knew this was where Chimecho Assembly was in the game, but there was no assembly in real life as the only pokemon on their team were part of the guild.

This was where Chimecho conducted her Network Link and would send out messages for pokemon for a small cost, receive them, and all sorts of little things on the side.

“I heard you were headed to Fissure?” she asked. “Quite a place, do be careful.”

“Yeah, have you been?”

“No, but I’ve heard much from friends up around there. Have you three decided which direction you are approaching from?”

“Yeah, we’re planning on heading through River Ridge Way.”

Chimecho hummed a moment.

“What is it?” Scout asked.

“River Ridge Way is faster but it is a little more dangerous. It’s not like a Mystery Dungeon, that’s a place of sheer cliffs and dangerous falls.”

“Oh, Rai said that there’s a path people take.”

Chimecho nodded. “I suppose.”

“Are you worried?”

She smiled. “I always worry a little when the others leave, comes with the medical territory I suppose. Well, I had another suggestion, it is a little longer but I know someone around Blackstone Village.”


Scout frowned. He’d seen that on the maps and it tickled some sort of memory he just could not cling onto. He was sure it wasn’t part of the games, Treasure, Shaymin, and Capim were the only settlements he knew of and he was certain of that.

“Is it because the Clefable Guild is there?” Chimecho asked.

Scout blinked, looking up at her. “...a little, I think.”

Chimecho smiled. “The Guild is not actually located in the town. The town’s mayor always kept a firm hand on that, the guild does serve as the main jail of the continent, but it is not very close to the actual town if that’s a concern.”

Scout mulled it over. “I guess. I kinda wanted to go there but Rai has a good point about getting to Fissure as soon as we can.”

“A graduation test is not something to rush,” Chimecho advised. “If it means anything at all, I would suggest going through Blackstone. Mayor Indeedee has a wealth of knowledge that may be able to help you.”

That word hit him. “Oh!” he gasped. He remembered but also didn’t. It was like when he tried to remember… Dan…iel? The sableye. Something he knew but just couldn’t quite know either. He remembered something, someone, who had told him….

“Oh?” Chimecho asked.

“I think I met a Mayor Indeedee in the Dark Future,” Scout said, puzzling a frown. Chimecho blinked at him in genuine surprise. “She helped me get back to the… now, to now. And she said to go to Blackstone, I knew I recognised the name! Yeah, she said to go to Blackstone if I ever needed some help.”

Chimecho smiled. “That does sound like her. Goodness, to think we both know the same person… that was still around in that time.”

Energised Scout thanked her, “I’ll bring it up with Shinx and Litleo! Thanks, Chimecho.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Meowth. I can say from experience that Mayor Indeedee would love to meet you three and she truly is a wealth of wisdom. If you do decide to go, I can even send her a query and she may be able to have something all ready to help you when you arrive!”

Smiling, Scout thanked her again and ran off to return to Team Sunrise, but he kept it in his head to raise with Rai and Mane later.

Scout found Team Sunrise close by where he saw them last, mulling about in the middle of town. No one had picked a fight yet, which was terrific news. The only being picked was with an aggron but they were far away from that and couldn’t even hear the commotion.

"Sorry, I just had to handle something," Scout said, approaching. Two faces smiled, one turned away, and another watched in silence.

"I saw you rushing off with Litleo," Sean said. "Something important?"

"Just him getting treated badly." Scout frowned. "But I think that's handled now."

"Point me at whatever you want 'handled' heh," Saniya said, punching a palm.

"Calm yourself." Guardian patted her on the shoulder with a finger.

"Were your teammates not in need of your help?" Striker asked, finally turning back from looking at the sky.

"No." Scout shook his head. "They seemed to have things under wraps. Also, they may have been wrestling."

"Sure, that's all-" Saniya was elbowed.

"With your travels ahead," Striker said, "are you not doing anything to help prepare?"

Scout blinked. "Well… I was doing inventory, I was helping Litleo with that too. But they just want me to be spending some time with you guys before we go since I haven't really been doing that."

"What a time." Striker sighed.

Scout frowned and opened his mouth to ask Striker's problem, but someone beat him to it.

"Do not try and drive him away," Guardian snapped, rather loudly. Loudly enough that a few people glanced over.

Striker crossed his arms and didn’t say anything.

Guardian's eye began flickering violently.

"Striker," Sean said, quietly.

Striker jerked his head away from Guardian and returned to looking at the sky and ignoring everything. "Maybe, uh… we should go somewhere private?" Sean said, sensing what was about to happen.

"Not a bad idea," Saniya said, quickly. "Striker, race you to the beach!" She zoomed off but Striker did not follow.

Scout was left wondering what on earth was happening.

"Must you behave like this?" Guardian growled. "Scout is finally with us again, and you are behaving like this?"

Striker's jaw clenched, but he didn't respond.

"He's making an effort, and you toss this back at him?"

Scout looked between the two with building confusion.

"Just because you cannot let go of-"

"No!" Striker shouted, spinning back on Guardian. "I can NOT let it go."

Sean stepped forward, ready to force them apart in case this escalated. Or just drag Striker away before it could.

"Okay, what’s going on?" Scout asked, voice clear and sharp over the blood in their ears. "I haven't been blind. What is it?”

Striker finally dragged his eyes off Guardian, off Sean, off the sky, off Saniya who was awkwardly returning, to really, really, look at Scout.

Scout almost flinched. There was no hate there, but there was something he never knew Striker was capable of expressing. It was a deep frustrated wounded expression that seemed to regard him as if he didn’t even know him.

"Months back," Striker began, voice very clear to the eavesdroppers. “That night. The night Sean risked everything. What did you do?”

"I helped him," Scout said.

"NO!" Striker yelled, causing Scout to flinch back and Guardian to nearly grapple Striker. The only thing stopping him was the equal desire to shield Scout. "When your new friends found us and refused to listen to reason YOU PUT YOUR CLAWS TO SEAN'S NECK. You threatened HIS LIFE! That is something I cannot forget."

Striker closed his eyes, words going much softer now. "I can't forget it. It doesn't matter why you did it. Out of desperation to calm the situation, out of panic, I just don't care. All I see when I look at you is you threatening his life."

He opened his eyes again. "When you were with us, you were kind. You're not kind anymore, Scout. It's why I think you may be right, that you aren't really him. And if you aren't, then you've taken our teammate. And if you are, you have still changed too much."

Having nothing more to say to Scout, Striker turned to Guardian. "I'm sorry, I really am." And then he walked off.

Sean glanced between three different pokémon he wanted to help, Scout, Guardian, and Striker. Ultimately, he turned to Scout. "I… he doesn't… I'm not upset about that."

Scout nodded.

Sean turned to Guardian, but the dusknoir spoke first. "Go after him," he sighed, "make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."

Sean nodded and ran after him. Scout and Guardian were left, with Saniya awkwardly floating around the sidelines. "I'm uh…." She began edging away before pausing. "Not going to go. I'm going to help, it's what I've been working on with Azumarill." She breathed. "Okay. Uh… who needs to talk first?"

"I, uh… I think I should go," Scout said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the guild.

"Scout, he…" Guardian began, but he didn't know where to even start with that. For one thing, he didn't know about Striker's reasons here. He did not think this was fair, yet he was rather stunned by the explosion from the composed grovyle.

"I'll see you at dinner," Scout said, firmly. "And maybe tomorrow. I… yeah." He began to walk off himself. Thankfully Striker had gone in the direction of Sharpedo Bluff.

He looked at his paw as he went and ended up going right and towards the beach, rather than the guild. He wanted to be alone.

Later that night, dinner was a tense affair. Loudred, Corphish, and Sunflora weren't talking much. Striker and Guardian projected a sense of awkwardness around them that caused even the chatterbox Saniya to eat with her mouth closed.

Bidoof wasn’t looking right at anyone, especially not Loudred. Rai updated Scout that there had been a fight of sorts in the guild regarding Bidoof’s place with Loudred, Sunflora, and Corphish.

He had heard the four had intended to graduate together but maybe that had changed…?

Scout, Rai, and Mane continued working on their path to get information. Fissure was a destination Rai had insisted on, although Mane had nothing nice to say about the place. Sky Peak was agreed to be worth checking out if necessary. Downer Town was agreed to not be worth checking out. Scout didn't mention what had gone on beyond that things got a little heated, but made sure they knew it was no big deal.

Everyone retired to bed early except for Bidoof and Guardian. Neither wanted to exactly share a room with certain others that night and ended up talking to each other.

Saniya, the magic sorceress she was, fell asleep almost immediately after touching her bed. Leaving Sean and Striker to talk in peace.

Striker had not wanted to talk earlier, and Sean didn't push him.

"Was that everything you're angry about?" Sean asked.

Striker sighed, not wanting to talk but relenting to it. Sean wouldn't sleep otherwise, and he wouldn't accept that. "Essentially. He's done a lot of things lately, since even before we first came to the past, but that's the main thing. I just can't get it out of my head. Him threatening you like that."

"I have forgiven him for that," Sean pointed out. "It all happened so quickly and then everything with going back to the Dark Future, he did his best even with… uh, it's a bit hazy now. But I know he was injured throughout the whole thing."

"Just because you forgive him, doesn't mean I have to," Striker replied, calmly.

"I understand," Sean said, smiling at him. "I can't say I know exactly what's going on, but… he's not unkind, Striker. He's changed, there's no question about that, but just over these last two days, it's almost been like old times! Saniya making jokes about him coughing up hairballs, Guardian telling her off for picking on him, he's only swiped at me once for scratching his ear."

Striker was quiet.

"You're only seeing that one moment when his two new friends were fighting his two old ones. He freaked out. Scout was always a bit rash and definitely makes sense to panic at a moment like that."

"That's all fine," Striker sighed. "I understand, Sean. But you're not understanding my side of things."

Sean raised his head and waited.

"If that really is Scout and… yes, I am more convinced that it really is him just with something extra, it doesn't change what he's been doing. Just because he was my friend, doesn't mean I can just let go of what he's done. If he knew all this stuff, why didn't he do something to stop Guardian earlier? I'm sure there were many things he could have done that could have helped us, but he didn't. And threatening you like that…."

Striker shook his head before burrowing his face in his hands. "It's like an orb activated in my head. Whenever I look at him, I just see that moment. I don't see him playing with the string of his scarf. I don't see him purring on your lap. I don't see him laughing or crying. All I see is his claws at your throat, telling ME to stop fighting two pokémon trying to kill us. It's a betrayal. I can't trust him."

"Why haven't you told any of us that's how you feel?" Sean asked quietly. Saniya was awfully quiet for the snorer she normally was.

"How could I? When you and Saniya have such a good relationship with him and Guardian wants nothing more than to have one at all. I thought I could just ignore it, or avoid him, keep an eye on him when that didn't work. But I just…"

"I think you really do need to talk to Scout," Sean said, Saniya started snoring. "Nothing's going to change, or get better until you have a real conversation."

"As if Guardian would allow me anywhere close to him after today," Striker muttered.

"Is that an excuse?"


Sean gave a chuckle. "I just don't think all this is good for either of you. I get it. If he tried doing that to you, I'd probably feel like you do."

Striker snorted. "You don't hold grudges. Anger and resentment 'don't do you any good', right?"

Sean smiled and shook his head fondly, aura tassels flopping. "You don't have to forget," he said. "I haven't. But there is a difference between forgiving and forgetting."

"I'll try."

"It's all I ask."

And so they went to sleep. Guardian eventually joined them, but both were asleep by that point.

The next day did not start with a bang but a whimper. Team Sunrise waited in consideration after the morning announcement, no one was directly ready to ask if Scout would join them. The meowth himself seemed unsure, oddly enough neither Rai nor Mane were tossing Striker unpleasant looks.

Scout hadn't told them much. He had downplayed it and assured them it was nothing.

Eventually, after some hesitation, Scout did walk over to them. "May I join you today?" he asked.

Guardian visibly sagged with relief and Saniya squealed. "Of course! Come along, Armaldo, we've got a plus one again!"

"Whatever," the grouch replied, already walking off to do his duties.

Things were stiff and awkward to start. No one was really talking. Things were compounded by the fact that they were working for the Kecleon's today, but neither made mention of Scout or any grievance they may have with him.

Eventually, Striker made a joke.

"If the wind changes with that expression on," he said, as Saniya was making faces behind his back. "It'll get stuck like that."

They assumed it was an attempt at a non-orb-related joke at least.

Whatever it was, the tension broke, and everyone laughed at it.

The tension began to recede. Striker helped Scout balance some loose objects, Guardian caught something falling from Saniya's wares before it clunked Sean on the head, and Saniya continued making faces.

At no point did anyone apologise. Striker's words to Scout were not laced with guilt or resentment. It was normal, if a little stiff. More akin to Striker talking to someone like Ursaring than someone he knew well.

Scout himself didn't try to apologise either. He doubted it'd help, and he had already apologised to Sean himself about that whole situation back during their trek into the Dark Future.

Scout did have something big to say, however. "I was talking to Rai and Mane last night. They think we should be ready to leave tomorrow."

"Aww, we'll miss you."

"I am certain you will be exemplary to all bandit hunters."

"Make sure to 'call' back with Chimecho when you can!"

"I wish you luck."

And as this was their last day together, Guardian began to gird himself. It started during a trip carrying an old, breaking, box that had holes in it. Scout rode on top to catch items before they fell out.

Guardian didn't talk then, he just began to craft his words.

They delivered, helped stock, then went to get more. The smeargle the Kecleon Brothers were buying from was happy to nap as they did so.

Eventually, however, even Guardian could not hesitate to gather more information any longer.

"Scout?" he asked as they rested after being excused by the brothers. "May we talk? By ourselves."

Scout glanced back to Team Sunrise, before nodding to Guardian. "Sure."

They went for a walk, in Scout's case at least, to Sharpedo Bluff. "You know, this is where I woke up," Scout said, smiling at the cliffside. "Not at the beach. Rai spooked me and I actually almost fell off the cliff, he grabbed me before I could fall though."

"I am relieved," Guardian said.

They came to a stop, Scout had trouble finding the strength to lift his head to meet Guardian's eye. The dusknoir was so large, wide and dark. Despite being a Ghost-type, his arms were clearly defined with muscle, his belly moved slightly as he drew breath in and out, and even the djinn-like ending of his body waved and wisped away in the wind.

It was bizarre how such a creature could exist. But here he was.

And he was silent. "I…" Guardian started before pausing with a brief laugh. "You ever think about talking to someone so much, all the things you'd say, they'd say, and then when you finally get the chance you can't think of a single word to say?"

Scout gave the same laugh back. "Yeah. I know that feeling."

Guardian nodded and floated down slightly, pushing his physical, yet spiritual, body through the ground so he could better speak with Scout.

"I…," Guardian began, but again. He couldn't speak.

It wasn't like they hadn't spoken at all throughout the last two months. But it was all polite and distant. It was friendly good mornings and wishes for pleasant days. It was moments where Rai and Mane and Striker and Sean and Saniya, where everyone, was there to fill the gaps with sound and laughter.

All those times were gifted with distractions to avoid this. Now that they were here, neither knew what to say.

"I forgive you, you know that?" Scout asked, his voice very small all of a sudden.

"I… don't." Guardian shook his head. Scout looked shocked, but Guardian continued. "I don't forgive myself," he explained, calming the meowth. "And… to be honest, I don't think you forgive me either."

Scout's ears flicked. "I do," he insisted. "I understand why you did what you did, and you changed. I... I knew you would in time, I just wish I had done something more to help."

"You did help," Guardian said. "Your words to me before we parted in the Dark Future. I still remember them. The heroes who saved time or the villain who tried to end it. When speaking with Striker further, working with him again, reliving our old times… I cannot say that I am selfless. I am selfish and greedy."

Scout was silent.

"The point yet remains, even as we try to avoid it. I destroyed our relationship. Even IF you don't remember my betrayal so well, I do. That's not something that is just forgiven because 'redemption' and apologies are made. I think you want to forgive me but… it’s not always so easy."

Scout glanced away. That made him think of Striker. "I remember… some stuff now. Not a lot. Not so much that I'm totally convinced, but…"

Guardian reached to his arm and began untangling the old scruffy scarf he had tied around it. "This scarf is what I found for you when I first took you in," he said as it unwound completely and fell into his hands. "After realising, you were freezing, and I had no hope of warming you up. It was your blanket, then your cape, then your scarf. You threw it back to me when I betrayed you. I kept it."

He handed it out. "I know I ruined our relationship, but I would do anything to begin fixing it, building one anew."

Scout raised his paws and hesitantly touched the scarf. It was soft and clean despite its overall disrepair. It felt warm and safe, it looked loved and smelled like home.

He took the scarf and Guardian carefully tied it around his neck. Scout gave Guardian a genuine smile and Guardian, despite his face lacking a mouth, clearly gave one back.

Things weren't okay, not by far. But it gave them hope that there would be a time that they were.

Team Ion determined the last of their immediate plans, feeling confident with their chances.

That night, there was only one more conversation to have.

"Grovyle," Scout said, nodding as they stood together at the beach.

"Meowth," Striker returned.

Striker smiled. "You know Guardian would vehemently disagree with such impersonal greetings between us?"

Scout smiled. "Heh, probably. You'd know better than me."

With that sobering comment, they both considered their next words carefully. "I…" Striker began but had trouble continuing. "I don't know," he sighed. "Sean, Guardian, everyone thinks this and that, and I want to agree, but then we're here, and I can't ignore what you've done."

Scout nodded. "I don't think you should. It's… not to sound manipulative or anything, it's not what I mean. But… having someone to doubt me is good, I think." He remembered his conversation with Mane in the Dark Future even if a lot of the rest was going blurry.

Striker frowned. "Explain."

"What if I'm wrong?" Scout said, shrugging. "What if I'm crazy? What if Darkrai did something to me and I don't know it? Even beyond all of that. What if I'm lying?"

Striker didn't respond.

Scout bowed his head. "You're a true hero, you know? Everything about you. I won't ask you to forgive me because… if I was you, I don’t think I would.” His stomach clenched briefly, just briefly as he remembered Rai falling back with a cut through his body. He banished the thought before it could twist his expression.

He understood. “I don't get why everyone else has."

"I think… in a sense, you are too hard on yourself," Striker said carefully. "There is a lot of talk about what you should have done, which I agree with, but if you endlessly think about what you could have changed, you'll be blind to what you can do. It's also getting somewhat depressing. I don't hate you… Meowth."

"You can call me Scout," he said. "If you want."

Striker almost smiled. "Thank you. You may call me Striker."

"Thank you."

"I don't hate you," Striker repeated. "I just can't quite see you as I once did. For everything. You did the right thing in the end, like Guardian really. Like father like son, I suppose. Perhaps this makes me hypocritical or, rather, it certainly does."

"I don't think how you feel really 'counts' with stuff like hypocrisy," Scout said. "Sometimes, the answer just is 'because'."

Striker did smile briefly at that. The smile faded, his next words would not be easy to hear. "I don't know you anymore. I don’t know if you took my friend away or if you just lost him. I don’t know if I can ever see you the same again. Can you accept that?"

Scout was quiet. It wasn't easy to hear, especially with Guardian's situation with Striker. But, as Scout said, sometimes the answer just was because. "Yeah, I can. As long as we can get along. Coexist. Respect each other. Maybe get to know each other again. You’re a lot different in person than some pixels on a screen."

Striker nodded. "I can do that. For what it's worth, I am trying."

"It's all I can ask," Scout replied, causing Striker to give a ghost of a smile. "I'm trying too, to be better, I mean."

"It's all anyone can ask."

They shared a nod and then walked to dinner together. It wasn't the ideal outcome for both, Striker wished he could forgive and forget and Scout wished the grovyle could see him as a friend again, his own memories of Striker painted the grovyle in such a wonderful light.

Both game and personal memories. Striker had taught him Night Slash twice and was the coolest, bravest, pokémon ever. But if being tolerated was the most he could get, then that's what he would take.

Scout smiled at Guardian, sitting next to him. Marill asked about his new scarf, noting from Azurill's chatter of Guardian that the scarf had gone from his arm to Scout's neck.

Loudred passed an apple to Bidoof and Wigglytuff danced around an amused Armaldo.

Their last night together was a merry one.

It was odd not to be woken up by Loudred or Corphish in the morning.

It was just a normal, which was abnormal, slow awakening. Rai was the first to wake up, yawning widely and giving a good stretch. He hadn't slept like that for a while, and even though he was the early bird of the three he still enjoyed his sleep.

Rai's movement stirred Mane, as he was curled up next to him. Mane made a disagreeing sound at the warmth being moved and tried to paw him closer, but Rai flicked him with his tail, and Mane's eyes snapped open.

He flicked him again and nearly got his tail bit for his troubles.

"What time is it?" Mane asked, yawning just as widely as Rai had. "How early are you getting up?"

"I dunno," Rai replied, both were speaking lowly as Scout was still sleeping peacefully. "I feel really rested, I don't… know what time it is." Looking out the window was little help.

Their quiet muttering caused Scout's ears to flick a few times, and he scrunched up his face and rolled away from them. "Ooh no," Mane said, deciding if he had to be awake, Scout did too. "Up!"

He trotted over and poked Scout in the back until he tried to slap him away. "Go away."


"Mmmm," Scout growled before he cracked his eyes open. "What time is it."

"Hello to you too."

"What time is it?" Scout repeated leaning up into a sitting position. "And why do I feel almost well-rested?"

"That's what I was wondering," Rai said. "Let's go see what's going on."

"Did they let us sleep in?" Mane cooed, mockingly. "How sweet and kind and thoughtful."

"And if they did?" Rai asked, shutting Mane up.

That was the case.

The guild had gotten up, done assembly, and split apart to do their work for the day. Loudred saw them wandering in all confused and shouted. "THEY'RE UP!"

Which alerted Wigglytuff. "Yippee!" he cheered, appearing from behind them somehow and grabbing all three. "Did you sleep well? Oh, how exciting! AHH!"

He tossed them several times into the air before actually beginning to juggle them.

By the time Wigglytuff released them, they were almost fainting from dizziness, and Armaldo was shouting at him.

Having not set out yet, Team Ion hadn't slept in for very long. It was Marill, Paras, and Bidoof who helped them find their feet again.

Bidoof was saying something, but it was indistinct to their ears. The vague country accent was all they could make out.

The fourth member of that small team, however, seemed to decide something. It was difficult for them to tell, being so dizzy.

"Okay," Flaaffy scoffed, "everyone clear. I'm zapping them!"

Knowing full well, he intended to follow through; everyone retreated as Flaaffy shocked them.

This, thankfully, snapped them back to normal.

"Ow! What was that for?" Scout yelped, jumping back.

"I'll burn that pretty fluff of yours!" Mane growled, twitching once or twice.

Rai was actually quite happy with the shock, so he didn't say anything.

"Burn me, and I'll take that silly mohawk from you and give you something actually worth wearing."

"This is my actual fur!"

"How sad."

Scout pulled Mane back before he could begin to bite.

"Don't mind him," Marill sighed, stepping forward, and opened the Treasure Bag he wore. "We've brought you breakfast."

The promise of food distracted Mane and soon enough all was forgiven, not forgotten though, never forgotten.

"So, where are you heading first?" Marill asked, returning Team Ion to reality and reminding them why they must have been allowed to sleep in.

Scout and Rai shared a look before Rai said. "We're going to head to Quad Town first. It's pretty much just a stop on the way but hey? We may find something."

Marill nodded understandingly. Quad Town was one of the closest settlements to Treasure Town, and if they were heading North, then there was little point to avoid the place.

"Do ya three mind if we walk you ta town?" Bidoof asked, positively not sniffling already.

"Of course not."

They had some last things to get in town. Or, really, some pokémon to give goodbyes to.

Scout decided it was a bizarre feeling to be walking into town today. There was a heaviness to it. Knowing that this would be the last time he walked this familiar place for a while.

A tune got stuck in his head and he began to hum. "Da-da-dun dun, dun, dun, dun daadada."

Rai gave him a curious look before smiling. Scout smiled back and winked. Mane rolled his eyes and got a seven.

The town was oddly tense. Perhaps Sunflora had done as she said and spread Scout’s word about the Kecleon?

Marowak's Dojo was the first stop.

Scout and Mane had a flash of nostalgia that was difficult to place as they approached and Mane laughed at a joke he couldn't quite remember.

Giving an amused smile, Scout was the one to open the door.

It was quite a serious slobberknocker on the inside. Striker and Guardian were slamming into each other, blades of green and blasts of purply spheres caused eruptions of Power flooding through the room.

Sean and Saniya weren't exactly slacking either, experiencing a four-way tussle between themselves, Vigoroth, and Marowak. Sean's palm slammed into Marowak's raised bone, sending it flying. Still, Marowak himself was steadfast and was able to crack his helmet against Sean's head.

Saniya peppered Vigoroth with glowing leaves and an avalanche of generated stones, but he just kept coming for her, forcing her to weave, fly, and even strain herself to do tiny flickering teleports.

The six pokémon didn't notice them at first. It was Saniya who addressed them first. "Kitties!" she squealed and wrapped them up in delighted hugs.

Relaxing now, the rest of the fighters calmed down and came over.

"So, you're off now?" Sean asked, smiling proudly for them.

"Yep." Rai nodded.

"Stay safe. Don't do anything Saniya wouldn't do."

"There is nothing I wouldn't do!" Saniya protested, in the middle of hugging Scout's face and crying. "Burn their land. Expunge their culture. Stay safe and don't be sad!" she said and burst into tears.

He patted her back, repeating. "There-there." Until she calmed down.

Saniya cleaned Scout's koban and gave him a smile. "A good cry is good for you! That's why it's called a good cry. Remember that, you three." She gave them all a serious look, staring intently at each one in kind.

Scout smiled. Rai smiled awkwardly. Mane glanced away.

With Saniya moving back, Striker nodded to the three of them. "Best travels," he said, and that was that. He wasn’t much of a talker though and he and Scout shared a nod.

As Guardian drifted up to also hug and sob all over Scout, Striker added something. "During Sean and I's travel over the continent, we visited a few good places that gave us information. Towny Town is an out-of-the-way stop before Fissure and quite close to Blackstone. It’s worth going to and finding Liepard. She might be able to help you."

"Good point!" Sean agreed, nodding along to Striker's advice. "She helped us figure out where the Limestone Cavern was, the future had muddled up exactly where that was, and we were lost."

"I have also tried to work out some places you can search," Guardian rumbled, floating in now. He took out a piece of parchment from somewhere and handed it over. "Sadly I do not have the same experience Sean and Striker gained. Still, I truly hope this can help in some way."

He handed it to Scout, surely because he was the one with the ability to take it with something other than his mouth, who unfolded it and glanced in. "Thank you."

Guardian hesitated in place, floating back, almost floating forward, and completely unable to decide.

"Can I have a hug?" Scout asked, a little shyly. He did not have to wait long.

Guardian's hug was tight but not painful as one may expect from those brawny arms. He was not warm, he was a Ghost-type after all. But he was comforting, steady, and strong.

"There is nothing you can't do," Guardian whispered. "But there is no shame in asking for help. Shinx and Litleo are wonderful partners, and I am so very proud of you."

Scout leaned in and smiled. It was surprisingly not as awkward, he had wanted to ask Guardian for a hug before but had been too embarrassed to do it.

The hug went on for a while, but eventually, eventually, Guardian lowered him back down. There was tension in his arms, it was clear he didn't want to let go. But he did.

Team Sunrise each gave a smile or nod to Team Ion. "Are you leaving right now?" Sean asked.

"No, we're just getting a couple of things beforehand."

"We'll try to see you off," Sean replied, glancing to where Marowak was entertaining Vigoroth. "Is that okay?"

"Certainly." Marowak nodded. "We'll join you."

"See you at the crossroads," Sean said, and the trio of kitties left the dojo.

Past that, the three had an easy time. The Kecleon Brothers were polite, but there remained a certain level of stiffness between them and Scout. Electivire hugged Rai, sobbing his eyes out with pride.

Kangaskhan took the three of them into a crushing embrace and wished them the best of luck.

And Chansey, who was there with Kangaskhan, gave the three of them a puff of Heal Pulse afterwards.

"Dears, would you mind if I walked you to the crossroads?" Kangaskhan asked once they were all certain no one had broken anything.

"Of course not," Rai said, politely. Happily too. Kangaskhan's hugs aside, she was like a grandmother to the town. Chansey joined them, and Electivire joined them as well when they passed by.

Scout had an idea of what was going on, he shared a Look with Mane who had also clued on. Rai was happily oblivious.

Their suspicions were proved correct when they arrived at the crossroads. The entire guild, Team Sunrise, Team Go-Getters, several townsfolk, Lapras, and of course the pokémon walking with them were all here.

"What's this?" Rai squeaked, really not having clued in on what was going on. Mane laughed, and Scout grinned but also wanted to hide at the same time.

"Oh my gosh, we're here to see you off!" Sunflora was the one to break the silence as Wigglytuff danced over to them.

"Everyone here wants to wish you well," he said, dancing around them for a bit before stopping. "Ooh, dizzy."

The entire guild approached in turn to give goodbyes, Bidoof and Loudred both cried, Marill stood with his family as Azurill chirped for them to have a good time. Azumarill stepped forward last. "Make sure to talk to each other," she ordered, particularly to Scout. "Don't bottle stuff in, that stuff tends to come out at the worst times."

“I’m following the therapy idea you suggested too,” he said quietly. She smiled and wished him the best of luck.

"Hey, I can't believe you three are graduating before me," Corphish said, giving all three a pinch on the nose. "Back when I saw you two in Boulder Quarry, I knew you'd be great. But this is fast."

"I'll eat you if you do that again," Mane threatened. Corphish pinched him again and ducked back before Mane could bite him.

"I'll miss you three," he said, cutting off Mane's fury right at the source and moving aside to allow Chimecho to give them a rapid check over.

"Indeedee knows to expect you," Chimecho said, checking Scout's tongue and temperature. "So, you'll be treated well. Be safe, you three. You're all so important, come back safe. Okay?" She was speaking a little quickly, but the message was there.

Flaaffy gave them each a comb, refusing to let them appear atrocious when they'd be representing the guild across the continent and Paras added in a little invention of her own.

"I call it a Spore Bomb," she whispered meekly. She was more confident nowadays, but the crowds were still a bit difficult for her. "It's like a sleep seed, but they don't need to swallow it. Just breathe it in. But be careful, it goes both ways."

"Thank you so much," Rai said, sniffling. "You guys."

Rai then began to tackle-hug everyone. Everyone.

While he was doing that, Scout made his way to Armaldo. Everyone was around, so he felt like it was reasonably safe to do this.

"Best of luck, Meowth," he said, seeing Scout come up to him.

"Thanks. Do you mind walking with me up to the guild?"

Armaldo gave him a curious look but nodded. As they walked, Scout dug his paw into the Treasure Bag and pulled out a folded note. "So, I wrote something last night. Everything I could remember, a refresh of some of the stuff we talked about, and some other things I've remembered since then."

They reached where Scout wanted to be, Chatot's grave. Scout gave the simple monument a sad look over. "Please don't let anyone other than Guildmaster Wigglytuff read it, it's in unown so…."

"He can read that," Armaldo said, nodding. He took the letter. "Thank you, Meowth."

Scout nodded, and they walked back to the crossroads.

Team Sunrise gave them each one more goodbye, Saniya AND Guardian cried this time, and they were met by Team Go-Getters.

"You'll love the trip," Wartortle said. "The land is pretty beautiful."

"We might even see you on the road sometime." Chikorita winked. "There's always pokémon needing to be rescued."

"Hopefully not you," Charizard rumbled, smiling. "I think you'll be fine."

As much as they would love to continue spending time and talking, they had to go now, or they would never get anywhere.

Pokémon waved, cheered, or stamped their feet as Team Ion departed Treasure Town, a mission in mind and excitement in their hearts.

Nothing important happened between leaving Treasure Town and reaching Quad Town.

"Run, it's the diglett again!"

Nothing exciting.

"Scout, PLEASE stop falling down cliffs."

No one needed to learn how to swim.

"I'm a FELINE! Water and I don't like each other on principle."

Or fly.


Nothing at all.

It took three days to reach Quad Town. They had expected just two, but there were certain… detours that distracted the trio.

Quad Town was a quirky place. Unlike Treasure Town which was largely sought out due to the presence of the guild, Quad Town was more of a stop along the road. There were resident pokémon who worked hard, small thatched houses, and a single hub of activity where most of the town's trade was performed.

It was also completely pointless for them to search for information.

"I haven't seen a pyroar around, no."

"This place is mostly wood, you don't see many Fire-types around."

"Other than Litleo right there, no."

Due to taking as long as they had to reach the place, no one particularly wanted to stick around for anything more. But the trio were tired and slept in a ball together near the outskirts of the town before setting off again.

Quad Town was a bust, but it also wasn't expected to bear any fruit anyway.

The next town, however, was far more fruitful. Sadly, this was a literal statement and not the kindness of the figurative one.

"There are so many combee," Scout hissed as they walked along rows and rows of fruit and berry trees. Actual towers of combee floated around, with beedrill and vespiquen herding or directing them. Pollen Town was an accurate name, a community of Bug-types and Grass-types working together to create their ideal living space.

All three members of Team Ion were left sneezing their lungs out before long. An accurately named town indeed.

"Okay," Rai said, once Pollen Town was far behind them, still sniffling. "First two didn't get us anything. Should we head for The Rock or Tiny Burrow next?"

"The Rock," Mane said, immediately. "Is what I'd say. So, Tiny Burrow?"

"Hey." Scout bumped him. "You're right sometimes."

"Sometimes?" Mane asked, a little offended.

"The Rock then?" Rai said, getting a nod from Scout. Rolling his eyes at them, Mane drifted along as Rai and Scout talked about something stupid.

"Guardian, would you like a hand?" Saniya asked. Guardian didn't respond. "Guardian? Hey, brawno?"

Guardian twitched and glanced up at her, eye flickering for a moment. "Oh, I am sorry, Saniya. I didn't notice you there."

"I can see that." She looked down at the item in his hand. "You… done crushing that?"

"Oh… oh, dear."

She carefully extracted what used to be a clay pot and scrubbed his injured hands with a rag she pulled from somewhere.

"You really need to stop dozing off like that," Saniya reprimanded, rubbing the greyish fluid that acted as his blood off his hands. "You're making me worry. You're making Azurill worry. Heck, even Vigoroth's noticed something's up."

Guardian glanced away.

"It's been a while since you've visited Azumarill, right?"

"Yes," he admitted.

"I'm due for tomorrow, but we'll switch."

"Saniya, I cannot. Your progress has been far too wonderful to see. I won't take that away from you."

Rolling her eyes, she smacked his arm. "I'm not going to stop going. Just reschedule. YOU are the one who stopped. Are you alright?"

"I am fine, no need to feel concerned."

"Hmm." She looked him over. "Stick out your tongue, I'm going to decide if you're 'okay' or not."

"I… no."



"Do you even have one?"

"I don't think so."

"Somehow I don't believe you." Saniya gasped suddenly. "How could I not know? We've known each other for so long, we've been the best of bosom buddies and then the most eclectic of enemies! Then back to best brawny beauty friends forever! How can I not know something about you? This is a travesty, a calamity, a debacle, if you mind my language, this may even be a fiasco!"

Saniya began to fly around him in a panic. "This can not do. Kangaskhan?!" She zipped away before Guardian could adjust well enough to calm… whatever was happening down. "Kangaskhan!?"

He floated after her, but he was slow, and she was not. By the time he reached the door, Saniya was already finalising her plans.

"Good news, everybody!" Saniya cheered, swinging back in to swing Guardian's entire frame around and around with her tiny arms. "Which is us! Kangaskhan said we can go. Well, us. Just us. I only asked for us. She tried to let those two lazybones." She gestured vaguely into the complex where Striker and Sean had no idea what was transpiring. "Go as well, but I told her they can pick their lazy bums up and work twice as hard."

She cleared her throat. "YOU HEAR THAT?" she screeched, voice echoing long and far.

"YES!" Sean's voice returned.


"SURE, SANIYA." There was Striker's dulcet tones, loud and echoey as well.


"May I say something?" Guardian asked.

"You just did," Saniya giggled. "Too late. LET'S GO, Pikachu and Eevee!"

And then she was gone. Guardian could only hope she had gotten too excited and left him, but that was not the case as a Psychic tug dragged him along.

Team Sunrise had been confined to Treasure Town for months now. She took them to the market, to Raigeki's little cliffside home, to Marowak. All places they had been a dozen times over.

"I'm so bored," Saniya complained, from where she perched on Guardian's head. She had played with his receptor for a bit before it too bored her.

"Careful," Guardian admonished. "Say that too much, and something you might not like might happen."

"I'M BORED!" Saniya cried. "BORED! BORED! BORED!" She then waited, expectantly. "Guardian," Saniya wined, flicking him. "Something terrible was supposed to happen by now. I said I was bored, so bored. I may die… okay? Still nothing."

She rubbed her chin as he chuckled. "I bet this can't get any worse?" Saniya sighed as dramatically and genuinely as she could, sagging against Guardian. She then tensed. "Still nothing? Come on, give me SOMETHING!"

Saniya began to sob. "If I said something like bored or can't get any worse, in the Dark Future we'd have three sets of marauders and fifteen escaped monsters by now. Here in this place, it's all peaceful, and I love it except I also crave the excitement and thrill. Does that make me terrible?"

"No," Guardian answered immediately. "Saniya, you're not terrible for feeling bored."

"I think it's pretty bad to want ANYTHING from that time."

"I see," Guardian said, softly and heavily. Saniya rubbed the top of his actual head, avoiding the sensor.

"Sorry," she said, already knowing why. "I guess the five of us BEING the five of us isn't terrible."

"They've been gone for barely a week," Guardian sighed, "and it feels like an age."

"I didn't expect to miss Shinx and Litleo as much as I do," Saniya said. "Litleo and me could really shoot the piss, that's what the kids say, right?"


"Yeah, stab the fish. And Shinx is alright too, I guess. I haven't really talked with him much."

"He didn't go to the future, after all," Guardian reminded.

"Mmm." Was all she replied with. At first. "Except he was supposed to? Maybe. That stuff is still weird, even if it doesn't turn my head as much as it does the rest of you."

Guardian chuckled. "You would be the best one to understand something so senseless."

"No doubt about it." She clicked her tongue. "Ah… I wonder what they're doing now?"

"Why are there so many carvanha?" Scout cried, paddling as fast as he could while Rai and Mane desperately swung themselves down to Scout with vines. "AHH!"

"Probably something important," Guardian suggested, looking up at Saniya finally. They were seated at the beach, having chatted to Lapras for a little while about the goings-on. Lapras had places to be, however, so he gave them some peace.

"You know, speaking of Shinx specifically, I believe he rather likes this place," Guardian began, looking up at the setting sun. The krabby were blowing bubbles. "The tranquillity of it, the beauty of the ocean with the reflection in the bubbles.

"Hm," Saniya said, floating up to a bubble. She peered into it, seeing a distorted version of herself. Then she sucked it into her mouth and immediately began to cough and gag.

"Did you seriously just do that?" Guardian asked, deadpanning with disbelief. Saniya coughed a little, gave him a thumbs-up, and continued. He floated over and gave her a good smack on the back.

"Hooo. Don't do that," Saniya wheezed, through tears. "Not fun." She cleared her throat several times and smacked her lips. "Ugh, three out of ten, two pinkies down, do not recommend."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Do, it's important." She gave a glare to a krabby, who chittered at her in amusement. Leading to her tossing it out to sea with her mind.

"That'll teach it," Saniya growled. "Sending it back to its preferred habitat that it was probably going to do in a few minutes anyway. Mwa. Ha. Ha."

Guardian's eyes grew a lighter colour at her. "You are an odd one, Celebi with the Mirrors," he said.

She glanced back to him, curious. "Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm the only 'normal' one, Dusknoir the… Guardian?"

"Heh. Really?"

"Of course." Saniya nodded. "No one can even begin to claim Scout is just your average meowth. Striker has an orbsession and not a Celebisession. So, there's definitely something wrong with him. Sean used to be human, and we all know he's totally crazy. While you, well. Hmm."

She rubbed her chin in thought.

"Yes?" Guardian asked, half curious, half challenging. "How am I crazy?"

There was certainly one thing she could say, but that'd be rather hurtful and absolutely not in line with the playful banter they were having.

"Your face is not your face," Saniya decided. Guardian blinked. "Your mouth is down there, and I don't know if you have a tongue or not, and it may drive ME crazy. And you don't want to see me crazy."

Guardian chuckled. "Astute observations there."

"But of course."

"You've missed one crucial thing, however."

"Have I?" Saniya asked, pityingly. "Have I really?"

"You put a pickle near Scout, and he nearly jumped off the cliff in fright." Saniya froze. "You replaced Striker's orbs with marbles, and he may have cried. And let's not even discuss raiding Sean’s clothes, that was horrifying for everyone involved."

Saniya chuckled. "Okay, but like… you got to give me credit there. That was funny."

"It was," Guardian agreed.

"Okay, but how does that make me not normal?"

"It is simple," Guardian said, putting on an approximation of The Great Dusknoir and his somewhat patronising teaching moments. "You are a wack."

"Curses!" Saniya cursed. "Avast, I have been outed as the madwoman I am."

They shared a smile and laugh and turned their eyes towards the path back to the guild. "…Should we start the trip back?" Saniya sighed.

"I think so." Guardian nodded. And so, one floated, the other also floated but in a different way, back up the path.

Before they reached the crossroads, however, and returned to the others, Guardian had one thing to say. "Thank you.”. Saniya had, in her own way, decided he might benefit from having a friend today.

"You're welcome." She smiled back, and to the guild they returned.

Striker and Sean had words to share with them when they returned. Strong ones. But they got off easy in the end, once Striker noticed that Guardian had an air of calm around him rather than the aura of tenseness he had been suffering.

"Armaldo wants to see us," Sean said, after he was done complaining about all the heavy lifting he was forced to do because he was 'Their Fighting-type and built for this'. Sean declared this as cruel and unsanctioned penalties upon him.

"Not just Armaldo, it looks like," Saniya pointed out as they entered the lower floor. Indeed, Wigglytuff and Officer Magnezone were waiting for them.

"BZZT! Finally. The four of you were expected over eleven minutes ago. BZZT!"

"It's okay," Wigglytuff said, rocking back and forth. "We were able to have a great talk! The best of talks!"

"BZZT! I disagree. BZZT! I cannot taste Perfect Apples and have no use for something like that. BZZT! How was this productive? BZZT!"

"Don't set him off again," Armaldo warned, giving both pokémon a sharp look. Wigglytuff smiled, and Magnezone turned back to the four.

"Are we… in trouble or something?" Sean asked, taking his role as the main speaker.

"Not at all!" Wigglytuff assured. "The opposite, in fact! The four of you have been working so well, so much, and with so much care to your terms that we've been speaking to Officer Magnezone about lightening the restrictions on you."

All four perked up immediately. "Wait, really?" Saniya squealed, doing a loop-de-loop around the room. "What does this mean?"

"What our news means is that your range of activity has been widened," Armaldo explained, voice as rough and blunt as always. "Rather than solely being restricted to Treasure Town, and minor excursions outside when supervised, you'll now be able to move in the range of a day's 'normal' travelling distance. You'll still be expected to return to the guild every night."

He was wise to focus them on the good news because they immediately forgot about Aggron.

"So, we can… actually go places now?" Sean asked, almost breathless. Saniya put her hand to her head and fainted in mid-air.

Guardian caught her, handed her to Striker, and bowed. "Thank you," he said simply. He still didn't talk much outside of Team Sunrise and Ion, but their restrictions were entirely on him, and they had weighed heavily on his conscious.

"What brought this on?" Striker asked, deciding to air out a few details. "I'd like to know, so we know what to keep doing."

Armaldo gave him a vaguely amused look, and the mere feeling of it woke Saniya back up.

It was Magnezone, however, who answered. "BZZT! There have been no complaints with actual bearing to them throughout your entire probationary period. BZZT! Furthermore, Team Go-Getters has given a word of approval as well. Team Ion have as well, but their word needs to be disregarded in consideration of the closeness of you and them. The guild also has excellent reports to show. The incident with Aggron solidified the decision. BZZT!"

“Situation? What situation?” Saniya asked.

All three of them looked thrown a moment.

“You… didn’t hear?” Wigglytuff asked. All four blinked. “Oh my.”

“In short, the Clefable Guild came to arrest you,” Armaldo said, nodding to Guardian. “But you’re under our jurisdiction.”

Guardian glanced down. “Oh….” Before he could make a case for why they shouldn’t have, Wigglytuff cut in.

"So, it has been agreed," Wigglytuff sang to distract them. "It's still a bit of a test, but I know you four will exceed expectations! You don't shirk work, you haven't tried to run away, and your smiles go for miles! You have the guild's stamp of approval!"

"Even him?" Saniya said, jerking her head towards Armaldo. He gave her a filthy look but said nothing. Wigglytuff tittered nervously, holding his tongue.

Someone who did not have a tongue to hold, however. "BZZT! It was Armaldo's suggestion that brought this change. BZZT!" Officer Magnezone explained, to Saniya's unending shock. "BZZT! Armaldo's history aside, his expertise and work inTreasure Town have been paramount. It was his own 'stamp of approval' that brought this change. BZZT!"

"Thank you, Magnezone," Armaldo grumbled, almost looking embarrassed. But that was impossible. "Thank you so much." His tone dripped with sarcasm, but being a pokémon, a robotic one at that, Magnezone did not pick up on it in the least.

"BZZT! You are welcome. BZZT!"

Sean and Saniya couldn't quite contain their snickers, even Striker had to smother a smile. All of which was made increasingly difficult by Armaldo's deepening glare.

Guardian pulled them all back before any insults could be accidentally given.

"Thank you," he said again. "I understand what my actions have wrought upon Treasure Town, the Wigglytuff Guild, and Team Magnezone. I will continue to work as hard as I can to begin to repair the harm I inflicted."

"And we'll be with you every step of the way!" Saniya cheered, having successfully calmed herself down. "Hahahahaha. Armaldo likes us."

Or not.

Sean and Saniya broke into giggles, and Armaldo ended up clonking their heads together before storming off in a huff. Magnezone wisely chose not to ask and left afterwards.

Once those two were gone, Wigglytuff joined them in giggling.

In the end, it was a good day.

Much better than Team Ion's. After escaping the carvanha, they had to deal with the lumineon who decided it didn't want to stay in the water, turned Rai against their new friend Ludicolo, and was a bad day overall.
Chapter 43 - Fall Into Adventure New


Bug Catcher
Rai and Scout sat before a mighty exeggutor that they had come all the way to Yellow Petal Town to speak to. He stood at the top of a massive tree and Mane had volunteered to watch the bottom for trouble.

He definitely wasn't afraid of heights.

"Do not mind my circular way of addressing you," said the first head of the exeggutor. "It is the unfortunate result of trying to sway myself to be both serious, mystical, and playful as an exeggcute. This head speaks clearly."

"This head," the middle one said, "speaks frustratingly."

"And I am an idiot!" the third head laughed.

"We are all the same person," the other two snapped.

"I know! That's the joke!"

"My apologies for my behaviour," the first head said. "Now, before we get side-tracked further, what can I do for you, Team Ion?"

"We're searching for an outlaw," Rai explained, falling into old patterns easily. "His name is Pyroar, and we've got some information here…" he looked to Scout, who was already pulling the items out.

Exeggutor levitated the offered items over, and all three heads read through it quickly.

"Ah, yes," the first nodded wisely. "I believe we can give you some assistance."

"While the reed of knowledge may not be from us, perhaps another."

"Totodile!" the third head shouted. "Totodile knows!"

"Thank you," the first head said, very flatly. "Must you be so blunt?"

"It was going to be fun to go in circles for a while," the middle head sighed.

Ignoring them, the final head said. "Totodile totally totalled uh… well, he and Sudowoodo can help you. Totodile's in town; you can find him dancing in town normally. He's friends with Sudowoodo who tried to capture Pyroar a few weeks ago, but it didn't go well I think?"

"No," the first head said.

"Probably not," the middle said, before sighing louder. "Stop giving definitive statements. You don't know, Sudowoodo might be absolutely fine! We barely leave the tree as it is, how would you know?"

"I know because I DO get visitors," the first head snapped as Rai and Scout exchanged uncomfortable looks. "Perhaps you were asleep at the time?"

"Have you seen Sudowoodo?"

"Have YOU?"

"See ya, Team Ion!" the third head said, giving them an excuse to leave. "Run while you can. Seriously."

"Thank you, Exeggutor." Rai bowed. Scout did the same, and they left with some haste.

Mane happily re-joined them once they tumbled their way down, happily announcing that no one had tried to chop the tree down as he was watching it.

Upon learning who they needed to talk to next, Mane took the lead eagerly, racing ahead of Rai and Scout and nearly leaving them behind.

"Come on, we don't have all day," Mane called back at them, laughing at their slowness.

"You climb a giant tree and tell us that again," Scout huffed back, panting for breath. Sure, he didn't sweat in this body, which was nice, but the overactive panting he had to do was annoying in a whole different way.

"What's got you all fired up, anyway?" Rai asked once Mane had slowed enough for them to keep pace with them.

"Nice joke," Mane laughed, "I just can't wait! The sooner we find and beat this Pyroar guy, the sooner we'll graduate! Us, graduating from the Wigglytuff Guild. Ha, who would have thought?"

Scout exchanged a look with Rai. "Were you sniffing flowers or something while you were waiting?" he asked, really not sure about this enthusiasm from Mane.

Mane was not the most enthusiastic of pokémon around. Filled with sardonic remarks and purposefully dragging his feet to irk others. This energy was not expected, and Scout wondered if he was trying to make up for sitting around while he and Rai climbed the tree.

"Maybe," Mane answered. "There's a lot of them around. Now let's go!"

"Pikachu and Eevee," Scout muttered under his breath and jogged behind Rai and Mane.

"Lagging behind, eh?" Mane said, not looking back. He often guarded the rear in dungeons. "Respect."

"You know it's just because I'm on two feet, not four like you two!"


"Shut your mouth."

"Mmspek," Mane hummed, not opening his mouth.

Scout sneered at him, but it was a bizarrely endeared one.

It took a few minutes of questioning and walking to a different part of town, but they found Totodile without trouble.

The small Water-type was busy with a crowd of pokémon, riding a ball of water that somehow was not popping while juggling softball-sized water balls. Despite the aggressiveness, he tossed them with, none of the water was splashed onto the crowd, each maintaining their form.

Totodile did a flip, landed on the water ball, which rippled violently as he tossed all seven juggled balls into the air, each in a different direction with varying amounts of force.

Part running, part paddling, he maneuvered the water ball he was riding on and opened his jaw to the sky, zipping back and forth and catching every tossed ball in his mouth and drinking the water down.

He did a jump, flip, and landed on his ride with more force than before, popping it and spraying water up. As several pokémon, mostly Fire-types or Ground-types, tried to evade the falling water, it all missed them and splashed onto Tododile.

"Tada!" he called, doing a pose. The assembled pokémon all cheered before Totodile gasped. "One more!" he said alarmed. A single water droplet was falling, and he dashed, using a krokorok and rhydon as stands to leap into the air and catch the drop on his tongue. He did one more flip and posed once more.

The whole crowd applauded for him, and Poké were tossed into a scarf shaped like a hat.

Scout clapped as well, Rai and Mane couldn't exactly do so themselves, as the crowd dispersed and Totodile returned to his hat of prizes.

"Hello," Mane said, stepping forward quickly to introduce them. "You're Totodile, right?"

"Sure am!" Totodile replied, propping the scarf-hat on and beaming at them. Not a single coin slipped out, even when he began to dance around them. "Hello! Hello! Litleo, Shinx, Meowth! I bet I know you. Team Ion, am I right or am I right!?"

Totodile rapidly shook hands with Scout, taking the paw Scout had offered on reflex, nearly jolting the meowth out of balance.

"You're right," Rai said, grinning with just a touch of embarrassment. "We saw you perform, that was really impressive."

"Thanks." Totodile grinned. "I've practised that so many times. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've messed up that last part. Well, actually, I could definitely begin. The first time was when I just crashed right INTO Fearow and the second time I accidentally kneed Bronzong in the face. Although that hurt me more than it hurt them."

He giggled at the memory.

"So, what can I do for you besides share stories!" Totodile asked, flipping back and landing in front of Mane. "I'm sure you could tell me a few good stories about saving the world, but if you were here for stories, you probably wouldn't be talking to me."

"We're on the trail of an outlaw," Mane said, confidently stepping forward again. "Meowth, pull the stuff out."

"He might just recognise the name," Scout pointed out.

"Right, Exeggutor said you are friends with Sudowoodo who tried to bring in an outlaw a while back?"

"Oh!" Totodile nodded rapidly, his hat jingled, but still, no coins slipped. "You mean Litleo's evolved form? Pyroar?"

"Yeah," Mane growled. "We're on the hunt for him. Dragging the good name of my species into the dirt! Reason enough to destroy him."

Scout smirked at Mane at the mere concept of Mane having a 'good name' before explaining. "Part of it's a guild mission, but yeah. Here." He handed the stuff over, and Totodile read them in seconds.

"I know the guy!" He nodded rapidly. "Yep, know him, know him well. He came around and stuck around town for a couple of days. Didn't tip well, or pay for drinks, not nothin! Sudowoodo found out he was a bit of a bastard baddy no good fella and so decided to take him down."

Totodile shook his head sadly. "See, Sudowoodo is our town mascot, you would have seen him coming in just standing around near the start of town. Unless you came from any other direction, you wouldn't see him then! Or anyway, because he's still not standing around but sitting around and that's terrible. Just awful. Truly the worst. Nasty Pyroar, I'd have tried to help, but Sudowoodo is a bit scared of water."

"I'm sorry to hear about that. Is Sudowoodo okay?" Rai asked.

"And where did Pyroar go?" Mane added.

"Sudowoodo's okay, just a bit completely and utterly humiliated at losing to Pyroar. And as badly as he did, ouch. You'd think Rock beats Fire, but no, as it turns out, Fire just burns Rock until Rock faints and is then half-buried, just so that he can, and I quote from the note left behind 'Be as useful as the tree he pretends to be' and, well, that's just a bit harsh."

"True," Totodile added, musing on the point before anyone could respond. "But harsh."

"But what a burn right?" he laughed, again before any of Team Ion could respond. "Ah… yeah, I'm not willing to tell you where Pyroar went. At least, not yet."

"Oh, what now?" Mane growled, rolling his eyes. "What do you want? Poké? An autograph? To sleep with us? All three things have been asked many times, and we've acquiesced."

"To the first two," Rai and Scout both shouted, noses going red.

"Yeah, yeah. But the offers come in anyway. I'm getting what Lucario was whining about now."

"As fun as all three certainly sound." Totodile laughed, then winked. "I've got something else in mind. You're definitely strong, but Pyroar is too. I'm not just letting you go get yourselves hurt, so you've got to prove to me you can handle him."

Mane frowned, a spark popping off his mohawk. "And how are you gonna do that? Fight us?"

"Oh, good gracious no!" Totodile said, shaking his whole body in refusal. "Not at all. I'd destroy a little more than just your pride." He had the gall to wink again, Mane took a step forward and was pulled back by Scout.

Mane yelped, as Scout tugged him back by his tail. "Heel, boy."

"Uh, no offence," Rai said, taking Totodile's declaration as a joke. "But he has a point. How are you going to be sure? Isn't saving the world enough to justify us taking on a single outlaw?"

"Yeah, probably," Totodile agreed, going back to dancing circles around them. "But hey, I hear lots of stuff. Most stuff is just pokémon bragging and all."

"You don't believe us?" Mane demanded.

"I'm not saying you didn't save the world," Totodile laughed, shrugging any and all verbal barbs off. "But you can't blame me for being cautious? He severely wounded Sudowoodo, and he's more than just the mascot but the self-appointed guard of the town! He's probably the strongest pokémon here, cept for me and Exeggutor." He winked again and sprayed some bubbles. "So, he if lost so badly, what might he do to you?"

"We can handle it!" Rai said, confidently.

"Then you can definitely handle my test!" Totodile retorted back, ten times as friendly and three times as excited.

He had them there. So, Team Ion shared a collective nod.

"Alright," Scout began.

"What do you?" Rai continued.

"Want us to do?" Mane finished.

"One: That's adorable, finishing each other sentences." Faster than they were prepared for, he booped them all on the nose one after another. "Numbero two, our poor town's got some trouble. With Sudowoodo out of order and Exeggutor never leaves that tree… huh." He blinked. "The tree never leaves the tree. That makes a lot of sense and is like a pun at the same time! Hahahahaha!"

Rai awkwardly laughed along, not getting the joke. Mane raised an eye, while Scout blinked. "Did you just say Exeggutor has his head up his own ass?"

Totodile continued, smiling, "With Sudowoodo out for the count, both physically and morally, we've had some trouble here. A collection of those wildies have been entering the town to trash the place, cause mischief and general tomfoolery, and stealing our stuff! It's really annoying, but they are pretty strong, so no one's really been able to do anything about it yet."

"You mean no one has stepped up to do anything about it?" Mane said, looking Totodile up and down.

"What? Me? They're always across the town when they come, and I can't get there fast enough! Honest! Truthfully!"

"So, you need us to drive them off?" Rai asked. "We can do that. Where do they normally live, we don't really want to wait around for days hoping for them to show up. Taking the fight directly to them will work!"

"Oh, don't worry about that," Totodile said mysteriously. He waited, blinked, and looked around. "Well, if they had ANY sense of dramatic timing, there should have been a crash and commotion by now. You can tell they're troublemakers when they won't even play along with my show, darn them."

Shaking his head, he generated another water ball and began to zoom off riding it. "Let's just look around, they're bound to show up eventually!"

Sighing as he didn't give them an answer as to where the wild pokémon were, Team Ion pursued him. Totodile was fast, but he rolled in circles a lot, and they were able to keep pace.

When the pokémon began tossing more Poké to him, they began to suspect he was using their appearance to drum up some more cash.

If that was the case, they may never know. For Totodile's tomfoolery was spoiled when his water bubble exploded inexplicably.

And then the most annoying laughter rang out. "Hoi-hihihihihihihihi." There was a collective groan, and the townsfolk all began to back away as four pokémon made themselves known.

The high-pitched giggling came from none other than a jynx, with her arm entwined with a rather large electabuzz. Trailing behind him was a snivelling magby and strolling up by jynx's other side was a croagunk.

"There they are," Totodile grumbled, rubbing his tail where he landed on it. "Can you handle them?"

Team Ion stepped forward, standing between the rest of the town, and the retreating townsfolk, and the four interlopers.

"Stop right-AH!" Rai had stepped up to warn them away and was immediately attacked. A jet of ice from Jynx cracked into his head and knocked him sprawling.

Seems that these pokemon cared not for the 'no moves in towns' law.

It took Scout even less time to leap after Rai and for Mane's mohawk to explode into flames. But he didn't attack yet, simply jumped between the four and Rai, giving Scout whatever time he needed.

"I'm fine," Rai said, pushing Scout off him and strolling up next to the snarling Mane. He bumped him with a grin before turning to the four, eyes narrowing as his pupils constricted.

Mane grinned, and Scout bared his claws. The battle has begun.

Team Sunrise had taken to their new, still limited, but extended freedom with gusto. There was a hard limit of not going too far from town. However, the guild either underestimated their speed and stamina or was playing fast and loose with Magnezone's rules and giving them more freedom without stating it.

They had to come back every night, and that was fine. However, all four of them could go quite the distance and back, further than the rest of the apprentices for sure. Between Sean's Fighting-type stamina, Striker's speed, Guardian's endurance, and Saniya's pure haxx, they found it possible to go about as far as Amp Plains and back in a single day.

Which Guardian knew to be uncommon in town. It had taken Team Ion an entire day just to reach Amp Plains when they first went, a story he retold as best he could to an interested audience.

"I'm glad you didn't leave Mane to die," Saniya said happily, giving Guardian's face a brief hug. "That would have been sad."

"Yes," Guardian said gravely. "I am relieved I didn't make that mistake, at least."

"Plus, have you heard him talk? He's hilarious."

"I'm surprised you approve of him being around Scout in the way that he acts," Striker said neutrally. Saniya gave him a deeply offended expression and Guardian decided to keep a firm, but gentle, hold on her, so she didn't decide to punch the lizard in the nose. "I like him," he added, and she calmed down. "But still." And back to offended.

"I would have been surprised," Sean said, voice so dry the two Grass-type's could have wilted from it. "But he wasn't nearly the first pokémon I met that was so forward. Was it like that in the future?"

"Yes," all three said immediately, and then all exchanged an amused look.

"If not worse," Striker said, blushing slightly. "In those times pokémon would… not be shy about making advances. I'll leave it at that."

"Oh! Oh-oh-oh! What about that time-?" Saniya began. Guardian clamped his hand over her mouth.

"Do not soil Sean's ears with that story," Guardian said, knowing exactly what she was going to say. Some things could not be forgotten even with reality-altering paradoxes.

"Aww come on!" Sean said. "Everything I got was second hand, I should at least know some things?"

"I am afraid that, as you so helpfully made it clear many times, in human terms you are still a juvenile," Guardian said, as the responsible adult of the team.

Saniya bit his hand. The only adult on the team perhaps.

Sean huffed and crossed his arms. "Fine. I won't talk to you until you tell me."

"Is that not a childish response?"

Sean stuck his tongue out. "Anyway. We were talking about you being oddly okay with Mane around Scout. Not feeling any empty nest syndrome yet are we?"


"Is it though?" Saniya asked.


"Are you sure?" Striker added, smirking himself. "They're all alone now, without you to be watching and making sure."

"Raigeki is there," Guardian said haltingly.

"And he… doesn't make that worse?" Saniya grinned. Guardian had no answer for that point.

The mood remained light as Team Sunrise chatted.

"I really do miss them though," Saniya sighed, they were getting close to their destination now, but she had more words to share. "It isn't the same without them."

"It is a hole Team Ion has left in town," Guardian agreed.

Saniya began to whine, "Everyone is leaving me, and I don't like it!"

"We're not going anywhere," Sean soothed.

"Who said you are everyone!?"

"I did."

"Well, alright, then." She hugged him. "Don't leave me, please."

Saniya did not deal with parting well. Having known every time she left the group in the future could be the last time she saw them. They could be killed, or even she could be, was beyond difficult every time.

"And I believe we're approaching now," Guardian said, nodding forward to the dungeon entrance.

"Oooh!" Saniya said, enchanted by the sight before them so much that she didn't zip forward in excitement.

It was a waterfall. Truly a novel thing to these pokémon of the frozen future, to see that water crashing down with boundless life.

"It's so loud!" Saniya yelled. She didn't have to, she just enjoyed the freedom. "So much steam? Is it hot?"

"Just the impact of the water falling down," Guardian explained, "causing it to be tossed up as mist."

They walked onto a rocky outcropping, leading up to the bursting waterfall.

"This IS the Waterfall Cave, right?" Striker asked. "Are we certain?"

"Let me try!" Saniya said. Guardian grabbed her before she could zip forward. "Aww, come on, let me goooo."

"We need to be careful," Guardian said, and she crossed her arms at him and stared. Guardian was far better at staring, and she broke first.


"Want to take my hand?" Sean asked, holding his paw, not hand, out to Saniya. She grinned and took it.

There were three reasons why they were here. The first, and most obvious, was that there was a lost pokémon inside and they needed to extract them. Some Psyduck or so had entered this dungeon and not returned. Clefairy, Psyduck's friend, had come to the guild in alarm and Team Sunrise had taken the mission.

The second, and far less obvious, reason was that they wanted to see the place. Team Ion had spoken about the Waterfall Cave, and it sounded beautiful, if damp and moist. It was an exciting dungeon to go to, and all four were eager.

The final reason was that Scout had mentioned a Dimensional Scream apparently could occur here. Or, at least, it did in his idea of the world. No one entirely understood how it worked, even Saniya, and Sean had very few Dimensional Scream's in his time in the now-present.

It was a disorientating experience to have for sure, but one mixed with inner jokes and bonding moments. It only worked with a partner one trusted entirely, after all.

Guardian still sometimes thought about the Dimensional Scream Sean had experienced during that awful night when he sent Chatot, Scout, Mane, and Sean to the Dark Future.

He himself had been holding Sean at the time, and Striker was meters away. They weren't entirely clear on how close that trusted partner had to be, but no scream had ever occurred without one of them being within arm's distance of Sean.

The idea that even then, even when he was carting them off for execution, Sean still trusted him enough to have a Dimensional Scream was a little too much for Guardian to bare, so he refused to think about it and quashed the line of thought before it went too far.

"Anything?" Saniya asked.

"Mmm," Sean said, eyes losing focus as he stared at something only he could see. Saniya steadied him as Sean's eyes and ears heard something from another time.

Sean resurfaced with a crooked grin on his face and mirth dancing in his eyes. "Well, it wasn't Wigglytuff I saw," he laughed, shaking his head. "I actually got two visions. One was Sunflora and Loudred arguing so much that he yelled loud enough to disturb the waterfall, it's how they figured out it was a cave entrance."

"Oh! So they DIDN'T determine it was an entrance with all that hokey pokey nonsense!" Saniya gasped.

"Nope. Argument."



"You all laugh weird," Striker muttered, simply asking for retribution at this point.

"Hoo-haha," Sean laughed, sticking his tongue out. "Second one I saw was just Scout looking like he had a big speech prepared and Rai just leapt right in with no hesitation. Scout said some bad words under his breath but eventually jumped in after him. This is definitely the place."

Guardian entered first, being both the slowest, largest and most durable in case something was wrong. Striker, Sean, and Saniya followed in quick succession.

"Ew, the ground is moist," Saniya said, wrinkling her nose.

"You're not even touching the ground," Sean said, frowning in disgust and lifting his feet to state at his paw pads, now grimed up. "Ugh."

"Moist. Mooiiiist."

"Stop saying moist."

"The moist-ure is very unpleasant here indeed," Striker said, only the barest hint of a smirk on his face.

"I'm going to need some moist-urizer after this one," Saniya giggled.

"I'm afraid moist people won't get this joke."

"Hahahaha. Moist."

"Okay," Sean said, grimacing in disgust. "Here's the plan. I'm going to go with Guardian. You two can… go off together. That way we can cover more ground."

"Moist ground?"

"Yes," he said through clenched teeth. Guardian's eye glittered with amusement. "That. Come on, we'll make a game of it. Whoever finds Psyduck first wins."

"Bully! A challenge! I love competition!" Saniya cheered, grabbing Striker. "Now where would I mount the stuffed head of a…" her voice trailed off as she and Striker disappeared down a hallway.

Sean breathed a sigh of relief.


"Don't!" Sean snapped, fury lighting his eyes, "you start with me here and now, good sir. I will rampage through these walls and bring devastation upon us all."

Guardian gave a deep belly laugh. "My apologies, the temptation was far too great."

Sean mock-glared for a moment longer before he cracked a grin. "Alright. I'll forgive you this one time."

Guardian's eye twinkled, but he sharpened up quickly. "We have a job to do," he said, and Sean nodded. "Let's go."

Once they were permitted to do jobs, Sean bought a rollcall orb for them. It worked easily, tapping it to someone for a few seconds would 'register' them to them. After about a day the effect faded and there was a pretty short range on them, but that range got jumbled in a dungeon to 'functionally unlimited'.

If Sean and Guardian found Psyduck, they could summon Striker and Saniya. And the same was in reverse, as of course, Striker had a rollcall orb as well.

He spent most of his money on orbs after all. Despite how little they earned.

Needing to stop Saniya from trying to toss Armaldo into the sea was a valid concern for the three. She had calmed down greatly on her wrath upon him until Armaldo informed them they were hit with the ninety percent tax the apprentices were on.

She renewed her oath of vengeance upon him that night.

"Are you okay about that broken orb?" Saniya asked, startling Striker out of some thoughts. He realised he had been staring into the light of the broken orb, thankfully no sharp edges, and put it away with a hurried chuckle.

"Of course."


"I am," he insisted. "It's just how those orbs work. I can't… change that or anything."

Saniya giggled. "You're weird, you know?"

"I do." He nodded. "To make sure to remind me at least once a week."

"Am I weird?"

"You are probably the most normal member of our little group," Striker replied. She gave a mock gasp before nodding.

"But of course. You have to be crazy not to see it."

Striker grinned. "Well, I mean, you are certainly, without question, quirky. But if you weren't, I'd be genuinely worried something was wrong."

"Yeah," she agreed. "You don't live through the Dark Future without coping in some way or another." She turned to him with a grin and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Isn't that right, my Strikey-wikey?"

"You know I only love the orbs."

"Ugh. The orbs." She tossed her head back, putting on a show of dramatically fainting in mid-air. "Orb this and orb that. You guys worry far too much about your balls."


"What?" She said, completely innocently. "Did I say something? Or are you extrapolating something I said as something obscene? I wonder what that says about you hmm?"

Striker gave her a flat look.

"Hmmmm?" She floated in close until they were nose and nose. "Hmmmmmmmmmm?"

"You are a menace to society."

"And you are far too attractive for your own good. Who's the real menace when everyone stops working to listen to you? Huh? Who's the bringer of anarchy then when society collapses due to only wanting to listen to you? Huh? Answer me, you false idol!"

"I am not a false idol."

"Yeah, you're really not. You really are this dreamy, it's crazy really." She floated around him, keeping the tip of her nose on his head as she did so.

"Is this a roundabout method of calling me crazy?" he asked, putting two and two together.

"HA! You must be joking. Ahaahah. A tee. A hee. A hee." She booped his nose. "Fine, yes, you got me. I'm calling you crazy."

Striker laughed and shook his head fondly at her.

Saniya valued her time with all her friends, both in groups and on their own. Striker wasn't the biggest talker when others were around. He had explained to Saniya that he felt like others had more important things to say. He'd put in his two cents if he decided it was appropriate but wasn't one to potentially stop someone else from saying something.

But with her, he spoke much more freely. She loved to hear him talk. Not only because she loved his voice, but just enjoyed talking with him in general. Sean was easy to tease, and so was Guardian, neither of them really gave it back as good as they got, however.

Striker, on the other hand.

"Truly, your scheme was the most straightforward thing I've witnessed," he claimed after she asked his honest opinion on her one-mon act of the Tale of Lucario. "Every twist and turn masterfully done but seen in advance. Truly."

"Nooo!" She denied him, pushing him in vengeance. "I am the most random!"

"The hot dog song? Saw that coming a horizon away."

"No, you didn't!"

"And the ballad of houndour the wise? I saw that before."

"No, I made it up! AH!"

She giggled, he chuckled. They had good times together.

"I bet I can get Sean to say moist."

"Bet. How much?"

"How much ya got?"

Dusknoir were large pokémon. Riolu were not. It was natural for Sean to ride on Guardian's shoulder since the ground was beginning to genuinely mess with him.

Guardian did not permit Sean to wipe his feet on his back. Sean, however, did so anyway.

"I shouldn't have tossed you in the water first," Guardian grumbled, now with wet dog smell on his shoulder.

"Well, maybe you shouldn't have," Sean retorted, sopping wet but his feet were no longer grimy. Guardian formed a Shadow Ball and tossed it at an offending feral pokémon. Sean copied the move and tossed his own at a different one.

They did make a good fortress team—Spamming Shadow Ball or Shadow Sneak to ward anything off from approaching. The Waterfall Cave was not considered an overly dangerous dungeon, they weren't expecting any terrible battles. Which was why Sean really suggested splitting them up.

Or so he'd claim if anyone asked him. Moist rattled in his mind, and he shivered a few times.

With Sean nice and safe on his shoulder, Guardian happily took care of everything that came their way. Something Sean picked up on.

"Are you doing it again?" he asked, turning to Guardian's face.

"What are you talking about?"

"Being all fragile teacup with me?"

"…I don't think you're going to break if I set you down. I just thought you didn't want to touch the ground."

Sean sighed and rattled his head. "Yeah, right. Sorry."

"It is fine, Sean." They floated in a moment of comfortable silence. "It is hard, sometimes, to forget you aren't so frail now."

"I was never frail," Sean replied, rolling his eyes. "Just because I couldn't use attacks like the rest of you didn't make me frail."

"You got sick."



"That sucked, yeah." Sean's eyes moved off to the past future with a soft smile. "Still, I remember a couple of times that 'frail human' saved your butts. Do you remember, uh… aggron? I think it was. It was trouncing you and Striker, and I jumped on its head."

"Nearly scared me to death," Guardian snapped, he did remember this. "Striker didn't stop complaining about that for many rest cycles. He only stopped when I forced him to. He was keeping Scout up with his muttering."

"Hahaha," Sean laughed. "Sorry," he added to Guardian's Look. "Still, that was crazy."

"You slammed a blast seed on its face and detonated it. That was indeed crazy."



"Crazy awesome."

"Heh," Guardian's eye-rolled. "Scout said the exact same. For three whole sets of cycles, he talked about that event."

They enjoyed some more stories between them. Sean's heroics being the topic of choice.

"I swear that gyrados was going to eat Saniya."

"Impaling its tail did require quite the burst of desperation."

"I had a stick. I might as well have used it."

Or his foolishness.

"I thought, back then, that watching you climb a sheer cliff in the middle of a battle to jump onto the enemy tauros was going to be the riskiest and outrageously foolish action you would ever make. I wish I had been correct."

All in all. A pleasant catch-up session.

"I still remember the taste of pennies from that."

"And I still don't fully understand why we should 'praise the sun'. It is beautiful, but…"

"Did I never tell you?"



"…Are you going to tell me?"

"I think I'll leave you guessing for now."

All good times come to a close, however.

"Hm?" Sean voiced, feeling one of his tassels quiver.

"What is it?" Guardian asked, pausing in his story of Scout's thirty-seventh attempt at being, in Scout's words, 'as cool' as Sean.

"I felt something," Sean said, before closing his eyes to focus. He'd been a riolu for close to two years now, he hadn't really tried to keep track. Nothing was as difficult to get used to as the aura tassels.

Understanding Striker and everyone else? Wonderful. Being as strong as a pokémon? Amazing. Having an extremely strong sense of smell? Manageable. Potentially becoming a lucario like his fu-

"Hm, I can kinda feel something over there," Sean said, the tassels shaking and he pointed to a patch of wall. "It feels like, uh… despondence, a bit of anger, and just… fear."

"I'll check it out," Guardian nodded, lowered Sean to a relatively dry patch of ground, and began the work of phasing through the wall.

As a Ghost-type, he could do so well. But being as solid as he was, it did take Guardian a bit of time to fully move through objects.

He emerged from the wall as a spectre of death, startling poor Psyduck half to death. "Oh my GOSH!" she squeaked, startling back several feet in alarm.

Immediately, Guardian felt like absolute grime on the moist ground of this dungeon.

"Of course," he lambasted himself. "What were you thinking, appearing on her like this? The Terrible Dusknoir, arriving when one is at such a weak point. She must think it's over for her, that I am here to-"

His own thoughts were cut short when she slammed into his stomach, desperately clutching on and sobbing relentlessly. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you're here to save me? Thank you, thank you, thank you."

That was the best he could make out of the tearful blubbering.

Slowly, carefully, Guardian lowered and clasped his hands around her and lifted her up. "It's alright," he said, softly, soothing her. "You're safe."

Looking around, he found a path he could float over, as he couldn't simply phase her through the wall as well and found himself within eyesight of Sean.

"You found her!?" he called, rushing in happily. "Great, are you okay Psyduck?"

"I-I-I'm okay. Thank you for coming out to save me."

"Okay, let me just summon the others." Sean pulled out his Rollcall Orb and squeezed it. The orb flashed, melted away, and then two quick pops sounded out.

Saniya and Striker fell over upon their appearance.

"Ooooh," Saniya moaned. "That was awful. Why is it always awful? My teleports aren't nearly that awful. Awful as moist!"

"Do you want to be sent back?" Sean growled.

"No. This orb is the worst."

"Lay off the orb, it did nothing wrong," Striker groaned, trying to get up.

"You and your orbs, jeez. Has Azumarill done nothing to help you?"

"There's nothing to do as I need no help!"

"You're both fine. We found Psyduck."

"I can see that," Striker said, pulling himself to his feet. Saniya had fallen to the ground and stared pitifully at Striker until he picked her up. She vibrated the gunk off her, and incidentally onto him, before zipping around.

"Yippee! You're in the safest of hands now, Psyduck!"

"Y-Yes. You saved the world, I can't imagine I'm in any safer hands. Thank you."

"Oh, do go on," Saniya said, flushed with praise. Striker pulled her away.

"We should be off," he pointed out. "Now that there are five of us concentrated here."

"Does Sean count or have we not figured that out yet?" Saniya asked. "Ooh! We could test it!"

"Please don't," Psyduck whimpered. Taking pity, Saniya did drop the matter, and they quickly fought their way to the end of the dungeon.

"Oh, this is gorgeous!" Saniya beamed. "Look at all the pretty gems!"

"This is quite magical," Guardian agreed. "Is this why you came here, Psyduck?"

"Yes," she said, nodding weakly. "I wanted to get something for Clefairy since she's always so nice to me, but I can't swim, and I kept getting attacked and pushed that way."

"You can't swim?" Saniya blurted out. "Wut, y?"

Psyduck cringed in embarrassment. Saniya nodded and easily tore a large purple gemstone out of the ground, the cracking sound echoing throughout the chamber. "Well, that means we can't press the slippy slide button at the end, or you might drown. Okay, let's just take this back for your girlfriend, and that'll be that."

"She's not my girlfriend."

"She's a girl, right? And your friend?"




"HA! Knew it."

Saniya floated off, satisfied with herself as Psyduck protested in mortification until they were out of the dungeon, out of the woods, and into Treasure Town.

"I'm just saying, you're protesting a LOT." That quietened Psyduck. "Silence of defeat, eh?"

There was no winning against Saniya.

"So. We should work out the whole 'does Sean still not count or not' on dungeons," Saniya pointed out once Psyduck was home safe. She was uninjured, just distressed, and Clefairy calmed her down.

"How should we do that?"

"We could ask Bidoof or something to join us in a weak dungeon. Like good old Moist Bluff."

"Drenched Bluff," Sean snapped.

"That's what I said."

"No. You didn't. You said moist."

"HA!" Saniya cheered as Sean deflated. "I got you to say it. You owe me 178 Poké now. Fess up." She held her hand out to Striker, who relented and gave her the money. Sean watched the transition with nothing but a flat expression.

"I think this is where we go… anyway," Guardian said, changing the subject. "Sean and dungeons. Bidoof?"

"Or any of them," Saniya said, brushing it off as she counted her winnings.

"Flaaffy is an option," Striker suggested.

"Oh, Flaaffy this and Flaaffy that," Saniya sighed. "It's all I heard about from him today."

"This is the first time I've mentioned him," Striker protested

"And it just passed midnight." Saniya stuck her tongue out at him. "I win. Again. Worship me like the goddess I am."

"Why Flaaffy?" Sean asked.

"His tail is an orb. What isn't there to like?"

And that was all that he needed to say.

Armaldo tried to chew them out for being late, but Saniya again won by pointing out they reached Treasure Town before the day was out and that was the technical agreement. She sailed away to bed, resting in the laurels of victory.

It had been a good day.

Mane grinned, and Scout bared his claws. The battle has begun.

It was Electabuzz who acted next, huffing in amusement at the three tiny pokémon daring to stand up. He rotated his arms and sent an extreme blast of electricity at them. Rai intercepted it and took the full hit, falling back onto all fours as his whole body jerked and shocked.

Electabuzz's cocky grin froze as Rai unleashed the electricity he had just absorbed, right as Croagunk ran in to double up on the leader's move and score an easy knockout.

Lancing Croagunk right through the middle and dropping him like a sack of potatoes and causing him to fold like a cheap suit.

The three remaining aggressors could only blink. And that was a costly blink.

Mane and Scout both had begun to move right as Rai had landed. As Croagunk fell, Mane sent his mighty Fire Blast, and Scout zipped forward as the claws on his right paw extended into a dark sabre.

Magby managed a brief, "Meep." Before Scout's paw crashed down, the darkness striking through the magby.

Electabuzz's fur curled from the heat as Jynx was blasted off his side and he stumbled from the burst of pressure, tripping over Magby who just keeled over after Scout's lighting-fast Night Slash.

Rai stepped forward as Mane prowled the right and Scout raised his claws from the left, surrounding Electabuzz.

The big bully looked left and right in panic as in seconds his posse just went down. "S-Screw this." He got up and ran for it.

"Want me to get his legs?" Scout asked, tensing in readiness.

"Get him," Mane said, puffing out smoke.

Scout was many things. Cute. A mess of a meowth. Upsetting durable.

One thing he absolutely was was fast.

Electabuzz got ten steps before Scout zipped forth almost as fast as a Quick Attack, his Night Slash going for the back of the knee and sending the pokemon tumbling before Scout leapt onto his head and his koban glinted with unnatural light.

Hypnosis had Electabuzz snoring on the ground.

"Holy moly," Totodile called, wobbling back over on a new water sphere. "Wow, that was… actually impressive! Good job, Team Ion!"

Whispered immediately broke out. Team Ion? Here?

"Give them space," Totodile called, and the crowd obeyed. The threat of being splashed was ever-present with Totodile. "Okay, maybe you can handle Pyroar."

"Maybe?" Mane asked.

"Yep! Maybe."

"We creamed these guys with a single hit each."

"These one-pump-chumps are one thing, but Pyroar probably is another. Anyway, I'll tell you where he was seen heading to!"

Several townsfolk came to gather up the knocked-out wild pokémon and find some sort of legal punishment as Totodile pulled Team Ion away.

He danced on his water ball until they reached a different part of town, a much smaller path heading out. "This one isn't used AS often as the other places since no one really goes this way. Anyway, Pyroar was heading in the direction of Blackstone Village, there's not much else out that way reputable folks want to go."

They were in the northwest, the three began to think. But Totodile answered for them. "Further than Blackstone is Towny Town, brr that's a place for sure, and further still is Fissure. Blackstone is the last 'good' town in this particular direction with Indeedee and the Clefable Guild there."

Totodile hummed. "Makes sense that Pyroar would be heading that way. Once he gets past them, he's pretty much in lawless land. I bet he's cocky enough to try. Well, good luck!"

"Thank you, Totodile," Scout said first. This was excellent news, their research into his movements had been spot on the money, and they were already heading that way. They'd speed up now, knowing they were on his trail.

"Yeah, thanks."

"Thank you for your help!"

"You're welcome. If you're ever around again, say hi! And, seriously, be careful. I can see you're strong and appearances are deceiving. For both you and definitely other pokémon. Stay safe, world saviours, Team Ion!"

"Stay safe, Totodile. If anyone else causes more trouble, make sure you contact someone."

"Hahaha. Okay."

He saw them off as the reinvigorated team made haste. The day was still young, and this was a real and true proper lead on Pyroar's location. If they could catch up, that'd be great.

Team Ion charged onwards.

Ha. Ion. Charge. I happen to be hilarious.

This is one of the chapters where I kept most of Team Sunrise's stuff in it. There was a lot of 'filler' with them in the original Arc 2. Fun filler, sure, but still very much filler. I kept this one as it's early on and establishing them as a team is still important, so it's less filler (plus, Psyduck is something of a running gag).

Thanks for reading!
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