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Junior Trainer
  1. aggron
Chapter 27
Breifne, City of Warriors

Arian felt uncomfortable at the breakfast that followed the training session. He just wanted to eat his payapa soup coupled with sliced pinap in peace, but the frostiness radiating from Enfys towards Sabrina couldn't simply be tuned out. Given that the Gabite sat next to him instead of sitting with her partner and the Dragonair sat on the opposite side of the table, he couldn't ignore it.

He tried his best though, and kept his head down as the tension smothered the breakfast atmosphere. At least now that the sun was more up, more mercenaries filled the dining hall, and he could focus on them instead of the quiet tension at his table. It was icy enough that he almost swore winter had visited their table in the canteen.

Arian felt a similar form of discomfort from his allies, and judging by the mildly annoyed expression on Yannick's face as he wolfed down his breakfast, the Hakamo-o was feeling the same. The only anomaly was Sabrina, who didn't seem to share the same discomfort with the rest of the group. She daintily ate her breakfast, seemingly unaware of the quiet tension around the table.

Near the end of the meal, Arian tried to break the silence.

"So, uh," he piped up. "What's your plan for today, you three?"

"Yann and I have a mission in Laighean," Enfys said. "The Chief there hired us personally to sort out some bandit problems."

"Bandits?" That doesn't sound good.

"Yeah, bandits. Ceredigonia likes to launch raids on the border tíortha, and Laighean's one of them," Yannick explained. "They're a general thorn in our side, those Cereds, and Laighean's chief wants us to kick them back over the border."

"Tch. Fuck 'em," hissed Enfys. "Just Dressies dressed up in Alban clothing. That's all those ceatharnaigh are."

"Mmm," Yannick murmured, after which he tipped his bowl back and downed the last of his payapa soup.

"Ahhh," he sighed, licking his lips. "Well, I'll go bring these up to Tiarnán." He gathered up everyone's plates and strolled up to the counter.

"I suppose I'll go now. I've got my own mission to do while you two have fun in Laighean without me," Sabrina said sweetly. "Toodle pip!" She slithered towards the door, but not before sticking her tongue out teasingly at Enfys on the way out.

"That slimy little…!" Enfys bared her teeth in annoyance.

"You don't seem to like her very much," Yuliya noted.

"Of course I don't! A complete snake, she is, coming in here and seducing Yannick like that!" she snarled. "Then there's all those 'missions' she does on her own that are vague as shit! She's up to something - I'd bet my Platinum Rank on it!"

"What's the matter, Enfys? Raging about one of Yannick's girlfriends again?" teased a nearby Archen.

"Jawbreaker Enfys, jealous of her partner? Just another normal day, then," remarked his teammate, an Anorith.

"Hey, Enfys! Maybe think about going poly with Yannick one of these days!" the third in the group, a Tyrunt, quipped.

"Fuck no!" the Gabite roared. "I'm not getting in bed with that bitch!"

"En!" Yannick interrupted, returning to the group after he'd handed the plates off to Cairbre and Tiarnán. "Don't call Sabrina names like that!"

"But, Yann!" Enfys cried, and once again, Arian felt that same sense of hurt within the landshark. "Sabrina, she's—"

"An ally who's helped us out many times since she became a merc here. Don't be mean to someone like that." The Hakamo-o's gaze hardened. "Is that clear, En?"

"...Crystal," mumbled Enfys.

"Good. And you all!" Yannick then suddenly reeled on the three Rock-types that had teased his partner. "Don't you dare act like that to En. Otherwise you'll have to deal with me too!" He punched his fists together, his scales jangling. "Want to take this outside?"

The three Rock-types looked at each other and gulped at the fiery look in Yannick's eyes. The fear in their hearts was plain to see, and they slunk out of the room without any fight.

"...Sabrina's not coming with us on this mission, anyway," Yannick continued. "Good thing too. The less I have to hear you two bickering, the better. Besides, don't you remember what I told you, En? Team Scalebreaker will always just be you and me. There won't be a third. Sabrina's nice and all, but she won't come into the fold. I swear it."

"You've said that before." Enfys's voice sounded doubtful.

"And I'll always say it. Now come on." Yannick beckoned with his hand as he walked towards the door. "Chief Darach won't like being kept waiting."

"...Fine," Enfys huffed, before following her partner.

"Oh, and you three!" Yannick called to the Selenians. "Good luck on your search today! Hopefully you'll be able to find your prince!" With those parting words, he and his partner left the canteen.

"So…what's the plan of action?" Arian asked, turning to Yuliya. "Did you figure out a plan while we were training?"

"The plan is to find His Highness," Yuliya said. "I believe the best way to do this is by splitting into two groups. I will investigate the eastern side of Breifne for intel, while the two of you investigate the west side."

"We have to search all of Breifne for Prince Leonid?" Arian said, his ears flattening in dismay. The thought of combing Alba's largest city for a tiny sliver of intel was considerably daunting in his eyes. "Is he even in Breifne right now?"

"...I do not know. But we won't know unless we find that information for ourselves," Yuliya replied. "I hope that Breifne's cathedral holds answers. Even if Archdruid Cathbad is not there, their fellow druids may have information."

"It doesn't seem like info's gonna come easily," Arian grumbled.

"It rarely does. This hunt may well yield nothing. But the possibility of information remains. And possibilities are all we have. We must find His Highness." A determined look crossed Yuliya's face. "We must."

The determined look spread to Arian and Elvira, who nodded with similar determination.

"I'll go to Breifne Cathedral. With luck, Their Grace will be there. Failing that, I will scout out the eastern bank of Breifne for intel about His Highness," Yuliya detailed. "You two will check out the western half of the city."

"That makes sense," Elvira said. "We'll do that."

"Excellent. You are a great help, you two." Yuliya bowed gratefully to them, and the three of them began to walk out of the canteen and the Guild building, into the courtyard, and to the branching path at the Guild entrance, before the two great bridges crossing the Istwyth.

"I wish you luck in your investigation. Now…let us go forth. Let us find our heir." That was the last thing Yuliya said to them before she headed off towards Breifne's prosperous eastern half.

"Come on, Arian," Elvira said. "Let's get going with our search. Maybe someone on the western side of Breifne's seen Prince Leonid."

"...I guess." Oddly, Arian's remark seemed almost begrudging.

"Hm? Is something the matter, Arian?" The Treecko frowned in concern at her partner. "You seem a bit put out."

"...It's nothing. Probably just the heat," he mumbled irritably. "Come on, let's go. Sitting around here won't accomplish anything."

"O-Okay…" Elvira murmured, slightly stunned by the sudden volte-face in her partner's behaviour. Why's he so grumpy all of a sudden? She followed after him, concern crossing her face.

Something's off about him. What could it be?

Yuliya traversed the bridge to the eastern half of Breifne, on her way to the cathedral, herer eyes and ears fully alert as she began her search, her knight instincts coming back to her. Any stray information along the way can be a clue. In a city like this, someone's bound to know of His Highness's whereabouts. It's a long shot, but…it's for Selenia, and the legacy of House Ruslan.

The Furret attempted to use these skills as she made her way to the cathedral, able to spot its tall spire towering over the rest of the city. To get there, though, that meant traversing through a wide promenade packed with passersby and merchants alike; no doubt the primary street of Breifne. The clamour of voices did make Yuliya's attempts to hear intel all the more difficult, and some of those voices, like merchants giving sales pitches, were especially loud.

"Get all your fresh berries here! Buy 'em now, folks, 'cause they ain't gonna last forever!"

"Seeds for all your merc needs! Use them and get the upper hand against your foes!"

"Yer no' gonna say nae to a bit o' prize fightin'! You think you can take me?!"

Yuliya flinched at the loud hustle and bustle. She wasn't unfamiliar to this from her time as a marshal in Iria, but the Alban merchants were far more rambunctious than Selenian merchants ever were, and she found the din uncomfortable, to say the least. Even so, she kept her head high and looked around her at the sea of people, hoping there was an answer to be had amongst them.

This did, however, mean that her attention was unfocused, and thus she did not see what was ahead of her. Before she realised it, Yuliya collided with something small, light and hard.

"Oof!" a voice cried.

"Argh! Watch where you're going!" came another voice.

"My apologies!" Yuliya quickly said, looking at who she'd run into. She blinked in surprise at the two Falinks before her.

"Forgive me," she began. "I was careless."

"I-It's fine," one of the Falinks replied, rather meekly. "We should've been watching too."

"Hmph. Let's just get what we need, N," the other Falink muttered. "Master Dubhrua doesn't like being kept waiting."

"Understood. Sorry for disturbing you." With that, Yuliya parted ways from them, and made her way back towards the cathedral.

That was odd, she thought, reflecting on the encounter. …No matter. On we head.. Filing the encounter in the back of her mind, Yuliya continued onward towards the cathedral.

Thankfully, the path to Breifne Cathedral was fairly direct, and the Furret arrived there without incident or getting too lost. The cathedral's front contained a vast courtyard, with the boughs of olive trees providing much needed shade from Alba's blazing sun. Two Gligar statues stood at the courtyard entrance, and the brickwork was well-polished. Alas, even the impressive nature of Breifne Cathedral's entrance could not hide signs of Alba's drought taking its toll. Both the grass and the trees looked greatly parched, begging for rain to fall and relieve them of their thirsty misery.

There was also one stark detail that stuck out to Yuliya as she entered the courtyard, far greater than any of the dry wilt of the trees and ground.

Multiple tents were set up, and haggard-looking Pokémon milled around the courtyard. Yuliya counted at least fifteen Pokémon of all different ages, from infants to elderly. Whatever their age, nearly all of them had one thing in common: a harrowed look in their eyes. Between the dry, drooping trees and the haunted gazes of the Pokémon, melancholy permeated the dusty air.

Something happened to these people. Something traumatic. Yuliya could feel it in their gazes. But what? I wonder if the archdruid has an answer for this…

The Furret walked into the cathedral, the building's airiness a blessed relief from the blazing sun. Several more Pokémon with harrowed looks like those in the courtyard were inside, some of them kneeling in the pews and praying. Yuliya gave them pitying glances, but remembered her mission.

She walked up to the altar, where a few priests, recognisable with their white capes, were setting things up for a rite that was to be underway soon. Leading them was a Sigilyph, who upon seeing Yuliya, seemed to ready himself for something.

"Hello," the Furret began. "I am looking to speak with Their Grace Archdruid Cathbad. Are they around today?"

"Sadly not." The Sigilyph shook his head. "Their Grace has been absent from here for a few days."

"Oh." The Furret's face fell. "It's just that there's something I need to talk to them about."

"Hmm, where are you from, ma'am? You don't sound Albach at all."

"Oh no." She shook her head. "I'm from Selenia."

"Selenia?" The psychic blinked in surprise. "I've heard some grim tales from that direction."

"Those tales aren't lies." Memories of the oppression she'd seen under Mitrofan's rule came to her, and Yuliya clenched a paw, trying to keep her anger under wraps. "In fact, it's part of the reason I'm here in Alba. We may have found a breakthrough to bringing Mitrofan down, and Their Grace may know more on this matter. That is why I would like to speak with them."

"...I see. Unfortunately, Their Grace has priorities elsewhere." The Sigilyph bowed his head in sorrow. "I sincerely apologise."

"...It's alright." Yuliya tried hard to hide her disappointment. "I'll find my answers somewhere else."

"That said," the Sigilyph went on. "Their Grace did entrust an item to me. They instructed me to give it to a Furret who set foot into Breifne Cathedral."

"Hm? But…that can't surely mean me, can it?" Yuliya questioned. "How would Their Grace know I would come?"

"Their Grace works in mysterious ways," the Sigilyph vaguely responded. "But they wished for you to have this." His eye glowed, and a scroll was levitated towards Yuliya, who grabbed it.

"Hm? What's this?" She unfurled it and read the text.

Stánann an cosantóir síocháin siar go dtí a baile ar an Oileán Naofa.

The harmony keeper gazes west to her home on Oileán Naofa.

"I…do not understand." Yuliya peered at the document, puzzled at the message. "Why does Their Grace wish for me to have this?"

"I do not know. But as with all actions, there is a reason for them. That is a truth Their Grace is intimately aware of," the Sigilyph said.

"I see." Yuliya looked again at the scroll. The words made no more sense to her. "I suppose I'll have to figure this out." She tucked it away in her satchel. "Thank you for this. Hopefully the answer lies within."

"I wish you luck in figuring it out." The Sigilyph bowed respectfully to her. "May our Creator's judgement guide your path."

Yuliya left the cathedral, passing the Pokémon and making her way back onto Breifne's streets. The mystery of the scroll's message ran through her mind, and she was racking her brains as to what exactly it could mean.

But there was the other matter that weighed on her mind; those Pokémon she saw in the courtyard at the cathedral's front entrance. The haunted looks on their faces told a story of woe and trauma; the ex-marshal was certain about that. But she realised she was none the wiser on finding out their plight.

Just what did they go through, those poor souls?

"Well, then. Where do we begin?"

That was Arian's remark once they'd crossed the bridge into the west end of Breifne. Right away, one feeling struck them as they looked upon the architecture. The wide street that lay before them was cracked in a number of places, and a number of houses on either side of the street were boarded up and abandoned. The whole place felt a tad shabby, like everything could be spruced up with new paint and decorations.

"I hope we don't get robbed." Elvira held onto her satchel a bit tighter. "That wouldn't end well."

"No, it wouldn't." Arian scanned the street. It was busy, and quite the throng of Pokémon packed the streets. But even so, he could see a familiar sight: a Kecleon Shop, and a queue lined up to buy items from the chameleon merchants.

"Let's start there," he suggested.

"Good idea," Elvira seconded. "We could use a restock on items, anyway."

After a tedious wait in line under the hot sun, Team Elpis blessing their rawst scarves for lessening heat stress for them, they finally arrived to the front line where a green and violet Kecleon pair greeted them.

"Hello there!" greeted the green Kecleon, in an all too familiar voice to Arian.

"What would you like to buy?" the purple Kecleon asked, in another awfully familiar voice to the Riolu.

Is this déjà-vu? How the heck…

"Two blast seeds, one stun seeds, and two oran berries, please," Elvira requested. "Oh, and there's something else we need to ask you."

"Sure!" the purple Kecleon obliged, and turned to fetch the merchandise.

"What do you want to know?" the green Kecleon wondered.

"Well, uh…Before that," Arian butted in. "Sorry, Elvira, but I have to know this." He fixed his expression on the two Kecleon. "Would you two happen to know a pair of Kecleon just like you called Jacob and Esau?"

"Indeed we do!" said the violet Kecleon. "Those are our names, after all." As he spoke, he gave the items to Elvira, who handed him a number of coins in return.

"Wait, what?" Arian was astounded. "But how? When did you travel up here to Breifne from Kamengrad?"

"Kamengrad?" the green Kecleon puzzled. "Never heard of that place. We've always ran this stall here in town. Never sold stuff anywhere else."

"B-But…" Arian stuttered in disbelief. "There's literally a pair of Kecleon in Kamengrad exactly like you two! They even have the same tone of voice and all!"

"Oh, I know what's happened here," 'Esau' said. "You must've met two of our cousins."

"Cousins?" The Riolu tilted his head.

"Yes, we have cousins all over Ardalion," 'Jacob' replied. "You'll find Kecleon twins like us in most towns on the continent. We're all related in some way."

"W-Wow, really? Jeez." Arian was stunned. "Your family gatherings must be hectic."

"True, but aren't everyone's?" Esau sang.

"...Point taken." The Riolu then caught Elvira's eye, and she cleared her throat.

"I have a question for you two," she began. "Have you come across a Bisharp at any point in the last while? And by that, I mean the last year or so?"

"A Bisharp in the last year?" Jacob looked at Esau, and both lizards pondered deeply.

"...Can't say I remember a Bisharp ever coming here to buy our wares," Esau eventually answered.

"Are you sure?" Arian pressed. "No Bisharp at all's been here?"

"No." Jacob shook his head. "We haven't had a Bisharp ever come to us for anything."

"We know all of our customers!" Esau added. "Even the one-time shoppers! But we haven't had even one Bisharp as a customer."

"Sorry about that," Jacob apologised.

"...It's fine," Elvira murmured, although her expression betrayed her dismay. "Come on, Arian. Let's go. Maybe we'll find something elsewhere."

"Yeah. Thanks anyway," Arian said to the merchant duo.

"Anytime!" the Kecleon proclaimed in unison, as Team Elpis walked away from the stall.

"Well, that was a bust. Pretty weird too," Arian muttered.

"I see you've become acquainted to the Kecleon merchants' oddities," Elvira said. "They are a strange group, alright. But their service is a lifeline to villages and towns across the continent. That's one thing most people in Ardalion can agree upon." She looked down wistfully. "One of the few things they can agree on…"

"Come on, Elvira. Let's see if anyone else along here has any info." Arian gestured to the many merchants along the street. "How about we start there, and work our way down?"

And so they began their hunt for intel. Unfortunately, the other merchants' responses were much like Jacob and Esau's.

"Nope, can't say a Bisharp's ever come to me in the last while."

"Hm. Maybe? Cannae remember. Old age - ye ken how it is."

"I've met some Bisharp in my time, but I don't remember one coming to my stall in the last year or so."

Some merchants even tried to use the exchange to barter with the duo.

"Will you buy a necklace? One made by Sionann's Crafts, and good enough that the Tánaiste herself's come by a few times!"

"How about some rocks hewed from the mines of Dun Ringill? They say there's diamonds in them. Who knows? Today might be your lucky day!"

"Wine from Laighean's vineyards? They use this same stuff in libations to our Creator!"

It was relentless, and once or twice Arian and Elvira caved. By the time they reached the end of the street, their funds had dwindled, they had a number of useless souvenirs, and they were still no closer to finding the whereabouts of Prince Leonid.

"Well, that's annoying," huffed Arian. At least most of them fit into Elvira's bag. "What the hell are we gonna do with all this junk?"

"We could mail them back to Mom. She always likes souvenirs," suggested Elvira. "We'll need to pop by the Tropius Carriers, or Alba's equivalent of them. There was one earlier, by the river."

"Guess we'll go there, then. Maybe they'll have something for us."

They began the stroll back up. Much to Arian's annoyance, despite it being later in the afternoon, there were still many Pokémon crowding the streets, and being smaller 'mons meant he and Elvira had to dodge around the feet of larger passersby, which caused some consternation among them. Brushing against legs inevitably occurred, with apologies from Team Elpis and mutterings about 'ankle-biting pataich' from those who they brushed against.

If only I was taller, Arian inwardly bemoaned. Then I wouldn't have to deal with this. He let out a growl of annoyance.

"Arian? Are you alright?" Elvira asked worriedly.

"...Yes. I'm fine." The gritted teeth response sounded anything but 'fine'.

"...If you say so," the Treecko murmured, her worry not abating one bit.

"Right. Let's - oof!"

Arian was too lost in his own thoughts to pay attention to his surroundings, and he ended up bumping into a passing Conkeldurr, the impact of which knocked the Riolu onto his back.

"Oi! Watch where you're walkin'!" blasted the Conkeldurr. "Weans like ye should keep to the side!"

"Sorry!" he apologised to his fellow Fighting-type. But the other Pokémon was already on their way, ignoring Arian and leaving him be.

"Ungrateful bastard," he growled, as he got up and dusted himself off.

"Arian, is something the matter?" Elvira brought up. "You've been acting strange ever since we started this search."

The Riolu didn't respond. Instead, his focus had shifted to somewhere else. He happened to cast his gaze to the other side of the street, to one of the many alleyways that lined the street. They existed almost like gaps in teeth, where the sun did not shine and darkness made its home.

In that darkness, Arian saw it.

He saw a cloaked figure. A familiar one.

"Hey! Elvira!" he called.

"Ah!" The Treecko jumped. "Don't scare me like that, Arian."

"But there's someone there!" Arian pointed towards the alley.

"...Arian, what are you talking about? There's no one there. I don't see anyone."

"What?" The Riolu looked back at the alley. To his shock, the figure was gone.

"Grraagh!" That shock was then immediately replaced by annoyance. "Dammit! I'm not lying! I saw someone there!"

"A-Arian, please, calm down," Elvira urged. "You're getting worked up over nothing."

"It's not nothing, Elvira. Someone's been watching us, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this!" The Riolu's declaration was heard loud and clear by a number of others on the street. "Now where'd they go?" Arian scanned the area, and growled in annoyance at the passersby obscuring his view.

"I swear to God, if they got away again…!" The Riolu looked at all the back alleys on the other side of the street. They have to be somewhere! Now where—

He caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eye. A cloaked quadrupedal - the same one he'd seen.

"There they are!" Arian wasted no time, and took off after them. He pushed through the crowds, and accidentally toppled some people, leading to an angry chorus of voices.

"Oi! Look at where you're going, mutt!"

"You nearly tripped me, you eejit!"

"Little blighter! Wait your turn to cross!"

"Wait, Arian, wait!"

Arian paid no attention to any of them, not even his own partner. Right now, only two things were on his mind; chasing that figure down, and finding out the truth behind them. He fought to close the gap, and once he rounded the street corner, he saw the cloaked figure was there for a split second, right before they disappeared down an alleyway.

"You're not getting away!" Arian yelled, continuing to give chase. He went down the same path they took, and a new alley presented itself. This was a smaller street, but looked a lot more ramshackled, with crumbling walls and dirty streets. A poor district, for sure.

Arian didn't focus on that particular right now, intent on chasing down the figure. After running down the street, he spotted that same figure again, before they disappeared down another alley.

All the while, he yelled in frustration at them.

"Who are you?!"

"Why are you stalking me?"

"Wait! Please, wait!"

His cries went in vain, and his yelling caught the attention of those that lived in these rundown houses. Heads turned at the figure and the Riolu running through the streets, and children playing in the alleys dodged out of their way. Inhabitants grumbled at the disturbance, and cries of "Oi, shut up!" were yelled at Arian as he ran past. He paid them no mind, intent on chasing the figure down.

But they proved too evasive and, after what felt like an eternity of running, Arian had to slow down and take a breather. He had heard his species had quite high levels of stamina, but even that wasn't unlimited, as he was learning the hard way.

"Hah…hah…hah…" the Riolu panted. He was thirsty now, and was craving some refreshing water. However, one look at the dilapidated fountain ahead of him, dried up and cracked, told him that water was hardly plentiful here.

Dammit. I'm parched…I guess Isaac was right about the whole 'conserving water' thing. Arian panted, resting for a moment. He recalled Yannick's remark back in Mumhain of his panting habit, or lack thereof. Panting like a dog…will that help? He did just that, panting away in an attempt to entice coolness onto himself.

Hmm. Maybe I need to do more of it. Meanwhile, that person! He got ready to chase again. Alas, the cloaked figure had widened the gap between them, and in this slum labyrinth, they would be hard to find.

Still, I have to figure this out. Maybe that way? He began to walk down the path directly ahead of him, one of the streets that led away from the dried-up fountain.

It was odd. The times he'd been in a Mystery Dungeon with their diverging paths, he never tended to be fully sure about where to go. But this time, there was an odd compulsion to go down that way. Arian wasn't sure what this meant, but he took it as an omen and moved down the street.

He wasn't going as quickly this time, and so he had more time to take in his surroundings. Sadly, they didn't look to be in good shape at all. Corrugated iron roofs, along with cracked brickwork and missing bricks putting holes in houses, were just some of the sights of dilapidation. Broken glass on the ground was also a danger, although Arian made sure to take care to step around it whenever that happened.

Arian continued through the maze of streets, following his gut telling him which way to go. The narrow streets past rows of ramshackle houses continued, until eventually, it opened out slightly towards another square with a dried-up fountain.

However, that wasn't what drew Arian's attention. It was what lay in that square.

There was a house that looked surprisingly well-kept, standing out from the rest of the houses in the district. The other houses were a sorry sight, with chipped, faded paint and boarded-up windows, while this one house looked well-maintained with a fresher coat of green paint. It was a strange sight, to see such upkeep amid haphazardness.

To add to the strangeness, the door was open. It seemed to beckon Arian in, and the Riolu was very tempted. Before he realised it, he was walking towards the door.

Wait, what am I doing? He stopped suddenly before the door. This is walking into someone's house. That cloaked person, whoever they were…they're hardly in here, are they?

He caught a glimpse inside the house. It was dark inside, with little light shining in. Apprehension churned inside him.

Then a voice spoke.

"Please enter."

"Ah!" Arian jumped. "Wh-Who's there?!"

"One who has watched over your journey through this land. I have been waiting for you. Come in, and glimpse at your fate."

Words like that only piqued Arian's curiosity further, and before he knew it, he had stepped foot inside the house. Once inside, he peered around the house's stone interior. It looked to be as well-kept inside as it was outside; there was little to no excess dirt, and the house was tidy. One thing noted by him was the lack of a window, oddly enough.

There was, however, a light source in the open room. That source was being provided by a glowing orb on a table at the far end of the room.

Behind that table…the cloaked figure stood. Now that he was close up, Arian could see them a bit better. They were definitely quadrupedal, and he could see two details about them that were previously hidden. A blade-like scythe protruded from their head, and their snout was canine-like.

"You!" Arian pointed to them. "You're—"

Before he could protest, however, the figure spoke.

"Come to me, Riolu."

Their voice was calm and soft. Arian felt the voice sounded a tad feminine, although he wasn't too sure. There was a strange feeling in the air, compelling him to go over to them.

"Why should I trust you?" However, the Riolu was apprehensive. "Were you down in Mumhain when we first arrived? Have you been stalking me all this time? Why are you—"

"I am sure you have many questions," the figure deftly interrupted. "But please, take a seat."

"..." Arian was still unsure, and his unease was clear by his tentative steps towards the table.

"Your reluctance is understandable." The figure seemed to recognise this. "Perhaps your unease would be shed if you saw my face."

They raised their head, letting the cowl fall behind them. Arian could then see their face for the first time, beyond the little bit that the cloak didn't entirely conceal.

An Absol with blood red eyes stared back at him. Their eyes seemed to give off infinite wisdom, as though they were older than they were. But somehow Arian didn't get vibes of an elderly wise sage from them, at least not through appearance. They seemed wise, and yet young. Around their neck, he noticed a necklace bearing Arceus' cross-wheel, at the centre of which was a green gem. Another gem of the same colour was wrapped around the lower part of their scythe. On the upper part, Arian squinted at what looked to be…gold plating?

"So you've been waiting for me?" Arian said. "…Do you even know who I am?"

"I know who you are, Arian."

Arian's breath hitched. "B-But how? How do you know my name?"

"He who toppled Hinnerk of Ozerograd alongside Fernblade Kallias's daughter. He who has made a name for himself as a dogged resistor to Silver Armour Mitrofan," the Absol listed. "Fate's rumour mill weaves interesting tales, and on its winds, words are carried and spread to the ears of hopeful listeners. Alba is no different; this nation and its people are not ignorant to events outside their borders."

"Really? Enfys and Yannick didn't seem to know much," muttered Arian.

"You are a most curious individual, Arian. I would like to know how Fate intends to weave the path laid out in front of you. My abilities as an Absol and a fortune teller allow me to glimpse into one's future and glean truths from it."

"Oh, yeah?" The Riolu was somewhat distracted by the Absol's presence that he almost forgot about the table before him. On it rested a glowing orb, the source other than the sun from outside lighting up the room. "So you're a fortune teller?"

"That is correct. I read the fortunes of those who come to me and determine how Fate shall treat them. Are you destined to succeed? Or shall Victini's gift of luck pass you by? Let us see that here and now."

"...Sure, I guess. Do I have to pay?"

"I would normally request payment. But you are a figure of such interest that I will lift the fee this one time."

"Really? Me, interesting?" Yannick said the same thing too. But I'm not that special, am I? "Well, uh…sure. Lay it on me. What does the future hold?"

"Place your paws on my horn, and we can determine that." The Absol lowered their horn, and Arian did as they said. He could feel an energy of sorts within the appendage - a pulse of some kind, although he couldn't put his metaphorical paw on what exactly this meant. What did those books say about Absol again? Something about detecting danger?

Arian tried to gauge the fortune teller's emotions as he gripped their horn. However, he found this surprisingly difficult. The Absol seemingly did not exude emotion, and when he tried to reach further, it felt like he was being mentally resisted. The hell? Why can't I read their emotions? The Riolu tried again, but was swiftly interrupted by the fortune teller's voice.

"Please do not do that," they said. "I cannot give an accurate prediction if you try to read my aura."

"Oh. Sorry," apologised Arian, and ceased his efforts, awaiting his fortune from the Absol with a hint of guilt.

A minute passed before they spoke again.

"You may take your paws away. I have a clearer picture of your future."

Arian did as instructed.

"So," he said, breaking the silence. "What did you find out?"

The Absol said nothing at first. The silence struck a twinge of nervosity within Arian, and he felt his heart sink. This is about my future, isn't it? Oh no…if they're keeping silent, then that can't be good, can it?

After what felt like an eternity, they uttered their response.

"Our world is defined by the everlasting cycle of Fate. Through times of peace and times of strife, its revolution will never cease, not unless the Creator Himself sees fit to interrupt its flow. We are all subject to its whims, and its cyclical nature ensures that for many, fortune and misfortune are dealt in equal measure. Many try to go against the grain, believing Fate has betrayed them."

The Absol shook their head. "This is an unwise course of action. Many try, but few succeed in defying her whims. There is a saying in the wider conscience that amounts to this - 'go with the flow.' And so it should be: to swim along the flow that is Fate's current, rather than battle against it.

"Many would do well to learn that the cycle of Fate is named as such for its cyclical nature, of visitation of events both blessed and cursed. If despair is upon you, fear not, for it shall pass. However, if hope is upon you, remember that such moments can be fleeting, and you should cherish those moments while they last."

Arian felt the intense stare from the fortune teller. Geez. Those eyes are gonna pierce a hole through me at this rate.

"That said," the Absol continued, their stare's intensity lessening. "A few individuals over the course of Ardalion's history have succeeded where others would have failed and perished. They normally do so at a time of regress; when the health of our continent is at its weakest, whether blight has marred its soil, wars ravage the land, or strife soaks its grass red with blood. At a time like the present, when drought afflicts Ardalion's western countries, and calamitous rain is in store, one would expect such a hero to emerge.

"However, heroes do not 'suddenly' appear one day to change Fate. In every instance of those who defied Fate, they were forged by the chaos of the world around them. They saw the state of the world and those that threatened Ardalion's existence and challenged their enemies before them. They dared damnation and came out victorious."

"Are you talking about the Five Heroes?" Arian wondered, thinking back to the book he read in Teamhair.

"Them, and more. But they are irrelevant. This session is about you, Arian. You, a most unusual figure who has begun to make a name for himself in both Selenia and Alba. An enigma. A mysterious Riolu with an odd power. A stranger in a foreign land…in more ways than one."

The Absol's next remark sent a chill down Arian's spine.

"My instincts do not lie, Arian. You are a human, aren't you?"

"Wh-What?!" Arian nearly jumped out of his skin. "H-H-How do you know I'm a human?" Panic flooded his mind at this stranger knowing that truth.

"Your psyche is unlike that which I have seen of others," the Absol observed. "It is a curious mutation that I can only describe as…otherworldly. That otherworldly psyche, upon being placed into this body of a Riolu, has warped what was there once, and has become something new entirely."

"Wh-What?" Arian couldn't make heads or tails of their words. "What are you saying?!"

"That is a truth you will learn to grapple with," the Absol replied. "Slowly but surely, it shall come to the fore, and with it, bring a new form of conflict into your life. One that will bring you into Ardalion's limelight, and for all the world - no matter their background - to know your name, your face and your deeds. The prospect of this is distant, yet be wary of it. For once the truth comes to light…nothing shall be the same for you again."

"Th-That's…" Arian did not at all like the sound of what he was hearing. If that's not ominous as hell, then I don't know what is.

"In your near future, I sense more immediate forms of danger." The fortune teller kept going, articulating their fortune in that same measured tone. "Arguments. Failure of understanding. Separation. And on more than one occasion, brushes against Yveltal's wings."

"Yveltal's wings?" He'd heard that Pokémon's name a number of times, and even in his limited knowledge knew full well what phrases like that meant. So the past while's not been enough, huh? It feels like all I've known are living on the edge and brushes with death. When can I finally actually live normally?

"If you can overcome the adversity that lies before you, then you may well know happiness," the Absol said, almost as though they read his mind. "Your future is not entirely bleak; within it are rays of hope. Recall what I said earlier; despair not in dark times, for the light shall shine ever brighter when they pass."

"Look at it like a glass half-full, you mean?"

"That is one other way of looking at it. As for the dangers that you will face, you will come to know them when they appear before you. But that you are afforded a ray of hope is more than can be said for others whose futures I have divined," the Absol went on.

"So you're saying I have a chance?" Arian summed up.

"Indeed. But you must overcome the challenges before you to achieve happiness." The Absol gave him a stern look. "And forget not the mystery that lies within you. You are an enigma, even to yourself."

"Even to myself?" Arian's brow furrowed in confusion. "Is that because of my amnesia?"

The fortune teller didn't answer him. All Arian received in return was a stare that felt almost soul-piercing.

"Wh-What do you mean?" the Riolu repeated, louder but also more unnerved. The Absol's statement did not sit right with him. "What do you mean, 'I'm a mystery, even to myself'?"

"...The answer to that, you will find out in time." Once again, their words came out mysterious, and evasive. "The mysteries surrounding you, a human in the body of a Riolu…you will come to know those secrets. In the meantime, I would like to give this to you."

There was a pause while the Absol fetched something from behind them. They reared their head back up with a scroll in their mouth, before placing it in front of Arian.

"Take it. It will be of aid to you."

"Er, thanks?" The Riolu took the scroll, and unfurled it. However, to his annoyance, it was yet another point of confusion to add onto the pile.

Sna scáthanna nach bhféachann sí, feonn onóir agus borrann searbhas.

In the shadows where she does not look, honour decays and bitterness festers.

"...What?" The words simply did not make sense to him, whether it was in the Alban tongue or the language he knew.

"Within your paws lies a half of one whole. Combine the two, and you will reach your next goal." The Absol then rose. "However, that is all I will say to you. You should leave here. Another seeks you out as we speak."

"Another…?" Then it dawned on him. "Elvira! Crap, I completely forgot about her! Oh no, she's gonna be so mad at me!"

"Reunite with her, then. Dealing with the problem immediately will lessen the resulting animus," the Absol recommended. "Go, Arian."

"Right! Uh…thanks for the fortune, um—"

Then something occurred to Arian.

"Wait a minute. I never got your name. Who are you?"

"...I will not tell you my name now," the Absol denied. "But we will meet again. There, you shall know the answer."

"...Right." The Riolu was admittedly put out with that statement.

"Now go, Arian. May Fate watch over you."

"Yeah, bye!"

With those parting words, Arian closed the door behind him. Once he was outside, he tried to process that odd meeting.

How long was that? Somehow he felt like it had been an eternity. But looking up, the sun hadn't moved far from its position. It couldn't have been more than a half an hour, he presumed.

However, it was beginning to edge towards late afternoon, and the Riolu was reminded of the promise he'd made with Yuliya to meet back at the Guild.

But first. Elvira! I need to find her. Arian looked to his right. I think that was where I came from? He went back down the path, and indeed, it was the way he came in. His ears pricked, as he tried to listen out for his partner.

Before long, he picked out a familiar voice.

"Arian? Arian! Where are you?"

Elvira! She sounded quite worried. Arian rounded the next corner, and there the Treecko was, stuck at a split in the path, wondering which way to go.

"Elvira!" he called to her.

"Arian!" she cried. "Why did you run off like that? You left me behind!"

"B-But I had to chase down whoever was watching us! I just couldn't let them get away!"

"You shouldn't have ran off!" the Treecko chastised. "Partners are meant to stay together!" The hurt came off in all forms; in her eyes, her voice and her emotion waves which Arian felt. "Please don't do that again. I couldn't bear it if you disappeared in this labyrinth of a place."

"...I'm sorry, Elvira." The Riolu's ears flattened in sorrow. "I won't leave you like that again."

"Did you find whoever it was?" Elvira wondered.

"I did. They were an Absol fortune teller, oddly enough. They read my fortune, which, er…" He paused, recollecting the Absol's prediction. "...It didn't exactly paint the brightest of pictures, but there's hope, at least."

"Arian, what are you saying?" The Treecko's brow furrowed.

"Look, I don't fully get what they said either. But they did give me this scroll. They said it would help me at some point." The Riolu unfurled it again. "It's a clue, apparently."

"...We'll need to dissect this. Maybe if Yuliya was with us, she could help," Elvira proposed. "She's a knight; they're normally investigative."

"We should probably head back anyway. We did say we'd meet her around late afternoon." The promise they'd made earlier that day rang in Arian's head.

"Let's go then." Elvira turned to go back down the way she came, and looked back to make sure Arian was following her. The Riolu hurried to catch up with her.

All the while, his mind was ablaze about that fortune the Absol had read for him.

Why do I get this feeling I haven't even scratched the surface about just who I am?

Arian and Elvira headed back through the gates of the Guild. Salann and Alasdair let them through, with some reluctance from the Naclstack. Once inside the Guild's grounds, they found a shaded place below a set of awnings from which they could wait for Yuliya.

All the while, Arian puzzled over the scroll the Absol had given him. What the hell does this mean? As if their words weren't cryptic enough, now they lob this at us…

"Arian! Elvira!" a familiar voice called. Team Elpis looked up to see Yuliya enter the Guild's gates.

"Yuliya!" Arian called and waved to her.

"Well met, you two." Yuliya said, once she'd made her way over. "Tell me, did you find any information about His Highness?"

"Alas not." Elvira was dismayed to report that. "We asked around the west end's merchants, passersby and even some refugees. But no one's seen hide nor hair of Prince Leonid."

"Even Bisharp in general," grumbled Arian. "You'd think they wouldn't know what Bisharp were. That fortune teller didn't give me many clues either."

"Fortune teller?" Yuliya queried.

"It's a long story. Let's just say I got nothing out of it but this scroll." Arian held up the scroll in question. "'All that's here is some half-complete saying. I don't know what it means, but I bet any money there's more to this."

"You received a scroll? Hold on a minute." Yuliya dug into her possessions and found the scroll she'd received from the Sigilyph priest. "I did too."

"You did?"

"Yes. And mine has a half-complete saying as well." The Furret then realised something. "Yours was incomplete as well, Arian?"

"It was. …Maybe if we put them together, they'll mean something!" The Riolu wasted no time putting his idea into action. He and Yuliya put their scrolls together, and read out what they said together.

Stánann an cosantóir síocháin siar go dtí a baile ar an Oileán Naofa. Sna scáthanna nach bhféachann sí, feonn onóir agus borrann searbhas.

The harmony keeper gazes west to her home on Oileán Naofa. In the shadows where she does not look, honour decays and bitterness festers.

"...Er, what?" Arian squinted, wondering if he was reading it correctly. "What does it mean by this?"

"I do not know." Yuliya frowned. "Is this referring to a location?"

"Are these messages meant to be together?" Arian considered. "They are from two different sources on opposite ends of Breifne. There's no evidence they're meant to form two parts of the same message."

"That's true," Elvira said. "But this can't mean nothing either. I don't feel this is a red herring. Something tells me it isn't. It feels like…the answer lies in that message, the way it is now."

"Indeed. The way the second message refers to a 'she', it must mean they are referring to someone," Yuliya deduced. "It would be a fair assumption to presume 'she' refers to 'the harmony keeper' referred to in the first message if they're meant to go together."

"Maybe, but how does this help us?" Arian wondered.

"Could this be telling us where Prince Leonid is?" Elvira said. "In a cryptic way, of course."

"Possibly." The ex-marshal looked at the text. "Could it be a code? Those aren't unheard of."

"God help us if it is," Arian groaned. "We could be here for hours trying to decipher it if it's a code."

"Maybe it isn't. Maybe these words mean something," Elvira suggested. "There's two main things here - 'harmony keeper' and this place where 'honour decays and bitterness festers'."

"Clearly. But what do those mean?" Arian said. "That's what we're trying to figure out."

"Hmm…" Elvira pondered. "'Harmony keeper'...'Harmony keeper'...I've heard that term before."

"You have?" Yuliya blinked in surprise. "Whereabouts did you hear it?"

"I'm trying to remember." Arian and Yuliya could practically hear the gears turning in Elvira's head. "Was it in a book? I think so…Which book? Fiction or old hero's tales? Did Dad tell me it…?" These mutterings of hers continued for a while.

In the middle of this, the group heard a heavy flap of wings getting louder above them. They peered up, and a familiar rainbow-feathered bird was descending towards them.

"Heeeeeeyyyyyyy, Selenians!" Scáthach called from the air, before landing on a low wall near them. "Whatcha up to?"

"Hello, Tánaiste Scáthach," greeted Yuliya. "We are trying to decipher the meaning behind this message. Perhaps you could help us?"

"Sure! What's it all about?" Scáthach peered at the two scrolls Elvira and Yuliya showed her.

"...Oooh, cool! Like a puzzle!"

"That's one way to put it," Arian muttered.

"There are two points we're trying to figure out," Yuliya elaborated. "The identity of the 'harmony keeper' as depicted here, and this mysterious place 'where honour decays and bitterness festers'."

"Hmmm." Scáthach pondered for a moment, before her eyes suddenly lit up. "Oh, that's easy. It's talking about Harmony Keeper Táiltiú."

"Táiltiú!" Elvira exclaimed. "That's who it was!"

"Táiltiú?" Arian tilted his head. "Who are they?"

"The patron saint of Alba, that's who!" Scáthach answered with gusto. "She helped the Hero Riagán take down the Tyrant King five hundred years ago, and was the first Archdruid of Alba! She also did a load of stuff for the city's poor, and became a nurse in Alba's first tournaments!

She kinda went unknown for a while, in the shadow of our Hero, but they recognised her again and canonised her as a saint for all she did! So woohoo! Big win right there!"

"I think I have heard the name before," Yuliya pondered. "But what makes you certain that this is referring to Saint Táiltiú?"

"Because of her name!" Scáthach replied. "When warriors become famous in Alba, they usually get a fun nickname to go by. They call me 'Rainbow Wing Scáthach' and they call Trahy 'Copperforce Trahaern.' You know what they called Táiltiú? They called her…'Harmony Keeper Táiltiú'."

"Ahh." Yuliya nodded, realising what she was getting at. "I see."

"We even have a statue and square dedicated to her!" the Archeops went on. "It's kinda out of the way, but that's what she would've wanted. They say Táiltiú kept to herself and wouldn't want big displays of herself. Kinda why she went unknown for such a long time in Alba's history, really!"

"A statue and square?" Elvira suddenly had a realisation. "That could be the location mentioned in the clue!"

"Really? Why'd you think that?" Arian questioned.

"A statue has a gaze to it. 'In the shadows where she does not look'...that could refer to behind the statue," the Treecko explained.

"It seems we have our next mission; to find the statue of Saint Táiltiú," Yuliya said. "Tánaiste, do you know where that might be?"

"I sure do!" Scáthach peppily answered. "Come on! I'll take you there myself!" With a flap of her wings, she took off from the wall and began to fly down the path out of the Guild.

"Come on! Let's catch up with her!" Yuliya dashed after her, and Team Elpis followed, determined to capitalise on this breakthrough.

"And here it is! Cearnóg Naomh Tháiltiú! Just what you were looking for!"

St Táiltiú's Square was nestled in a quiet part of Breifne's more prosperous eastern half. It was tucked away in a sheltered part of the city away from the hustle and bustle of the markets that Yuliya and Team Elpis had observed in their respective scouting of the Alban capital earlier. Arian noted that the labyrinthine nature of Breifne's streets was not confined to the western half of town; the eastern half had their fair share of maze-like streets as well.

"Now then, I gotta go!" Scáthach declared. "Lot of logistical stuff to do. Tánaiste business, you know how it is!"

"Leaders never have a restful moment." Yuliya nodded in understanding. "Apologies for taking up your time, Tánaiste."

"Oh, it's no problem at all! I love helping people out!" The Archeops' eyes shone as she said this. "Okay, but I really gotta go, or Trahy'll get grumpy again. See ya!" And with that, she took off into the sky.

"Thank goodness she came along," Elvira said. "Otherwise we'd be no closer to chasing down this clue."

"Well, I know that's good and all." Arian, however, didn't look any happier. "But what are we gonna find here?"

"Quite simple," Yuliya said. "We let the statue be our guide."

Within the square lay a large, distinctive, with dried grass and a tall iron fence surrounding it. It depicted a tall, dinosaur-like Pokémon with a distinctive drill-shaped horn.

"Hm, I can't say I expected that," murmured Yuliya. "The image of a peaceful saint I had was not that of a Rhydon."

"Appearances can be deceiving," Elvira reasoned. "Even the most menacing-looking Pokémon can turn out to be gentle." Her mind flashed back to Mitrofan giving her money to buy sweets all those years ago. So understanding and kindhearted, and the way her father chatted to him like a firm friend…

She shook her head. If she dwelled too much on those memories, it would only make her heart ache all the greater.

"Right, so…" Arian looked around him. "We're here now. Where's the clue?"

"We have to figure it out." Yuliya looked up at the statue. "'In the shadows where she does not look'...hmmm…"

"Hold on a minute." Looking around the square, Elvira suddenly had an idea. "If St Táiltiú looks that way…" She gestured in the same direction as the Rhydon's gaze. "Then behind her is where we should be looking." Her finger pointed towards a row of houses opposite the statue, away from where the Rhydon looked. "Do you notice? The way the sunlight's reflecting off those houses…it's a bit like shadows are being cast, isn't it?"

"Huh." Arian followed her finger, and saw her point. "You're right…"

"Those houses…they don't look to be in the best of shape," commented Yuliya. The Furret's observation wasn't unfounded; the houses in the square were far from dilapidated, but at the same time, they did not look to be of the highest standard. It was as if a slice of the western city had been taken across the Istwyth and placed in the eastern half. They followed building trends that the Selenians had seen in Teamhair and Breifne, with various bright colours painted upon the walls. However, they did look to be in need of a lick of paint.

"So what we're looking for is somewhere in those houses," Elvira said.

"I believe so," Yuliya said.

"...I don't know, guys." Arian was doubtful. "Are we just gonna knock on the doors of the people who live here? What are we going to say to them? 'Hi, we're looking for the Selenian prince, do you know anything about that?'"

"...You have a point, Arian." Yuliya's confidence faltered. "Does this even have to do with His Highness? Is this message a hoax? I sincerely hope that…" Her voice then trailed off.

"Yuliya?" Elvira said. She and Arian followed her gaze, and saw what had caught the Furret's attention.

A group of Falinks emerged from what looked to be the most ramshackle house in the square, with a creaky, rotting door and long-since faded paintwork. Only four of them were present, though.

"Hold on," Yuliya whispered. "Those other two Falinks…Are they—"

Her question was soon answered by the remaining two Falinks scurrying to the rest of their platoon.

"You guys!" one of them yelled out. "We might've hit upon something!"

"Y-Yeah!" the other, meeker Falink replied. "This could be huge!"

"Y! N!" The lead Falink sounded furious. "You're way past your allocated time for intel gathering! Master Dubhrua despises tardiness! What do you privates have to say for yourself?!" he lambasted with all the gusto of a drill sergeant.

"G-General C! I-It's not what you think!" implored the meek one. "We might've actually found something!"

"Well, spit it out, Private N!" yelled C. "It better be good! You better not have been slacking!"

"We had an encounter in the market today," the other Falink, Y, began. "We collided with a Furret, who apologised to us before going on her way. But I noticed that the Furret in question had a foreign accent. She didn't sound like she was from Alba."

None of the three needed to be told who the Falink was talking about. They took that moment to hide behind Táiltiú's statue out of sight.

"So what, Y?" one of the other Falink questioned. "A foreign Furret? Who cares about that?"

"No, hang on, R," another Falink said. "Did that Furret have a Selenian accent?"

"I think. I couldn't be sure, though. We haven't met too many Selenians."

"Master Dubhrua's Selenian," the third Falink pointed out, leading to a gasp from Yuliya. "Did they sound like him?"

"Silence, Private A!" C demanded. "We don't need you giving away intelligence that could be used by enemies!"

"S-Sorry." A cringed from his superior's outburst.

"We might be onto something though," the second Falink said.

"Just a passerby, that Furret was. You're overthinking it, Private W." C shook his head. "Now then! Get back inside, Y and N, and explain yourselves to Master Dubhrua!"

"But Master Dubhrua knew a Furret, didn't he? That could well be her!" Y protested.

"Plenty of those rats around. Not all of them can be the one Master Dubhrua knew."

The Selenians were listening in on all of this, incredulous at what they were hearing. None more so than Yuliya.

"This Master Dubhrua…Could they possibly be…?" The ex-marshal didn't finish her sentence. "I'm getting to the bottom of this." She marched out from their hiding place.

"Wait, Yuliya! You'll give us away!" Arian pleadingly whispered. But the Furret didn't listen, marching forward towards the Falinks.

"Excuse me," she began. "May I speak to you all?"

"I-It's her!" N said. "That's who we saw today, isn't it, Y?"

"Silence, Private N!" C barked. "...Something you want, girl?"

"I overheard your conversation about happening across a Furret from Selenia," Yuliya went on. "And based on what you've said thus far, I have a few questions for you."

"Tch. Try harder, lassie!" spat C. "You're not getting questions out of this soldier. Not without a fight!"

"Oh, you wish to go that route, do you?" Yuliya quickly caught on. "That's fine by me. If it means I'll get answers to my liege's whereabouts, I'll gladly solve this the Alban way."

"Your liege, huh?" remarked R. "No Alban uses 'liege'. You're definitely not from here, then."

"Quite correct. I am from Selenia, and I am a knight sworn to her tsar. I am Yuliya Gerasimovna Lysagora, and right now, I am committed to finding the whereabouts of our heir." She paused dramatically. "Tell me. Does the name 'Prince Leonid Klimentovich Ruslan' ring any bells?"

At least three of the Falinks had something of a reaction to that name. N gasped, Y's eyes widened, and R looked around nervously at his platoon.

C, however, stood his ground. "No words are escaping me, Furret! You'll have to pry the answer from my cold, dead lips!"

"I won't take it that far. Your Master Dubhrua must value you, if he is who I think he is. But regardless, I'm not backing down." Yuliya held up her paws. "Arian! Elvira! Help me out here!"

Team Elpis stepped out from behind the statue. They quickly assumed a battle stance, seeing what was about to go down.

"Square up, men!" C ordered. "Your targets are the Furret, Riolu and Treecko ahead of you! Eliminate them and protect Master Dubhrua!"

"Sir, yes, sir!" the Falinks obliged.

"What's that? I can't hear you!"

"Sir, yes, sir!"

The voices came louder. But the Selenians quickly noticed something. Only three voices responded instead of five.

"...I hear dissension." C had noticed it too. "Y and N, are you ignoring the words of a superior?!" He turned to notice those two Falinks had stepped out of line.

"W-We're not, General C!" N cried. "But…"

"There's no reason we have to fight," Y continued. "There's a high possibility Master Dubhrua knows this Furret. A name like hers does sound incredibly Selenian. A Selenian noble, even."

"We're a unit! We are Carwyn, and we fight as one! You don't back down from your general's orders!"

"But there's no point!" N pleaded. "Master Dubhrua needs allies more than ever! Why are we fighting her?!"

"To prove her mettle! If she wants to meet Master Dubhrua, she's gotta get through us first! So stop whining, square up and get ready to fight!"

"...No. I'm sick of fighting. I'm sick of pointless fighting." N turned to his fellow Falinks. "Come on, guys, please! Can't we talk this out for once?"

"I agree with N," Y seconded. "This is a point where dialogue would be optimal. Fighting, even if it is the Alban way, would be pointless. Don't forget what happened at home, where lack of dialogue caused the mess there and forced us and many others to flee here."

Y's words had a weight to them that caused a change in demeanour of the others. The determined looks faltered slightly, and in crept a feeling that Arian could sense as sadness.

Reluctance then began to creep in among the other three.

"Sorry, General C, but I gotta agree with 'em," A said.


"As do I," W added. "I don't wanna give away an opportunity to help Master Dubhrua."

"If we fight them and win, we might scare them off, and that'll be a missed opportunity, alright," R reasoned. "Come on, General C. There's no point to this."

"You all…" C looked among his Falinks cohort. All were going against him in his order to fight. "...Very well. I wouldn't be a lead Falink if I didn't look out for my men." He turned to face the Selenians. "I stand down, Miss Yuliya."

Really? Just like that? Arian was surprised at the turnaround. Who would've thought words would convince an Alban?

"Thank you very much, Carwyn." Yuliya bowed respectfully. "You recognise your men's wishes and changed your plan accordingly. Through this, you've earned my respect."

"Thank you. However!" C said. "I still do not trust you, ma'am. You may have good intentions and you may know Master Dubhrua. But whether he'll bring you into his circle of trust is another matter entirely!"

"I'm certain he will, if he is who I think he is," Yuliya assured.

"Uh, Yuliya?" Arian wondered. "Do you know this 'Master Dubhrua' they're talking about?" He could sense hope brimming in the Furret.

"I believe so," Yuliya answered, her answer full of confidence.

"I think I may know who he is," Elvira murmured. "And if so, our search may be over soon."

"Wait, really?" I'm missing something big here, aren't I?

"...I'll take you to see him," C said. "But I'll warn you. Whatever image you have of Master Dubhrua is not what you'll see here. He's…a changed man, in many ways. I don't know how he'll react to you, ma'am. Perhaps it's best you see him for yourself."

He turned to his men. "R, W. Head inside and inform Master Dubhrua of these visitors."

"Yes, sir!" The two Falinks went over and opened the door. Immediately, a loud creaking sounded, making the trio wince. That front door definitely needs oiling, Arian thought.

He noticed a concerned look on Yuliya's face as they went to enter the building. Apprehension, no doubt, at who she would meet. Given the warning C had given them before entering, it didn't bode well.

A thought occurred to Arian.

Wait a minute…Could it be? Could Master Dubhrua really be—

"He's in his room, ready to meet you." Arian barely registered R's voice against the shattering realisation that came to him. Now, as he readied to enter the room, he found his own stomach bubbling with anxiety. He could sense it in Elvira too. Master Dubhrua, this mysterious figure…it was time to pull back the curtain on them.

The room was dark, with the window boarded up and candlelight providing the only illumination. In that darkness, Arian caught sight of a figure at the far end of the room, sitting cross-legged and facing away from them.

Right away, he sensed many emotions. Bitterness. Frustration. Anger. They permeated around the room like a mist, the influence of the negative aura radiating from the figure, who began to rise. From the back, they saw a tattered and worn cape with a faded crest on the back. It showed signs of an ornate state once upon a time.

The so-called Master Dubhrua turned to face them, and the Selenians now had a good view of him. He was a little taller than Yuliya, and a fair bit taller than either of Team Elpis. His metallic features, specifically his bladed hands and axe-like helm, glinted in the candlelight. The rest of his body primarily featured red-and-black colouration.

The Bisharp fixed them all with a steely glare. No words came from his mouth, setting in unease all the greater for the Selenians.

Yuliya could barely hold it together. She tried her hardest to hold back a sob as she spoke to a face she hadn't seen in five long years.

"Y-Your Highness…It's really you, isn't it?"


Ceatharnaigh - Irish for 'bandits'.

Albach - A partially made-up word to mean 'Alban', derived from the Irish word for Scottish, 'Albanach'.

Pataich - Scots Gaelic for 'children'.

Cearnóg Naomh Tháiltiú - Irish for 'St Táiltiú's Square.'

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, it’s a little late, but I’m here with my review for offsite Review Tag, which was as good an excuse as any to get back into this story for the first time in…

- Checks notes -

Six-ish months. Whelp, ‘late’ is always better than ‘never’, so let’s dive right back into this story:

Chapter 6

Ozerograd was an important town in Selenia. While it could hardly compare to some of the fancifully large towns that were present in Dresilia and Miletos, it was a still sizable town by Selenian standards. And so, by extension, it was regarded as an important centre in Selenian politics. When Mitrofan took over the country and installed himself as tsar, it was one of the major centres that was captured first, with the help of Hinnerk. After the latter took over the town by deposing the local lord, he created the Thorned Roses to help him exercise his newfound power.

The town itself showed evident signs of being built along a plan planning being put into it, as opposed to the haphazard nature that most cities and towns found themselves in as they expanded. Perhaps Ozerograd's nature would change in the future if its population grew, but for now, its planned nature served as provided a sense of surprising newness to the town.

There was a good reason for this. In olden times, Ozerograd was in fact a smaller settlement located closer to the lake nearby it, a decently-sized mere by the name of Lake Lazurny. This was convenient for locals, as it meant water could be obtained more easily. However, the storms that often came in the autumn and early winter resulted in almost annual flooding for the town. The destruction of people's livelihoods, along with a number of deaths due to from drowning and exposure on a yearly basis prompted the lord of the oblast to move his town to higher ground some two hundred years ago so as to mitigate the damage done to his people. And so Ozerograd received a new look in its reconstruction, with inspiration drawn from the architecture of the Eastern countries, renowned for their architectural prowess throughout the years. The old town was left mostly abandoned, but some still chose to live there and lived their lives despite the challenges that came with it.

Elvira was telling all of this to Arian when they first laid eyes on the town. Immediately, the amnesiac human had voiced his curiosity about the town, and so Elvira filled him in, basing her knowledge on stories she'd heard over the years and books she'd read. It was something that Flora couldn't stifle a remark about.

Oh, so Ozerograd’s basically Selenia’s Saint Petersburg, huh? Wonder if it also got a rename after Mitrofan shook up the local politics given that that’s a bit of a trend for that city.

That said, as fascinating as the backstory of Ozerograd is, I do wonder if there was a bit of a more concise and less loredumpy way of presenting this that could’ve connected to “right, we’re with Arian and Elvira at the moment” a bit more. e.x. from going out on a bit of a limb with a lazy reshuffling and reframing:

Arian could barely keep his jaw from hitting the ground after stepping out of Flora’s house. All around them, there was a bustling town that seemed to go on as far as the Riolu’s eyes could see. It hardly compared to some of the fancifully large towns of Dresilia and Miletos that the almanac had spoken about, but it was clearly a sizeable town. Even by Selenian standards, as Elvira informed him.

The town itself showed evident signs of being built along a plan, which gave Ozerograd a surprising sense of newness that most other cities in Selenia that had haphazardly added one quarter after another to themselves. Apparently in olden times, Ozerograd had been a smaller settlement located closer to the lake nearby it—Lake Lazurny, as it was called. Its old location had made it convenient for locals to obtain water, which came at the cost of autumn storms that would result in nigh-annual flooding for the town. Every year, people's livelihoods would be destroyed, and a number of unfortunates would drown or die from exposure, a sorry state of affairs that eventually prompted the lord of the oblast to move his town to higher ground some two hundred years ago.

In the process of its reconstruction, Ozerograd received a new look in its reconstruction, with architecture that looked more like something from the Eastern countries that had been renowned locally in those times than anything else in Selenia. Ozerograd’s old town was left mostly abandoned, but even to this day, some Pokémon still chose to live their lives there in spite of its struggles with the autumn storms.

And due to its size, Ozerograd had become an important centre in Selenian politics. When Mitrofan took over the country and instilled himself as tsar, it was one of the first major settlements that his forces captured thanks to the help of Hinnerk. After Hinnerk deposed the local lord and took over the town for himself, one of his first actions was to create the Thorned Roses to help him exercise his newfound power. The same Thorned Roses that they’d run into just the other day in Verdant Woods…

Might have cut a few things that you still want to hold onto, but hopefully that gives you a few ideas for how to reflow this part if you choose to give it an overhaul at some point.

"You listened to those stories? I'm surprised you were able to. Mr Akulov's storytelling worked better than any Hypnosis in sending me to sleep."

"Yeah, I remember that," Elvira recalled, laughing slightly at what must have been an old memory. "He wasn't that bad, Flora. He just had a tendency of getting carried away. It is an interesting topic about the town It’s not as if the story of how the town moved to higher ground’s boring, though, how it moved to higher ground. Stuff Old tales like that's those have always been fascinating to me."

Wait, is Akulov a former teacher of theirs or something? If possible, it might be handy to slip in a passing mention for how they relate to each other, especially if Akulov is still around in the present day. Though the phrasing of the last paragraph was a little clunky to me. I threw in an offhand suggestion for a potential way to smooth things over that I think still gets at your intent.

"Well, whatever floats your boat. Or not, given where our town is now," Flora replied. "...Oh, here we are."

The group stood at a fork in the cobbled street. Down one end of the left-hand street, a shop with a colourful storefront and bouquets of flowers placed outside it could be seen. It didn't take a detective to deduce the shop it to be a florist's.

You have a lot of repetitions of “shop” or some variation thereof in that second paragraph. Consider thinning them out a bit with synonyms or equivalent pronouns.

"Well, I'll leave you guys here," Flora said, beginning to make her way down that street. "Good luck on your little hunt."

"Goodbye, Flora," Elvira replied. "I'll come visit you soon, I promise."

… Wait, is this really the best idea in the world when you two pissed off the Thorned Roses just the other day and are walking through a known hotspot of theirs where you could conceivably be being watched right now? .-.

"You should. Who knows? We might even have a job or a clue for you. Oh, and...be careful. You never know what the likes of them hear." With that word of warning, the Petilil made her way toward her home.

"And just like that…" Elvira muttered. "Back to remembering where we are."

"Mmm," Arian murmured in agreement.

Oh, I’m not the only one who was worried about eavesdropping. Though part of me wonders if there should’ve been a descriptive paragraph slotted in somewhere just describing Flora looking over her shoulder. Since recall that for Arian, all of this is new right now. And as such, in an environment that isn’t really safe for them, taking the time to point out little actions or things that are “off” go a long way to selling the sense of “you need to be careful around here”.

From the moment he walked out of Tamara's front door, he could sense that all was not well in the town. There was an air of hostility and fear, and almost immediately, he was able to discern the cause of the discord.

There were a number of Pokémon out in the street, all wearing a red band with a thorned rose emblazoned on it on their arm, neck or foreleg. All of them wore sour expressions, and all of them watched the streets like Mandibuzz looking for prey. Any passersby felt their harsh gazes, and they made a point to get on with their business as quickly as possible.

On the one hand, while I understand that meta-wise you need to not interrupt background storytime for Ozerograd, I kinda wonder if the framing of the introduction to “oh yeah, there’s Thorned Roses here” should’ve been handled such that Arian and Elvira notice some Thorned Roses up the street or something, and then it’s revealed “oh right, those guys, we could barely leave Tamara’s house without seeing them” that have been the wet blanket over their city tour.

Could potentially dovetail with dropping in a more explicit “watch your back” action with Flora really, such as her checking her surroundings and then pointing out TRs prowling the street up ahead or something like that.

Arian: “You know, from the way that you were talking about Hinnerk’s goons, I was thinking that they were going to be a bit more subtle and make us paranoid of being watched.”
Elvira: “No, they’re plenty happy just blatantly rubbing it in that they’re in charge and we can’t do anything about it.” >_>;

Arian, Elvira, and Flora were had been on the receiving end of their treatment, too. The glares that faced them were piercing, almost as if they were boring holes into their skin. It was a great discomfort that Every time they did that was an uncomfortable experience which unsettled all of them, and made them watch their backs a bit more, in case they were jumped on.

That hadn't happened yet. But Arian refused to discount the possibility of an ambush by the Thorned Roses. They did not look to be the sort of people to mess with, lest especially if one wished to escape perfectly intact.

I… kinda wonder if this whole bit should’ve come before Flora left the party since it admittedly feels a bit weird to talk about Flora experiencing something when she’s no longer here. I kept my suggestions for tweaks on the more minimalistic side of things, though.

That said, no point of comparison between the town’s local toughs and Viv and Bruno? Since if these TRs aren’t visibly a cut above those two, I’m honestly a little surprised that Arian is this nervous given how hard of an L they took against Arian and Elvira. I presume the intention was that they were supposed to look noticeably tougher and more threatening, but it’s not really stated by the text.

"Still," Elvira said. "We've come this far into town. Let's start looking. We'll start in the town square and go from there."

Elvira and Arian headed in the direction of the town square. On the way there, they caught sight of more Thorned Roses members giving them the evil eye, and tried to ignore them. However, on one occasion, this wasn't enough.

"Hey! You two!" a voice shouted to them. Looking ahead of them, the duo saw a Machoke with an armband walk up to them menacingly and threateningly. "State your names!"

Arian: “Oh boy… we just had to get this guy on our tails instead of that incompetent Meowth and Deino from the other day.”

"Elvira!" answered the Treecko, almost like an army cadet.

"...A-Arian," replied the Riolu, rather more lamely.

"What's your business being out and about?" the Machoke interrogated demanded.

I kinda wonder if there should’ve been more of that
mood emphasized in description prior to this point. Like I get that this is supposed to be a genuinely intimidating experience for Arian and Elvira, but I wonder if it’d help to emphasize the point of “yeah, the shouty muscle-lizard that’s got three times my body mass isn’t going to be someone we can just fight our way through” and sell the point harder that “this is scary and we don’t want to fight this out”.

Thankfully, Elvira knew what to say, having no doubt been grilled by these rogues on a previous occasion. "Just collecting groceries for my mom," she informed answered. "She's not well at the minute, you see, and I have to do all the shopping for her. Hence why we're heading to where the merchants gather."

I am not convinced at all that this is the sort of thing that you want to be telling a street gang that pulls double-duty as regime enforcers. Especially when you and your mother are known blood relatives to a wanted political dissident.

"..." The Machoke considered what he was told. "...Go on, then. But get out of sight quickly afterward."

"Don't worry. We won't be long," the Treecko pledged, before moving on, Arian trailing her. "At least...I hope we won't be long." she muttered, after they were out of earshot of any Thorned Roses.

"Is it a problem if we take a while?" Arian wondered.

Elvira: “Gee, what do you think, Arian?

"It might not be. But if we encounter that Machoke again, then we could have a problem on our hands," Elvira insinuated. "It's better that we find something quickly. There's bound to be a clue about [whatever] somewhere…"

I’m assuming that the clue is supposed to be about the disappearances. But it might make sense to explicitly state that as a reminder to the readers that “oh yeah, that’s what the gang’s up to”.

They continued down the street. As they walked down it, Arian noticed something else that was off about the town. This time, though, the evidence was present on the walls.

Graffiti adorned a number of them.

The Riolu was rather surprised by what he saw. A range of different types of graffiti adorned the walls, from artwork to messages. And in the fashion of most graffiti, many of the messages were quite blatant.

So… ‘Viv was here’ and along with lewd scrawls, then? :V

Long live Hinnerk!

Down with Ruslans!

Down with Tsars!

Death to Tsarists!

As a general heads-up, but if you want to offset text encountered in the story like this to set it apart from the surrounding text, consider using indent blocks in [ INDENT ][ /INDENT ] format sans spaces. The net effect would look something like this:

The Riolu was rather surprised by what he saw. A range of different types of graffiti adorned the walls, from artwork to messages. And in the fashion of most graffiti, many of the messages were quite blatant.

Long live Hinnerk!
Down with Ruslans!
Down with Tsars!
Death to Tsarists!

[Blah blah blah, discount propaganda intensifies]

Though I’m assuming the ‘Ruslans’ were the ruling dynasty before Mitrofan threw his weight around. Though I wonder what the story behind their names was?

Arian: “I… think I’d have preferred the lewd scrawls really.” o_o;
Elvira: “Did I ever mention before that Hinnerk’s too cheap to print out propaganda posters? Since yeah, he’s too cheap to print out propaganda posters.” >_>;

They went on. And then there was the art. One of the pictures depicted was the Thorned Roses' logo that was also present on their bands. Another one that caught his eye was the artwork of an Obstagoon. Below it read the message, 'Long live the Boss!'

Oh, so that’s who Hinnerk is. I think.

Hmm...I wonder who that is? pondered Arian. After this art, however, the painted messages returned, and the human found himself reading these as he and Elvira passed them by.

Down with mercs!
All mercs are poofs!
Fuck the Guild!
Mercs can go suck -

Arian turned his head away immediately when he saw the end of the last message.

See the recommendation to use indent blocks earlier, since as you can see, it helps things stand out a bit. Though I see that there were lewd scrawls on the wall after all.

Elvira: “And this is why mom and I normally try to keep to ourselves at our house.” >_>;

Okay...some of these are clearly not worth looking at, he mused, trying to forget what he just read. I did not need to see that. That's properly profane stuff there. This lot looks like a piece of work, alright…

That actually makes me wonder how it is that Elvira and Zenobia haven’t been singled out for harassment by the local TRs, since you’d think that given the sort of rhetoric on display, that there wouldn’t be any shortage of petty bullies looking to get their jollies messing with politically convenient targets that they can casually hold the threat of “disappearing” over their heads should they get uppity in reply.

"And here we are," Elvira said, snapping Arian out of his thoughts. "The main square."

The square in question was once again another sign of the planned nature of the new town of Ozerograd. It was a beautiful construction, reminiscent of the architectural patterns of various towns in eastern Ardalion. It wasn't so much a 'square' - the streets sprouted out from it in a radial pattern, and the buildings surrounding it gave the plaza a more circular shape. In the centre of it, there lay fountains, as well as what seemed to be a plinth. However, oddly enough, where there should have been a monument or a statue, nothing stood atop it.

Translation: Something used to be there, but it got torn down after the town entered new management.

Though that actually makes me wonder if the new part of Ozerograd is a town built in the middle of a star fort. Since the description of the square and the streets surrounding it reminds me a lot of some towns that are built in the center of such fortifications like Palmanova.

Arian's attention was partially on the square's eye-catching design. However, he couldn't focus on it for long: This was because there were several Thorned Roses were prowling around the square, patrolling the area and using their usual intimidation tactics on anyone else. It proved They seemed to be working, given the lack of regular people in the square. And even those that were still there dutifully stayed promptly away from the fountains and plinth.

Arian: “Seriously, if they don’t want others getting near those things, why on earth haven’t they been torn down? You’d think that’d make these thugs’ jobs a lot easier for them.”

"Hmm…I wonder if the noticeboard still has anything on it." Elvira pointed to one of the streets directly across from them. "It used to be for posting missions for mercenaries to take. I don't know if people would be brave enough to post a mission that could potentially get them targeted by the Thorned Roses. Let's check it anyway. You never know."


Elvira: “You know, you could try being supportive of us.”

This, however, did meant crossing the square filled with Thorned Roses. Arian and Elvira both braced themselves for the piercing glares as they began their stroll across the plaza. They tried to act casual, but that didn't prevent them from feeling the intimidating gazes of the gang members they passed by.

Arian: “Elvira, seriously. Who on earth would post a mission in an environment like this?!”

Elvira: “Look, it can’t hurt to check at least.”

Worse still, just when they were about to leave the square for the desired street…

"Stop right there, you two."

Elvira: “... Or maybe it can after all.”

The voice stopped the two in their tracks. While it wasn't a commanding shout like the Machoke from before, it was a voice that was chilling enough to halt Arian and Elvira, and make them look around to see who the owner's voice belonged to.

Their question on that front was soon answered, when the sound of a snake's hiss pierced through the air, and in front of them slithered a Seviper. The scarf around his neck with the same red band indicated him to be a Thorned Rose.

TR!Seviper: “And just what do you two brats think you’re doing?”
Arian: “S-Sightseeing?”

TR!Seviper: “Really now? Since I could’ve sworn you two were talking about checking mission postings.”
Arian: “... (He could hear that?!)” O_O;

"Well well well," he uttered, his voice oily, slimy and unpleasant to listen to. "Who do we have here? A Riolu and a Treecko...neither of whom are residents of this town. Whatever are you doing in our domain?"

He proved to be greatly unnerving. His voice was the same kind that could send a shiver down one's spine. Immediately, Arian and Elvira were alike in the same thought.

Please get me out of this conversation.

I take it that Elvira doesn’t normally come into town given that the local TRs aren’t familiar with her. Probably for the best, really, since I’m not convinced that these trips into Ozerograd several orders of magnitude more unpleasant were the rank-and-file aware that she was Kallas’ daughter.

"We're...fetching materials for my mom," Elvira said, choosing the same excuse as she'd used earlier. However, this time, she wasn't as confident as before, due to the Seviper's unnerving presence and the leer he was giving the both of them. As such, the delivery came out a tad feeble.

"Are you now?" The grin he was giving them could only be described as a malicious one; as if he loved intimidating other Pokémon like this the treatment of this kind of intimidation.

Arian: “Seriously, I thought that your species’ ability was supposed to be Shed Skin!”

TR!Seviper: “Have you tried crying more about it? So really now, what were you going to do with that mission board, huh?”

"Y-Yes," the Treecko answered, still perturbed by the snake's presence. "Really, it's true! My mom's not well at the moment, and so I have to do the shopping for her." It of course wasn't the reason, but Elvira wasn't content with telling full-on lies. If she did, no doubt this Seviper would see through them.

TR!Seviper: “Tch, like you’re really being convincing right now.”

"That's what they all say," came the viper's reply. "It's a brilliant excuse, isn't it? Just the way to garner sympathy. Hah! That might work on most people, but it doesn't work in this town!"

Ah yes, so basically this TR is giving the old:



"It's true, though!" pleaded Elvira. "My mom really is - "

[ ]

"Shut up, wench," the Seviper hissed. "You're in the territory of the Thorned Roses now. You should know better than to throw such that sort of sentimental crap in our faces. I certainly couldn't give a damn about your problems. After all, you do know who you face, do you not?"

Well, I suppose that’s one sign that the Thorned Roses is a heavily male-dominated institution. I do wonder if this might have benefitted from some body language or the like to sell the sense that the Seviper is messing with Elvira and having his patience run short such as slashing at air next to Elvira or doing a fakeout lunge. Since… yeah, he kinda gives off the give to get his jollies from watching random peasants squirm.

"Um...no?" Arian said. "Are you a bigshot in the Thorned Roses or something?"

"Congratulations. You are correct," the Seviper replied. "I am Mikhail. The Thorned Roses' second-in-command, second only to the Boss." He licked his lips with a grin of superiority. "Did you think you could lie to my face and get away with it?"

Oh. Oh dear. So he’s that Seviper from earlier.

Though somehow, I doubt that this Mik is magically going to turn out to be hundreds of years old or have a tragic backstory that winds up improving my opinion of him. Probably about as popular with the ladies with that attitude on display earlier, though.

"We're not lying," Arian insisted. "It's the truth! Get that into your serpentine brain and let us get on with our business!"


Though I’m surprised that now of all times, Arian is snapping into “upset indignation” mode since from the earlier bits where he and Elvira were running into TRs, he vibed as being intimidated alongside her. It might have made sense to build up to his moment a bit, whether before his line, or as a post-facto “something snapped with Arian and he looks pissed” immediately after his line.


Arian: “Huh? Was it something I said?”

[ ]

"...Oh? How interesting. We appear to have a backtalker in our midst," Mikhail observed. "Do you know what happens to those that dare to talk back to me?"

I’d recommend throwing in a short paragraph showing off Mikhail’s change in mood. Since if he’s meant to have gotten annoyed/pissed over Arian’s sass, he’s not really showing it at the moment.

Elvira: “Um. Arian. I think that we should run now-”

Before Arian could react, the Seviper suddenly launched towards him, and struck slashed his tail across the Riolu's midsection abdomen. Arian eliciting a screamed in of pain from the amnesiac blow as [ ].

"Arian!" Elvira cried.

Left some sundry suggestions to reflow this section. I left the final brackets open-ended, but IMO it’d work best describing some sort of reaction from Elvira given that she reacts to things right afterwards in dialogue.

[ ]

"They get poisoned!" Mikhail cackled. "Learn your place and pick fights you'll actually win, runt. That ought to teach you never to stand up to me again. Perhaps the poison'll knock some sense into you! Keh hah hah hah!"

Laughing evilly, he slithered away, proud of his handiwork. [ ]

"Arian! Are you alright?" Elvira asked, checking on her partner.

This section feels like it’d work with a bit of added description. The first block from some sort of description of Elvira going for Arian and/or some sort of body language from Mikhail taking in his handiwork. The second feels like it could stand to have a sentence or two thrown in to recenter things on Elvira as she focuses on Arian busy lying on the ground having Seviper problems.

Arian: “Obviously not.”

"Urgh...N-No," the Riolu answered. "I...I don't feel so great all of a sudden…" His hand went to his head, and he began panting.

"...Wait a minute." Elvira took a look at where Mikhail had struck, and his words came back to her when she saw a purplish stain amongst the bleeding wound. Immediately, she knew what it was.

"You've been poisoned!" she cried. "Oh no...and I don't have any Pecha Berries on me! Quick! We have to find a shop that sells them!"

Mikhail: “Are you deaf? I said I poisoned him just three paragraphs ago-”
Elvira: “Go away, seriously! You’re not even supposed to be in this scene anymore!” >.<

"But...what about…?" The Riolu looked in the direction of where the noticeboard was located. He could see it, in fact, located a little down the street they were about to go down.

"Never mind that! We have to heal your poison right away, before it gets worse!" Elvira frantically informed him. "I know where to go. Do you need me to help you walk?"

Arian: “Wait, but aren’t we supposed to have Pecha Berries for this? You have one on you, don’t you?”
Elvira: “...”

Arian: “... Fantastic.” ._.

"I...think I'll be alright for now," Arian responded, his voice coming out in pants. "I could be worse. Really, I can still walk."

"...Alright," Elvira permitted, as she turned and headed for another exit of the square, two exits to the right of the street with the noticeboard on it. "But don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it."


Wait, is Arian still lying on the ground right now? Or did he sit up / stand up during all of this? Since I don’t think that it was ever described.

They started down the street. As they left the square, Elvira could hear snickers and bemused laughter from the Thorned Roses at what just occurred. She thought she even heard one remark, "Serves him right." The viewing of what had happened made Elvira's lips curl in anger, and she had half a mind to turn around and yell a condemning remark at them.

I’m a little surprised that the peanut gallery wasn’t already laughing at Arian and remarking on how things turned out the moment that Mikhail wrecked him. Especially if watching Mikhail ruin some unfortunate peasant’s day is a bit of a spectator sport for them as this paragraph seems to imply.

TR!Random: “Go ahead, brat. Make my day.

Elvira: “... Okay, on second thought, that would be really, really ill-advised right now.” o_o;

No, she then thought to herself. That'll only create more problems than it'll solve. Arian needs help - that's the priority right now. Choosing to block out the remarks of the gang members, she continued down into the street, with Arian trailing behind her.

Occasionally, the Riolu would let out a visible wince as the poison gradually worsened. Elvira heard this, and crossed her fingers that he wouldn't faint on the spot.

Wait, but how do you hear a visible wince? Shouldn’t it be an ‘audible’ one in that case?

Hang in there, Arian. We'll get through this.

Elvira: “Because this is going to be a really short story if you don’t.” ._.;

Eventually, the street ended in a T-junction. It was lucky that Elvira knew Ozerograd well, and thus knew where to go. She turned right, and Arian followed.

I actually didn’t realize that Elvira was particularly knowledgeable about how to get around Ozerograd given that none of the TRs displayed any real level of familiarity with her. Is the implication that she used to spend more time in town before everything went pear-shaped with the end of the Ruslans?

This street eventually opened out into a wider street, and where they ended up had Arian looking around in slight wonderment, despite his current condition. It looked rather major busy, as if it was a place of importance. A number of merchants' stalls were set up along the street, and along with that, a number of prominent buildings were also present in this area.

Arian: “... I don’t suppose that someone around here has a Pecha Berry we could use?” ^^;

"This is the merchants' quarter," Elvira explained to him. "Hopefully there's a merchant selling a pecha berry or a heal seed or something to cure the poison…" She walked down the street with her partner, keeping her eyes peeled for a vendor that did sell such items.

Arian: “Oh, thank goodness. I was starting to get worried.”

Eventually, they found one, being run by a Sandslash and a Midnight Lycanroc.

"Hello there, young'uns," greeted the latter, a male Lycanroc. "What are you lookin' for?"

Not that Elvira and Arian would exactly be in sightseeing mode with Arian poisoned and sporting a prominent slash wound, but this feels like things are a bit underdescribed for arriving at a new location. Like even if Arian’s vision is starting to blur and he and Elvira are heavily speedrunning going through the market, that they’d still notice a handful of distinct features and the crowds of nearby Pokémon backing away and looking on in concern.

- Elvira points at Arian’s poisoned wound -
Elvira: “Um, hello? Something to deal with that would be nice!”

"Do you have any pecha berries or heal seeds?" Elvira immediately asked. "Please, my friend's been poisoned, and he needs to be healed! We have to heal him before it gets worse!"

She looked back at Arian, who was beginning to look worse for wear. He was now unable to hide the pain he was feeling from the poison.

Elvira: “Seriously, how do you two not notice the huge slash wound?!” >_>;

"Yes, we do," the Lycanroc told her, picking out a pecha berry from the merchandise. "That'll be 80 Poké, please."

Arian: “How are you just this unbothered by someone lurching up to your market stall with a bleeding abdominal wound?” .-.
Lycanroc: “Kid, we live in a Russian-themed setting. A post-revolutionary Russian-themed setting. Stuff happens. You get used to it.”

Then it dawned on Elvira.

"I don't have any money!" she realised. "But I do have this cheque. I'll just go to the bank with it. Could you just hold on a minute? It's just across there, I'll be back in a jiffy. I promise I'll have your money. Until then, though - "

I’m surprised that Elvira is even considering going to the bank or checks instead of just going full “I promise I’ll pay you back, just please, help him!” considering how grave Arian’s described condition is.

"Don't panic, dear," the Sandslash suddenly interjected. "You'll work yourself into a tizzy. Tell you what: take it for free. Your friend is more important than some gold."

[ ]

"Are you certain, Caitríona?" the Lycanroc asked. "She'll have the money…"

[ ]

"No, Conall, it's best to help these people out," Caitríona reasoned. "They're not Thorned Roses. That's reason enough to help them. Besides, it's only a pecha berry they want. We can miss 80P."

Not 80 considering the setting? (Yes, yes, I know that the real period-theme appropriate symbol should be different from that, but still.)

Though I wonder if the name of the currency should’ve been explicitly namedropped instead of just given the symbol. (e.x. ‘Poké’, ‘rubles’, etc.) Also, this feels like another section that would’ve benefitted from interleaving the given dialogue a bit more with some described reactions and body language.

"Alright, then. Take it." Conall handed Elvira the berry.

"Thank you. Thank you so much," the Treecko said with gratitude, before handing Arian the berry. The Riolu bit into it, and quickly dug into it.

I kinda wonder if the “with gratitude” part should’ve been handled by body language before Elvira’s line. Since something about saying she’s saying it with gratitude feels like it’s ‘telling’ things more than ‘showing’ them.

"Mmm…nice," Arian said. "I like those." Guess not all medicine tastes horrible here, huh?

[ ]

"How do you feel, Arian?" the Treecko asked.

Might have been a moment worth dropping in a brief description of some combination of Arian finishing up his Pecha Berry and Elvira reacting to him. Since something about this dialogue feels fairly disembodied ATM.

Arian: “Peachy. Literally, even.”
Elvira: “... Wait, but didn’t that just heal your poisoning and not your actual abdominal wound?”

"You know, now that you mention it…yeah, I can already feel that poison going away," Arian reported, feeling slightly more confident. "I just might need a moment to fully recover." As he said this, he sat down at the kerb.

Arian: “Not least of all because I think that I’m still bleeding right now.” ^^;

"Okay. I'll wait for you," Elvira said to him. "When you're ready, we'll go to the Klefki Bank and deposit this cheque. It's over there." She pointed to a building on the opposite side of the street to them further down.

Wait, but I thought that Conall and Caitríona said that they didn’t need to pay for the stuff they took from them. And I didn’t remember Elvira mentioning a ‘cheque’ at all prior to meeting them.

"Excuse me," the Sandslash from before said, drawing the duo's attention. "We didn't get your names."

[ ]

"Oh, of course. I'm Elvira, and this is Arian," introduced the Treecko replied.

[ ]

"Nice to meet you. I'm Caitríona, and this is my husband, Conall," the Sandslash returned.

"Are you two from around here?" wondered the Lycanroc.

A couple of little sections where IMO adding a little bit of description here or there about how the characters are reacting would go a long way to helping to ground how your audience visualizes things a bit more firmly.

"Yes. I live just outside of town, and Arian's living with me at the minute," Elvira informed the two. She reasoned it was best to simplify the matter of her partner, whose situation would only provoke more questions that she didn't necessarily know the answers to. "We're in town today to...um…"

IMO, your middle sentence is long and idea-dense enough that you probably want to at a minimum split it into two. It might be best to make it a whole different paragraph entirely independent of the two bits of dialogue, but I opted for a more minimalistic suggestion here.

She hesitated briefly here. She knew that she should keep the truth of her and Arian's status as unofficial mercenaries on the down low, lest they be harassed by the Thorned Roses. However, she realised that these two merchants were hardly in league with the infamous gang. And a brief look around this street showed that very few Thorned Roses were in the vicinity of this street.

Elvira sucked in a breath, and decided, therefore, to tell the truth.

Went out on a limb on a couple of these suggestions, though that’s a bold assumption if I ever heard one given that mafias throughout history have loved collecting protection money from local businesses. Something that I can’t imagine the TRs are above if Mik’s behavior is anything to go by.

I kinda wonder if Elvira should’ve been a bit more specific about what about these two makes her confident she and Arian can trust them. My assumption is that it’s from their behavior where they were willing to take a small loss to help them out, but it might be more impactful for showing the gears turn in Elvira’s head to say that outright.

"We're investigating the Thorned Roses," she said, in a hushed tone. "Specifically, it's about the disappearances of certain people around Ozerograd. Those that the Thorned Roses don't take kindly to. Do you two know anything about that?"

Cue the nervous [wtfuckle] faces from behind the counter in 3… 2…

[ ]

"...As a matter of fact, we do," Caitríona replied, unable to hide her surprise at the question. "Should I tell them, Conall?"

"Well… how about this? You do us a favor, and we’ll help you out with your investigation," The Lycanroc considered offered. "...How about this? As it so happens, there's something we need to retrieve for a certain someone we know. But if you do it for us, then you can get we’ll give you that info you want. Maybe even with a little bit of cash. Just like a merc would, eh? Whaddaya say?"

[ ]

"...We accept," Elvira said, surprised at the mention of mercenaries from the wolf.

I left some suggestions for how to reflow Conall’s line to sound a bit more natural and not beat around the bush as much about “you help us, and we’ll help you back”. Though This is another part where taking some time to show off character reactions from both sides would go a long way to painting more of a clear mental image for your readers and adding some natural pauses in between lines.

"Good on you." Conall flashed a grin at them. "The item's a Sandy Torc. It should be located in Blossoming Meadow, that Mystery Dungeon just outside the old town. It was on…what floor did she say again, Ríona?"

- Fires up Bulbapedia in the background -

Oh, so a Sky-exclusive item, huh? That’s certainly a neat tie-in there since you don’t see a lot of fics even acknowledge them.

"It was in the grove, I think," Caitríona recalled. "That's where Lillian thinks she lost it, anyway."

Arian: “Wait, who’s ‘Lilian’ again-?”
Conall: “Someone we know that you don’t need to. (Seriously, Caitríona, don’t run your mouth off so quickly!)” >_>;

"There ya go, then. Find the Sandy Torc in the grove of Blossoming Meadow," Conall said to them. "Good luck to you, kiddos."

"We'll bring it back to you," Arian replied. "But you'd better give us information in return."

"You don't have to worry about that, kid. We don't break promises," the Lycanroc returned.

"Good. Come on, Elvira, let's go," Arian said to his partner.

"Not yet," Elvira responded. "We need to get money and prepare to go out there. It's not too dangerous a place by Mystery Dungeon standards, but it never hurts to be prepared."

This… is quite a bit of dialogue without any intervening body language or description. It might make sense to drop in at least one or two paragraphs into this section to interleave them into the surrounding dialogue.

"Gotcha. You said this in Verdant Woods. At least we have a bag this time…" Arian's voice drifted away from the stand as he and his partner walked towards the Klefki Bank to withdraw funds from. [ ]

"So…they're tryin' to figure that mystery too, eh?" Conall's paw went to his chin.

"Yes. Just like our own folks," Caitríona murmured. "What a coincidence."

It probably makes sense to add in 1-2 sentences of “transition” towards Conall and Caitríona’s perspective, since even from an omniscient perspective, there’s not a firm refocusing on them as the center of attention, so the switch over to “we’re still with Conall and Caitríona” comes off as a bit jarring.

"It's gotta be fate," the Lycanroc said. "...Ya think we should tell 'em? About the whole…y'know…"

[ ]

"No." The Sandslash shook her head. "Not here, anyway."

[ ]

"But Ríona…you know he's looking out for more folks." Conall sounded dismayed. "They might only be young'uns, but they might well have potential. And you know he's all about the potential of his recruits."

Another section that would benefit from added body language / described reaction. Though these two have connections to some sort of dissident / resistance movement, huh? Since it sure feels like they do right about now.

"If we do tell them, it'll have to be in a secret sort of way. I'm not letting Lillian, Ishmael and Axel's cover be blown over this."

Yeah, I rest my case.

"Alright, Ríona, I getcha." The wolf was deep in thought. "Hmm...I'll think of a way to tell 'em when they come back. We can tell 'em with what we know about them vanishings.

"Because they deserve to know…just what's being planned."

Oh, well that doesn’t sound ominous at all there.

"Blossoming Meadow's out to the north of town," Elvira explained to Arian, as they left the merchants' quarter.

They turned in the cheque at the Klefki Bank, an enterprise run by the aforementioned Key Ring Pokémon, and spent a portion of the money on items for the delve into the Mystery Dungeon at Caitríona and Conall's stand. [ ]

"It's not too far away, thankfully, and it's not that deep a Dungeon. With any luck, we can get it over with quickly."

IMO, your paragraph here is dense enough that it should be hacked up into separate parts. The middle doesn’t quite work on its own standalone, which probably would justify putting in some sort of extension to the effect of “before they knew it, they were already on their way out of town” or something like that.

"So it should be fairly easy?" Arian guessed.


Arian, when has going into Mystery Dungeons in any Mystery Dungeon media been a “fairly easy” endeavor?

"Famous last words, Arian. Remember, we're still very new at this," Elvira reminded. "Please don't overestimate your capabilities."

"Right," Arian acknowledged.

Arian: “... Weren’t you the one who went along with me just the other day into one of those Mystery Dungeons without that ‘Escape Orb’ thingy-?” >_>;
Elvira: “Hey, that was an oversight!” >.<

"How's your injury?"

Arian: “... Wait, did we ever actually treat the cut part of that injury? Or has it coagulated by now?” ^^;

"It's still a bit sore."

Although the poison from Mikhail's Poison Tail attack had been healed up, he still felt sore where the Seviper had struck. If there were any others in the Thorned Roses as sadistic as that, then I'd much rather spend as little time in this town as possible.

"But how do we get out to the north? Where's that exit?"

Another paragraph that works better in parts, though I’m surprised Arian didn’t inspect his wound to show off how good (or not) of a job that healing did to him.

"Well, from here…" Elvira considered the route in her head. "...I know a way. Follow me."

"Okay," Arian agreed. "You clearly know this town better than I do, so...follow the leader, I guess."

"It's not 'follow the leader,'" Elvira corrected. "We're equal partners in this relationship, Arian. ...But I do know Ozerograd well. I used to spend hours playing on these streets when I was a kid. I know them like the back of my hand.."

Arian: “... That sounds an awful lot like ‘follow the leader’, just saying.”
Elvira: “Look, it’s more along the lines of ‘follow the local contact’, alright?” -_-;

"...Alright then, partner. Guide me."

Together, they walked through Ozerograd's streets. The path would've normally been a straightforward one to the northern exit of town. But Elvira chose to go a back route there, in the hope that they would encounter less Thorned Roses as a result.

Wait, if we’re from an omniscient perspective right now, how do we know what the path would’ve ‘normally’ been given that that’s a frame of reference that Elvira specifically have? It might make sense to throw in something like “Elvira explained that the path [...]” or something like that.

The route in question took them through a number of back alleys and residential houses. Most of which, to Arian's shock, looked dilapidated and boarded up.

"What is all this…?" He looked around him. "What happened here?"

"Evictions," Elvira told him. "You've heard about the rents from Tam. This street was already a poor part of town. It appears the Thorned Roses really didn't take kindly to them." She gazed at all of the houses, a bitter look on her face.

I’m surprised that Hinnerk is just leaving those houses with evicted tenants stay empty instead of filling them with new ones or else letting his goons put them to use. Though I suppose if he had an axe to grind against their neighbors or wanted to deliberately tank property values for future buyouts, a little bit of urban blight would go a long way towards that.

"...Weird," Arian mentioned. "It looks abandoned. But…it's like I'm being watched." He suddenly went on edge. "Is it the Thorned Roses?"

"I don't think so," Elvira replied. "People still live in these houses. Some have boarded up their houses to reinforce barricade themselves against a being evicted by the Thorned Roses eviction, or to give the impression it's been abandoned already. Like that house there." The Treecko pointed to a house with bricks on the window, and boards over the door. It did look like an abandoned house, alright.

Just saying, lingering in a place like this feels like a fantastic way to wind up getting murdered by a squatter paranoid that you’re going to sell him and his roomies out.

"That's awful…" Arian happened to look looked at the windows of one of the houses, and caught sight of a Blipbug. But once they did, the Bug-type immediately jumped and disappeared from view. "I can feel that fear. It seems to linger in this place..."

His sorrow turned to anger. "Geez, how horrible do you have to be to think it's fun to kick people out of their own home and cart them off to who knows where?"

Elvira: “Well, Mik seems to think it’s the funniest thing in the world, and you’ve seen what he’s like, so…” >_>;

"Very horrible, indeed," agreed Elvira. "But ranting about it within the town's walls won't do anything to help us. We need to keep going."

They kept going. [ ] But Not long after having this their conversation, they came across a dreadful scene.

On one of the doorsteps of the houses, Arian and Elvira spotted a Florges with red leaves. She looked middle-aged, and to the duo's concern, was weeping.

Oh, well this is going to go places in short order. Though IMO, your middle paragraph would benefit from something to the effect of Arian and Elvira acknowledging their surroundings but opting to continue on.

"No…No, please. What mother am I to leave her little girl behind?"

Daughter? That caught Arian's attention. Curious, he went to ask. "Excuse me, ma'am," he said to her. "Are you alright?"

The Florges sniffled for some time before looking up with tearful eyes at the Riolu and answering his question.

"No…My daughter's gone missing," she confessed. "My little girl…Her name's Iona. We were visiting the Blossoming Meadow, but we were chased by a wild Pokémon. I made it to the stairs in time, but I was separated from Iona. And now she's all alone in that place…"


Oh yeah, I’m sure that that totally ended well.

Arian: “I’m sorry, but why didn’t you go and try and find someone to help?” ._.
Florges: “Riolu, have you seen this neighborhood? Just who am I supposed to go and ask?!” O_O;

[ ]

"Oh no," Elvira murmured. "Is she young?"

"Yes. She's only five. She's the only family I have left, now that my husband was stolen away by those monsters. I couldn't bear to lose her too…"

It might make sense to give Elvira some explicit reaction / body language here such that Arian can read it and understand that things are getting serious. Though what on earth is this ‘mon’s day job such that she’s bringing a little kid off into an environment with the equivalent of wild animals roaming around?

"That's not good at all…" The mention of the Florges' husband reminded the two of why they were in town in the first place. "We have to find her, Arian."

"Lucky we're headed there, anyway," the Riolu said. "Don't worry, ma'am! We'll have your kid back safe and sound!"

[ ]

"Oh…Oh thank you so much…Please find her!"

I realize this is probably getting a bit broken-record tier right now, but yeah. I imagine that you had a mental image in mind for what it looked like for Florges reacting to Arian and Elvira’s offer to help.

"We will. Come on, Elvira. Let's go!" Arian saw no point in hanging around, and made his way through the winding streets.


Eventually, the narrow street ended as a side street to a wider road. Looking to their left, Arian could see an exit to the town, marked with an arch and a portcullis.

"Is that the exit to the north?" he asked her.

"Yes, it is," came Elvira's confirmation.

Part of me wonders if this section should’ve been just cut into two separate scenes, since there’s a fairly abrupt transition between Elvira and Arian leaving the Florges behind and them making it to the gate that feels jarring seeing it all together in one continuous take that doesn’t feel so after a “fast forward” for some reason.

"But...there's Thorned Roses there," Arian pointed out.

This Sure enough, it was true: there were two Pokémon with that blasted red bands guarding the entrance.

Went out on a limb a bit, but I think that your second paragraph can be reflowed to sound a bit smoother with some word and phrasing tweaks. I left some suggestions to consider playing around with.

"There's no way around it," Elvira sighed. "I don't want to interact with them either. But there's no other path out of town."

Elvira, this is what hitchhiking on wagons or the like is for. Is it foolproof? No. But I’d put money on it being a better idea than this.

"If you say so." The disappointment was clear in the Riolu's voice.

They walked towards the arch. When they approached it, the two Thorned Roses that were there immediately called out to them. They were a Krokorok and a Gligar, and both did not look the kind of Pokémon one would want to mess with.

Arian: “Wait, but we both have type advantages against the Krokorok-”
Elvira: “Who almost certainly massively outlevels us. And we’re both weak against the Gligar.” ._.
Arian: “Right, I knew that.”

"Hey!" the Gligar called out. "You gotta pay if you want to leave town!"

"Them's the breaks! Now hand over the moolah!" the Krokorok, who had an intriguing accent, demanded.

And this is why it would’ve been a good idea to hitchhike on a wagon, you two. If you don’t get noticed, you don’t pay diddly.

"I have the money. Don't worry," Elvira replied, her tone slightly snappy. She reached into her bag and dug out 100P. "There. Take it."

"Good," muttered the Krokorok, after counting the coins. "Now go. Scram!"


Elvira: “Easy for you to say. That hundred Poké’s going to be a pain in the butt to earn back.” >_>;

They didn't need to be told twice. If it meant getting away from the Thorned Roses, then Arian and Elvira were all in favour of getting away from town. They briskly made their way out of Ozerograd, and into the open countryside.

Arian: “Actually, wait. I just realized. Why didn’t we just take the tunnel that led out of Tamara’s house again? Since it got us into Ozerograd without being noticed just fine…”
Elvira: “... I wanted to make things snappy since there was that kid lost in the Mystery Dungeon? (Though in retrospect, I suppose I ought to have explained that a bit more explicitly.)”

Once the town was a comfortable distance away, the human-turned Pokémon took in a breath of fresh air.

"Ahh…" he breathed. "Thank God. No more Thorned Roses to worry about out here."

"I wouldn't say that too soon," advised Elvira. "Remember yesterday? They're not just present in Ozerograd, but in the surrounding vicinity, too. Just because we're out of town doesn't mean we should drop our guard. We might even find some in Blossoming Meadow."

Arian: “... Of course.” >.<

[ ]

"Hopefully we don't," Arian wished. "Especially not Pokémon as devious vicious as that Mikhail fellow." He shuddered at the memory of the wicked viper.

This feels like another part where describing Arian’s reaction to finding out that he’s not as safe as he hoped would have a bit more impact. Also, while describing Mikhail as ‘devious’ isn’t wrong per se, it feels a bit understated since that emphasizes connotations of ‘dishonesty’. It might be worth considering something more blunt like ‘vicious’ or ‘nasty’ or the like.

"Here's hoping. Who knows what they might do if those rotters found an innocent little girl out here alone in the meadow?" Elvira brought up. "We should move quickly."


I think that it might make sense to be explicit about who ‘they’ are, since while Arian and Elvira were in town, they were worried primarily of how Florges’ child would fare if wilds set upon her. They’re now considering a second threat that they hadn’t thought of earlier.

They walked along the path for the next a good while afterwards. During this time their trek, Arian took the time to look at his surroundings. And once again, they which were as alluring as always. Not only was the greenery of the trees and grasses ever present, but the view also included the lake that Ozerograd had previously been built near.

Some small rephrasing suggestions for this paragraph.

"What's the name of that lake?" he asked Elvira.

"Lake Lazurny." the Treecko answered. " It's the lake that regularly flooded the old town of Ozerograd, It's also and where the town still gets its water from,” " the Treecko answered. "There’s have an ingenious system of channels that get water to public taps in the town, so the people can still get water as easily as they once did.

[ ]

It's a good thing they did that as even now, that it’s there, really,” she sighed. “Even when the Thorned Roses have put tolls up to those entering and leaving town, people can still get water."

Wait, but Lake Lazurny’s name was already revealed in the story right at the beginning. If it’s meant to be introduced in-story to Arian here, it probably makes sense to not bring it up earlier on, since otherwise this bit feels repetitive.

Also, your paragraph is such that it could probably afford to be refactored a bit, and split up since it’s a bit on the long side.

But despite her words being slightly optimistic, Arian could sense worry in her emotions. He wondered to himself if it was to do with the Thorned Roses, but...something about the way her expression made him think it was something else.

Wait, sense worry as in he hears it? Or is that his aura senses in play? If it’s the latter, it might make sense to play up a bit how Arian is finding it weird or else how he doesn’t know how he can sense Elvira’s worry, but knows it’s there or something like that.

Hang on, I remember. She felt that same worry when we were crawling through the undergrowth earlier this morning. Is there a connection? Should I ask her?

Yeah, it’s his aura senses. Noted.

"There's still people living down there in the old town," Elvira continued. "But it's a shell of what it once was. You couldn't call it a town anymore. Especially when you compare it to the new town. Ozerograd was made a lot bigger when it moved to where it is now. Few would say that was a bad thing for the place. It used to be a backwater place, but now it's more prosperous in the eyes of the tsar. ...Well, it used to be, anyway. Before all this happened…"

Elvira: “Well, except for everyone living in Old Ozerograd, but that place was honestly a dive even before Hinnerk came along.”

"...A shame...Hopefully, prosperity will return," Arian said, with some hope in his voice. However, he knew in his head such a thing would falter before reality.

Wait, how does Arian know that again when he’s seen Ozerograd for all of a couple hours at most? It might make sense to have him dwell on specific things that he saw in town that make him doubtful that Ozerograd will recover, since I’m not sure that the present formulation really sells the sense of his doubt of “... yeah, this place is never getting better, is it?” that we’re told exists. I guess we don’t really “see” it play out in Arian’s thought process?

"...Yeah...hopefully." Elvira, at least, carried that hope in her heart, that one day Ozerograd would live to see a day without the Thorned Roses. "...But that's for another time. For now...let's focus on the present. Let's rescue this child of the Florges."

Similar dynamic where we’re told that Elvira feels a certain way, but it feels a bit disconnected. Taking some time to show the proverbial wheels turning would likely help hammer home the vibe a bit harder.

They walked a bit further down the road. Arian looked around him in curiosity.

"So...where is this Blossoming Meadow?" he wondered.

"It's slightly off the beaten track, like Verdant Woods," Elvira informed. "But you can't miss the path for it. There's clear signage for it when we get to it. It's just before that wooded area." She pointed to a treescape ahead of them.

"Gotcha," Arian understood replied.

Arian: “Wait, so what do Pokémon do there such that they’d bring little kids along, anyways?”
Elvira: “I dunno, didn’t really think of asking the Florges, really.”

They continued on for a bit longer. Arian looked to the left, where from the road they were on, a vantage point of the lake could be seen. Curiously, though, he noted the sight of what there appeared to be a small settlement down near the water's edge. and Heading away from it, there was a road that appeared to lead away from it go and towards the same wood that Blossoming Meadow was located in. Based on what he'd been Elvira told earlier, the Riolu believed he knew the answer mysterious town was.

Throwing out some odds and ends changes that I’d recommend for making this paragraph flow a bit smoother.

"Is that the old town down there that you were talking about earlier?" he asked.

"Hm?" Elvira looked over to where the Riolu was pointing. [ ]

"Yes, it is. But that area tended to flood a lot when the autumn storms came in, so they moved the town to higher ground,” she explained. “It doesn't quite stand up to the new Ozerograd, in my opinion. But don't say that too loud. Some of the people that live down there don't take too kindly to their settlement being compared to the new town."

"...Noted," Arian said.

IMO, Elvira’s paragraph would work a bit better hacked up with a small extension slotted into the first part where Elvira turns and notices Old Ozerograd a bit more explicitly and has some sort of reaction or something like that.

Arian: “I mean, the new town is a cesspool riddled with open gang activity, so just how bad is the old one, then?”

Silence reigned for another while, until the duo eventually reached a small crossroads. A sign was there prior to it to tell them what was in each direction.

Ozerograd Quay, Lake Lazurny
Blossoming Meadow

"Ah, there we go!" Arian pointed out, noting the third line of the sign. "Blossoming Meadow, to the right."

Once again, recommending an indent block to help differentiate the text of the signage from the rest of the story text.

"Yes. It's down this way," Elvira confirmed. She headed to the right, with Arian following closely behind. "It'll be another short walk to the Mystery Dungeon."

[ ]

"Have you been here before?" Arian wondered.

"A few times. I'd visit it with Dad a few times when I was younger to hone my skills by battling the Pokémon that live in the meadow. I'd also visit it with Flora and Tamara to gather flowers for the florist's that Flora's parents run."

Oh, I suppose ‘gathering flowers to sell’ or something like that would explain what the Florges was up to. Even if I kinda wonder if that should’ve been explicitly stated earlier on. Though if Arian’s meant to be surprised at how nonchalant / familiar she seems with the place, it might make sense to show that off a bit more in his described reaction or else internal thought process.

"I see...Well, it is called Blossoming Meadow. I'd be a tad disappointed if I didn't see any flowers."

"You won't be. This place is full of them. ...Speaking of which, there it is." Elvira pointed to a point off straight ahead of them. "The Mystery Dungeon entrance."

Once again, Arian caught sight of the same unusual phenomenon he'd seen at the entrance to Verdant Woods. There was a point in the path ahead of them where it seemed to be obfuscated and unclear, even as they got close.

That is bizarre, alright. ...But it's how this world works. No choice but to get used to the workings of it.

Arian: “I’m honestly a bit shocked that with how big of a doorstopper those books on the shelf at Elvira’s house are, that none of them have any explanation for what on earth causes that. .-.

"You ready to head in, Arian?" Elvira asked.

"...Yes, I am."

And so the two walked into the Mystery Dungeon.

Arian: “It’s a flower meadow, just how bad can it be?”

Elvira: “... Actually, wait. Arian, I did remember to bring my bag with me before we entered, right?”
Arian: “... Me and my big mouth.” ._.

Blossoming Meadow

Once again, Arian found himself in the strange reality of another Mystery Dungeon. He and Elvira found themselves in a room with a number of different exits, just like in Verdant Woods.

However, this area wasn't quite as densely forested as Verdant Woods was. It was still full of trees and vegetation, but more commonly seen now were hedgerows and bushes were more commonly scattered about. More than that, however, A bigger difference still quickly became apparent, as a casual glance around revealed there was something abundant in the meadow…

"Flowers," remarked Arian, staring at the scenes before him in slight bewilderment. "There's flowers everywhere…in all sorts of colours..."

Left some rephrasing suggestions, though inb4 this Mystery Dungeon is full of killer Beautifly or something like that.

"Yes. It's beautiful, isn't it?" Elvira said. "I always like coming here. The sight of colourful flowers never fails to lift my spirits. ...Maybe that's why I've been so down for the last while. It's been some time since I was last here."

Elvira: “Well, aside from when the wilds come and try to ambush me. But let’s not think too hard about that right now.” ^^;

"A bit of a shame we have a mission here," Arian lamented. "I was thinking that if we weren't in a rush, we could stop and smell the roses...quite literally."

Not sure that I’d want to think about smelling roses all too hard in a setting with a mafia called the Thorned Roses, since I’m not convinced at all the average ‘mon from their ranks is exactly fragrant-smelling. ^^;

"Well, we do are. So no time to waste. Onward we go. Down that way."

The human followed Elvira down the chosen path. He was silently grateful that the paths the Mystery Dungeon had for them didn't involve running through the flower meadows. I wouldn't want to trample flowers as beautiful as these, he thought to himself. Blue, yellow, red, orange...it's so pretty! Like a kaleidoscope of colours…

Cue a wild just barging through the flowers like it’s nobody’s business in about 30 seconds.

"Arian! Focus!"

"Hm?" The Riolu looked over and saw Elvira battling a Cottonee. "Oh! Sorry!" Quickly, he snapped back to attention, and dashed forward with a Quick Attack at the Pokémon. The Grass-type succumbed to it quickly, and fainted.

While I get that this isn’t exactly supposed to be a long and drawn-out battle, I do wonder if you cut things a little too too the bone here. Like even an extra sentence of Arian feeling himself make contact with the Cottonee and seeing it tumble away would go a long ways to avoiding a “text battle log” vibe here.

"Thanks, Arian," Elvira said.

"Sorry!" apologised Arian. "I was too focused on the flowers, and I didn't see what was ahead..."

I’m beginning to understand how Florges and her child wound up getting separated from each other.

"Arian, it's okay. We all lose focus at some points," soothed Elvira. "It could've been worse. I would've been able to handle that Cottonee anyway.

"I'll keep my focus," promised the Riolu. "I won't get distracted by any more flowers here."


[ ]

"Distracted by flowers…" murmured Elvira. "...I can already hear Flora's snarky remarks."

"That was quite embarrassing," Arian said, feeling his face burn red with humiliation. "Please forget that happened."

"You can relax. I won't say anything."

It might make sense to explicitly highlight what Elvira’s mood is when she’s replying to Arian here, especially if this is meant to be a funny bit where she’s joking around / trolling a bit. Since the intended vibe on her part is a bit unclear here.

The two continued down the narrow pathways. [ ] While they were strolling, something suddenly occurred to Arian.

"Who exactly should we be looking out for?" he asked.

"Well, since it was a Florges...it's likely the child could be a Flabébé," Elvira said. But as she said this, her gaze happened upon another row of flowers, and then she suddenly stopped, as if in a moment of realisation of something. Unfortunately, Arian didn't register this, and accidentally walked right into the back of Elvira.

Your first paragraph in this block would likely benefit from an added sentence or two describing things going by in passing to sell the sense that time and space are passing by a bit.

"Oof! S-Sorry," he apologised. "...Um, Elvira? Why did you stop?"

"...It literally just occurred to me," the Treecko said with horrified realisation. "Finding a Flabébé in here will be like finding a needle in a haystack." She turned to Arian. "A Flabébé is a little fairy that's always clinging to a flower. It's quite a small Pokémon, and so are the flowers it carries…”

Elvira trailed off and gestured to the multitude of flowers all around them.

...So do You see the problem, don’t you?" Elvira gestured to the multitude of flowers.

Arian blanched. When Elvira put things like that, he was beginning to see what she was getting at.

"Oh… " Arian uttered, realising what Elvira was getting at. " That is a problem, alright…"

Went off on a bit of a limb again for this block, but IMO with some modest tweaks you can make it flow a lot smoother than the version that’s presently in the story.

"Well, there's no use complaining. " Elvira said. "That won't help us find this lost child. We just have to keep looking,” Elvira said. “Besides, there's also a possibility the child isn't a Flabébé. She could be someone else a different Pokémon, depending on who the her father is.

[ ]

But we don't have enough facts to determine that know either way. ...Let's just keep looking."

Elvira’s dialogue here is a bit long-winded and has a couple chunks that read as either redundant to others or a bit clunky. It might make sense to reflow things a bit and turn it into two paragraphs.

The duo kept on down the path they were on. Eventually, it opened to a wider room, in which there was a Silcoon and a Cutiefly. Immediately, both Pokémon turned their attention to the new arrivals.

Oh, so there are going to be killer Beautifly in this Mystery Dungeon, huh?

"One each?" Arian said to Elvira.

"That's fine. I'll take the Cutiefly, you take the Silcoon," Elvira directed.

That sounds like a dangerous idea if I ever heard one since that Cutiefly could potentially make the two of you really miserable really fast depending on how strong it is. But I’ll just assume that the wilds in this dungeon are weak pushovers.

"Got it." Arian focused his attention on the cocoon. Immediately, the first thing it did was stiffen as it used Harden. The human was not fazed, and slashed the Bug-type with a Metal Claw. Curiously, he noted that all it seemed to be doing was use Harden over and over.

Well, it is a cocoon. It's not like it'll be capable of much. Arian found himself a bit more relaxed as he attacked again with Quick Attack. But still, the Silcoon would not yield. Arian attacked again, this time with Force Palm. However, this didn't appear to do much either.

"This thing is stubborn, alright," the Riolu remarked, taking a deep breath. "...Just gotta get through it." He readied another Metal Claw, and struck the cocoon.

Right after that, the Silcoon was also attacked with a Quick Attack. Looking over, Arian saw Elvira return from where she'd attacked. The sight of a downed Cutiefly explained everything.

"Silcoon are known to be quite defensive," Elvira told him. "Attacking, however, is beyond them. We just need to keep at it with our attacks. You appear to have done most of the work, at least."

"Got it. ...Wanna see who can do the quicker Quick Attack?" Arian challenged.

"Oh, you're on," Elvira accepted. Next moment, both Pokémon used Quick Attack, and struck the Silcoon. Both attacks finally managed to cause the Bug-type to fall, and it collapsed onto its side.

Okay, so admittedly, in this block, I didn’t go into my typical level of detail for things, since the entire block as a whole suffers from a shared issue of the flow of battle reading an awful lot like a battle log. It’s less of an issue in the first half than the second half, but even so, throughout the battle, it’s difficult to get a sense of relative motion and positioning or even what these different attacks look like as they occur. If you revise this chapter at some point, making the flow of events a bit more “visual” and amping up the sensory experience would probably be a goal to prioritize.

"That goes to me," Elvira said. "I attacked the Silcoon first."

"...Yeah...I think that does go to you," Arian agreed. "I did feel you strike slightly before me, to be honest."

"...Hm. You're too kind, Arian." A smile of slight bemusement crossed the Treecko's face. "It's not often the other side is willing to concede defeat like that."

"It's not like it's high stakes," Arian reasoned. "What would arguing about it accomplish?"

Another section where the dialogue feels like it could use a paragraph or two of description interleaving with it to show off more of Arian and Elvira’s moods and body language or the like.

"Good point," Elvira said in agreement with the Riolu's last statement. "I'd rather not get into arguments over something as petty as that. We're barely off the ground; I wouldn't want our team to collapse before it got going."

"Nor would I. ...Let's not dwell on that thought," Arian decided. "Better to focus our minds on this mission."

"You're Right. Let's continue looking for this Flabébé."


But unfortunately, a thorough search of the first floor yielded no sign of a small sprite carrying a flower. Once they were sure she was not on the floor, Arian and Elvira found themselves looking at the stairs leading to the next floor.

This is another section where the transition in time and space feels fairly abrupt. If this isn’t meant to be a hard scene break, you probably want to add a couple more sentences adding more of a transition to the effect of “Arian and Elvira got back to work and started going through the floor’s passages” or something like that.

"How many floors are in this place?" Arian wondered.

"Four," Elvira answered. "There's a small grove at the end, just like in Verdant Woods. It's possible the child might be there, too. But let's search all the floors before we get to that."

Elvira: “Not least of all since from what the Florges told us, she strongly implied that she lost her child on one of the floors and not in the grove if that ‘stairs’ comment was anything to go by.

"Well, she doesn't appear to be on this floor. Should we go up?" Arian proposed.

"Yes," Elvira agreed.

And so the two climbed the steps.

Arian: “I mean, aside from the sheer number of flowers potentially making it hard to spot flower-looking Pokémon, it wasn’t that bad, was it?” ^^;
Elvira: “Arian, don’t go tempting fate like that.” >.<;

Blossoming Meadow

Another new floor of hedgerows and flowers greeted them. This time, the room they started in was a narrower one with three exits to the south, west and east, with no exit to the north.

There was, however, something on the floor that caught Arian's attention.

"...Money?" he said, upon seeing some gold. "That's a coin. This is money." He picked up the coin, and examined it.

Arian: “Wait, did someone drop this, or…?”

"Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. Sometimes money can show up on the ground in Mystery Dungeons," Elvira explained. "No one knows why, or how. But no one minds."

She walked over and looked at the coin her partner lifted. [ ]

"...50P. Not much, but it's something,” she said. “I heard other dungeons can have lots of money in them, and some are said to strike it rich by delving in and out of those Dungeons scouring the floors for coins."

Another paragraph that seems like it’d be ripe for being hacked up into smaller pieces with a bit of an extension. Though wait, is this same Poké minted in the outside world in the present day? Or is it all the treasure of some bygone civilization? Since there’s surely quite a story behind how treasures would get lost in places like these.

"Shame this doesn't look to be one like that like it’s one of those," Arian lamented, though with only slight disappointment. "But we'll pick it up regardless." He slipped it to Elvira, who filed it away in the coin pouch.

"Now then…" Arian returned his attention to the room. "Hmm...We should go this way." He pointed to the west path. "If the child's not here, we'll end up exploring the whole floor anyway."

"Quite right," Elvira said. "We won't stop until we've investigated every nook and cranny of this place."

Wait, was Elvira always intended to be that formal? Since something about Elvira’s line feels like something that I’d expect from a butler or the retainer to a noble or something like that.

Arian and Elvira walked down the corridor, looking all around the flowery hedgerows for any sign of a lost child, presumably a Flabébé. All the while, the former Riolu, who was in the lead, kept a lookout for any enemy Pokémon.

That actually makes me wonder, but has Arian been futzing around with his aura sensitivity at all during this whole time in the story? Or is it one of those things where he’s still fumbling around with it and not really knowing what he’s doing?

Soon, one such Pokémon came into view. As he was walking down the hallway, Arian suddenly caught sight of a black and white blur moving in front of him.

"What is that?" he murmured, squinting to see. But as it got closer, it occurred to him that it was a Pokémon. A black and white-furred raccoon with a long pink tongue, to be specific.

"A Zigzagoon," Elvira pointed out. "A few of these do live here."

Ah yes, G-Zigzagoon. Though I suppose it makes sense given that Hinnerk’s an Obstagoon, and it’s not as if Galarian Forms would be exclusive to only townies or wilds.

The Normal and Dark-type got closer to them, with Arian readying to use a Force Palm. However, before he could unleash it, it rammed straight into him.

"Argh! Hey!" cried out Arian. However, he saw the Zigzagoon make some sort of taunting snicker, as if to goad him into a fight.

Oh, so wilds can laugh and display emotion, huh? Well, I suppose that real animals can as well, but I was still a bit surprised by that given how prevalent “nonsapient ferals are mindless” is in this fandom. I do think that the first paragraph could’ve benefitted from an extra sentence or two of detail, but I’ll leave it up to you for how to get there.

"Fine! You want a fight? Then I'll give you one!" He charged a Force Palm and struck the Zigzagoon...which caused the Pokémon to faint immediately after being hit.

Yeah, see above for the bit about adding more detail. Since this is a fairly high-level description of what goes down with the Zigzagoon, and as such it’s a bit hard to get into things as a result.

"Er...wow," a bewildered Arian remarked, slightly stunned at his curb-stomp victory. "I didn't expect that."

Such is life when you have 4x weaknesses, Arian.

"A Zigzagoon's biggest weakness is Fighting-type moves," Elvira explained, "Normal and Dark-types don't do so well against Fighting-types, and Zigzagoon happens to be both. Your Force Palm was clearly enough to knock it out."

"Maybe I don't know my own strength," he joked.

Watch as that last sentence winds up taking on some cruel irony in the next scene or something like that. Since for good and ill, Arian really doesn’t vibe as someone who has a solid read on his own strength.

"...Perhaps. But remember what I said: don't overestimate yourself," Elvira advised. "Pride comes before a fall, and as your partner, it's my duty to make sure that doesn't happen to you."

See? Even Elvira agrees with me here.

[ ]

"...Thanks for reminding me. Good to know I have someone like you at my back," Arian said.

"That's what partners are for," reminded the Treecko. "Now let's keep moving."

[ ]

"Actually, there's something I'm curious about," Arian wondered, as they moved on. "That Zigzagoon...It reminds me a bit like that graffiti I saw back in town."

You know the drill regarding adding some description. In this case, the first block feels like it could benefit from showing Arian’s “errr”-ness a bit more while the second feels like it’d potentially work quite well from a little moment where Elvira starts to head off and Arian stops her or something like that.

"Graffiti?" Elvira queried, before a thought came to her. "Oh...I think I see what you mean…"

"There was a bit of artwork depicting a Pokémon like that Zigzagoon," the Riolu went on. "It had the same black and white colours as it, and I remember that below it, there was a message saying, 'Long live the boss!' ...Is that Pokémon...the leader of the Thorned Roses?"

"He is. That's Hinnerk, the Thorned Roses' leader. You might have heard his name a few times now," Elvira informed. "He's an Obstagoon, who are fully evolved from Zigzagoon."

Yeah, I knew it. Even if I’d have been more surprised if that wasn’t Hinnerk from the amount of focus the Obstagoon doodle got.

"I see…" Arian mentally noted the evolution.

"He's selfish and cruel," Elvira went on. "When Mitrofan took over Selenia, Hinnerk came down to Ozerograd and personally killed the lord who ran the oblast around the town. He declared himself the leader of Ozerograd, and to reinforce his power, he set up the Thorned Roses and used them to intimidate all of us.
[ ]

It's worked well for him. Five years later, he still rules over us with an iron fist." She looked sadly off to the side. "...We really have had the power to rise up stripped from us. When will this cycle end?"

Wait, there were ‘Lords’ in Russian nobility? Though something, something, won’t question it too hard, even if hilariously enough it appears that IRL Russian nobility sometime down the road did close-to-straight lifts of Graf and Herzog as nobiliary titles.

"When someone stands up to him," Arian said. "Someone has to."

"That's easier said than done," Elvira replied. "Hinnerk is powerful. He isn't the leader of a gang and retainer of his power for nothing. Any form of resistance that manages to crop up in our town has its earth salted before it can sprout. ...If only we could manage a breakthrough…"

I can’t tell whether the implication is that word gets around about these crackdowns or else if Elvira is already dabbling with resistance movements at such a young age.

"...One day." The Riolu was still insisting on optimism. However, he realised brooding over Hinnerk wouldn't do any good.

"This isn't relevant to our problems right now. Let's keep looking for Iona. And the torc, too."

"You're right. Let's find them."

I… kinda wonder if there’s something else that Elvira can say to comment on the state of affairs, since something about her commentary feels a bit ‘stating the obvious’. I also noticed it in a couple earlier places, but it feels particularly noticeable here.

The two kept looking high and low for the child of the Florges. They looked thoroughly throughout the floor, searching in all the flower beds for the sight of a little sprite holding a flower. They fought any wild Pokémon that came their way, all in search of the lost child.

However, they found themselves at the stairs once again, their search having borne no fruit.

Arian: “Um. I realize that this is a bit of a morbid subject, but if the wilds did overpower Iona, what exactly would they do to her afterwards?”

"...Well, up we go, I guess," said Arian, beginning to start up the steps.

[ ]

"She has to be somewhere," Elvira murmured. "We still have more floors to search. Let's go."

IMO, it might make sense to play up whatever Arian and Elvira’s moods are at the moment. Like are they starting to get frustrated? Worried? Show off how the gears turn in their heads a bit more.

Blossoming Meadow

Arian and Elvira scoured the third floor as thoroughly as the first two for the missing child. They battled the various wild Pokémon of the Dungeon, of which there were Cottonee, Cutiefly, Zigzagoon, Pom-Pom Oricorio, Weedle, Kakuna, Silcoon and Beautifly. All the while, they kept a lookout for the child of the Florges, presumed to be a Flabébé.

But the third floor yielded no sign of the lost Pokémon.

Wait, but if the child is ‘Iona’, wouldn’t it make sense for Arian and Elvira to think of her in those terms? It would probably help cut down on the number of instances of “child” in reference to her to keep things from getting repetitive.

Though for that matter, there’s actually a large chunk of story prior to the end of the last scene where Iona wasn’t being talked about in the narration on a name basis. It might be worth considering sprinkling in more instances of those if/when you ever go back to tighten this chapter up.

"One more floor to check," Arian said. "I hope Iona's here. Otherwise, we may have a problem on our hands…

[ ]

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Elvira said. "Let's get to looking."

It might be worth seeing that flash of worry over “Uh… what do we do if Iona isn’t here? Is she even alright?” come over Arian and Elvira a bit before they move on, since they have gone through most of the MD already to no avail. Presumably it’s affected them a bit.

Arian led the way down the southeast exit, Elvira following behind. Once again, a multitude of flowers in a plethora of different colours greeted them on the hedgerows. Both Pokémon searched the hedgerows for a potential Flabébé, but no luck greeted them.

Actually, wait. I just realized, but does Arian even know what a Flabébé looks like? Since in his initial introduction to this story, he seemed very out of the loop about Pokémon species and I don’t recall him ever being mentioned getting a crash course about different species and their appearances.

Before they were out of the corridor, a Pom-Pom Oricorio confronted them, dancing on its feet as it flew at Arian, striking him with a Pound.

"...You like to dance, huh?" Arian said, looking at the Dancing Pokémon. "Then let's dance." His claws turned a metallic sheen. "Let's dance with our moves!"

Elvira: “Arian, that was painful.” >.<
Arian: “Ah! Ah! Ah! Lemme work my moves here!”

He lunged forward, slashing the Oricorio with Metal Claw. The bird staggered back a bit from the attack, before moving in with a Peck. The speed was quick, and unfortunately, Arian couldn't dodge out of the way in time. He was hit in the right shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain from the Riolu.

"Arian!" Elvira cried, worried for her teammate. "Hold on, I'll help you!" She dashed forward with a Quick Attack.

"Thanks, Elvira!" Arian returned, before unleashing another Metal Claw upon the Oricorio. This strike was enough, and the Dancing Pokémon fainted.

Something something, describe the moves’ appearances and what the battle looks like a bit more. I won’t harp too hard about it since I’ve made the same general point in a couple other places by this point already.

"Are you alright, Arian?" Elvira asked.

"...A bit sore. But I'll be fine," assured the Riolu. "Do you have an oran berry?"

Arian: “Seriously, how do little birds like those hit so hard?

"I do." The Treecko handed him one. "Look out for Flying-type moves like that one. They’ll pack a punch against Fighting-types like you.”

[ ]

...You don't look too bad, at least. We can keep moving."

Elvira’s dialogue reads like it’s two separate lines smushed together since it’s set up as if there was some sort of pause in between, but it’s not reflected in the text’s layout. Consider dropping in a throwaway paragraph where Arian actually takes the Oran Berry and eats/applies it, since there’s no real acknowledgement of it past Arian taking it from Elvira ATM.

They continued on and eventually reached the end of the corridor, which opened out into a huge room with a number of different exits. A number of flower patches were present in the room, meaning more places to look for the Flabébé, if the child was indeed one.

"Well, let's start looking here," Arian said. "...Hello? Anyone here? Anyone?"

His voice echoed around the room. But no response returned to him.

Arian: “Oh, well that’s not a good sign.” .-.

"...They're not here," Elvira mournfully noted.

"Let's not jump to conclusions so quickly," Arian replied. "Let's look around. It could be possible they're trying to keep quiet in order to let the wild Pokémon not detect them."

Yeah, I was going to say there, that that was a bit of a risky assumption on Elvira’s part. Though it might have made sense to play up her “mournfulness” in the last paragraph right before this block.

And so they did this They did so, scouring every flower patch nearby for the child. But by the time they were nearing the other side of the room, there was no sign of a Flabébé or any Pokémon like that. The two were also sidetracked by combating against a Beautifly and a Cottonee who sidetracked them after that had wandering into the room didn’t help matters, and so the focus was for a time taken off the search.

But soon they returned to it before they knew it, and Arian was investigating a flowerbed over by one of the room's exits. Elvira was over by one of the other flower patches, across from him.

Some sundry suggestions of potential tweaks that can be made here. Since some of the phrasing feels like it could be smoothed out a bit.

Hmm...no sign of any Pokémon here, he thought to himself. I wonder...does Elvira have any clues?

Then he heard it.


Arian: “... Wait, Iona? Is that you?”

Hm? What's that noise? Arian's attention was grasped by what he'd heard. Where's it coming from?

The bit in the underline feels a touch redundant with Arian’s dialogue. Consider emphasizing Arian’s physical actions in response to the sniffling he’s hearing to make the two bits a bit more distinct from each other.

"I couldn't find anything, Arian," Elvira called from across. "Should we move on to - "

"Shh," Arian interrupted. "...Hold on a minute, Elvira."

"What is it, Arian?" she wondered. "Do you hear something?"

Arian: “Wait, did you not hear the sound of someone crying? Since I sure did.”
Elvira: “... I wouldn’t have asked you if I did, Arian. Are you sure it’s not just your mind playing tricks on you?”
Arian: “... Weird, but no. I know that I heard crying just a few moments ago…”

"I think." The Riolu closed his eyes, and listened to the sounds of the meadow. The chirping of distant Oricorio, the rustling of leaves, the gentle blow of the breeze…


"There it is again," murmured Arian.

"There's what again?" Elvira wondered. "I don't hear anything."

Calling it now, this is Arian’s Aura Sensitivity in action here.

"I'm definitely hearing something. It's faint, but it almost sounds like...someone crying? I think that's what it is."

"Someone crying? The crying of a lost child, perhaps?" Elvira presumed. "Which way, Arian?"

I’m a little surprised that Elvira beats around the bush so much and doesn’t just go “Do you think it’s Iona?” here. Though I suppose maybe it isn’t necessarily Aura sensitivity, since I suppose this could just as easily be explained by differences in hearing sensitivity since… well, lizards are kinda terrible at hearing things IRL.

"That way." Arian pointed to the path he was next to, the southwest path. "It's down this path." He began his walk down the corridor, with Elvira following close behind.

With his ears pricked, he caught the sound more clearly. It did indeed sound like crying, and specifically, it sounded akin to the sobs of a young girl. In other words...just who they were looking for.

Okay, yeah. I see the “differential hearing abilities” was indeed the cause after all. Though again, I’m a little curious why the story doesn’t just go “Is that Iona?” given that that’s who Arian and Elvira are looking for anyways.

"It's here," Arian said, stopping in front of a flower patch. "The crying's coming from around here. Hello? Is anyone there?"

He scanned the patch of flowers. A plethora of colours greeted him back. Red, yellow, blue, white, violet…

I guess Iona really is a Flabébé after all. Good luck finding her here, you two.

Wait a minute. Arian looked closer at an area where a number of yellow flowers were located. Oddly enough, though, amidst the yellow, there was one red flower that looked decidedly out of place. Not to mention, it was moving, but not with the breeze.

It was as if someone very small was holding it. Someone...like a Flabébé.

Yeah, figured. Though do Pokémon in this setting not have distinct cadences for their species? Not that Arian would know any better given that this is the first time (that we know of) that he’s running into a Flabébé, but if Pokémon do have such a dynamic going on, you’d think that Elvira might’ve noticed as they approached.

Arian and Elvira looked at each other.

Bingo. We've found her.

"Um, excuse me? Flabébé?" Elvira chose to say.

Arian: “Wait, why aren’t we just addressing her by name again? Since you’d think that ‘Iona’ would draw more of a unique reaction?”
Elvira: “... Dunno, really. Maybe it’s an etiquette thing when dealing with strangers? Since it wouldn’t be the first PMD story to have a dynamic like that.”

"Eek!" a small voice squealed. Suddenly, and the flower, along with the little fairy that held it, jumped into the air. "Please don't eat me! I taste terrible!"

Elvira: “Yeah, we should’ve called out her name to clear things up after all.”

Arian: “... Wait, are there talking wilds in this setting? Since if there aren’t, shouldn’t Iona have been relieved to hear us talking to her? Pokémon that can talk don’t actually eat each other, do they-?”
Elvira: “Arian, she’s like five. Cut her some slack.” >_>;

"We're not here to eat you," Arian placated insisted. "We're here to get you out of here and back to your home." He spoke a bit more tenderly, knowing he was talking to a child.

"...R-Really?" the Flabébé sniffled. Now that the two could see her clearly, it was evident from her face that the sprite had been crying. "Wh-Who are you guys?"

I mean, maybe I was a bit quick to assume that talking Pokémon wouldn’t eat each other in this setting.

"I'm Elvira, and this is Arian," the former introduced. "You're Iona, right?"

"H-How do you know?"

"Your mom told us. She's worried sick about you."

Iona: “Wait, why didn’t you just say that earlier?! I was scared you were going to eat me!” >.<
Arian: “Look, we get it, alright? We’ll speak up sooner next time.”

"My mommy? Oh no..." Tears pricked in the Flabébé's eyes. "I don't want to make Mommy sad."

"She'll be happy when she sees you again," Arian replied, his voice still having that same softness to it. "She'll be relieved that her child's safe and sound."

I kinda wonder if Iona’s train of thought should acknowledge her surroundings a bit more, since it’s a bit weird to have her go from being obviously terrified of her surroundings to “Oh. I didn’t want to make mommy sad” without more of a cooldown in between.

"Don't worry, Iona. We'll get you out of this Dungeon," promised Elvira. "We just have to find the exit first. Stay with us, and we'll get you there. And don't worry; we're not Thorned Roses. You don't have to be scared of us."

… Wait, implying that TRs are known to make threats to eat others? I mean, that’s probably just blustering threats talking, but…

"...Th-Thank you," Iona said, still tearful. "Mommy said I should never talk to strangers. But you guys seem alright."

"We are. Not all strangers are bad people," Arian said to her. "Some...aren't so nice, but there are people out there who will help you. Like now us."

"Speaking of which, we should probably get out of here. A feral could attack at any time," Elvira warned.

Wait, is it ‘ferals’ or ‘wilds’? Or are the two terms interchangeable in this story?

"Good point," Arian accepted. "Stay by our side at all times, Iona. There's still dangerous Pokémon out there."

"...They nearly got me…" Iona recalled, shaking slightly. "That's why I hid. But...I've been stuck here for hours, and I don't know how to get out of here. Please, please help me..."

"Of course we will. Don't worry," reassured Elvira. "We'll protect you from any wild Pokémon that try to attack us."

I just realized, but most of these past few paragraphs have been fairly disembodied dialogue. It might make sense to interleave a bit more description into things, especially here as Arian and Elvira are about to move on with Iona.

And so it was arranged that Iona would travel between Arian and Elvira, in order to keep her safe from any attacking Pokémon. It was lucky for them that the only foe they encountered on the way to the exit was a Zigzagoon, which Arian dispatched quickly with a Force Palm.

The corridor afterwards, the trio spotted the stairs.

Something about that first paragraph feels very “tell” and not “show”. Perhaps it’d make more sense to lean into the characters’ feelings or moods while this is all going on to show more of what this all means to them?

"There they are," Arian gestured, pointing to them. "Let's get out of here."

"Yes. The sooner we reunite Iona with her mother, the better," Elvira said.

And so the three went up the steps.


Elvira: “We still have that Torc we need to find, Arian. Though now that you mention it, it is a little worrying that we haven’t had more trouble so far…” .-.

Blossoming Meadow

Arian: “Well, we found the end, at least.”

Once they reached the top of the steps, they could immediately see surroundings of a more normal nature, implying they were out of Blossoming Meadow's Mystery Dungeon.

Wait, but what about the surroundings is more “normal” anyways? It might merit mentioning in passing what some of the abnormal stuff they’re no longer seeing are. e.x. no longer coming across chambers and passages or something like that.

"Finally," Arian said, breathing a sigh of relief. "Back to normal surroundings. Boy, Mystery Dungeons are weird places…"

"Yeah, you're right! They're so weird!" chirped Iona in concurrence.

I mean, it’s literally in the name, you two.

"Don't look at me," Elvira said, once the gazes of the other two fell on her. "I didn't make them. And I didn't choose to put one here.

[ ]

...Though, that said, once you get through the Mystery Dungeon, this is a lovely place to visit." She turned to look away from the exit, and towards the grove.

This feels like another paragraph that would benefit from separating its parts and expanding the sequence. Though the bit in underlined feels like something that might have had more effect being described before Elvira reacts to it instead of something that happens after the fact.

Arian blinked in bewilderment. Just like in the Mystery Dungeon, flowers of all different colours greeted his gaze. However, because there were no narrow corridors or walls, it was a perfect field of flowers, unconstrained by the labyrinthine Mystery Dungeon.

"Wow…" the Riolu remarked, enchanted by the sight. "It's beautiful…"

inb4 something comes and wrecks this moment of awe like the flower field turning out to have a tragic backstory or something like that.

"Mommy and I wanted to see this place," Iona informed. "To get away from those meanies. Because Dad's not here anymore…and Mommy didn't want me to disappear too…"

[ ]

"That's so cruel," Arian replied. "How they tore apart a family like this…" He remembered their mission. "We'll find out what happened to him, Iona. Don't worry."

It probably makes sense to have Arian remind himself “oh right, the Florges said something about that”, since admittedly I did a double-take here since I could’ve sworn the Florges said that her hubby was killed by wilds and not TRs. It probably makes sense to give a formal reminder of the backstory for the readers here, even if it’s just in passing.

"You will? …Please," Iona begged. "I want Daddy back…I love him so much. Why did they take him away…?"

Cue the theme song:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4MXGl1Qbgg

"We don't know. But we'll find out." Just the sight of the little fairy on the verge of tears made Elvira determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

"Thank you…" The Flabébé then looked around the grove. "Um…can we pick flowers? I wanna make Mommy happy, because she's been so sad since Daddy was taken away…"

Oh, never mind, Iona’s dad was snatched by TRs. Though yeah, that’s why giving a formal reminder of what happened backstory-wise would be handy.

"Sure," Arian permitted replied. "In fact, there's something we need to find here too. It's the other reason we came here in the first place."

Arian: “... Though from surroundings like this, are we sure that we’ll find a Sandy Torc?” .-.

"How about I pick flowers with Iona, and you look for the torc?" suggested Elvira.

"Sounds like a plan."

And so it was arranged The pair nodded and parted ways, with Elvira picking a small bundle of roses to carry back to town. Arian, meanwhile, hunted down the item.

This feels like such a cursed thing to be doing in a Mystery Dungeon, though I suppose you’re at least in the part of it that doesn’t change or have wilds roaming around in it.

A torc…That's like a neck ring in a crescent moon shape, isn't it? He peered around the grove. Just like Iona, this'll be easier said than done. So many flowers that it could be hiding under…

I… actually did not know that that was what a ‘torc’ was. It might have made sense to bring this up back when Arian was with Conall and Caitríona since presumably they’d want Arian and Elvira to know what the item they want him to find looks like.

He needn't have worried, though. As it turned out, the Sandy Torc Conall and Caitríona were looking for was in a patch of grass where there were no flowers.

Arian: “Wow. That was sure… convenient. What’s the catch to all of this?”

"Got it!" Arian called to the other two, holding the item up.

"Good job, Arian," Elvira commended. "Now that we have both Iona and the torc, let's head back to town."

With that, the three of them walked out of the meadow and back to the main road.

I notice that you seem to use constructions like “With that” or “[X] arranged” fairly frequently. It might make sense to keep tabs on those such that you can switch some of them out to keep them from becoming repetitive, since from personal experience, using a construction too frequently has a way of standing out as being repetitive to readers.

[ ]

"And so we managed to beat those two Thorned Roses and save Elvira's friend," Arian was saying to Flora, relaying the events of the day before.

"Cool! You won against them?" Iona was in awe. "Go, Arian and Elvira!"

"Thanks, Iona. But then it was for a friend, and you'd do anything for friends. Wouldn't you, Elvira?"

Wait, where are these three right now? Like I thought that they left the meadow, but there’s not really much given to ground us as readers as to what their present surroundings are.

"You would," agreed the Treecko agreed.

Her attention then directed to the road ahead of them. [ ]

"...Oh. There's the edge of town. Hang on a minute." She dug into the bag of coins, searching for 100P for the toll.

"Oh, the toll," guessed Iona.

Yeah, this is why IMO it would’ve made sense to drop in a quick and dirty paragraph at the start reminding “oh yeah, we’re near Ozerograd again.” Over here, it probably also makes sense to explicitly note that Elvira can see the gate to Ozerograd again here.

"Yeah," Elvira said, with a tone of slight annoyance.

"You paid them before when going out to the meadow, did you, Iona?" Arian wondered.

"No," Iona denied. "Me and Mommy snuck past when they weren't looking."

Arian: “... Wait a minute, Elvira, why aren’t we just going through the tunnel that Tamara showed us again? You’d think that’d be cheaper than coughing up another 100P. Probably safer too than risking those thugs getting any ideas about a young kid.”

"Really?" The amnesiac was surprised to hear this. "Wasn't that dangerous?

"No. There was no one at the gate when me and Mommy came through," insisted Iona. "I'm telling the truth! There really was no one there!"

Elvira: “... Is she friends with the gate guards or something? How on earth did she manage that?” .-.
Arian: “Also, does she have any tips? It’d be nice to have options other than crawling through that dirty tunnel every time we need to save 100P.”

[ ]

"Hmm…" Arian's paw went to his chin. "What could this mean?"

"...It could've just been a change of guard duty," Elvira reasoned. "It could've happened that they were in the middle of it when you came up, Iona."

Would recommend throwing in a paragraph emphasizing that Arian’s thinking and/or finding this all weird.

Arian: “Maybe we should ask Iona’s mom about what’s going on. Since if she knows when the guards change shifts, it’d be handy for sneaking in and out.”

"...Maybe," Arian said, thoughtfully. "But let's wonder about that later. Let's get Iona back to her home."

They walked up to the gate. Based on what the Flabébé had told them, the Riolu was hopeful that perhaps there'd be no one on the other side of the gate this time as well. Hopefully they're in the middle of a duty change. ...Please, if there is a god up there…


Damn it.

Arian: “Well, that’s one way to get convinced that there’s no god in this world. Or at least none that cares enough to help out with problems like ours.” >_>;

The Krokorok from earlier had his claw held out. "Ya wanna come in 'ere, ya hand over the goods! " He then looked at the two again. "...Oi, ain't ya the two from before?"

"They are," the Gligar from before confirmed. "It's the same two from before. ...Along with a Flabébé."

"...Whatever," the Krokorok dismissed. "Pay up."

Arian: “(Elvira, we could’ve taken the tunnel!)” >.<
Elvira: “(Look, it’s a bit late now. Let’s just pay them off before they check our stuff and find that Sandy Torc.)”

"...Here's the money," Elvira said, presenting the sand crocodile with 100P. "Now can we go in?"

"Go. Scram!"

"With pleasure," Arian scathingly returned, before walking into the city, with Elvira and Iona following him.

- Arian stares at Elvira -
Arian: “...”

Elvira: “Yeah, yeah, I get it. I should’ve given a better explanation for why the tunnel wasn’t an option. But look, the point is, it was better to just cough up the 100P.” >_>;

[ ]

"I wouldn't say things like that, Arian," Elvira warned. "We don't want to get to get too much on their bad side. Otherwise…"

[ ]

"Right." The human saw her point. " Sorry."

Something something, this bit feels like it’d benefit from framing description. Especially the bit in between the paragraphs where it probably makes more sense to show Arian having a “... Right, that was stupid of me” moment in his head instead of just handling it after the fact.

"Now then, Iona," Elvira asked. "Do you know where you live?"

Elvira: “I mean, I remember the street we found your mother on, but you know what they say about assuming…”
Iona: “Oh? What do they say?”
- Beat moment -
Elvira: “... Right, you’re five. Your mother probably wouldn’t explain that saying to you just yet.” >_>;

"Hmm…" The Flabébé examined the streets, before her eyes lit up in recognition. "It's down that way."

She pointed to the street on their right, which happened to be the way they came to the front of town.

Arian: “Wait, but I thought that we came into town through a secret tunnel-” ^^;
Elvira: “Before we entered the secret tunnel, Arian.”

"All right. Lead the way, Iona."

And so the two went down the back alley, with Iona leading the way. They went past the same miserable, boarded up houses that they'd gone by earlier, and once again, Arian got the same feeling from earlier of that ever-lingering fear in the air. It was unsettling, and the human silently wished to himself that the search for Iona's house wouldn't take much longer.

Ah yes, there’s that Aura sensitivity again… Probably. Maybe.

Thankfully for him, it didn't. The Flabébé floated to one of the houses with boards on the outside.

"This is my house," she told Arian and Elvira. "Now, to let Mommy know…" She floated up to one of the timber boards, before, to the surprise of the other two, she was able to pull one slightly outwards and knock with it. And not just any knock - it was five slow knocks, carried out in such a way as if it was meant to be different to a normal knock.

Arian: “... You seriously live like this?”

Iona: “Uh huh! Why, is it different where you live, Riolu?”
Elvira: “Very much so, really.” ._.

There was a brief silence. But then, the door opened, and a Florges came into view.

"Hi, Mommy!" Iona greeted.

"Iona?!" cried the Florges cried. She stooped down and embraced her daughter with relieved joy. "Oh, thank goodness you're here! I thought you might never come home…" She embraced her daughter with relieved joy.

"Me too. I thought I'd be stuck in there," the Flabébé replied. "But these nice people saved me!"


[ ]

"You saved her." The Florges's attention turned to the other two Pokémon standing outside the door. "Thank you so much. Iona means the world to me. If I lost her forever, I don't know what I would do…"

[ ]

"Here you go, Mommy!" Iona presented the roses to her. "I got these for you! You've been so sad since Daddy's gone, so I wanted to cheer you up!"

You have another one of these sections where you’re leaning hard on post-facto description in between dialogue that would probably work a bit better if they were pulled forward prior to the dialogue and expanded a bit.

"Roses?" The Florges took them. "Thank you so much, Iona. I really haven't been looking after the flowers since your father was taken away. I'll cherish these."

She then turned to Arian and Elvira.

"How can I ever repay you back? I'm afraid we don't have much in the way of money, but...I can think of a gift to give you two as thanks for saving Iona. Hold on for a minute, I'll go get it."

I kinda wonder if the last paragraph is another one of those paragraphs that would work better spread out over multiple. Since functionally, it’s two separate ideas jammed together: “How can I repay you?” and “Wait, I know just the thing”, and it feels a bit weird to see Florges go from A to B with no intermission between them.

The Florges returned into the house. A minute later, she returned with something wrapped in cloth.

"Here you go. It's nanab bread," she said, handing it to Arian. "I made it yesterday. I hope it satisfies you."

Arian + Elvira:

"Oh, I like nanab bread," Elvira replied, a smile crossing her face. "Of course it does. You don't have to worry about any more repayment."

Lol, I was joking about that last reaction there.

"...Good. Anyway, it's getting late." Iona's mother looked up at the sky, where the evening was setting in. "It's nearing your bedtime, Iona."

"Okay, Mommy," Iona obliged.

"And that goes for you two as well," the Florges added, looking at Arian and Elvira. "Take care. The Thorned Roses don't take kindly to those out past curfew."

Arian: “... Wait, there’s a curfew here? Why on earth did this never come up earlier, Elvira?” .-.
Elvira: “I wasn’t expecting us to be out in town this late?” ^^;

"Understood. Thanks for that advice," Elvira thanked. "...We should get going, Arian, and give the torc back to the merchants."

"Right. Thanks very much!" Arian said to Iona's mother.

"I bid you a safe journey," the Florges returned. "May Lunala's light guide your path."

Oh, so Lunala’s a locally important Legendary. Filing that one away for future reference.

The door closed in front of them.

"That's one thing done," the Riolu said. "Now, to return the torc…"

Arian: “... Actually, wait. How did we ever get that past that Krokorok thug anyways-?”
Elvira: “Arian, let’s worry about that after we get this taken care of and don’t have to worry about curfew.” >_>;

"Ah, you found it! Good! I knew you kids had it in ya."

Conall and Caitríona were closing down their stall for the day when Arian and Elvira approached them and gave them the Sandy Torc. Conall gazed with delight at the item, and Caitríona was looking similarly pleased.

"Thank you very much for finding this," the Sandslash said gratefully.

Arian: “So… you do have our information, right?”

"Well, as promised, here's your reward." Conall reached for some funds, and gave 150P to the duo.

Arian: “... And the information…?”

"Thank you." Elvira filed the money. "But don't forget that you promised us something else."

"Ah yes, of course. What we know about the disappearances." The Lycanroc considered his words. "Hate to tell ya that we don't know much either."

Arian + Elvira:

Conall: “I mean, come on. Even if we had information to give you, do you seriously expect us to just say that out loud on public streets where Thousand Roses are wandering around?”

Elvira: “We spent 200P in tolls just to get your Torc back!” >.<
Arian: “200P we could’ve saved if we’d just cut through Tamara’s place…” >_>;

"What? But you said you had information!" Arian protested.

"We don't know much," Conall clarified. "Just a snippet. What apparently happens to the folks who are taken away is that they're all rounded up and taken somewhere. But where they're taken is kept strictly under wraps. The only ones that seem to know are Hinnerk and Mikhail, that Seviper right hand of his."

Ah yes, [Siberia]. A lovely place to round up and dump people you don’t want to deal with. Or at least I think that this is where this is going.

"Mikhail?" That name alone made Arian shiver, still remembering him from earlier in the day.

"Yup. It really is tight-lipped. Oh, and while we're at it, here's some more info," Conall added. "There aren't actually as many folks in the Thorned Roses as you'd think."

Elvira: “Wait, really? Since it felt like we could barely go a block without seeing one earlier today!” .-.

"Really?" Neither of the duo were expecting that.

"Yeah, we've noticed that, haven't we, Ríona?" Conall said to her. "It's the same people all the time doing the patrols and watching us like Braviary. And it's also what our lot have figured out too."

Arian: “... Wait, what was your baseline expectation for how many Thousand Roses there’d be, then? Since even if there’s only one shift, that’s still a lot of Pokémon!”

Caitríona: “Enough for multiple shifts, at least? I mean, let’s put it this way. If there’s only one shift to deal with the entire town all day, it means that there will be a time when most of them are busy conked out resting.”

"So…they don't have much macho behind that intimidation, huh?" Arian was taking this into consideration.

"That doesn't mean they're not dangerous, Arian," Elvira warned. "They've kept a hold on this town for five years, and have made people disappear. We can't underestimate them even slightly."

Conall: “Er… yeah, you might wanna put on a few levels before you go plotting any revolutions on your own, kid.”

"You have that right. We're taking a massive risk even saying these things right now," Caitríona said. "Conall, I think that's enough."

"But I'm not done yet," whined the Lycanroc. "Just one more thing, you two. Where do you live?"

Elvira: “Wait, but if just talking is a massive risk, shouldn’t we not be telling you that sort of thing-?”
Conall: “All the more reason to do it quickly before someone notices.”

"Where we live?" Elvira was somewhat sceptical. "Why do you want to know?"

, even.

"To keep in touch. In case we have any more info to give. We want to find out that mystery you two are after too."

Conall: “Also, for that.”

[ ]

"...Not far outside the south of town, towards Lukomoria," the Treecko revealed, after some consideration.

Same shtick about how this post-facto bit would work a bit better coming before the line of dialogue.

"Great. Thanks a bunch."

"You two should be on your way," Caitríona advised. "Curfew will be soon, and I daren't imagine what will happen if the Thorned Roses find you out past it."

"We'll be on our way, then," Elvira said. "Thanks a lot for the info, you two."

"Anytime. Hope to see you around," Conall returned.

"Bye!" Arian waved to them as they left.

This feels like another block that would benefit from interleaving some description in between the lines of dialogue. Like I get that the characters are meant to be moving around a bit at the moment, but it’s not really described, and as such, it’s a bit hard to visualize things right now.

The two headed off to Tamara's house, to go through the tunnel that lead to the south end of town.

Actually, wait. Is there a reason why it’s not possible to just walk around Ozerograd to avoid going through the north gate? Since if there is, it probably makes sense to be explicit about why that is since it admittedly feels a bit jarring that Arian and Elvira are using the secret tunnel now when they didn’t on either occasion involving going to or returning from their earlier missions.

"So…all in all, I'd say that day was a success," Arian summarised.

"It was. I enjoyed working with you, Arian," Elvira said, with a smile on her face.

"I did too."

The Riolu found her smile infectious, and he had a grin on his face in seconds.

"Let's go back to your place and tell Zenobia all about today. Today may not have been a wholly smooth ride, but it was an adventure all right."

inb4 it results in an earful and a “you’re never allowed to leave the house again”.

I mean, I get that Zenobia made her peace with Arian and Elvira needing to take risks to chase after their dream, but you’d still think that finding out that they had a bad run-in with Hinnerk’s second-in-command would spook her a bit.

"It was. And I did find out a few more things about you," Elvira added. "Who knew you were good with kids?"

"Yeah. I'm surprising even myself with that," Arian mused. "More stuff will come out in future, no doubt. Anyway...shall we get home?"

"Yes. Let's head go."

They ended up treading the same paths they'd walked earlier that day. As they made their way back to Tamara's house, where the tunnel to the outside lay, Elvira reflected on what they'd achieved.

That was quite the speed-up there. I kinda wonder if this was really necessary, or if Elvira could’ve done this just fine while walking along the street or something and this skip-ahead be handled in the opening of the next chapter or something.

We have a connection now, with Caitríona and Conall. I don't know what help they'll provide, but they mean well. We're still nowhere close to figuring out the mystery of those disappearances, though, other than only Hinnerk and Mikhail really know what the truth is. I guess we'll just have to dig for more clues tomorrow. Everything's going well so far. Please let this good streak last a while longer…

Something about this phrasing doesn’t feel very “personal” for some reason. Almost like it’s the narrator but speaking through Elvira’s voice. It might make sense to take a step back and play around with the phrasing here to make it sound less clinical. e.x. as a throwaway example:

So Caitriona and Conall want to keep tabs on us… I’m not sure what they’re planning on doing, but at least they seem like they mean well. I just wish that they could’ve given more to work with about those disappearances. I mean, I suppose we now know that it’s something only Hinnerk and Mikhail really know the truth about, but that hardly feels like it got us any closer to an answer.

I guess we'll just have to dig for more clues tomorrow. If anyone’s watching out over us, please let this streak of good luck last just a little while longer…

Or something like that.

She looked up at the evening sky.

Are you up there, Dad? I don't know if you are or not, but if you are up there...watch over me, will you?

And if you aren't up there…then I'll find you, wherever you are.

Oh, so Pokémon in Ardalion have a general concept of “dead loved ones watching down from heaven” or something close to it. Cute, even if I’m a bit curious as to what the story behind it is for worldbuilding.

As you can gather, I had quite a bit to say about this chapter, so it admittedly makes it a bit daunting to try and sum things up. There’s a few lingering issues that were also present from the first five chapters, but given that the few snippets I’ve seen of the later parts of this story from elsewhere on the net look more solidly put-together, I’ll chalk things up a bit to early-installment weirdness.

That’s not to say that everything was bad. Quite to the contrary, really. The standout of the chapter is its worldbuilding, and you did a lot of justice to your setting just taking the time to smell the roses (har har) both in Ozerograd and in Blossoming Meadow and selling the sense of a lived-in world with history. I also thought you did a good job at building up and establishing Hinnerk, Mikhail, and the rest of the TR as a bunch of punchable thugs and give the gang their first serious "boss" to work towards. Like I’m not fully sure how they’re going to get past them, but you’ve set the stage for an eventual clash, and it’ll be fun to see how things play out. Especially with all the little hints you were dropping here and there of something bigger brewing in the background through stuff like the encounter with Conall and Caitríona who appear to have links to some sort of local resistance movement.

As for the cons… I mean, I could say “review the feedback in my earlier reviews”, but that’d be kinda lazy, so I’ll focus on specific things from that wheelhouse that stood out this time. The number one issue that I saw with this chapter was that there was a general need for more description since it was legitimately hard to visualize some scenes. Little things like describing things happening in conversational scenes or how blows land and stuff flies around in battle go a long way to livening up things that can otherwise get a bit dry to read. It also would go a ways to dealing with the issues with “tell and not show” that some parts of the chapter had.

Mechanically, I also thought that some of the narration and dialogue feels a bit stilted or redundant. If / When you go back to revising these, make a point of re-reading things out loud since it might help you notice those shakier sentences and sequences better. I also thought that some paragraphs are a bit "wall of text"-y, which I suppose kinda carries over a bit to the chapter as a whole. Like I’m hardly the one to be throwing stones over a 12k-word long chapter, but given that this chapter would expand quite a bit with some added description, it does make me wonder whether or not it’s functionally two smaller chapters taped together:

- Arian and Elvira going around Ozerograd and their run-ins with Mik and the shopkeeps before just entering Blossoming Meadow, which is about 5800 words long
- The entire rest of the chapter going through Blossoming Meadow and coming back, which represents the other 6200-ish words

Something to consider, anyways. Even if I suppose I can’t really fault you if you decide to let sleeping dogs lie with this chapter and just keep pressing forward on your more recent ones. Though even with the rough edges, I had fun with things @Arukona , and I hope to get back into your seventh chapter and onwards sometime soon… as in “sooner than six months soon”. ^^

Hope the review helped, and happy writing!


Gotta go back. Back to the past.
Residency hell
  1. silvally-dragon
  2. necrozma-ultra
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. dreepy
Once these dissidents had been rounded up, they were thrown in the jail cells along with Hinnerk and Mikhail.
Calling it now: dey gonna escape and be problems in the future. Maybe downgraded from arc villains. Unless there's some bigger force at work that sinks their fangs into them.
Now it was the next morning
So, this right here speaks to two problems. The first being that this renders the initial start to the scene as clunky and redundant, since you end up recapping the rest of the day following the beginning of the scene before jumping back to the present with this line. In my opinion, the summary didn't need to be as long as it was. It kind of speaks to the whole "too much exposition" stuff I mentioned last time. I think a better solution would've been to find a way to bring this stuff up more organically once they made their way back into town in the following scene.
But whereas Dad was talkative and a cracker of jokes, Melchior was more calm and reserved.
Huh. Usually the swampert tend to be the dorks in these duos. Or I'm projecting Ginji's Rescue Team onto this. But there is Navar's swampert... :unsure:
but it's almost like he's hiding something about Dad's disappearance
Yeah, like he might've had a role to play in it or something.
.But if that's true, then that's a truth he's been sitting on for five years
Better get Reshiram on the line. (The word "truth" is dropped so many times in these several paragraphs I think it would give Crotch Fuzz palpitations.)
The time will fly, and in a few weeks, I'll be better again.
Do not tempt fate, for she is a cruel mistress.
Bad parenting results in the fostering of a bad attitude among children
I guess we know what side of the "nature vs. nurture" fence Elvira falls on, then. Though I feel like eventually she'll come face to face with someone that runs counter to this sort of thing.
Mercs would still be a thing, with or without outlaws
Doing... what, exactly? There wouldn't be criminals for them to hunt down! Shhh I know they take fetch quests in this universe.
But not all outlaws are the same. Some have it in them to give up crime and live a normal life
Definitely not teasing the possibility that they will reform a future outlaw to gain themselves an ally. Nope, totally not.
"Still…petals are such a pain to clean up…"
... Says the petilil.
"Man, this guild's brutal. They buried us up to our necks in NDAs!"
From the tone of her voice, the Swampert knew immediately what she wanted to speak to him about.
So, again, sudden perspective switch here. To be fair, it's hard to tell if there really is a POV character here. I'd argue maybe this is third-person omniscient with the big expository bits the narration does from time to time. But if that's the case, you ought to make an effort to balance whose thoughts the narrator is showing and when. One-off instances like this will still feel weird.
We're out in the open, and I don't think there's anyone around that can listen in.
Public walkway conversations aren't private. :V
It's the main settlement in the Karstlands. …Which is a fairly rural region of Selenia filled with karst, limestone rock. It's quite a sight, and quite a unique area not just in Selenia, but in all of Ardalion. There are flora completely exclusive to the Karstlands, unusual rock formations, and even more subterranean features. I've been there a few times. It's a nice place.
Once again, this feels like just a chunk of exposition. Except now it's given as dialogue. And, yes, there are jokes about encyclopedias and homework that follow. But given the fact that this does read more like a textbook than someone's honest descriptions of the place, it feels less like a "Ha ha, she's nerding out" moment and more like the awkwardness of it is being dragged out.
If yer interested in rocks
Steven Stone would like to know your location.
"...That wouldn't be a problem, would it?"
Don't you want to hear about these two getting punished?
this Dungeon's not that hard
That's what she said!

But also, this practically feels like the fic warning us we're not out of the tutorial yet. And that... shows again here. Most of the floors are glossed over a bit, sure, but what we do see doesn't really add much of value here. Like, you definitely didn't need a whole scene dedicated to how Kangaskhan Rocks work. Unless you intended to showcase a significant difference or thing that would make your fic's method of item storage standout from the canon material, it's proooobably veering toward bloating the word count. Most folks reading this know PMD. They know about Kangaskhan Rocks.
That's what being a mercenary's all about!
I continue to get a chuckle at the idea of mercenary being the term used for the equivalent of rescuers/explorers/etc. Consider the definitions:
1) A professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
2) A person primarily concerned with material reward at the expense of ethics.
Neither of these line up with the way you're portraying the job. :mewlulz:
away from the rural towns of Ozerograd and Kamengrad
Man, I can't help but wonder why the guy in charge is so concerned about these rural areas if they are that rural. The boonies doesn't tend to be where resistances rise up except in works of fiction.

... Oh wait.
If he escapes, which he most likely will
See? Even the possible Big Bad thinks it's going to happen!

So, this chapter has a fairly large word count... that ultimately doesn't serve to move the needle very far for me. Clearly, they're off to join the "guild." And maybe they're not coming back to their hometown, so you wanted to spend a fair amount of time giving some wrap-up and bidding a farewell of sorts to Ozerograd. Which is fine, I guess. It just feels like a lot of the idle conversations and exposition/tutorializing would be better spent moving the team toward their actual destination. I can easily see a world where this chapter is able to have them bid their farewells and reach their new hideout in Kamengrad. And in fewer words. Mainly via cutting out the dungeon crawling. And possibly the ending scene as well. Don't get me wrong, I write scenes of villains scheming, too. Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn't appear as though this villain cutaway offered any hints as to what's to come, which is what I tend to look for as the reader. And it did read a bit awkwardly to me with how, uh, fervently devoted Marowak was. More than a few too many "masters" in there.

I do like the dynamic of Team Sandstream and think they shine brightly as secondary allies at the moment. Can't tell if they'll continue to be supporting the main duo for the foreseeable future or if they're mainly here to help them settle in and they'll acquire new allies in the future. They've featured prominently enough to get brought up to the Big Bad, so I'm tempted to say the former. Time will tell, I suppose.

Oh, also, if you ever do go back and touch these up, you ought to consider cleaning up some of your dialogue tags. You seem afraid of using "said." The substitutes you pick in places feel a lot clunkier than a simple "said" would, though.


Loony Moony
Righto, the V-Wheel comes round again, and it's time to read through Chapters 4 and 5.

Storywise, the chapters are essentially a continuation of the current events. Nothing massive happens, which is fine as long as the chapters serve a purpose. Which to be fair, they do. Chapter 4 establishes a team, whilst 5 introduces to a large town. However, they do feel a little more barebones, as we don't get particularly big bits of infomation here. Some info about the villains and what they do in Chapter 4... and save for one extra detail, it's repeated for Chapter 5. It's something that can be reduced down a touch. Most of the stuff that pops up in the Chapters here are mostly focused on the characters rather than the world though, which is still a great thing to have. It's small steps into further understanding and getting to know the cast, but it's definitely a nice touch.

Writing itself seems fairly good, more showing and less telling which is an excellent plus from the previous chapter which was something I touched on last time, granted, there's no combat this time to content with, but it's still nice to see!

This is something I was guilty off, but from a writing standpoint, less ellipses would be a positive. They are a handy tool to have when it comes to writing character dialogue. But there were so many of the things in chapter 5, especially at the start, where three whole lines actually start off with them. You could use description for any hesitation for the characters, and ellipses can be effective like I said with dialogue. But throw too many in, and they can break up the flow of actually reading them. Best be careful of overusing them.

Other than that, the Chapters serve their job in moving us over to the central location of the next plots, and hopefully sets the stage for learning more about the situation developing within the fic. Keep up the good effort!

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, so I originally got this chapter as part of an offsite Review Tag… which kinda came and went thanks to getting swamped by other commitments. Though I got halfway through it and thought it’d be a waste of a review to just bin it, so I went back and finished things on my own.

Since hey, I’ve already been having a pretty good time with this story, so might as well see where it goes:

Chapter 7

Just about every basic structure realm had a leader to it. Whether it was a country, fiefdom, city or town, there was always some structure form of systematic hierarchy in place. A king ruled over a country. He in turn entrusted the management of land to his vassals in exchange for loyalty and allegiance. The vassals looked after the land and collected taxes from the people, thereby keeping the country functioning.

Some suggested tweaks for this paragraph. Though I’m going to die of laughter if it turns out that Mitrofan’s coup managed to get its critical mass of support to succeed from his underlings being mad over something super petty like tax disputes or some magistrates being jerks.

This was true in Selenia, where the tsar entrusted oblasts to smaller dynasties who administered smaller matters within them. It was a system rigidly placed with hundreds of years of precedent, one that even the new regime of Mitrofan couldn't undo. And so lands were doled out in the fashion of old, some to lords who switched allegiances from a tsarist position to him, and also with others given over to lucky favored individuals as rewards.

Among those individuals stood was a certain Obstagoon that had become infamous among those who he presided over his subjects in the Ozerograd Oblast. He hadn't been given his land by Mitrofan; rather, he'd taken it by force by after killing the previous lord and lady. He took over residence in their villa after the deed, and installed himself as the self-proclaimed leader of the area. The brutish nature of his takeover also attracted the seedier, roguish types to his side, and which he created marshaled into a gang out of them, which he called the Thorned Roses. They kept his leadership intact through quashing resistance and through intimidation, violence and other shady methods.

Some more suggestions here. A couple of them are a bit more out on a limb, but I figured that they’d help a bit with the overall vibe and make things flow a bit more.

Ah yes, so Mitrofan just speed-ran past the whole Soviet phase of post-Imperial Russian history and straight to the post-Soviet era where mafias and oligarchs were just going around with “that’s my [X] now, pay up and stay of my way or die”. Lovely.

Meanwhile, he would be was the head honcho of it all, living the life of a lord and indulging in all the privileges that status brought. He spent most of his time out of town, in a villa not far from Ozerograd itself. He made sure to take full advantage of the previous lord's living conditions, guzzling exotic foods, and frequently raiding the wine cellar, usually becoming incredibly inebriated as a result of his excessive drinking.

Considering the observed mindset of Hinnerk’s goons in town from last chapter… yeah, I’d probably want some space from them too. They seem like they could get unruly fast if they weren’t kept constantly plied with shinies and recreational substances.

He also had luxurious furnishings in the villa, and he had servants to obey his every word. They were Thorned Roses, of course - he wouldn't have wanted the servants of the previous lord for fear of possible reprisal by them. It would’ve been all too easy to slip poison into his wine and kill him that way. He was one the sort to cut out potential problems at the root, rather than let them sprout later on.

He may have been strong, but it never hurt to be prepared. Thus, he engaged in training as a pastime to keep himself vigilant.

I’m actually wondering just how much of that wine winds up also going to his lackeys to keep them pliable. Since… yeah, criminal types do tend to be a bit liquid about their loyalties.

Though something about the narration feels a bit weird to me. I’m struggling to put my finger on why it seems weird to me, but it’s almost as if you’re shifting in and out of a personalized perspective between paragraphs.

Right now, the Obstagoon was laying into training dummies down by the shoreline of Lake Lazurny. A path led from the villa down to the lake, and floodgates had been set up along the path, just in case the lake's flooding annual floods reached that high. Granted, given the recent warm weather, Even if there was little worry danger of this it given the recent warm weather.

The sound of splintering wood came rang out as Hinnerk slashed the dummy to pieces with a finishing blow in Night Slash. It didn't stand a chance against the Normal and Dark-type's force, and crumbled to pieces in a pile.

Well that can’t be good for the nearby forests given how much wood this guy’s training regimen chews through. No ability to have someone make Substitutes for the occasion in this setting, I assume?

He reflected on his situation, as top dog of the Thorned Roses. Even among his men, he was fearsome feared, and some of them had been on the receiving end of his wrath for daring to speak up to him. [ In some cases, they had been servants, and admittedly, that did make him slightly paranoid that they might try and kill him in some way. ]

I think that this is another “muddled perspective” thing going on, since everything prior to the last sentence is written from the perspective of an outside narrator, while the last feels more like it’s Hinnerk’s thought process. Consider retooling it a bit more like the following if you’re intending to stay in omniscient narration:

Some of them had been his own villa’s servants. The Obstagoon had deemed such displays a necessary show of force, even if it and admittedly, that did made him slightly paranoid that they might try and kill him in some way.

Something to consider, anyways.

Maybe it'd be better to have no one serving me in that house, he thought to himself, before dismissing that thought. Nah. We all live for a day when we don't have to work. I'm not passing up being served by servants. Honestly...that's a dream life. Who the hell would pass that opportunity up?

You see, this is why you levy common peasants to do this work and assign lackeys of yours to keep an eye on their loved ones, Hinnerk. Much easier to establish deterrence when you can establish that there will be consequences beyond a would-be assassin’s self while not risking Chuck the Thorned Rose getting butthurt over being assigned dusting duty for the umpteenth time and doing something stupid while drunk.

Two names sprung to mind. And immediately, his mood soured.

...Well, not unless you're a certain team consisting of a do-gooder mudfish and a smug gecko with a tree stuck up his ass. Honest to Arceus...what's the point in going all the way to Grandmaster Rank and not accept all the honours that come with all that fame? Who in their right mind would pass that up? It's wasted on people like them!

That’s called ‘altruism’, Hinnerk. If you doled it on your subjects in Ozerograd a bit more often, you and the Thorned Roses would probably have less problems dealing with them. It’s a playbook that’s worked wonders for various criminal organizations throughout history.

Hinnerk found himself growled and gnasehd his teeth gnashing at the thought of the two figures that had come into his head. And I was having a pretty good day too, he thought to himself. But even when they're not here, those two bastards still manage to be the most irritating pricks to ever have walked Ardalion. Honestly...I'm gonna need another fill of wine to forget those thoughts.

With his mind made up as to what to do next, The Obstagoon made his way back up to the villa, readying himself for another plundering of the wine cellar. It may have only been around mid-morning, but Hinnerk was vexed enough by his thoughts to want to suppress them with alcohol.

Dude’s sure going to make the efforts of the local resistance to get rid of him easy with how he’s more or less destroying his liver in live-time.

He climbed the path to the top, past the floodgates. He reached the villa and was about to head inside, when…

"Ah, there you are, Boss. There was me thinking you were passed out on the canapé again from one of your drunken binges."

That sounds like a fast way to piss Hinnerk off if I ever heard one. Though I wonder if the second line flows better as something like “And here I thought you were passed out wasted on the couch again.” since it’s a bit more smooth and sounds a bit more “low-rent” as one would expect from what we’ve seen of the Thorned Roses.

The Obstagoon turned around in a slight huff, and saw none other than Mikhail. And behind him were a pair of Pokémon. Specifically, Bruno and Vivian, both of whom wore an expression that wished they were anywhere but here.

Oh, so it was Mikhail who was speaking. I wonder if the phrasing of his line is meant to be a deliberate hint as to his background, since it was definitely a lot more formal than I’d have assumed based off his last appearance.

Bruno + Vivian:

Hinnerk: “This had better be good.”

This was, of course, due to Hinnerk's fearsomeness. But that image of him could not have been cultivated as well enough as it had if Mikhail hadn't been the second-in-command of the Thorned Roses. He was an able strategist, whose cunning and wit enabled them to effectively gather a motley crew of misfits and ruffians and organised them into a gang that would be able to reinforce Hinnerk's power and make the people of Ozerograd cower in submission to him and the Thorned Roses. Without Mikhail, Hinnerk would not be where he was now.

So Mik is the one who does the heavy lifting for running the show, huh? I do wonder if some of this stuff we’re told about Mik here would’ve had the point driven home a bit harder by sprinkling in a few more concrete anecdotes or firm details, since this “right hand man who lends competence” shtick feels like it’d be more impactful if we got to see in action more.

But this morning, due to his sudden foul mood, the Obstagoon wished himself that the viper was elsewhere anywhere else. He was in no mood to deal with him and his wily manner.

"What is it, Mikhail?" Hinnerk demanded, not making an effort to disguise his annoyance. "This better be good. If it isn't, then piss off."

inb4 the only reason why Mik hasn’t killed off Hinnerk in his sleep is because he needs him as a conduit to Mitrofan. Since that doesn’t exactly seem like a healthy dynamic between a leader and his second-in-command there.

"My, we're in a foul mood today, aren't we?" observed the Seviper. "But then that's what happens when you quaff alcohol like it's water on a daily basis. You wouldn't want to be known as Hinnerk the Drunken Imbecile, do you?"

Yeah, see above. Though from the level of casual disrespect Mik is slinging around, it now makes me wonder what has kept Hinnerk from killing him off in a rage since… yeah, from the way the narration was introduced, I can’t imagine that Hinnerk would normally tolerate that sort of sass.

"Shut up, Mikhail!" growled the Obstagoon. "Now what the hell are you here for?" His attention was then drawn to the two Pokémon behind Mikhail. "And why do you have two runts with you?"

"For one simple reason: they failed their mission." The Seviper turned to face the duo behind him. "You shouldn't have failed to apprehend that girl."

Um. Bruno and Viv are going to have appearances in this story past this chapter… right?

"It wasn't our fault!" protested Vivian. "We would've got her if those stupid do-gooders hadn't showed up!"

"Yeah!" Bruno seconded. "W-We're not disloyal to you, Boss, really! It was as Vivian said! It was out of our hands!"

Hinnerk: “You two are aware that you should be groveling and begging for mercy right about now, right?”
Vivian: “B-But I thought we did, and-”
Hinnerk: “Grovel and beg harder.”

"Honestly, do you hear that desperation, Hinnerk?" Mikhail dismissed. "It's like a herd of wild Wooloo bleating sometimes. At least come up with better excuses in front of the Boss. How pathetic, Bruno and Vivian."

Well, I got the speaker wrong but I see I was on the right track for how those two’s lines would be received. I do wonder if we should’ve seen a bit more of Mik’s reaction in terms of body language to sell the sort of vibe that he gives off. e.x. if he’s rolling his eyes or if he’s taking a tone that’s more “Hinnerk, can I kill them already?”

"Bruno and Vivian…" Hinnerk scanned the two. "Oh yes, I remember now. The rookies that joined sometime back. The Meowth and that Deino boy with a girl's name." He snickered at this, looking at the dragon in question. "Vivian...Who the hell gave you that name in the first place? Was your voice too high-pitched to tell?"

Bruno: “For gods’ sake, Viv! Please don’t go on one of those rants about your name right now!”

Vivian was on the cusp of giving a retort. But he remembered who he was speaking to, and reluctantly held his tongue.

Yeeeeeah, I can’t imagine that would’ve ended well at all given that Bruno and Viv vibe as being rookies in Hinnerk’s gang.

"So what did Girl's Name and the other runt fail in?" the Thorned Roses' leader asked. "Was it something serious? It better not have been." He glared at the rookies, whose fear only increased tenfold.

"Thankfully, no. They were to apprehend a girl whose family's behind on rent payments," Mikhail informed. "They had the perfect opportunity, and squandered it. He looked over at the two in acknowledgment. "Tell the Boss exactly how you failed that simple task. Any excuses, and it's straight to latrine duty."


I mean, I suppose they’re getting off easier than getting the likes of a scar left to remember their screw-up, but yeah. Hard not to pity the two here.

Bruno and Vivian gulped when faced with the demanding leers of Hinnerk and Mikhail. The former swallowed his fear and spoke up. [ ]

"Two friends of the girl came along to save her," the Meowth began. "And they were a lot stronger than we thought. ...We lost to them," he admitted, embarrassed and ashamed.

"They were talking heroic crap about how they were going to help Selenia in its darkest hour. Or something like that," Vivian recalled scathingly. "That Riolu...Could he have been any more annoying? Talking like he was number one...He talked shit about the Thorned Roses, too. Said he hadn't even heard of us.

I kinda wonder if a bit more about Bruno and Viv’s body language and demeanor should’ve been said given that they’re steeling their nerves in front of a boss that has a reputation of doling out the hurt if not worse if he’s in a sufficiently bad mood. Like are they attempting to compose themselves? Quietly relieved that Mik is talking about sticking them with a crappy job (har har) instead of parting their heads from their shoulders? It’d go a long way to breaking up the blocks of dialogue and helping the readers to better visualize what’s going on in-scene.

"He was weird, too. His eyes were green, even though Riolu's eyes are normally red," elaborated Bruno. "...Stupid twit. He'll get what's coming to him. That Treecko, too."

Mikhail: “Yeah, I won’t be holding my breath. Though a ‘green-eyed Riolu’, huh? Why does that sound so familiar…?”

Hinnerk was half-listening to the explanation the rookies were giving him, not really caring at first. However, at Bruno's last statement, he suddenly snapped to attention.

A Treecko?

"A Riolu and a Treecko…" Mikhail murmured. "They might well be those two I encountered in the main square yesterday. That same Riolu talked back to me as well, as if he was some big shot. ...My Poison Tail showed him." He grinned evilly at the memory.

… Hinnerk already knows about Kallias’ family, doesn’t he?

"...So that Riolu's a problem, then," Hinnerk noted. "...But I'm more curious about the Treecko. What did you glean find out about them?"

"...Hmm…" The Seviper racked his brains. "...I didn't notice any defining traits about the Treecko. The only thing I could say is that she was a girl around late adolescence, if I had to make an educated guess. ...I couldn't say for sure, really.

[ ]

To me, I personally thought the Riolu was the greater drawer of attention more noteworthy of between the two of them." He looked at his boss, curiosity in his eyes. "...Why do you ask? Why are you so curious about the Treecko?

Mik’s line of dialogue is long and idea-dense enough that you should consider breaking it up into two paragraphs and separate it with some description in between the two.

[ ]

"...Oh, it's just...something," Hinnerk replied. "Just a hunch, really. You two!" His raised voice made the Meowth and Deino jump. "Did you get names for them?"

"Names? Um…" Bruno racked his brains. "What was that Treecko called? Elvina? No...Elvira. Yes, it was Elvira!"

The mention of that name made Hinnerk think back. It was familiar. He'd definitely heard it being mentioned before.

Oh. Oh dear.

Though, IMO it might make sense to throw in some extra description for Hinnerk before he starts speaking up to describe him pondering and mulling things over a bit more explicitly.


With that name, a half-forgotten memory came back to him.


Yeah, there is no way that anything good can possibly come of this.

Seven years ago...

Hinnerk walked through the back streets of Iria, clutching a sack. He had been tasked to transport a valuable commodity by his overheads superiors, and he obliged dutifully, knowing that his reward would be a lucrative one. At one point, he stopped, and looked through the small sack once more, double-checking that nothing had fallen out. That wouldn't end well for me if it did.

Oh hey, I know what Hinnerk’s goods are:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AuSdjrDG2c

He continued along the alley, strutting on all fours as a Linoone. He had not yet evolved, although he was putting in hours at night time in order to potentially trigger the evolution.

It'll happen one day, he kept assuring himself.

He wasn't too much further to his destination, at least. Just another bit to go, and…

While I get that you probably want to keep some things about Iria closer to your chest until Team Arian makes it there properly and presumably memories can get a bit fuzzy on details after seven years, I do wonder if there was a bit more that could be said about Hinnerk’s surroundings here.

"Hah...Finally, we're out of there."

The sound of the voice made Hinnerk freeze. Especially given that he knew who that voice belonged to.

What? What the hell is Kallias doing here?! No, no, no...if he sees me, then I'm doomed! Quickly, he looked for a hiding place. But there wasn't anywhere completely foolproof, so he had to make do with some stacked beer kegs. Please don't come down this far, please don't come down this far...he silently begged.

Oh, so Kallias was basically Batman for Outlaws and general ne’er-do-wells in Selenia back in the day, huh?

"You're telling me," a second voice sounded out. "I never thought we'd get out of there."

Shit...Melchior's here too?

inb4 this guy would turn into a massive coward and bail if he somehow thought he was in the same room as those two ever again. Makes me wonder if anyone has tried some Ditto / Zoroark antics on him in the past.

"Who would've thought it'd come to this in our lives?" Kallias's voice spoke, with slight mirth in it. "I mean, I'm grateful for the praise, but...it does wear on you when you just want to go home to the Guild. After all, I did promise Elvira I'd be home for her hatch day. I don't want to be away like last time."

Yeah, I knew that nothing good would come of Hinnerk finding Elvira’s name familiar. Though this doesn’t bode well at all for how well her house or Zenobia are going to hold up in the next few chapters.

"It's not for another few days, though," Melchior pointed out. "You've got time, Kallias."

"Yes, time. Time enough for the Tropius Carriers to deliver it," Kallias said. "That Dresilian merchant did promise me he'd have everything ready before then."

>Tropius Carriers

Wait, what is Selenia’s climate like such that they’re common enough to be aerial cargo haulers in their society. Though for this sequence, I wonder if it’d actually have been a little more interesting for Hinnerk to see Kallias and Melchior interacting with each other a bit.

Or else, I suppose getting into Hinnerk’s head a bit more as he tries to keep his nerves together and his fur dry from how panicked he was reading earlier on. But either way would go a long ways to making this back and forth between Kallias and Melchior a bit less disembodied.

"Let's hope he followed through," Melchior replied. "That would be most unfortunate, if the hatch day gift arrived late."

"True. I do love my little girl." Kallias's voice spoke with tenderness. "She and Zenobia mean the world to me. And I don't want to let Elvira down like last hatch day. To think she'll be eleven already...She's growing up fast. Before you know it, she'll be apprenticing at the Guild. And I'm sure when that happens, she'll be the happiest girl in the world."

Well, crap. Hinnerk’s remembering all of the inconvenient details for Elvira right about now. Guess that life living splendidly below the radar of the Thorned Roses is about to come to a screeching halt.

"I imagine she will," Melchior agreed. "...You're not going to give it to her right away, though, are you?"

"No, too soon," dismissed Kallias. "Not until she's a teenager, at least. But that's not too far away. Time flies, alright. My little girl will be a Grovyle before we know it. That's what it feels like these days."

Well, that certainly didn’t age well. Though it makes me wonder what work-life balance was normally like for mercenaries in this setting.

"Sure does," Melchior agreed. "...Hmm...I think the coast is clear. The crowd appeared to miss us."

"Thank the gods for that," Kallias replied, relief present in his voice. "My arms ache after signing all those autographs. I just want to get back to the Guild…"

"Let's go, then," Melchior replied. Then, to the immense relief of the Linoone in the alley, the duo strolled away back into the main streets.

IMO, there should’ve been at least 1 or 2 paragraphs of description between this and the preceding two paragraphs. Like what is Hinnerk thinking of various details that Kallias brought up here given that he remembers this whole episode enough to recall specific names.

...Thank Arceus they didn't see me, Hinnerk thought, breathing a sigh of relief. It'd be one thing to be spotted. But by Team Marshwood of all people? I'd never live it down. Now then...once the coast is clear, time to get out of sight.

After a short wait to make sure the Sceptile and Swampert were gone, the Linoone continued down the alleyway.

Can’t tell whether or not that’s a sign that Team Marshwood was really strong or if they were an amateur team at the time. Though that’s definitely a lot more familiarity than I was expecting between Hinnerk and them. Makes me wonder if Hinnerk himself was once upon a time in the Irian Guild.

It had been a close call of a moment, back then, trying to avoid detection. And frankly, it was a moment that he had dreaded on reflection hated remembering. Being so close to being caught by Kallias and Melchior, two individuals he loathed with a passion.

Yeeeeeah. I kinda wonder if we should’ve had a bit more context should’ve been provided regarding the context behind Hinnerk and Team Marshwood’s feud. Or else if that’s spoilers, if it could’ve been hinted at a bit more in terms of why he hated them and still does to this day.

But now...it proved useful to him. It’d highlight to helped him remember an important fact detail that he’d completely forgotten about typically dismissed beforehand: this.

Fernblade Kallias had a daughter named Elvira. And now there was a Treecko by the name of Elvira that had defeated two of his henchmen.

Some suggestions for some rephrasings here. Though yeah, I had a feeling that this was where that flashback was headed. Though that actually makes me wonder if Hinnerk knew that Kallias used to live around here, and given his overall vibe, if part of the way he treats the town is built around a petty impulse to try and “get even” with Team Marshwood.

...There's no way in hell that's a coincidence. I'd stake my whole claim to Ozerograd on it. ...So, like father, like daughter, eh? Typical. Just typical. Even when Kallias has disappeared off the face of the world, his spawn takes his place.

...But they're not the same,
he then thought to himself. Fernblade Kallias was in a league of his own. There's no way his kid's as powerful as he is. She's just a Treecko, after all. Which means...I may be able to reel her in.

I kinda wonder if it’d have made sense to show the gears turn in Hinnerk’s head a bit more explicitly of him weighing just how much of a threat Elvira is to him and how much he needs to respond. Since given that he doesn’t exactly think of Bruno and Viv as particularly competent or worth his time, it kinda feels like he goes a bit 0-100 for “kid of old enemy of mine caused problems for two of my random goons” to “yeah, this kid needs to be dealt with” at the moment.

A devilish smile appeared on the Obstagoon's lips.

"...Hinnerk?" questioned Mikhail, not knowing why his boss's foul mood had given way to a smirk.

"Change of plans, Mikhail," Hinnerk announced. "We have a Treecko to hunt."

I just realized that it is really, really fortunate for Zenobia that this is a setting where species isn’t tied to the mother’s, otherwise Hinnerk would have a leg up on also finding her as well just based off of the memory of Kallias mentioning Elvira’s species in passing that he had.

[ ]

"Do we now? Why the haste?" Mikhail wondered.

"Revenge, Mikhail." Hinnerk grinned evilly. "I've a strong hunch that Treecko is Fernblade Kallias's daughter."

Ah yes, going off and singling out randoms to murder over hunches. Boy does life in Ozerograd suck hard at the moment. I’m a little surprised that the denizens haven’t bailed for neighboring oblasts with leadership like this.

Though IMO, it might have merited describing Mik’s reaction / body language to Hinnerk’s comments a bit more, especially if he’s meant to be surprised.

"Fernblade Kallias's daughter?" The Seviper cocked his head. "You really think so?"

"I'm certain of it. If this Treecko conveniently named Elvira doesn't happen to have any relation to that smug bastard, then I'll eat carpet," Hinnerk replied. "He had a kid named Elvira, that puffed-up do-gooder. I'll be damned if it's a coincidence. And I can't think of a better way to get revenge on Fernblade Kallias by doing away with his little girl."

I mean, I kinda gathered already that Hinnerk was a terrible person, but boy is he giving a live demonstration in how evil is petty right about now. Guess Elvira will be having political dissident problems after all.

"A wonderful idea," Mikhail agreed, his expression taking on the same evil grin that Hinnerk was sporting. "That would be a delicious act of karma, wouldn't it?"

… What did Team Marshwood do to these two back in the day such that they think of killing off Kallias’ kid as a suitable revenge for things?

"Indeed, it would." Hinnerk licked his lips. "Looks like we got ourselves a wench to hunt. Scour the surrounding area for her, and when you find her, make sure to bring her back to me. But don't kill her. I want to be the one to send her to Yveltal's embrace."

>Achieve 0 Audience Sympathy - any% speedrun (TAS)

Though this feels like another bit that could use some more description. Also, I just realized, but where are Bruno and Viv during all of this…?

[ ]

"Understood. I'll get around to dispatching men to look for her." The Seviper then gestured to the two behind him. "But first of all. For your failure, you two are assigned to sewer treatment."

"Oh come on! Really?" protested Bruno. "But we told you about the girl's name!"

Ah yes, there they are. Even if I kinda wonder if there should’ve been more acknowledgement of their existence prior to this. The paragraph before Mik’s dialogue feels like it is a bit lacking in description to help visualize things for some reason.

Mikhail: “Would you rather that I take part of your ear over your screwup and your back-sass?” >:|
Bruno: “N-No, sewer duty sounds good to me.”

"Doesn't matter. You lost to her," Mikhail dismissed. "Now hop to it! Those sewers won't clean themselves!"

Ouch. Though I have to wonder if butt monkey-ing Bruno and Viv is going to wrap around at some point, since something about them feels like they’re set up for potentially having a Heel Face Turn sometime down the road.

"Fine," accepted the Meowth reluctantly. "Vivian, let's just do it and get it over with."

"...Alright," sighed Vivian in defeat, before they turned around to leave.

"Don't worry, Hinnerk. I won't let you down," pledged Mikhail. "We'll find Fernblade Kallias's girl. And that Riolu, too. They'll make fine sacrifices." With that, the viper turned and made his way back to town with his two subordinates.

Sacrifices? Meaning that that bit about ‘Yvetal’s embrace’ earlier wasn’t just figurative language?

Though I suppose that would answer a few questions about why those Pokémon around town have been just flatly vanishing from the face of the earth and not having anything of them turn up.

"They sure will, Mikhail," the Obstagoon grinned, as he left. "It's annoying, though. His little girl has been hiding under my nose all this time, has she? If only I'd known that sooner...Oh well. Better late than never, I suppose." He turned his back and got ready to head into the villa.

Before he entered the building, Hinnerk looked to the blue sky, up to the heavens. A taunting smile crossed his face.

That'll show you, Fernblade Kallias. After the way you ruined my life...I'll gladly be all too happy to snuff the life from the girl that meant everything to you.

Am I supposed to be hearing Hinnerk’s lines with Gort’s VA from TtGC? Since… yeah, Hinnerk’s overall personality reminds me a lot of Gort’s in terms of the mix of pettiness, venality, and brutality that he’s got. Can’t tell whether or not it was intentional or not, since your story apparently takes some shades of influence from Xenoblade games in a couple chapters.

[ ]

"Mmm...this is rather nice," Zenobia commented, after eating a piece of nanab bread. "It's as good as mine, I'd say."

"Oh no, I wouldn't say so," Elvira replied. "This is good, but...nothing compares to your nanab bread, Mom."


Though I wonder if there should’ve been a bit more description and scene-setting as part of the jump into this scene, since I’ll admit that there’s not a whole lot explicitly said to indicate “oh yeah, we’re back at Elvira’s house”.

"I haven't made it in a while. Perhaps when this leg of mine heals, I'll get around to making some."

It was the morning after Arian and Elvira had returned home from their escapade in Blossoming Meadow worn out and eager to rest. They regaled that day's exploits to Zenobia over dinner, and the Heliolisk congratulated them for their selflessness in jumping in to save the young Flabébé. The two Pokémon went to bed not long after, satisfied that they'd done a good day's work.

Now it was the next morning, and the three occupants of the house were eating breakfast. However, instead of preparing her own breakfast, Zenobia wished to try some of the nanab bread loaf that Arian and Elvira brought home the night prior. The two agreed, and so nanab bread was that morning's dish.

I… kinda feel like this is stuff that should’ve come before the opening bit of dialogue, since this is some fairly after-the-fact description right about now that makes some of the stuff brought up read strange or redundantly.

Though the “morning after” construction IMO should only be used once between the two paragraphs where it’s used. I left a suggestion assuming that you’d prefer to keep the second of the two.

"We would need nanab berries, though," Elvira pointed out. "And that's something I haven't seen in the marketplace for a while. Because all the merchants have been scared off."

[ ]

"What about someone like Conall and Caitríona?" suggested Arian. "Would they sell them?"

"They weren't selling them yesterday. Just items for Mystery Dungeon delving," the Treecko replied. "I wonder if they have any more intel for us."

"Guess we'll see when we go back into town today," Arian said.

This section feels a bit dense on dialogue, it might be worth dropping in some description highlighting how everyone’s reacting to Elvira’s mention that she doesn’t expect to be able to find Nanab Berries in town easily.

[ ]

"Going into town…" A worried look crossed Zenobia's face. "Are you sure, you two?"

"Well…" Elvira's reply faltered when she saw the concern in her mother's eyes.

IMO, the “worried look” that Zenobia has here would work better as description that’s pulled forward before her line. Though I have to wonder what’s gotten her worried now in a way that she wasn’t prior to Elvira and Arian’s trip to it with Tamara. If it’s their run-in with Mik, it probably makes sense for her to explicitly bring it up in her dialogue.

"We need to figure out what's going with the Thorned Roses," Arian reasoned. "We won't be able to find out anything without going into town."

[ ]

"I understand that. I really do." Zenobia's worry did not waver. "But think of yourselves as well. The fact that Arian was attacked and poisoned yesterday without provocation is only proof of the kinds of tricks the Thorned Roses will pull.

[ ]

If you must go into town, then please, please be careful…"

Another spot where inline description works a bit better pulled ahead and expanded a bit. Also, for whatever reason, the very last sentence of Zenobia’s line reads like it’s meant to come after some sort of pause or the like, which doesn’t come through when it’s attached to the rest of her dialogue with no breaks.

Though it’s probably a good thing that neither of Arian or Elvira seem to know Mik or mentioned his name, since I’m pretty sure that would take things deep into “nope, you’re staying at home today” territory for Zenobia.

"Don't worry, Mom. We will be," Elvira assured. However, she didn't sound so confident after hearing that speech from her mother. Arian could sense the sadness and doubt in her.

She got up and went to clean up. But at that moment, knocking was heard on the front door.

… Oh, speaking of Mik… that’s gonna be him right there, isn’t it?

"Who could that be?" wondered Zenobia.

"I'll get it," Elvira volunteered. She made her way out of the room and down the hallway.

"I'll go as well," Arian seconded, and followed Elvira. The Treecko reached the front door, and opened it.

Outside were two Pokémon. One of them was a pink, white and red insect-like Pokémon with two long scythes and a striped pattern along its legs. The other was a familiar face to the duo - a Petilil.

For a second, I thought those really were Thorned Roses, but nope. It’s just Flora. And who I assume is one of her parents.

"Oh, hello, Flora," greeted Elvira. "And Vardan as well. …It's good to see you."

"Likewise," the other Pokémon returned replied.

The voice of it was masculine, which was something of a surprise to Arian; their colouration did look a tad feminine to him.

"It's good to see you again, Elvira. It's nice to meet your partner too." He looked over her shoulder at the Riolu just behind her. "Arian, was it? Flora told me all about you. I'm Vardan, her father. It's good to meet you."

Vardan’s dialogue has enough going on in it that it probably makes sense to split it up into a few smaller paragraphs, especially the part where Arian is having internal commentary to himself regarding Vardan’s voice being unexpected.

Though it just occurred to me, but you use ‘returned’ a lot as a speech tag in this story. You might want to consider replacing some of them with ones like ‘replied’ or ‘answered’, which feel a bit more natural in context.

"Oh, er, you too," returned Arian, somewhat awkwardly. He looked away slightly, and then his gaze fell on Flora. "Hi, Flora."

"You're not great at introductions, are you?" the Petilil snarked.

Arian: “I-It wasn’t that bad, was it?” >///<
Flora: “Oh yes it was and you know it.”

"Don't be rude, Flora," Vardan chastised. "You said he was "You said he had amnesia. He's likely still getting adjusted to this new reality of his." He turned back to Arian. "I'm probably the first Lurantis you've seen, I presume?"

"Yeah. I haven't seen anyone like you before," Arian confirmed. "Then again, I haven't seen much since waking up."

I think you accidentally had a snippet left over from editing that you forgot to remove, since you have two separate beginnings to one of Vardan’s lines there.

[ ]

"Why did you come out here, Vardan?" Elvira wondered. "Flora, I understand. But why you as well?"

"Well, I came to see you and your mother," the Lurantis elaborated. "But there's another reason too, involving the two of you. Could we go in and discuss it?"

"Of course. Come on in," Elvira permitted.

IMO, this section would benefit from some description highlighting Elvira’s puzzledness a bit more through body language or the like, since it feels like one of those moods that would work a bit better more explicitly depicted.

And so the two visitors ended up having tea with the three residents of the house. Vardan brought some persim tea leaves, which brought another new taste to Arian's lips. He found he rather liked it. The taste wasn't a blessing on his lips - it wasn't quite that flavourful to him - but it was alright.

Wait, just how much time has passed since Elvira’s “come on in” here? Since for whatever reason, the two paragraphs read as if there’s a bit of a jump between them. To the point where you could probably have dropped in a scene break without things missing a beat.

"So how are things going in town?" Zenobia asked, taking a sip of tea.

"Same as always," Vardan replied, giving something of a chuckle with a light hint of bitterness. "Thorned Roses everywhere, everyone being fearful of them, and therefore so people tend to only go out if they absolutely have to. It's not been great for business, to say the least. But we're getting by, somehow."

[ ]

"And how's Diantha?" the Heliolisk queried. "I see she couldn't be with you today."

"No. She's holding down the fort while we're out here," explained the Lurantis. "She sends her regards, though. Oh, and she hopes you get better soon as well."

Another spot where IMO, it might make sense to throw in a bit of body langauge to help readers visualize this scene a bit better.

"I hope so, too. It's been quite limiting," agreed Zenobia, looking down at her injured leg. "On the upside, though, I've finally been able to dig into that bookshelf and find some literature. I've been re-reading the Mystery Dungeon Tales series. My goodness, it's bringing back memories of when Kallias showed that series to me. I'm going to jump right back into it once we're done here."

Ah yes, the obligatory cameo of the game series in-fic. Cute.

"All that talk about books and stories...You really are a family of bookworms," Flora remarked.

"Yes, and proud to be one," the Heliolisk countered. "Books are a gateway to another world. A brilliant escape from a grim reality. You should read with me, Flora."

Boy does that hit a bit close to home given the absolute state of the world for the past few years. Though I suppose you can’t say that it’s not a realistic response on Zenobia's part.

"Maybe," the Petilil deflected.

[ ]

"So you'll be looking after Mom for the day," Elvira said to Flora. "But why are you here, Vardan?"

[ ]

"Okay, there's a bit of a story to this one. This morning, Rosa came into our shop. And unusually for the woman, she was in a good mood,” he explained. “When I asked her about it, she told me that her daughter had been rescued from Blossoming Meadow by two young Pokémon. They were none other than a Riolu and a Treecko by the name of Arian and Elvira."

This section feels like there’s meant to be little pauses between Flora, Elvira, and Vardan’s lines respectively. It might make sense to more explicitly indicate them, especially if you’ve got any subtle body language or moods to show off between the three.

[ ]

"...Rosa? Would she be a Florges, by any chance?" Elvira asked.

Ditto here, especially if Elvira’s meant to be surprised by this coming up.

"Yes, she is. I know her well, and she and Diantha are good friends," explained the Lurantis. "Flora had already told me about Elvira forming a team with a Riolu named Arian, so it didn't take long to connect the dots.

[ ]

Truth be told, I was curious about this new development, so when Flora was getting ready to head out here, I decided to tag along,” Vardan continued. “So you do odd jobs that mercenaries of the Guild would've done, eh?"

"Yes. That's right," Elvira replied.

"Well, would you mind if I employed your services?" Vardan requested.

Vardan’s dialogue here is long enough that it probably makes sense to split it up between two separate paragraphs. Also, the line in response read ambiguously to me as to if it was Elvira or Arian who said it, so it might make sense to explicitly say one way or the other.

"You want to hire us?" Arian said. He hadn't expected this.

"Yes. I'll pay you, of course. Is 100P good for payment?" the Lurantis asked.

"That's alright," accepted Elvira. "As long as the job isn't super difficult, anyway."

… Isn’t that the sort of thing that you should ask before agreeing to payment, Elvira?

""It shouldn't be," Vardan said. "I've wanted for the last longest while to go to Cyan Cove. You surely know of the pearls that are found deep within the place?"

"Yes, indeed," Zenobia replied. "Kallias fashioned a necklace out of some pearls for an anniversary present for me once."

So… there’s a bunch of Clamperl and their evolutions chilling there? Since I get the distinct feeling that there’s a lot of them there.

"Funny you should bring that up, Zenobia," Vardan said, with a light chuckle at the coincidence. "I want to get something similar for Diantha. With how things are going with the Thorned Roses, I would like to get her a gift to lift her spirits."

[ ]

"Oh, let me guess," presumed Arian. "You want us to find a pearl for you in Cyan Cove."

"Yes, that's it exactly," the Lurantis replied. "I'd like you to retrieve pearls from there. They're normally found in the depths of the Dungeon."

inb4 it gets eaten by a wild crabmon, since that wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen something like that happen in a fetch quest for jewelry in a beach area.

Though this section has been coming off a pretty long stretch of dialogue without description. It might be worth dropping a short paragraph in somewhere to mix things up a bit.

"Dungeon?" Then it clicked for Arian. "So it's a Mystery Dungeon, then."

"True. But it's a benign one. You shouldn't have much trouble with it," Vardan assured.

Arian: “Great, now you jinxed it.” >_>;

"He's right," Elvira seconded. "I've been there a few times. It's not too dangerous. We should be fine."

"And it's away from town," Zenobia added. "So hopefully, you won't encounter any Thorned Roses there."

"Well, let's not wait any longer, then." Arian got up from his seat. "Come on, Elvira. Let's get going."

I… kinda wonder if we should’ve seen a bit more of Arian’s thought process here. Like if he’s uneasy about the idea of going to Cyan Cove briefly based off one of his and Elvira’s past missions, it might make sense to more explicitly show off the wheels turning in his head a bit.

"Okay. I'll just get the bag and then we'll go," the Treecko said. She also got up from her seat, and left the kitchen to head to her own room, where their mercenary's bag was located. Arian followed her out of the room.

"What a pair," Vardan commented. "Guess she's finally taking after her father, eh?"

"Stop doing that, Dad," Flora chastised. "I told you; Elvira doesn't want to be compared to her dad. It'll only make her feel like she's not good enough."

Oh, so that’s how the two are related to each other. Noted, then.

"But in fairness, it will be hard to separate them," Vardan countered. "If word gets out about Elvira, people will inevitably compare her to her father. It's just what people do."

Wait, how has Zenobia managed to keep this a (relative) secret all these years?

[ ]

"I hope they don't," Zenobia expressed. "People always raise their expectations too high, and become disappointed when they fall short. Kallias encountered a fair amount of people like that who were expecting someone grand and heroic, only for his humble self to show up to them. Elvira's right to be worried about that kind of treatment."

"Hopefully she doesn't get it too bad," Vardan wished. "I wish her and Arian all the best. I really do. Who knows? They might well be the ones to knock the Thorned Roses down a peg or two. May Jirachi watch over them, and give them good fortune for times ahead."

This also feels like something that would benefit from some body language from some combination of Zenobia and Vardan. I’m also a bit interested as to if Zenobia’s cognizant of how Elvira’s parentage coming out would potentially be dangerous for her, since… child of a notorious government dissident that fell off the face of the earth and all that jazz.

"We go to the left," Elvira directed, once they had reached the road outside the house.

[ ]

"Hmm...I haven't been this way yet," Arian noted, as he followed his partner in her instructed direction. "What's in this direction?"

"Well, Cyan Cove is this way, of course. But this is the main road that links the two towns of Ozerograd and Lukomoria. Beyond that, it eventually leads to the Empyrean Mountains and Miletos."

This feels like we’re missing some scene-setting to establish what our present location is like, especially if we’re meant to be seeing anything new here. Though hey, new place names! Wonder how long it’ll take for those to become relevant in-story.

"The Empyrean Mountains?" Arian asked quizzically. "What are those?"

"The Empyrean Mountains…" Elvira considered what to say. "...I'd say they're the most prominent physical feature in Ardalion. It runs down the centre of the continent, and every single country has a part of the mountain range in them. All of the continent's major rivers run from there, and act as the lifeblood of Ardalion, nourishing millions of people. And the mountains themselves are massive. They're some of the tallest mountains in the country, some mountains reaching above the clouds themselves. They're honestly dominating. We should go see them at some point."

I… kinda feel that Elvira’s line here is a bit long-winded and unwieldy. Consider some combination of condensing and splitting this paragraph up. Here’s one throwaway possibility for what that could look like:

"The Empyrean Mountains…" Elvira considered what to say. "... Well, it’s hard to think of a geological feature that’s more prominent in Ardalion. It’s a mountain range that runs down the centre of the continent, through every single country on the continent and all of its major rivers originate from there.”

[ Elvira mimes the mountains being huge or whatever ]

And they’re massive,” she insisted. “Why, the tallest mountains in Selenia are part of that range! Some of them even reach above the clouds themselves!”

[ Elvira wistful look or something here ]

“It’s honestly something you need to see for yourself to understand, the way they just dominate everything,” she said. We should go see them at some point."

Food for thought, at least.

"Ooh...I'd like to see that," the Riolu said enthusiastically.

Ah yes, Arian’s got his best
face on at the moment. Though it might make sense to either make this “see” here or in the prior paragraph different since it sounds a little repetitive in its present formulation.

"They are quite a sight," the Treecko agreed. "They're like a barrier between the western and eastern halves of Ardalion. It's only thanks to a few narrow passageways that we can even link them. And even then, those are fairly treacherous to trek through. I have thought, though that the Empyrean Mountains being a barrier isn't necessarily a good thing."

"What do you mean?" Arian asked.

Something about Elvira’s line here feels like it’s a bit motor-mouthy and a bit of a sudden topic jump to how they function as a barrier. It might make sense to transition a bit more into things by using Arian to tee things up with some added dialogue. e.x. as another throwaway example:

"Ooh...I'd like to see that," the Riolu said enthusiastically. “Though if the Empyrean Mountains run through every country of Ardalion… does that mean that we’d run into Pokémon from outside Selenia there?”

[ Some body language or something from Elvira here ]

"Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it," the Treecko said. "The Empyrean Mountains are effectively a barrier between the western and eastern halves of Ardalion outside of a few narrow passes through them. And even then, those are fairly treacherous to trek through.”

[ Elvira disappointed reaction here ]

I sometimes wish it wasn’t like that,” she murmured. “There’s times when I think that the Empyrean Mountains being a barrier isn't necessarily a good thing."

"What do you mean?" Arian asked.

Just taking a bit of time with Elvira’s paragraph here helps it feel a bit more natural and also gives an opportunity to show off her and Arian’s moods a bit more.

[ ]

"You wouldn't know this, Arian, but the truth is that there's a big West-East divide in Ardalion," revealed Elvira. "That is to say, there's rivalry and considerable friction between Selenia and Alba, the countries west of the Empyrean Mountains, and Dresilia and Miletos, the countries of the east. You see, the east has better land than the West, which in the past led the eastern countries to become more powerful than their Western equivalents. But this led to the east looking down on the West like they're barbaric, backward savages. And this means that the west now looks on the east like they're selfish and egotistic."

"Really? Is it that bad?" the Riolu wondered.

Oh, so I was onto something about Dresilia and Miletos considering westerners a bunch of barbarians. Boy is that a great™ omen for some of the stuff that happened in their shared histories.

Though this is another part where it’d probably make sense to blow up Elvira’s dialogue into smaller pieces, e.x. as a potential implementation:

"I suppose you wouldn't know it as a human, but there's a big West-East divide in Ardalion," Elvira explained. "For the longest time, there's been a rivalry and considerable friction between the countries west of the Empyrean Mountains and the countries of the east. Selenia and Alba against Dresilia and Miletos.”

[ Elvira body language ]

“You see, the east of Ardalion has better land [for farming or whatever] than the west, which in the past allowed the eastern countries to become more powerful than their Western equivalents,” she explained. “It led to both sides looking down on each other. Even to this day, a lot of Pokémon from the east looking down on the west like we're barbaric, backward savages. And a lot of Pokémon here in the west now look down on ones from the east as being selfish and egoistic."

"Really? Is it that bad?" the Riolu wondered.

There are others, but it’s something to consider if you ever revise this chapter.

"Mmhm. And the Empyrean Mountains make this difference the divide all the more real," the Treecko went on. "Once you're on the opposite side, it's easy to view it as a world different from your own. The same goes for the people. If you're not a regular traveller between the halves of Ardalion, it's easy to believe what you hear."

"So there's racism at play in this world…" Arian murmured.

Oh, so Arian still remembers ‘racism’ as a term from his time as a human. I kinda wonder if there should’ve been been more of a “wait, I know this!” internally from Arian to play up the ‘lingering memories’ shtick a bit more.

"Unfortunately, yes," Elvira accepted. "But obviously not all the stereotypes are true. Dad and Melchior had requests from the east by people who knew better than to believe in rumours. The tsar was also building bridges between the east and Selenia. While it was never an alliance as such, it was pretty close to it.

[ ]

A shame Mitrofan had to come along and derail all that."

[ ]

"Wait a minute," Arian pondered. "If the leaders of the east were good friends with the previous tsar, then why aren't they doing anything about Mitrofan?"

Wait, Pokémon from a shared land (e.x. Selenians) think of themselves as unified races? I’m admittedly a little surprised to hear that given how internally diverse just the population we’ve seen in Selenia is. Part of me thinks that there might have been a bit of a missed opportunity to have Elvira go “Wait, what’s ‘racism’?” with Arian explaining things as he vaguely remembered them and Elvira going “Oh, it’s bigotry/[whatever]ism. Yeah, we have that here too, unfortunately.” but eh. Your setting, your rules.

I do feel that this sequence would’ve benefitted from a few more communicated pauses / body language. But that might just be me being a bit more of a more “visual” writer.

"There isn't the political will in the east to do anything about Mitrofan," the Treecko replied. "Even if the leaders supported Mitrofan's removal, they'd still have to get approval from their nobles, and that would be an arduous task. It's apathy more than anything that's keeping them."

[ ]

"...That's terrible," replied the Riolu, partly shocked by the reason given. "Apathy? Really? But there are people suffering over this side of the mountains! They need help!"

inb4 someone from Dresilia or Miletos actively aided Mitrofan’s coup with material support. Since there’s definitely a long history IRL of the Greco-Roman world meddling with the political affairs of neighboring barbarians to try and nip potential threats in the bud.

"If it's over the other side of the mountains, then it's not their problem. That's simply how they'd view it," Elvira reasoned. "I know. It is terrible. But that's just the way it is. Plus, from what I hear, they've had their own upheavals to deal with. They'd probably have bigger things on their plate than help out a country that's been despised by most of their citizens and nobility."

So on a scale of 1 to “Crisis of the Third Century”, just how boned are things out east? Though I can already tell that you’re going to have fun with Rebirth, since it gets some good mileage out of ‘imploding Rome’ as a setting.

"That's…" Arian tried to come up with a response, but came up with nothing. He could only walk on in silence, slightly staggered by what he had heard, about the inactivity of the east in the face of this calamity in the west. How could they be so selfish? he thought to himself.

I mean, the prologue did imply that all of Ardalion was having problems, so for Greco-Roman themed nations, that could potentially mean… oh in no particular order: crop failures, urban unrest from grain doles running out, epidemics, currency crises, bandits running rampant across the countryside, a good-old fashioned spot of civil war or two… lots and lots of “systemic crisis” options just based on IRL history that could be rolled even after taking “barbarian invasions” off the table. So don’t get too convinced that it was purely selfish apathy that made them indifferent to Selenia’s problems, Arian.

The two walked on in silence for the next while. Arian was still lost in thought about the east-west divide Elvira told him about, while the Treecko herself had gone silent went quiet, presumably lost in her own thoughts.

The silence reigned lingered as the two of them walked further down the road. Eventually, Arian's thoughts drifted from his previous discussion with Elvira, and to their surroundings. Once again, the day was bright and sunny, and it brought out the best in the landscape. The grass was green, a gentle breeze blew, and the sun shone brightly, casting the land in a warm glow.

"Yet another beautiful day," he remarked.

"...Mmm," was all that Elvira murmured in agreement.

Arian: “... Elvira? Are you alright? Since you don’t really sound alright right now…”

That's strange, the Riolu thought to himself. Is that all Elvira has to say? He looked over at the Treecko, and noticed that she had a pensive look on her face. What's she thinking about?

I’m honestly a bit surprised that his Aura abilities aren’t helping him sense her feelings a bit, though I’m going to go with “something something, they’re still spotty for Arian right now”.

"Elvira?" he asked. "Is something the matter?"

"Hm?" Elvira seemed to snap out of her thoughts. "Oh no, I'm fine. Really."

[ ]

"Are you alright? You seem a bit out of it," Arian observed. "Penny for your thoughts?"

Might make sense to have either Arian or Elvira’s body language described at some point in this sequence to break things up in terms of the number of primarily dialogue paragraphs.

"'Penny for your thoughts?'" Elvira repeated, rather confused. "What does that mean?"

"Oh, um. 'What's on your mind?'" the Riolu said. "You haven't heard that expression before?"

Elvira: “I mean, I don’t know what a ‘penny’ is, so…”

"...No. Never. What is a penny?" wondered Elvira. "And what does that expression mean?"

"A penny?" Arian was surprised at this gap in knowledge from the normally knowledgeable Treecko. "It's one coin. Like one Poké. A small amount. Where it comes from…" He thought about it. "I don't know myself, actually."

"Hm. Must be a human thing," mused Elvira.

"I guess so."

Well, that’s one way to tell that Arian came from some analogue to the Anglosphere back in his world. Since I doubt he’d have used the same idiom had he hailed from someplace like Paldea or the like.

"So your memories of the human world haven't been wiped completely, then?" Elvira said. "If you can recall that…"

[ ]

"Some vague things come back to me, I guess. But I can't remember anything major." That was still beyond the Riolu's reach.

Wait, what was the “that was” in this case? Like I get that it’s supposed to be “something major”, but it might make sense to give some throwaway examples of what Arian considers major. Also, it might’ve made sense to put in a paragraph in between as a pause, e.x. focusing on Arian going “hey, she’s right, actually” regarding his memory or something like that.

"It's alright. Maybe it'll come back to you in time." Elvira was about to say more, but then she saw where they were. "Oh, here we are. The road to Cyan Cove.

a Y-junction lay in front of them, with a small side road veered downhill to the right, down to a small beach. The signpost at the junction helpfully informed them of what was in each direction.

Lukomoria, Milenia Pass, Empyrean Mountains, MILETOS
Cyan Cove

"So to the right we go," Arian said.

Another recommendation to use indent for in-setting signage again. Though Ozerograd is this close to Miletos, huh? Didn’t expect that to be the case.

The two walked down the hill. As they got further down, It wasn't long before they reached the rocks above the cove itself; a small inlet with [ ]. However, it was different to the beach just outside Elvira's house. This beach was more sheltered, with rocky formations all around the beach. True to its name, the sea seemed to shine a bright cyan colour in the inlet.

I think that you accidentally snipped something after “a small inlet with” at some point of editing, since the sentence ends very abruptly there.

"Where's the Mystery Dungeon?" Arian wondered.

"It's down on the beach, near the centre of it," Elvira said, pointing to where she directed. "We'll have to climb down the rocks to get there."

"...Alright then. Shouldn't be a problem."

Can’t tell if it’s really going to be that easy or if Arian jinxed themselves.

And indeed, it wasn't. The rocks were large, and climbing down them proved unchallenging. Occasionally, Arian made some unsteady footings were made by Arian, thanks to having never who hadn't climbed in his body of a Riolu before, but in the end, they both made it to the Mystery Dungeon without incident.

Well, guess it really was that easy. Though I left some suggestions for some slight rephrasings for this paragraph.

And right away, Arian noticed it, as he stepped onto the sand.

It was a cave. But it seemed like a dark, black abyss where no detail of the cave's insides could be made out. This being the third instance of this time he’d seen such an oddity, the Riolu knew immediately what this meant.

"So that's it, then," the human remarked. "The Mystery Dungeon. Are there really pearls in here? It looks a bit plain on the outside."

Arian: “I mean, ‘plain’ might be underselling it a bit given that this looks more… ‘ominous’ to say the least, but yeah. Not seeing the big difference between this and the other Mystery Dungeons we went to before.” .-.

"That's because you haven't seen the inside," Elvira countered. "Never judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, never judge a cave by its entrance."

"Okay, that's at least a saying we have in the human world. The first one anyway," Arian replied. "Guess our sayings aren't so different after all."

Watch as Elvira drops a saying on Arian at some point that just throws him into a loop. Would potentially make for some top comedy.

[ ]

"I guess not. ...But anyway. Let's head in and get what Vardan wants."

And with that, the duo headed in.

It might just be me, but I think that it might be worth showing the gears turn in Arian’s head a bit before he opts to head in. Especially if he has been building up any thoughts about MDs lately and has any thoughts about the one that he and Elvira are about to jump into.

Once again, Arian and Elvira returned to the familiar format of the maze. However, this was a bit different for the former Riolu, due to the fact that this was his first Mystery Dungeon that was a cave. Thankfully, it wasn't dark to the point of sightlessness, and even if it was, Arian would be able to see just fine due to his good night vision as a Riolu.

That… kinda feels like a major character detail that didn’t really get played up at all in earlier chapters. I’m actually a little surprised that the story didn’t make a big deal out of “whoa, didn’t know I could see like this” at moments like when Arian went through that tunnel to sneak into Ozerograd.

Something to keep in mind if you ever get around to doing revisions of the earlier parts of your story.

"So this is Cyan Cove's Mystery Dungeon?" the Riolu said, looking around at the cave. "...Not bad. But would we really find pearls in here?"

"Yes. There's an area at the end where there's a huge deposit of them," Elvira told him. "We just need to make our way there. There's no need to scour every floor like we did the last two times."

I’m actually curious if there are a bunch of Clamperl that live in this MD, since there’s only so many Pokémon that create them… unless if vanilla pearl oysters also exist in this setting.

"...Good. That takes the stress off things," Arian said, a hint of relief in his voice. "Well then...I guess we'll start looking for the stairs."

And so they started searching. A walk through the corridors and rooms revealed a cave with a seabound theme. Puddles of water were everywhere, and the scent of saltwater invaded Arian's nose. He tried hard not to sneeze.

He and Elvira rounded a corner. There, they were approached by a Roggenrola.

I kinda wonder if there should’ve been a couple of explicit details for what this “seabound theme” looks like, though Roggenrola, huh? So it’s not just going to be a bunch of fish in this MD.

"A Rock-type? Oh, I do well against those!" he recalled, remembering what he'd been told about types by Elvira and Tamara two days prior. He charged a Force Palm and struck the Mantle Pokémon, staggering it. However, that was not enough to knock it out.

"Allow me to help, Arian," Elvira requested, before stepping forward and using Absorb. That did the trick, and the Roggenrola was down.

I get that this is not exactly supposed to be a long skirmish, but I do wonder if there should’ve been more detail thrown in for describing what this looked like visually.

"Thanks, Elvira," Arian said gratefully.

"No problem," the Treecko replied. "Rock-types are known for being physically hardy. So don't be surprised if you don't knock them out in one hit, even with an attack like Force Palm that they're weak to."

"Right. Gotcha."

Oh, so that’s how the locals parse Sturdy in this setting. Watch as it turns out to be Mitrofan’s ability, too.

"There are plenty of Rock- and Water-types in this place. We shouldn't have too hard a time," Elvira said. "Even so, remember what I said."

"I understand, Elvira."

They continued along the path. It was fortunate for them that the stairs were in the next room.

Small capitalization error here.

"Would you look at that! What a pleasant surprise," Arian chirped. "They were right here waiting for us."

"Down we go, then," Elvira said, and the duo climbed down the steps.

… Wait, what does a Riolu sound like when ‘chirping’?

The two Arian and Elvira made good progress through the Mystery Dungeon afterwards. The next two floors yielded little to no few incidents for them, and they also picked up some more items and money that were laying on the floor. The Pokémon of the Dungeon were also no trouble; it was they were mostly Water- and Rock-types that went down to Elvira and Arian's attacks with ease.

The fourth floor proved a bit more troublesome for them, though. The wild Pokémon still fell easily, but the stairs proved to be elusive to find. And after a while of trudging around the labyrinth, Arian found himself wanting to take a break. He wasn't tired, but wanted an opportunity just to stop and sit down for a while.

Some suggestions for some minor tweaks here and there to make to smooth things out a bit. Though that actually makes me wonder if MDs in this setting will make you hungry / worn out eventually like the ones in-game do.

They were making made their way down another corridor. They and reached the end of it, but a scan of the room it led into revealed no other exit to the room.

"Dead end," Elvira said to Arian. "Back we go."

"Wait a minute, Elvira," the Riolu requested. "Do you mind if we take a break first? I could kinda use it right now."

Huh. Guess there must be a hunger / fatigue mechanic in MDs in this setting after all.

"Well...alright," the Treecko accepted. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt."

She stepped back into the room, and sat down on the floor, next to a rock. Arian followed her into the room, and sat down opposite her. The room had a body of water in it, though a quick sniff from the Riolu found it to be saltwater, and thus not the sort of water to fill up their canteens with.

There were two canteens, and Arian took a swig from one of them. Although he was not overly thirsty, he found it a blessing to drink it at that point.

IMO, Elvira’s dialogue should be split off from the rest of the immediately following paragraph, though I wonder if it makes more sense for Arian to notice the saltwater after drinking, since it feels like “refill canteen” would be more on his mind after it’s a bit emptier. I suppose alternatively, you could tweak things such that he thinks more on the lines of “whelp, can’t drink that water, good thing we have canteens”, though his present train of thought reads a bit strange to me.

"Any reason why you asked to stop?" Elvira wondered.

"The search for the stairs is getting tedious," complained the Riolu. "Just wanted a little break before moving on."

Elvira: “... Isn’t your species supposed to be able to cross three mountains and two canyons in a single night? You’d think that this would be small potatoes in comparison.”

Arian: “Wouldn’t know anything about that, really. Though even then, it’s not the same as seeing the same cave surroundings over and over again.”

"It can be frustrating," agreed Elvira. "We're about halfway there. A little rest wouldn't hurt. Whenever you're ready, we'll get back on the move."


Arian took a bite out of an apple. As he ate it, he looked across at his partner. Elvira had partially submerged her left hand in water, and was looking into its crystal clear depths. By the looks of it, her mind was elsewhere. That reminded Arian of the conversation they'd had earlier, and he decided to tie up that loose end.

Actually, is Arian feeling hungry at all during this? Or just worn out? Since there wasn’t really any acknowledgement of him being in the mood to eat prior to him taking a bite out of this apple that just came into play. I wonder if it might have made sense to emphasize what sort of fatigue he was feeling a bit more such that “yeah, I need food” would cross his mind as a solution.

"So what was on your mind earlier?" he asked.

"Hm? What?" Elvira snapped out of her slight trance.

"Your mind's wandering. There's something bugging you," Arian pressed. "You want to tell me?"

I kinda wonder if this part or the prior paragraph to this block should’ve been a bit more direct about what the “conversation they’d had earlier” was, since it’s a wee bit vague here. Like is this their conversation about how the east and west of Ardalion don’t get along, or…?

"Well…I suppose you would have to hear it at some point." Elvira sighed as she began. "You haven't been told about the recent extreme events happening across Ardalion, have you?"

[ ]

"Extreme events?" Arian shook his head. "No, this is the first I've heard of them. It doesn't sound good, though."

IMO, the “it doesn’t sound good” part is superfluous and the sense of “yeah, they’re probably bad” can be primed a bit more effectively by showing Elvira in a bad mood or else having Arian put things together in his internal thought process.

"It isn't. Over the last few years, there's been a gradual increase in natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes," Elvira explained. "And then there's The weather’s also been getting more extreme weather , too. In the last year alone in Selenia, the autumnal storms were much more fierce, the winter was bitter cold, and this summer, about a few weeks before you arrived, we had a heatwave and a drought."

Left a suggestion to smooth out part of Elvira’s line. Though I kinda wonder if she should’ve given more concrete anecdotes to give a ‘face’ to these weather disasters. Like was the winter cold enough that Pokémon were freezing to death in their homes? Did the drought cause crop failures in other oblasts in Selenia? Just feels like we’re not at quite the same level of “visceralness” as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes here.

"Really? But the weather's been nice the past two days, hasn't it?"

"Yes. Too nice, if anything. Too much sun, and not enough rain. We had some rain a few weeks ago, but it wasn't anywhere near enough. For Selenia's crops and the livelihoods of the people, it's quite worrying."

[ ]

"That's not good." Immediately, Arian understood the gravity of the situation. "If there's no rain, crops can't grow, and water supplies can't be replenished."

"You've got that right. There's a well at the back of our house where we get our water from," Elvira went on. "The water level's getting worryingly low. If rain doesn't come soon, then I don't know what we're going to do." She let out another long sigh.

Oh, so crop failures are on the table after all. Suddenly that comment about them not being able to get Nanab Berries at the market feels a lot more ominous. Though I wonder if this is something that should’ve been foreshadowed a bit for background chatter in earlier chapters, since you’d think that “water shortages” would be a bit more on the minds of random Pokémon in and around Ozerograd and that it’d help with that moment of realization for Arian where you can show him thinking back to those little anecdotes and having an “... Oh.
” moment internally.

Oh God, that sounds bad. This is a problem that's affecting everyone…

[ ]

"I really don't like talking about them those disasters," the Treecko continued gloomily. "At least we can hold out hope that the Thorned Roses and Mitrofan can be taken out by our own hands. But these events are out of our control. No one knows anything about why this is happening."

She looked at the ground. [ Elvira low mood reaction here ]

"I just hate being powerless like this…"

Some suggestions for some places where you could potentially expand and reword a couple places. Though I wonder if Elvira should’ve elaborated a bit more on the “powerless” angle a bit, since the idea that even if you get rid of the TRs and Mitrofan, that all your hard work could just be all for nothing thanks to nature deciding “lol, screw Selenia” one day has got to be fairly demoralizing, but I wonder if it’s a little too implicit at the moment.

[ ]

"It's alright, Elvira," Arian assured. "There has to be an explanation. There just has to be. And who knows? Maybe one day we'll find it out together."

"Maybe. …Thanks, Arian. I guess this is what a partner is for, huh? To lift the other's spirits when they're down." Elvira then rose from her position. "Are you okay to keep going, Arian?"

"Sure I am." Arian got up as well. "Come on. Let's find the exit."

IMO, it might make sense to note Arian / Elvira’s reactions a bit more in description. Though if it weren’t for the fact that we’re in a seaside cave, I’d have asked if this was the moment depicted on the story’s cover. Since the pose definitely feels close enough to it.

The two made it through the rest of the Mystery Dungeon without much incident. Arian could at least say now that he was getting the hang of his moves, and his Force Palm was quickly proving to be his most viable option of attack. This was something that Arian’s progress didn't go unnoticed by Elvira, and she chose to speak up about it once they'd climbed the stairs on the sixth floor.

"Your Force Palm's quite powerful," she noted. "But my word of advice would be to not be overdependent on any one move. Your fighting style might become predictable."

That feels like it’ll be a bit easier said than done as a Riolu, since Riolu don’t exactly have deep movepools in-game.

"I see," Arian said. "I suppose I could use Quick Attack or Metal Claw more. Change up my attacks every once in a while. But we're at the end anyway. No more wild Pokémon to worry about."

[ ] The part of the cave they walked into had quite a large ceiling, from which a few stalactites hung. But what drew Arian's attention more was the large, cyan-coloured pool of water in front of them. One question stuck out to him, though, as he looked around.

"Where are the pearls?" he asked. "...I don't see any around."

The part where Elvira and Arian talk about his Force Palm feels a bit disconnected from the “right, back to the grotto” part. It might make sense to throw in either a line of dialogue or an additional sentence to your description paragraph that basically amounts to “Arian, heads up.”

"I know where they are," Elvira said. "Follow me." And Arian did so, following her to the edge of the water. The cyan blue water was incredibly clear, and he could see the bottom of the pond.

"Whoa," he reacted. "That's…deep."

"I know," Elvira replied. "But it's nothing I can't handle. Stay here, Arian. I'll get the pearls."

Wait, Elvira can swim? I didn’t realize that. Though I suppose I should ba a bit less surprised when her dad’s teammate was a Swampert.

"Wait a minute. Elvira, what are you - "

Arian didn't even get a chance to finish his sentence before Elvira ran forward. Then a big splash sounded out, and next thing he knew, he saw the Treecko in the water, swimming down to the bottom.

"Elvira!" he cried out instinctively. He was about to continue, but broke cut himself off as he saw her movements. She was actually quite an adept swimmer, and was able to reach the pool's floor effortlessly. Then she appeared to reach out for something by one of the rocks at the bottom. After that, she then made her way back up, and surfaced again.

I wonder if this is a bit too “tell” for pointing out that Elvira’s a strong swimmer. For instance, consider the following throwaway rework that tries to make things a bit more visual:


Arian rushed over to the water only to stop himself as he peered down into it. Much to his astonishment, Elvira’s movements through the water looked smooth and fluid as her tail and limbs brought her to the pool's floor effortlessly. She moved around amongst the rocks on the bottom as she reached out for something by one of them. She wrapped a hand around it, before pulling up, kicking and batting her tail upwards in the water until she surfaced again.

Doesn’t specifically have to be that, and it might not be what you really envisioned for this moment, but yeah. I feel that giving more explicit details would potentially make this more interesting to read. Though yeah, my money’s totally on her being able to do this because Melchior taught her.

"Hah…!" she breath gasped, taking in air. "Got them...Got the pearls." She wordlessly laid out her findings, as she took in more breaths of air.

[ ]

"So that's what we were looking for," Arian observed, taking in his paw a few of the pearls.

"Yeah...Vardan will be thrilled with this find," Elvira said, as she gradually regained her breath. "You could certainly make a necklace with these."

IMO, it probably makes sense to have a paragraph laying out what these pearls look like (e.x. are they white? Colored pearls?) and how many of them are present since… yeah, currently, it’s not even mentioned as to what general number of pearls Elvira set out in front of Arian.

"So that's mission accomplished, then?"

"Yes. All that's left is to pack these up and head out of here."


[ ]

...Say, you swam rather well back there," noted the Riolu, as he began to pack up the pearls.

IMO, I would pull the bit about Arian packing up the pearls forward into a standalone description paragraph. Since it better plays into the idea that he has a pause between his “Cool” reaction and him remarking on Elvira’s swimming prowess.

"...Oh, I've learned over the years," Elvira told him. "My dad taught me well, and I used to practice with him back in the day, usually when he was home. 'It never hurts to learn how to swim,' he'd say. It certainly helped out today."

[ ]

"That's the pearls gathered up," Arian announced. "Let's get out of here."

Oh, so it wasn’t Melchior who taught her how to swim. Noted, then. Though I wonder if there should’ve been a bit more internal thought or something from Arian after Elvira’s response, since something about his next line feels like it’s meant to come after a small pause of some sort that isn’t presently there.

And so they left the Mystery Dungeon. As they walked back out to the beach and into the afternoon daylight, Arian looked back with a sense of satisfaction.

Another day, another successful mission. I just hope this streak keeps up.

Cue things going horribly, horribly wrong in like a scene, since Hinnerk’s brilliant idea to get Elvira and kill her didn’t exactly just magically fade out.


Evening was beginning to descend on Ozerograd. And with the beginning of the descent into evening came time for Caitríona and Conall to close up shop for the day.

However, in the midst of closing their stall, they were accosted by two Thorned Roses. But not just any two Thorned Roses.

It was a Krokorok and a Gligar.

Oh boy, it’s the gate gang all over again. Didn’t think that we were going to see them again in the story.

"Hm?" Conall turned around and saw them. "Oh, hello there."

"We meet again, ya ol' mutt," the Krokorok growled. "We got us a few questions to ask ya, and yer gonna answer 'em, pronto. Got it?"

Well, this isn’t going to end well. Though not sure if it’s going to be the TRs or Conall and Caitríona who are in for a world of hurt.

"I sure do." Strangely, he didn't sound fearful in the slightest, despite the intimidating look from the sand crocodile. "Well, Ríona, let's see what these kids have to tell us."

Okay, yeah, it’s the TRs who will be in for a world of hurt.

"Hey! Don't call us kids!" raged the Gligar. "Remember whose territory you're walking on! Don't you dare pretend you're above us Thorned Roses!"

Admittedly, I didn’t expect the Krokorok to also still be a ‘kid’, though I suppose I’m a bit biased since I write stories where midevo ‘mons are commonly adults.

"Sure, I understand." Again, there wasn't the slightest ounce of fear from Conall. "Now what do you adults have to question us about?"

[ ]

"A bit better," mumbled the Gligar.

"These two." The Krokorok produced a poster. "Boss has us lookin' for 'em. Know anythin'?"

Ah yes, time for things to go sideways. Though I just realized that we haven’t had a whole lot of interleaving body language during this sequence thus far. If nothing else, Krokorok and Gligar’s transition from “pissed off” mode to something calmer feels like something that might merit explicitly describing a bit more.

At the sight of the poster, Caitríona's eyes widened. Two Pokémon stood illustrated in it, and the image was a depiction of a Riolu and a Treecko. Below the artist's impression of them lay a lone word scrawled in big letters.


Surprised that there’s no mention of a payout bounty or what Elvira and Arian are wanted for, since you’d think that it’d raise fewer eyebrows in town to come up with the legalese version of “they hurt Mik’s fee-fees”.

… Though then again, the TRs are basically a mafia, so maybe they just don’t bother with that whole “outward legitimacy” spiel.

Krokorok: “Well, have ya seen ‘em?”

"I…" Caitríona faltered, unsure of how to respond.

"A Riolu and a Treecko?" Conall observed, looking at the poster.

"Yeah...Some of our lot've been sayin' the two of ya was talkin' to 'em yesterday," the Krokorok continued. "Ain't nothin', is it? Ya wanna tell us what that's all about?"

Krokorok: “And don’t go tryin’ to pretend ya didn’t, either. We could see how ya reacted there.”

"You know that you can drop the act, Ishmael," the Lycanroc said, with a light chuckle. "You know us. And there's no one else around to spot you."

I… did not see that coming. Though if Ishmael’s a mole in the TRs, that makes me wonder if Elvira and Arian will ever get their bribe money back from him.

"Dunno what yer talkin' about," growled the Krokorok. "Now tell us! Didja see these two or not?!"

"Come on. You don't need to be so aggressive." Conall flashed a teasing grin. "Remember the old days, when you were just a little Sandile, sitting on my lap and calling me Unky Boo-Boo? Oh, those were the days…"


- Gligar side-eye moment -

Gligar: “... ‘Unky Boo-Boo’?”

Krokorok Ishmael: “N-None of that ever happened! Th-They’re stalling!” >///<

"Oi, shaddap!" The Krokorok's face was turning red. "Didja or didn'tcha see 'em, ya ol' berk?!"

"Well now. Did you see them?" the Lycanroc wondered. "That's the bigger question here."

"We did," the Gligar answered. "They came in and out of the north end of town. On the way back, they had a little Flabébé with them."

Conall: “(Psst! Ríona! We didn’t give them a mission involving a Flabébé, did we?)”
Caitríona: “(No, this is new to me, too.)”

[ ]

"...Hm. Dunno what that's about. But you wanna know why they went out the north end of town?"


"To get this." Conall held up the Sandy Torc, which made both Thorned Roses' eyes widen in recognition. "We asked them to."

[ ]

"Lill was looking for that!" the Gligar said.

IMO, this section probably would benefit from some moments to stop and describe the different characters’ reactions a bit more. Since it feels like there’s a bit of an abrupt jump in mood around these bits marked off with the [ ]s that presently is not fully transitioned into.

"That ol' trinket? Yeah, 'swot she's missin'." The Krokorok looked closer at it. "Yup, sure was."

"Give it to her next time you see her," Caitríona requested, as Conall handed the torc to him. "That's an old clan treasure, that. I wouldn't want this crowd getting their grubby hands on it."

"Gotcha. We'll do it." The crocodile took the item.

… Now I’m unsure if they’re moles or if they’re just straight-up TRs that happen to have friendships with these two. Guess we’ll find out.

"And while you're at it, I've a little favour to ask either you or Lillian to do tomorrow," Conall requested. "It's to do with those two, actually."

"What is it?" Axel wondered.

I’m assuming that ‘Axel’ is the Gligar, though you actually never introduced his name prior to this at all in either narration or dialogue, so you might want to patch that in since this feels fairly abrupt.

"Well…" The Lycanroc beckoned them closer, and in hushed tones, told them.

"...'S a good idea," the Krokorok agreed. "But we gotta tell Lill first. And the Chief, too."

[ ]

"Chief…" Conall chuckled lightly at that name. "I still think it's strange you all refer to him as Chief. Sometimes it takes me a minute to realise you mean…'you-know-who'."

"'E's a Chief. 'S the way I see it. Ain't a Chief in our sense, but least 'e's a damn sight better than that plonker we got." An angry edge came into Ishmael's tone.

Another section that feels like it’d benefit with some interleaving description. Though I’m getting the feeling that this ‘Chief’ isn’t Hinnerk there.

"You got that right, Ish." The Gligar seemed just as cross.

"Let's not think about that, Ishmael. Axel," Caitríona advised. "Just tell Lillian and him about this. And go quickly. It's getting close to curfew."

"Gotcha, Auntie Ríona," Ishmael acknowledged. "I'll be off."

Now I’m curious as to who this ‘Chief’ is. Though given that these two have gotten explicit namedrops, I have a feeling that it won’t be the last time we’ve seen them in this story.

"Good luck, you two," Conall wished. "Know that you have us if you need help. Or if you need a shoulder to cry on."

"Don't think I'll be needin' ya for that, Uncle." With that, Ishmael was off, Axel trailing him.

Whelp, guess that confirms that ‘Unky Boo-Boo’ really did happen back in the day.

"Hey, Ish," the latter queried. "You think they're worth it?"

"Maybe. But ya know the Chief; 'e'll be stoked at any newbies comin' in," commented the Krokorok. He looked down at the wanted poster again, gazing at the two in the illustration.

Yeah, this lot might be worth pickin' up. Just wot've they got?

Okay, yeah. These two are moles for the local resistance or whatever that Conall and Ríona are involved in. Since I can see that bit about ‘newbies comin’ in’ there.

Alright, it took a while longer than originally planned to get through this chapter, though as you’ve already gathered, I had quite a bit to say about the chapter @Arukona . There’s some rough edges around this chapter, but there will be plenty of time to get to that later, so let’s focus on what was done well a bit first.

In my opinion, the main strength of this chapter was the characters that it introduced and what it showed off of their perspectives. Hinnerk in particular is a good "love to hate" character and has some promising teases for a deeper backstory that intersects with Team Marshwood’s, as well as some sinister antics that will inevitably collide with the protagonists. I honestly wasn’t expecting Ishmael and Axel to actually become important plot-wise from what we saw of them in their initial appearances, though they definitely made a fun first impression, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for their return in the story.

As for the cons… the full blow-by-blow is in the line-by-line commentary above, but there were three primary flaws that stood out to me as recurring issues with the chapter. The first is that some of the scenes had narration perspectives that were a bit inconsistent in format, which was particularly noticeable in the scene that introduced Hinnerk onscreen for the first time. I also thought that in general, there were a number of places that were a bit light on description, which made it a bit hard to visualize some moments in the chapter, while in the case of dialogue exchanges, made some sequences read a bit too rapid-fire thanks to there not being “pauses” between lines. It also dovetailed a bit with some issues with “tell and not show” in parts, e.x. in the sequence where Elvira swims in front of Arian for the first time.

Though even if I had some bones to pick with the delivery, I think that the core of the story is still quite solid. You’ve clearly put a lot of thought and love into this setting and the cast is a (mostly) charming bunch, which is what’s kept me coming back to it. I don’t know whether or not you’ll opt to smooth out these earlier chapters, but even if you don’t, best of luck writing. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where this story goes and how you evolve as a writer.
Chapter 28 - The Prince New


Junior Trainer
  1. aggron
Chapter 28
The Prince

The so-called Master Dubhrua turned to face them, and the Selenians now had a good view of him. He was a little taller than Yuliya, and a fair bit taller than either of Team Elpis. His metallic features, specifically his bladed hands and axe-like helm, glinted in the candlelight. The rest of his body primarily featured red-and-black colouration.

The Bisharp fixed them all with a steely glare. No words came from his mouth, setting in unease all the greater for the Selenians.

Yuliya could barely hold it together. She tried her hardest to hold back a sob as she spoke to a face she hadn't seen in five long years.

"Y-Your Highness…It's really you, isn't it?"


(Art by maskedwayfarer on Discord.)

The Bisharp's glare softened slightly, but it still retained its hardened edge. Arian could feel the bitterness radiating from Dubhrua, in all of its oppressive nature. He grimaced uncomfortably, feeling almost weighed down by its sheer force. Looking over, Elvira seemed to feel that way too.

"...Yuliya." The Bisharp spoke for the first time. "It has been some time." His voice sounded rich, his silver spoon accent prevalent. This was a noblemon, undoubtedly. But the dignity of his voice was overwritten by a heaviness that suggested he had been through his fair share of tribulations.

"Y-Your Highness!" A few teardrops fell from Yuliya's eyes. "You're alive! Oh, thank the Creator, you're alive! I truly thought you had perished five years ago!"

"That really is Prince Leonid, huh…" Arian murmured. So he actually stayed in town, even after the way he was treated?

"I did not die on that day. The castle guards saw to that," Leonid replied. "They got me out of Iria while that monster took the lives of my parents. From there, Lada's knights transported me to the Dresilian border. I am indebted to them for allowing me to live."

"They were brave soldiers," Yuliya sniffed. "If I can find them, I wouldn't be able to thank them enough."

"If you still can. Mitrofan would do away with them if he knew." A snarl crossed the prince's face. "How did he do it? How in blazes did that turncoat turn my entire country against me? My father spent years cultivating the trust of his people and nobles, and earned their respect through his virtuous deeds. How is it that in the span of a year, that spiteful Aggron was able to turn my own people against me?"

"Not everyone. Mitrofan rules through fear and oppression," Yuliya corrected. "His Majesty ruled through grace and care for his people. I'm sure that once you return, Your Highness, they will side with you and help you to overthrow Mitrofan!"

"...Tch." However, Leonid didn't sound convinced. "It won't be as simple as that. Any attempt to overthrow him won't be accomplished without proper planning and organisation. I will not hear pipe dreams of revolution and glory days unless I see evidence of such a thing."

"But we have just that, Your Highness!" Yuliya told him. "Back in Selenia, Branislav has organised hidden forces to come forth when the time comes. And more recently, we have allied with remnant forces of the Irian Guild, and it was thanks to them that we were able to find your whereabouts! Two of their members travelled with me to Alba." She gestured to her mercenary companions. "I would be none the wiser had we not met."

"You…enlisted the Irian Guild for help?" The Bisharp blinked, unsure if he'd heard correctly.

"I did indeed. They're against Mitrofan as well, and have similar goals to ours," the Furret explained. "They're being led by Mud Bomber Melchior, and have their own group of determined fighters. They have additional ties as well, which is how they were able to locate you. Our alliance hasn't been for long, but already it has borne fruit."

"...So you believe." No joy sparked in Leonid's eyes, however. Instead…suspicion glinted in them. "Alas, that fruit will rot before you know it."

"Oh dear…" Elvira murmured, as if she knew where this was going.

"The Irian Guild are a treacherous breed, Yuliya. Have you forgotten the patronage my dynasty showered upon the Guild over the years, protecting them from constant censure, only to be stabbed in the back when that vile Guildmaster descended upon Iria Castle, killed my father and took his crown? Do you forget your enemies, Yuliya?!"

"I do not, Your Highness!" The Furret was taken aback by her liege's sudden rage. "They are not our enemies! Not everyone in the Irian Guild supported Mitrofan's takeover! Quite the opposite - many turned against him! Team Marshwood, his most devoted team, turned against him! Mud Bomber Melchior leads the Guild now, and Fernblade Kallias's daughter is among their ranks! That's her right there!" She gestured to Elvira.

"Bah! I have no time for such overtures!" scoffed Leonid. "Guild scum were always looking to undercut us from the very start! Do you not see, Yuliya? This is a Mythymnan Rapidash that only opens the door to treachery! Just like that filth Mitrofan did to my father and my nation!"

"You know we can hear you, right?" Arian interjected.

"I know full well you can hear me, Riolu," Leonid snapped. "Your intent is fully clear to me, and I will not fall for your tricks!"

"It's not like that at all," Elvira said. She breathed in, trying to keep her cool. "We want to help you, Your Highness. We want to liberate Selenia from Mitrofan's clutches just as much as you do. Selenia's been left in a deplorable state because of him. My town, Ozerograd, was taken over by a bandit gang who terrorised the townsfolk day in, day out for five years. I've seen it with my own eyes. I've experienced what it's like to live under him."

"...You are the daughter of Fernblade Kallias, Yuliya said?" Leonid murmured. "Keep talking, Treecko. What else did that monster do?"

"He hired House Kumiega's heir to become one of his marshals," Elvira began.

"What?" The Bisharp suddenly became alert.

"He trespassed upon the Irian Catacombs as well," Arian said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"He burned down the Irian Guild and made everyone who didn't join with him an outlaw," Elvira went on. "Our very existence is reason enough for him to chase us down, and-"

"I'm not interested," Leonid suddenly cut off.


"There you go rambling about yourselves once again! You had me fooled for a moment! You had me believing you genuinely cared about the welfare of my nation." Selenia's tsesarevich glared at them.

"But when pressured, all you care for is your own back. Not your clients, not your people, and most certainly not the house that ensured your existence!"

"Without us, we wouldn't even be meeting right now!" Arian countered. "Do you even hear yourself right now?"

"Arian!" Elvira whispered urgently.

"You dare speak to me that way, Riolu? Do you knowto whom you are speaking?" Leonid pointed a blade at Arian.

"I'm not stupid. I know who you are, Prince Leonid," Arian said.

"That's no attitude of a saviour. That's closer to someone who would stab me in the back the first chance they got!"

"For the love of God, we are not going to betray you! We-"

"Dyna ddigon!"

The commanding bellow of C pierced through the air, halting Arian and Leonid in their tracks. The Falink marched up to them, the rest of his legion behind him.

"This constant arguing will get us nowhere!" the lead Falink said. "Arian, if you want to bring Master Dubhrua home to Selenia, then treat him with adequate respect! You're burning bridges with that attitude!"

"...Fine." Arian would've retorted, but saw C's point.

"Thank you for that," Leonid said.

"You are not without fault either, Master Dubhrua!" C's outburst caught the Bisharp off guard. "Part of a leader's integrity is trust! By cutting off these mercenaries, you are no closer to reclaiming your homeland! You want to dethrone that Mitrofan and become tsar of Selenia, don't you?"

"Of course I do, Carwyn. What is a prince if not devoted to his realm?"

"If you are devoted to your realm, then take this risk!" C urged. "And should they step out of line…we will act on it. That's right, isn't it, soldiers!?"

"Sir, yes, sir!" five voices yelled in unison.

Leonid scowled in annoyance. The look on his face spelled angry reluctance at having to possibly partner with those he'd expressed disdain for not even a minute ago. But…even the prideful prince had to admit his subordinate had a point.

"...Tch," he spat. "Fine. Yuliya is here - I can trust her at least." He gave a knowing nod to his sister-in-law. "But let me make one thing quite plain to you mercenaries." His attention turned to Team Elpis. "One step out of line and you can kiss any semblance of an alliance goodbye."

Arian was about to retort, but Elvira cut him off.

"We accept your decision, Your Highness," she said.

"Hmph. Now, then onto the next matter," Leonid said. "We need aid, and that is something all three countries have denied me."

"All three?" Yuliya frowned.

"Indeed. Be they Alba, Dresilia or Miletos, when Selenia's hour of need is nigh, they all look the other way. That is the reality before us," Leonid spat.

"Is there no other way, Your Highness? It has been a few years. Attitudes may have changed."

"One thing is more certain. I will not return to the East," the Bisharp prince declared. "I sensed connivance in the negotiations, and there were signs that they would help me, but only for their own benefit. Fellow Selenian nobles warned me of a deal that would come with strings attached, so to speak. I will not have that." He shook his head. "Selenia's shackles would remain - the only change would be their owner."

"But that's surely the mark of compromise, isn't it? We must make sacrifices for our nation, and if that means-"

"No, Yuliya," Leonid cut her off. "Under no circumstances am I allying with the East. Especially not with Dresilia."

"Hm? Why them?" Arian asked.

"Quiet. We are not touching on this matter right now," the prince shut down. "With them cast aside, that leaves Alba as our only remaining option. Alas, Rí Trahaern burned that bridge by cutting ties with me some time ago."

"But that was a few years ago, by the sound of it," Yuliya pointed out.

"A year and a half ago."

"Attitudes can change," the Furret went on. "Could he not give you a second chance?"

"Rí Trahaern is not known for second chances."

"It's worth a try, isn't it? This is for our country, Your Highness!" A tear dripped from the knight's eye. "We cannot simply shut off every possible opening. If we do that, Selenia will never know freedom!"

"I agree," C said. "And so would my men. I understand your feud with Rí Trahaern more than anyone. But it's a gulf that must be bridged! If you can do that, then you'll have quite the backing, as well as a possible future ally against the East!"

"That…" Leonid was about to protest, but saw the Falink's point.

"Please, Your Highness," Yuliya begged. "For our country, please reconcile with Rí Trahaern. Selenia's fate depends on it."

The Bisharp considered the words of his allies, and the pleading looks of each of them. Even Team Elpis silently implored it, though they said nothing in the wake of Leonid's harsh words to them.

"...Alright," he said, with a hint of reluctance. "I will try."

"Great!" Yuliya cheered. "I'll head back to the Guild ahead of you and try to arrange a meeting with Rí Trahaern, Your Highness. He is aware of us, and knows that we want aid to overthrow Mitrofan. Having you by our side would greatly strengthen our cause."

"Very well. Go, Yuliya."

"Thank you, Your Highness." And with that, Yuliya left the room. The creak of the front door could be heard, followed by a slam.

"Right." Leonid turned his attention to Team Elpis. "Let me make one thing plain right now. I may have agreed to this alliance, but that does not mean you have earned my trust. You will need to do much to regain it, after the Guild's betrayal."

"We have every intention of proving we mean our loyalty, Your Highness," Elvira pledged. "You will see that the Irian Guild stands with you and will help you reclaim Selenia back from Mitrofan's grasp."

"Hmph." The prince remained unconvinced. "Stick to your vow, Carwyn. It never hurts to be safe."

"Yes, Master Dubhrua!" Carwyn collectively obliged.

"...Master Dubhrua, huh?" Arian noted. "What's up with that name? Why do you call Prince Leonid that?"

"It's a name adopted as a suck-up to Albans," Leonid said. "They can't stand titles like 'Prince', and many don't appear to like Selenians either. The name change is an attempt to blend in. …Not that it works," he murmured. "But I can't call myself Prince Leonid. Not in public, anyway. In public, I am Dubhrua, and I demand you refer me as such."

"Alright then, Dubhrua-"

"Master Dubhrua. I have integrity, you know." Affront laced Leonid's voice. "Show some respect!"

"...Very well then, Master Dubhrua." Arian cringed after saying that. I'm no servant of his.

"Now come." Leonid flicked his tattered cape. "Let us away. Rí Trahaern will not come to us." He strolled towards the door, Carwyn following after him in a chorus of footfall.

"Let's go, Arian," Elvira said, and started after them.

"Right…" The Riolu followed her, with a hint of begrudging. The exchange that unfolded stirred discontent in him, as he headed to the front door.

I'm not going to enjoy working with him, am I?

The evening sun shone brightly upon St Táiltiú's Square, as Leonid, Carwyn and Team Elpis went outside. The Falinks formed a ring around Leonid as they stepped out into the open.

"Before we begin," the Bisharp said. "Pay no mind to passersby."

"What does that mean?" Arian asked.

"Do not ask silly little questions," Leonid scorned. "When I order you to do something, you do it without question. Is that understood?"

"...Yes," Arian muttered. "Master Dubhrua."

"As it should be." He turned, and began to march. Team Elpis followed him.

There weren't too many people around the square - evening was setting in, and most families were inside having their evening meals. The scents of home cooking wafted through the air, and Arian's tummy growled as he breathed in the air.

Hopefully the Guild has food for us. I'm starving after all that looking around today.

It wasn't long before the group arrived at more crowded streets. At first, neither member of Team Elpis noticed anything off. But then…

"Wait a minute. Isn't that…?"

"That's Himself, alright."

"That cábóg'sstill around?"

"I thought he'd gone back to that green hell of his."

Arian's sharp ears picked out whispers from passersby, and his senses picked up on a multitude of emotions. But none of them were positive.

Suspicion. Scorn. Disdain. Feelings of this nature prevailed amongst those on the street. Team Elpis tried to make themselves as unnoticeable as possible, but this wasn't fully successful. Their trailing after Leonid drew the ire of more Albans.

"What's with them? Why are they following him?"

"D'ya see those bairns, Fionnuala?"

"Aye, I do. The hell are they doin' with aul' Dubhrua?"

"That's Dubhrua? Ah, stop! Ya mean, yer one who…?"

Arian didn't hear the rest of the remark from the passing Greavard, as they drifted out of earshot. It was a pity; he would've wanted to hear more. Then again, he recalled Rí Trahaern's words.

Challenged one of their strongest generals to a duel and lost…Is that why these people don't like him? The Riolu looked around him, at the faces of contempt. But why? Why did he do that? Did he really think he would win?

"Keep marching, Riolu!" Leonid's call drew him back to attention.

"Oh, sorry!" he apologised. "Master Dubhrua!" he then added before the Bisharp could chastise him. He cringed at his words, but swallowed them as he caught up with the prince.

They walked on, weathering the looks and remarks they got from passing Pokémon, until they arrived at the bridge to the Rí's Guild. The evening sunlight glinted off the waters of the Istwyth, in quite a sight to behold. Team Elpis would've stopped and taken in the view, as some on the bridge were doing, but they had a more pressing prince-related matter on their plate.

The group arrived at the Guild entrance, the same place where Arian and Salann had their altercation the day before. The latter remained at his post, along with Alasdair. However, both immediately moved in front of them to block their path.

"Oi! No access to the likes of you!" Salann shouted, pointing at Leonid.

"I need to see Rí Trahaern," Leonid demanded. "Let me through!"

"Not a chance in hell!" Alasdair growled indignantly. "Not after the way you acted, you gàrr-laoch!"

"Hold on a minute! What's all this?" Elvira asked. "Why are you acting like this to Master Dubhrua?"

"Is this to do with when he came here first?" Arian wondered.

"Of course it fucking is," Salann hissed. "You really thought you could take on Fachtna, of all people? Ruthless Wrecker Fachtna?"

"Of all the people to challenge to a duel…I'm amazed you even have the gumption to show your face back here," Alasdair scoffed. "The hell you think the answer's gonna be? Absolutely not!"

"Absolutely yes!" another voice cut in. A familiar, chipper tone.

Just like the day before, Scáthach fluttered down from the portcullis roof and landed in between the quarrelling parties.

"T-Tánaiste?!" Salann was taken aback by the Archeops' sudden appearance.

"Let him in," she ordered.

"B-But Tánaiste!" This time, Alasdair joined in the protest. "Do you realise who's standing behind you?"

"I know Dubhrua's behind me, Alasdair." Scáthach looked over her shoulder. "Long time no see, huh?" Oddly, the chipperness that normally accompanied Alba's tánaiste seemed to diminish once she and Leonid caught eyes.

"Tánaiste Scáthach," Leonid acknowledged. "We meet again."

"Yes, we do, Dubhrua," Scáthach replied. "And I'm gonna let you in. But only because Trahy said so. If he didn't, I would've left you out in the cold." She turned to the two guards. "Let them through, or I'm telling Trahy."

The threat of the Copperajah's wrath was enough to make the duo part ways and open the path to him

"Come on. You don't wanna miss dinner, do you?" Scáthach said. "Trahy wants you there. Now brostaigí, or it's gonna go cold!" She then flew away into the Guild, leaving the four far behind.

"You heard her. Enter." Salann gestured coldly to the tánaiste. The four wordlessly obliged.

The walk through the Guild's courtyard was uncomfortable at best. The throng of fellow mercs was nowhere near as crowded as yesterday, but the few that were shot piercing glares towards Leonid. The Bisharp did his best to pay them no heed, but Arian sensed a hint of discomfort coming from him.

"That fucker's back…"

"What does the Chief want with him? That's what I'd like to know."

"He can't seriously see the potential in that Sel, can he?"

Remarks from passing Guild members accompanied Team Elpis, Carwyn and Leonid into the Guild itself. Arian admittedly felt slight pity for the prince, but kept his thoughts to himself.

Along the Guild's hallway, Yuliya awaited.

"Your Highness." She bowed to him. "I have managed to secure a meeting with Rí Trahaern."

"I heard there was to be a dinner over which we would speak again?" Leonid said. "Tánaiste Scáthach claimed as such."

"Yes. Preparations are being made as we speak."

"I see."

An awkward silence persisted amongst the group of five Pokémon, while they waited for the all clear. Eventually, that was given to them by a Claydol servant.

"The rí is waiting for you," they buzzed. "Follow me."

The group followed after him, entering the canteen. The smell of Cairbre and Tiarnán's delicious cooking drifted through the air, reminding Arian of when they arrived yesterday with Team Scalebreaker. The two dragons were nowhere to be seen, unfortunately. Must still be off on that mission, the Riolu presumed.

The Claydol headed for a door off to the side marked, and telekinetically opened it.

"Rí, Tánaiste." He bowed his head, as best a Claydol could. "Prince Leonid has arrived, along with Team Elpis."

"Get them in here." The gruff voice of Trahaern could be heard.

The Claydol stood aside as the group of five stepped into the room. There awaited Trahaern and Scáthach, both of whom fixed their eyes on Leonid.

"Take a seat." The Copperajah used his trunk to pull out a chair, looking less than pleased. "I never thought you'd come crawling back here."

"Persistence and desperation go hand in hand," Leonid said. "Something I imagine most Albans are familiar with. Is it not the way for the poor in this country to try and become strong, and in turn hoist themselves out of their plight?"

"That's…true," Scáthach admitted.

"Hmm." Trahaern looked down on Leonid. "Maybe you aren't completely tactless. We'll see once this dinner gets underway."

As if on cue, servants entered the room with covered plates, and placed each down on the tables. They then lifted the covers, revealing steaming hot stobhach laoich on each of them, though with more vegetables in this batch.

"Sit down and eat," Trahaern instructed. "Don't let Chef Cairbre's hard work go to waste."

"I had no intention of doing that." Leonid sat down at the seat that the rí had pulled out. Team Elpis and Yuliya took their own seats, while Carwyn stood by Leonid.

Arian and Elvira both looked at the stew in reluctance, remembering the kick the spice provided last time. They gingerly took a spoonful of stew each, and brought it to their mouths.

"Ack!" Arian uttered. How's it even spicier this time?! It was like a fireball was on his tongue! Not wanting to cause a fuss in front of three royals, he kept his mouth shut, which made tears leak from his eyes. Looking over, he saw his partner do much the same thing. Across from him, he sensed Yuliya had similar sentiments to them, but she was doing remarkably better at hiding her feelings, barely flinching as she daintily brought the food to her lips.

At the same time, Trahaern, Scáthach and Leonid had begun conversing. All three tore their attention from their food and listened in on the conversation.

"So where have you been all this time?" Trahaern spoke, after which he grabbed some stew with his trunk and brought it to his mouth.

"...Living in a house at St Táiltiú's Square," Leonid told him. "I've gotten by."

"I knew you were still around," Scáthach said. "Ca did invite you for a divination ritual some time back."

"They did indeed. But for what?" the Bisharp huffed in contempt. "All it amounted to was that clergymon telling me I would never become the Tsar of Selenia."

"Wait, what?" The Archeops was taken aback, and the Selenians, Yuliya in particular, grew rigid at Leonid's words.

"What did Their Grace say to you?" Trahaern asked.

"I do not care to repeat it," Leonid replied. "The way they lace their words with cryptic meanings and false allusions…I cannot stand when words are danced around in front of me! Do you truly rely on such balderdash, Trahaern?"

"Hey!" Scáthach cawed angrily. "Take that back! Don't say mean things about Ca!"

"Quite right, Scáthach." Trahaern kept his composure, but a note of scorn entered his gravelly tone. "The advice of Archdruid Cathbad has been invaluable whenever they have given it. They have saved me and others from various assassination attempts with their insight, and have been a guide in times of decision. Their view of Fate, while mysterious, is not misguided, and they hold the beacon that guides us to the truth."

"Tch. And yet they dabble in such cryptic language. How do you know they're not misleading you?"

"Many times has Their Grace lent their aid, and not once has it turned out to be folly," the rí countered. "I trust them, and I will not do to our Archdruid what Pyrrhus did to the Pythia."

"It is the matter of relying on it," Leonid said. "Considering what I have been through, I have learned that those who I can trust are few and far between."

"An aspiring leader placing doubt in trusting others? Well now." Trahaern's eyes flashed with disappointment. "That's not a good sign at all."

"I beg your pardon? Explain yourself, Trahaern." Leonid shot an accusatory look at the Copperajah.

"Placing trust in others is a basic function of a leader," Trahaern explained. "Your people pay you taxes and swear allegiance to you, and in return, you offer them shelter and protection in your realm. It's not a fair exchange if you don't trust them even after they serve you. In many instances like that, tyranny follows, and where tyranny reigns, suffering is inevitable."

"Excuse me? Are you calling me a tyrant?" Leonid said, aghast. "A tyrant is the very reason my people are suffering! Are you deaf to the cries for help of innocent people to the south?!"

"I am aware." Trahaern was unfazed. "And?"

"And?! You know of their woes. You hear the voices of my people as Selenia withers under that monster. But you sit about in Breifne and do nothing about it!" Leonid slammed the table in outrage, knocking over a wine chalice. Luckily it was empty, and a nearby servant righted it again.

"There is one simple reason why I have not acted," Trahaern said, intent on keeping calm. "The Selenian people are indeed in dire straits. Many of them have hope that their tsesarevich, as you call your heir, will return to them one day. Three of them have even come directly into Alba to find you." He gestured to Yuliya, Elvira and Arian with his trunk. "But the problem lies in who they seek. That problem-" He paused, before directing his gaze back at the Bisharp. "-Is you, Leonid."

"You claim I am the problem?" Leonid gritted his teeth. "Do not insult me in this manner, Trahaern!"

"Indeed I do," the Copperajah said. "History is rife with examples of aspiring leaders overthrowing tyrants and pledging freedom, only for them to become tyrants themselves. Even if you do succeed in kicking Mitrofan off your throne, what then? Who's to say you won't fall into that same trap?"

"I most certainly will not!" thundered Leonid.

"Hmph. Your actions belie you." Trahaern remained unimpressed. "You could not complete Fachtna's training. You could not rise to the occasion, even when reminded that passing the training meant we would give you aid. You brazenly gave a challenge to Chief Fachtna you could never win. A year and a half later, and you don't appear to have changed at all."

"I could say the same about you!" Leonid yelled back. "You are as apathetic now as you were then. Is it any wonder that in an era of extreme drought, you have not answered your people's pleas? If you are a ruler who understands it all, then explain the feuding chieftains of Dálriada and Annwyn!"

"Hmm? What's this?" Yuliya murmured. She and the other Selenians noticed that both Trahaern and Scáthach suddenly looked more serious.

"That area has been a breeding ground for rebellious behaviour. Any day now, it could turn into something more substantial." Leonid suddenly had a second wind, and seized on the opportunity it presented. "You should have dealt with this problem at the core, but you have allowed it to fester and now feuding has spread to neighbouring tíortha. At what point will Breifne descend into riots and looting? At this rate, it's going to happen!"

"You cannot talk! You, whose nation rose up against you!" Suddenly Trahaern's composition fell away. "Cónaíonn tú i dteach gloine! Do not speak to me of rebellion when you were brought down by that very thing!"

"That does not change your own standing! You call me a tyrant, yet you exhibit those signs yourself!"

"How dare you, you vile little-"

"Alright, enough!"

The outburst came from Scáthach. Trahaern and Leonid halted their bickering, both of their gazes turning to Alba's tánaiste.

"Please don't argue," she said. "It's not fun to listen to."

"Hmph. Tell that to this upstart." Trahaern pointed his trunk Leonid's way. "Daring to insult the Archdruid and our chieftains, right in front of us!"

"You're right," Scáthach acknowledged. "That was kinda rude of you, Leonid. You really shouldn't say stuff like that, especially when Ca has a way of knowing these things. It could come back to bite you, like it did for others who made an enemy of them."

"Tch…" Leonid would've retorted, but he gave an annoyed huff instead.

"But Trahy…he has a point." The Archeops turned her attention to the rí. "Alba really isn't in the best of shape right now. With this drought, we really have had problems securing food and water. It's made things all the worse when it comes to Dálriada and Annwyn. They've always been at each other's throats, but the drought's made it worse than ever, and their raids are nearly constant. If we ignore them, then problems are gonna spread, and we'll lose the goodwill of other chiefs."

"Don't be paranoid about them, Scáthach," Trahaern criticised. "All the other chiefs' backing is very much assured."

"I don't know about that. Ca's had some unnerving feelings as of late," Scáthach said. "We need to stop those two chiefs before things get any worse. We have enough on our plate as is; we don't need rebellion on top of it."

"Hmm…" The mention of the Archdruid gave Trahaern some pause. He seemed to consider the words of his tánaiste, before he gave a decision.

"Very well. You've made a good point, Scáthach. We must deal with this scourge directly, and I know of a way to put them in their place." He paused for emphasis, before continuing.

"Prince Leonid - you will be the one to quell this matter. You and your Selenian companions."

"...How did I know you would say that?" Leonid grumbled.

"So you have perception after all," Trahaern muttered. "You will head out tomorrow morning. All the instructions will be given then."

"Hold a minute. Have I not a say in this?" Leonid objected.

"No, you do not," the Copperajah shut down. "If you want Selenia's rot to continue, then by all means deny me and keep aid beyond your reach."

"Hmph," Leonid uttered, but he said no more than that.

"You should be grateful, Prince Leonid, for I do not give second chances often. Hear this seanfhocal from Laighean - 'Tugann taoisigh cneasta dhá sheans, ach ní thugann ach amadáin trí cuid.' In your tongue, this would translate to, 'Honest chiefs give two chances, but only fools give three.' You would do well to keep this in mind.

"If you succeed, we shall talk more on the matter of aid," the rí continued. "But you must succeed in quelling this threat to peace, and if you fail, the outcome will be the same as your continued insults to my name."

"...I understand." Suddenly, Leonid became more serious. Reluctance remained, but he understood Trahaern's warnings.

"That is all there is to discuss for now. Finish your meal."

Trahaern's words were final. No conversation took place for the rest of the meal, the clinking of cutlery filling the air instead. The task ahead of them weighed on the Selenians' minds as they finished off their food.

Before long, all the plates were clean, and Trahaern stood up.

"You are all dismissed. We shall speak more on your mission in the morning. Scáthach and I will see to the necessary preparations." The Selenians took his order as a missive to leave, and they obeyed.

Once they were all out of earshot of the Copperajah, Arian was the first to speak.

"We gotta quell a revolt?" he said. "How? We're only ten people!"

"Quit your complaining. We have no choice in the matter," Leonid replied. "If we want Alban aid, we must help them before they help us. A basic gift of reciprocity - one you should be quite familiar with as mercenaries!"

"Hey! That's not how it is at-"

"Arian," Elvira interrupted. "I get your complaints but we can't really argue our way out of this. We just have to buckle down and hope we have what it takes to do this."

"Do you think we can?" Arian looked worriedly among his companions.

"I've quelled small-scale revolts before," Yuliya said. "But that was with Trokhym's help. I must admit my unease in this too. But…if it's for my tsesarevich and country, I'll see it through." She put a paw to her chest.

"Thank you, Yuliya." Leonid turned back to Team Elpis. "Get some rest. You need to be at your peak tomorrow. I will not tolerate failure, and nor will Trahaern."

"Gotcha," murmured Arian halfheatedly. "Come on, Elvira. Let's go." With that, the duo left to return to their guest room.

With Team Elpis gone, that left Leonid, Carwyn and Yuliya on their lonesome.

"Come with me, Yuliya," Leonid suddenly said. "We need to talk."

"Oh? Of course, Your Highness. What do you wish to talk about?"

"Follow me." The Bisharp began walking, followed by the six Falinks. Yuliya followed after them, through the hallways of the Rí's Guild.

Eventually, they found their way to a balcony. Thankfully, it was empty, giving Leonid peace of mind to discuss a pressing matter with Yuliya.

"It is good to see you again, Yuliya," the prince began.

"Likewise, Your Highness," the Furret returned. "You said there was something you needed to speak to me about?"

"Yes. A pressing matter." Leonid looked at her right in the eyes. "You might have noticed there is…someone missing."

"Svetlana." Yuliya suddenly realised. "Your Highness? Where is she?" A note of panic entered her voice, fearing she knew the answer. "Why is my sister not by your side?"

Leonid didn't answer immediately, pausing as he took in a long breath and gave a sigh.


"Gone?" That one word struck Yuliya's heart like a knife.

"Svetlana disappeared whilst we were in Mirionydd, in Ceredigonia. It was the middle of the night when I woke and noticed she was not in her bed." The regret exuded from the Bisharp as he told the tale. "Around that moment, I saw a shadow on the windowsill. I feared it to be an assassin, but then they jumped out the window. I gave chase across rooftops, but I did not get far. My puny Pawniard body could not keep up."

"Did they kidnap Svetlana?!" All composure had evaporated from Yuliya.

"I do not know. But in my haste, I had forgotten the fractured state of Mirionydd. Before I realised it, I was swarmed by a gang of bandits. I had trespassed on their territory, and they paid me back by beating me within an inch of my life."

He winced at the memory. "I truly thought I was going to die. If not for Carwyn, who nursed me back to health, I would not be standing before you today."

"Heavens above…" The Furret turned to Carwyn. "Thank you for saving His Highness."

"Much obliged, ma'am," C acknowledged.

"In that moment, Svetlana was lost to me. I was forced to go on to Alba without her, for staying in Mirionydd became all the more risky when more fighting broke out the next day by one of their revolutionary gangs. I left the city in the turmoil, and travelled to Breifne with a group of refugees. They were taken in by the Alban Church, while I went directly to Rí Trahaern."

"So that's who those people were," Yuliya said. "They were Ceredigonian refugees…"

"Innocent people who wanted to escape the subjugation of Cunobelinus, their praetor. I do not blame them one iota," Leonid said.

"But Svetlana…" A tear dripped down Yuliya's cheek, and she began to sniffle. "My sister!"

"Let your tears out, Yuliya." Leonid looked down, his fists clenched. "The fault is mine. I should not have been so careless."

The Furret was too emotionally overwhelmed to take in those last words, and fell to the ground as the trickle of her tears became a torrent. Sobs erupted from her, as she cried for her missing sister. Leonid stood by her, making sure that she had an outlet for her anguish. The loss of Svetlana weighed on his conscience, and he felt a crushing sense of failure from it.

This is the least I can do for her. I could not keep Svetlana safe, but Yuliya is still alive. The closest person to family I have left…I have to keep her safe. I must.

The Empyrean Mountains reached their lowest peaks at Ardalion's north. The land here was arid and dry, and the difficult terrain made it hard to carve paths through the mountains. The thin soil cover made it difficult for crops to grow, though some berries thrived as they did in just about any ground.

In some parts of Dresilia, they called this region 'the final reach of civilisation'. Alba called the region 'ár dtír caillte'. It was a haven of lawlessness, often met by harsh law and order from the region's ruling authority.

This was Ceredigonia. It was either a province of Dresilia, or a tír of Alba, depending on who one asked. The right of who owned the land was hotly contested, and many wars had been fought on its soil.

Both nations wanted that land so they had a buffer against which to guard against the other nation. It had changed hands a number of times over the years, but Dresilia had held it for most of its history, and continued to do so to this day.

However, while this border was the most fortified in Ardalion, with well-guarded forts lining just about every mountain pass and road that led westwards, there was rarely a moment of security. Alba had long since winded down full-on invasions, but small guerrilla armies sometimes slipped through the cracks and attacked the Ceredigonian authorities that way. And beyond that, there existed those of Alban blood within Ceredigonia's borders, who assisted and launched their own attacks in the region.

Safe to say, it was quite a headache for the Druddigon praetor that led this region of conflict.

Cunobelinus sighed in annoyance as he read a report he had been given. Another attack in Merionethensis, the biggest town in the province of Ceredigonia. This time, it was on a visiting official, and yet again it was the actions of Ruthless Wrecker Fachtna's mindless followers who were responsible. Those same agitators who vandalised the 'Merionethensis' signs and painted 'Mirionydd' over them, the same who claimed Ceredigonia belonged to Alba. Ever since he'd taken over the praetorship of this troublesome province, they'd been nothing but a thorn in his side. By the sounds of it, it had been the same story for his predecessors.

"Alban-blooded scum," he growled. The news did get better near the end; thankfully; the attackers had been apprehended, and were currently being interrogated. Then they'd be taken to court, be declared guilty and imprisoned for life. As was customary for lowlifes of their sort.

I'll let the magistrates deal with that nonsense. Cunobelinus filed the report with the others that were on the right side of his desk. Now then. Onto other matters.

He took other sets of parchment that had been handed to him. These were a bit different - instead of reports, he was given a pair of posters instead, along with a letter.

The posters depicted a Riolu and a Treecko, with the word WANTED written on the top of both posters. He read the details, but nothing stuck out to him. They were Selenians, apparently, and enemies of the tyrant Mitrofan.

"Sels," he scoffed. Why should I care about the antics of those savages?

Then he peered at the letter that accompanied the posters. The writing was one quite familiar to him.

I saw these two in Breifne. Apparently, they're looking for their lost prince. They're definitely the same ones that Dommy's looking for.

The letter was signed with a heart, with a serpentine trail illustrated trailing off from the heart's bottom. Cunobelinus couldn't help but smile upon seeing it.

The sooner I can pull you out of there, the better. It pains me that you have to be surrounded by scum like them. But you're strong. You can do this, my girl.

He looked back at the posters, at the Riolu and Treecko pair.

Whatever did that shadow want with these two? he pondered, frowning in puzzlement. They don't look that strong. So how could they vex someone like Mitrofan? And why does Dominian want them, exactly?

"Not like it matters," he growled. "Anything to tempt Fachtna from whatever sandy hole he's hiding in. And perhaps…this may just be the bait to lure that sand-dweller in."


And now we see our fair prince at last.

The name 'Dubhrua' translates to the Irish names for 'black' (dubh) and 'red' (rua), the same colours as a Bisharp.

Leonid describing the situation as a 'Mythymnan Rapidash' is a in-universe equivalent of a 'Trojan horse' i.e. something presented seemingly out of goodwill only for the giftee to be betrayed in future.

Merionethensis is the Latin name for Merioneth, a Welsh county. Similarly, Mirionydd is the Welsh name for Merioneth.


Dyna ddigon! - "That's enough!" in Welsh.

Cábóg - An Irish word for 'lout' or 'greenhorn'. Generally used in a negative context.

Gàrr-laoch - Scots Gaelic for 'villain'.

Brostaigí - "Hurry!" in Irish. The suffix 'aigí' is normally said as a command in the Irish language.

Cónaíonn tú i dteach gloine! - 'You live in a glass house!' in Irish.

Seanfhocal - 'Proverb' in Irish. Translates literally as 'old word.'

Ár dtír caillte - 'Our lost country' in Irish. Though it means 'tír' in the Alban context, meaning that it would be their equivalent of a province.
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