Hinnerk considered himself to be someone who was prepared to face off any threat. The fact that he had been in this position for five long years with only a few challenges to his leadership was proof of this, and the easy putting down of those rebellions was proof of his readiness to combat threats, in his mind. It was all the better for him, as it meant his image as a tough, wily leader was cemented among the people of Ozerograd, and he could continue his life of luxury in peace.
But never had he been challenged in such a way like Elvira had done; in order to prove he wasn't a weakling. Like Mikhail, he could see they were bluffing in order to find a way out of the precarious situation they had found themselves in.
But it was the way Elvira had spoken to him - the mocking, teasing words designed to goad - that he could not turn a blind eye to. Those clever, sly strategies to get out of seemingly unwinnable situations was a tactic Team Marshwood were known for, and specifically, it was Kallias' cunning that came up with such schemes. That had
to have rubbed off on the Sceptile's daughter.
And similarly hard to ignore was the challenge of Arian to prove he wasn't weak. He had never met this mysterious green-eyed freak of a Riolu before, but something about him ticked the Obstagoon off. Whether it was his odd green irises, his association with Elvira, or his arrogance in challenging him to a duel, the Riolu was proving to be quite a pest, and one he'd be all too happy to remove from the picture.
And a similar story could be had with Lillian. Traitors and backstabbers were people he couldn't stand, and should one arise in the Thorned Roses, he would demand their life become forfeit. Thus, he would gladly kill Lillian for the traitor she was.
All three proved to be a great threat to him. And so, once their duel started, he was the first one to engage in combat, making a beeline for them. Arian was the first one he went for, and lunged for him in a Submission attack.
"Ah!" Arian was caught off guard, and suffered for it, taking all the blows the Obstagoon dealt to him. It was a devastating attack in which the Riolu was greatly hurt, acquiring a number of bruises and cuts across his body.
"Arian!" cried Elvira, once she saw her partner's condition. "Take this, Hinnerk!" She used a Mega Drain on him, which she found she had learned during the trek through Cyan Cove.
However, the attack didn't phase the Obstagoon as much as she'd hoped. It did something, but Hinnerk, if anything, had garnered more pain through the recoil from his Submission attack.
"Ha! Call that an attack?" he mocked. "Should've stayed at home, girl! Not enough dolls in the house to keep you interested, is that it?"
"Shut up! You don't know anything about me!" the Treecko yelled. She charged toward him, intent on landing a Quick Attack. However…
Hinnerk, cross-armed, let loose a shout that made her flinch and stop her cold in her tracks.
"...Obstruct," Lillian observed. "...It would be only natural for an Obstagoon like Hinnerk to have such a move…"
"...Pathetic," Hinnerk scoffed at Elvira's flinching. He followed up his Obstruct with a Night Slash, and knocked Elvira back, where she landed at Arian's feet.
"Elvira! Are you alright?" the worried Riolu asked, helping her up.
"...Could be better," Elvira groaned, clutching her side where Hinnerk had struck.
"...Is that really the best you've got?" Hinnerk taunted. "What, was Kallias so focused on his mercenary work that he didn't have time to pass his skills onto his only daughter? Some parenting that is! He might've been a hero, but he sure as hell was a crap parent!"
"Don't you dare talk that way about my dad!" shouted Elvira angrily. She tried to run towards Hinnerk to attack him, but Lillian called out to her.
"Wait, Elvira!" she interjected. "This is what Hinnerk wants from you. He wants you to be all riled up and angry. Because when you're pissed off like that, it makes easier pickings for him. We did that to him, but that doesn't mean we're immune to him doing it to us. Someone as devious as Hinnerk has tricks like that up his sleeve. We have to think around this." She dug into her bag and got out two oran berries. "Take them. Let's just pretend that didn't happen, and start again."
"Thanks," Arian accepted, and he and Elvira munched on their berries, feeling their wounds begin to heal. As this happened, the Treecko pondered their strategy against Hinnerk.
How to go about this? Hmm…a one-on-one strategy wouldn't work like it did back in Verdant Woods. Hinnerk's bigger and stronger than any of us. For this battle…a team effort's needed between Arian and I. And Arian, a Fighting-type against him…might be the best shot we have.
"Those oran berries won't save you," Hinnerk said to them. "One hit and you're already grasping for them. Did you really think I'd be a pushover? Stupid idiot mercs!"
"We never thought you would be," Elvira replied. "But you're far from invincible! With me, Arian!" She ran forward and attacked with Mega Drain once again.
"You tried that already," Hinnerk ridiculed, once again barely phased by the move. "Out of tricks already, are we?"
"No," Elvira denied. "I've only just begun unleashing my 'tricks'. Besides, it's not me who you should look out for." As she said this, Arian passed her by, Force Palm at the ready.
"Take this!" he cried, moving in to strike the Obstagoon. The hit landed, and Hinnerk staggered back slightly, surprising the Riolu.
"That…did more than I expected," he remarked.
"You're more powerful against him than I am, Arian," Elvira said. "Your Fighting-type moves will give us the edge."
"...Big mistake, girl, revealing your strategies like that," Hinnerk said, recovering from Arian's blow. "Because now I know exactly who to take out." He made a dash for the Riolu, and before the Riolu could react, he tackled him to the ground once more and attacked him with Submission.
"Argh! Ouch! Stop it!" Arian's cries could be heard as Hinnerk beat him relentlessly with Submission. He tried to escape the beatings, but the Thorned Roses' boss was too strong for him to get away from.
"That's enough, Hinnerk!" Lillian yelled, and she lunged forward to initiate her own attack to turn Hinnerk's attention to her. She hit him with multiple rounds of Fury Swipes, slashing deep enough to draw blood from the Obstagoon.
"Gah! Damn traitor!" hissed Hinnerk, who ceased his attack on Arian to focus on Lillian. "What pests the likes of you are!"
"Good. That means I'm doing something right," countered the Sandslash. "Now time for you to see what I'm made of!" She made her move with Crush Claw, dealing cuts to Hinnerk that drew blood.
"You little bitch!" snarled the Obstagoon. "I'll rip you apart!" He slashed at her with a Night Slash, but Lillian saw it coming, and managed to avoid the brunt of the blow, escaping with only a small cut on her side created by Hinnerk.
However, the Thorned Roses' boss's anger had been stoked, and his focus was directed toward Lillian now. A flurry of Night Slashes were directed Lillian's way, and the Sandslash quickly found herself on the defensive, trying to block Hinnerk's attacks in order to land some of her own. But she couldn't defend them all, and some of the Obstagoon's Night Slashes landed, wounding the Sandslash.
While this was happening, Elvira regrouped with Arian and healed him with an oran berry from her own bag. She couldn't help but notice, though, the dismayed look in his eyes.
"...One attack and I'm already having to take another oran berry," he said, in what sounded like self-disappointment. "...Maybe we really are in over our heads…"
"Don't say that," chided Elvira. "He has the advantage in strength, but…" She held up her bag. "We can gain the advantage in other ways."
"Through…items?" queried Arian.
"A bag of items is a mercenary's greatest companion," the Treecko continued. "You saw just there; I can't hit Hinnerk very hard. But…with some items, I might be able to make a difference. Like with these, for instance." She took out two seeds, and picked one of them. "Take that and eat it. It's a violent seed; it'll make your attacks stronger."
"...Okay, if you say so," Arian obliged. He tentatively took the seed, and ingested it, unsure of what to expect.
But within seconds, he could feel a sudden surge of energy come to him, and he suddenly felt more confident and determined.
"Whoa! That seed has quite a kick to it," he remarked. "...What did you say it was again? A violent seed?"
"Yes. Your attacks will pack more of a punch," Elvira told him. "I forgot we had it. I really must sort out the bag when we get home. But anyway. Let's see how powerful your Force Palm is now. Go on. Lillian has him distracted. Let's not waste this opportunity. You go first, and I'll follow."
"Right," acknowledged the Riolu. "...Lillian can't hold this up forever. We should move now." He chose to attack right before Hinnerk struck the Sandslash again. As the Obstagoon raised his hand to deliver another Night Slash, Arian chose that opportunity to once again attack with a Force Palm. He struck Hinnerk as hard as he could.
"Agh! You irritating little pest!" Hinnerk raged, and swung around to strike Arian. However, the Riolu figured he would do that, and managed to move back quickly enough to avoid the strike. Hinnerk, growling in anger, diverted his attention to Arian, and moved in to attack. Perhaps if he hadn't been so focused on the human, he would've seen Elvira biting down on the seed she'd picked from the bag.
The next thing he knew, the gecko blew fiery breath at him.
"A blast seed?! Could you merc types be any more annoying?" seethed the Obstagoon, feeling the flames lick at his fur.
"Annoying? You're one to talk," countered Lillian. "Who's been the one giving hell to the people of Ozerograd? Who's been the one suppressing freedom here for the past five years? It sure as hell hasn't been us!"
"Yeah!" seconded Arian. "I've only been here a few days, and even I can see how much of a threat you are to this town's peace!"
"And as someone who lives near Ozerograd, I've seen for myself just what you and the Thorned Roses have done to it," Elvira continued. "It's terrible what you've all done to it. All the more reason to defeat you here and now!"
Hinnerk barked. "Shut up before I rip your throat out, you wretch!" He attempted to run for Elvira to attack her, but both Arian and Lillian ran forward in front of her, each with their own attack at the ready.
"Oh no, you don't!" Arian shouted, and with Lillian, unleashed a dual attack of Force Palm and Crush Claw on Hinnerk that landed.
the Obstagoon cried, as he was knocked back from the attack. He looked back up at Arian and Elvira, in furious disbelief. How could the likes of them have such power behind their attacks? This traitor and this nobody of a Riolu…they don't have the power to best me. I'm the boss of the Thorned Roses! I'm the most powerful person in Ozerograd! …So…how could they have…?
Hinnerk wasn't the only one gawping in disbelief, though. His underlings that were enclosing the pier had observed the duel between their boss and his three opponents. As the latter succeeded in landing their hits on the Obstagoon, fears began to arise among
"The Boss...He's struggling," noted one of the Thorned Roses, an Umbreon. "Th-That can't be...The Boss is the strongest of us all! There's no way he'd lose to these three...right?"
"...Not if we have anything to say about it. ...Hey, Boss!" the Electabuzz from earlier called out. "Don't worry! We'll help you get rid of those three!"
"Grrr...No!" Hinnerk objected. "Don't move! I can handle these brats by myself!" However, his laboured breaths and visible wounds told a different story.
"But Boss! They're winning!" protested the Fraxure. "Please let us help you kill them!"
"...Do it," ordered Mikhail, before Hinnerk could say anything. "I'm sorry, Boss, but it's for your own good. We can't let the Thorned Roses fall, especially to these whelps."
"...Fine!" Hinnerk shouted in frustration. "I've just about had it with them anyway! Kill them! Make them suffer for their defiance!"
"Yes, Boss!" all of them called out, before getting ready to lunge on the trio.
Arian thought to himself. Just when we were getting the upper hand...It can't end like this! Not after Elvira came up with that brilliant plan…
But before the group of Thorned Roses could initiate combat, they were rudely interrupted by nothing other than...the detonation of smoke bombs.
Within seconds, the pier was covered in thick white smoke, just like the square in Ozerograd had been earlier. And just like before, the group of Thorned Roses were taken by surprise.
"What the hell?! Where'd they come from?"
"Are we under attack?"
"I bet it's friends of those bastards!"
"Where are they? You can't see through this smoke!"
Meanwhile, whereas Arian and Elvira had been disoriented by the smoke bombs before, this time they saw them as symbols of hope. It meant help was here to get them out of this predicament.
There was a slight problem, though, in that the smoke made it hard to see what exactly was going on. Through the smoke and uproar of the Thorned Roses, however, Arian was able to discern a few voices.
"Now, Ishmael! Throw it!"
"Gotcha! Take this, ya buncha crooks!"
Then the shattering of what seemed to be glass was heard. Strangely enough, all went quiet from the Thorned Roses henchmen kicking up a furore. Arian cocked his head in puzzlement. What could this be?
Just in case, he readied himself for a potential enemy to strike. They could take advantage of this, after all.
A gust of wind suddenly blew out of the smoke. But then, to Arian's surprise, a strong wind suddenly blew the smoke away. Eventually, it cleared up enough to see what had happened.
And it was quite a sight. One that made the Riolu's eyes widen in a mixture of shock and wonderment.
All of the Thorned Roses that had reared up to attack the three of them had suddenly been frozen. But not in the sense of being encased in ice - it looked as though time had stopped for them, and they were all frozen in place, some in a pose to run, and others plainly more disoriented from the smoke. Their expressions were a mixture of outrage, confusion, and panic.
And in front of this scene lay a familiar duo: a Krokorok and a Gligar.
Lillian was the first one to speak up.
"Ishmael! Axel! You came!"
"Heh." Ishmael smirked. "Got a bit worried when ya weren't showin' up. We figured somethin' had happened, so we came down here to quite a show. Ya were doin' well, but...that lot was gonna ruin everythin'.'' He pointed to the frozen Thorned Roses. "Good thing Axel still 'ad some smoke bombs left over."
"Good thing, alright," the Gligar said. "I kept some just in case we'd need them in future. And what do you know? A perfect opportunity!" He gestured to the scene before him. "I told you Defog was useful for stuff like this, Ish!"
"...Eh, can't argue with that," agreed Ishmael. "Handy for stuff like smoke bombs."
"What did you do to them?" Arian asked, still stunned by the sight before him. "How are they...frozen like that?"
"Petrify Orb," the Krokorok answered simply. "Got it from yer folks, Lill. It freezes enemies in their tracks. They're not gonna move unless ya attack 'em. So if ya don't attack 'em, ya can keep yer focus on that tosser over there." He pointed to Hinnerk.
"Wow...thanks very much," the Riolu said, grateful for the aversion of a crisis.
"No problem," accepted Ishmael. "Now then...back to dealing with this piece of shit right here." He pointed a finger toward Hinnerk.
"...Look who's talking," spat the Obstagoon, noticing the red armband on Ishmael and the red scarf on Axel. "More traitors following the Sandslash...So you all planned to betray me, too?"
"We sure did," Axel answered. "You're the kind of people that deserve betrayal - the brutes with no remorse. I'd go into detail about all the crap you've done over the years, but they've probably done it already."
"Yeah...A crim who's done a lot of bad shit over the years and evicts people for fun? ...Exactly the kinda Pokémon a merc's gotta lock up. Ya could even say folks him, for us mercs...are our prey." A vicious smile crept across his muzzle, aiming his words at Hinnerk. But Arian and Elvira heard them too.
"Prey?" the Obstagoon scoffed. "Don't make me laugh! You merc types really are delusional idiots. All of you are! You're forgetting who you're dealing with! I'm - "
"Shut up," Ishmael cut off. "Mr Big or not, yer outnumbered five to one, and on top a' that, yer sidekick's done a runner."
"What?" Hinnerk turned to his right and indeed, the Krokorok was correct; Mikhail and Tamara had completely up and vanished. "Mikhail! Mikhail! Where the hell
have you gone to?"
"That's weird...Where has he gone to?" wondered Elvira, confused by the snake's disappearance. "And...where's Tamara?" Worry sprung in her heart for her vanished friend. "Where is she?"
"Elvira…" Arian felt his partner's worry. But one look at the irate Obstagoon reminded them of their object of focus. "...I hate to say this, but we have to leave them for now. We're gaining the upper hand with Hinnerk, and we have to keep up the pressure. It won't be long before Ozerograd can say goodbye to the likes of him."
"...You're right," Elvira realised. "Now's not the time to get distracted. I'm sorry, Tamara...but we have to stick to this for now. Ozerograd's so close to freedom from this man...Please just hang on a little longer."
"We'll keep a lookout for them," Axel called. "But if you guys need help, we'll jump in."
"Yeah. ...But yer doin' alright," Ishmael commented. "I think we might be able to leave this one to Lill and the rookies."
"Wait, what?" Arian reacted, suddenly feeling rather nervous. He was hopeful for more help, but...They're just going to sit by the sidelines, while we fight Hinnerk? He's been no joke.
He knew that despite their usage of the items, they weren't in infinite supply, and their bag of tricks, along with Lillian's, would eventually deplete to nothing.
At that point, Ishmael threw something his way, which he caught. Then he did the same to Elvira and Lillian, and they also caught their items. The items in question were none other than oran berries, which each fighter scarfed down immediately. Once they did, they felt a resurgence of energy as their wounds healed.
"Ya look worse for wear," the crocodile called. "That should bring ya back to full energy. Once ya are, lay into 'im like yer life depends on it! There's a lot ridin' on this, 'specially for yerselves!"
"Oh...I think I know what he's saying, Arian." Elvira's words drew Arian's attention. "They're saying that this is a chance to prove ourselves. If we manage to topple Hinnerk, then we'll have proved that we can overcome a monumental hurdle and attain a victory against all odds."
"I see...And along with that, if we win, then Ozerograd will be free from the likes of him," Arian replied, seeing her point. "It'll be our first big step forward as mercenaries. And as mercs, helping the people is our goal."
"That's right. ...So let's do what the people desire and topple this tyrant," Elvira declared. "Let's bring freedom to the people of Ozerograd!"
"...Hah! Not while I draw breath," Hinnerk objected. He was seething now, not just from his tactician's disappearing act, but also from the infuriating talk of determination from the two in front of him, the very ones he'd sent his gang out to look for. I toyed with them. ...That was a mistake. A big one.
"I'll shatter those very dreams before your eyes. Ozerograd is mine, and you will not take it from me!"
"Any leader that rules poorly should earn the right to be overthrown," Lillian responded. "You fall into that category, Hinnerk. And there's no finer candidates to overthrow you than these two."
"These two'll be knocking on hell's gates before the day is out," Hinnerk growled. "I won't bow down for one second!"
"Then we'll make you bow down!" Arian shouted back. "Come on, Elvira! Let's do this!" And with that, he ran forward, intent to press forward their advantage while they had it.
However, his approach proved to be a hasty one, as Hinnerk had a counter ready. Once more, he crossed his arms and used Obstruct to deter the smaller fighter and flinch him, then followed up with Night Slash. Even though he resisted the hit, and it wasn't as hard-hitting as the Submission, Arian still found the hit to pack a punch.
But luckily, Elvira was on hand to take over from him while he regained his strength with an Oran Berry. While she found hitting him hard was proving difficult for her on her lonesome, this wasn't meant to be a hard-hitting onslaught, merely enough to keep Hinnerk distracted while Arian recovered. Using her agility to her advantage, she used Quick Attack to distract Hinnerk and draw his attention.
"Annoying little brat!" Hinnerk spat. "I'll cut you in two!" He readied a Night Slash, and swung towards Elvira…
…only for her to dodge it effortlessly.
The Obstagoon then noticed her glowing green eyes.
Detect, huh? Of course you'd be as crafty as your old man…Well then. A change of targets it is.
He saw a freshly healed Arian returning to the fray, a perfect target to unleash his wrath on. And an angry mind was just what was needed when it came to using Submission.
Arian was readying his own attack, a Metal Claw, to shake things up and conserve his uses of Force Palm. But Hinnerk managed to get the drop on him, and tackled him to the ground.
"Agh! Get off me!" Arian cried, before being assaulted by the Obstagoon's punches once more. It was the third time this happened, but still he found Hinnerk's pummeling to be as unrelenting as the previous occasions.
"Arian!" Elvira shouted. She attempted to use a Mega Drain to draw Hinnerk's attention, just as Lillian had done before. However, the Obstagoon had learned from the earlier experience, and dodged out of the way. He had already dealt substantial blows to Arian; he could afford to retreat from that for now, he thought.
Meanwhile, the window was open to attack Elvira again. But Hinnerk saw her coming towards him, and an idea came to mind. I still do have that move I haven't used yet…
Elvira launched a Quick Attack once more on Hinnerk. Strangely, Hinnerk didn't move when she attacked. But he didn't cross his arms and scream in a use of Obstruct either. Lillian, who was observing the fight, frowned. What is he up to…?
Then it all became clear, once a steam-like aura emanated from Hinnerk. Before Elvira could react, he unleashed an uppercut on her that sent her flying across the pier. She landed just by the water's edge, thankfully not thrown into the lake itself.
"Elvira!" Arian screamed, running over to his teammate. Lifting her up, he could see the effects of the powerful blow; she'd been knocked unconscious, and blood trickled from her nose.
She wasn't dead, at least. But she was out of commission, and that made Arian's worry heighten.
No! We were doing so well, too…
he lamented. …But now what? Lillian's here, but…without Elvira, we're down a fighter, and I'm not doing so hot either.
The blows from Submission still stung him, and he felt himself beginning to get weary.
Were we…too reckless, challenging Hinnerk head-on like this?
the Riolu found himself thinking. Even if we got this far…it doesn't mean anything, if we can't defeat him outright.
"Oh no, ya don't, ya piece of shit! Don't ya even think about drownin' 'em!"
Arian's attention turned to behind him. There, he
could see that Ishmael and Axel had joined the fray and were fighting against Hinnerk.
"Tch. More annoyances!" the Obstagoon raged. "How dare you rats get in my way! Stand aside! Those two upstarts are mine!"
"Nope! No way in hell you're getting to them!" Axel yelled, unleashing a Fury Cutter on Hinnerk. "Knowing how you work, you're going to drown them in the lake to give them a long death!"
cried Arian, in shock. "D-Drown us in the lake?!" That's…Of all the ways to go, that's a horrible one!
He realised he was visibly shuddering at the thought. I don't want to die that way…
"Focus, Arian! Heal Elvira!"
Lillian's voice snapped him out of his fearful thoughts. He looked over at the Sandslash, only to be surprised when she threw something his way. It landed at his feet.
Arian picked it up, and examined it. It was a normal seed, except it had what seemed like a blue-coloured stem growing out of it.
"Give it to Elvira!" Lillian called. "It's a reviver seed! It'll make her conscious again!"
"R-Really?" Arian's ears pricked in surprise. They can do that?
"Yes! But hurry!" Lillian replied, glancing worriedly at her teammates fighting Hinnerk. "We can't allow him to regain the upper hand!"
"Got it," the Riolu said. He took the seed and brought it to Elvira's mouth. It took a slight amount of effort to get her unconscious form to swallow the seed, but he managed it, and soon the seed was taken in by Elvira. Come on…Please work,
he silently begged, looking over the Treecko's body for any signs of healing.
Thankfully, they did appear. But the speed at which Elvira recovered and regained consciousness was a surprise to Arian. In what seemed like no time at all, the Treecko's wounds were healed and the girl's eyes opened.
"...Arian?" Elvira mumbled. "Did you give me…a reviver seed?"
"I did," he informed her. "But worry about that later. We need to focus on keeping up the pressure on Hinnerk. We don't have far left, but…given how powerful he is, he can turn the tide at any time."
"So…the sooner we end it, the better," Elvira surmised, as she got to her feet.
"Yes…starting with moving away from the edge of the pier," Arian added, doing just that. "I do not
want to be drowned by him."
"Good idea," Elvira agreed. "Now let's take the slack off Team Sandstream."
However, this declaration coincided with Hinnerk managing to remove Axel and Ishmael from his path, knocking both of them away with a few Night Slashes. With them out of his way, he charged toward the two of them, murder in his eyes.
"Oh shit!" Ishmael exclaimed. "Look out, ya two!"
"Crap!" Arian said, seeing the Obstagoon heading straight for him. He had little to no time to prepare a counterattack, and in the panic over reviving Elvira, he'd forgotten about his own condition. No! I won't fall like this…!
With no time to dodge, all he could do was brace for the impact.
Hinnerk had a Night Slash ready, and attacked Arian with it. It was like an earlier instance of this; despite resisting it, Arian still found it a painful hit to take. And under normal circumstances, it probably would have been powerful enough to knock him out.
However…this didn't happen, much to both his and Hinnerk's surprise. Instead, a red glow enveloped Arian, seemingly enabling him to stay on his feet.
"...What the hell?" Hinnerk angrily remarked. "You little mutt…How are you still standing?" He attacked him again, but the same result occurred; Arian still stood.
"What?" Lillian said, just as astonished at the sight. "Is that…Endure?"
"Look at 'im," Ishmael remarked. "He's held back that bastard's attack like it was nothin'…Good on 'im. Keep it up, Arian!"
Arian didn't hear the Krokorok's words of encouragement. In truth, most of his will was going toward staying conscious. He could taste blood in his throat, his heart was beating out of his chest and he was barely hanging in there. Adrenaline, along with his usage of Endure, was the only thing keeping him going.
I have to make a difference with this,
he then thought to himself. I can heal up afterwards. Hinnerk's right in front of me, and distracted by anger. …I have to make this count.
He charged a Force Palm, despite his body's protests, and summoned all of his strength to slam Hinnerk as hard as he could in the stomach.
"Agh! You little shit!"
And luckily, it worked in knocking Hinnerk back and dealing a blow to him.
In fact, it was even better than that. The Obstagoon seemed to struggle in his movements, which only stoked his ire all the greater.
"…Paralysing me with fucking Force Palm?" seethed Hinnerk. "Grrragh! You're really asking for it now, you mangy brat!" He tried to lunge forward to attack him again, but the paralysis stopped him in his tracks, and he found it gripped him too much for him to go any further.
"You paralysed him! Brilliant!" Lillian praised. "That should make things easier. Good job, Arian!"
"...Thanks," a faint Arian breathed.
Elvira noticed his weary tone and beat-up look. "Here," she said, handing the bag to him. "There's one more oran berry in there. You have it, Arian. You look like you're about to keel over."
"Only one?" Arian dug into the bag and saw that indeed, only one oran berry remained. "...Shouldn't we conserve?"
"And leave you like this?" Elvira shook her head in denial. "I can't do that to my mercenary partner. Besides, it's like I said earlier; the sooner we finish this, the better. The sooner we defeat Hinnerk…the sooner our shortage of items won't be a problem." She peered in. "...I really should've gotten more. But there's no time to worry about that now. We need to focus on defeating Hinnerk. And thanks to you…we might just be on the home stretch."
"...Yeah. Let's finish this, here and now," Arian said, confidently and with determination.
"You heard them, boys," Lillian called out to them. "Be on standby, but…I think they'll be just fine on their own."
"Yeah! You can do it, you two!" called Axel.
"Beat 'is face in!" rallied Ishmael. "Don't give 'im any chances! Remember - yer the predators, 'e's the prey!"
The encouraging words from Team Sandstream only added confidence to what was now a blazing fire of resolve. Each readied attacks - Arian with Force Palm, and Elvira with Mega Drain.
Both unleashed their attacks. Hinnerk, still hampered by paralysis, could do little to counter their attacks. Elvira's attacks were still weak, but it was Arian's Force Palms that were beginning to take their toll. And in his weakened state, that was dangerous. He tried to use Night Slash on Elvira, but a Detect from her saw her evade the attack, much to his great annoyance.
Such annoying tricksters! …Am I really going to lose to the likes of them?
He looked across at them. …What are they up to now?
Elvira took another seed out of their bag, and ate it
"I forgot that we had two violent seeds," she said to Arian, as she felt the same burst of energy Arian felt earlier. "I really must keep track of the items we pick up in dungeons."
What? A violent seed? Shit…
"We should. But we'll put that aside for now. For now…let's finish him," Arian replied.
"Agreed. Let's do it. Together."
Arian charged a Force Palm. Elvira readied a Leafage.
They charged forward. Hinnerk saw their approach and tried to resist with an Obstruct, but once again, the paralysis from Arian's earlier Force Palm deterred him from moving.
Both attacks connected. The combination of Arian's Force Palm and a powered-up Leafage from Elvira proved to be the attack that decided it all, and the answer to Hinnerk's earlier question.
Was he going to lose to the likes of them?
…Yes, he was.
The resulting attack slugged Hinnerk enough to stagger him, and brought him to the ground. Covered in wounds and blows, the Obstagoon tried to get on his feet, but was unable to find the strength to do so.
Arian looked at the sight before him, stunned and hopeful. Did we do it?
he thought. Did we...actually win?
"Did we do it? Did we...actually win?" Elvira asked, echoing her partner's thoughts. "Did we defeat the Boss of the Thorned Roses?"
"...Nrrgh...Defeated?" Hinnerk's words were disbelieving. "...No...Not by her...Not by that wench...How did I not only lose to that son of a bitch, but his spawn? ...How? I'm the leader of the Thorned Roses!"
"From the moment you set out on the course of evil, you were always destined to one day fall to the right and just," Elvira said to him.
"Shut up!" snarled the Obstagoon. "Don't the likes of you ever shut up?! You and your father are the bane of my existence! Just like him, you've brought me and my high life to ruin, you little wretch!"
"You're no victim, Hinnerk." Elvira continued in her reprimand. "You robbed the livelihoods of the people of Ozerograd. You were the worst kind of leader, and you paid the price for it."
"That's right." Arian took over. "It's about time you fell. Now Ozerograd can look to a brighter future."
"...Grrr…" Hinnerk growled. Blue and green...blue and green...it's just like
them. Images of a Sceptile and Swampert duo flashed through his mind. It's exactly like then...I was defeated by them, and they lectured me about justice and crime and all that shit. But at least they were competent mercenaries. These two are mere whelps! A Treecko with her head in the clouds and a green-eyed freak of a Riolu! How could I have lost to them…?
"Bringing hope to those who don't have any, and helping those who need help the most," the Riolu continued. "That's what we stand for, Elvira and I."
Our team name...It's about time to reveal it.
He thought back to just before the duel with Hinnerk. That's what she was whispering to me about. She told me the name, and when we'd defeat him was when we would reveal it. ...It's a good name. I like it very much.
He turned to Elvira, and gave a slight nod to her. Say it, Elvira.
The Treecko understood what her partner meant. "That is our creed," she began. "A basic creed for any mercenary team. We will honour it fully, the two of us, as we go forward." She paused briefly, to build up to the reveal and to consider how to unveil it. Eventually, she decided to go with the straightforward approach.
"Our name...is Team Elpis," Elvira announced. "Remember it well, for that is the team that brought an end to your tyrannical reign over Ozerograd."
"That's right. Take us lightly at your peril." Arian took over, and held his left paw out to Elvira. She responded by placing her right hand on top of it, in a gesture of unity. "Never underestimate the likes of Team Elpis again."
"..." Hinnerk had no words for them. Only a snarl escaped his lips, still infuriated by his loss to the two of them.
Both members of the newly-named Team Elpis took a breath after their proclamation. Not long after this, they heard a clapping noise come from behind them. Looking back, they saw all three members of Team Sandstream give them a round of applause.
"Good show, mates!" praised Ishmael. "Pretty good dressin' down ya gave 'im. I love it when someone does that."
"You guys did amazing!" praised Axel. "Taking down the Thorned Roses' boss...That's no small feat, and yet you guys pulled it off!"
"Well...not us alone," Arian pointed out. "We never would have won if you never stepped in, or if Lillian never helped us."
"True. But you were the one who laid down the gauntlet, Elvira," Lillian returned. "I confess...back then, when those Thorned Roses cornered us, I didn't see any chance of a victory. But if you hadn't come up with that clever wording of calling Hinnerk weak, then our plans would've never gotten off the ground. So, really, most of the credit should go to you two."
"...I guess…" relented Elvira. "Still, we couldn't have done it without you."
"Maybe it's the time to start building up a friendship with you two, eh?" Lillian proposed, before another thought struck her. "Team Elpis...Interesting name. What's the inspiration?"
"Well...it's from an old Miletan myth I read about once. Elpis is a symbol of hope in it," explained Elvira. "When we were thinking of names, you suggested that we stick to a team of hope, Arian. Then the name 'Elpis' came to mind just as we confronted Hinnerk, and I rather liked it."
"It's a good name," Arian complimented. "Plus, it's also great symbolism. A symbol of hope in a land that doesn't have much of it. I mean, this whole thing in Ozerograd is just one part of all the misery in Selenia, isn't it?"
"Yer right there," Ishmael answered, a slight huff to his reply. "Sucks to say it, but this 'ole shebang wiv' 'im's just a piece of this 'ole mess that Selenia's in. We can't be cocky 'bout this win, us lot. We 'ave to make it mean somefin'."
"Still, a win's a win," Axel replied. "...But, um. First, before we get to celebrating." He pointed a pincer at Hinnerk. "What'll we do with him?"
"I say we tie him up with rope and lock him up," Lillian said. "There are cells in town to do that with."
"Good idea," Ishmael said. "There's bound to be some rope 'round here we can use. There's some over there, look." He went over to an anchoring post, where some rope lay. Thankfully, no boat was attached to it, removing any potential future inconveniences.
At this point, Arian noticed another issue. "What about them?" he said, pointing to the group of Thorned Roses, still frozen from the Petrify Orb.
"Oh. Them," Ishmael realised. "...Deal wiv 'em later. Gotta deal wiv this scumbag first. We can deal wiv 'is lackeys after." He brandished the rope as he walked towards Hinnerk. "Now come along, ya brute. We don't want any trouble!"
"Piss off!" the Obstagoon spat. "You're not locking me up! I won't accept this!" He tried to make a move to get back up, but Lillian quickly moved to pin him down, as did Arian.
"Oh no, you don't," the former denied. "You lost, plain and simple. Now stop being such a sore loser and submit! ...Help me with him, Arian," she requested, trying to put his arms behind his back so Ishmael could be in the position to tie him up. Hinnerk struggled, swore and hurled insults at the five, but it was no good. He didn't have the power to push them away.
Eventually, the knot was firmly tied, and doubly so as a precaution (Elvira pointed out that someone as crafty as Hinnerk might know how to break free from such a knot, and Ishmael saw her point).
"Right," the Krokorok declared, once the knot had been tied. "Now then - " But before he could continue, he was rudely interrupted.
"Hold it right there."
The quintet froze. They knew that voice all too well. And for Arian and Elvira, a chill crept down each of their spines.
Not him...Why now?
"How sickening," Mikhail's voice drawled. "You make your moves with such confidence, and speak of such lofty dreams. It's loathsome."
All looked over to see the Seviper by the edge of the pier. But to their horror, he was not the only one present. Along with him...were the captured Flora and Tamara, still bound and eyes wide with fear. His coils were wrapped around them.
"Flora! Tamara!" Elvira cried out.
"You asshole!" Axel raged. "Where have you been hiding?!"
"Let go of her!" demanded Arian. "Let go of them right now!"
"...In a way, though," Mikhail continued, ignoring the cries of protest from the group. "It's quite fun to hear someone speak so loftily of their dreams. ...Because it makes it all the more satisfying to bring those dreams crashing down to reality. Especially when it's the hero's actions that cause it."
"What do you mean?" Lillian demanded.
"Your smoke bombs allowed me to take cover and find a hiding place," the Seviper elaborated, a devious grin on his face. "That was your doing. And because of that…the lives of these will be snuffed like a candlelight."
His coils tightened around Flora and Tamara. In reaction to this, Hinnerk let out an evil laugh.
"Yes…" he grinned, despite his pinned down state. "Kill them, Mikhail! Make them suffer! Destroy the wills of these upstarts!"
"As you wish," obliged Mikhail.
"Don't you dare!" shouted Lillian. "Don't you even consider it!" She began to run for him. But in doing so, she left her place where she had Hinnerk pinned. The Obstagoon, seeing a chance, tried to take advantage of this. However, Axel saw this, and moved in accordingly.
"No, you don't! Stay down!" he ordered, taking Lillian's place.
The Sandslash's move was also a mistake in another way. Mikhail moved his blade-like tail to Tamara's throat in response to her run.
"One more step," he threatened. "And I'll send her straight to hell."
Lillian stopped in her tracks.
"Good. Like an obedient lackey. Like you should have been all along, you turncoat."
"Damn you, Mikhail!" blasted the Sandslash. "Taking hostage of an innocent soul like this one...How can you be so remorseless?"
"You wouldn't know. And you never will," the Seviper replied. "I am who I am. But for mercenaries like you, I am the ideal prey. However, I am well familiar with games of predator and prey, and the Thorned Roses will not become prey for the likes of you!"
He held his tail closer to Tamara's neck, which made the Electric-type's fear spike. She tried to beg him to stop, but her voice was muffled by the gag.
"How about I prove that, here and now?"
Mikhail's words were understood by his foes, who all reacted in a similar way.
"Wait! Don't!" Axel called out, suddenly panicked.
"Mik!" a furious Ishmael raged. "I'll rip ya to shreds!"
"Let go of her!" Lillian demanded, ready to break into a run once more, even though the chances of getting to Tamara before Mikhail did away with her were extremely slim, at best.
"No! This can't be happening!" Elvira yelled. "Flora! Tamara!"
"No...It can't be…" Arian mumbled. "Not when we were so close…"
He could feel his vision begin to blur, and his hearing become fuzzy and unresponsive to the outside world. One thought permeated his mind.
I failed you, Tamara.
Then, something unusual happened. Along with this thought, another voice seemed to ring in his head.
"I-I've failed everyone...Everyone's dead because I was too weak. All I could do was watch them die…Why?! Why couldn't I do anything?!"
It sounded somewhat distant. But the voice also sounded anguished and tearful, as if a great loss had affected them.
What was that?
Arian wondered. What did I just hear? What was that voice?
His head was full of questions regarding this sudden occurrence to him. It also struck fear into him, hearing this voice speak their words with such angst and sorrow.
However, he had little time to dwell on such thoughts, when he was snapped back to the outside world by what was going on.
Mikhail was ready and poised to kill Flora and Tamara. It seemed inevitable he would succeed in this, and they would breathe her last.
"Time to die."
He tightened his coils and raised his tail, ready to end their lives…
"I wouldn't try it, Seviper!"
Suddenly, a new voice pierced through the air. And before Mikhail could react, he suddenly became on the receiving end of a Mud Bomb.
"Agh! What in blazes?!" the snake seethed, covered in mud. On top of that, the surprise attack caused him to loosen his hold on the girls. "Who dares to attack me?!"
"Mud Bomb? And that voice..." Elvira's eyes widened in realisation. "Could it be...?"
The Treecko's hopes were confirmed in the next few moments. From the water behind the pier, a blue shape suddenly leapt out of the water and tackled Mikhail, managing to completely wrestle his control of Flora and Tamara free.
"Dear oh dear," the new arrival said, its voice a distinct masculine one. "I can't have you ruin everything at the last minute. Not after they all pulled off a splendid victory against Hinnerk. And killing not one, but two of Elvira's childhood friends? How despicable."
He had Mikhail pinned, and the snake squirmed angrily, trying to escape his grip. At one point, though, the Seviper was able to turn his head around and look at who was restraining him. Upon seeing him, though, he froze.
This was someone who Hinnerk had warned him about on a number of occasions through the Thorned Roses' reign. Someone who the Obstagoon had frequently ranted about and would be all too glad to dispose of himself.
Mikhail found himself looking into the eyes of a glaring Swampert.
"The likes of you can't be reasoned with. And the same can be said of your boss." He looked over at the group pinning Hinnerk down, with his gaze lingering on Elvira for a second longer than anyone else. But he then turned to Hinnerk, whose fury only intensified as they locked eyes.
"You!" the Thorned Roses' leader snarled. "Mud Bomber Melchior of Team Marshwood! How dare you show your face here!"
"Melchior of Team...?" Arian cocked his head, before remembering. "Oh, of course! Your dad's partner!" he exclaimed, turning to Elvira.
"Yup. That's our Chief, alright," Ishmael declared proudly. "Melchior outta Team Marshwood. Ya really can't do much better than 'im."
"Melchior…" Elvira was awestruck, and relieved. "So you were the Chief all along…"
"But hang on a minute," Arian then spoke up, slightly confused. "I thought - " However, before he could voice his thoughts, Hinnerk's voice cut through his own.
"Melchior!" he raged. "You son of a bitch! Once again, thanks to your meddling, my good life lies in ruin once again!"
"Meddling?" Melchior shook his head. "I did nothing of the sort." As he spoke, he kept one hand on the squirming Mikhail, and the other worked to untie the binds and gags on Flora and Tamara. "I didn't plan to have you taken down so easily. And I especially didn't plan on entrusting that task to Elvira and Arian over there." He nodded to the Riolu in acknowledgment, and the latter felt a slight sense of pride run through him.
Is this what it's like to be recognised as worthy by a hero? ...Thanks, Melchior. I appreciate it.
"But with aid from Team Sandstream, they managed to win the day against you. Even I can't say I saw that coming. The only time I had to jump in was just there, when Elvira's friends were in great peril." Melchior's hand had undone Flora and Tamara's gags and now undid the ropes binding them. Then, in an expert flourish, he used those same ropes to tie Mikhail's midsection to a nearby anchoring point. The Seviper hissed and growled and squirmed, but it did him no good. With that nuisance dealt with, Melchior strode forward towards the group with Flora and Tamara close behind him.
"I masterminded nothing, Hinnerk. All I did was get Lillian to guide Elvira and Arian through Ozerograd to meet me. They defeated you on their own, without my help. Serendipity, eh?" He gave a quick approving nod to Elvira, before turning back to Hinnerk. "Your downfall had nothing to do with me."
"What a load of shit!" the Obstagoon spat. "You gave these traitors an elaborate plan! You set them up to foil my trap!"
"No, he didn't," Axel denied. "That whole thing about freezing those guys in place with the petrify orb was all our plan. The Chief had nothing to do with it."
"Yup, that's the truth," Ishmael seconded. "Hmm…'s like if ya give yer lackeys room to plan, it'll be better than leavin' yer thinkin' to the bigwigs." He gestured to Mikhail and Hinnerk's tied-up states. "Look where that's got ya now, ya tyrant. Not so tip-top now, are ya?"
"Grrr…" Hinnerk seethed. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!
You're just like that smug prick you call a father!" he yelled at Elvira. "The way you follow in his footsteps, the way you talk, the way you as a mercenary look at yourself like you're the centre of the world...It's every bit like that man! That man that ruined the good life I had back then!"
"Sounds like butthurt feelings to me," mocked Arian.
" Hinnerk directed his next words at the Riolu. "You little nobody...You green-eyed freak of a Riolu! Who are you
to waltz into my town with her
of all people as a partner? You're trying to create a second Team Marshwood, are you? You're just another upstart hopeful who thinks the world revolves around you! An attitude that seems to come a dime a dozen with you mercenary types!"
"You really don't look in the mirror often, do you?" the human replied, trying to emulate the dryness of Flora's tongue in his own. His hypocrisy is something else…
"And then there's you, Melchior," Hinnerk snarled. "You and Kallias fostered this mercenary-loving attitude in this bitch right here! You talk shit about not being involved - some liar you are! You're one to talk, anyway! Just like how I bet you did something shady with Kallias!"
"What?" The mention of her father drew Elvira's attention.
"I beg your pardon?" Melchior seemed to become rigid at these words.
"Strewth, shaddap, will ya?" Ishmael fired back. "Gettin' tired of 'im, Chief. If I gotta listen to 'is shit all the way back to town, I might just close his trap myself. Wiv' me bare claws," he added, giving the Obstagoon a threatening glare.
"Not now, Ishmael," Melchior insisted. "What are you saying about my partner, Hinnerk?"
"It's interesting that Kallias isn't here," noted the Obstagoon. "What do you have to say to that, Melchior? Everyone's clamouring for the truth, and who better to hear it from than his partner himself? So go on, tell us! The fuck happened to Kallias?"
"That's…" Melchior seemed to falter at this question. Hinnerk grinned at this, while doubt began to fester in Elvira's heart.
"Melchior?" she asked. "Do you know what happened to Dad?"
"Of course he does," Hinnerk butted in. "But he'll never tell you. After all, he was always jealous of Kallias. Weren't you?"
"You think I was jealous
?" Melchior couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Yes! I bet you offed him during the five years you've been gone!" insinuated the raccoon. "And now you can come forward as a standalone hero and hog all the glory for yourself!"
"Be quiet," Melchior demanded.
"It'd be the best way to rope in that rat's spawn, too," Hinnerk went on. "Explain it away as an accident or some shit, and she'll eat it up because you're a good, honest man who can never lie. That's what the whole fucking world sees you as!"
"Shut up." Melchior's demand was more emphatic this time.
"Or better yet, how about overthrowing Mitt and putting yourself
on that throne?" Hinnerk's theories went on. "That would be the place everyone would want you to be at. You already have supporters! They'd worship you like a god! And it starts here in Ozerograd, by kicking me and the Thorned Roses out of here! So this is where it all begins, you power-hungry - "
Melchior's outburst silenced Hinnerk, and came as a shock to everyone else. Judging by the looks on everyone's faces, Arian could tell this was out of character for the mudfish.
"Stand aside, would you all?" Melchior's tone was quiet, and furious. Elvira, Arian, Axel and Ishmael all did so. "Thank you."
"Hah. Look at you," scoffed Hinnerk. "Servants who obey your every order...You and I - "
"We're nothing alike," Melchior cut off. Fury laced his every word. "Don't you compare yourself to me. A battle of morals, a battle between each other, and now a battle of followers - you've lost all three with me. There is no equal when it comes to us. None whatsoever!"
And with that, the Swampert let loose a blow to Hinnerk's neck. The Obstagoon was seething with ire one moment; the next, he was silent in unconsciousness.
"Finally, 'e shuts 'is trap," Ishmael remarked, relieved. "I was finkin' 'e was never gonna shut up. Good on ya, Chief."
"It's all I can do. He's not the kind of person that will come quietly." Melchior shook his head, "He always was rotten. Even back when he worked for the Guild."
"Wait! Hold on a minute!" Arian interrupted. "He worked for the Guild?" He looked incredulously at the unconscious Obstagoon. "Him?"
"Yes, surprisingly enough," Melchior replied. "But he wasn't a compassionate worker. He was only in the job for the money, and didn't care for his clients as a mercenary should. He was troublesome to work with and always resented the success of others. Obviously, because of his attitude, he never reached far up in the ranks, and far preferred to remain jealous rather than clean up his own act."
"So not a good person at all, then," Arian summarised. "But what's all this about a smuggling ring and a plot?"
That drew a sigh from Melchior. "Seven years ago, we discovered that Hinnerk was dealing in smuggling, and was earning considerable money for it. The people he was dealing with also had a shady plot, which if successful would've destabilised Selenia as we knew it. Kallias and I eventually confronted him, overpowered him, and sent him to be put on trial, where he was then put behind bars."
"But why is he not behind bars now?" Arian wondered. "Did he escape?"
"Seemingly," the Swampert replied. "When Tsar Kliment was killed by Mitrofan, there was a great upheaval in the capital, and chaos enveloped the city. Hinnerk, locked up in Iria's dungeons, must have used that chaos to his advantage and took the opportunity to leg it. Apparently, a number of other convicts escaped with him. No doubt a lot of them helped him form the Thorned Roses in the end. People like him." He looked over at Mikhail. "Despicable people. Some outlaws are capable of being reformed, but...he and Hinnerk are beyond reason."
"Speaking about that, Chief," Axel brought up. "What are we gonna do about them?"
"I told you already, Axel. There are jail cells in town," Lillian reminded. "We can keep them there."
"Good thing you studied the town well before we came to this point," praised Melchior. "You're able spies, all of you. You were certainly the right ones to entrust the infiltration to."
"Aw, thanks, Chief," Ishmael replied. "Anythin' to help ya. ...Oh, but, er, somethin' else." He pointed to Arian and Elvira. "Haven't ya a pair to meet?"
"Yes. Yes, I do." Melchior turned his attention to Elvira. "Sorry about all that, Elvira. I didn't mean to keep you waiting."
"It's alright, Melchior," Elvira dismissed. "We had to go through all this first. There were more important things to deal with." There was a brief pause. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"It has, indeed," the Swampert acknowledged. "Five whole years. I would've come by, but I had to go into hiding, to avoid detection from Mitrofan. And for my own sake..."
"...As long as you're safe. Mom and I were quite worried about you. After Dad had mysteriously disappeared, we thought you might have met the same fate. Thank the Creator you're alright."
"How is Zenobia?" Melchior asked.
"She's fine. But she broke her leg a few weeks ago. So I've been looking after her recently," Elvira replied.
"Oh dear, I hope she gets better soon," Melchior wished.
"Yeah. Thankfully, my friends Flora and Tamara offered to help look after her while Arian and I went out doing mercenary work," the Treecko informed. Then, the mention of her friends made her remember them. "Flora! Tamara! Are you both okay?"
"...A few cuts and bruises," the former admitted.
"But we're fine," Tamara replied. "We nearly weren't fine, but you beat down Hinnerk, and then you saved us," she said, directing the last statement at Melchior. "Thanks so much. I really did think I was gonna die…"
"Or be carted off," Flora mentioned. "Sacrificed, like what Mikhail was saying."
"Sacrificed?" Melchior queried.
"Oh yeah. Somefin' Mik was goin' on 'bout," Ishmael answered. "'Swot 'e called the folks that went poof. Sacrifices."
"It sounds sinister," Axel replied. "What do you think he means by 'sacrifices'?"
"Nothing good, that's for sure," Melchior responded. "We'll get to the bottom of this once we clear out the Thorned Roses. To think, this happened where Elvira grew up…" He shook his head in what seemed like self-admonishment.
"Hey…Chief?" Axel queried. "How do you and Elvira know each other?"
"Ah yes. Elvira and I go back," Melchior said. "Besides being a famous mercenary, my partner Fernblade Kallias was also a loving husband, and a father to an only child. She stands before you right now." He gestured to the Treecko. "Elvira is none other than Kallias's daughter."
Ishmael and Axel cried in unison.
"...I thought that might have been the case," Lillian murmured, a stunned expression on her face. "But I thought that couldn't be right, that this random Treecko - no offence, Elvira - could really be related to the
Fernblade Kallias. Funny, how the far-out guess was the correct one…"
"I've another question," Axel piped up once again. "What about Arian?"
"Arian? I haven't met him before today," Melchior replied, taking a closer look at the Riolu. "...Hm. Green eyes…how unusual. I'd like to hear the story of how you and Elvira met. But that's for another time. For now…we have quite a bit to get done here before we can rest easy." His gaze was directed at the petrified Thorned Roses. "Stand back, everyone. We must deal with them first."
Melchior then unleashed a wave of Muddy Water towards the six petrified Thorned Roses, in order to snap them out of their frozen state. Realising what this implied, Arian and Elvira both braced themselves for a fight.
"Argh! Muddy Water? Who the hell would - " one of the Thorned Roses said, before breaking off once they saw who was in front of them.
"A Swampert?" the Electabuzz from before observed, before his eyes went wide with horror. "N-No…it can't be!"
"Your boss has been defeated," Melchior announced to them. "Hinnerk has fallen to us. And with his defeat goes your last vestiges of control in this town."
"The Boss was defeated?" the Umbreon from before said, aghast, before his eyes laid upon the Obstagoon's unconscious form, surrounded by Teams Elpis and Sandstream. "No…No way…"
"No! This can't be happening!" the Golbat cried. "The Boss is the strongest of us all…How could he have lost? …You'll pay for this, you asshole!"
"You idiot!" chastised the Umbreon. "Do you realise who you're talking to? Even the Boss can't stand up to someone like him!"
"Him?" The Golbat did a double take, before gasping in alarm. "A Swampert…Is it really…?"
"M-M-M-M-Mud Bomber Melchior!" another Thorned Rose, a Zangoose, yelled in terror.
"There's no way…There's no way we can beat someone like him!" the Electabuzz protested. "Team Marshwood…They're practically invincible! Even one of them's way too strong for us!"
"That's quite right," Melchior replied. "So if you all know what's good for you, you'll dismantle the Thorned Roses and free the people of Ozerograd from your tyranny."
"You will not demand such things of us!" hissed Mikhail from where he was tied up. "The Thorned Roses will not fall because of you, Mud Bomber Melchior!"
"...Yeah!" seconded the Primeape from before,. "You're not stopping us from this, even if you are some hero! Come on, guys!" he beckoned to his comrades. "Let's kill him for what he did to the Boss!"
"Strength in numbers," said the Electabuzz. "If all six of us rush him together…then we might have a chance."
"Let's do it! Let's kick his ass!" shouted the Fraxure.
"You all want to challenge me?" Melchior said. "Very well. Bring it on!" He punched his fists together. "It's been a while since I've had a good challenge. Will you have what it takes?"
"Six on one?" Arian observed with slight worry, analysing the situation. "Can he do it?"
"Can 'e do it?" Ishmael said, with a light scoff. "'E's the Chief, mate! We wouldn't respect 'im if 'e was a wuss."
"You don't have anything to worry about, Arian," reassured Elvira. The Riolu was surprised to see not a hint of worry in her expression. "My dad and Melchior wouldn't have gotten to Grandmaster Rank if they didn't have anything to show for it. Even alone, Melchior's more than capable of handling these goons. Just watch."
"If you say so…" Arian replied, still slightly nervous.
The Primeape was the first one to launch himself at Melchior. His arms were crossed, and energy lit up his hands, indicating he was going to use Cross Chop. The Swampert watched carefully, not moving a muscle.
Much to Arian's surprise, Melchior never dodged out of the way. The Primeape's hit landed, and the Swampert took it. There was no massive knockback, though; he stood his ground firmly.
"A good hit," he commended. "But all you did was fuel my attack."
His right fist then curled around and slugged the Primeape across his form. The monkey had no time to react before Melchior's move sent him flying. He landed face-first in the cobblestones, and was subsequently knocked unconscious.
"Whoa! What was that?" Arian asked, amazed by the sight before him.
"Counter," Elvira informed him. "It returns the damage dealt to whoever uses it right back at their attacker. Melchior's a great user of it. It's been very useful for him and Dad in the past."
"I see…" the human murmured. So Melchior has moves like that at his disposal. …Maybe Elvira's right. We really don't have anything to worry about, if he's that strong.
"Th-That's…" The Electabuzz faltered briefly, but steeled himself. "You might be strong against one of us. But you can't take on five of us at once! Everyone! Let's beat his skull in and let him know just who he's dealing with!"
The group of five Thorned Roses, consisting of an Electabuzz, an Umbreon, a Fraxure, a Golbat and a Zangoose, charged at the Swampert, each with their own moves charged and ready. Again, Melchior seemed to do nothing, right up until the moment that they were about to strike.
Then, suddenly, he threw a Mud Bomb in front of his foes. Due to their close proximity, the mud succeeded in blinding them all for a moment.
"Agh!" cried out the Electabuzz, wiping mud from his eyes. "Wait a minute…What? Where's he gone to?"
In an instant, Melchior had disappeared. However, it was obvious how he had vanished, as a tunnel was visible where he once stood.
"He used Dig!" the Golbat yelled. "That coward! He's hiding from us!"
"He's under us!" the Zangoose cried out fearfully. "Careful, everyone! He could strike at any moment!"
'Any moment' turned out to not be long at all. Before any of them could react, Melchior suddenly emerged from the ground and struck the Electabuzz with an outstretched fist. The Electric-type cried in pain, before falling onto the ground, unconscious.
"Give it up," Melchior said to the Thorned Roses. "You have no chance."
"That's what you think!" the Golbat returned. "Take this!" He flew towards Melchior, with a Poison Fang ready to sink into him. Meanwhile, at the same time, the other three charged at the Swampert for another go.
Once again, Melchior waited for a good chance to attack. He waited until the Golbat swooped low enough and the three came close enough, before unleashing a wave of Muddy Water upon the four Thorned Roses. It succeeded in covering all four of them in wet, grimy mud.
"Urgh!" groaned the Fraxure feeling the mud cling to his scales. "I hate all this mud…"
"What? I'm not called Mud Bomber Melchior for nothing," the Swampert replied. "Mud is my speciality. Have some more!" He then threw another Mud Bomb, this time aiming it at the Umbreon. "And there's plenty more where that came from!"
More Mud Bombs were thrown, and very quickly, Arian could see the reason for his namesake - the sheer amount of times he used the move. But his throwing arm was superb, and just about every throw hit his opponents square on. Not to mention, he was skilfully resisting every attack that was thrown his way, and parrying seemed like second-nature to him.
With that kind of skill…it's easy to see why he's called a hero.
The Mud Bombs whittled away at the foes on the ground. Meanwhile, Melchior's Muddy Water made quick work of the Golbat, and soon he was downed, as well. The Swampert pressed home his advantage, and before long, made quick work of the Fraxure. And despite the Umbreon's natural hardiness, he couldn't resist Melchior's attacks forever, and before long, he was sent into unconsciousness as well.
There was only one Thorned Rose left: the Zangoose. His fur was caked in wet mud, and fear was written all over his face as he looked at his fallen comrades. His gaze was then drawn to Melchior's, and he squeaked at the hardened look the mudfish gave him.
"I-I surrender!" he yelled in panic. "Please don't hurt me! Please! I won't fight back! I promise!"
"...Do you swear?" Melchior asked him.
"I swear!" The Zangoose lowered his head in defeated submission. "I won't fight back! I won't! Please believe me…"
Melchior went silent, as he considered the mongoose's words.
"...Very well. I accept your surrender," he said. "But do something first."
"What is it?" the Zangoose meekly asked.
"Return to the new town and tell your comrades of what happened here," Melchior requested. "Tell them to disperse and flee the town. If they don't, then they will face the full wrath of Mud Bomber Melchior. You saw how effortlessly I swept aside these five. And I still have plenty of energy to expend in defeating your comrades, one by one if I must. Do you understand, Zangoose?"
"I-I do," the Cat Ferret Pokémon replied, quivering like a leaf.
"Then go. If the Thorned Roses aren't out of town by the time I get up there, then there will be hell to pay. Got it?"
"Y-Y-Yes!" the Zangoose cried, and within seconds, had turned around and ran for it, through the old town and back up to the new one.
When he had disappeared from sight, Melchior let out a sigh.
"I must admit that I never was one for the limelight," he said. "But it does have its perks. Being known across Ardalion as a bane of criminals would make a number of them shiver in their boots. …I do hope this works."
"Course it will!" Ishmael replied. "Ya don't give yerself enough credit, Chief. The sight of ya'd make any ol' crim run for the 'ills. Like that Zang there."
"Hmm…" Lillian, however, didn't seem to be as upbeat as Ishmael.
"Something up, Lillian?" Axel asked.
"Oh, it's just…I know that Zangoose," the Sandslash answered. "His name's Yuri, and I've been paired with him a few times. He's actually tolerable, compared to some of the people in the Thorned Roses. …Guess I just felt a bit sorry for the guy, being on the receiving end of your speech, Chief."
"Yeah…I never realised you could be so fearsome, Melchior," Elvira said. "You were always so polite around me and Mom when you and Dad would visit. I had no idea you could make someone quiver in fear like that Zangoose."
"It can't be helped," the Swampert replied. "Sometimes, to put down a gang like the Thorned Roses, you must use their own tactics against them. But given the intimidation the Thorned Roses gave to the townsfolk of Ozerograd, sometimes it's satisfying to give them a taste of their own medicine. …Kallias would've loved it."
"That reminds me," Elvira spoke up. "Melchior…you and Dad went into hiding together five years ago. But why is it only you here?" She looked around, trying to find signs of her Sceptile father. "Where is he? Where's my dad?"
Melchior seemed to grow tense at those words. It was at this moment that Arian noticed a change in his emotions.
Is that fear I sense in him? And…shame?
"Well…I…" The Swampert seemed to stall in answering the question. This did not go unnoticed by Elvira, whose own expression turned into one of worry.
"...Melchior? Did something happen to him?"
"..." Still no answer. It was perhaps lucky for him that the group's attention was soon diverted by the voices of the townsfolk.
"It's him! It's really him!"
"Mud Bomber Melchior's alive! Can you believe it?"
"Team Marshwood has returned to us!"
"O Creator, bless our souls, there's hope! There's hope at last for all of us!"
A small crowd of townsfolk were making their way to the pier's entrance. Seeing them, Melchior turned to Elvira.
"There is much to talk about," he said to her. "But now's not the time." He turned back to the crowd, who had all of their eyes on Melchior, with amazement and admiration dotting the gaze of all that were there.
"I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a Swampert enter town earlier," a middle-aged Kricketune near the front of the crowd remarked. "To think it's actually Mud Bomber Melchior in the flesh..."
"Where have you been all this time?" wondered a Quagsire.
"I'm sure you all have many questions," Melchior said to the gathered audience. "I will answer them in due time. But for now, the pressing task remains ousting the Thorned Roses from this town. We must act now, and leave those questions for later."
"Yeah, sure. We'll even help you shoo 'em out of town!" volunteered a Crawdaunt. "Even if there's some bad blood with the new town folk, the Thorned Roses are both our problems. They're a nasty bunch, kickin' us out of our own houses and bein' a great nuisance. We'd be happy to help you, Mud Bomber Melchior. …Oh, and you folks too," he added, acknowledging Teams Elpis and Sandstream. "Thanks to you, that blackheart Hinnerk was defeated. An impressive feat for youngsters like yourselves."
"Doin' wot mercs do, mate," Ishmael replied. "Folks like these two tossers 'ere - " He pointed to Hinnerk and Mikhail. " - They've 'ad long enough in the sun. Let's 'ave someone new, who ain't gonna fuck anyfin' up."
"Indeed, Ishmael. You need not wait much longer for freedom," Melchior assured the townspeople. "They'll be out of here by sundown. And if you're all willing to help, we might finish it sooner than that." He then turned to his fellow mercenaries. "You five. Take Hinnerk and bring him up to the jail cells in town."
"Got it," Axel obliged.
"Good. I'll take Mikhail." Melchior marched over to where the snake was tied up.
"You…" hissed the snake. "Mud Bomber Melchior, mark my words! This isn't over! Not for one minute! You and your band of mercenaries, and especially you, Arian and Elvira…I won't stop until I see you both dead in the dirt! You'll live to regret this! The Thorned Roses will not be forgotten! You'll - "
"Oh, put a sock in it, ya piece of shit!" Ishmael interrupted. "Axel! Give me the bag."
"Okay," agreed the Gligar. "Why do you want it?"
"This," the Krokorok declared, pulling out a seed. "This oughta shut ya up, ya scalebag." He walked towards the Seviper.
"You won't!" Mikhail yelled, struggling against his binds. "You bastard! How dare you do this to me?! You - "
Ishmael threw the seed into his mouth. By accident, the Seviper bit into it, and within a few seconds, he had succumbed to unconsciousness.
"There," the sand crocodile said in relief. "Now shush, like yer boss."
"What was that? What did you use?" Arian asked, confused as to what exactly happened.
"Sleep seed," Ishmael answered. "Eat one, and ya'll be out like a light. Good for shutting the lot like 'im up. …Ya never seen one 'fore?"
"Um…no," Arian replied truthfully. After saying this, he feared that this would prompt questions about his amnesia, and braced himself. But luckily, Elvira stepped in before Ishmael could respond.
"There are more pressing matters to attend to," she told them. "Let's attend to those before we bombard each other with questions."
"I get ya," Ishmael replied in understanding. "Questions later, just like wiv the Chief."
"Let's get going. Hopefully the Thorned Roses have got the message by now," Melchior announced. "And if they don't…then we shall bring the fight to them." He looked at his fellow mercenaries, all of whom gave nods of approval. After untying the slumbering Mikhail, Melchior led the congregation through Ozerograd Quay and up to the new town.
Near to the front were Teams Elpis and Sandstream, carrying Hinnerk between them. As they walked, one member's thoughts drifted to the earlier exchange between Elvira and Melchior, before the crowd showed up.
What could that be all about?
Arian wondered. Could Melchior be hiding something? I don't want to think bad of him, but…there's definitely more to this than meets the eye.
And once again, that unanswerable question came back to him.
Just what did happen to Elvira's dad?
And here's the first prominent boss fight. I hope I wrote it well, for I must admit something. I'm not the most confident in the world when it comes to fight scenes. I'm more one for scenes of dialogue. What I found myself doing in this chapter was writing the dialogue heavy parts before writing the fight scenes. I did the same in Chapter 3, as well.
A number of moves are based on how they appear in the main series, and not necessarily how they are in the Mystery Dungeon games. Revenge, for instance. But other times, it's vice versa, like with Endure. This might be one of those instances where I take liberties, going with what I prefer to envision a move as.
I based Hinnerk's fighting style on the Pokédex entries of the Galarian Zigzagoon family's Pokédex entries, where they convey a taunting, goading way of fighting. So I meshed that in.
Also, listening to Magnus's Theme from Kid Icarus: Uprising helped me write the part of Melchior's reveal. A great theme of motivation, that.
Thanks for reading, and see you on the other side.
This is part of my early chapter updates. I changed up Hinnerk's accusations towards Melchior. They still have a feeling of conjecture about them (that was and is the point), but I feel this was executed better this time. Other additions include Flora as a hostage alongside Tamara and the 'Thorned Roses making people disappear' plotline. Along with that, other removals and rewordings of dialogue.