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Pokémon Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Clockwork Journeys


Bug Catcher

Written By: Roser, Marx
Illustrated By: XetaJTS, Ribbi

Clockwork Journeys is a fanfiction that my team and I have been working on since October of 2020, but in reality, have been working on since May of 2019. The fanfiction originally started out as a comic drawn by XetaJTS and written by Marx and I. However, Xeta eventually wanted to make a new project, so Clockwork Journeys was adapted into a fanfiction. Clockwork Journeys features illustrations by both Xeta and our friend OfAddict. This is why there are 2 very different art styles that you'll see as chapters go on.

Clockwork Journeys is a retelling of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2: Explorers of Sky. However, many of the story elements have been changed, as we wanted to improve on the story. I don't want to say too much more on this, as I don't want to spoil anything.

We have a discord for Clockwork Journeys and the other project that Xeta and Marx works on! If you would like to join: https://discord.gg/EedENgm

Table of Contents:

Episode 1: The Girl on the Beach
Chapter 1: Washed Ashore
Chapter 2: The Administrator
Chapter 3: The Guildmaster
Chapter 4: Out on the Town (Part 1)
Chapter 5: Out on the Town (Part 2)
Chapter 6: First Step
Episode 2: Wish Upon a Star
Chapter 7: Vanish and Trace
Chapter 8: Awakening
Chapter 9: Our Struggle
Chapter 10: The Guildmaster's Call
Episode 3: Life of a Trainee
Chapter 11: Lady in lavender
Chapter 12: Hard Lessons
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Chapter 1: Washed Ashore


Bug Catcher
Chapter 1: Washed Ashore

A warm night breeze passed over the sleeping Treasure Town. The town was silent and solemn, aside from the rustling of the leaves in the wind. Even the usually bustling marketplace was now completely empty, as the residents had packed things up for the night and went back to their homes. The residential area still had some noise, as some of the nightowls of the towns were still awake, and one of the bars was always open at these hours to take in those folks that had nowhere better to be this late at night.

However, despite it usually staying empty, the marketplace had one person walking through it: a young Eevee girl named Vivian. She had a longer mane than average, with a noticeably messy look that was her preferred style. On the back of her head, as well as just above her eyes, Vivian had longer and thinner hair that flickered and swayed like blades of grass. At the top of her head, among flatter tufts, she had a long strand that was shaped like a crescent moon. It tended to flutter around when she moved, or whenever the wind blew over her.

Vivian had left her home for the night, and was heading to one of her favorite spots in all of Treasure Town, somewhere further away from the buildings and businesses. She looked around as she walked through the quiet and sleeping town. Despite her having done this quite a few times at this point, she never quite got used to how quiet the town became at night. It felt very odd for the normally loud streets on the market area to go silent, as though the town she had grown up in was replaced with a quiet replica whenever the sun went down. It was kind of nice in its own way for her to be able to get away from all that noise.

vivian c1.png

Vivian kept walking through the town, passing by all the vacant shops. Soon, she reached the end of the market district, following a path out of the town. After wandering along the path a couple minutes longer, this path surrounded by trees opened back up and brought her out to a distinct cliff that the town had called Sharpedo Bluff. Vivian never knew what kind of Pokemon lived here long in the past, or why they had carved out the bluff’s face in the shape of a Sharpedo. It didn’t quite matter, so long as she had it to herself in the wee hours of the night. As the Eevee reached the cliff, she went off the path. She headed over towards a pile of leaves that was behind the nearby town banner.

She walked over and knelt down, gripping some of the leaves in her mouth. It had taken Vivian ages to knit and bend together the leaves to make a covering that would hide her secret entrance, but it was well worth the effort. The Eevee pulled the covering of leaves off to the side, and walked down the staircase. At the bottom of the stairs was the room that she had come to play and hide in at various times in her childhood, within the caved-out interior of the Sharpedo's mouth. Through the stone beast's maw, past its jagged rocky teeth, Vivian could look out across the beach below and the ocean stretching out into the horizon.

I know he doesn’t really like it… Vivian started to think to herself as she looked out over the view. ...but I think Dad won’t get too mad if I just rest here for a while. Maybe I can try to get back before he even notices that I’m gone. Yeah, that should work. She rationalized to herself, smiling as she settled on that flimsy idea. She laid her head down, yawning, watching the dark waves crash up against the bluff below her. The waves seemed a bit more active tonight, but she wasn’t too concerned with it. As she laid there, watching and listening to the waves, she felt her eyes grow heavy, and she slowly drifted off into slumber.



Vivian yelped loudly as she was startled awake. On instinct, her fur puffed up to fend off whatever force had started her panic, as she looked around frantically. The calm night sky had been replaced with a thunderstorm at dawn, the first crack of which had shocked her awake in an instant. Well great, now I’ll be all wet when I get home, and there’s no good way to explain that to Dad… she thought, annoyed as she watched the rain. She jumped once the second thunderbolt crashed down, unable to calm her nerves just yet. I guess I’ll wait a bit and see if it calms down at all. She settled herself back into her spot in the bluff, looking out at the storm raging just outside of her comfy den, flinching slightly at each thunderbolt. Vivian never feared lightning or storms, but the force crashing down on the open sea in front of her was enough to inspire some worry.

As she watched the rain, her eyes wandered over towards the beach on the bluff's left, and something caught her eye. There was some sort of shape in the sand that wasn’t there before. Vivian stood up and looked closer, then gasped. Someone washed up on the beach! Do I…? In the brief moment, Vivian thought of who she could go to, with the town still asleep and the things that could happen when going out in a thunderstorm, but she watched the motionless figure on the beach and quelled her fears. She would go out to get them herself.

Vivian backed away from the Sharpedo’s maw and quickly left the bluff’s interior, still able to follow the path into and out of town by heart in the storm. She found herself sprinting through the marketplace, almost skidding to a stop as she reached the crossroads at the center of town, and made a hard right towards the descending path to the sea below. The rain poured down and the wind howled on the young Eevee’s fur as she went, shaking and stirring her body, but not able to break her resolve to retrieve the stranger on the beach. Another bolt of lightning struck in the near distance, and Vivian flinched, still making her dash towards the ocean. Finally, she reached the bottom of the rocky staircase on the cliffside, and her paws hit the sand, not stopping her stride as she approached the stranger.

The figure was a Riolu, seemingly unharmed, but unconscious and dirtied from the storm. She was more apparently a female up close, similar in age to Vivian. Next to the Riolu was a soaked and stained bag, still holding strong with whatever it contained.

riolu c1.png

Please don't be dead… Vivian thought as she leaned down to put her ear against the Riolu's chest. She waited, having to steady her own breath and not distract herself, until she could hear a heartbeat and the slow but calm breathing of the Riolu. Vivian sighed in relief, happy to know that this stranger wasn’t lost. The Riolu suddenly began to stir, and Vivian backed off to give her some space.

The Riolu gradually rose to her feet, groaning. She put a paw on her forehead, seeming to steady herself and gather her bearings, as she looked over to the Eevee next to her. “Hey! Uhm, are you feeling alright?” Vivian asked, as the Riolu gave her a confused stare.

“I think I’m alright… just… feel very tired..” The Riolu responded, putting her paw back down and huffing with exhaustion.

“Can you walk? We should probably get you out of the rain,” Vivian said, looking around for somewhere they could go for shelter, and seeing the small cave on the beach. “That cave should do fine until the rain dies down.” The Riolu followed her gaze. As she looked back to Vivian, she spotted the bag on the ground next to her, grabbing it with a paw.

“Is this mine?” She asked, looking over at the Eevee.

“Uh, I would assume so? Come on, let’s get moving.” The Riolu nodded in response, though she was clearly still a bit dazed. She got up and was shaky for a second, but quickly steadied herself. They both took off towards the cave, taking shelter within it.

The cave was fairly large and seemed to go deeper underground, but the two stopped right on the inside of the entrance. Vivian came to a halt as they got safely inside, shaking some of the rain out of her fur now that she was back in relative comfort.

“We could go deeper in, but I think we’re clear from the rain right here. Let’s rest for the moment,” Vivian said, turning around. The Riolu was fiddling with the latch of her bag on the floor, still watching the rain outside as she did so, as Vivian took her first good look at the stranger. Her fur had sand muddied into it from her time on the shoreline, and she was soaked from head to toe, not that her behavior would imply it. This Riolu had extra fur that stood up a bit on the top of her head, and there was one tuft that hung idly over her right eye. On the back of her head was another mess of fur, longer and more wavy than the rest.

“So what happened to you? How’d you end up washed up on the beach like that?” Vivian came and sat beside the girl, watching her paws tug on the bag’s latch.

“I… don’t know. I don’t remember.” The Riolu frowned and kept her eyes on the bag, occasionally looking back to the Eevee. Vivian was perplexed by the comment... she didn’t remember? How long was she unconscious for?

“Well, what’s the last thing you DO remember?” Vivian tilted her head, trying to humor the odd girl.

“I…” The Riolu sighed, hanging her head as she came to a conclusion. “Nothing. It’s all blank, except for waking up on the beach just now.” She closed her eyes, then looked over at the Eevee with a defeated expression.

“Wait… you mean you have amnesia?” Vivian shot up with bewilderment and concern, moving closer to the Riolu. “Do you at least remember your name?”

“No…” The Riolu said, looking over at the bag. “This should be mine, right?” She asked again, her right paw running along the handle of the bag.

“Should be... maybe we can look inside, and see if anything jogs your memory. Is that alright?” The Riolu nodded, undoing the latch that was keeping it closed and flipping it open. She peered down into the bag, seeing an assortment of items. The bag was moderately filled with things that explorers frequently carried: Blast Seeds, Sleep Seeds, some Iron Thorns, and a gross, mushed pile of what must have once been berries. The ocean had thoroughly drenched and mangled seemingly everything the bag had held onto so well.

“Wow, you have a lot of exploration tools in here,” Vivian said as they continued to go through the items. “How in the world does an Iron Thorn manage to snap in two, though?! Those things can pierce Steel-types!” Vivian commented as she looked over the throwing weapon they had just pulled out. The Riolu nodded again quietly, continuing to dig through the bag.

“Huh… this seems different,” the Riolu said, pulling a small circular object out of the bag. Vivian grew alert as she saw it, her ears flicking up in surprise.

“That’s an explorer’s badge!” Vivian exclaimed, getting up and getting closer to take a better look. On its sides, the badge bore pale yellow protrusions that were shaped like wings, their material eroded from the turbulence of the ocean waves. At the top was a knob with the same coloration as the wings, likely for hanging onto a thread to be worn on the body, but misshapen and bent from damage to the point that it was unusable. A horizontal line went through the circle’s middle, interrupted on the front by a round red crystal of some kind. The crystal itself was cracked and chipped in various spots, ready to shatter further if it was pressed on.

badge c1.png

“Explorer’s badge?” The Riolu blinked, looking over the badge in her hand. She then looked over to the Eevee, who had grown cheery from the sight of it.

“Yeah! It’s pretty damaged, though… I don’t think the core would even function.” Vivian motioned to the shattered red object in the center of the badge. “Normally, you can scan a badge to find out who it belongs to, but… sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to endure the ocean.”

“I see.” The Riolu’s ears lowered with some disappointment from the explanation, causing the Eevee to respond quickly as she noticed.

“Do you remember what the explorers are?” The Riolu shook her head, and Vivian continued. "I thought so. Anyways, that badge is the same kind of badge used by explorers. The explorers are a group of Pokemon that, well, explore places and find the secrets and wonders of the world. But they do so much more than that, too! They keep the towns safe… they keep the businesses running with supplies and protection… and they stop criminals wherever they might show up!” The firm tone and confident smile that Vivian now displayed made it clear to the Riolu that this girl had a passion for this world of exploration. She couldn’t help but smile back as she indulged in the deluge of information.

“There’s a number of explorer guilds all throughout Eudria, and they use those badges to show who’s an official explorer. You don’t want bandits to go around tricking people, after all!” The Riolu nodded as she took in the information. Vivian soon came down from the high of her delighted explanation, seeming to grow a bit more bashful while she resumed normal conversation with her newfound companion.

“Anyways... if you have a badge and all of these supplies, then you’ve gotta be an explorer!” Vivian nodded her head proudly with the realization, while the Riolu looked back over at the badge, tilting her head in thought. She was an explorer? She certainly had the supplies and the tools to justify it. But what kind of explorer ends up in a situation like this? On a whim, she decided to flip the badge over, frowning and studying what she saw on the back.

“Hey, look at this,” The Riolu said, showing the Eevee what she saw on the back of the badge, as Vivian moved closer to the girl. There, on the back of the badge, was a carving of a single word: FERA. “What do you think it is?”

“Well...” Vivian pondered, trying to recall if she had ever heard a word like that. There was no space left for a missing ‘L’, so it couldn’t be ‘feral’, but what else would it be? Suddenly, an idea came to her. "It’s not any word I recognize… is it a name?"

“A name?” The Riolu asked, looking at the letters carved into the badge. It certainly sounded like it could be a name.

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any explorers doing that with their badge, but I guess it kind of makes sense to do? That way, if you lost it, someone would know who to return it too. It’s missing the last name though, which is a problem,” Vivian said, resting beside the Riolu while she mulled it over.

The Riolu thought it over, her eyes staying fixed on the decaying badge, wondering what history was being lost on her. “Does that mean it’s my name? Am I… Fera?”

“Maybe. If this is your bag with your badge, it would make sense to have your name on it for safekeeping.” Vivian stepped away, no longer feeling the need to lean over and watch the badge. “But… even if it’s not your name, maybe we could use it for the time being. If someone recognizes the badge or the name, that’ll be our lead on what happened to you.” The Riolu nodded once more, letting the name settle on herself.

“Then… I’ll be happy to be Fera.” The Riolu smiled with some relief-- a little scrap of identity was better than none at all, she supposed. Fera deposited the badge in her bag and closed it back up, as her eyes drifted to the landscape outside the cave entrance. The storm outside had died down to a gentle drizzle, and the town up on the cliffs was visible to the duo now. Vivian took the moment to shake the rainwater out of her fur while Fera looked over to her. “Who are you, anyways? We’ve spent this time trying to figure out who I am, but I don’t even know who you are.”

“Oh, right, sorry! I’m Vivian! I live right near here, in Treasure Town.” The Eevee raised a paw, pointing to the small portions of the marketplace that could be seen from where they sat. “There’s a guild right there, so when you’re ready, we can go and see if they can help you out at all!” Vivian said with a smile on her face.

“There’s a guild right near where I ended up?”

“Yeah! Guilds are all around the world, but we’re lucky to be right next to one here in Treasure Town,” Vivian said, then thought over her comments further and spoke again. “Oh, you’re… probably not from that guild, if that’s what you meant. I’ve never seen you working in it or spotted you around town.”

“Well, that’s fine. I guess any guild is better than no guild, right?” Fera smiled at the girl, prompting her to smile back.

“Right.” Vivian turned and came closer to the entrance to get a good look at the rain. “This is probably as clear as the weather is gonna get for a while, so we should probably just go.” She looked back to Fera, who quickly stood up and plucked her bag from the cavern floor.

The two stepped out onto the darkened sand, Vivian still looking up as they left to observe the weather. The storm that had startled her before had been reduced to a calm and gentle rainfall, soon to be nothing more than clouds parting over the morning sky. Fera’s tail idly wagged as she strolled out after Vivian’s lead.

“It’s actually kind of relaxing now.” The Riolu enjoyed the sound of the rain and the way it washed over her, making some of the sand drip out of her fur, as her tail wagged slowly.

“We don’t want to stick around in it for too long though,” Vivian said, picking up her pace a bit and Fera doing so as well. “Wouldn’t want to get sick or something.” The girl trotted across the shoreline, still working off some of the sluggishness from her interrupted sleep. However, as she looked back to check on Fera, she noticed that her companion was still walking at a more leisurely pace behind her.

“The air is so fresh here. And the wind is pleasant, too. Even just being in the rain feels good.” Fera swayed her arms from side to side and smiled at Vivian, who paused to let the Riolu catch up with her. “It’s a little slice of paradise.”

“You’ve only seen the beach. Wait until you get to the town and the outskirts, too. Oh, and the cafe!” Vivian giggled with slight amusement as she shared her new friend’s delighted demeanor, beginning to walk again. “But, for now, let’s get going to the guild. My dad’s probably mad I stayed out so late, and I don’t wanna keep him waiting much longer.”

Fera nodded, snapping herself out of her daze and starting to jog ahead of Vivian, toward the path leading up along the cliffs. “Alright! To the guild!”

“F-Fera! Wait, I need to show you where to go!” The Eevee hurriedly followed after her, the two girls now sprinting up the rocky path and onward to Treasure Town...

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Chapter 2: The Administrator


Bug Catcher
Chapter 2: The Administrator

Vivian came up to the Crossroads, panting and disoriented from her already tiring morning. Fera turned towards her, looking confused before brightening back up when she saw Vivian again. “Oh, hey Vivian. I got here and I didn’t know which way to go!” Fera then noticed Vivian was panting. “Why are you so out of breath?”

“You… just… nevermind that!” Vivian shook her head, catching her breath after the sprint that Fera had just put her through. Geez, she barely seems fazed at all. “You see that sign there?” The Eevee motioned to it, Fera following the direction and walking over to take a closer look. The sign had four directions marked on it: west led to the marketplace, east led to the residential area, north led to the Wigglytuff Guild, and south went back to Aurora Beach.

“Oh, I didn’t see it...” Fera sheepishly rubbed the back of her head, then gave an awkward laugh. “Sorry!”

Vivian shook her head. “No reason to apologize, it’s your first time and all,” she said. “Anyways, as you can see, we’ll go forward from here to reach the guild. It’s right at the top of this staircase.” Vivian put down her paw and trotted forward for Fera to follow.

Fera looked forward, spotting ahead of them a hefty set of stairs up a large incline. “Why would anyone make people go up these stairs just to get to the guild?” Her brow furrowed in annoyance as the pair started making their way up.

“Well… it…” Vivian wondered, looking up the stairs and failing to find a purpose for them. “I... actually have no idea. The guildmaster does a lot of things I don’t understand. But it usually works out all the same.” They both continued their ascent, before cresting over the hill and coming to rest. “Here we are: the Wigglytuff Guild!”

guild c2.png

Fera looked ahead to marvel at the odd guild in front of her. The round, hut-like building was modeled after the upper part of a Wigglytuff, showing off elated ears and an eager smile for the entrance. The entrance itself was a large metal gate that was dug into the ground, too heavy to lift but with no visible mechanism to open it. In front of the guild was a small circular platform marked by lines that radiated outwards from the center, almost like a wheel. “It looks neat, but... uhm, how do you get in?”

“Just follow my lead,” Vivian said, stepping forward onto the circular platform. The lines on the platform glowed for a moment, catching Fera off guard. “Don’t worry, that’s normal.” Fera nodded, waiting patiently to let the process continue.

“CLEAR!” A loud voice rang out, making Fera jump back in shock. “Whoever is with you needs to come next!” Fera looked over to Vivian, who nodded.

“Don’t worry, this is just how they check who’s coming in.” Vivian assured Fera, who stepped onto the platform hesitantly and stood in the center. The platform glowed once again, as Fera waited for the next command the voice gave.

“State your business!” The voice asked her, Fera looking over to Vivian at a loss for what to say.

“She’s with me! She needs some help, so I thought I would bring her up to the guild.” A pause lasted for several seconds after, before the platform stopped glowing.

“Understood. She has first floor clearance only!” The gate of the guild slowly started to lift up, making a series of clanking noises as the mechanisms worked gradually to grant them entrance. Fera stepped off of the platform, breathing a sigh of relief now that the moment had passed.

“What was that voice?” Fera asked, glancing around cautiously in the hopes of spotting the source.

“Oh, that’s Pret. He checks everyone who comes in during the off hours so that troublemakers don’t get into the guild. Don’t worry, you get used to it!” Vivian assured her as the two entered the guild. The relatively small guild building seemed to only have one room, devoid of decoration but containing a spiral staircase that led down into the ground. Fera waited near the entrance, letting Vivian take the lead down the staircase and following close behind her.

Going down the staircase, the guild opened into a large room below the surface they had just stood on, the walls composed of chipped-at rocks and supported with wooden beams. There was a small handful of Pokemon scattered about the room, almost all of them larger in size than the duo. The Pokemon paid no mind to the two as they entered, their attention mostly affixed to the bulletin boards on the northern wall of the spacious room. As they entered, Vivian began to speak again. “Anyways, now that we’re here… This is the top floor, where all the work happens. Visitors come in to report their issues, and explorers take on their troub--”

“VIVIAN!” A squawking voice rang out across the room, causing Vivian to yelp and grow a shameful expression on her face, as she looked over to the source of the noise. The angered call came from a Chatot who looked rather livid at the moment, and who was quickly fluttering his way over to the pair. “Where have you been, young lady?!”

“A-ah, sorry, sorry! I was out at the bluff last night...!” Vivian said, her ears back in preparation for a scolding.

“I’ve told you a thousand times not to run off in the middle of the night!” The Chatot screeched, coming to perch in front of Vivian. “Going off to somewhere like that, all alone... you should know better than to do something that foolhardy!”

Fera watched the perplexing scene unfold in front of her. She looked over to the Chatot and back to Vivian, seeming confused and amazed as the once eager girl sat and took the shouting from a puffed-up bird smaller than herself.

“I know, but... something good came out of it this time!” Vivian said, stepping aside and motioning a paw over to Fera. The Chatot followed her gaze, looking the stranger up and down.

“I suppose you mean this… dusty girl here? You didn’t find some stranger sleeping in the bluff last night, did you?” The bird returned his attention to Vivian, not seeming as amused or as hopeful about the situation as she did. Vivian puffed out her cheeks slightly with the remark, but pushed past her frustration and continued explaining.

“No, I didn’t. I saw her knocked out on the beach when I was in the bluff, and when she woke up, she said she didn’t remember anything. So I brought her here, to get her some help.” The Chatot huffed, letting some of his ruffled feathers settle.

“Hmph. I suppose I can’t fault you for acting with a good conscience. We can further discuss the issues with you sneaking off like that at a later point.” Vivian breathed a sigh of relief, then let out a startled squeak, as the bird flapped his wings and came to perch on her head. He pointed a wing over to Fera, and Vivian turned to face the girl in turn, her face red with embarrassment. “But you!” Fera blinked in confusion, pointing to herself as well. “Am I meant to believe my daughter happened to stumble upon an amnesiac while she was alone at night? Or would it be more likely that a vagrant came around to take advantage of her innocence?”

cromwell c2.png

“Don’t be rude, Dad.” The Eevee puffed out her fur with frustration, resisting the faint urge to buck her head and knock the little bird off-balance for his behavior. Fera’s expression soured slightly, more out of bewilderment than insult.

“I don’t think I’m a vagrant… all I know is that I woke up on the beach and Vivian helped me get dry. Then she said that the guild might help me figure out what to do without any memories.” The girl spoke her brief history simply and plainly, which seemed to only frustrate the Chatot further.

“You can insist on that. But any person looking for an easy meal or a place to hide could say the same, and if we listened to each one of those, we’d be out of supplies within a week! Unless you can give some proof that you’re actually an amnesiac or something of the sort, all we can offer you is directions out of our guild.” The Chatot puffed out the feathers on his chest, a display that might have intimidated a creature of his own size, but which only confused the Riolu further.

“Dad!” Vivian grew irritated, glancing up at the perched bird while her tail flicked angrily behind her. “If you’re mad at me, fine, but don’t take it out on Fera!”

“I’m only thinking about the guild, young lady. And trust me, we’ll deal with your part in this ordeal later, but I won’t be letting this stranger coerce us into—”

“Does this count as proof?” Fera, who had taken the time to ignore the Chatot and start digging through her bag, now presented the bird with the damaged badge that the two had studied earlier. The Chatot’s ranting came to a halt, growing more concerned and modest as he eyed up the small object.

“A-an explorer badge?” His feathers settled back down on his chest, before he snatched the badge away from Fera in his wing and looked at it more closely. He looked up to Fera, then back to the badge, and repeated the process a few more times before rubbing the side of his head to soothe the headache he seemed to be dealing with now. “It’s not a badge from our guild, I can tell you that… although I suppose it could be from another one nearby. It’s far too damaged to scan, but nothing we can’t figure out with some studying.” The Chatot’s once proud and scornful words had mellowed into a shameful murmuring, his wing moving behind his back and obscuring the badge behind him. His talons loosened, letting him hop off of Vivian’s head and onto the ground between the two girls.

“Does this mean you can help me?” Fera smiled down at the bird, seeming to forget his prior hostility while her tail idly swayed.

“It means I’ll look into it. But… you’re probably not lying about your situation, as far as I can tell. I’ll consult with the guildmaster on what to do with you. For now…” The Chatot turned his head to the staircase, calling out with his other wing up beside his beak. “Janette! Come here, if you would!” Shortly after his screech, a Chimecho floated her way up from the staircase that continued downward, a ribbon tied where her body met with her streamer-like tail.

“Yeeees, Cromwell~?” The Chimecho responded with a melodic tone in her voice, her tail flapping lightly with the gentle breeze in the room.

“Please see Vivian and this guest to the dining hall. She could use something to eat and some time to rest.” Fera’s tail swayed more with the words, looking to Cromwell and back to Janette at the promise of food.

“Of course! Right this way, you two~” The Chimecho began returning to the staircase that she had risen up from, encouraging the two girls to follow her. Cromwell watched as the group left, sighing as he looked back down at the badge he was holding curiously.

“Erm…” Cromwell looked up towards the voice above him, belonging to a Hoothoot that was shuffling anxiously on his perch. “Should I have not let her in?”

“You’re fine, Pret. We’re here to help people, after all.” Cromwell reassured the Hoothoot. “Go make sure your father is up, your shift is almost over,” the Chatot said as he too descended the staircase, heading off to the Guildmaster’s chambers and pressing a wing against his temple while he went. “This girl is already going to give me a migraine, I can feel it.”


Vivian sat quietly beside her Riolu companion in the empty dining hall, glancing over at her now and then. Janette had brought them a meal each-- nothing special, berries, bread, and some sweets to tide the two over-- and Fera had wasted no time digging in and satisfying the hunger that she hadn’t until now noticed she had. Vivian gave Janette a thanks for the food when it came, and Fera nodded along in agreement, deciding not to speak up with food already in her mouth. Now, barely a minute later, the Eevee was taking her eating at a more delicate pace, surprised to see Fera almost finished before she had downed her first Oran Berry. She couldn’t help but smile at the delighted display, putting down her food for the time being.

“I’m glad things went over well with my dad… he can get pretty upset over stuff like this. Sorry you had to deal with all that.” Vivian’s smile grew a bit more sheepish with the comment, recalling how she had to sit as the perch for her father’s tirade minutes ago. Fera gulped down the food in her mouth to respond, although kept her head turned towards her plate.

“It’s alright. He just seems… intense.” With the words out of her mouth, Fera grabbed one of the sweets from her plate and continued her meal, a sparkle in her eye from the soothing taste of the confection.

“Well, no…” Vivian sighed and laughed a little. “Well, yes. He can be intense. But it’s mostly that he’s just proper with his work here at the guild. And I think he was more mad at me than at you, anyways.”

“Ish he one ohf thuh eshplorers?” Fera’s second response came without finishing her food, not seeming to care about it and dedicating her focus on the conversation.

“He’s an administrator. His job is to keep everything running in the guild, basically. And, for as long as I’ve been here, he’s done just that.” Fera nodded along with Vivian’s words, swallowing the rest of the sweet and sighing in relief.

“Well… are you an explorer, then?” Fera turned her head fully to Vivian now, some awe creeping over her at the idea that she might have been speaking to a member of the guild from the time she woke up. The Eevee’s ears perked up at the question.

“Me? No… I just live here with him.” Vivian’s smile faltered slightly, and her eyes drifted away from her friend. “I… I really want to be one, though. An explorer. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to be one, seeing the work get done, even helping out when I can…” She sighed, patting her front paws on the dining table before her. “But I could never really do it. I crack under pressure.” The girl’s ears now drooped, her smile all but gone as she mulled over her own words. Even being in the guild, living as part of it, didn’t seem to be enough to become an explorer, not to Vivian. But what was enough, then? Fera broke the prolonged silence.

“Of course you could be an explorer.” Vivian returned her gaze to Fera, who had already begun eating again after blurting out the words without further explanation.

“W-well… how do you figure? I’m not physically adept, and I still get too nervous when it comes to serious exploration work.” Vivian waited anxiously for Fera’s response, prompting the girl to choke down what she had bitten off of the Sitrus Berry in her hand.

“But you helped me when I needed it, right? Even though it was dark and scary out. And you seem pretty smart, too.” Fera put the berry back on her plate, deciding to dedicate her focus to Vivian again. “I don’t know a lot about being an explorer, other than helping people… it’s all familiar, but I can’t even say what goes where or how to start.” She took the berry back up in her hand, already anticipating the remainder of her meal. “But you can do it if you want to. Just have some faith, alright?”

“That’s… well…” The smile crept back onto Vivian’s troubled face, averting her eyes from Fera as the Riolu cheerfully continued eating. “That means a lot to me, Fera. Thank you.” The other girl simply nodded as her response, an entire half of a Sitrus Berry in her mouth currently preventing her from doing anything else. The peaceful moment between the two was interrupted by a young man’s voice, calling out as he entered the room.

“Vuh… Vivian!” A Bidoof trotted his way over to the two at the dining table, slightly out of breath from what seemed to be a sprint.

Vivian turned around to see the Bidoof, perking up at the sight. “Oh! Hey Bennett, what’s up?” The Bidoof continued to catch his breath, speaking up once he got it back.

“Well, ya se-” The Bidoof began, but stopped when he noticed the Riolu next to Vivian. “Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you were doin’ something with someone! Who’s this?” The Bidoof asked. Fera stopped eating looking back to the Bidoof.

“I’m Fera, and you’re…” Fera took a moment to recall the name Vivian had just said. “Bennett?”

trio c2.png

“Yup! What brings ya here, Fera?” The Bidoof asked, now seemingly distracted from whatever he was going to talk about.

“Well, I woke up on the beach outside of town this morning, and Vivian helped me out. I guess I have amnesia, and she thinks that people here could help me figure out who I am,” Fera said, and Vivian nodded in confirmation.

“Golly, amnesia!? That must be awfully rough...” Bennett’s small ears flattened against his head at the thought.

“Yeah…” Fera replied, trailing off and going into thought for a second. “I’m not going to get too scared over it yet, though. Hopefully, the guild can help me out. It seems like there are nice people here.”

“Yup yup! It’s pretty nice here!” Bennett smiled once again. Vivian looked between the two, waiting a second to make sure they were done before speaking up.

“Uhm, didn’t you need to tell me something, Bennett?” The Eevee asked, Bennett immediately snapping back to attention.

“Oh, golly you’re right! I was supposed to tell you that Cromwell needs you to come to the guildmaster’s room with Fera right away!”

"Benneeeett… you gotta be prompt with this stuff!" Vivian said, hopping down from the bench while the Bidoof nodded apologetically. Fera turned around, still munching on an Oran Berry.

"Oh, are we going then?" The Riolu asked, looking longingly over the berries that she still hadn’t eaten.

“Yeah, you really don’t want to keep the guildmaster waiting, especially when it's something important!” Fera looked back to her food, grabbing the plate and starting to get off of the bench before Vivian stopped her. “You… should probably leave stuff here. If you’re hungry, we’ll get more later, so don’t worry.” Fera nodded, grabbing the last two sweets from her plate and stuffing them in her mouth to not leave them behind, as she got off and started to follow Vivian. “Thanks for letting us know, Bennett! See ya later!”

“Uhm, hey!” Bennett called out to the pair as they started to walk off, catching up to them.

“What’s up?” Vivian asked, looking a bit confused.

“Can I come with the both of ya? I never get to see any of the administrative stuff around here!” Bennett pleaded.

Vivian pondered the question, then frowned slightly. “Did my dad say you could come with us?”

“Well… he certainly didn’t say I couldn’t…” Bennett looked away meekly, hoping that he could dodge the question.

“Eh, that’s good enough for me! Is it good enough for you, Fera?” Vivian asked, looking over to the Riolu to who nodded in response. Bennett grew ecstatic with the agreement, his puffball tail wagging quickly. “Well there you have it, come along! I’m sure Wendell won’t object to it anyways. Come on then, let’s get going!” The Eevee said, her and Fera continuing to walk out of the room.

“O-oh! Thanks, you two!” Bennett said, following them out. The now trio made its way down the corridor out of the dining hall, heading for the guildmaster’s office with Vivian at the lead and with their spirits high.
Chapter 3: The Guildmaster


Bug Catcher
Chapter 3: The Guildmaster

“Alright, here we are!” Vivian said as the trio stopped in front of a large wooden door. Attached to the door was a gilded plate with simply “GUILDMASTER” engraved onto it. Fera grew quietly nervous; the administrator was already difficult to deal with, and she couldn’t imagine how the boss of a Chatot like that may be.

“Vivian, what’s the guildmaster like?” Fera asked, hoping to alleviate some of her worries. Vivian looked over at her, and then her eyes wandered, her mind trying to determine how she would even begin to describe how the guildmaster was.

“The guildmaster is… well, he’s unique. It’s hard to really figure out what’s on his mind sometimes.” Vivian struggled to actually describe the Pokemon, but forced herself through it as she saw the light concern on her friend’s face. “He’s not aggressive like my dad, don’t worry. He only gets mad when someone’s done something to really make him mad. He’s a compassionate person.”

“Yeah! He’s sweeter than sugar, usually. Maybe a bit odd a first, but who isn’t?” Bennett cheerily added onto Vivian’s words, giving Fera a big smile in the hopes of sharing some joy with her.

“Well… that’s a relief, at least.” Fera nodded along at the words, although her mind still wandered to what she might be facing here.

“Alright then, you good to go in?” Vivian asked, making sure the Riolu had readied herself before proceeding. Fera nodded once more, and Vivian started to push the door open. “We’re here, sorry for the delay!” Vivian said in a cheerful tone as the trio began to walk in.

The room Fera was met with was not nearly as large or fanciful as she was expecting for a “guildmaster”. It was a fairly simple spherical room, with windows on the left and right back ends of the room and a small bird’s perch near the right one, bearing the Chatot that Fera had expected to see. Some supplies sat on either side of the entrance, including a small bushel of apples that must have been picked the day prior. A large tarp hung proudly on the back wall that bore the aimless smile of a Wigglytuff, and sitting just beneath that tarp was the guildmaster, the Wigglytuff himself. He rested on a fairly large carpet, pure white and placed snugly on the grassy ground for the guildmaster’s comfort.

Cromwell turned around to check who all was coming in, giving a frown as he spotted Bennett accompanying them. Nonetheless, he held his tongue to not speak on the guildmaster’s behalf. “Ah, you’ve arrived... and with company, I see.”

“Erm… sh-should I leave?” Bennett asked. The Chatot tried to speak again, but his words were cut off by the eager Wigglytuff.

“It’s fine, we don’t mean to be secretive over this. I’m glad you all are here!” The Wigglytuff said without missing a beat. Fera had already begun to understand what Vivian meant by the guildmaster being “unique”, as the Wigglytuff approached her. “So you’re Fera?”

“I guess I am, yeah. You’re the guildmaster?” Fera asked in response, getting a wide smile and a proud nod from the Wigglytuff.

“Yup! The name is Wendell, and I run this nice little guild here! Now, let’s talk about our situation, why don’t we?” Fera felt herself being convinced by Wendell’s good spirits alone, and started to smile back at him. The Wigglytuff’s cheery nature and his eagerness to aid were giving her the confidence that the situation would somehow be resolved in an instant, no matter how impossible that actually was.

“Did you figure anything out about the badge?” Vivian interjected, eager to find out what they had learned.

“Well,” Wendell started, taking the badge from Cromwell and looking at it once again. He fiddled with the object in his nubby hands, looking it over from every angle and letting the group have a clear view of it. “As we assumed, the badge’s crystal is damaged heavily. We normally track all the explorer’s crucial info on these things— name, species, age, and the guild they belong to. But when it’s fractured like this, we can’t really get that information. Even if we could repair it, whatever info that had been stored on it is long gone. We gave it a scan just to see if something could be interpreted, but… no such luck. We’re really sorry.”

Fera and Vivian shared a dejected look from this news, but the Wigglytruff spoke up again to try and dissuade the bad mood. “There’s no need to worry, friend! Even though we can’t figure out anything about the badge, we certainly won’t be throwing you out. Until we figure out what’s going on, you are free to stay here in the guild.”

“Really? You’ll let me stay?” Fera was quite surprised by the offer, given Cromwell’s initial response to her presence. “I mean… I know the explorers live here, but I’m not really an explorer now, am I? I don’t even know how to do the job.”

“Of course! We never turn down a person in need! As for the work… well, it’d be quite rude to put a condition on your stay here, wouldn’t it? Act as though you’re a civilian in our care. Whether you want to ‘be’ an explorer from here onward is up to you.” Wendell replied, with a glance over to Cromwell for a moment, who sighed.

“Yes, yes… and an apology is in order for my earlier behavior. I was upset with my situation with Vivian and I let my temper take control of me. I hope you can forgive me.” Fera nodded happily, ready to accept the ordeal and move past it. Vivian, on the other hand, didn’t seem as willing to believe her father was genuine, and rolled her eyes at the remarks. “With that out of the way...” Cromwell said before clearing his throat. “We currently don’t see any reason to doubt your amnesia story, but we don’t have much to go on if you don't either. We hope you’ll collaborate with us as a joint effort to figure out where you came from or what happened to you. Any bit would help.”

Fera took a moment to ponder the question, but found herself short of an answer. “Hey, Vivian.” The Riolu turned to her friend, whose ears perked up upon being asked a question. “Do you remember seeing anything useful in the bag besides the badge? Maybe if there are papers or weird things, it’ll let us know where I was before the beach.”

Vivian pondered the question for a moment, looking at the bag that Fera carried as she thought about the question, before shaking her head. “Just mushy berries and broken tools. And none of it was stuff that you’d have to go somewhere specific to find.” As she tried to return to her silent thoughts, the Eevee seemed to notice something. “Hey, wait a second!” She exclaimed, attracting the attention of the others in the room. “There’s nothing in the bag that’s weird, but isn’t the bag itself weird? It’s not like the ones we use.”

Fera seemed confused for a second, grabbing the bag and looking at it. “Really?” She turned the bag around, holding out the front of it for everyone to look at.

“It’s an explorer bag, but… ain’t it slightly off? The color and the shape and all,” Bennett said. “Even the latch on it looks different!” Cromwell looked at the bag, thinking for a second. The latch bore the shape of a small egglike emblem, with wings on the side, just like the explorer badge that Fera had brought to them. After some deliberation, the Chatot squawked out in shock.

“Ack! Guildmaster!” Cromwell turned around quickly to the Wigglytuff, who looked a bit confused at the outburst. “The design on the latch is the same as the badges from Vaudelain!” Wendell’s ears shot up with the realization, leaning in and plucking the bag from Fera’s grasp to observe it himself.

“Ah! Of course, of course! This is something from the eastern continent! It must be a bag they use in the guilds there!” Wendell stood with his mouth agape from the mild realization, hurrying over to a haphazardly-stored set of supplies and fishing through it. He quickly returned with some aged paper in his hands. “Look here!”

The guildmaster unfurled and placed down a map of the twin continents, Eudria and Vaudelain. Several notable locations had their names labelled, and a red circle was marked on a spot on the western continent’s shoreline, likely added by the guildmaster to mark their own location. His rounded hand pressed down on a spot on Eudria’s eastern shoreline, marking their location. “It makes sense for a ship to have come from a port just east of us, but… hmm… maybe it also came from Vaudelain’s far east?” His hand moved over there, tapping on the parchment. “It would make sense to sail around the southern coasts instead of cross the land, but would it have stopped anywhere in the meantime? What if it was a passenger ship? Would anything have come from Haven this time of year? Oh, it doesn’t matter! We have something useful now! And look!” He rapidly returned his focus to the bag, then looked down at the smaller Pokemon to see if they hopefully shared his awe. “The stitching is eastern, too! It’s got the cleanly-knit folds and color contrasts that I’ve seen from their wares. No guild in the west would dole out something like this to its explorers. Oh, what a wonderful bag!” Fera didn’t seem to grasp the potential weight of the statements, but was all at once riled up by the guildmaster’s eager excitement. Bennett, however, found his excitement fading as a burning question came to his mind.

“Huh, but… wait, this don’t add up. You said the badges in the east use that design, right? But this badge here looks like the ones we use here. It’s a badge from the west in a bag from the east?” Bennett frowned and scratched his head, while Cromwell parsed the ideas in his mind.

“It’s definitely an odd contrast. But it’s possible that one of the guilds on Vaudelain’s western shore also uses Eudria’s badge design. Or, perhaps, this Riolu was a western explorer catching a ferry back from the east. Regardless, this does give us the understanding that we should be looking for a guild from Vaudelain.”

“So that means…! Uhm, what does that mean?” Fera tilted her head, still smiling aimlessly as she kept her focus on the Wigglytuff and the bag.

“Well, for one, it narrows down the guild search from everything possible to HALF of everything possible, which is a really good start.” The Wigglytuff cheerily swayed as he tapped on the badge-shaped latch of the bag. “But this is important, this is big: it’s almost never heard of for explorers to go from one continent to another willy-nilly, and ESPECIALLY not without a crew that accompanies them. That means we’re only looking for explorers that went on big, important expeditions, or big, important trade ships. And it means there’s probably a crew that can account for you, too!”

“Indeed…” Cromwell huffed out, trying to keep himself from sharing in the guildmaster’s unabashed delight. “This likely narrows down the search much further. If it turns out that any of the guilds had a ship whose journey was thrown off-course, you were the likely explorer lost at sea. Even if this badge belonged to a different crewmate than yourself, it’s something we can trace back much more easily. And, given the nature of such a thing, one of the larger guilds most definitely has an account of this supposed incident. We’ll do a more thorough scan of the bag and its crystal as well, to see if the materials used line up with the kind used somewhere in Vaudelain. And we’ll let you know what we find.”

“So, then… is this a done deal? Will we know what happened to Fera, if that’s even who she is?” Vivian frowned, not ready to accept the issue as solved just yet. Her father turned his attention to the girl, thankfully with more calmness than earlier.

“It’s unclear. If whatever ship or source brought Fera to these shores wasn’t at the behest of a guild, it will be much more difficult. But knowing that our supposed explorer came from the east will help us in our search. At least give us some time to contact them, and figure out what ships or sailing Pokemon might’ve gone by here.” The Chatot hopped forward, offering to take the peculiar bag from the guildmaster. The cheery Wigglytuff obliged, dropping the bag from his grasp rather than handing it over with care, causing the small bird to struggle as his wings were weighed down by the impact.

“This is a lot to take in.” Fera rubbed the side of her head, as though the process might make the information come more smoothly. “I guess you guys will do all the technical stuff with the bag and the badge… what should I do?” The Riolu watched as the Chatot dragged and eventually lifted the bag onward, stowing in it a corner of the room alongside some other seemingly valuable objects. The Wigglytuff swayed his head from side to side, pondering the next move.

“You should explore Treasure Town!” Wendell smiled with glee at his idea. “While you’re staying here, it’ll be good to see the sights and know the streets. It could be a good while before we discern exactly where to send you, after all, so getting accustomed to everything will help. Plus, maybe it’ll jog your memory a tad.” The Riolu nodded as she took the suggestion, while the Bidoof next to her hopped in place with excitement.

“Ooh! Can I help her around? I can show her all the cool stuff, and teach her a bunch!” Bennett had gotten himself riled up at the idea of aiding the girl, his puffy tail wagging about as much as it could.

“Hmm…” Cromwell returned to the group proper, having quickly gotten over the strain of the weight he was carrying. “I suppose it would be a good task. It’ll keep you busy for the morning and it is a good deed. But you are responsible for making sure she knows the ins and outs of the town by this afternoon.”

“Y’ain’t gotta tell me twice! I got this place memorized like the back of my paw!” Bennett trotted over to Fera, giving her a determined smile. “When I’m through with you, you’re gonna know more about this town than… huh, guess you don’t know things right now. Well, it’ll be a lot, believe me!” Fera smiled back to the Bidoof, having faith in his vague words, as Cromwell continued, his attention turned to Vivian.

“As for you, missy… you can get started on some chores. You still ran off in the middle of the night, despite my prior warnings and the danger that it entails. Imagine if you had gotten struck by lightning overnight, we’d be in quite a terrible spot!” Cromwell puffed out his chest feathers with firm confidence, as the Eevee gave him a bothered expression. “To start, the mess hall will need to be cleaned, the security marker outside is in need of a retuning, the spare rooms are… they’re, uhm…” By now, the Chatot’s attention was drawn to the Wigglytuff, who had moved closer to him and begun giving a dark, endless stare of judgment. The children watched with tension, as the guildmaster unsubtly urged his administrator to rethink what he was saying, until Cromwell cleared his throat and spoke again. “I meant… you should go help Bennett show Fera around. It will be a good experience.”

“That’s what I figured.” Vivian smiled calmly with a smirk, having expected something like this from the start. She turned her head away from her unnerved father, her tail wagging as well now. “Well, should we go hit the streets? No time like the present, and there’s a lot to see!” Fera snapped herself out of the abject horror imposed by the suddenly-shifting guildmaster, nodding down at Vivian. With that, the Eevee marched out of the room with glee, Bennett hurrying to her side to have his chance to guide Fera, and Fera happily following behind them. The Wigglytuff waved cheerily to the departing youngsters, and the Chatot halfheartedly lifted a wing to them.

Cromwell shook off the intimidation from his superior, moving back over to where he had stowed the bag. “You don’t have to force my wing, you know. I’m a voice of reason here, I have to make sure these children know what they’re doing right and wrong.” Wendell smiled and shrugged, taking a seat on his carpet to rest, as Cromwell inspected the girl’s bag closely. “Were you just trying to inspire confidence, or did you mean everything you said to them? It’s not at all a simple process to trace this back.” Wendell glanced over at the bird, having to think about it for a moment.

“A little of both. Nothing good ever comes easily, of course. There’s any degree of complicating factors to a search like this, and a lot of effort to put in. And they don’t need to bear the brunt of that stress. But it’s not just about alleviating their worries, it’s just how you have to handle these things.” The Wigglytuff hopped up from his resting spot as he spoke, grabbing an apple from his supply and then returning to where he was sitting. “You have to work knowing there’s a good result out there. I need to come at this with a positive lens, to really motivate myself to go out there and solve the problem. I’m sure you felt just a bit giddy at the idea of solving this too, didn’t you?” The guildmaster wasted no time in digging into the succulent apple, watching the Chatot as he took his attention away from the damaged bag.

“What I felt is irrelevant. I’m going to do my job, and if we can’t solve this entirely, we can’t. I don’t feel like dolling up the facts just to get their hopes up.” The bird sighed, his eyes fixed on the bag from Vaudelain once more. “But, if nothing else, we’ll find out something to help.”


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
Oh hi there, decided to review your first chapter for the blitz here! So, a retelling of Explorers? As someone that played those games multiple times, this should prove to be a fun experience. As a quick side note, I loved the cover! It's so well drawn!

First things first, uh, I noticed some stuff here. You didn't use the itallics to show the Eevee thinking, as shown here:
I know he doesn’t really like it… Vivian started to think to herself as she looked out over the view. ...but I think Dad won’t get too mad if I just rest here for a while. Maybe I can try to get back before he even notices that I’m gone. Yeah, that should work.

Please don't be dead…

Now, with that out of the way, I can begin my proper review! With that being said, I... Have a different style of review. Due to me not being a very good critic, I just give my thoughts about the parts I think were cool. And now I can begin to review, lol.

So the protagonists are a duo of Eeevee and Riolu. Nice choice of starters, and they're both gals, which struck me as odd, because usually it's like, a dude and a girl, not that there's anything wrong with them! They seem nice.

And expanding on that topic, I'm gonna talk about the characters, because I can see you're already doing something different than the games. Fera actually talks, while Explorers!Hero is mute most of the time. I think this is a very welcome change, otherwise Vivian would just be talking to a wall, haha.

Other interesting change is that Fera already has her explorer badge and treasure bag, so this makes me wonder... Does she have the same backstory as the actual hero from the games? I'm fine with either answer, but it made me curious.

So the plot for this first chapter is well-paced. Being the opening one, you did a good job in setting the premise of them going to the Wigglytuff guild. Good work on that!

Phew... This was fun to read! It's the second time I read a retelling of Explorers, but I liked it! You have potential for it, so keep it up!


Bug Catcher
First things first, uh, I noticed some stuff here. You didn't use the itallics to show the Eevee thinking, as shown here:

Shoot! That's probably an issue with me copy pastign the Google Doc onto the forum. It seems like the italics didn't carry over! I'll fix that right away.

Also, thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you liked it!
Chapter 4: Out on the Town (Part 1)


Bug Catcher
Chapter 4: Out on the Town

Heading south from the guild’s entrance and taking a left at the crossroads, the trio entered the residential district of Treasure Town. The Eevee at their lead happily trotted along the dusty trail, coming to a halt as the path split into smaller walkways. She extended a paw to motion at the array of houses before them; several rows of closely-nestled clay abodes, some as small as a single room and others large enough to house a growing family. Thick leaves and greenery adorned the roofs of the buildings, so large and dense that they sheltered the tops of each home from weather like the storm of the previous night. “So, here,” Vivian began, “is the residential area. This is where pretty much everyone in town lives, except for the guild members. Most people just go about their jobs in towns, but some of them venture out to get supplies, or commute to smaller towns. We’re pretty prosperous here, but a lot of the magic wouldn’t happen without everyone working together and caring for each other. It’s a really tight community.” Fera nodded along with the words, but the girl had the blank stare that one might associate with a complete lack of understanding of the situation. Bennett frowned at the sight, then turned to Vivian.

“Dontcha think there are better places to start? I mean, what about all the cool stuff in the marketplace? Ya gotta lead with your best paw forward, Vivian.” Bennett scratched the back of his head, as Vivian shook her own and faced the two.

“Maybe it’s a slow start, but we need to work our way from the ground up. If you show all the best stuff from the start, then everything else after just feels like a chore.” Vivian turned her smiling face to Fera, and her smile dimmed as she saw the girl’s glazed look of absence. “But, uhm… we’ll get moving quickly to not keep the good stuff waiting.” Fera smiled and nodded once more, regaining some excitement at the prospect of vaguely-hyped ‘good stuff’.

“I guess you’ve got a point. ‘Sides, it’s not like the residential area’s bad. I always come in the early evening to get my fur all cleaned up after work.” Bennett proudly stretched his body, showing off his mostly clean coat of fur, as Vivian squeaked in realization.

“Right, the bathhouse! It’s over in the center plaza of the residential area. We should probably get you there, yeah?” Vivian patted on Fera’s leg, marking a spot that was dirtied from the girl’s time unconscious on the beach. Fera looked down at the spot, having been entirely unaware that she had needed cleaning in the first place.

“Uhm, sure. I guess a bath wouldn’t hurt. But I hope it doesn’t take too long, I wanna get moving like you said.” Fera looked at her arm, now aware of another spot of dirtiness and trying to lightly scrub it out on her own to save time.

Vivian walked ahead once more and the other two followed, soon arriving at the center of the mass of homes. The southeastern end of the plaza boasted a meeting place for the townspeople to gather and share ideas. A wooden platform was erected for a potential speaker to draw attention to themselves, and a space was cleared in front of the platform for people to stand and listen. To the right was a large daycare shaped like the upper portion of a Chansey; true to the building’s structure, a Chansey stood outside its entrance, trying to coax a Magby inside her workplace. She was met with the young Fire-type taunting her childishly and dashing away from the building, before the Chansey followed in hot pursuit.

Directly across from it was a small shrine, the top of its entryway marked with a small sigil of a wave. Several well-kept decorative bushes dotted either side of the entrance. To its far left was a smaller structure with a flag of the Wigglytuff design that Fera had spotted in the guildmaster’s room. The littler building sported a section of open roof, and before Fera could even wonder what purpose it served, she witnessed a Pelipper soar out from the opening and away into the sky, an unmarked postman’s bag slung around its body. Lastly, the aforementioned bathhouse stood between the two, dwarfing the other buildings with its size and presence.

As Fera followed her two guides towards the bathhouse, she took notice of the open-roofed building. Two Pokemon were standing in front of it, a Raichu and a Golett, both of them bearing explorer bags. The two gave a glance across the plaza, before they headed out of the eastern end of the gathering place. This piqued the Riolu’s interest, and she stopped to ask her two guides about it. “Hey, guys?”

Vivian and Bennett stopped walking to face Fera. “What’s up?” Vivian asked, her ear twitching.

“What’s that place?” Fera pointed over to the peculiar building. “Is it some guild thing? It looks important.” Vivian and Bennet looked over at what the girl was pointing at.

“Yup,” Bennet said with a nod. “That there is the aid and submissions buildin’. We can’t quite have every single soul that needs help comin’ inside the guild proper, so the guild set up this buildin’ for the townsfolk to use when they need to submit their problems. The town guard’s also stationed out of that building, and they tend to handle smaller problems that the guild would be wasting their time doin’. They patrol, they do the escorts, the works.”

“The town guard?” Fera was intrigued. “I thought that explorers did all the helping stuff.”

“Well,” Vivian began, “the guild can help a lot with that kind of stuff, but explorers are always doing tasks outside of just the town they’re living in. You can’t go stop outlaws or discover new continents if you’re spending most of your days watching the marketplace for bandit gangs, right?” Fera frowned, then nodded, as Vivian continued. “Even if you tried to have some explorers doing the patrol work and some doing the explorer work, you would just end up at this point anyways, with explorers and town guards. So sometimes the guild helps the town guard with patrols and tasks, and sometimes the town guard can help stop an outlaw on the run. Keeping them separate but connected just works best.” Fera nodded a few times more, looking over to the building once more.

“So it’s kind of like… a mini-guild, that does mini things! Yeah?” Fera looked back at her two friends with an eager smile.

“That’s… sure, I guess that’s a way to look at it.” Bennett chuckled lightly with the girl’s conclusion. “It keeps things clean on the small scale, ‘cause you’d never get anything done on the large scale without it. I’ve done a few shifts there, but now I mostly get the real explorer jobs.” Bennett gave an expression of less-than-humble confidence, hoping for the girl to inquire further.

“Well, anyways...” Vivian spoke up to get them back on track. “Let’s head on over to that bathhouse now and get you cleaned up!” Vivian motioned towards the bathhouse and the trio started to make their way there once more, Bennett’s confidence giving way to a meek frown.

The bathhouse was a large structure made of wood and reinforced with rope bindings. It bore a painted sign above the open entryway, showing the bright smile of a Primarina’s head. The words beside it read “TREASURE TOWN BATHHOUSE”, each red letter given a blue border to draw in the eye. The Eevee hopped up the wooden stairs in front of the entrance, with Bennett having to do a similar series of strained hops to scale the staircase and Fera walking up beside him. A Marshtomp attendant stood beyond the entrance, but Vivian ignored him entirely, having enough confidence in the routine task to guide Fera over to the right, and eventually stopping at a wooden door. The reason for her pause became self-evident as she looked over to Bennett, who had been following the girls without a single thought of what he was doing.

“...oh. Oh! Sorry, you prolly don’t want me crowdin’ up your bath, that’d be odd. I guess I’ll go get an early wash solo… although it ain’t gonna be solo, I’m gonna get stuck in the tub with those Golem explorers again, I can feel it.” The Bidoof grimaced slightly at the thought, waddling away to the other end of the bathhouse. Vivian waved him goodbye, before pushing open the door with ease.

Beyond it was a large sauna that radiated a deep warmth. The steamy water was surrounded by a smooth stone barrier, making a large square that could hold at least three of the aforementioned Golems. Just under the water, unseen to the two, were rings of steps to allow them to step into the warm bath gradually, growing deeper every foot or so. Off to the side of the entrance were two towel racks, one with towels hanging normally to be taken, and the other with a large towel clamped and spread out for Pokemon like Vivian to rub against and dry themselves with.

“Well then… let’s get right in!” Vivian approached the steps into the bath, then hesitated and turned to Fera. “It’s hot, in case that wasn’t obvious, so just be ready for that. It feels really nice once you get used to it, though!” The Eevee slowly walked into the pool, giving a relaxed sigh as she gradually settled into the water.

Fera followed shortly after Vivian, failing to match the other girl’s gradual pace. She flinched as she felt the hot water on her skin, her leg instinctively recoiling. “V-very hot, you were right!” Vivian gave a small giggle from the girl’s response.

“Take your time getting in, please. There’s no reason to rush.” The Riolu reluctantly nodded as she repeated herself at a slower pace, getting used to the temperature of the water slowly. She huffed out as the initial scalding passed, letting herself relax and reclining against the smoothened wall of the sauna bath. “What’d I tell you? It feels great, doesn’t it?” Fera nodded in agreement. Her whole body went as loose as liquid from the warm ripples washing through her fur. Vivian giggled once more, delighted to see her friend in a state of bliss, as she closed her eyes as well and resumed her discussion of the town.

“The water is actually provided by a Primarina, who runs the place. You saw the sign, right? The water they make soothes the body and also cleans up impurities, so it's pretty much perfect for a bathhouse. And the heat… they use Coalossal fragments to send heat up from down below. It’s a perfect combination. Gets dirt out really well.” Vivian tilted her head back, soaking in the warm joy around her. “Quadrupeds like me can’t reach our backs with our paws, so it's especially nice for us...”

Vivian opened an eye, hoping to see that her friend hadn’t been so caught up in the relaxing bath that she was ignoring the explanation. Fera, so enamored with the soothing warmth of the hot bath, had slipped almost entirely under the water, with only her pointed blue ears still touching the air. Vivian made a terrified squeak and leapt forward in the water, splashing about and diving under the surface to grab Fera by the scruff of her neck. Her teeth clenched at the loose bit of skin she grabbed onto, using the steps Fera was resting on to climb backwards from the water, and yanking the Riolu above the surface with her. Fera opened her eyes, almost unfazed from the experience and now enjoying the warm water much less, as Vivian cried out to her. “Fera, what are you doing?!”

“Huh?” Fera blinked a few times, the feelers on the sides of her head flicking off some of the water. “What do you mean?” Vivian panted from the sudden activity she had forced on herself, staring at Fera in disbelief. Had she seriously been unaware of what was happening?

“You.. you were UNDER THE WATER! You could’ve drowned! Were you actually SO relaxed that you didn’t NOTICE?” The Eevee yelled out, Fera rubbing the back of her head in response.

“Uh… I guess I was. It’s a really good bath.” The Riolu gave a small laugh. “Sorry if I worried you, I’m sure I would’ve jumped out when I started breathing in water instead of air.” Vivian bit her lip and tried to respond, but just groaned and let herself float lazily on the water. It was easier than engaging with someone as “out there” as Fera seemed to be.

“Well... at least nothing bad happened, other than me maybe having a heart attack.” Vivian gave a sigh of exasperation. “Whenever you’re cleaned off, we can go. I’m sure Bennett will be cleaned up faster than us, anyways.”

“Oh, yeah! We’re still doing a tour, right? I wanna see what else there is in this town!” Fera shone with glee, her tail splashing about in the water as it wagged. “We can go now, then. I’m plenty clean, I think.” Vivian nodded while regaining some strength in her muscles after the chaos. Still, Fera’s complete numbness to the situation and eagerness to continue made her uneasy, but she powered through and started to climb out from the water.

“Let’s see… we could go to the shrine, but that’s not really exciting. And the aid and submissions building is something my dad would want to run you through, plus it’s not really a touring spot, so…” Vivian walked over to the clamped towel, rubbing her soaked fur against it and starting to work off the sauna water. “We’ll hit the marketplace. There’s a good number of things to see there, so I think you’ll enjoy it more than just a bath.” Fera followed closely behind, snagging a towel from the other rack as she rapidly rubbed across her fur to get dry.

“I’m gonna hold you to that, since that was a pretty good bath.” Fera continued her eager cleaning, closing in on being finished as Vivian quietly sighed and mumbled to herself.

“Yeah, I… I noticed.” Shortly after, the two were cleaned and ready to head off, each one mentally preparing for the rest of the tour in their own regards.

“And… here we are!” The trio passed under a stone archway, leading into a long and wide pathway filled with Pokemon on their own business. On both sides of the pathway were numerous shops and buildings: some were simple stalls or spots, having the wares on sale barely stowed on the carpets that the merchants sat or stood on, often food vendors or trinket sellers; others were small building-like structures, many fashioned into unique shapes and designs resembling the features of Pokemon to catch the eye, such as a dome-like building made to resemble a Kangaskhan’s head; the rarest few were true buildings, large enough to hold meetings and any sorts of wares, and likely reserved for the more wide scale services that a town as busy as this would need on a daily basis. Fera marveled upon every sort of item and ware that she could conceive being sold, Rawst Berries to her left and Warp Scarves to her right, a salesman showing off daggers carved from Silver Spikes, and even more resided just down the lane. Pokemon wandered here and there, forwards and backwards, all a large mass of activity that never once ceased. Vivian led the other two through the packed scene in the narrow space between shops, still having to stop in her tracks every now and then to let another bystander cross from one end to the other. Just farther ahead was yet another, albeit smaller, crossroad, splitting off to the left and right just to fit in even more shops on the busy avenue.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” A loud voice screeched over the cluttered noise of the marketplace. The commotion drew the attention of everyone around, including the young trio. At one of the moderately sized buildings, a Kecleon shopkeeper was screeching incessantly at a Stunky with an explorer’s bag strapped onto his back.

“Oh, great... ” Vivian groaned, as she and Bennett rushed over to the scene, with Fera hurrying after them with a moment’s delay. The shop they approached had its uppermost part styled after the head of a Kecleon likely for some kind of brand recognition, designed with a counter blocking the front entrance for the merchants to sell without customers entering. It was tended to by, obviously, two different Kecleons, one green and one purple. The greener shopkeeper was the one who was arguing with the Stunky at the present moment. The purple attendant stood nearby, quietly trying to interject and each time being interrupted or ignored.

“Can you stop screeching?! I’m just trying to be polite here!” The Stunky shouted back at the shopkeeper, his fur standing up aggressively to mirror the Kecleon’s agitated head frills. The trio walked up to the scene, with Fera standing a bit further back to observe. The Kecleons noticed them, and the Stunky followed their gaze. “Oh… great. What do you guys want?” The Stunky turned towards the Bidoof and Eevee with frustration still written on his face. A small object glimmered and shone on the edge of his ear, but what it was couldn’t quite be discerned from a distance. His eyes drifted to the newcomer standing behind them, but he ignored her and returned his eyes to the first two, not wanting to be caught up in whatever the guild's business was with her.

“Nice to see ya, Tai.” Bennett gave an awkward chuckle from the tense situation before looking up to the Kecleons. “What seems to be the issue here?”

“I’m just trying to buy some supplies for my next mission, but this guy’s giving me trouble for no reason!” Tai groaned out, clearly starting to become fed up with the situation. “And now he’s made it into a whole scene for no reason! Could one of you just buy the stuff for me so I can be done with this garbage?”

The green Kecleon somehow grew even more furious than he already was, but his purple associate stopped him before he could resume his yelling. “This has been an ordeal… Tai, for the sake of everyone else, could you come back at another time? Kecko here isn’t in any good state to do business, and I’ll help you find what you’re looking for on my own time.” The purple Kecleon gestured to the crowd of onlookers, and Tai flinched slightly, turning away from the duo.

“Whatever. I’ll just not get the items and deal with it. Hope you guys like running a crummy business, I’m sure it’ll be reaaaal profitable.” Tai started to march away, but was pulled back by the tail by Bennett, who gave the younger Pokemon a scowl before returning his attention to the merchants.

“Now, hold on a sec. There’s no need to make this whole thing combative, we’re all good folks here.” The green merchant, apparently named Kecko, started to speak again, but was jabbed in the side by his fellow merchant and kept quiet. “Leon, could you start explainin’ what happened here? Tai’s all grumpy and Kecko seems like he’d just rile Tai up more, so I want you to do it.” Kecko scoffed at the insinuation, but an unsympathetic glare from the Kecleon seemingly named Leon let him know to hold his tongue. Leon cleared his throat and worked up a response to the question.

“Well… Tai here stole from us several times over the past year. It hasn’t been much individually, just berries or occasionally a weapon like a Gravelerock, but the repeated behavior of it has been somewhat insulting. And now he’s here to buy from us… seemingly honestly, but it’s hard to regain that trust in a Pokemon.” Tai scoffed at the comment, but Bennett ignored the Stunky’s annoyance. “I’m willing to sell from him if he’s willing to buy, but Kecko doesn’t want us to just ignore what has happened before. We’re still individuals, and we can choose not to sell to someone that we feel hasn’t respected our business.” Bennett nodded with a frown, then moved closer and stood himself up on the shop’s counter.

“Yeah, an’ none of that is wrong or anythin’... but the guild paid off Tai’s debt, didn’t we? He’s makin’ up for what he did, he’s not doin’ things wrong now, and there’s no reason to not treat him like you do any other explorer.” Bennett turned to Tai for a moment. “You showed them your badge, right?” Tai reluctantly nodded, then turned his head to the side. A small earring was latched onto the Stunky’s left ear, bearing the shape and design of the kind of badge that Fera had found in her bag. Bennett looked over to Kecko, who had his arms crossed and his head turned up in indignance. “If there’s some other issue, the guild can talk with you personally. For now, can ya just sell to him?”

“With all due respect, Bennett,” the green Kecleon retorted, “it’s not as simple as paying off the damages done. You wouldn’t want to lend your bed to a Pokemon that broke into your home, and I’m not sure if I want to do business with a Pokemon that disrespected my business. Even if he was going to buy and sell honestly, he lost the privilege of buying and selling here.” With that, Vivian seemed to grow more frustrated, her ear twitching in irritation. Fera looked to the Eevee, expecting the girl to speak in retaliation, but nothing came. Seeing an opening in the discussion, Fera came to the counter as well, causing Bennett to hop back down onto all fours and let her have a turn.

“That’s not really ‘with all due respect’, I think… if there’s no money to pay off, and if he’s an explorer, then I’m sure you can trust Tee here.” Fera pointed to the Stunky, who almost couldn’t comprehend the girl misremembering his name so immediately. “The explorers are good people, aren’t they? And if Tee is an explorer--”

“It’s TAI!”

“Sorry. If Tee is a Tai explorer, then he must--” Fera paused, thought about what was being told to her, and started once more. “If Tai is an explorer, then he must be a good person too. At least, I assume it works like that.” The Riolu gave a friendly smile to Kecko, trying to bridge the gap between the two of them. He scowled with some confusion at the girl’s barebones logic.

“Just being an explorer doesn’t make you a good person. And it especially doesn’t make you not a bad person. Maybe Tai could learn some manners, and then I might feel obliged to humor him.” Fera’s smile dimmed, her face now growing a more stern expression that her two friends hadn’t seen on her up to this point.

“Well, ‘with all due respect’, you’re wrong.”

“Pardon? I’m wrong about who I can and can’t sell to?” Kecko began to work himself into a frustration again, but Fera spoke up before he could proceed.

“You’re wrong that being an explorer doesn’t make you good. Well, maybe some explorers somewhere else aren’t good, but all the explorers here work under Wendell. And Wendell is a guy that tries to make people happy, and make things right. And he wouldn’t have explorers that don’t also want to do that, would he?” Fera frowned at the shopkeeper now. “Maybe you can’t trust Tai alone, but you can trust Wendell saying you can trust Tai.”

Kecko tried to muster up another angered response, but the girl’s plain thoughts were getting to him. He glanced at the still-present crowd, who awaited his response on whether or not he could trust the guildmaster, and finally folded.

“Hmph… even if I’m skeptical of the guildmaster’s beliefs... he’s a Pokemon I’ll respect. And I wouldn’t want to speak ill of a guild that’s done such fruitful work for the town, and for our business.” Kecko leaned forward on the counter, already loathing himself for what he was about to say. “Tai. If you’re willing to hold true to the faith the guildmaster has in you, I’ll do some business with you. I have the Life Seeds you wanted to buy.”

The Stunky, who had turned away and tried to be numb to the discussion after Fera began droning on about good people and explorers, looked back to Kecko. He was unsure of how to proceed, but he didn’t want to look like a fool with whatever he chose. “I’ll… do some business with you too, I guess. And I’m sorry for stealing all those times that I did. I’m not trying to live that life anymore.”

“I’ll trust that that’s the case. Now, Life Seeds are 500 gold each--”

Kecko winced with a jab in the side from Leon.

“...200 gold each. How many did you want?” Tai scratched the back of his head, now approaching the counter once more.

“Uhm… 3, I think I just need 3.”

“I’ll get those for you. Just a moment.” Kecko gave a light sigh as he stepped away from the counter, slinking away into the darkened chamber of storage within the Kecleon building. By now, the small crowd that had gathered to observe their clash had all but dispersed, with the only people still watching being those waiting their turn to shop. Tai let out a sigh as well, trying to let the tension of the discussion pass, as the other two Pokemon joined them at the counter.

“Tai… you didn’t do anything to set Kecko off, right?” Vivian gave the Stunky an apprehensive look, and the Stunky grunted to her in response.

“Obviously not, did you see how much that guy wanted a fight? I’m just here to buy Life Seeds, all the ones we had got taken up for other missions. If you think I’m gonna start a fight, I can just give you my shopping list from now on.” The Stunky’s tail fur was still slightly puffed out from the prior yelling, although he seemed to be trying to settle it back down now.

“Easy, easy… she didn’t mean nothin’ by it. If you had done something, we’d just need to apologize for it and move on. But I can tell you’re doin’ things right.” Bennett cheerily smiled to the Stunky, and Vivian nodded with his words shyly. Tai rolled his eyes, then focused them on the Riolu next to him.

“So,uh, thanks… for that. I’m not the best at talking about important stuff. Am I supposed to know who you are, though? Are you some kinda guild person…?” Tai glanced at the other two, then back to Fera, who shook her head.

“I’m Fera. I’m an… explorer, maybe? Or, no, Wendell said to act like a civilian… I’m something in-between.” Fera swayed from side to side, her paw resting on her chin to help facilitate her thoughts. Tai waited to see if this was a joke, as Vivian stepped closer to inform him better than Fera could.

“She has amnesia. She’s going to be staying at the guild with us until Wendell figures out where she came from.”

“Wow,” Tai spoke, as the Kecleon returned with three seeds in a marked burlap bag. “That sounds really… out of my league. Uh, good luck with that, and I hope you have a smooth process of… being an amnesiac, I guess?” The Stunky fished out some pieces of gold from the bag, placing the exact change on the counter and swapping it for the bundle of seeds.

“Thank you for your patronage.” Leon spoke up in Kecko’s place, and the latter simply nodded with the statement.

“I’m happy to do it.” Tai stuffed the little bag into his larger explorer bag, giving one last look to the trio. “Stay safe? Have fun? I don’t know how to end this conversation.”

“Maybe just ‘see you at the guild’.” Vivian frowned at the Stunky’s awkward insistence on the memory loss, as he nodded.

“Yeah. See you at the guild, then…” Fera waved goodbye to the Stunky, who trotted off and vanished into the sea of passerby Pokemon. The Riolu girl let out a sigh, then put her paws on her hips and looked down to Vivian.

“Well, I’m not sure why you wanted me to see that on the tour, but I think I did a good thing. And I got to meet another explorer, so it’s a double good thing.” Fera looked off to where Tai had disappeared, as Vivian laughed weakly.

“That was not an intended part of the tour. But I’m glad we came here to help. Let’s move on to things that are less shouty and more simple fun, shall we?” With that, Vivian stepped forward, the three of them finally clearing the space in front of the Kecleon Shop and letting business resume as normal.
Chapter 5: Out on the Town (Part 2)


Bug Catcher
Chapter 5: Out on the Town (Part 2)

The next hour of the trio’s day together was spent touring the marketplace and its numerous shops, as well as the various other services that the townsfolk of Treasure Town desired. A parlor right near the market’s entrance sold desserts and treats made with the berries harvested outside of town, although Vivian discouraged Bennett from delaying them with an order; an incense shop on the southwestern end held enough foreign aromas that the surrounding businesses were stained with the scents, for better or for worse; a boutique had scarves, ribbons, and bandanas on proud display, most of them styled after the colorations and patterns of Pokemon that weren’t native to the area such as Haxorus and Charizard. Even for a girl that had seen nothing of the world, Fera could tell that this wide array of goods was something special, and her eyes raced across each little product in wonder of where it came from or who was here to buy it.

Once the two guides had exhausted every idea of a relevant or interesting spot in the marketplace, they stopped in an intersection of pathways, Fera waiting patiently behind them. “Alright, well, what all is left then…” The Eevee took a moment to think on it, her eyes scanning across the row of shops they had already traversed.

“Well,” Bennett began. “I think all that we ain’t visited yet is the dojo and the inn? I’m pretty sure we’ve seen everythin’ else that’s worth visiting.”

“Oh yeah! I forgot about the dojo!” Vivian exclaimed, but then she went back to thinking. “Hmm… well, then again, it’s not just a thing you come and see. The stuff that’s worth seeing and doing is the training, and I don’t know if Fera is in the right shape to do that, anyways.” The two of them looked over to Fera, who, upon feeling that she was being inspected, flexed two generally unimpressive biceps on her arms.

“I’m good for training. Is it guild training?” Fera smiled down at the two.

“Well…” Vivian started to speak, but then looked over to Bennett. “Actually, Bennett, you should explain it. You’re the one that’s trained there before.” Fera redirected her focus to the Bidoof.

“The dojo ain’t just for the guild, although the guild definitely uses it more than the normal folk. It’s basically a place for people to train by battlin’ each other. They got different rooms with different terrain and different tools, so that you can train for different scenarios. They also do a lot of teachin’ for those who don’t really know how to fight. Explorers gotta be ready to go toe-to-toe with someone out in the field. So if you do stick around for long enough, maybe you can come here an’ spend a round sparrin’ with an explorer.” The Bidoof stopped for a moment as he took note of Fera’s growing investment in his words. He was encouraged by her visible enthusiasm, but he knew that he needed to not get ahead of himself. “Vivian’s right about it usually bein’ an all day affair, though, so you should probably just worry ‘bout that some other time.”

Fera let the eagerness fade from her face. It sounded like an important place, especially if the guild used it so frequently. “Alright… so what was the other place you mentioned?”

“That would be the inn!” Vivian exclaimed, perking up slightly. “We should definitely go there. It’s actually a bit past the marketplace, closer to the bluff.” The Eevee started to lead the way once more, and the other two followed behind.

The group walked down a gradually twisting wooded path that led out of the marketplace, until they reached a clearing with a large building on one side of the path. The building consisted of two stories, the only one like it in the town— if this tail end outside of the rest of the settlement could still be considered part of the town. Small circular windows poked out from the second story, one of them bearing curtains on its inside to block the view. Torch holders were set up around the front of the building, ready to be lit up at night to catch the eye and give a welcoming atmosphere. The main entrance rested on the left, and a patio sat on the right, enclosed and with its own doorway from within the building for patrons to access. Some Pokemon were out on the porch conversing together, with a Heliolisk chatting away to his friends and letting his frills splay out in delight.

Fera scanned over the area. It didn’t quite blow her mind, even if the building was large; it seemed quaint and simple, and there was no sauna bath to speak of. Her eyes drifted to the sign planted firmly out front: “SPINDA ONE STOP REST STOP”. Even the name felt somewhat hollow compared to brawling in a dojo. Still, the Pokemon that she could see seemed to enjoy the place, and their chatter was a constant noise from even the distance that Fera was standing at. “This place is pretty lively, isn’t it?”

“Mhmm! This place gets a lot of activity because of the different roles it serves.” Vivian motioned up to the building’s sign. “It’s the inn, so it houses all the travelers and outside explorers when they need to rest. But it’s also a cafe, so even people who live in Treasure Town come here to eat and drink. You get a lot of culture mixing in the process, with the townsfolk meeting the outsiders on a daily basis.” Vivian finished her spiel, a small smile beaming off of her face. Fera found herself smiling back. “But it’s better to show you than to just talk about it, and we could use a drink.” Fera smiled at the words, and the trio entered the building, Fera holding the door open for the two quadrupeds and then following them in.

Upon entering, they were met with a small room lit by lamplight, with ascending stairs directly to the left, an entryway off to their right, and a Cinccino operating a desk ahead of them. Fera pondered if she should introduce herself to the fluffy Pokemon, but Vivian and Bennett had already begun walking to that right-side entrance, and the Riolu followed them.

The inside of the inn, or at least this part that seemed to be the cafe, was much more impressive than the outside. They had entered a larger room with many tables set up for the guests to sit at, and many guests filled those many tables. Each one had an oil lamp set up, although only the ones with guests near them were lit. At the far end of the tavern-like room was a large mahogany counter. It had a sizable bench in front of it, long enough for bipedal pokemon to put their legs in a comfortable position, and wide enough for quadrupedal pokemon to be seated properly.

Behind the counter was a Spinda, the bartender and owner of the inn. He was serving the various customers sitting at the counters the drinks they wanted. Fera watched him for a moment, catching onto his odd manner of movement. The Spinda swayed to and fro with his steps, at one point almost hitting his head against the counter in a joyous swing, but never colliding or losing his balance.

On the right side of the main room was a staircase that led upstairs, which had an open balcony. Sealed doors could be seen just barely from where Fera stood, letting her on to the second half of the building.

“What happens now? Should we go sit down at a table…?” Fera looked down at her two helpers, needing some guidance on how the establishment worked.

“Naw, let's go sit up at the counter! I come here plenty, so I know the bartender.” Bennett’s curly tail wagged with some pride. “He’s a real nice guy and I bet he’d like to meet ya!” Fera looked over to Vivian, who just shrugged and nodded. They both followed Bennett up to the counter and took their seats on the bench.

The Spinda bartender glanced in their direction with his indiscernible spiral-like eyes. “Just one moment! I got one more customer to take care of!” He stumbled over to a Ninetales, his ears swishing and wiggling as he took their order.

Fera watched the way that the Spinda stumbled around, frowning more and more before turning her head to Vivian. “Is he... okay? I’m worried that he’s gonna fall over and get hurt...” Vivian looked at Fera for a moment, cringing internally from being asked the expected question. The Eevee looked around to see if the girl had been heard, and thankfully her comment had been lost in the clamor of daytime discussions.

“Yeah, don’t worry, he’s fine.” Vivian murmured to Fera in a hushed tone. “Spindas just normally walk around like that.” Fera muttered a noise of agreement, not quite understanding the need for silence but accepting it as the Spinda approached.

“Hey hey! How is everyone here doing?” The Spinda looked at the youngsters joyfully. “I see we have some of my favorite customers here! Bennett, Vivian, and…” The Spinda tilted his head as he smiled to Fera.

“This here is Fera!” Bennett reached over and patted Fera on the shoulder. “New friend of ours.”

“Fera, huh? Well, my name’s Marz, and it’s a pleasure to meet you!” The Spinda held out a paw to Fera, who took it and shook. “So, what does everyone want to drink?”

“I’ll take a Rawst!” Bennett leaned up and rested against the counter, happy to be eye level with the Spinda.

“I’ll have a Sitrus,” Vivian said, then looked over to Fera. “I’m not sure if you’ve had anything like this, and experimenting around might be a bad idea with some of the options, so…” The Eevee mulled over the menu in her head. “Well, it’s a bit bland, but we should probably just get you an Oran drink for your first one. Sound good?”

“Oran Berries are… alright. I don’t know if they’re my favorite, but then again, I don’t know what is. I’ll trust that it’s good.” Fera returned her focus to the bartender, but he had already turned away to begin preparing the order before the girl could relay it to him.

The Spinda prioritized Fera’s order in respect of her being a new customer, snatching up some Oran Berries from a covered tin and piercing each one with a thin pin. Despite his prior dizzied movements, the bartender stood still, pressing and spinning an Oran Berry over a drink glass; the pressure caused the blue snack to begin drizzling out juice from the hole the pin made, running down the pin and filling up a small level in the glass. Despite the constant threat of the berry bursting, he moved swiftly and continued forcing the juice out, until the liquid had settled and the berry had been drained in about twenty seconds. He repeated the process five times more, somehow getting faster with each consecutive berry, and each time tossing the finished berry into a separate tin nearby. Once the pure juice had been collected, the Spinda snatched up some sugary powder in a spoon, tossing it in and tossing the spoon aside. His final step was to whip the liquid vigorously with a stirring stick, the powder dissolving almost instantly and the hue of the drink changing from dark to light blue. With all of his steps completed, he placed the drink down delicately in front of Fera, who had been watching his every move with amazement.

“I hope you enjoy!” The bartender bowed to the girl, and the Riolu felt prompted to bow back to him, narrowly avoiding hitting her head on the counter in the process. By the time she had lifted her head back up, the Spinda was already facing away again, his paws fast at work on the next part of the order. Fera grabbed her drink, looking it over and studying the mixture. After enough curious inspection, she brought the glass to her lips, tilting it up and drinking down a small portion of it. Fera’s eyes widened and her tail started wagging as she pulled the glass away from her lips. It was good, really good! Even for what was just a sugary sweet drink, it was a delight to the girl, prompting her to start gulping down more.

Vivan giggled at the expression on Fera’s face. “I take it that you like the drink?” The Riolu nodded quickly, slurping down her drink at a breakneck pace. Vivian patted Fera on the shoulder, both to assure that she had understood Fera’s response and to hopefully urge the girl to savor her drink a bit more. Marz soon returned with the orders for Bennett and Vivian, who began to drink their berry concoctions just as Fera let out a relieved sigh from finishing off hers.

The Spinda cheerily stood by as the two drank, his ears wiggling slightly as they seemed to naturally do. “So, what brings your new acquaintance to town? Friend of a friend that’s come to visit? Guild escort? Or just a traveler you made a connection with?” Fera was the only one available to answer, deciding to shorten her thoughts for once instead of trying to explain the whole ordeal.

“I’m staying with the guild for a while. Vivian and Bennett are giving me a tour of the town so that I can learn about things, and they said this place had cool stuff.”

“Well, you’re right about that. You’ve already enjoyed one of our drinks, and upstairs we have our lovely little rooms for visitors from afar.” The Spinda gestured up to the indoor balcony above them. “Or you could simply soak in the multicultural atmosphere and find someone to chat with, if that’s more your speed.”

“Easy with the sales pitch, Marz, we’re still going to pay for the drinks.” Vivian rolled her eyes slightly from the bartender’s words while pausing from her drink, although her smile let on that she knew it was all with good intentions. “Just let her do what comes naturally.”

“As you please. Just remember… Treasure Town is a place of new beginnings, so never be afraid to try something new!” The Spinda flashed a bold smile.

“That’s the slogan for the cafe, ain’t it…?” Bennett looked to his two friends, as Vivian lazily nodded and the Spinda took his leave, satisfied with his rehearsed line.

“So, anyway…” Vivian resumed her eager explanations once the bartender had left them, and Fera returned her focus to the girl. “The inn’s been around for a long time, as far as I can tell. It started off as the bare minimum needed to house contract workers, but it’s grown into a real focal point of Treasure Town’s culture. And while I wish it was closer to the heart of the town, I’m also happy to have the guild there, since it’s a big part of the town too. It was here before anything else!” Vivian had a glowing smile from the pride of her statement, as Fera finally put her glass down, thinking on her words longer than usual.

“You like talking about things a lot, don’t you?” Vivian squeaked and focused on Fera, seeming caught off-guard by the remark. The Riolu’s feelers twitched for a moment, and she spoke again. “Oh, I don’t mean in a jabbering way. I just meant that you seem like you have a lot to say. You know a lot about the town, and you seemed really excited to show me it, so it’s been fun going through it all with you and Bennett.”

“Oh, that’s what you meant… well, thanks. Truth be told, it’s not like there’s a dire need for a town guide. Or at least not one that isn’t even an adult yet. So there aren’t many opportunities to just enjoy all the things I’ve learned.”

“It’s fun being that opportunity, then. Are there any more things you can talk about or show me? It sounded like we were close to the end already.” Fera wobbled her empty glass on the counter, needing something to keep her paws occupied.

“Well…” The Eevee patted her paw on the table, just about finishing off her drink. “There’s nothing left in the town proper, but we could head to Sharpedo Bluff. It’s a favorite spot of mine, although I guess it’s not really important for the tour...”

Fera threw up her paws, cutting Vivian’s doubt short as she turned and hopped off the bench. “Too late! You wanna go there, so we’re gonna go there. Lead the way.” Bennett looked over in a daze, having been licking off some of the berry juice from the side of his glass. Vivian stumbled on the bench as she prepared for the tour’s continuation. She reached her paw into the fluffy mane around her neck, pulling forth a small change purse that had been stowed amidst the fur, and retrieved a few pieces of gold to pay off their order.

“I hope that’s enough… Marz seems too busy to chat and I don’t want to pressure him, so I’ll get him back later if it’s not.” Vivian hopped off the wide bench, as Bennett tilted his head.

“Oh, didn’t realize ya still carried that on ya… wait, ya didn’t bring that into the bath, did ya?”

“I just take it anywhere. I made it durable, so better to let it get wet than let it get lost.” Vivian stuffed the fabric bag back into her mane, soon disappearing from view, as she hopped forward.

“Bluff now?” Fera smiled down at Vivian while speaking, walking after the Eevee.

“Yes, yes, bluff now. It’s really not that amazing, so don’t get too excited.” Vivian strode onward, as Fera followed behind, unable to avoid some excitement at whatever her friend was going to show her personally.


The path out from the inn led further away from civilization, along the trees and the uncleared stones, until it ended at a cliff overlooking the shining sea. The trio approached its pointed edge, Fera staring silently while Vivian started to talk.

“And… here we are. This is Sharpedo Bluff.” Vivian spoke with a cautious tone, almost afraid to say her words with great enthusiasm now that she would be representing something only for herself. Fera walked up near the edge of the cliff, a bare few feet from the edge, as she looked down to the view below. Stretching out in front of the cliff was a seemingly endless ocean, flowing out to the horizon. The sun hung high in the midday sky and reflected off the sea’s surface in a soft display of beauty.

“It’s wonderful to see the ocean from this kind of view.” Fera glanced about while Vivian and Bennett came up to her side, the Bidoof sitting down to her left. “But… I can’t see any Sharpedo from here. Do they not come during the daytime?”

“Actually, I don’t think we get any oceanic Pokemon at all here. The name is about the bluff itself.” Vivian stared out at the water as Fera turned her head to the girl. “The shape of it is carved into the front of a Sharpedo, even down to the open maw with sharp teeth. And that rock over there makes the dorsal fin.” The Eevee motioned to a large rocky structure the three had passed by coming to this spot, and Fera looked to it, then back to the rocky ground beneath their feet. The girl moved a few paces closer to the edge, then leaned down and put her head over to try and observe the bluff directly.

“Hmm… can’t see it that well from here…” Fera frowned while tilting her head to slightly different angles and Vivian hurried over, yanking the curious girl by her tail to keep her away from the cliff’s edge.

“P-please don’t do that, it’s not safe. You can’t really see the bluff from this angle, only from the beach… I should’ve just taken you there. I was so eager to take you here that I didn’t even think about what you’d be seeing.” Vivian sighed and flicked her tail with some frustration. “Sorry about that.”

“Gosh, Vivian, no need to be so down about it… not like you did any harm.” Bennett trotted over to the girl. “An’ I’m sure Fera here isn’t upset about some lil’ mistake, right?”

“Of course not. I’m enjoying the tour as it is. And I don’t want this step of it to be a bad feeling, so…” Fera tapped her foot, then looked down to Vivian again. “Can you tell me who made the bluff? I wanna know more about it.”

“Well… no one knows, really.” Vivian pulled herself out of her dour state, trying to figure out an answer for Fera’s question. “It was here when the town was first settled, a little under two decades ago. But we don’t know who lived here before then, if anyone. We don’t know why they would’ve carved a Sharpedo shape into this bluff, or if the bluff served some purpose, or… any of it.”

“So it’s a mystery?”

“Yep. Not that anyone’s investigating it right now, but explorers are the ones that handle those kinds of mysteries, at least when they’re more interesting than just a carved bluff.” Vivian found herself smiling again, the prior funk having left her quick enough. “For as much as we know about the world, there’s way more left to find out…” She laughed weakly, looking away from the Riolu. “I guess you’re right. I do talk a lot.”

“And all the things you say are cool and good, so no need to feel bad about talking a lot. Alright?” Fera kneeled down to the Eevee’s level, not wanting her to stay stuck on that point, as Vivian looked back to her friend.

“I know, I know. And thanks. It’s fun to just talk.” Vivian stepped away from the two and toward the edge, admiring the view for herself now. Fera came along with her, letting her eyes wander the scenery below. Her eyes moved to the sandy shore below, eventually focusing on a cove in the rocky structures on the shoreline.

“Oh! That must be where I washed up, yeah?” The Riolu pointed to the spot she had spotted, and Vivian nodded while Bennett joined the two.

“Hmm… maybe ya didn’t wash up there? Maybe ya fell from the bluff.” Bennett tapped the ground beneath them. “It would explain the memory loss. But then ya might also have bone loss, and… being-alive loss. Maybe not, then.”

“Whatever the case is, I’m glad I was able to find you out there, and sure my dad and Wendell will get to the bottom of it.” Vivian smiled up at Fera. “Like you said. Wendell makes sure good things get done.” Fera followed her words silently, still focusing on the spot on the beach, before putting her paws on her hips.

“Alright, then. I’m going to join the guild as an explorer.”

The declaration caught Vivian and Bennett off-guard, both from what was actually said and from how she said it in the same tone as if she was going out to get a snack. Vivian flicked her ear as she spoke. “Uhm… you mean, at the Wigglytuff Guild? You’re just going to join? You haven’t even been in this town for 12 hours…”

“Why not? Explorers do all the best stuff in the world, and I want to do it too. I wanna help people in town, just like you helped me when I was in a bad spot. And then I’ll solve mysteries, just like my own mystery, so that the world’s a better place.” Fera wagged her tail in confidence. “It’s gonna be great.”

“Well…” Vivian struggled to express her concern with the situation. “It takes more than just saying you’re an explorer to become one. You have to do a lot of training and learning, and even then it’s not easy to do. You have to be ready for anything.”

“So I’ll do all the prep work and be ready for anything.”

“Isn’t that still just saying you’ll do it…?”

“Sure it is. But that’s the first step, getting myself in the headspace to do it. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, I’m saying I’m gonna do it.” Fera kept her gaze fixed on the expanse below the bluff, while Vivian looked to Bennett now.

“Vivian’s right, it ain’t easy to do guild work. I’ve been at it for a couple years now, an’ I’m still a trainee, even.” Bennett patted Fera on the side of her leg. “But there ain’t any shame in that, is there? An’ just havin’ another explorer would be better than not havin’ one. If you wanna be an explorer, Fera, I’ll put in a good word for ya.”

“Thanks, Bennett. I’ll do my best for you.” The two shared a smile, as Vivian struggled to accept what they were saying. It didn’t just confuse the girl, it seemed to frustrate her, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t understand it.

“Then… I guess we should talk to my dad and Wendell about it when we get back to the guild. With any luck, you’ll probably start your training within the week.” Vivian sighed and stifled the confusing feelings, turning toward the path they had come from. “We probably shouldn’t keep them waiting, either. The tour went on a bit longer than we intended, after all. Ready to head in?”

“Yep! Now I’m all pumped to get signed up for this.” Fera moved away from the ledge and came to Vivian, making some jabbing gestures with her fists to display her motivation. Bennett chuckled as he kept pace with her.

“I’m expectin’ Cromwell to make it an uphill battle for ya, he’s a strict taskmaster. He made me do three laps around the Drenched Bluff for bein’ late on cookin’ duty. THREE! We weren’t even makin’ good food that mornin’...!” The Bidoof groaned as he rambled on, now leading the way as the trio departed for their home.


After a brief stroll back through Treasure Town, the trio found themselves coming down into the main room from the steps. Fera stopped to marvel at the sight before her; what was an empty room earlier was now crowded with Pokemon, all cluttering the area as they inspected bulletin boards on the walls. They ranged from most kinds of species imaginable, big and small, fierce and friendly, and no shortage of any elemental type. They were mostly in groups of two or three, although some were alone and some were in slightly larger groups.

“Wow...” Fera looked around at the various different Pokemon. “This place sure filled up, didn’t it?” The Riolu stepped forward, her eyes still scanning about to take in more of the scene.

“This is actually a bit of a slow day for the guild.” Vivian followed her curious friend, seeing some Pokemon that she recognized and some that she didn’t. “There’s usually a lot more people in here than this…”

“Really?” Fera frowned at the thought, wondering if the room would even be manageable with more Pokemon filling the space. She looked upward and spotted one of the bulletin boards, noticing the written documents and mugshots attached, and shifted direction to approach it. “It must get packed in h— ACK!” Fera felt herself bump into something small, something she had missed in her distraction, and the Riolu tumbled forward onto the ground. Her fall was slightly cushioned by what she had collided with, the ‘something’ now kicking and struggling furiously from the weight on top of it.

“Oh shoot!” Vivian squeaked with realization, nudging Fera’s legs away and helping the person that had been underneath them. “I’m sorry about that, Lily!” Fera started to get up as well, looking back to see what had bumped into her: it was a Roselia, reaching only about half of Fera’s height. The smaller Pokemon was dusting herself off with her rose-like hands, but looked thoroughly annoyed.

“Do you have any sense to you? Watch where you’re going!” The Roselia glared at the Riolu, who was standing back up now.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you... but, uh, are you alright?” Fera reoriented herself, mimicking the woman’s motion and dusting herself off as well.

The Roselia scoffed at Fera’s words, seeming almost insulted by the concern. “Of course I’m alright! What kind of explorer would I be if a little fall caused me harm!” Fera’s eyes lit up at the familiar word.

“Oh! You’re an explorer? I’m going to become one, too!” The Riolu’s smile shone off of her face, stifling any concerns in her mind about the Roselia’s possible injuries.

Lily huffed at the remark, stepping closer to Fera and looking her up and down. “You, an explorer? I know we have a bit of an open door policy here, but we don’t train anyone in depth perception, missy. You might have a hard time.”

“Hey! Come on, I was just distracted!” Fera puffed out her cheeks in annoyance. “I bet I’d do fine once I got out on some missions.”

“Hmph! As I figured, you don’t have any experience. Wouldn’t you be better off as an apprentice for one of the local merchants?” Lily rested her flowery hands on her hips. “Or maybe a laborer. Something simple.” The comments started to wear on Fera’s patience, and she again mimicked Lily, her paws placed on her fuzzy hips.

“Well, this is just… mean. Wendell made it out like the explorers were all friendly folks.” Fera’s tail flicked from side to side. “And I don’t care if being an explorer is hard, I want to do it. So you aren’t going to stop me.”

“I’m not saying I’ll stop you, I’m saying you’re in over your head.” Lily shook her head from side to side as if to demonstrate her supposed genuine concern. “It’s not just a hard job, it’s THE hard job that people depend on. What makes you think you can handle it?” Vivian, who had been timidly watching the argument, could only silently pray that Fera would not say what was definitely running through her mind.

“Well… I mean…” Fera scratched the back of her head, stopping for a second to consider what she was going to say. “You’re pretty small, but you became an explorer. So I can do it too, right?”

Lily looked absolutely dumbstruck, having to take several seconds to process the outrageous remark, while Vivian hung her head in absolute shame and Bennett bit his lip. The Bidoof tried to interject and forestall the inevitable, but Lily cut him off.

“You think that I’m at some disadvantage just because I’m small!? My height has nothing to do with my skill in the field!” The Roselia looked absolutely furious now, Fera backing off a couple steps.

“N-no, that’s not what I meant! I meant, it’s good that anyone can do the job! Right?” Fera looked over to her friends in desperation, hoping for some confirmation that she had said the right thing this time. The conversation was going nowhere quickly, as petals fluttered off of Lily’s hands in a rage.

“Utterly stupid! You don’t understand a SINGLE—”

“What’s going on here?!” A louder and deeper voice came from above, causing both Lily and Fera to cease their arguing. Fera’s ears and feelers shot up as she looked up at the large figure towering over both her and the Roselia. A Noivern stared down at them with a frustrated expression, bearing a slightly different explorer’s badge than Lily’s, pinned on the white mane around his neck.

“Oh, Valo!” Lily tapped her stubby foot in annoyance, then pointed to Fera with one hand. “Listen, don’t even bother with this girl! I have no idea who she is, I don’t even think she’s been approved as a trainee yet, but she’s over here trying to tell me that being an explorer is just some… manual labor task for strong Pokemon! It’s inane!”

“Hmmm…” Valo leaned down to the Riolu’s level, it being no small feat given how much he dwarfed her in size. Fera backed up an inch, both to give him some room and out of intimidation. The Noivern looked behind her, spotting Vivian and Bennett, and then turned his attention to Lily. “I feel like you probably shouldn’t be hassling her.” Valo stood back up with his yellow eyes fixed on the Roselia.

“Excuse me?! This girl insulted me, she disrespected me based solely on my size!” The Roselia angrily defended herself, causing Valo to glance back at Fera. “And she acted like the work of an explorer isn’t something that we strive to achieve!” Valo let his eyelids droop, already losing some patience with Lily’s continued shouts while looking at her again.

“Yes, that’s a very stupid thing to say. And it might even be coming from a stupid kid.” Fera frowned at Valo’s words, pushing past her intimidation to be annoyed by the additional demeaning. “But you said she wants to be an explorer. Well, let her try, then. If she’s got genuine resolve, she’ll do fine. If she’s just a punk, she’ll flop. And you making a scene in the middle of the mission floor doesn’t change any of that.”

“Hmph. It doesn’t make her behavior any more enjoyable.” Lily looked around the room with her arms crossed— trying to ignore the explorers that were watching her verbal tussle with the stranger. Valo sighed while watching her.

“Lily. I’m going to be polite and ask you, rather than tell you, to make amends with this girl. So, please, settle this and move on. It’s important to keep good relations, right?” The phrasing seemed to strike a raw nerve for the Roselia, but she swallowed the gross feeling on her tongue, looking back to Fera.

“...yes, I know. It’s pointless to keep bad blood, and such. I was too frustrated with the situation and let my mood get the better of me.” Lily reluctantly extended her rosy hand, waiting for Fera to shake it. “I’m sorry for inflicting that on you. The Wigglytuff Guild is open to anyone with good intentions.”

“Thank you…” Fera exhaled with relief and shook Lily’s hand preemptively, albeit struggling to properly grasp the petals in a sensible way, then remembered to reciprocate. “And, uhm, I’m sorry about saying bad things about your height, and about explorers. I really want to be a good explorer, so I should learn what you’ve done to be one.”

Lily eyed the young Riolu for a second before sighing, taking her hand back soon after. “I’ll take your flattery as a kind thought and not just sucking up. If nothing else, you seem determined.”

Vivian, whose ears had drooped from the strain of being even nearby the argument, leaned against Bennett in exhaustion. “Thank goodness, it’s over…” Bennett nodded in agreement, and, as if to prove them wrong, a familiar voice shrieked out from the stairway.

“Why am I getting complaints about a Riolu and a Roselia arguing on the mission floor!?” The voice belonged to Cromwell, who fluttered past Vivian and toward Fera.

“Noooo…” Vivian made a feeble noise of dissatisfaction, realizing that the situation was now far from over with her father involved. The Chatot looked around until he spotted the group of Pokemon gathered in the center of the room.

“Just as I thought…” Cromwell groaned, seeing that the new arrival had seemingly already gotten herself in trouble. Valo backed off from the main duo, joining Bennett and Vivian in spectating the senseless scene. “Already getting yourself into trouble?” He looked over at Fera with an unenthusiastic expression.

“It’s nothing bad, don’t worry. And we finished it already. No need for loud bird noises. Right, Lily?” Fera looked down to the Roselia, hoping that her words would help avoid another round of shouting.

“Yes, I suppose we already resolved the issue. Who is this girl anyways, Cromwell? She’s quite eager to call herself an explorer at our guild already.” Lily smirked slightly at her less than charitable rendition of Fera’s words, apparently not quite ready to accept Valo’s demands of behaving nicely.

“Squawk! Is that so? Well, missy, regardless of the circumstances, you can’t just stroll in and announce yourself as an explorer!” Cromwell’s feathers were already puffed out, a mixture of frustration and concern in his voice. “You at least needed to tell us that that’s your intent first!”

“I didn’t mean to get ahead of myself, but… can I please be an explorer? I’ll try my best with it, so don’t worry about that.” Fera clasped her hands to politely plead to the Chatot, who turned up his beak as he came to rest in front of the two.

“I can tell you’re passionate, but we still need to make sure you’re up to snuff! Physically fit, mentally adept, emotionally steady… capable of any variety of work—”

“Okayyy, I get that, but can I go talk to Wendell now? You can figure out if I’m all good with that stuff while I ask him.” Fera seemed to have already lost patience with Cromwell’s high expectations, and the Chatot tensed up at the request, knowing that his superior would be quick to welcome Fera into the guild without his input.

“N-no, we’ll talk about it here and now! And I’ll pass your request along if approved!” He frowned with redness on his face. “And it’s ‘guildmaster’, not Wendell! I’m marking points off of your application!”

“Ooh… points off. That’s bad, Fera.” Lily aimlessly went along with Cromwell’s words, despite the firm knowledge that there were no such points involved in accepting members of the guild.

“There are points to this?! Tell me how to get them back, then!” Fera whined out in concern of her prospective career getting shot down, while Lily giggled quietly from the clash she had caused.

Vivian, Bennett, and Valo all watched the new chaos unfold, Vivian giving off a sigh. She knew that her father meant the best, and she even agreed with his logic to some extent. However, it was inevitable that his strict role in the guild would cause another pointless flare between himself and Fera— she just thought it wouldn’t happen again in the same day.

“Well,” Valo said, leaning down towards Bennett and Vivian. “This new girl sure is lively, isn’t she?”

Vivian looked back at the scene, settling with the knowledge that she’d be watching this for a while longer. “She certainly is…”

From this chapter on, Clockwork Journeys will be updated Bi-Weekly on Fridays, around 6-7PM EST.
Chapter 6: First Step


Bug Catcher
Chapter 6: First Step

The sun slowly rose over the calm shoreline beneath Treasure Town, and the merchants of the marketplace were slowly waking up to set up their inventories for the day. Laborers prepared themselves to leave the town’s boundaries and receive shipments of raw materials, and the restaurants were likewise at work preparing goods and meals for the morning rush.

The guild’s workforce was still asleep, outside of Janice, whose dainty body jingled softly as she bustled about in the kitchen. One floor below her, the graduate bedrooms were located; most rooms consisted of three beds for three explorers, and the rooms were neatly contained along two long corridors extending out from the main staircase. The two floors below held the trainees, more numerous than the graduates, and each room held two bunk beds to hold four explorers total. Despite the beds being smaller and marginally less comfortable than the ones allotted to graduates, they were plush and snug enough to let a trainee rest after a long day of work.

Fera rested in cozy peace on her bedding, making quiet snoring sounds that just barely didn’t disturb Bennett and Tai over the past two weeks of sharing a bedroom with them. Her position as a “pre-trainee”, a role so unspecified that even she could tell that Cromwell had fabricated it, still required her to handle the trainee work that Bennett and Tai endured, so she was more than willing to get some hard-earned rest. She was slumbering in one of the room’s two bunk beds: one located on the left side with Bennett sleeping alone on the bottom bunk, and another on the right side with Fera taking the top bunk over Tai. The group’s collective rest would’ve continued perhaps for another hour, if the familiar alarm hadn’t come to ruin it.

“UP AND AT ‘EM, TIME TO WAKE UP!” Valo’s Boomburst-boosted voice echoed into the room, and throughout the entirety of the sleeping quarters as well. Fera grunted and briefly opened her eyes, unable to stay asleep with the powerful cry still ringing in her ears. Despite it, the Riolu flipped over in her bed, forcing her eyes closed again as her face nestled halfway into her pillow. She was still exhausted from the previous day’s work, where she had to help bring a shipment of tools and garments into the guild; even as a Fighting-type better suited for the job, the labor in guild work was something she’d have to adjust to.

Her roommates weren’t keen on getting up either, but slowly the other two worked themselves out of the bedding, Bennett having much greater ease with it than Tai. Bennett donned his scarf with his badge gleaming off of it, as his eyes were drawn to the still dozing Riolu on her bed. “Fera! Rise and shine, girl. Don’t wanna be late for chow time.” The polite demand only elicited a muffled noise of dismissal from Fera, causing Tai to frown. For how much he struggled to wake up in the morning, he was still displeased to have his roommate try to sleep through the alarm, if only out of fear of how it might reflect on him.

“Ugh, come on, Fera... get up! We’re never gonna hear the end of it if you don’t hurry and get your ass outta bed!” The Stunky made a somewhat high-pitched yell as he spoke. Bennett shot the Stunky a stern look, but Tai just rolled his eyes in response, not caring about his own rude tone in this instance.

“Five more minuuutes…” Fera sleepily shrugged off the second demand, refusing to get out of her bed and turning onto her other side to avoid the two.

“Fera, ya gotta get up! I know you’re tired but it’s jus’ part of the job!” Bennett tapped at the side of the bedframe to get the Riolu to come on down, but to no avail.

Tai grumbled, having taken the time to adorn his left ear with his badge earring before he got more involved. “Alright, you’re asking for this!” The Stunky climbed up the ladder on the side of the bed, hopping onto the top bunk. He began to bounce on the spot, rustling Fera’s bed and making her snoozing much less comfortable. “Get up! Get up get up get up!” Despite his efforts, the girl stayed firm in her resolve, causing Tai to growl. “Dumb Riolu…!” The Stunky pulled his head back before he leaned down, chomping on Fera’s tail, and causing her eyes to open wide.

The Riolu let out a disoriented yelp, and, as she did so, her body began to shine and glisten, blinding Tai for a brief moment. Before he could even pull his mouth off of the now shimmering tail, the frame collapsed beneath them, sending the Stunky and Riolu plummeting onto a wooden mess created from the remains of the beds.

Bennett leapt closer to the destruction, hoping to assure that his friends were unharmed. “Hey! Are y’all okay there!?” As the dust settled, it was clear that the two hadn’t sustained any injuries, although Tai had flopped down from the impact of the fall.

“We’re fine… even if we almost weren’t! What the hell was that, Fera?!” Tai snarled at the girl, pausing slightly as he looked over her body. The Riolu’s arms, legs, and tail were encased in steel, keeping them trapped against the bedding from their weight. Fera struggled to lift herself up, only managing to get upright once the metallic sheen faded away from one of her arms and one of her legs.

“I could ask you the same thing... you bit my tail!” Fera whined out in response to the Stunky, then looked over at her ironclad tail in surprise. She tried to wag it, with minimal success.

“Gosh… didn’t expect you to know Iron Defense, Fera! Not a move you typically see, I s’pose.” Bennett gradually worked himself into the discussion. He reached his paw forward, tapping on the girl’s right leg and causing a ting sound to resound from it.

“Oh…” Fera looked around her, only now processing the wreckage that she had caused. “I didn’t know I knew it either… I guess it was instinct.” After a moment, the metal faded from the rest of her body, giving her the freedom to get up and get off of the ruined beds.

“Well don’t do it again! You’re definitely gonna take the bottom bunk now if you do stuff like that!” Tai nearly hissed out his words.

“I wasn’t trying to! And, uhm… I don’t think there’s a bottom bunk left.” Fera tugged at a piece of wood, trying to reveal the remnants of Tai’s bed but only causing more of the structure to crumble.

“Look, this is all real fun an’ such...” the Bidoof said, taking his chance to get their attention, “but we ain’t got the time for it! Mess hall, get a move on!”

“Ah! Breakfast, right!” The Riolu finally understood the weight of the situation, or at least was allured at the prospect of a meal. “We can’t waste any time!”

“That is LITERALLY WHAT I—” Tai’s renewed bickering would get stifled by Bennett, who gave the younger Pokemon a nudge on his side. Despite his anger, the Stunky trudged out of his room with the stressful Riolu.


The rest of the morning proceeded much like the ones from the days prior. To start, Fera chowed down in the mess hall alongside fellow explorers, as well as Vivian, who had saved seats for the three roommates once they came upstairs to eat. The rudimentary meal of Oran Berries, roasted bread, and stew seemed to be a drag for Tai, but Fera downed it all without a second thought. Once the meal was done, the explorers filed out gradually, and Fera and Vivian went their separate ways.

The next step was the morning stretches, which Fera had learned easily. Dozens of explorers joined together in the lower hub room, led by a chant from Cromwell to get ready for the day’s work. Bennett and Tai had a simpler time of stretching, only needing to extend out their legs and stretch their backs, while Fera bent, pulled, and flexed every muscle in her body to be pumped and prepared for her mission. By the end of it, Bennett only had to wake up Tai twice while the latter had been resting during the stretches, making it a resounding success for the trio’s exercise.

Lastly, the graduates funneled out and upstairs to the mission floor, leaving only the trainees still under the watchful gaze of the Chatot. Once the explorers were settled, Cromwell ran through the mantra of the guild, with the trainees speaking in step with him: he spoke of valor and justice as an explorer, and his squawking voice praised the tenets of integrity and compassion that acted as the guild’s very foundation. They were wise, moving words that would inspire anyone to do their best as an explorer, if they weren’t practiced mindlessly every morning before the manual labor that needed to be done. Nonetheless, it kept the trainees in-line and focused on the work at hand, with Fera speaking her lines a bit louder to cover for Tai’s mumbling. The Riolu’s eyes glanced over to Lily while they recited the lines; she still would not meet Fera’s gaze, just as she refused to do every morning during the chant, and Fera turned her head away after a moment of waiting. Once the noble words had been muttered and chattered out by the crowd, the trainees followed Cromwell to the mission floor, where their tasks would be doled out. Fera had already done the most basic of transporting supplies, overseen the marketplace affairs, and even patrolled Treasure Town’s eastern border to watch for bandits; now, she waited in anticipation for the next role that she would fulfill, walking up to Cromwell once it was her turn.

“Bennett, Tai, Fera…” Cromwell flipped through a small set of papers he had scrawled on, stopping at one near the back. “Apple collection at the Mega Apple Tree. At least 100 regular, and 20 Perfect Apples.”

Fera nodded, letting her spirits sink back down… in hindsight, she should’ve realized that there were yet more menial tasks for her to discover and partake in. Still, it would be her first chance to work with Tai as a fellow explorer, and the specifics of it sounded interesting. “What’s the Mega Apple Tree?” Cromwell made a small grimace from the name being repeated back to him, as Bennett stepped in to explain.

“‘S about what it sounds like. Biggest tree you’ll ever see, an’ it grows hundreds an’ hundreds of apples just in a day! Even grows Perfect Apples, which the guildmaster likes a ton.”

“Are those better or worse than Mega Apples?” Fera tilted her head, and Cromwell sighed in a musical tone.

“Mega Apples don’t exist. The guildmaster said it was a ‘mega’ apple tree when he discovered it, and he’s the only person who named it, so… it’s the Mega Apple Tree. We have to accept that.” His wings gave a tired shrug, as Fera nodded once more.

“Alright. So just get a bunch of apples and come home? I can do that.” Fera smiled proudly, thinking of the meals that she might help to create with the haul that she’d bring back.

“It’s a bit more tricky than that… tree’s way too big to just climb up on your paws, so we gotta use some machinery to get up there. But the guild’s got us covered on that part, an’ I’ll run you through it once we hit the tree.” Bennett leaned up and patted his chest.

“Doesn’t make it not a pain.” Tai muttered out his thoughts, before catching a glare from Cromwell, and coughing nonchalantly. “But, uh… it’s doable, we’ll get it done.” The bird ruffled his feathers slightly after the added remark.

“Well, if that’s all, you’re dismissed for your mission…” Cromwell’s eyes drifted to Bennett, who seemed to be eagerly waiting to say something.

“Err, well… that’s not all, at least for me. I was wondering if you had, uh… reconsidered on the whole… affair?” Bennett smiled sheepishly, while Cromwell made another, more bothered sigh.

“Bennett… your dedication is admirable and your efforts are notable.” The Chatot’s words were already beginning to sour the Bidoof’s mood. “But there’s no more exploration to be done. We’ve searched through that area three times— THREE!— and we’ve found no sign of Wish Cave. There’s a limit to how much we’re willing to blow our resources on personal endeavors. If there was some noble reason to continue rooting through the rocks and the dirt, we would return, but that’s not our goal here.”

“I know, I know, but…” Bennett whined out. “Ain’t we s’posed to be always exploring? Tryna find the secrets of the world, sometimes just for the heck of it?”

Cromwell turned away from the trio, moving to place the informative papers down on a small wooden stool to be done with holding them. “Our graduates are, and only in the right circumstances. But we’re still keeping Treasure Town as a thriving community, and our efforts aren’t going to be swayed from that in the coming months.” He glanced back to Bennett, frustrated, but keeping himself from letting it seep into his words. “You’re still a trainee, Bennett. When you’re ready to handle affairs on your own, you can make Wish Cave your crusade. But, until then, you need to respect the guild’s prior work trying to find the location, and our decision to move on. Understood?” Without waiting for the response, the Chatot returned his focus to his small stacks of papers.

“I understand… thanks for hearin’ me out.” Bennett’s ears drooped, and Fera’s tail did the same, the girl seeming displeased from her friend’s dejection. However, the Bidoof spun around, forcing his ears back up and starting to walk toward the staircase. “C’mon, gang. We’re wastin’ daylight, we got apples to pick!” The sudden shift caught Fera off-guard, but she followed along all the same, Tai keeping the rear of their group.

“Well… alright! Apple time!” She smiled confidently at the thought of her mission. “We need a hundred or so, right? Do you think if we get extras, we can sell them to fix the bed?” This finally garnered Cromwell’s attention again, as he turned away from the documents he’d been fussing over.

“Wait, what’s wrong with the bed?! What did you do?! FERA!!” The Chatot screeched out his concerns, fluttering after the youngsters to get his daily dose of retribution out.


The mission had taken the three Pokemon much farther out from Treasure Town than usual, and thus the farthest Fera had ever gone from that shoreline she first awoke on. An hour’s march, marginally slowed down by the basket carriages that the trio had to pull, had brought them to a large clearing in the serene forest. A behemoth of a tree had been visible for most of their trek, being so wide that it could shade the whole marketplace back in town, eventually thinning out to a more normal width at the pinnacle. Only now did the group arrive at the Mega Apple Tree’s base, the sun nearly blotted out by the dense pathways of leafy apple branches looming above them. The ground surrounding the massive base was littered with apples of various shapes and sizes, and some of them had been reduced to splattered messes from the sheer height of their fall. Fera stopped once they were halfway between the clearing’s entrance and the tree itself, her curiosity and interest only growing stronger as she drew closer to the natural marvel.

“So... we need to pick apples from this tree?” Fera asked, her eyes fixating on a huge branch stretching out from the towering wood. “How is that… uh, possible?”

Bennett’s paw pointed over to the periphery of their vision of the tree: a small wooden frame sat on the grassy ground between two huge roots, connected to a pulley system that reached up all the way into the mass of branches and apples. “We got a system set up. I’ll climb in, you can spin the crank to get me up into the branches, then I pick the apples an’ send ‘em down to you two. Y’all just gotta sort an’ secure the apples in the carriages, along with checkin’ for any issues, you get it.”

“Well, sure, but what’s wrong with all of the other apples on the other trees?” Fera motioned to the smaller trees surrounding the clearing: indeed, they bore apples, although in much lower numbers relative to the near-orchard boasted by the Mega Apple Tree.

“Worse quality. Lotta those apples are drier an’ harder inside, an’ the ones that aren’t are few an’ far between. It’s just a lot simpler to hit this big boy up for the good apples.” Bennett walked over and tapped an apple on the ground, kicking it over to Fera for her to feel. The Riolu lifted up and pressed her paws into the apple, then burst it open suddenly, causing Tai to wince as some of the sticky apple juice landed on his ear fur. She gave the apple a sniff, then a lick, and lastly a shrug.

“I’d still eat it…”

“Maybe you, but it ain’t that good for makin’ meals, an’ ‘specially not for sellin’. We’ll get the good ones an’ get gone. We need 100...” Bennett frowned and laughed. “150 for the mission and the bed repairs, and then 20 Perfect.”

“Isn’t that a lot to get? We’ve got the carts, but…” Fera looked up at the branches once more, still fiddling with the opened apple halves in her paws. “Is it safe?”

“It’s easy as pie. I got a rope that’ll keep me secured while I’m up there, an’ I know my way around the job. We might even be back in time for a late lunch.” Bennett smiled to the girl, assuaging her concerns and causing her to smile back, as she tossed aside the apple pieces. “Ready to get pickin’?”



Many minutes had passed; well over a hundred apples had been plucked from their branches, deposited into a basket that Bennett lowered down from the high altitude, and taken by the Riolu and Stunky for sorting. Fera had a simpler time of checking the apples, then moving them and securing them into the carts, than Tai, who at all times needed to prop himself up on a rock in order to get his paws working on the fruits he took. Granted, this coincided with him lazing about and often not doing the task at hand, so it didn’t seem to trouble him much. The Riolu glanced over to him, having finished tying up some netting on one of the carts to keep the apples within it contained. “Explorer work is a lot different than I was expecting. I haven’t done any criminal-chasing or dungeon-crawling or any of that… I guess that comes later?” Fera shrugged, getting right back into the process of checking the apples, throwing aside one with a large bruise on its exterior.

“That’s what they say...” Tai grumbled, pulling over the next set of apples that Bennett had delivered to them from the high perch above. “But I haven’t seen any great work so far. Mostly just the same stuff you do.”

“Hmm.” Fera took one of the apples from the new set, her paws pressing on it to inspect for bruises as Tai had instructed her. “Nothing more than the manual labor stuff, then? If you’ve been here for…” The Riolu tried to quickly retrieve a number from the recesses of her mind. “Six months, you HAVE to have done something neat.”

“I mean...” Tai rolled his eyes, now actually deciding to think on the work he’d done at the guild. “I did get to go on some explorations for real, once or twice. I went to get Oren Berries from the south end of the woods here, and I went with Valo supervising me over at this place called the Illusory Grotto. But they were both just pointless trips to test me, and…” He grunted and glanced away. “It feels like they’re just gonna keep me in the loop of dumb community service and small trips forever. They don’t trust me to be an explorer.”

“Maybe you aren’t showing enough drive?” Fera shrugged, putting aside the current apple after noting it was a good quality and checking another. “You aren’t putting all that much effort in here, after all.” Tai scoffed with some indignation.

“Hey, I’m doing my best! It’s hard to grab a buncha dumb fruit when you’re against the ground at all times!”

“Okayyy, but… you were just pretending to check apples a while ago. You kept rolling the same one around in your paws for five minutes. And...” Fera frowned, stepping closer to where Tai had sat previously and spotting an apple core on the ground. “I guess ate it afterwards.” She shrugged, taking another apple to be checked and putting it down in front of Tai. He huffed, now slowly inspecting it as if he was engaging in some laborious task.

“Y’know, it’s common courtesy to tell someone when you catch them in a lie…” He pressed and sniffed at the apple, eventually assuring that it was good to keep, and handing it back to Fera with annoyance. “And so what? It’s not like this matters. Valo can get, like, 50 apples in a minute, because he can fly. Having us out here is just to keep us busy, instead of doing anything worthwhile with our time. So I’ll be a little lazy. You gonna tattle on me for it?” Fera shook her head softly.

“It’s not that I’m mad at you or something… I just didn’t know why you were feeling the way you were.”

“Feeling?” Tai flicked his ear as he tried to discern what she meant, and his eyes were drawn to one of the feelers on the sides of her head. “Oh. Right. You’re one of those ‘aura’ types… it’s also common courtesy not to try and read people’s emotions like a book, you know.” Fera yipped slightly.

“Sorry…“ She weakly tossed aside the poor quality apple in her paws, then looked back to Tai. “But, can you tell me why you felt sad about the guild work just now?” Tai looked at her, then gave a deep sigh, knowing that there was no way to lie himself out of a talk with a girl that was going to probe his energy for an answer.

“I said it was pointless, but I… I liked those trips I went on. It’s the only time the guild trusted me to do something that meant something. I know it’s stupid, I was picking berries and taking notes on trees like a dumb kid, but it was a real mission for once. The stuff that you think of when someone says ‘explorer work’.” The Stunky’s ears drooped. “But when I got back, Cromwell told me off for messing up small things… like, I brought back an Oran Berry along with the Oren Berries. Who cares?! They look alike, I got confused, big deal! Now you have 9 Oren Berries instead of 10, sorry!” He let out a groan, flopping onto his side and resting on the grass. “So whatever. If I’m gonna be stuck getting told I don’t do the work right, I’m not gonna try to do the work right.” Fera sat down beside him, crossing her legs and giving a smile.

“Cromwell is a bit mean sometimes, but… he still lets you do those trips, right? Even if there aren’t a lot. He’s trusting you to do them in the first place.”

“Sure, I guess…”

“Then you just gotta bear it and do the labor stuff, and then try to get the real missions down harder than before. He seems pretty hard on Bennett about exploring that one cave, and I’m sure he was mean to Valo before he let Valo go flying off to do cool things, too. Like…” Fera huffed and puffed out her chest fur, then folded in her arms to mimic wings as she spoke in a squawking voice. “Scraww! You can’t fly around the shops like that, you’ll startle the townspeople! Your mission tomorrow is moving this box back and forth for three hours! Don’t shirk work!” She glanced over to Tai, who was suppressing a smile from the mocking interpretation of Cromwell’s mannerisms. Soon, the Stunky sat upright again.

“Yeah, whatever… it doesn’t make apple picking fun. And I’m sure I’m gonna be cleaning the guild exterior tomorrow, still. But I won’t half-ass it, if only to get Cromwell off my back for a day or two.” The Stunky sighed, already loathing his newfound dedication to his work, as he trotted over and grabbed another apple to inspect. “At least we’re almost done here.”

“Oh, yeah… we’re about to hit the quota, right? I’ll signal for Bennett to come down.” The Riolu smiled with pride at Tai’s shift, turning back toward the towering oak and looking for Bennett. The Bidoof seemed to have already begun descending in the carrying box, aware that they’d be nearing the end of their work. As Fera stepped closer to the base of the pulley system, a low cracking sound echoed from the box and rang in her ears. Bennett tensed up, seeming to inspect the area around him, before a loud snap resounded out— and chunks of wooden burst from the flooring of the well-worn carrying box, with the Bidoof inside tumbling after them.

Fera froze at the sight with her mouth agape, before running toward the pulley’s base while the older Pokemon could only flail in the air during his fall. He finally landed on his back against the side of one of the tree’s bulky roots, a harsh thud coming from his body, and rested on the spot without response. The Riolu’s eyes widened as she raced closer.

“BENNETT!!” Fera nearly shrieked his name as she got over to the tree trunk, panting and shivering in terror. As she looked over to the spot of his fall, however, the Bidoof was nowhere to be seen. She blinked and stared at the area, before looking up to the pulley— the carrying box was still on its descent, and Bennett peered over the edge to check on his companion.

“Fera? Are ya alright?” The Bidoof tilted his head as he looked down at her. Fera glanced back at the supposed crash site, and watched Bennett in pure confusion.

“I…” She again looked to the spot against the tree root. No Bidoof, no broken wood pieces, and not even a spot of grass disturbed from an impact. Her mind was a blur and her body struggled to recover from what could only have been some waking nightmare, as she spoke. “I thought… you were hurt. It looked like you were going to fall.”

“Hrm… well, I appreciate the concern. But clear outta the way, alright? Yer blockin where I gotta set down, an’…” Bennett paused, glancing back inside the carrying box and trying to discern something. Then, it came again. The low cracking sound came from the carrying box— some wood and restraints that had been worn down after likely years of use, only now caving under the pressure of the Bidoof’s weight— and wood chips started to fly, as the snap signaled the floor giving out. The Bidoof started to tumble once more.

“Bennett!” The Riolu yelled once again, reaching out her arms toward the falling friend. Just as before, Bennett came crashing toward the tree’s root, but his fall was braced and halted by the Fighting-type girl, who possessed just enough strength to grab him with minimal strain on the both of them. Fera was left shivering once more, still shaken at what she knew was almost a tragic fall.

“G-geez…” Bennett gave a sigh of relief. “Dang ol’ thing… carried me for hours and only now broke… glad it wasn’t much higher ‘n that, right?” He laughed weakly, shaking off the stress of the moment. “Thanks a million, Fera. That would’ve been a nasty crash.”

“Don’t… worry about it. Are you okay?” Fera kneeled down so that the Bidoof could more easily climb out of her arms, and he did just that. The Riolu took a deep breath to calm herself down, still at a loss on what was happening.

“I’m all fine. Lil’ stirred up, but that’ll clear in a minute.” Bennett settled onto the ground, dusting off a bit of residue from the shattered wood, as Tai approached them and groaned.

“Good lord, I look away for a few minutes and you almost break your back.” Tai hissed out his words, his fur puffed out while he approached the two.

“C’mon, I’m more resilient than that. Broken leg at most.” Bennett chuckled softly at the younger Pokemon. He glanced back at the Mega Apple Tree, then to the carts with apples secured in them. “Oh, right… the mission. We’ve got all the apples we needed, right?”

“Yeah. A few extra, even. Maybe that’ll keep Cromwell from screeching for the rest of the day.” Tai let his fur settle down, his eyes moving to the broken carrying box that was still gradually descending to their level. “Well, nevermind. He’ll scream a bunch about how we broke the box through misuse or whatever.”

“Oh, he’s not that rude about stuff…” Bennett spoke, while wondering if that was the truth, as he and Tai headed for the carts. “He’s not usually that rude. We’ll jus’ explain the whole incident, he should understand.”

“Even if he’s not that rude, we already broke a bed today. He’s not gonna trust us, so be ready to do some extra chores.” Tai turned away, snatching up the rope tied to one of the carriages into his mouth to begin pulling. “Leshh go.”

“Alright, alright, no need to hurry. We’ve got time still, an’ I don’t wanna rush Fera…” Bennett looked back to where he was standing. Fera hadn’t moved from the spot, her eyes fixed on the broken carrying box that had now landed on its intended position beside the base of the tree. “Fera!” The call snapped the girl out of her trance, as she looked to Bennett for further instruction. “You ready to head in? Nothin’ left to do out here.”

“Y… yeah. Sorry.” Fera stepped toward the two other explorers, who turned away and began to pull their carts away from the clearing. Despite this, she struggled to leave the scene, again turning to the contraption and studying it. Rather, she studied the scene, both the one that she was sure she had seen and the one that lay before her now. What was that…? Her mind could only settle on it being some powerful, coincidental delusion that struck her from a lack of sleep. She would get to bed early that night, for sure, and try not to worry on the thought any further. With nothing else to mull over, Fera pried herself away from the crash site, heading to the remaining apple cart to begin the trek home.
Chapter 7: Vanish and Trace New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 7: Vanish and Trace

Another week came and went under the guild's roof; Fera had adjusted as much as she could to the daily tasks that a "pre-trainee" such as herself would have to do, and she had grown fond of it. Even the box-carrying and equipment-sorting that once strained her arms was time spent putting something good into the guild, which she could see when those boxes were opened for food supplies and those pieces of equipment were adorned for missions. She was even graced with another chance to patrol Treasure Town's borders just the day prior, although nothing much happened outside of stopping a pickpocket from heading out into the wilderness. In her idle time, she took walks through the town; sometimes it was alongside Vivian or Bennett to enjoy another aspect of the marketplace, and sometimes she wandered on her own, acquainting herself with the townsfolk that she mostly only passed by during her working hours. It was a slow life as a budding trainee, and, at times, her mind drifted to the elusive thought of venturing out on an exploration mission of her own— but there was always more work to be done, and the thought faded as quickly as it came. At least for today, though, the work was done, and it was time to enjoy herself.

Fera headed down the guild's entrance, Valo close behind her. After the two spent an afternoon supervising some trades in the marketplace, the girl was ready to enjoy another well-earned meal with the others. The dining room rested on the floor just above the first dormitory floor, and the entrance to it was already crowded by other explorers coming for their fill. The Riolu had to halt her excited rushing just to not crash into a horde of smaller Pokemon, before looking over to Valo with confusion.

"Everyone in the whole guild is here… don't they usually space out the dining hours more than this?"

"Hm?" Valo glanced ahead at the line that they had found themselves waiting in, then grinned. "Oh yeah! You've never been to one of these before!"

"One of what?" She tilted her head, before the line quickly dissipated and allowed them entry. The Riolu followed Valo, with the two soon taking seats at one of the long dining tables. As Fera was settling on the bench, Janette fluttered by, placing a large platter of various rich foods: berry gelatin, a slice of apple pie, and even a small assortment of chocolate, alongside some berry juice.

"On the first Friday of every month, we have a buffet night! Everyone that works with the guild floods in for an hour or two to get all they can eat. Have as many servings as you can stomach, kiddo!" The Noivern chuckled as a Shedinja hovered by, bringing with it a platter for him as well, taking a moment to stop and eat a couple of the berries on his plate

Fera nodded as she dug in, having already eaten about half of her plate. "Oooh! I shee!"

"Heh! Take it easy, you're eating like you're feeding a whole exploration team." Valo smirked, taking a drink of the juice that he had been given with his meal. Fera did no such thing, gulping down her meal with delight, then having to quickly drink some juice alongside it to get down the rest in her gullet.

"I think I get it now…" Fera coughed, calming down from her near choking. She looked around at the table once more, seeing all of the pokemon that had shown up for the buffet. There were certainly a lot more people here than usual, although it seemed like a couple were missing. "Oh, uhm… where's Vivian? I don't think I've seen her for like… a couple days, at least."

"Vivian? She's right over there." Valo pointed in a direction behind Fera, and the girl's gaze followed it. Her ears and feelers drooped when she saw what he was pointing out. A bulky Crawdaunt had approached the duo, its eyes fixed on the Riolu while it towered over her.


"Heya!" A familiar voice rang out. Vivian popped out from behind the Crawdaunt's head, apparently riding on his back. The Eevee hopped down onto the bench, waiting patiently, before a Ninjask whizzed by and left a platter for the girl within seconds.

"Oh… uhm… hey…" The Riolu glanced over to the Eevee, although she was still focusing on the Crawdaunt, who slowly moved onto the bench beside Vivian and caused it to creak. "Didn't know you were friends with a big… lobstery guy."

"He's not a 'big lobstery guy'. He's a big nice guy, and he's my friend." Vivian smiled softly to Fera, motion a paw up to the Crawdaunt. "Fera, this is Hatchet. Hatchet, Fera." The dreary name didn't inspire confidence in Fera, but the Riolu waved at the large Pokemon, who chuckled and waved back.

"Pleased to meet you. The little lady has mentioned you quite a bit since you joined the guild." Hatchet smiled brightly, although Vivian's ears dipped with some bashfulness from the remark.

"Hatcheeet…" Vivian frowned, turning her head back to get the Crawdaunt's attention. "I said not to call me that anymore. It's embarrassing." The Crawdaunt could only smirk, patting the Eevee on her head as gently as he could with his massive claw, and pressing her ears down in the process.

"I'll stop saying it when it stops being true. You're still the little lady of the guild, heh." Vivian made an annoyed whine from Hatchet's comment, as Fera giggled softly at the display.

"Wow… you're a lot gentler than you first looked, Hatchet." Fera smiled, and Hatchet gave a hearty laugh, leaning closer to the Riolu and causing her some discomfort.

"Gentler, is that it?" The Crawdaunt's laughter slowly died down, before a dreadful, soulless stare came across his face. He held up one of his claws to the young Riolu, peering at her through the gap between it. "Well… would you like to learn why they call me 'Hatchet', then?"

"I-I'm good, actually! Just the name is fine!" Fera shivered with her anxious smile stuck on her face, and Hatchet pulled back, chuckling once more.

"Smart kid. You don't need to know what you don't need to know." Hatchet removed his attention from the two kids, now starting to demolish the food before him as he snatched it in his claws and ate. Vivian let out a deep exhale from the stressful interaction, nibbling on her food before speaking up again.

"All of that aside… you could probably learn a lot from Hatchet, Fera." Vivian looked over to Fera, who soon looked back after finishing up her first plate. "He's one of the best explorers we've got at the guild. They send him on all the exploration missions and all the expeditions, and even on diplomatic missions. Even if he's not much good at that here." Vivian shot him a smug, taunting look as retaliation for his startling of Fera; Hatchet responded with a lazy smile, not at all ashamed of his actions. Fera looked the Crawdaunt over again, taking in his appearance with more wonderment now.

"So are you one of the graduates then, Hatchet?" Fera pushed away her plate, barely noticing when a Ninjask zipped by and took it away.

"Yep," Vivian stated, before turning back to her own plate. "He's one of the most senior graduates, too. I think he was one of the first people to become a trainee at the guild, right?" The Eevee looked back to the Crawdaunt, who nodded.

"That's right. And, if you don't mind me saying, I'm proud of my long history here." Hatchet paused on his meal, pointing a claw to the Riolu over Vivian's head. "I'm a hard worker and a lawman. If you see a criminal, kid, I can bring them in with minimal broken bones." The comment was met with a scoff from Valo, who choked down the food in his mouth to butt in with a response.

"You can talk big, but you're not the only guy with skill at this table." Valo grunted, fiddling with some of the meal in front of him while eying up Hatchet. "I'm building a reputation for myself, too."

"Oh, come off it. You graduated, what, a few months ago? Yesterday? You're still a greenhorn, son. Take some time to mature and then maybe I'll let you tag along for an expedition." Hatchet grinned at the other graduate; he had found someone to entertain him with a verbal fight over dinner.

"Yeah, yeah. You can just worry about yourself, and about not eating my dust once the guildmaster gets me on one of the expeditions." Valo gave a frustrated stare to the Crawdaunt, who was ready to goad more insecurity out of the Noivern. Fera glanced back and forth between them, pausing from demolishing her second platter.

"Man… I've been here for weeks and I still haven't done anything 'big'. Guild stuff progresses really slowly…" She huffed out, fiddling with some pie between her paws. "I haven't even gotten to punch a shoplifter."

"Hey, don't worry about it too much, Fera. In due time..." Vivian paused and thought about what she was about to say. "Okay, well, no, don't punch shoplifters. But it just takes time and a lot of effort to move up in the guild." The Eevee leaned onto the table to relax. "Bennett's been here for a few years now, and he's still a trainee. It's not that he's a bad explorer or a bad person, it's just not easy to do these really big things."

"Yeah… I guess you're right. Still not that fun, though." The Riolu sighed, but pushed through the dour thoughts. They weren't worth ruining her buffet for, anyway. As she let her eyes wander, she scanned over the vast swarm of explorers in the room, all filling it with their own chatter amidst the feverish eating. She sat up, as something snagged her attention. "Wait… where is Bennett? I haven't seen him since breakfast."

Vivian flicked her tail and gave a glance around the room as well; indeed, the Bidoof was nowhere to be seen. It was odd for him to have not already followed one of them into the dining hall, or to not otherwise have joined them at the table shortly after. "I don't see him. Is he still working?" The Eevee frowned, as the Noivern stopped in his bickering to chime in.

"That'd be weird, since I think this is his day off." Valo stretched his back out and looked around, his natural height giving him something of a vantage point, but still not spotting the Bidoof. "Maybe he's on overtime work? The guy's had to do that before…"

"Hmm… he didn't mention it. But I don't know what'd be keeping him from all this." The Riolu spread her paws out to gesture at the packed buffet, before twisting herself around and hopping off the bench. "I'll go look around, he might just be sleeping."

"Alright. Don't be long, the food runs out fast!" Vivian went back to eating her share, albeit at a less ravenous pace than the Riolu was doing prior.

"I'll be back in five! And don't let Tai near my food, he's on probation right now!" Fera waved before dashing out of the dining hall. Tai, who had been skulking nearby, grunted and turned away to resume waiting the tables.

After consulting with Cromwell during her dash through the halls, Fera had been (shrilly) informed that Bennett indeed wasn't on any guild duty at the moment, and thus the girl had proceeded to check Bennett's bed. A quick trip down the stairs had brought the Riolu back to her bedroom's entrance, the girl letting herself in to search for the missing Bidoof. She hurried into the room, calling out as she did so. "Hey, Bennett! Buffet time, let's go!" She studied the room, soon realizing that the Bidoof wasn't resting in his bed either. The only other option seemed to be that he was spending his time elsewhere in Treasure Town, although given the tantalizing idea of the buffet and the jovial time spent chatting at the dining table, Fera couldn't imagine what would have taken precedence over it. However, as she turned to leave the room, she spotted something on the Bidoof's bed that gave clarity on what that other activity might have been.

Fera walked over the bed, leaning over it to observe the quaint object closer. Laying on the middle of the bed was a large and well-kept book. Although reading hadn't quite allured the girl, the tome's fancy exterior had caught her eye. It bore metal gildings on the edges and had the aroma of an ancient text; the cover consisted of an odd altar-esque structure, hosting a star with an eye above it. At the top was the title and author's name: "STARFALL: The History of Wish Cave - Compiled by Garrison Evios".


"Was Bennett reading this…?" Fera inspected the book a moment longer. Bennett wasn't much of a reader either, although the title sounded familiar in some way. Her paw rested on the book to grip it, before the familiarity struck her harder.

Her eyes widened in reflex, and a searing awareness crept across her mind. She had felt this before. Was it when Bennett fell? It was then, but it was more than that. It had only grazed her consciousness then. The feeling echoed out from the recesses of her mind, it was from before. It was from before… what? What was before she woke up on the beach? It bore no memory but itself, the rush of endless sight. She gripped the book's exterior tighter as she tried to endure the sudden feeling of awakening, as she tried to probe it for even an ounce of recollection. All at once, the feeling settled into her mind— it was natural to her now, and she could not remember a time when she was not experiencing it. She was still. Her eyes shone and pulsated, as they fixated endlessly on the book.

"Alrighty. That should be everythin'." Fera reeled back at the sound of the voice. The interruption came from behind her— from Bennett. He rested on the floor in the middle of the bedroom, staring down at a book spread open before him.

"Bennett!" Fera reflexively smiled at the sight of him, staring him down with her burning eyes as she held the book close to her chest. The joyous feeling faded as she tried to continue. "Where did…" She took a step toward the Bidoof. As she did so, his image flickered and faltered, as though he was smoke in the wind. Fera froze at the sight of it, and the phantasmal Bidoof closed the book he was reading. The cover, the bindings, even the scent was the same as the book resting in her arms.

"Gosh… my nerves are shot! But I gotta do this." The Bidoof clutched the book and tossed it towards the bed, right at Fera. She flinched, and held up the book to defend herself. Instead of a collision, there was a moment of confusion, as the thrown book passed through Fera's torso. She wheeled her head around, and saw the second book resting where she had found the first. Slowly, her mind came to accept that the two books were one and the same.

It's… happening again. Fera tried to breathe, but she could not tell if she was achieving it. The vision of the past was overwhelming her. The Bidoof trotted along his set path, lifting up his explorer's bag once he reached its resting spot near the entrance. Bennett already left…! She forced herself into motion, still clutching the book as she came up behind the vision of Bennett. He had paused to dig into his bag, and from it, he brought out his map of the area. Fera looked over his shoulder to observe; Treasure Town was clearly marked with its position on the coast, and, to the south, Bennett had drawn on a mark of another location with a star. As soon as it had been revealed, the map was stuffed away into the bag again, and Bennett took a deep breath.

"No turnin' back… I'm gonna make it through Wish Cave!" As soon as the resolution made it past Bennett's lips, the phantom Bidoof vanished. In an instant, Fera felt her body revert. The blistering, burning awareness was quelled in her mind, and the glow of knowledge dissipated in her eyes. The distant memory of before had once again receded, as Fera panted fearfully from the strain of it. She felt relieved, but she mourned the loss of some great epiphany lurking within herself. It would not return, no matter what manner in which she prodded her mind to experience it for a moment longer.

"What was…" She tightly closed her eyes, accepting and moving past the shock of the phenomenon. Whatever was making her experience this, it wasn't as crucial as what it was showing her. Fera took a pause to parse what she had seen, and then started to move. "Bennett… ran off to that Wish Cave place!" Her body jerked forward, starting at a slow jog and moving into a sprint as she ascended the central staircase, her explorer bag swaying behind her. Those that saw her were left baffled by the wild movement of the panicked Riolu, although her expression was calm and focused. As she ran, she dug through the bag slung around her shoulder and pulled out a map, managing to not crash or trip in the process of doing so.

"Bennett went… u-uhm, he went…" Fera desperately grasped at the memory of the vision, and recalled the spot marked on the map. Out through the eastern exit of Treasure Town, heading southeast on the trail, and finally west before the rocky plains. She managed to burn the coordinates into her mind, and soon found herself passing through the guild's top floor exit moments after.

"Fera!" A familiar voice caused the Riolu to halt her dashing, wheeling around to look toward the source of Vivian's call. The Eevee soon came out of the entrance, having spotted the other girl during her flight across the guild's lower floors. She soon came to a stop once she reached Fera, panting tiredly from the sudden exertion. Fera clenched her fists as she interrupted the girl's exhaustion.

"Oh, good, you're here! I wanted to talk to you before I left!" Fera gave a brief smile of relief, waiting impatiently for Vivian to regain her breath now.

"Why… are you leaving? What happened, did you find Bennett?" Vivian sucked in wind and recovered most of her composure, looking up to Fera and waiting for the girl's explanation. Fera, only now processing that she would need an explanation, forced herself to think through the previous events.

"It's— agh, it's hard to explain… I just…" Fera frowned heavily. What was there even to tell? She couldn't make that feeling real to Vivian, no matter how much her mind told her that it was what mattered. She could only grasp at the details. "I went into my room to see where he was, and I found this book, and…" Fera looked meekly at her paw, realizing that she was still clutching the book that had originated the confusion, and held it out to Vivian. "It made… something happen!" Her words failed to impart any wisdom, evident in the Eevee's still bewildered expression, and Fera went on. "When I touched it, I saw Bennett… but it wasn't Bennett now, it was a vision of Bennett before. He left the guild already, and he's going to Wish Cave!"

"That's…" Vivian's ears drooped gradually. She had assumed Fera had pressing information to give, but the rich buffet food was already getting to the Riolu's head, apparently. Still, she tried to give her friend the benefit of the doubt. "That doesn't make sense. You 'saw Bennett' from touching the book? ...are you seeing him right now?" Vivian stepped closer, patting Fera on the leg in concern of whatever her disoriented state was. Fera caught on to the pity, and stepped away from the girl abruptly.

"I had a vision. I had one before, when Bennett fell— when he almost fell from the tree. And now I saw him after a thing already happened. And I don't know what it is, but it's…" There was nothing for her to add on to the statement. Stating what she felt would've been difficult as is, and even an explanation of the sensation wouldn't mean anything. She pressed on. "I'm seeing things from other times… I think. And seeing it let me know where Bennett went, so I'm going after him." Vivian's worry didn't fade, as she attempted to deal with what was seemingly a more serious situation than she first thought.

"It sounds like you're being overworked, Fera. My dad has always been harsh on new recruits… and I think he's being even more harsh on you. You shouldn't strain yourself." The Eevee sighed. "And Bennett… I know he wouldn't just go running off and out of town. The Wish Cave thing got settled already, and he respects what my dad says too much to disobey that. He's probably just out in the marketplace, or, like… asleep somewhere. It's happened before." Vivian gestured a paw back to the guild's descending staircase. "Can we go back inside? You can go eat or you can go rest, and I'll go tell my dad about this." Fera glanced at the indoor stairs, then turned away from it.

"I… can't do that." Fera held the book against her chest, her paws rubbing on the coarse exterior, begging for some sign that what she had felt was real, that it could happen again. Vivian now groaned, stepping closer once more.

"Feraaa… you didn't 'have a vision', you just—" The Riolu spun around, more angered now.

"It's okay if I didn't have a vision!" Fera hissed out her words, startling the smaller girl. "It's okay if Bennett's okay! It's okay if this is just… some dumb delusion. I don't care about that." The Riolu's rage faded as quickly as it came, although a somber look stayed on her face. "But I don't know that I didn't have a vision. I don't know that Bennett's okay. And even if it's all nonsense, he still had the book on his bed. He's still thinking about that cave, and now he's not around on the one night he should be. So don't stop me from going to check."

Vivian tried to think of her rebuttal, but her shock and the girl's pleas left her with nothing. Fera turned away from her, sliding the tome into her bag and hiking her bag up on her shoulder. From where she stood outside the guild's entryway, the near-twilight glow cast her shadow across the rocky terrain. Vivian glanced down at the silhouette of an explorer.

"I wasn't gonna ask you to believe me about the vision. I was gonna ask you to tell your dad that I was going. If Bennett's stuck somewhere and I get stuck with him, someone should know about it to help us. That's all." Fera sighed deeply, trying to shake off the frustration. She hadn't meant to express it, especially not against her friend, but it was too much for her frazzled mind to keep to itself. "The place on Bennett's map wasn't that far from here… 30 minutes if I run. So when I'm back in 60 minutes, you can be right about it then. But until then…"

The Riolu marched forward.

"I have to go make sure. Seeya."

Vivian stared down at the ground, as the figure of the Riolu carried on towards the stairs that led up to the guild. It was rash, it was confusing, it was impossible. Even the Pokemon that could see the past and the future, the few that existed, were so limited in their capabilities that what they saw could only be described as glimpses of what might have occurred. It was impossible that some stray Riolu was one of them. But, ignoring the delusion, Vivian could not get herself past the truth of Fera's conviction. That girl, whose only knowledge of the world around her consisted of a small trader's town and the forestry around it, had already accepted throwing herself into some unknown destination for Bennett's sake. There was no fear in her words, while fear coursed through Vivian's mind. Fear of how her father would react, and fear of what could happen to her in the wild. In her heart, she wanted to race after Fera and join the hunt, but…

But what? Whatever it was, it was fading from the Eevee's mind. The resolve in the Riolu's eyes, in her anger, was what stayed. Vivian understood now, it wasn't anger towards her. It was retaliation against the idea that they should sit and let this situation happen to them. That retaliation burgeoned inside Vivian— that universal belief in controlling one's own life— and the fear of what could happen dissipated. She took a step forward, then another, and then another. Wish Cave wasn't that far. Fera wasn't that far.

"Fera…!" Vivian made a frustrated cry, causing the Riolu to halt. Fera looked back at her, stoic but worried for what the girl was going to say. "Fera, I'm… I'm coming with you!" The Riolu's feelers flicked up from the surprising remark.

"Huh? But I thought you said…"

"Forget about what I said!" The Eevee shut her eyes tightly as she forced out the words, stamping her paws on the platform outside the guild's doorway. "I still don't think he's actually at Wish Cave… and even if he is, I know he's not lost or hurt or something. He's a capable explorer. But…" Vivian opened her eyes to stare at the ground again. Her gaze fixed itself on the shadow once more. "Bennett's been there for me a lot, ever since he joined the guild. And if he thought there was even a chance I was hurt, he'd come running to help me. I have to do the same for him." Fera's tail started to wag at the girl's new understanding of the situation. Vivian looked up to Fera after watching the wagging shadow, now smiling in confidence. "And you were right. There's no reason not to go make sure." Fera's joy shone off of her face, even in the growing darkness.

"Vivian… thank you. We'll get in and out. And when we get home, we can both get yelled at together about being wrong." Fera clenched her fists proudly. Vivian could only let out an anxious giggle from Fera's remark, but she accepted it in her heart.

"I'll be looking forward to that. But like you said, that's later." The two nodded to each other, and Vivian took her chance to show Fera her conviction, starting to run off toward the town's exit. Fera followed in hot pursuit.

"Now, let's go!"
Chapter 8: Awakening New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 8: Awakening

The sun had now set over the horizon, its glow over the rocky landscape fading. What sunlight was left had painted the craggy area a soft and dusty blue, and it continued to darken as the last of the light flickered off into nothing. Fera and Vivian had ended up just southwest of the guild, with Vivian tailing behind Fera's guidance as the blue-furred girl occasionally looked up at the sky during their journey. Large hills rose up over the valleys around them, and the wind blew calmly across their slopes and toward the duo. Vivian shivered lightly under the breeze, although Fera didn't seem to feel it herself.

"I should've figured that we'd end up out in the barrens…" Vivian made a tired sigh. She glanced off toward the remains of the sunset, bracing herself for whatever they'd have to do next, as well as trek back home. Fera marched onward and up the path they had wandered onto, her concentration unbroken.

"We're almost there. If there's nothing to see, we can just turn around and head back." Fera repeated the words she had told Vivian minutes earlier, causing the Eevee to groan slightly at the insistence.

"This is a lot farther than just 30 minutes away… and it's already getting dark. If we're gonna do this, we have to be faster about it." The Eevee looked back behind them, trying to shrug off the feelings of concern and regret from their situation.

"I'm not used to going out of town, so… I'm not the best with directions and time, and all." Fera scratched the back of her head, then pushed past the awkward moment. "We'll be fine, though. We're still close to home, and the path back is simple enough. It won't be dark."

The Eevee sighed and shook her head, looking back towards Fera. "You at least have a map, right?"

"Of course!" Fera reached for her bag, opening it and rummaging around in it for a moment, before unearthing the parchment and showing it to Vivian. "The guild's up here, and we're down… here." Fera's paw pressed on a point in the mountainous blotch south of the guild, then shifted over to the right. "I mean, here. I think." She pulled away from Vivian, inspecting the map closely. "This is the right… general area, at least. I'm pretty sure."

"Feraaaa…" Vivian's ears fell, the girl already able to predict what was going on.

"Well, it's fine." Fera brushed off the concerns, stuffing the map away alongside the book. "I can't see much of another path we should've gone down, so if there's something to find, it has to be around here. And I'm pretty sure we're following where Bennett's map went."

"Right, Bennett's map from that... 'vision'." Vivian glanced away, still doubting the supposed premonition. She didn't want to place her faith in that alone.

"Exactly! So let's pick up the pace." Fera either didn't pick up on the reluctance or willingly rejected it, turning back around and resuming her march up the path. Vivian followed along, looking around at the terrain around them as they traveled the path.

"Are you really sure this is the right place, Fera? The guild already went to Wish Cave a bunch of times, but I don't think anyone's come through here." The Eevee lifted her head up, trying to study the terrain of the clearing in the rocks they were approaching.

"It's the spot that Bennett marked, so... even if it's not Wish Cave, this is where Bennett wanted to go." The two came up on the end of the path and crested the top of the hill they had climbed. The flat terrain ahead of them was covered in green grass, growing all across the rocky structures and pressing out of the cracks in the ground, contrasting heavily with the solid blue landscape they had been traversing up to this point. "Aha! There's… something here!" Fera hurried ahead, and Vivian followed behind her, no longer having to deal with the continuous incline. The Riolu reached the center of the grassy clearing, spinning around and trying to deduce what was here to find. Vivian looked across the walls and structures— no cave entrance to be seen there, either. She returned her attention to the gradually slowing down Riolu.

"This place definitely can't be the entrance to the cave… the guild would've cleared some of the flora out of the way in case it was poisonous." Vivian frowned, trying to join Fera in observing the clearing around them. However, Fera's movements had already halted, with her feelers lifted up and twitching slightly. Soon, they dropped back down to the sides of her head.

"This is it. I can feel someone underneath us." Fera's words caused some surprise and muted panic from the Eevee. The Riolu stepped forward, then ran across the grassy area to a spot against one of the moss-covered walls, kneeling down beside it. Vivian came up behind her, watching as the Riolu messed with and felt around in the collection of grass and various plant life. "Your dad said they didn't find anything when they went to Wish Cave, but… maybe they just never found Wish Cave." Vivian watched with skepticism, as the other girl's paws pressed further inside the flora. "If they didn't know where to look, of course they wouldn't have found anything. But Bennett knew." She frowned, reaching farther and farther in, before her paw snagged something.

The section of plant matter moved around easily, and a tug caused a portion of it to give way. "Got it! I think I got it!" Fera gave the grassy tangle a harsh yank, lifting it up and away from the spot on the ground it had rested on. Underneath the collection of flora, a crater had been obscured from view, leading down into the earth and into parts unknown.

"I knew there was something here!" The Riolu stepped away, pulling on the plant once more and breaking off enough for it to no longer cover their awaiting entrance. Vivian approached it, and leaned forward to inspect what they would be landing on if they jumped in, which seemed to be a solid stone floor and nothing else. At the least, it wasn't a lethal height of any kind, but it made the Eevee's legs tremble all the same. The cavernous area below was softly lit by a blue glow of unknown origin, and, with the passing time, it would soon be brighter in there than out in the wilderness as they were.

"This… this is something, yeah." Vivian steadied her legs, moving back from the hole and trying to mentally brace herself. "I don't think I've ever jumped from this high, so… uh…" Fera caught on to her friend's apprehension, and sprung into action the only way she knew how. The Riolu hoisted herself up from her kneeling position, taking one hopping step forward and then leaping into the hole unannounced, causing Vivian to rush to the crater's edge in dismay. Fera had landed cleanly on the stone floor, the Fighting-type girl being naturally more durable for such a leap, and she rose up from the crouch she had landed in to smile up at Vivian.

"Alright, now you jump down and I can catch you!" Fera held her paws up at the ready, while Vivian let out a sigh of relief. She wasn't certain of Fera's dexterity, but even crashing into her fuzzy friend and knocking them against the floor would be gentler on her body than a spill onto the stone. With no other options, Vivian took a breath, and hopped into the hole. The brown-furred ball of fluff dropped down from above, and Fera grasped the girl as soon as she was in reach, her arms swinging down to take the brunt of Vivian's momentum. Vivian squeaked out from the quick stop, but got past her nerves immediately after.

"Th-thanks. That made it a lot easier."

"No problem. Now, it's exploring time." Fera placed her friend on the floor, taking the time to finally observe her surroundings. The faint glow that had caught their eyes emanated from constellation patterns across the walls and ceiling of the cavern— much more like a stony corridor, in reality. Fera stepped forward and glanced from side to side, while her feelers gradually twitched.

"This is… a weird cave." Vivian eyed everything around her from her starting position, although her focus was on the wall nearby. "It's not naturally formed. All the ridges and stuff, this was carved out by someone. And the constellation designs are all perfectly spaced out. Is Wish Cave even a cave…?" She shifted her attention to Fera, whose arms were out at her sides. Her feelers had risen parallel to the ground, as the Riolu tried to become receptive to the aura around her. "Oh, right…! Do you sense Bennett?"

"I… I think so." Fera's voice was less cheerful and more cautious. Her feelers stayed elevated as she continued her work.

"You think? But you said you felt someone…"

"I do feel someone. I just assumed it was Bennett, but…" Fera's feelers finally drooped, and her posture returned to normal. "It's different. It's the kind of aura when someone's sleeping. But if they're sleeping, I shouldn't be able to feel them from so far away. And I don't sense anything or anyone else here, so… we have to go to this other person." The sensations had made the Riolu uneasy, but it didn't deter her. Nothing seemingly would, as she started to walk forward and caused Vivian to trot onward to join her.

"If there's someone that wants to ambush us, then at least we know they're coming. But, I…" Vivian turned her head slightly, the doubt creeping back over her as she followed Fera to the source of the strange aura. "I'm not a fighter, or anything… I might be dead weight if something bad happens."

"If something bad happens, I'll stop it. All we want is Bennett, so if someone wants a fight and they don't have a Bidoof to offer us, we'll get out of here. I'm pretty sure I can carry you out of that hole we came in." Fera looked at Vivian, putting on a smile to calm the both of them. Vivian looked back and quietly nodded, pushing the concerns away for the time being.

The corridor slowly turned as they walked, a brighter light from beyond drawing the two closer to the end. A well-lit room awaited them, the blue glow lighting the entirety of its grayish walls and extending to the portion of the corridor where they halted. The ornate walls spread slowly and opened into the large, dome-shaped room, the constant constellation patterns closest to them overshadowed by the glow of the area ahead.

"It's getting stronger." Fera's steps slowed as they approached the room. Vivian nodded anxiously, her eyes darting around to gather any kind of information. The room's walls were even more smooth and polished than the ones outside of it, more well-kept than even some of the buildings in Treasure Town. The constellations on the walls were bigger and brighter, spiraling off into even more detailed patterns with meaning lost on the two girls. As the Eevee looked around, her wandering eyes focused on something resting across from them, pressed against the wall at the other end of the room. A brown mass of fuzz laid there, barely moving.

"Bennett!" Vivian took off at the sight of her friend, hopping forward rapidly across the room to reach him. The Bidoof, resting on his side and battered on every inch of his body, turned his head up to look at the source of the shout. The wall that he rested against was indented and cracked, showing that his impact against it had done a number on it and himself. The faithful explorer's bag that he carried with him at all times had been shredded, only a portion of its material remaining. The Eevee knelt beside him, checking his injuries and his breathing, her mind frazzled yet still focused on his safety. Fera tried to follow Vivian's footsteps, but she couldn't bring herself to do so, staying put near the room's entrance. That powerful aura radiated from all around her, sending a shiver through her body, forcing her to halt until she could locate its source. Her gaze searched the room, tracing along its walls and looking up to its domed ceiling. Her body started to move.

After a moment taken to regain himself, Bennett looked Vivian over and forced himself to respond.

"V-Vivian...?" Bennett spoke in a daze, his eyes narrowed while he kept himself conscious. "Y… ya gotta get outta here. It's too dangerous..." The Eevee had already occupied herself with moving to Bennett's backside, trying to help push him up so that Fera could hopefully carry him out. At most, her little body alone could only elevate him slightly.

"We will! But we gotta get you out, so—"

"Ya gotta get out NOW! There's no time...!" The Bidoof pleaded tiredly to his younger friend, startling Vivian with his momentary vigor. As she tried to process his frustration, her attention was pulled away from him. That powerful glow from the walls… no, it wasn't from the walls or its constellation patterns. They were illuminated by a growing light at the center of the domed ceiling, almost blinding to look upon directly. Fera arrived to aid her friends, turning around mid-dash and skidding to a halt in front of them, her paw pressed into the dirt to brace herself. Her eyes were fixed on that light.

"Vivian! Look alive!"

Vivian tensed up, confused and alert, as she watched the glowing force. Fera bared her fangs, trying to read the aura of that light and understand it. 'Who is this? What are they feeling? When is the first attack going to come?' The aura had none of the answers for her. It was blank, it was pure energy emanating from a well of power. Vivian looked upon its form, and watched in fear as the light dimmed. Fragments flickered off of the glowing crystalline mass, snowflake-like particles that rained down and eroded into nothingness. The chunk of shimmering material was beginning to break apart, and, from within the dying light, the floating creature could be seen.

Tassels spread out, having been cocooned around the creature and now unfurling into fluttering ribbons that flowed with an unseen wind. Its star-shaped yellow head tilted lazily to one side, then reoriented itself. Its eyes rested peacefully in slumber, but, from the creature's torso, a glowing and sleepless eye stared down at the trio, focusing on Fera.


The creature's lips faintly moved to usher the delicate word, devoid of emotion and awareness. Fera growled lowly at the remark, her body tensed— but she could do almost nothing, watching the creature that levitated off the ground. Its body slowly came lower down until it hesitated in the air just above the floor, into range of the Riolu. It moved its right hand forward, and a blue glow enveloped its body.


The second word came with the faint intonation of anger. Bennett shivered weakly, as he began to speak again. "That thing is… the Wishmaker… Jirachi." He coughed with exhaustion, bracing himself against the wall to try and stand. "When I came in here, I woke it up… an' I didn't stand a chance when it attacked. Ya gotta get outta here…" Vivian stayed close to Bennett, trying to keep her fears silenced, to no avail.

"J-Jirachi… we found a legendary Pokemon…" Her legs almost gave way. Whatever mythos was known of any legendary Pokemon, be they creators or destroyers of the world around them, the only constant among them was absurd strength that was wielded without any restraint. The seemingly mindless creature wasn't one she wanted to try and reason with.

Fera couldn't wait any longer. If it wasn't going to attack, she would strike first and put the fight into her favor. Her fists flared with a metallic aura, and she raced forward. Again she read that deep aura, and again nothing could be understood. Jirachi's slumbering body had no response but what had been spoken. No fear to take advantage of, no weakness to pursue. It didn't matter. Fera had almost closed the gap between them, as Jirachi's glowing energy coalesced in its outstretched hand. In an instant, the energy blasted toward Fera, a pure burst of Confusion to wipe her out before the fight could begin.

"Look out…!" Bennett tiredly gave one more shout, desperately trying to protect his fellow explorer. Fera was ready for the impact. That movement of energy needed for Jirachi to attack had let her know what was coming. Her arms crossed together, blocking her neck and torso, and Iron Defense coated the crossed arms without delay. The burst of energy collided with her protected arms, causing them to clash into each other with a clanging noise. Despite the impact, the energy was blown away, reflected like light off a mirror, and leaving a cloud of dust where it had struck the ground.

"Y… you deflected it!" Vivian weakly smiled at the sight, but the expression faded fast as the weight of their situation set in. Fera panted out of momentary exhaustion.

"I'm glad I did… I don't know how else to stop that." Fera spoke, then shook her head angrily, trying to force out the thought. She could stop it, and that was all that mattered. It was an opportunity. Her eyes focused on Jirachi.

The legendary creature gave no reaction to its failed attack. The outstretched hand twitched, and its fingers clasped into a fist. All at once, the psychic energy returned, spiraling around Fera in the blink of an eye and ensnaring her metallic fists. The startled Riolu tried to force herself away, but the Psychic hold kept her locked in place. After a moment, Jirachi swung its right arm and its body, motioning the fist to behind itself, and Fera was pulled. The grasp lifted the Riolu clean off her feet, not even hampered by the weight of her metal, and she was launched across the cavernous room, sending her bag spiraling off of her body. Vivian and Bennett watched on, until Fera collided with the opposite wall in a heavy crash, an impact even worse than what the Bidoof had been put through before. There was a pained yelp, and then silence, as the dust spread across the area of impact.

"Fera!" Vivian made a terrified cry at the sight, wanting to rush to her friend's side as she did with Bennett prior, but left stranded in place by the presence of the legendary Pokemon.

Soon, the dust settled, and the Riolu was visible atop the rubble that her collision had caused. Her body began to stir, and she slowly lifted herself to her feet with a groan. A metallic sheen covered the entire back of her body, having been activated just in time to absorb the brunt of the collision and spare Fera's life. Despite this, that luster soon cracked and broke off into glittering particles— not even her Iron Defense could withstand the damage that Jirachi could inflict. Fear crept in once more, followed by doubt, apprehension, hopelessness. They burned across Fera's mind for a moment, before she dispelled them. They were of no use to her.

"F-focus… stay focused!" Her words came out in a growl, returning her attention to Jirachi. The creature had shifted its attention to Vivian and Bennett, ready to dispose of the remaining intruders. She had survived two attacks. There was still an opportunity.

The metallic aura raced across the Riolu's body. "I won't… let you hurt them!"

Chapter 9: Our Struggle New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 9: Our Struggle

Jirachi's limp form levitated in place, the blue glow from its awakened eye shining faintly onto Vivian and Bennett. The light of the eye flickered briefly, seeming to study the two more cautiously than it did Fera. Vivian could feel her body tremble at the worry of what this creature could be thinking, if anything, and forced herself into action. She knelt down against Bennett, trying to help him up fully once more, in a desperate bid to get the two of them moving. The energy pooled around Jirachi's hands in preparation.

Fera, now able to shrug off the exhaustion of her injury, tried to rush toward the stoic opponent, before halting herself several steps in. Whatever she was going to try, it would be something that the legendary Pokemon had already stopped. She gripped the sides of her head in frustration, hoping to remember some kind of ranged move from her body's intuition, but her mind produced nothing. Her eyes darted around the room for inspiration— for something she could use. The walls, then Jirachi, then the floor, then the rubble at her feet. She grasped a chunk of the stone that had fallen from the impact against the wall, reared back with it grasped tightly, and sent the rock flying with a Force Palm-boosted throw at the distracted creature.

The rock drew closer, nearing its target, before Jirachi swung its left arm backwards, obliterating the rock at the cost of the psychic energy it had accumulated in that hand. The few shattered bits of rock dinked off of the Pokemon's body uselessly, and Jirachi's fingers trembled as it gathered energy anew. The time that Fera had bought would be used up within moments, and Vivian's progress had only gotten Bennett to stand and fall once more.

"Please, Bennett, we need to go...!" The Eevee whimpered her words, nudging and pressing on Bennett once more, before her attention was drawn back to the glowing creature. Another stone from Fera came whizzing toward the target, and once more was destroyed before proper impact. Jirachi's head turned to lazily face Fera, muttering and mumbling incoherently with annoyance, then jerked back to Vivian as the Bidoof she was supporting made a pained yelp.

"No more…" Jirachi's words came quietly, and the energy quickly replenished in its hand. Fera searched rapidly for another rock, left with no other options but gripping at a large chunk of wall that she strained herself to lift. Her concentration broke as she looked back to Vivian. The Eevee's body trembled and her legs locked up, but she stood to face the legendary creature. Her fearful expression shone weakly with the spark of determination.

"Vivian!" Fera let go of the stone, trying to race toward her bold companion, as Jirachi's arms swung forward to attack. The flames of glowing energy curved around to strike from both sides, making the Eevee recoil backwards and shut her eyes tightly. A light rose off of her, and, within a second, a barrier burst forth from her fragile body.

The bubble-like dome extended out from Vivian's form, producing a soft green light around herself and Bennett. The two blasts collided with the defensive wall and burst, scattering into nothingness and leaving the barrier undamaged. Vivian quivered in place, soon opening an eye to discover that she was still safe, and made a weak exhale.

"I… I-I've never had to use Protect to… actually stop something before…" Vivian opened her other eye, checking Bennett to be absolutely sure he had been kept safe as well, and the Bidoof weakly smiled.

"Ya did a fine job with it…" Bennett panted with his remark. He was in no state to move, but he could at least stay conscious. Vivian huffed and smiled at Bennett's words, her barrier slowly fading as her nerves relaxed.

The dozing creature was still fixated on the duo, and Fera acted quickly on her opportunity. The Riolu rushed towards the Jirachi from behind, kicking off the ground and leaping up above the creature with the metallic aura gathering on her once more. Fera's paws pressed together and covered in steel, ready to collide as an iron sledgehammer with the full force of gravity to bludgeon her opponent.

As before, Jirachi stayed nearly motionless, by all accounts unaware of the impending damage. But, as Fera closed in on her target, the wispy aura of Psychic flew from the creature's palms, ensnaring Fera by the arms and keeping the girl held in midair. The girl's legs kicked forward suddenly to strike at Jirachi's head, but the Pokemon moved just out of range in a jerking motion to avoid it. Jirachi swung its arm around to remove Fera once more, and the young explorer went flying back toward the crater in the wall she had created before.

Fera's focus remained unbroken, and the metallic aura covered her once again. The sheen of Iron Defense formed this time along her legs, now a thicker layer of iron than she had ever utilized. The sudden weight dragged her body down from its collision course, reorienting her upright in the process. Her feet touched down, now skidding across the cavern floor from her continued momentum, and Fera tensed her arms, gathering more energy and weighing them down with more steel. Her paws soon slammed into the dirt, placing her on all fours. With enough weight and friction on her side, Fera dragged to a halt, having stopped herself just shy of the wall that she had crashed into during her first flight. As soon as she had done so, the Iron Defense was abruptly released, and Fera panted quietly from the strain, keeping herself in that near-kneeling position. It wasn't a solution. She could avoid any damage this creature could throw at her, but she'd tire herself to death before accomplishing anything.

Vivian, once she had seen that her friend had endured another attack, prepared herself. If physical attacks wouldn't connect, she would have to try something in place of Fera. She had little experience with it, but little was better than none. The Eevee's head tilted forward, and dark energy started to pool from within her. From her opened mouth, a purple spark formed, twitching and flickering, before expanding and concentrating into a greater sphere of energy. Fera, still trying to gather herself, tilted her head up and awed at the new technique. After a moment, the Shadow Ball had coalesced into a blistering orb as large as Vivian's head, the girl's jaw twitching as her body tried to keep it stable. With a glare, Vivian jutted her head forward, and the Shadow Ball burst away to decimate its target.

The attack flew faster than Fera could imagine, whizzing at the distracted Jirachi before a second had passed. Yet, even with its head turned from the attack, Jirachi's other arm swung upward just as the spectral orb neared it, imbued with a psychic aura that smacked and redirected the Shadow Ball up into the ceiling. Fera watched the projectile soar from her position on the ground, soon colliding with the domed roof and shattering a hole in the sturdy rock. She had no clue Vivian could make an attack like that, but it shone a ray of hope on her.

"Vivian!" Fera called out to her friend, with a barely-thought out idea hatched in her mind. The Eevee turned her focus onto Fera as she shrugged off the dismay of her failed attack. Jirachi once more pooled energy in its palms, reclaiming Vivian's attention, as Fera continued. "I think I know how we can beat it! Can you make more shots to fire? Like, a LOT more?"

Vivian started to respond, but the imminent impact of a Confusion caused her to instead start a sudden Protect, the new barrier cancelling out Jirachi's attack. She whined and mulled over the request. "N-not a lot of Shadow Balls, but… yeah, I can make more! But not with this thing firing on me!" Another Confusion struck the barrier, still giving no response and dissipating easily.

"Got it! I have a way to keep the heat off you!" Fera wheeled back around, her gaze drawn to the crater she had made. The rock wall came off rather easily just from a collision, so it would do just fine. With a lunge, Fera smashed the smoothened stone next to the crater with a Force Palm, causing a sudden rupture and blowing off chunks of rubble around her. A small boulder fell out amongst them, and Fera gripped it firmly on both sides, tightening her posture as her legs pushed her to lift the stone. Once she had hoisted the object from the ground, she pivoted and spun, then freed her grip and launched the stone with another Force Palm. The hefty rock spiraled through the air, before crashing down toward Jirachi, awaiting its inevitable destruction from the legendary creature's retaliation.

Jirachi swung a hand up, another Confusion burst shattering the stone into smaller chunks that narrowly avoided its target. The sleeping creature turned slowly to confront Fera, the eye on its torso narrowing slightly. Fera grinned at the sight, her feelers up to sense what would come next. She kicked her right leg and dodged to the left to avoid a sudden burst launched her way. "Not that bright, huh? You lose focus pretty easy…!" Fera tossed her body back to the right, not able to rest for even a moment with another blast slung her way. The creature was fixated on her, having lost all sense that Vivian had been there. Fera called to her friend once more. "When you can do it, you gotta fire one by one! No pauses! Alright?!" Fera's words came amidst her rapid leaps from side to side, the girl recoiling slightly after the impact of one of Jirachi's shots singed her tail. Her movements continued.

Vivian watched on, almost lost in Fera's plan and her immense strength, before coming to her senses. "A-alright! I can do that!" Her fur bristled and her concentration built, as a Swift star appeared in a flicker of light, soon revolving around Vivian aimlessly. The fragile star radiated a pure glow that shone across the Eevee's fur. A single one likely wouldn't even make her target flinch, but she was capable of much more. The light around her began to grow.

Jirachi fired blast after colorful blast of energy, and Fera narrowly leapt aside each time. Whether or not Fera realized it, each shot drew closer to landing on the Riolu, who simply occupied herself with staying in motion rather than taking more shots head-on through Iron Defense. Her body could keep this pace, she had stamina to spare, but anything less than this wouldn't be safe. In a moment of poor judgment, Fera dove forward and rolled away from a blast, only for a subsequent attack to rush toward her. Still on the ground, the girl braced her ironclad arms over her head to absorb the impact, sliding backwards against the stony floor and wincing from the friction. She laid there for a moment, wanting to make the most of her near accident and recover her strength. How much longer could this last?

She peered past her arms to Jirachi, whose focus had shifted again. Vivian's body stood still, a swarm of Swift stars clustering and spiraling around her. The influx of energy had drawn Jirachi away from the motionless Riolu, and the girl sprung up from the ground with fury. "Oh, no you don't!" Fera leapt back quickly and snagged one of the heavier wall chunks at her feet. She swung it wildly at Jirachi, who turned and shattered the stone into dust from a larger burst of Confusion. The creature was losing patience. Another Confusion came whizzing at Fera, and the girl resumed her frantic flight, more invigorated than before. She cursed herself silently for the moment of weakness.

Vivian's eyes opened. A delicate galaxy of Swift stars had coalesced around her, locked in unified movement and kept steady by the girl's focus. She centered herself onto Jirachi, and her paws pressed firmly into the stone beneath her to keep steady. "Fera! Let's do this!" With a shout, the first of the stars flew forward, its pace barely able to match the blistering speed of the Shadow Ball from before.

The dozing creature, still obsessed with sending its bursts of energy at Fera, whipped around with its left arm and knocked the star aside. As soon as the first had been deflected, the second star rushed in to strike, and Jirachi swung the same hand to keep the attack away. Second after second brought star after star, each one curving in at a rapid speed intended to strike a different area on the target. Jirachi relented in its attacks on Fera, forced to use both hands to deflect, and letting each one swing with cosmic aura ablaze to repel Vivian's barrage. Not a single star would reach the creature, but it was enough.

"Finally…!" Able to stop in her mad dashing, Fera kicked her leg off the ground and made a beeline for her adversary. The glowing eye of Jirachi narrowed in frustration, as Vivian's supply of Swift dwindled away. Fera drew near as the last ten stars had left Vivian's side, slicing the air they passed through to reach their dead end. Jirachi's hands burst with a fierce energy, exerting enough force to blow away or otherwise destroy the last of the Swift. The creature felt some sense of satisfaction at the feeble attempt of an attack, but Fera made certain it would not last.

As the energy dissipated from Jirachi's hands, Fera collided into the creature's back at full speed. Its slumber undisturbed but its fury evoked, Jirachi attempted to swing itself and its arms to grasp Fera in Psychic once more. The Riolu's arms suddenly swung upward to grasp Jirachi in a tight embrace, keeping the creature's dangerous palms aimed away from the target. The Psychic energy spiraled uselessly into the air, lacking any sense of direction. It would work.

"Viv… ian! It's on you now! Do that ball move again…!" Fera's words came out desperately as the creature writhed, bearing more than enough strength to shake the Riolu off in due time. With her command uttered, Fera put herself into place, shutting her eyes and her mouth tightly. Within moments, the metallic aura raced across her fur, and a full Iron Defense covered every inch of Fera's body, sealing her arms even tighter onto Jirachi's. She was rigid, durable, and too heavy to shake off. Jirachi flailed in violent retaliation, but the solidified Riolu couldn't respond even if she wanted to. How long could she hold this? Long enough, the girl told herself. It would be long enough.

Vivian let out a quick exhale from the rapid attack she had to unleash, but she wouldn't falter under Fera's command. Without delay, the dark matter pooled near the girl's mouth again, building faster and more shakily than the last time. Her panic almost ruined her focus, but she could keep herself stable enough. Jirachi tossed and turned, acutely aware of the attack forming directly across from itself. Soon, the Shadow Ball had been formed, even larger than the last time, its dark energy sparking off of the sphere impatiently. Vivian took her aim, and shut her eyes tightly, spewing forth the vicious attack at Jirachi and Fera.

The Shadow Ball tore through the quiet cavern air. In the brief moment before it would collide, Jirachi's body grew perfectly still. Psychic and Confusion couldn't be aimed, the ball couldn't be deflected, and even Jirachi's unconscious mind knew the attack would burn. The creature had to fight back.

In an instant, a blistering emerald radiance overtook Jirachi's body. Its ethereal energy burst forth from every part of its body, and crystals started to form. The jagged minerals spread like a wildfire, expanding and clustering in the fractions of a second that Jirachi had left. A massive layer of Crystal Defense had covered the front of Jirachi's body, even spreading onto the arms of the ironclad Riolu embracing it, ready to intercept. The Shadow Ball collided with the barrier, spiraling and spinning against the minerals with violent force, before finally being deflected away and crashing into the wall beside the Eevee and Bidoof. Vivian's desperate attack burst, leaving a crater of dust and dirt from the stone that had been blown away.

Fera stayed motionless in her place. Had the Shadow Ball come? Jirachi's movements were gone, replaced only by the faint pulsating of a heart against her metallic arms. The Riolu let the iron leave her eyes, opening them to marvel and despair at the odd barrier Jirachi had formed around itself. In a panic, Fera relaxed her arms and tried to jerk away from Jirachi, but they were trapped within the solid defense alongside the creature. It was clear that Jirachi was all too displeased by this, as well.

The legendary Pokemon's body twitched, as Psychic energy built rapidly in its hands. It couldn't be aimed, but it could be forced out. Fera struggled and fought against her trappings, before being assisted by her foe. An explosion of Psychic struck the weakened part of the Crystal Defense that concealed Fera's arms, shattering it wide open and blowing the Riolu across the room. Her pained yelp was drowned out by the roar of the attack and her mostly protected body clanked as it bounced across the floor. Her arms throbbed and burned from her proximity to the blast. She clenched her fist as she released her Iron Defense, enduring the tinge of pain from her hands. She would not relent.

Fera looked across the room toward Jirachi, its back exposed amidst the cluster of crystals. The thought of racing in and striking its backside came to the girl's mind, but it wouldn't come to fruition. The Psychic attack hadn't ended or dissipated, merely stalled and grown. Tendrils of condensed Psychic now twisted and tossed from within the opening, rushing toward Fera from one end and Vivian from another. In its grasp, Fera reacted quickly and resealed herself in the Iron Defense, layering thicker than before in preparation for anything. Vivian squeaked out in dismay as she was raised into the air.

No words of malice or bother came from Jirachi. It would not waste them any longer. The Psychic tendrils whipped in a frenzy, as Fera was launched toward Bennett and Vivian careened past her friend toward the vicinity of the cavern's exit. Vivian's body curled up reflexively, and her Protect activated as she closed in on the stone wall. The sphere surrounding the Eevee struck the wall dead-on, sustaining no damage, but sending a jolt of strain throughout Vivian's body as she tried to preserve the barrier. It soon faded away as Vivian fell and came to rest on the ground, and the girl laid in place, panting. Even without damage, the constant techniques she had utilized were draining her fast.

Fera's covered body crashed into the wall beside Bennett at a speed unparalleled. Another pained cry came from the girl, as the Iron Defense shattered like glass around her figure. Her body fell forward from the indent she had made in the wall, smacking into the ground unprotected. Was anything broken? Could she still breathe? She would force herself up to understand, her vision hazy from the pain coursing over her. She would not relent.

"Fera…" Bennett spoke up, some of his strength returning. The Riolu looked to her wounded friend. She couldn't protect him like Vivian could, and another attack would put him in further danger. "Ya gotta go… it's too late…"

"It's too late to leave. As long as that thing's stuck in that crystal, I'll have a shot…" Fera tried to express something… maybe confidence, or anger, or stoic focus, but it came out as a growl and a cough. Bennett shook his head lowly.

"When I came in here… Jirachi was in that crystal stuff. It glowed bright… an' then it attacked. Just one move, an' my whole body was gettin' scorched… ya can't take a hit like that right now. Ya gotta go…"

Fera's gaze focused on Jirachi. She wouldn't face the reality of Bennett's words. If that attack came again, she would sooner take it head-on than leave the Bidoof here to endure it a second time. Her eyes narrowed on the crystalline barrier. The immaculate defense had been seared and warped on the front from Vivian's Shadow Ball— even at its strongest point, Vivian had damaged it. It was the only option left for them.

"Vuh…" Fera's words struggled in her throat, before rising out angrily. "Vivian! Is Jirachi still open on the back?!"

The Eevee huffed and stumbled to her paws, trying to observe the menace. Shimmering crystals had begun to grow over the back side, filling in the space that couldn't be formed with Fera's presence and repairing some chunks that had been blown away with Jirachi's attack. "I-it's… it's healing back up, but there's still some space!"

Fera shut her eyes and tensed her body. She dispelled the pain in her limbs, and started to run. Her legs would carry her just a bit farther. "One more Shadow Ball! Aim into the right side of the hole! Give it everything!" Fera opened her eyes, circling the perimeter of the room to keep her distance.

Light had started to shine out from the Crystal Defense. A pale green glow lit the room, from a bright blue light within. Jirachi's third eye shone with the foresight of a destructive blow on its opponents.

Vivian lowered her head. It was too late to distrust Fera now, and she lacked any strength to get to Bennett on her own. The sickly purple aura formed from her mouth, pooling slowly at first, then building up in a burst. Whatever was left to expend in her, it would be expended now. The Shadow Ball fluctuated under Vivian's exhaustion, until it coalesced and settled into a massive hazy orb. As Fera rounded the edge of the room toward Vivian and skidded into position, the girl let loose on one last attack.

The orb of chaotic energy struck into the shattered back end without retaliation, crashing forward to tear into the barrier. Fragments of green crystals flew off rapidly, the structural failings of the damaged defense relenting under the attack. Fera reared her arms back preemptively. As the Shadow Ball pierced the final layer and touched onto Jirachi's skin, the creature convulsed in fury. The Shadow Ball was repelled, leaving a vulnerable crater in the barrier in its wake.

Fera's arms blazed with metal energy, both fists sealed in iron and rushing in to meet the rebounding Shadow Ball. Her twin punches collided with Vivian's attack, rattling her skin through even the layers of protective steel, as her body pushed forward. Even with their reflectiveness, the fists struggled to blow back the Shadow Ball's immense force. Her arms trembled under the burden they carried, and Fera's upper body was reinforced in iron to keep herself steady. Through the shroud of dark energy dispersing from the Shadow Ball, Fera's eyes locked onto the opening in Jirachi's barrier.

Her dense fists quivered, all pain from within them gone. It would not burden her in this moment. All she could do was persist, and Fera forced her fists inward on the Shadow Ball.

The twisting orb of energy imploded after a fierce struggle against Fera's Iron Defense, unable to maintain its form any longer. Fera's fists clanged together, and the energy within the Shadow Ball was released all at once, a localized scattershot of black aura aimed at a single point. The wave of shadow energy rushed through the air, before it impacted against Jirachi's skin in a violent blow that rocked the crystalline barrier forward.

The three children watched on. Bennett had already returned to his resting, with no strength left to do anything else. Vivian's legs trembled, until they finally gave out, the Eevee plopping forward and panting on the ground from her full exertion, ready to pass out. Fera stood her ground, watching as the Crystal Defense started to crack and give way.

As the barrier dissipated, its body free once more, Jirachi's levitating form turned slowly to the Riolu. Its third eye shone with a radiance of pure power. Fera's only reaction was to prepare. Her legs were quickly sealed in iron— they would not support her any longer, so she would simply make them hold. The wispy aura of pure light flowed from Jirachi's eye.

"No more…" Jirachi raised a hand to Fera's direction, this time releasing no Psychic or Confusion on its target. An orb of flickering light formed, flickering faintly with a raging aura that seared Fera's worn-down senses. The Riolu growled out quietly, before Jirachi's hand lowered, and the orb began to fade.

"Fight… no more…" The eye seemed to tense, then scowl, as it began to close slowly. The light that poured out from it was stifled and silenced, as Jirachi's tassels twirled around it. "Too much… energy…" The yellow bands spiraled around their owner, soon encasing and cradling Jirachi to seal it back into slumber. "Will not claim… the sleeping power…"

Jirachi's form began to rise slowly, a shimmering star in the hallowed cavern, as it reached the center of the domed roof. More crystals started to form, now at a leisurely pace, connecting the exhausted creature with the ceiling and expanding further. Soon, Jirachi's visage had been swallowed by the mass of crystalline growth, leaving nothing but a massive and glistening mineral, as the legendary Pokemon returned to its protective rest.

At the sight of it, the iron faded from Fera's legs. The Riolu's eyes could stay open no longer, and the girl collapsed forward onto the stone floor. The once raging air that had plagued this room was but a memory to her, letting her rest in the settling dust of their battle. As her thoughts faded, a smile crept across the Riolu's battered face. This burning exhaustion, the dull silence… it was victory. It was safety. She could not turn her head to watch Vivian, nor to check on Bennett, but the faint aura of her friends resounding off of her mind was a soothing metronome that guided her into sleep.

"In here! They have to be in here!" A squawking voice called out through the dimly lit corridor, and the beating of wings carried on as Cromwell entered the domed room of Wish Cave. His eyes darted around, soon spotting three runaways left unconscious across the stony floor, and his screech echoed through the cavern as he came to rest beside his daughter.

"Vivian! Oh, Vivian, are you alright?! Please tell me you're alright!" The Chatot's distressed voice continued to fill the silent den, his wings jostling the Eevee and checking her body for injuries.

"U-uhhnnn…" Vivian made a weak groan as her respond, barely called back to consciousness from her father's wails. "My head…"

"Is your head wounded?!" The Chatot hopped over and grasped the girl's head delicately between his wings, trying to locate the source of the agony and not seeming to understand that it was himself.

"Tired…" Vivian flopped back down on the spot, returning to her rest moments after. Cromwell's hyperventilation died down, assured that the girl was merely deprived of energy.

"Goodness… I haven't had a fright like this in years…" His eyes wandered to Bennett in the room's rear, making a squawk as the fright was reignited from the newfound severity of the Bidoof's injuries. He flapped and fluttered over to the wounded explorer, his brow furrowing with concern. Bennett was bruised through and through, but still alive.

"Cromwell… I assume everything's alright? You stopped screeching..." The hulking figure of Valo entered the room, scanning across the damage done and the sleeping youngsters. Lily was perched upon his shoulder, the flowery girl hopping down to get a view for herself.

"Yeesh… not that alright, it seems. Does anyone need medical attention?" Lily's normally sour and stoic face cracked ever so slightly, unsure of how to react to the sight of the beaten Riolu.

"Bennett and Fera, yes… Vivian's unharmed, at the least." The Chatot reached forward to try and move the Bidoof, perhaps even jostle him awake, but restrained himself from doing so in fear of further injury. A deep sigh passed through his beak, as he settled his feathers and faced the duo. "Lily, start administering some healing immediately. Once they're stable, we'll get them home and sort this all out…" By the time his command had come, Lily had already knelt beside Fera, a pink glow spreading from her petals to soothe the girl's suffering. Valo, meanwhile, took Vivian into his hold, not wanting the administrator's daughter to remain on the cold ground any longer. Lastly, Cromwell left Bennett's side after enough time fretting, his gaze drawn to the room's ceiling now. Looming above them, a splendorous web of crystals had grown from the cavern's stone, giving off an unearthly light that glistened on the group of six.

"What exactly happened here…?"
Chapter 10: The Guildmaster's Call New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 10: The Guildmaster's Call

The northern winds in the night carried on through the dark sky, brushing along every structure and surface that dotted the landscape of Treasure Town. The leafy rooftops of many buildings fluttered and swayed, but remained firm on the living spaces and businesses they had been secured to. That wind beat softly against the rocky cliffs within which the Wigglytuff Guild was located, at times rattling through the old wooden windows that peered out at the sea, or creating an alluring sound as it pushed past the rocks. It was a familiar sound to many of the explorers. Fera, naturally, was only hearing the peculiar noises for the first time. Her ears twitched from side to side, catching the wispy call of the gale as it passed by the guildmaster's window. The constant sound of a protected home… it was quaint.

A small jab to the side of her leg drew the Riolu back into the realm of the living. Her eyes darted briefly to the Bidoof standing at her right side, his back still tightly wound in bandages, before her gaze went forward again to lock onto Cromwell. The bindings on her own limbs irritated her ever so slightly, but the sensation was easy to ignore. She didn't mind the reminder of what she had done, either.

To Bennett's right, Vivian fidgeted with her head down. The girl was well aware that it was time to receive a verbal nightmare from her father, but at least Wendell was in the room to prevent it from turning into pure chaos. The Chatot's squinting eyes went from left to right, right to left, scanning over the trio with distaste. His glare helped to sink some guilt into the Bidoof and Eevee, although it seemed to elude the Riolu— granted, her aura feelers had made her quite aware that some fury was building inside the tiny bird. Once he had collected himself, he addressed the three.

"Where do I begin… I suppose at the beginning, yes? Bennett." Cromwell scowled in the direction of the injured Bidoof… less injured than before, at the least. Janette's Heal Pulse had mended the general damage his body had endured, although it wouldn't relieve him of his sores and aches just yet. The Bidoof met Cromwell's eyes bashfully.


"This was a shameful display from you, through and through. I could chew you out alone for disobeying direct orders, but leaving in secret, without any backup or security net is disgraceful for an explorer! We are a guild for a reason!" The feathers on the front of the bird's chest puffed out, either by instinct or in an attempt to exert authority. "You passed basic training, yes? Then you should know better than to go off into the wilderness like some buckwild civilian, without making sure someone at least KNOWS what ill-advised trip you're planning!" Bennett could only nod in shame at the remarks, not having much of an excuse to do anything else. His bandages spoke for themselves, or they would, if they could match the Chatot's volume and anger.

"Y-yeah… I'm mighty sorry about it. I was worried someone would tell ya and I'd get shot down again… I shoulda just let it happen." The Bidoof's rounded ears did their best to flatten against his head like a scolded Purrloin's would, although the ears seemed to just tilt downward slightly.

"If only I were as convincing to you as hindsight is! We don't let explorers, especially trainees, go off on their own accord because of scenarios exactly like this!" The Chatot's fury subsided briefly, the bird making a groan as he tried to pace himself. He needed to make sure the anger reached all three of the youngsters duly. "If we hadn't geolocated your badge before it was destroyed… I don't want to think about what would've happened. You're a lucky Bidoof, Bennett, and I hope you aren't going to forget that any time soon. Hopefully a month of overtime work will serve as a reminder." The Bidoof nodded repeatedly a few more times, letting the shame wash over him. It was the least he could do, at this point.

"Fera!" Cromwell's target shifted to the Riolu, who jumped slightly from being so suddenly acknowledged.

"Yeah?" The girl aimlessly responded, causing some mild frustration from the Chatot.

"I would almost applaud your intuition and quickness to aid another explorer. Normally, that response is what drives a healthy guild. But it was absolutely foolish of you to take those matters into your own hands and go running off after Bennett! You are in no way authorized to handle rescue missions on your own, let alone in uncharted territory and taking a civilian along with you!"

"Sorry, I just… wasn't thinking. I needed to go see if he was alright, and people weren't gonna believe me…" Fera laughed anxiously, an instinct. The Chatot's annoyance grew, and he continued.

"It's not very funny to me, Fera. Next time, when you know someone is in danger, you tell an authority figure or a graduate explorer. You don't play hero and get yourself or a civilian brutalized, understand?"

Fera let the awkward laugh subside as she took in her superior's words. The vision, the burning feeling… it was all real to her, but only to her. What proof was that to another explorer? What proof was it to Cromwell? Even Vivian didn't trust it. It was a delusion or a mistake to anyone else. But even Fera knew that there was no purpose in contesting the angered administrator. She nodded weakly once her thoughts had left her.

"I suppose having you join Bennett for his overtime work would be a good idea. And another week of basic training, to make sure you actually retained the important information from it." The harsh orders weren't lost on the girl, but she nodded again. If nothing else, he couldn't take her success away from her. Finally, the Chatot's gaze fell upon the Eevee, who had patiently awaited her turn, and whom the bird had deigned to be last for the sake of a meaningful impact. Vivian looked up to her father without waiting to be addressed.

"Vivian. I've never doubted that you're a wise and capable girl, but this… this is not okay." The bird's anger was lessened. Perhaps he had expected his fury to carry him naturally, but the fear of Vivian's possible injury and the relief of her safety prevented him from reaching his full efficiency. Nevertheless, he attempted to continue. "You should know better than to leave town, and to get yourself caught up in dangerous affairs. The training we gave you wasn't so that you could go off and get yourself killed, it was so that you could keep yourself safe. And I'm glad that you've done that, but I'm thoroughly disappointed that your judgment failed you. When you see someone in need, you call an explorer. I hope you understand what you've done wrong tonight, and I'll be having you join in the chore work to keep this in mind."

Vivian's ears stayed drooped, and she nodded. "I'm sorry, Dad… I just…" Her words left her, and she returned to staring at the floor. "Sorry. I should've used my head." The Chatot let out an irritated huff, but refused to continue needling the girl. His focus returned to the trio as a whole.

"This was a terrible night all around. The three of you need to learn respect for the guild as an institution, as a cornerstone of—"

"Alright, alright… your turn's over. That's enough of that." Wendell, who had been sitting patiently near the group, finally intervened. His calm words pierced through Cromwell's righteous speech, and the bird looked over at the Wigglytuff with meek disappointment.

"E-eh? I-I'm in the middle of something, you know…"

"Yeah, but it's unnecessary. So I'm stopping it, if that's alright." The Wigglytuff gave a smile with the command— it was definitely a command, as there was no authority in Cromwell to override such a statement. He hopped up to his feet, walking to stand beside the now crestfallen Chatot, and faced the trio. "I think we all know tonight was a bad run. You three got smacked all around, I'm sure that you get it. Responsibility, order, sensibility… the works. You didn't all make the right choices. But we also gotta appreciate what you did right."

The odd comment had the three staring at Wendell with confusion, and had Cromwell squawking in dismay. "E-excuse me! We didn't discuss this in the slightest! Do not undermine my contributions!" The Wigglytuff's ears didn't even seem to pick up the remarks. He shifted slightly to face the Bidoof.

"Bennett. It's wrong to sneak off and deliberately ignore what you're told to do and not do… the guild has rules for a reason, and you saw that reason tonight." Bennett quietly nodded in response, and Wendell continued. "But I don't blame you. We were wrong, and you were right. Wish Cave was out there, waiting to be found… we just weren't acting as diligent explorers. How could we expect you to respect our words if we weren't doing respectable work? Maybe we didn't put our best effort into digging through all the facts, or maybe it was just bad circumstance, but you overcame both."

"H-heh… I jus' tried to apply what y'all taught me. Nothin' more." Bennett scratched his front paws in a circular pattern on the floor beneath him, trying to keep himself from getting a swelled head.

"Explorers are always getting better, I suppose." The Wigglytuff gave a beaming smile. "Even if this wasn't the best scenario to have played out, I see promise shining in you, Bennett. You're well on your way to being a graduate, as long as you keep a good head on your shoulders from here on out." The comment caused a blush on the Bidoof's face, and he tilted his head away in bashful delight.

"Won't let ya down, guildmaster." Bennett gave a weak laugh. Wendell clapped his nubby hands together, then turned to Fera.

"Now, Fera. It's true, running off to handle matters on your own is a bad move. Explorers so rarely work as individuals because the work we do is meant for groups that can back each other up. I suppose you did have some backup…" He gestured over to Vivian. "But you know what I mean. BUT!" His hands rose up to the air. "All else aside, I can only applaud your convictions and your readiness to act. Lots of explorers take ages to build up the courage to thrust themselves into danger, and even fewer are actually ready to endure the challenges they'll face when they do it. You passed both of those marks pretty well, and I bet you have a bright career in the future with handling rescue missions. Just make sure they're, y'know, actually assigned to you first."

"I getcha! I'll stick by the rules, don't worry." Some joy burgeoned on the pensive Riolu's face, and she clenched her paws against her chest before nodding. Perhaps she was too quick to assume that others wouldn't understand. Vivian glanced at her delighted friend, and then met Wendell's gaze.

"And, of course, Vivian. I entirely understand your father's concerns." A nod from the Eevee. "We don't want civilians being hurt, and it's not right for a child to sneak off like that. But… I am proud of you, definitely."

An anguished squawk came from the otherwise patient Chatot. "Proud?! Guildmaster, cease!" Wendell, rather than acknowledging his associate's pleas, stepped a few feet over to his right, blocking the bird from the children's view as if to pretend that he didn't exist. Cromwell angrily took the hint, fluttering up and landing on Wendell's head with an intensely bothered expression.

"You're… proud of it?" Vivian's ears perked up for the first time in the discussion, unsure of how to handle the idea.

"Of course I am! You were there to support your friends, physically and emotionally. You put yourself on the line, and from what Bennett has told us, you handled yourself well in a stressful situation. Regardless of the circumstance, you demonstrated the qualities I want to see in my explorers— and in any good person." The rounded Pokemon tipped his head forward, doing a bow as best as his body could manage. Cromwell's talons kept him firmly gripping Wendell's tuft of hair, although the bird seemed dismayed by the bow all the same. "Thank you." The gesture seemed to alert Vivian, although whatever meaning it had was lost on Fera. The Eevee quickly bowed her head in turn.

"I-it was nothing, really! I… I only wanted to do what my friends would've done for me. Thank you, Wendell…" Even if she couldn't sense the mix of emotions coming off of the other girl, Fera could see the conflicted blush on Vivian's face as she spoke. Wendell soon lifted his head back up, clasping his pink hands together.

"Given the general stress of this evening, I don't think there's a need to compound it with punishment. I trust you as I do with anyone I have under my roof. You're absolved of the aforementioned extra work, as long as you can remember to respect the sanctity of our rules from here onward." Wendell tilted his head to one side with a smile, and Cromwell hopped off, not wanting to stay clinging on the spot any longer.

"With all due respect, I cannot allow that… you don't teach someone a lesson by letting them off easy! The consequences of their actions are not a punishment…" Cromwell, who had been focusing his annoyance on the trio, glanced in Wendell's direction. The Wigglytuff had begun shooting him a menacing smile, still with his head cheerily tilted to one side, and the bird squawked. "Okay, fine! I get it!" Wendell tilted his head back up and let his smile return to normal, as Cromwell made a tired sigh. "What I meant to say… apparently… was that the guildmaster is correct. You aren't fully to blame for what happened tonight." Wendell stared with an aimless smile at the bird, waiting for the next part. "And… ugh… I'm sorry, to each of you, for my reaction. I should be happy that you're safe, and the information gathered about Wish Cave will be beneficial in the future." Cromwell glared over at his superior, who was nothing short of cheerful at the bird's reluctant new speech.

"Golly… I think this makes it worth gettin' blown into a wall by a concentrated beam of light." Bennett gave a hearty chuckle, followed by a wince from some rib pain. Fera leaned down to pat her fellow explorer on the back, causing him to flop forward off of his unsteady legs. "Please don't do that right now. Heh."

"Oops. Sorry…" Fera matched her friend's chuckle, and stood upright with her paws on her hips. "Well, this was fun, I think. But can we go eat now? We kinda all missed dinner, and I… like dinner, a lot."

"Almost. We had one last thing to discuss with you, Fera." Cromwell let his feathers settle, his eyes darting over to a corner of the room before returning to the Riolu. "Over the past weeks, we couldn't trace your badge or your bag back to anywhere, neither Eudria nor Vaudelain. No ships could account for you, and no sightings either. I wanted to start by apologizing for getting your hopes up, as we did." The Riolu's head tilted forward, the girl contemplating the gravity of his words.

"Yeah… I guess I thought that might happen. I was looking forward to knowing what happened to me…" Her mind wandered to the vision again. Before. What was before? Where did the feeling come from? Nothing had stirred in her memory, only the recollection of that feeling. But, perhaps, it could be uprooted. It could be prodded and probed to reveal more. If it could happen again, maybe the answers would come. She forced herself back into reality after her thoughts had overtaken her. "It's okay. I'll figure out who I am on my own time, if that's what I need to do. As it stands, I'm enjoying where I am." The Riolu gave a smile, willing herself out of the mental recluse she had begun to withdraw into.

"I had figured you might feel that way… I'm relieved all the same." Cromwell closed his eyes, mulling over how to continue. "In addendum, we wanted to state that your work here at the Wigglytuff Guild has been appreciated, especially in regards to your troubling circumstances. Given the skill you've demonstrated as an explorer, we would be glad to offer you full trainee status, and move you along the path toward graduation." His eyes opened, and the Chatot waddled forward, then extended a wing for Fera to shake. Fera reached out, before recalling her paw.

"I wanna accept, but only on one condition." Fera pointed her paw down at the Eevee beside her. "You have to make her a trainee, too."

Vivian and Cromwell both yelped out in surprise, while Wendell gave an exaggerated gasp at the comment, and Bennett was forced to remain more muted in his surprise. Cromwell was the first to respond, flapping his wings indignantly. "Excuse me?! You don't get to make conditions on our offer! And absolutely not!" Fera frowned down at the bird, smacking a fist against her chest boldly.

"But Vivian did just as well as I did tonight, in a real explorer situation! And she's wanted to join the guild for a while, I can tell. It'd be silly not to let her try, at least. Right?" Fera glanced around at the others in the room, trying to see who would continue her sentiment. Cromwell continued to make shrill complaints, noting the girl's lack of experience and a whole assortment of other excuses, before Wendell clapped his hands together.

"Sure, Vivian can join if she wants." The same beaming smile came from the guildmaster, causing his administrator to squawk once more in dismay, nearly fainting at the notion. Wendell stepped forward to address the Eevee directly. "Is that something you want, Vivian? You've definitely got the skills for it, but I want to hear it from you."

"W-well…" Vivian huffed and collected herself. She was unprepared to have a spotlight put on her, but she already knew her answer. "Yeah. I've wanted to be an explorer for a long time, and… after tonight, I think I could actually do it. Sorry, Dad." Vivian tried to be bashful, but her tail had already begun to wag from Wendell's offer. The Wigglytuff's calming smile made it all but certain that he had been waiting for Vivian to come out with this.

"Then it's settled! We're welcoming in two trainees tomorrow. You three should hurry off to bed, because it's going to be a busy day getting things set up. We have to get you gear!" Wendell's mind was already racing in delight from the thought of training new pupils, while Cromwell chirped out from his dramatic position of lying on the floor.

"My baby giiiirl…" The Chatot made a dismal noise after his comment, well aware that the guildmaster's call was all that mattered here. Bennett trotted carefully over to Vivian's side, a plain grin on his innocent face.

"Gosh… you're finally in the guild, Vivian! Told you it'd be that easy!"

The Eevee's ears returned to being flattened against her head. "Absolutely nothing about tonight was easy, Bennett…" Despite her words, her tail wouldn't cease its wagging.

"Well, this was a productive night!" Wendell laughed softly. "Oh, and as for dinner, I already asked Janette to make something for after our talk. So get your food and then head off to bed, explorers!" Fera and Bennett gave a salute, while Vivian came down from her delight enough to look at her overreacting father. "Don't worry about him. He's having heart palpitations at the worst, but he'll be fine. I'm sure he'll be happy to see an Eevee ready for her work tomorrow."

"Y-yeah. Thank you… guildmaster!" Vivian bowed her head once more, then shot up as Fera whizzed past her, the Riolu having waited for an end to the discussion so that she could go collect her food. The Eevee wheeled around and chased after her dinner-seeking friend, as Bennett waddled behind and gained speed at the promise of the meal he missed. Cromwell lifted his wing up as the children left.

"Don't go into anymore caves…"

The chill wind had begun to pass, only lightly fluttering by the guild's cliff and causing the calming to die down with time. Fera's mind had moved off of it, her focus now on the pitter patter of delighted bouncing coming from the bunk bed above hers. Fera had already been relegated to a floor-level bed after the crushing incident from before, but Tai had now been moved to the bunk above Bennett, and Vivian occupied the spot above the Riolu. Even in the darkness of the bedroom, Tai and Bennett could see the puffball dancing with joy in her bedding.

"Can you believe it? I'm an explorer! I'm actually an explorer~ Thank you so much, Fera!" The Eevee bounced once more, before fumbling backwards onto her rear and stayed seated there, giving a small giggle.

"Nothing to thank me for. You're the one that did all the work." Fera reclined in her bed, sharing in the joy that she felt emanating off the other girl. She did her best to ignore the feelings of frustration coming from the other side of the bedroom, as Tai spoke up.

"Yeah, we know, it's very good. Maybe you could be loud about it in the morning instead." The Stunky frowned in his bed, trying to nestle his head against the bedding and drown out the noise. Vivian looked over at him with a meek grin.

"Sorry, I'm just… really excited about this. I get to sleep in an explorer bed like a real explorer!"

"Don't you already have a really nice bed that you sleep in normally?"

"Sure… but I'm not gonna sleep in it anymore. It wouldn't be fair to other people if I got special treatment." Vivian's tail wagged slowly, although she knew she would likely soon miss the luxury of a single-occupant bedroom. Still, she would take it in stride. Tai grumbled a response that he didn't bother to make into a full argument, lying down flat on his stomach.

"Well…" Bennett chimed in from below the sour Stunky. "All things considered, you should probably get some rest, Vivian. Don't wanna start your career off with a bad sleep schedule."

"I will, I will. I'm just…" Vivian's ears pressed on the sides of her head again, although her smile persisted. "I'm really happy, and really nervous."

The Riolu called out from below. "What's there to be nervous about? You're gonna be a great explorer, I know it."

"I know I probably can be one, but… it's a lot. A lot of responsibilities." Vivian sighed softly, lying to rest on her side. "My dad's probably going to try and let me have it easy to start, but after that, I might… mess stuff up. A lot."

"Aww, Vivian…" Bennett glanced up at the girl from his bed, a smile on his friendly face. "Of course you'll mess up a lot." The Eevee and Riolu both looked at him in confusion, with Fera's expression more bothered than Vivian's.

"Hey…" The Riolu sat up in her bed.

"Now, now, lemme finish. Vivian." Bennett met Vivian's gaze, not moving much else to keep his soreness from acting up. "Think about me. I mess up a lot, don't I?"

"Uhmmm…" Vivian's eyes wandered away from the Bidoof. Her mind raced with how she was going to address the dismal question in a polite manner, and Bennett rolled his eyes before interrupting the awkwardness.

"Vivian, stop bein' polite and level with me."

"Y-yeah, you mess up sometimes."

"Uh-huh. And it's not fun to mess up, I can tell ya." The Bidoof slowly sat up, willing to take some strain to show his focus on the subject matter. "But does that make me less of an explorer? No, it doesn't, because I still do what an explorer needs to do." Bennett patted his chest proudly. "Does it mean I'm not progressing? Not even close, I'm better every day. And does it matter what mistakes I make, as long as I fix them and make sure not to let other people get hurt? Not a darn bit."

The Eevee's expression had gone from shy to alert, taking in what the Bidoof was saying. Tai, at this point, hopped down from his bed, interested in the prospect of an empty single bedroom somewhere else in the guild, and a room without so much chatter at that.

"Of course you're gonna mess up. Everyone does! Maybe not as much as I do, but it's there." Bennett flopped back onto his side, not wanting to tweak his back in his current position, but his eyes stayed on Vivian. "So don't even think about it. What good is there in thinking about mistakes you haven't made yet?"

"Yeah," Fera joined in, "and we'll be here to support you through it. Bennett already helped me with a lot of stuff, so now I can help you."

"I… I guess so. It's still a bit scary, but I'll deal with it." Vivian's worry shifted to serenity, the smile creeping back onto her face. She was too tired to maintain anxiety at this rate, so better to accept what the two were saying. "Thanks, guys."

"Nothin' to blame you for. I was twice as scared an' half as competent when I first started." Bennett yawned slowly after his comment, thoroughly drained of energy at this point. "We'll talk more in the mornin', alright?"

"Alright. Good night, Bennett, Fera." The Eevee curled up in the bedding, getting herself warm and cozy. It wasn't quite like her old bed, but it would do. This room, with her fellow explorers… it would do.

It was not a night for rest, perhaps. A tickle in the back of Fera's mind drew her from the state of near slumber, and back into consciousness. Her eyes slowly opened, then drifted over to Bennett. She wanted to get her mind off of things.

"Bennett… you awake?" Her comment was a formality. She could feel that he was awake, or at least not fully asleep. The Bidoof's head tilted lazily in her direction.

"Mostly… somethin' troublin' you?"

"Wish Cave, and… Jirachi, all that. It grants wishes, right?" Fera sat up in bed, not able to feign tiredness. "Was there some wish you wanted to have granted?"

"Well…" Bennett closed his eyes, seeming strained in his response. "Not at first. Wish Cave was jus' a thing we all heard an' talked about, but no one ever got closer to findin' out where the Wishmaker was. No point in chasin' after fairy tales, anyway, when we had so much other stuff to focus on. Magical wish-grantin' pixie people aren't as important as feedin' the townsfolk."

Fera nodded quietly.

"Of course, I was curious all the same. I figured, if this place is so close to the guild an' the mystery was still undiscovered, I've got just as good a chance as anyone to find it out. An' that's what explorin's about, right? That's what it started as." Bennett rolled from his side to his back, his eyes opening to watch the underside of the bunk above him. "But then… well, then you showed up."

The Riolu grew worried at the remark, waiting to hear the Bidoof's hopeful justification.

"I was worried for you. I figured, it mus' be rough to not know where home is, to risk losin' the stuff from your past. I know I'd be worried sick if I thought I was forgettin' family or somethin' I needed to do." Bennett frowned. "I don't want you to have to go without your past. Happy life here or not, it matters. An' then I figured, what if the Wishmaker could get your memory back?"

"So… that was the wish, then." Fera glanced away, unable to avoid a tinge of guilt of learning her association with this.

"Yeah. I started diggin' back into all the old books an' lore about the stuff. An' I asked Cromwell to reopen the expedition into Wish Cave, but… you saw how that went."

Bennett returned his attention to the Riolu, finally noticing her concern and trying to dispel it.

"I don't wanna sound like I was doin' you some favor by doin' it. I jus' felt like… it's what we're supposed to do, right? Helpin' people in need." Another soft sigh. "But, for now… doesn't look like that wish is comin' true any time soon. Even if that thing can grant wishes, I don't think a second run through will do me any better. Sorry that this tree didn't bear any fruit, pal."

"Bennett… you don't have to do something like that for me." Fera clenched her fists in bed. The promise of her memories tantalized her, but it was less important right now. "I do wanna know my past, if I can. It feels bad not to know, even. But, if there's no one looking for me, nothing that says I should be somewhere else… then things are fine, right?"

Bennett reluctantly nodded. The Riolu fell back into her bed.

"If something pops up and the pieces fall into place, I'll go where I need to be. Until then, where I need to be is here, doing the things explorers do."

"I guess that's a good way to look at it. But you gotta promise you'll actually up an' leave if you need to. No gettin' cozy here just 'cause it's familiar." The Bidoof lazily waggled his nail at her to drive home his stern decree. Fera smiled in the darkness, and let her eyes close.

"I can promise you, I'll be gone before you know it. But don't blame me if I come back every once in a while to see some old friends."

"I think I can look the other way on that." The Bidoof smiled, and, with that, he let himself finally drift off. Maybe the wish was a silly idea, after all.

In the guildmaster's chamber, Cromwell flapped in the air briefly while his talons sorted through a stack of papers. He'd soon have to begin creating and organizing the explorer records for Vivian, and the thought of the peril he'd be assigning to her made him shudder. Still, his work would be done at the guildmaster's behest, no matter how frustrating or worrisome it was. Wendell had preoccupied himself on the other end of the room with admiring and aligning a small collection of trinkets, much less work than it was an idle pastime. A yellow plate here, a stone talisman there, and altogether a delight to behold. It kept him in much better spirits than his companion.

"This has been one of the most dreadful nights of my career… I don't think I'll be getting a wink of sleep. You owe me for the overtime I'll be working instead of resting." The Chatot frowned and turned around, lazily shaking the tip of his wing at the Wigglytuff as if to threaten him with a delicate slap. Wendell turned as well, still fiddling with two metal doohickeys that seemed almost perfect to fit into each other, although they never did.

"Oh, it's not that bad… it's a good night, since it's bringing a lot of good things. Vivian's going to stretch her wings, and we've got a lot to explore with Wish Cave." Wendell turned away, pressing the objects together in another pattern, before reluctantly putting them down in the box he had pulled them from. "Not that we'll be doing it right away, but it's quite a marvel."

"Hmph… good things or not, I don't know if letting them off so easily was the right move. How is Fera going to respect us if she thinks we'll praise her whenever she does something wrong?" Cromwell frowned as he flipped between some of the papers, soon realizing one seemed to be missing, and letting go of the stack to leave the annoying task for later. Wendell could only chuckle softly from the sounds of the Chatot's busywork.

"I want to say… you're just mad because you couldn't lay into Fera a bit more." Wendell hummed lazily, taking a Moon Stone from his collection and wiggling it about in his hands. "You didn't think she could go on a rescue mission like that, and I'm certain you didn't expect her to be able to handle a legendary Pokemon. And you have to grapple with all of that before giving your lecture in the morning." Cromwell made a squawking scoff from the remarks, finally stepping away from the bothersome papers to waddle in the guildmaster's direction.

"Hmph! I may be a small bird, but I'm not that small of a person." The Chatot took a moment to reaffirm his morals internally, making sure that he actually wasn't that small of a person. "Yes, Fera should've been unequipped for such trials… but I have no qualms with her overcoming them. I'm glad she's okay."

"That's always good to hear. So, what's with all the shouty-pouty bad vibes?" Wendell spoke amidst his humming, laying the Moon Stone gently next to its accompanied Sun Stone.

"It's just… you know. The badge."

Wendell let his humming come to an early end, glancing over to his left. The damaged badge that the Riolu had brought them was secured in a stone box, but the Wigglytuff felt its presence without needing to see it. He nodded quietly.

"Ahh… I understand. I'm going to keep tinkering with it, though."

"Any new insight on it? It can't just end here."

"All I can figure is that the badge has been inactive and broken for a long while. And the damage on it is genuine wear-and-tear, not something that happened overnight. No signs of rust or degradation from the sea, either. And even the name's been carved in there for a good amount of time." Wendell let his hands rest idly in front of him. He had lost the motivation to continue his amusement. Cromwell stared at the box from his position in the center of the room, as if he was hoping the badge would reveal something to him under his watchful eye.

"It just doesn't make sense… how did she have a badge from our guild?" The bird huffed out his words with dismay. "It could just be one that fell out of circulation, but… what about her, then? She has no reason to lie to us, if all she wants is to be in the guild. Her qualifications are strong and her dedication is self-evident."

Wendell crossed his arms, his body swaying from side to side gently as he mulled through his troubled thoughts. "Our records don't match up to a girl even similar to Fera having worked with us, and we don't have anything physical to show us who the badge belonged to. And none of her memories have been jogged since she showed up here… it's unlikely that they ever will be."

"Awful… it feels awful to have been stumped like this." Cromwell shook his head. "Perhaps she just had some accident, and wandered across the badge prior to it. But it doesn't feel right."

"It's quite an un-right situation. But, possibly, that could maybe be the case." Wendell sat up, ready to begin some work with the issue fresh in his mind. "I'll get in contact with the towns nearby, and ask for any signs of a Riolu passing by."

"Hopefully, there will be something to follow with that…" Cromwell grimaced at the box. From within its stony tomb, he could feel the specter of the badge, bearing down on him with the premonition that Wendell's search would be fruitless. The guildmaster lifted his hands up, took in air, and closed his eyes. He let the negativity wash over and through him, and, once it had run its course, he lowered his hands, exhaled, and opened his eyes.

"If not, then it's in the past. 'Fera' is part of the guild now, and we'll make sure that she's welcome. Whatever brought her here will make itself apparent when it needs to, or stay lost and not a problem." He marched away from his trinket collection, taking up a piece of parchment to draft notes for his message to the towns.

"Thoroughly unpleasant… but, at least for now, I won't fret on things I can't control." Finally, Cromwell pried his attention from the box, his vigor renewed for the menial tasks at hand. Still, the image of the girl stayed present in his mind. He mimicked the guildmaster in poor fashion, throwing up his wings and then making a bothered sigh. It was the best he could do, but at least the effort helped remove some stress. "We'll see what comes of her in due time."
Chapter 11: Lady In Lavender New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 11: Lady in Lavender

Another morning, much like all the others. The days would differentiate themselves with enough time, but the mornings would often stay the same for Fera. At most, the start to her day would vary by whether she could wake up before or after Valo gave his daily screech. But, now, the sound of delicate snoring, and the vibrations of another aura from above her, roused her from her sleep more easily. The recollection of the previous night was a rush for Fera's dozing mind, but she concluded her thoughts with a smile. It had been a good thing in the end.

"RISE AND SHINE, TRAINEES!" The booming voice of the Noivern filled the room, quickly drawing the other three explorers from their slumber as well. With her small headstart in the day, Fera sat up and stretched, preparing herself for yet more work. Perhaps it would be different with her supposed promotion?

Bennett limply rolled from his bed to the floor, sticking the landing despite his mild soreness. The Bidoof outstretched his front legs like a feline Pokemon, trying to wake his body further much like the Riolu. Tai, who had been returned to his bed after getting caught in his brief stint sleeping in Vivian's old room, muttered numerous grievances and aggressions before finally sitting up. His frizzy fur could be matted down easily with some grooming, but he wouldn't care to do it until he could remember that he'd get yelled at for it, so it remained in a frayed state for the time being. Vivian woke with a jolt when the screech came, then yawned slowly— even with whatever cushy room she had been accustomed to, there was no avoiding an early wake-up with Valo on every floor, so the Eevee was stirred easily from her rest.

"Maaaan… getting up early isn't as fun when it means work, I guess." The Eevee giggled sleepily after she spoke, trotting over to the ladder beside the bunk bed. She hopped down from one rung to the next, reaching the floor by the time Fera had gotten up to stretch more efficiently. The Riolu bent forward and tapped at her toes, then rose up and stretched towards the ceiling.

"Probably not. But no giving up just yet on the explorer work. Not even Tai gives up on stuff without getting annoyed enough first." Fera leaned to her side to exercise herself further, glancing at Tai, who wasn't alert enough yet to give her backtalk. Vivian stretched her legs individually and tried to match Fera's brisk pace.

"No giving up at all. I'm ready." Vivian whined as she pressured her muscles, then flopped forward onto her belly from her persistent exhaustion. She sheepishly smiled up to the Riolu monitoring her. "I'll be ready after breakfast."

"I figured. Let's get a move on, yeah?"

The morning routine came naturally to Vivian. Eating was no different than before, although the rookie did stuff her mouth a tad more to make sure she'd have some energy to work with. Morning stretches were no trouble with the girl's preparation in the bedroom, and she was allotted her first chance as an explorer to hassle Tai for not putting in effort. Lastly, the morning chant, which she had always observed from afar and sometimes murmured in privacy, flew from her lips with ease. The trainees that hadn't spotted her among their ranks during the earlier parts of the morning now noticed her eager tail wagging as she recited the lines verbatim. Finally, the chant concluded.

"Well, now…" Cromwell's gaze went across the gathering of trainees. His eyes naturally wandered to Vivian, and the bird let out a weak sigh under his breath. "Onward to today's work." The small Flying-type Pokemon fluttered up, heading to the stairs to reach the mission floor and bringing a swarm of younger Pokemon along behind him. On the floor above, the numerous Pokemon were given their work across the town and in the area surrounding it. Bennett trotted off with glee at his occupation managing a shipment in the marketplace, and Tai and Lily begrudgingly buddied up to begin a long day of surveillance at an outpost north of town. Fera and Vivian were called last to Cromwell's side.

"Dad…" Vivian spoke, then yipped and tried to correct herself. "Uhm, I mean, administrator! What's my explorer work for the day?" The Eevee smiled anxiously, trying to bridge the gap and make the situation less difficult for herself and her father.

"No real explorer work yet, obviously… we're starting you off slow." The Chatot huffed. "You're going to head down to the tailor on the southwest end of the market."

"Guard work outside the tailor shop, huh? I can work with it." Fera clenched her fists, making a jabbing motion as if to fend off some theoretical tailor-robbing outlaw. Cromwell squawked in frustration to disrupt the fantasy.

"No! Not fighting people! You're going to get fitted for garments! Goodness…" The Chatot's easily-elevated blood pressure could be heard in his words, and the Riolu reluctantly let her fists uncurl.

"Oh." The Riolu glanced at the ground, then back up to the bird. "For fighting?"

"For being explorers!"

"Okayyyy, okay. Sorry." The Riolu huffed and nodded, putting her palms on her hips. "For being explorers is good too." Vivian restrained a giggle at her friend's persistence.

"Well, I was getting ready to apply myself, but… getting an accessory to show myself as an explorer will be nice too. I wonder if people in town will notice… oh, and what kind of garment?" Vivian's tail wagged slightly, now shifting her sights on this new facet of becoming an explorer.

"You're free to decide for yourselves. Garments are more a matter of preference than necessity, but it helps to have something that differentiates the guild members from the civilians, and is useful for sporting badges." Cromwell settled some of the puffed-out feathers on his chest. The strains of an already busy work day compounded with his worries for Vivian were taking a minor toll.

"So… just clothes? And what else?"

"For the last time… nothing else, you'll have a short day. Enjoy it while it lasts." Cromwell motioned to the stairway with his right wing. "Don't dawdle, explorers."

Vivian gave a proud salute with her paw, hopping forward and speaking back to Fera as she went. "C'mon! I know where the tailor is already, let's get this going." The Riolu came hurrying after her, leaving Cromwell, for a short period of time, to be free of his worrisome headache as he shifted focus to other matters.

As in any other day, the market was abuzz with townsfolk and strangers ready to trade. By now, Fera had learned their chaotic movements enough to keep close to Vivian while the smaller girl ushered her along. The patterns and momentum of the aimless buyers felt less random each time she had witnessed it, allowing her to move as one with the swarm. Once they had splintered off from the main flow of traffic, the number of bystanders rapidly diminished, until they walked a path whose customers were low in number and busy at the stands with their own affairs.

Finally, Vivian stopped outside a cherry-colored building that bore an insignia over its doorway: a leaf with a thread pattern along its surface. Fera had seen this structure infrequently during her patrols and passing tasks, as far as she could recall, but it did little to draw in the eye or keep one's attention, outside of its coloration. A small sign situated near the entrance simply read "CRAFTED WITH HEART".

"I'm surprised you remembered a place like this. It's not really… rememberable." Fera shrugged, not feeling a need to sugarcoat her assessment of the workplace.

"I came with Bennett here when he first joined the guild. He was pretty bad with directions, so I helped him find the way and kept him some company. And I guess it was just a plain nice memory, so the location stuck." Vivian grew more cheerful as she recounted the pleasant tale, then looked to the building once more. She approached the entrance's door and tapped on it a few times with her paw. "Luraiya! It's Vivian and my friend! I think we need to get garments!"

"Oh!" A woman's surprised voice returned the call from inside. "Right on time, I would say. Just a moment!" A series of rustling sounds followed. A heavy clank came, and the door opened after the momentary wait. A Leavanny peered down at the young duo with a warm smile, her scythed hand holding open the door for them. "Apologies. I'd been working on personal projects while I waited. I hope you weren't outside for long. Please, come."

"Not long at all, don't worry. And thank you." Vivian smiled softly to the familiar face, then trotted into the building with Fera in tow.

The building's interior, while having enough space for work in theory, was cramped and crowded with all sorts of contraptions. There were wires for hanging exotic fabrics, stretchers and measures for discerning exact lengths and sizes, chests and boxes with lids ajar from recent access, and a clutter of chairs visible in another room through a doorway. If one hadn't known better, they might argue that a hurricane had somehow struck the building from within— Fera did consider the idea, if briefly.

"Mind the mess, if possible. It's a slow season for me, and my mind is always racing when my scythes are idle… I do apologize." The mantis Pokemon held her scythed hands before her torso, bowing slightly as if to demonstrate her words further.

"It's fiiiine, you don't have to be all worried. As long as you can make some things, a mess won't bother us." Vivian held back a giggle from Luraiya's overly apologetic words, wanting to console the woman. Once the bow had ended, she glanced toward the hanging fabrics on a wall nearby. "You have a lot of options, huh… I should've decided on something on the way over."

"Take your time. I have a larger selection in my storage, so feel free to ask for samples to observe. But first, could I have your name, dear?" The Leavanny turned to the Riolu, who had been marveling at both the fabric options and the disarray.

"Oops, sorry. I'm Fera." The Riolu extended a paw to the Leavanny, who placed a razor-sharp scythe tip on it in return. The two shook hands, incredibly cautiously.

"I'm Luraiya, as Vivian said. And it's a pleasure to meet you. Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment…" The Leavanny did not wait for samples to be asked for, already scuttling off to one of the chests to retrieve them on a whim.

Vivian finally let a gentle laugh come out at the woman's mannerisms, and then returned her attention to the materials on display. She had to choose something that had a shape and a coloration that showed the world an explorer. Crimson, turquoise, and even a chalky black, but the one that stuck with her was a streak of lavender. It was a soft shade of purple that pleased the eye, and the material it was on seemed rather soft and free-flowing to boot. When Luraiya returned with a case of materials in her grasp, Vivian turned to her with an eager little smile.

"Could I… uhm, could we use that purple one?" Her paw lifted to point it out. "I think I want it as a bow, if that's alright…" The Eevee pushed past her bashfulness to add one more detail. "And, a little pattern on it. Just anything that you think would look good with it."

Luraiya smiled in return, and nodded. "I'm glad you found something that resonates with you so fast. I'll get to work on it once I've got your friend's request." Luraiya focused herself on Fera and knelt down before the other girl, showing the assortment of fabric samples to her. Fera shook her head quickly.

"I already know what I want. Green, please!"

"Is that so?" Luraiya chuckled softly with her words, stepping up and strolling back to the set of cases she had brought this one from. She replaced it with another, a box of similar shape and design but with a different marking on its lid. Once it was obtained, she came back and knelt once more before Fera, opening the box to her. This new case had twenty or more different shades of green, mossy green and forest green and neon green and many others that the Riolu could not name. Fera held her paw up to select one, although it quivered with indecision.

"U-uh… didn't know green had so many versions…" Fera scratched the back of her head, while her other paw aimlessly wavered over the case, unable to discern what it would choose.

"No worries. There's no wrong answer for what you want, so take your time, dear." Luraiya waited patiently in place. After deep deliberation, the Riolu pressed her paw on one of the samples.

"I think this one. And, uhm, as a scarf, please." Her paw rested atop a pale green fabric, and her feelers flicked up in some display of delight.

"That sounds lovely, dear." Luraiya waited for Fera to withdraw her paw before standing back upright. "Any additional components? I'm not capable of doing anything fantastical, but I'd like to give your scarf something of its own, if I may."

"Well…" Fera furrowed her brow. Just figuring out the color was a small trial alone, but having to decide some other fashionable or admirable aspect pushed her further. Soon, though, her mind had settled. "I want a bit of black and a bit of white on it. I like contrast."

"Interesting! Black and white on green isn't typical. I'll gladly add that for you." Luraiya wandered away and returned the sample case to its resting place. In its place, she returned with a thin and long rope wrapped loosely around both of her scythes, bearing a small red marking every centimeter. "If you don't mind, I'll measure you two now."

"Go ahead." Fera gave an affirmative smile.

The Leavanny nodded and walked around to Fera's back, lowering herself down once more. From Fera's view, two scythes descended until they rested below her chin. She couldn't help but give a nervous gulp at the realization of how close they'd be to her, and the scythes pulled back to press the measuring rope against and around her neck. The rope wrapped around, and Luraiya lifted up one of her scythes to observe the girl's neck.

"The little bauble on your neck makes it a smidge hard to measure, but I believe I've got it." The rope unfurled and the scythes pulled away, causing Fera to breathe a faint sigh of relief. The Leavanny laughed quietly. "I'm sorry, I should've made it clear that I'd be up close. But I assure you, I wouldn't be in this line of work if I couldn't keep my scythes controlled. I'll warn you in the future, though."

"Th-thanks." Fera hopped away from the bug Pokemon, letting Vivian replace her. The Eevee sat down, patiently allowing the Leavanny to wrap the rope into her mane, and the process was done in a matter of seconds.

"That's all done, then. I'll get to work on Fera's first, and yours after, Vivian. If my mark is right, you'll both look splendid, I'd hope." Luraiya began to wander off once more, snatching some fabric and threads from a box nearby. "Come, come."

The Eevee smiled up at the ever-busy woman, as the two followed her along into the back rooms to watch the magic.

Vivian sat patiently in one of the seats provided to her. As a passing fancy, Fera had suggested the two stay separate until their garments had both been finished, so that they could show them off to each other at the same time. The Riolu had situated herself outside of the woman's workshop as a result, adorned with her mystery scarf and waiting impatiently for Vivian to come outside with the aforementioned bow. She tried not to attract any attention to herself, wanting Vivian to be the first friend that would see the accessory she had already begun to cherish.

Luraiya hummed and chirped a tune across from Vivian, her back turned to the girl as she continued her work. The melody of some song with words long forgotten still hung in her mind and danced on her tongue, but was at times hard to hear amidst the rapid swish-slash sounds that the woman's scythes generated. The twin blades moved faster than Vivian's mind could think, wildly pulling in more fabric and threads, and immediately weaving them into perfect lines for the bow. Vivian had given up trying to discern how Luraiya did it many minutes ago, only occasionally glancing at the frantic yet focused movements of the woman's elbows as they accommodated the scythes' work. Shortly after, the humming concluded, and the scythes whipped away from the spot they had been fixed on for quite some time.

"There we are! Come here, dear." Luraiya glanced over to the patient Eevee, whose ears went up at the call. Vivian hurriedly bounded over to where Luraiya had been working, getting seated in front of a mirror that the woman had set aside for the occasion. In a few deft movements, the lavender fabric was swung around Vivian's ear, then neatly tied into a precious bow that rested against the girl's head. On one loop of the bow was a set of three squares, a lighter shade of purple used to make a simplistic design that would set it apart from a simple piece of fabric. The Leavanny's scythes removed themselves, giving the girl a clear view of herself. "All set, I believe. How does it suit you, dear?"

Vivian smiled to herself in the mirror, tilting her head from one side to the other to inspect the bow. She read and studied over almost every inch of the well-crafted fabric, taking in the image of it and the image of herself. Soon, her head rested neutral, and her expression began to falter. Her eyes focused on the adorable bow and its pattern. She spoke up abruptly.

"It's… very nice, Luraiya. Thank you."

The Leavanny, watching the Eevee dutifully in the mirror, seemed to lose some of her ever-present delight. She had already picked up on the girl's odd response. "Is there something wrong with it?"

"No, no! It's not bad, don't worry…"

"Well… could you at least tell me how you feel about it? I don't have a right to a joyous reaction, but your demeanor left me a bit perturbed. Do you not enjoy the bow?" Luraiya kneeled down, keeping herself eye-level with Vivian and studying the bow in the mirror as well.

"It's a cute bow. And it's really nicely made, but…" Vivian's ears lowered down. "It's more babyish than I thought it would look… on me, I mean. The purple is really nice, but when it's a bow on a little Eevee's head… people might think I'm a newborn. I'm sorry…"

Luraiya patted the girl's back with her scythe. "I understand, dear. Not everything is as we had envisioned it. Would you want me to craft something else?"

"Maybe… but, I don't really have any money on me."

The Leavanny shook her head. "Your father paid in advance and paid well. I haven't exhausted enough time or supplies to meet the cost that he covered. And even if I had, I could do it as a favor."

"Then… I suppose another garment would be nice. Maybe just, a blue scarf to go with Fera's…" The Eevee sighed while watching herself, then let her eyes go to the floor. "I really am sorry, still." The Leavanny stood up, her scythe leaving the girl's body.

"No more apologies, dear. Just positive thoughts from here, alright? We're making things better." Luraiya slowly scuttled towards one of her fabric chests. The seamstress opened it with a deep creaking sound and searched through its depths.

"I know. But I'll still worry about this stuff." Vivian reached a paw up to feel one of the bow's tassels. It was as soft as she had hoped, maybe even more, but it didn't fix the situation. "If a Jolteon or a Leafeon wore a bow like this, it wouldn't be a problem. But Eevees are always seen as kids, even when we're not. People expect you to be something other than an Eevee by the time you're my age."

Luraiya's eyes moved over to the girl, who kept watching herself in the mirror during their conversation, then returned to rummaging through her supplies. "I don't think that's worth worrying about, dear. You'll know who and what you are, even if they don't."

"It's just…" Vivian huffed, again fixing her gaze on the lavender bow. "They're not wrong to see me like that, is what I'm worried about. My dad doesn't want me doing any serious work yet because I have so little experience, and even my friends in the guild still see me as the little kid. They won't see me as an explorer, and I might not even be one. And I don't know if I can change that, without changing a lot about myself all at once."

Luraiya kept her eyes away as she started to speak again. Her movements slowed down, although the woman tried not to divide her focus. "You know… when I was first brought into town, many of the townsfolk said that I wouldn't amount to much. And even the patrons I had were wary of supporting me as a tailor. And you know what?"

Vivian turned her head from the mirror. "What?"

"At first, they were right. I was a miserable tailor." Luraiya gave a soft and endearing laugh. "Skill with cutting things isn't the same as skill with weaving things, and I didn't realize it when I started my workshop."

"Oh." Vivian frowned.

"I was in over my head for a time. But only for a time." Luraiya pulled out a strand of ribbon from the chest. "I just kept trying. They couldn't stop me from doing that. I tried a little harder every day, and I got a little better every day, until I was quite good, if I may say so. So what if I wasn't a tailor then? I'm a tailor now."

Vivian's sour expression lessened as she looked back to her reflection. She tilted her head again to observe the bow anew.

"People might see you as a bit childish. And, for a time, they might be right. But, if you get a little better every day, then you'll be that good explorer sooner than you might think. And no amount of them seeing you the wrong way will be able to change it."

Vivian would've nodded if she hadn't been preoccupied. She kept turning her head, trying to discern her garment further. Babyish, maybe, but it was cute all the same. It wasn't pink like so many of the 'little girl' bows. Its shade of purple was regal and unique, but also humble and calming. The bow was a splash of intriguing color on her plain brown and simple cream fur, complemented by the simplistic square pattern. It was mature in its own way. And… even if none of that was true, she liked it. She had always liked it, even if her doubts had tried so hard to ruin it for her. She wanted to wear it, if only for herself.

"U-uhm, Luraiya!" The Eevee snapped out of her self-induced trance. She hopped off of the chair, and briskly walked to the Leavanny's side. "You don't need to make another garment, sorry. I should've said that sooner."

"Oh?" Luraiya smiled while lifting her head away from the chest. "A change of heart, dear?"

"I guess so. I wasn't thinking about how well the bow worked." Vivian smiled back sheepishly. "Thank you, a lot. For the bow and the talking, I mean. Thanks for both." Luraiya laughed politely, patting the girl's back while she rose to her dainty feet.

"I'm happy to be of some help. Why don't you run along and join Fera now? I think she might want to see the bow as well."

"O-oh, right! I was really out of it…" The Eevee hopped in place as her thoughts resumed, starting to dash towards the nearby exit. "Thank you again! Hope we can talk again soon!"

"Anytime, dear." The Leavanny waved goodbye to the frantic Eevee, and glanced around her disorderly workshop. Everything she crafted left more parts and pieces that would need to be cleaned up and sorted properly… eventually. For now, she would just enjoy a job well done.

Vivian pushed the workshop's front door open, her nose and then her face poking out to inspect the surroundings, being careful as to not expose the bow too early. Once she had made eye contact with the eager Riolu outside, she urged herself out, putting the new accessory on display. Fera made a quiet gasp at the sight.

"Wow… it's awesome!" The Riolu stepped over to her friend, kneeling next to Vivian and admiring the bow from several different angles. Vivian let out an awkward laugh, keeping herself still for her friend to do as she pleased.

"It's a bit cutesy, but I think it works for me."

"Hmmm… I guess it's cutesy. I just thought it looked neat. Like, regal or something." Fera stood upright, tapping at the bow's small decal. "It's got the insignia-kinda thing also, so it just seems really important."

"Really? You think so?" Vivian asked, looking up at the Riolu.

"Yeah! I bet Tai's gonna be jealous that you have something fancy. Still don't get why his earring is supposed to be cool." Fera chuckled softly, and Vivian felt compelled to join her in the laugh. It seemed that her faith wasn't misplaced.

"I'm sure Tai will still like his more. Oh, wait… what about your scarf?" The Eevee shuffled her paws slightly, glimpsing around. "Is there a reason you're not wearing it?"

"Oh yeah! Hold on." The Riolu sprang into motion, coming to her bag that was resting against a rock near the workshop's sign. She started to open it, then briefly turned back to Vivian. "Look away for a second! It's gotta be a reveal!" Vivian couldn't help but laugh once more, shifting her body until she was facing away and toward some of the trees surrounding the marketplace.

"Alright, alright." The Eevee's tail swished from side to side as she ignored the frantic ruffling sounds from the Riolu's bag. Now, she was actually quite looking forward to showing her bow off when she got back to the guild. In a matter of moments, Fera called out to regain Vivian's attention.

"You can look now."

Vivian turned back, spotting her friend dressed up with her bag and now a flowing green scarf. At its end were two small streaks, one black and one white. Fera had also begun standing in a seemingly dramatic pose, with a fist against her chest and her other arm thrown back, as though she was presenting some valiant speech to a crowd. Her gaze was away from Vivian and tilted up toward the sky, until her eyes darted over to the other girl, her head remaining in place to keep the pose intact. "Pretty explorer-like, right?"

"I think so. Not sure how many explorers do big poses, but maybe you could start the trend." Vivian walked to Fera's side, and the Riolu let her pose break to stand normally once more. "Oh, and the scarf does look pretty cool."

"Heh, thanks. Honestly, I had another idea that probably would've been cooler, but…" The girl shrugged with a bashful smile. "I guess Luraiya wasn't that into it."

"Really? She's usually pretty accommodating…" Vivian frowned as she thought, then thought a little harder and pressed her friend for more information. "What was the idea?"

"I asked if she could make a crown instead. I, uh… don't think she does crowns, now." Fera giggled meekly, and Vivian stifled herself from giving an amused snicker.

"No, she doesn't. And I don't think a crown is that much of an explorer thing… but, maybe you'll find one to call your own someday. Explorers find stranger things than that."

"I'll hold you to that. I'm expecting at least one crown in the next year, Vivian." Fera gave a more proud grin to show her joking nature, and Vivian responded by strolling along the path, back in the direction of the guild.

"You're on your own, Lady Fera. I'm good with just the bow." Vivian turned her head away as if to reject her friend's demand, and Fera made a soft faux-dissatisfied groan, following along behind the girl.

Cromwell, having freed himself from the quagmire of administrative paperwork that he had thrust himself into, studied over the duo in the guildmaster's chamber as they presented themselves to him. Shortly after, he turned his head away, his wings fiddling with a box that rested on the ground. "Very good, you two."

Fera huffed, looking down at her scarf and then back at the bird. "You don't have anything else to say? Like… a compliment related to explorer-ness?"

"A good garment does not an explorer make. I've seen plenty of Pokemon with the fanciest apparel possible, but it couldn't make them any better at loading a cargo shipment or traversing a ravine." Cromwell spoke without returning his attention to the girls, his wings flipping a latch on the box. "I hope you'll personally appreciate the garments as a mark of your progress, nonetheless."

"I guess so…" Fera pouted in silence and waited for his business to be finished. Her hopes of a dazzling shower of praise for the fashion piece were dashed thoroughly. Vivian had likewise hoped for some remark on her new clothing, but at the least, there was no great disapproval voiced. The Chatot's wings emerged from the box, holding two badges of identical detail and dragging an explorer's bag behind his body.

"Here we are. Now that you've got something to put them on, I can see what size the badges need to be." He took the badges in one wing, grabbing two pieces of parchment from a stack and a small red gemstone with the other, and lastly slung an explorer's bag over his body. The small bird approached the two kids, shuffling and shimmying in place due to the wealth of things he had become responsible for. "If you would, take the bag…" Vivian yipped and lept into action, pulling the bag's strap off of her father and putting it around herself. "Thank you."

"You don't have to carry it all at once, you know…" Vivian smiled weakly, hoping to discourage her father's overworking behavior.

"I didn't get to where I am without some multitasking abilities, dear. Anyways..." Cromwell stepped back from the duo, barely keeping hold of the objects he was multitasking with. He placed the first paper on the ground in front of him, and left the second paper, along with one of the badges, to his side. On the first parchment, Fera could see that it had listed her name, her age, her species, and her designated rank, along with a wax seal of a Wigglytuff's cheery face stamped onto the bottom of the paper. Fera spoke up as Cromwell began to fiddle with the red gemstone.

"You know my age?"

"Eh?" Cromwell squawked tiredly at the question, and the girl pointed at the ground. He glanced at the paper he had positioned in front of him. "Ah. Well, it's a rough guess. You're clearly not juvenile, but you're not showing signs of adulthood yet. For lack of a confirmed number, 16 will do."

"Ah… I guess that sounds right." Fera nodded and kept her eyes on the paper. Vivian frowned up at her friend.

"I didn't know the amnesia was that bad… I'm sorry to hear, Fera."

"It should be fine. I can get by with 16." Fera reached over and patted Vivian on the head, trying to dissuade the bad mood. Cromwell drew in their attention once more, as the red gemstone clinked against one of the badges' exposed core. The Chatot quickly put aside the gemstone, and the core of the chosen badge began to shine. He held it down and close to the parchment, before a red flash burst from the badge. It faded as soon as it had come, leaving the Riolu utterly perplexed, as Cromwell reclaimed the red gemstone and looked to Fera.

"Vivian, if you would… step away from Fera for a moment." Cromwell motioned with his wing for Vivian to move to the side, and the girl meekly did as such. The bird waddled to stand in front of Fera, glancing up to her. "Stand still. And no silly faces." Fera frowned in response, but soon neutralized her expression. The gemstone tapped against the badge once more, and Cromwell lifted the badge up to 'aim' at the Riolu. Up close, Fera could see a flickering light within the gem of the badge, growing rapidly and expanding outward like a wildfire. By the time she had processed the reaction, another red flash was emitted, washing over Fera's body, and disappearing shortly after. "There we are."

"Is that… magic?" Fera knelt down as soon as she felt free to do so, trying to observe the badge in the Chatot's clutching wing. Cromwell tiredly frowned at Fera, and Vivian spoke up to alleviate her father of the responsibility.

"Not really magic. The cores in badges are made from treated Psychic Gems, so when they have a reaction to other psionic materials…" Vivian sat back on her hind legs, using her front pair to show an expanding gesture with her paws. "It reads everything around it, and stores it! It's like a moment and place saved in time. That way, guilds can see the look of the person that the badge goes to."

"And the paperwork, which was mercifully easy to deal with. As much as it pains me to write.." Cromwell bemoaned his self-inflicted sorrow, before returning to his papers when he had accepted that no one else in the room was much invested in it.

The process was repeated with Vivian's details, and then with Vivian herself. The Eevee gave a beaming smile as the red glow struck the room again, and the expression persisted even after the psychic image was saved. Cromwell put aside the formal papers and placed the red gemstone away, taking one last look at the now-utilized badges and sighing deeply. Finally, he returned to the duo, offering them what he held. "If you're ready, please… take them."

Vivian marveled at the trinket in her father's left wing, reaching forward gingerly with her paws and taking it into her grasp. "Wow… w-wow!" She hugged the device as delicately as she could against her mane, her tail picking up speed from her delight. "I know I've seen them a ton, but… this one's mine! Wow…!"

"Yes, they're… they're yours." Cromwell's words were dragging with his reluctance to accept the situation. Still, he would power through, and he shook his other wing for Fera to take hers. "Be careful with them, understood? Now and always."

The Riolu took the badge into one paw, lifting it up to her face to inspect it. Indeed, it seemed to resemble her old broken badge from the ruined bag… from Vaudelain. Her inquisitive eyes were reflected and distorted in the badge's central red gem. No answers in there, she supposed, and the badge was lowered down to her side. The Chatot returned to the badge box and sealed it back up, situating the red gemstone beside it.

"As I've said, you're free to roam for the rest of the day. Just recall that you're doing so as members of our guild. What you do reflects on our institution." Cromwell tilted his head towards the two. Fera, still lost in her thoughts, simply nodded and saluted, then started to wander away. Vivian began to join her, sliding the badge into her new bag, before being asked to halt by her father's wing. "And, err… Vivian…"


The Chatot coughed, flapped his wings, and glanced away from his daughter. "Your bow makes you look very… explorer-like. It suits you well."

The Eevee smiled, walking to the side of the Chatot that wouldn't look her in the eye, and tilted her head forward, bonking it against him gently. "Thanks, Dad." With that, the young explorer trotted off, leaving the melodramatic administrator to sink back into his paperwork.

Chapter 12: Hard Lessons New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 12: Hard Lessons

With their introduction to guild life, Vivian began, and Fera continued, the many menial tasks and matters of the town that all trainees filled their days with. Fera persisted through it as she always did, and Vivian was helped in adjusting to the constant labor by her more experienced friends. It was difficult for some, such as Hatchet and the Eevee's father, to relay commands and harsh work orders to the girl that they had treated much like a civilian for so long. Regardless, the guild had to function as it always did, and Vivian was but another cog in that system now. In a few days' time, the Riolu and the Eevee had shown their worth as trainees, despite Fera's absentmindedness and Vivian's timidity. And, with the new role, the two also were inducted into the more involved training routine necessary of any respectable member of an explorer's guild.

Heading south from the crossroads and along the coast, a group of trainees had been escorted past the shoreline and entered into a dusty clearing amidst the trees. At the head of the group was a Croagunk, Gekkuya, that Fera had often seen lounging in the guild and taking his share in the dining hall, but never once working. When asking Hatchet about him, the sole piece of information that she received was that he was still a trainee, which had perplexed her even more. Now, seeing that he was apparently a combat instructor, she had no idea what to expect of the near stranger. Still, the idea of better developing her skills as a fighter was tantalizing. Perhaps she had been a diligent battler before? Whatever the case, Fera proceeded along in her pack, her hopes high for a test of her abilities that she could show Vivian when the two regrouped later.

Those hopes had been thoroughly dashed, as Fera stood blankly an hour into the training. She was part of the "white belt" group, the lowest tier in Gekkuya's training given that it was her first day, and was subjected to mindless physical preparation that any person already working in the guild would not need. Each white belt had been paired with a yellow belt, the tier just above, for their practice; the yellow belt would declare that they were about to strike, then strike, and the white belt would recoil back in a dodge or prepare themselves in a block to show that they could react. Fera had been matched with a Mime Jr. from the yellow belt tier, standing with her arms completely relaxed at her sides. She stared down at the smaller Pokemon.

"…strike!" With his words, the tiny trainee stepped forward, swinging a small nub of a hand to hit Fera's knee. Within a moment of his declaration, Fera had already sidestepped the attack, watching impatiently as the tiny hand sailed through the area she had been standing in. The Mime Jr. yelped at the wide miss. He already hadn't landed a hit on Fera yet, but the margin of error was growing wider and wider each time. The Psychic-type Pokemon panted weakly, growing drained from his continued failed attacks, as he looked up at the Riolu. "Y-you're, uh… a natural at this, Fera."

"Yeah… I guess so." Fera stayed in her neutral stance, resisting the urge to sit down outright due to her growing boredom. She did boast a natural advantage as a Fighting-type, but the girl had otherwise always kept herself fit with work. The exercise had well worn through her patience, and the Mime Jr. glanced away shamefully.

"S… sorry. I don't think I'm much help."

Fera sighed, relaxing her body further, letting her eyes wander the clearing. Numerous trainees surrounded her and the smaller Pokemon, some struggling with the practice and others quite adept at it. None seemed to passively endure it in the same manner as she did. She slowly stroked along the fabric of the eponymous white belt around her waist. "It's fine, J'ahl. I don't think—"

"Strike!" With his opening secured, J'ahl kicked forward in a lunge, desperately trying to make contact with his opponent. Fera's eyes darted down to the smaller Pokemon, and her body reacted. Her leg swung forward in a kick, smacking into the Mime Jr. and sending him tumbling back a couple feet. She realized what she had done a moment too late, although she wasn't sure whether or not she had to regret her action. She hurried over to the winded Mime Jr. that rested on the ground, who had begun groaning and clutching his stomach.

"Jeez… you alright? Don't startle me." Fera knelt down beside the boy, looking him over for any excessive injuries. The little mime was clearly fine, outside of some shock and enduring the impact that caused his flight. He coughed and wheezed as he regained the wind that she had knocked out of him. "Also, I was gonna say that I don't think this is a good exercise in general. You're doing fine."

"Y-you're not… supposed to hit back…"

"Yeah… and you're not supposed to do sneak attacks in this exercise. Which is stupid, because why would you NOT do sneak attacks, why would you not do the thing that the other person needs to be prepared for, why not— ugh!" Fera threw up her arms, glaring at the clear sky above her. "Why are we doing thiiiiis?!"

"Hmm… something wrong over here?" A calm and low voice spoke from behind Fera, and she turned her head. Gekkuya stood idly behind the Riolu, his arms at his sides much like she had been before her counterattack. A black belt with a red stripe was encircled along his torso. "Looks like we had a little scuffle. I don't think that's in the spirit of this exercise…"

"Yeah, well…" Fera huffed, ready to take on blame for what had occurred, as she stood up. "I think the 'spirit' of this exercise is bad. I don't know why you're making me do this, I could be a yellow belt. I could be a belt higher than a yellow belt, I bet! I'm not a rookie, you know."

"I already told you… no one skips the training. You either pass the training or you fail the training. And paying proper respect for the training is part of passing the training, soooo…" The Croagunk lazily grinned. "I could make you do another day of this same thing, if you wanted to keep being a bother about it." Fera grimaced and then glared, placing her paws on her hips defiantly.

"You know, you're being really mean, for someone that should be teaching us." The girl grunted. "It feels like you just wanna boss people around." Fera frowned at the shorter Pokemon, and Gekkuya only snickered quietly. By now, all attention had been taken from the routine exercise, the trainees instead deciding to watch the strange confrontation that had occurred between their instructor and the amnesiac. The only person who wasn't glued to the scene was J'ahl, who grumbled and groaned as he stumbled away to avoid any guilt for his sneak attack.

"I guess you could look at it like that, given your position. But that's quite mean of a way to look at it, right? If we want to be mean about things..." The Croagunk then folded his arms. "I could let you know that your little fluke at Wish Cave has gone to your head. You're acting like you're better than other trainees, you know?"

The comment struck a raw nerve with the Riolu, who stepped forward and closed the space between herself and her instructor. "Even if that was true… and it's NOT true, but even if it was, that fluke would be more meaningful than the nothing that you're having us do here. You're the one that wants to act better than other people." Sounds of intrigue and taunting came from the crowd at Fera's accusation. It seemed to be a rarity for a trainee to so outwardly oppose the instructor. Gekkuya watched Fera quietly, huffing out through his nose. He felt some sort of pressure. His eyes studied over the trainees around him… each one was feverishly awaiting a response, either to shut Fera down or to watch him crumble. Finally, he spoke up.

"So. What rank do you think you belong in, Fera?" Gekkuya scoffed and smiled. "Green? Red? You're not foolish enough to think you're a black belt, right?"

"I—" Fera bit her lip and silenced her own response. She didn't quite know which ranks meant what, outside of knowing that black belt was the highest. She feared assigning herself a notion of high skill would get her laughed down by the crowd, so she quickly shifted gears. "I would be fine being a green belt. I would be fine even being a tier below that. Anything to show you that you're being dumb with how you treat people."

"Ooh, modest aspirations. Humility, it's a virtue." Gekkuya's smile widened, and the orange pouches on his cheeks inflated and deflated gradually. His sluggish behavior and lax attitude had melted away, showing a glimpse of dark delight. "But I bet you want higher. A blue belt, at least. Something to show off to the other rookies."

"Sure. A blue belt would be lovely, to remind you that you need to be a good teacher." Some soft noises of eager jeering came from the crowd. Fera basked in the expectant excitement, but grew worried at where she was being led. She had no authority to strip her instructor of some belt she didn't own, and had no choice but to follow along with however he directed their conflict.

"I'll be honest, Fera… I was rather jealous when I heard about your little stunt. Even just lasting against a legendary Pokemon is an impressive feat. But you'd need to prove that it wasn't an accident, to actually skip out on the guild's valued training. If I had some proof that you were actually a skilled fighter…" His head drifted away from facing Fera, idly inspecting a cloud that hung above them. "Well. Let's just say blue belt for now. Would you want to prove it to me?" He continued talking, keeping his gaze off of the girl. Fera gave a slight grin at the prospect of his offer. Whatever it was, she knew it had to be something that the crowd of trainees wouldn't jeer and heckle him for imposing.

"You know what? I'd love to prove it to you. Just tell m—"

The Croagunk's body jerked forward lifelessly, swinging an arm into the girl. Gekkuya's hand jabbed hard at Fera's gut, causing the Riolu to gasp and recoil at the sudden blow.

The crowd gasped along with her, watching in shock as the instructor dealt with his student physically. Fera's eyelid twitched, and she stumbled back a few feet while recovering herself. She huffed and tried to utter an irritated claim of unprofessional behavior, but stopped herself short. A cold shiver ran through her body, and her stomach turned in an instant. Looking down at her attacker, she spotted a sickly purple essence coating his still outstretched hand.

"Here's our deal." Gekkuya pulled back his hand, letting the energy of the Poison Jab fade from it. He took up a fighting stance, one hand in front of his cheek and the other in front of his chest. "You have until you pass out from those toxins to land a hit on me. Just one. And if you do that… there's a blue belt in it for you." Fera panted and heaved as she adjusted to the sickness coursing through her body, trying to mimic his stance. "But if you don't…" He grinned again. "Honestly? No punishment. I think the loss and passing out will suffice."

Fera shivered and shut her eyes. She hadn't ever been poisoned before, and certainly not by a superior in the guild. Her body writhed inside from the urgent agony, but her anger caused her to stabilize. She couldn't falter in the face of her opponent.

The Riolu opened her eyes and kicked her leg into the ground, lunging at the Croagunk in a similar manner to how J'ahl did before her. Her instructor's body swayed, leaning off to the right and cleanly avoiding a right hook from his student. Fera stumbled forward and grunted, following with a swing from her left, and causing the Croagunk to hop backwards three times. Fera groaned in anger and in anguish, her body growing more ill with the rapid movement she had inflicted on herself.

"Come on. Try again, don't be shy." Gekkuya had leaned back wildly after his last hop, his head facing the sky with his back toward the ground. The position was lax enough that a strong wind could likely knock him over, but Fera knew that he was expecting her attack.

Fera huffed and dashed toward her opponent, who smiled brighter at the sign of her oncoming attack. The Riolu swung her right leg as she came in, hoping to blow Gekkuya off his feet or pressure him into a worse position— but the Croagunk reacted in turn. He fell backward, his legs swinging up over his head while his hands held onto the ground, rolling until he stayed in place on all fours. Fera continued to rush and strike, and Gekkuya hopped back on his hands and legs like a quadruped, his head jerking up or to the side to avoid any blows that were too close to him. The Croagunk's eyes glanced left and right to address the crowd.

"You see—" The Croagunk began to speak, then paused as he sprang backwards from a near kick, landing on his legs once more. "—my opponent isn't strategizing. She's trying to attack mindlessly, but my reflexes are honed to the point where every gesture is a tell for another maneuver. After all, you can't do a solid punch without choreographing it in some way… you know, unless you're trained." Between his words and his taunts, Gekkuya's body easily swayed and tossed to avoid each attack Fera launched. An untrained observer might have even mistook the scene for the Croagunk being successfully struck and pressured by his student, but not a scratch touched his slimy blue skin.

Fera gritted her teeth. Even if she hadn't been struggling under the weight of her poison, she knew that she wasn't fast enough to strike before the frog could pull himself away. Another punch missed its mark, striking into the earth and knocking up a small burst of dust. She recognized the opportunity lying in plain sight.

Fera reared up and continued her assault, relying on her fists to swing into and near-miss the Croagunk. Each time she drew in, her feet dragged hard into the dirt beneath her, whipping up yet more dust around her. The rapid kicks and dashes pulled up a small storm of debris, growing larger and larger as it started to envelop the two. Gekkuya smiled idly, spinning off to the girl's left to avoid another punch. His dodge wouldn't carry him far enough, and the flurry of earthy particles grew ever larger.

"Are you trying to blind me? Maybe if you could make a whole tornado, I'd be unable to see, but…" He chuckled as he swerved his upper body away from a strike, looking more like a dancer than a battler. "You can't obscure enough to make it work. I'm just letting you know that right now."

It would do, she thought.

Fera gave one more swing at her instructor, more sluggish than the ones that preceded it. The Croagunk twirled backwards easily to dodge, and his visage vanished within the heavy dust cloud that Fera had generated. Even if he had been visible, though, the poison had blurred the Riolu's eyes to the point where it would do her no good. Still, it meant that she likewise couldn't be spotted at that distance— and her aura feelers kept the Croagunk's position as clear as day to her.

Fera pulled herself up and tightened her body, wincing visibly as the toxins took their toll. One more attack would have to do. The Riolu kicked forward, her metallic aura coating her right paw as it curled into a now ironclad fist.

Gekkuya watched with his familiar smirk as Fera reappeared in the dust cloud. The girl's body was swinging toward his right… a final right hook? His body swung over to his left to watch the girl sail by, but her position looked irregular, keeping him alert.

As Fera came into range, her left leg struck the ground, killing her momentum toward her left and launching her rapidly into the right, on a collision course with the Croagunk. Her left paw spread out, preparing a Force Palm. Fera jutted her arm forward to bash into the Croagunk's chest.

Still in the motion of his dodge, Gekkuya's body started to reverse. His right leg spun around his left, and his body swung towards his right instead of his left. He could only watch in glee, now locked into a backwards fall, but able to watch the Riolu's Force Palm sail past his body by a hair.

Her opportunity had paid off.

As the Croagunk watched, his eyes darted to his right. Fera's tail had been coated in steel as well, well-obscured behind her body, and impossible to discern in the field of dust until now. The blunt appendage swung outward as it drew near its target. With no time left and no motion that his body could take, Gekkuya braced himself, as Fera's desperate Iron Tail barely dragged against his chest.

Gekkuya stumbled back and landed on his rear, wheezing briefly as he tried to reorient himself. The Riolu's body continued on its set path, thudding facedown against the ground after the leap she had put herself in. The iron across her form vanished slowly with no energy left to sustain it. Fera panted slowly, worn down entirely from the failed attacks and unable to move with the poison sapping her strength. The students nearby watched in awe, able to spot the tired grin on the girl's face.

Gekkuya rose to his feet, dusting himself off calmly. He tilted his head down to eye up his own chest. A faint and thin bruise marked him there, the weak aftermath of the girl's narrow attack. He stood still for a moment, staying silent to admire it, even running his hand around the area to inspect it further. Then, when his interest had faded, he paced forward, circling around to the front of the collapsed girl. He looked down at Fera, waiting for her to return his gaze.

"You misdirected me."

Fera laughed weakly, coughing out her words. "I guess so. I figured you'd be…" She sputtered. "Too busy hyping yourself up, to think about a hit you couldn't see coming."

"Maybe I was. If you'd believe me, I'm not normally that absent-minded." Gekkuya laughed alongside the girl. "Still, that whole fight… all to set up the one attack. I didn't expect any meaningful planning from you. That kind of cunning approach to a battle…"

The trainees all around the duo were enraptured. The Croagunk crossed his arms.

"I think it suits a blue belt well."

The crowd of students rose into a cheer at the instructor's words. Even if some had been hoping to see Fera fail, the dramatic turnabout was a delight all the same. A pupil had triumphed in some small way over their master.

Fera snickered softly, taking in the delight of the onlookers. Despite it, she cringed as the poison worsened, refocusing her remaining energy on the conversation.

"C-can you… nhh, heal me now?"

"Hm?" Gekkuya tilted his head, his calm smile reverting into his taunting grin. "I don't think healing you was ever part of our deal. It's not like I keep Pecha Berries on-hand, I don't even usually carry my bag with me."

"B-but…!" Fera whined and tried to stand up, but lacked any strength to do so. Gekkuya kneeled down with his arms staying crossed.

"This is an important lesson to never, EVER disrupt my class again. Take it to heart, Blue Belt."

"Whuh…" Whatever Fera's response was meant to be, it remained that simple displeased noise, before the Riolu passed out under the weight of her toxic battle. If nothing else, she could eventually say that she had learned something during her first training session.

About half a kilometer west of where Fera's conflict had arisen, down on the shores below Treasure Town, Vivian struggled with a trial of her own. Separate from the rest of the trainees who were scheduled to practice today, Vivian had been brought to the ocean by her guildmaster. The familiar Wigglytuff had instructed her through basic stretches and a few push-ups, and had then subjected her to practice perhaps even more mind-numbing and impractical than what the other white belts dealt with.

Wendell had gotten down onto his hands and feet, trying his best to copy the posture of a quadruped. His head strained upward to try and look to his right at Vivian, his entire body wobbling due to the awkward position it was enduring.

"So, if you were fighting someone your own size… you would…" The Wigglytuff took one step forward, jostling about and barely keeping his balance. "You would do your best to intimidate them, trying to look big and the likes."

"Y-yeah…" Vivian nodded slowly, unsure of how to feel about Wendell's appearance. She was definitely feeling intimidated by something, at least.

"Then, if you need to really lay down the law… you gotta get physical. Hopefully you won't have to get physical, but we'll go over that…" The Wigglytuff's stomach grazed against the sand from his poor support, and his ears pointed up.

"You really don't have to, Wendell…" Vivian frowned, with consternation rising to the surface of her expression. She had figured something was coming, and she already wasn't happy about whatever it was.

"You just… give 'em one of these!" The Wigglytuff pressed his hands and feet into the sand, leaping forward like a massive Pink Gummi lunging through the air. He traveled a marvelous few inches, before plopping into the sand with his face completely buried, and with his arms and legs splayed out. He looked as though he had been completely defeated in battle, and Vivian anxiously approached, the Eevee starting to push and roll him over.

"Uh huh…" Vivian huffed and pushed her head into the Wigglytuff's side, nudging him enough to help him roll onto his back. She sighed and sat down beside her companion, watching as he wiggled and jiggled to remove sand from his delicate thin fur. "Wendell, I don't think this is… good… training. I think I should probably just be with the rest of the students." The Wigglytuff slowly rose up to be in a sitting position, shaking his head to disagree and to cleanse himself of more sand particles.

"Nonsense. We'll be making progress in due time. I haven't had to teach combat before, but that's okay!" He leaned back and then hopped forward, landing on his nubby feet. "You're learning from me and I'm learning from you. Eventually, I'll be good at teaching and you'll have learned well from the teaching."

"Wendellll…" The Eevee whined out reluctantly. She felt bad that she couldn't adjust herself to referring to him as her guildmaster, but it was a habit that conflicted hard with her normal life. In her defense, any strangers that could see the Wigglytuff then would not believe he was a guildmaster, even more so than usual. "Can we please just ignore whatever it is that my dad asked you to do? I'll fall behind everyone else if we don't do something serious."

Wendell huffed and glanced down at the beach beneath him. The Chatot had indeed given him a squawking request to remove Vivian from the standard training regiment for the first few months of her time as a trainee, and Vivian could glean it from the absurdity of her "special training". Even Wendell knew that it was a poor idea, but he had overruled his administrator too many times to not compromise on this one issue.

"It's fine. That's fine! We can definitely do something serious, indeed." The Wigglytuff's worry faded fast from his face, replaced with cheery delight as he stood up. He turned and started to stroll away from Vivian, creating a safe distance between the two. The Eevee tilted her head, curious and cautious about whatever idea had shifted the guildmaster's plans so suddenly.

Wendell stood about ten meters away from the girl, turning back to her with the same smile. He raised his voice to begin his explanation. "We're going to test your durability! Every explorer needs to be able to endure a long fight, so this is as good a place as any to start!"

"What? What do you mean?" Vivian called back with a paw raised to the side of her mouth, but froze up as she realized what the guildmaster was preparing to do.

The Wigglytuff closed his eyes, starting to inhale deeply. His body took in air, more and more, and a faint glow emanated out from his open mouth. His hands clenched and trembled, his entire body preparing for a single move.


Vivian looked around in a panic, unsure of what kind of madness had come over the guildmaster. She looked as though she was fearing the end of the world itself. With nowhere to run, she tightened her body, and a Protect barrier surrounded her.

Wendell's eyes opened wide, his head tilted toward the sky. His deep inhale had ended, and the exhale was ready. The Wigglytuff stepped forward, and…

The residents of Treasure Town were used to occasional disruptions to their daily lives. The chaos of a thief ransacking a shop, the conflicts between peacekeeping explorers and out-of-towners with little patience, and the natural difficulties of managing an outpost trading town. There was, however, one rarer disruption that was hard to prepare oneself for.


The ringing sound of a destructive Hyper Voice bellowed from below the town, sending reverberations and gusts of wind that rustled the small civilization. Merchants protectively clutched their valuable goods, and bird Pokemon were startled nearly into flight from the sudden attack. The noise persisted for seconds that dragged into feeling like hours, and the continued annoyance lasted past the initial shock. Sometimes, the townsfolk wondered if the Wigglytuff was worth putting up with.

Wendell's Hyper Voice exploded from his mouth, a glowing torrent of pure energy and powerful gales aimed directly at Vivian. The Wigglytuff's entire body shook as he unleashed his signature move, whipping up a sandstorm across the entire small beach, completely obscuring the Eevee from his view.

Vivian wailed out as the attack eclipsed her Protect. The barrier came under immediate strain from the initial wave of the Hyper Voice, and would assuredly not last under any more. Indeed, it definitely did look and feel like the world was actually ending under the brunt of Wendell's attack. The sand around the domed barrier was blown away, causing Vivan's footing to rapidly dissolve and lessen. Within seconds, the collapsing sand and the powerful winds lifted the Protect up from its otherwise solid spot on the beach. The sturdy sphere-like barrier suddenly blew back, caught within the wind tunnel of the Hyper Voice. Vivian was sent helplessly flying away from the guildmaster, her panicked mewl lost in the massive sound surrounding her.

The sphere-encased girl was sent spiraling backwards, still protected in her bubble but with no control against the massive blast. Before she could consider some form of retaliation, her barrier collided with the rocky cliffs that surrounded the beach. Upon impact, the pressured Protect shattered, causing a ripple effect and draining Vivian of what little stamina her body contained. The Eevee flopped down on the sand beside the rock wall. Her ears flattened against her head to try and silence the residual echoes of the Hyper Voice. She wondered, in the back of her mind, if she should have chosen her words more carefully around the guildmaster.

After what felt like an eternity had passed for everyone else in a mile radius of the Wigglytuff, his attack came to a conclusion. The pink Pokemon huffed out, looking practically ready to deflate, before he hopped up with some vigor. He glanced around with a smile, trying and failing to spot Vivian in the towering storm of sandy clouds that he had generated.

"Alright! How did that go? I think we're off to a good start, yes?" Wendell wandered forward, looking around in the spot where Vivian had once stood, but finding only the long streaks of sand from where her Protect had prevented some of the beach from being blown away. "Uh oh. That's probably not a good situation."

Vivian groaned out weakly in the distance, and Wendell's ear twitched as he caught the sound. After some aimless waddling, the clouds parted enough for the guildmaster to spot his trainee resting amid the rocks. He hopped over and knelt down, soon assisting the Eevee to sitting upright. "Hope you're all well, Vivian. You DID use Protect like I told you, right?"

The Eevee coughed slightly, trying to avoid inhaling more of the sand in the air. "You did NOT tell me to do that… and yes, I did use it." The exhausted girl gradually rose to her feet. "I don't think this is good training either, Wendell. I just want to be able to learn normally." The Wigglytuff frowned, but then nodded repeatedly, taking in the girl's words.

"Yes… yes. I'm gathering the idea that I'm probably not fit to be a combat instructor." Wendell smiled brightly despite his words, still leaning down to dust off Vivian's back and remove some rubble.

"Maybe… just… slightly, yes, that's entirely correct." Vivian made an awkward laugh, still unsteady with the recent loss of energy. She meekly looked up at her friend. "I think I'd be better off in the regular class, Wendell. Is that alright?"

"Well…" Wendell turned his head slightly, glancing at the long path of sand that had been displaced by his shriek, and the residual torrent of sand that still hung across the area. He looked back at Vivian sheepishly. "I think we might run out of beach if I keep trying to train you in that manner. Perhaps the regular training is in order for you."

"Thanks, Wendell." The girl leaned against the older Pokemon, and he patted her head in response. "Can we… go home, now? I think I want to lie down for an hour…"

"Right away, yes."

Wendell arrived at the Crossroads after a small trek up the cliffs below Treasure Town, the small Eevee held in his hands to assist her after the sudden training. Once he had cleared the last set of steps and saw the wooden signs that directed travelers, he gingerly placed the Eevee down at his feet.

"I hope the journey up wasn't too strenuous."

"I'm fine, don't worry." Vivian smiled. The time spent being carried let her recover some of her strength, and she stood steady on her paws after a moment to adjust. The young Eevee huffed and stretched her legs, starting to pace back to the guild straight ahead, with Wendell in tow. "I sort of wish I could go join today's training before it ends, but it's probably going to be done soon… and I don't think I can work out without fainting." Vivian giggled weakly.

"Maybe we'll slot you in for the morning class tomorrow. I don't think there's any issue with missing a day of work, at least in the sense that I'm the one that made you miss it." Wendell shrugged and swayed, waddling beside Vivian. His ears and Vivian's fur fluttered back with the familiar breeze, now reaching them more closely with their higher altitude. The Eevee shut her eyes as she strolled towards the steps to the guild.

"Thanks for understanding, Wendell. I know it's not fun for adults to hear kids out on important stuff, but…"

"Easy on her! You're gonna drop her at that rate." A voice spoke out from behind the girl, causing her to wheel around and inspect the approaching sounds.

From the southern steps, two Tyrogues arose, marching with an unconscious Riolu resting on a worn-down stretcher between them. The blue-furred girl was limp and dusty, jostling slightly with the momentum of the material that supported her. Vivian squealed out in dismay, rushing toward the duo and halting in the middle of the Crossroads. The two hadn't noticed or otherwise ignored her presence, curving around and heading toward the Blissey-run clinic near the market.

"It's your own fault for not picking up the pace. Put some gusto into it or she's gonna get there an hour late!" The Tyrogue at the back of the stretcher responded to the one at the front. Vivian desperately hustled over to them as they started to pass her, whining out loudly.

"Wh-what happened?!"

"Huh?" The first Tyrogue frowned while coming to a stop, then turned his head to the Riolu he was escorting. "Oh, yeah. This girl got her world rocked by the instructor. I think she was making noise during class or something… man, what a fight!" The Tyrogue chuckled, while Fera emitted a low and dazed groan. The second boy wiggled his end of the stretcher.

"Oi, less chat and more dash! Don't make me carry her all the way myself."

The first Tyrogue gave a snarky grin. "As if you could! I'm twice the dasher and thrice the lifter you are. Let's go!" With the command, both Tyrogues doubled their previous speed, bustling along towards the Blissey's workplace. Vivian watched the boys vanish into the town's crowds, as Wendell gave a soft and polite laugh.

"Oh my. Gekkuya does have a rather infamous no-tolerance philosophy with his training. Although I haven't seen anyone break out that old stretcher in quite a while." Wendell nodded in approval of his own words. He then leaned down, patting the head of the distressed girl. "Anyways, I hope you enjoy his class! I'm sure you'll have a lot to learn there."

"Y… yeah…" Vivian stared off into the distance, contemplating how much she would regret her plea to Wendell.
Chapter 13: Our Exploration Team New


Bug Catcher
Chapter 13: Our Exploration Team

The familiar morning routine came and went. The expectation was to go at a brisk rate, to maximize time spent in the work day without straining the explorers. Bennett always proceeded with it a bit slower, enjoying his meal and pacing himself with his stretches, but he kept himself on-time with moving from one step to the next. Once the speech had been done with, he hustled his bulky body up the nearby steps, arriving on the mission floor at the tail end of the swarm of trainees. The pupils had gathered around Cromwell and his papers as always, each one filing off individually or in a small group as they took on their work. Bennett's eyes scanned the ground, struggling only slightly to see given his position close to the ground, until he spotted Vivian, and merrily approached to join her in waiting.

"Heya! Almost thought ya'd already been sent off." The Bidoof smiled brightly. Vivian's ear flicked as her attention was pulled to her roommate, and she returned his cheerfulness.

"Hah, nope. I can never rush to the head of the pack… or, well, I probably could, but I don't want to be trampled for it." Vivian made a cartoony grimace and stuck her tongue out. "I can stomach waiting a bit longer."

"I'm guessin' Fera couldn't, huh?"

"She never can. But she's big enough to have no trampling worries, so that's not a concern. Most of the time, she's in and out before I can even spot her." The Eevee gestured around at the field of trainees, with Fera nowhere in sight. Bennett nodded along, taking a seat on the floor to rest himself.

"Guild would be runnin' at double speed if folks were as jumpy to get their work goin' as Fera is. But guess that's what's so special 'bout her…" Bennett yawned lightly, rubbing a bit of the sleep out of his eyes. Vivian mumbled an approving response while scanning over the room, then looked at Bennett out of the corner of her eye.

"Ah! Bennett!" The Eevee hopped in place and turned her body to face her friend. Bennett jumped slightly from the sudden call, more awake now than before.

"Huh? What's up?"

"Your chest!" Vivian waved her paw forward at the Bidoof's upper body.

The Bidoof tilted his head down and lifted a leg up to observe. The cream-colored fur that normally covered his entire underside had shifted: now, his belly was as brown as the rest of him, and the cream coloration had moved onto his front legs partially. The pattern seemed to now be the same as the kind that a Bibarel would bear. Bennett chuckled weakly, looking away with a blush on his cheeks.

"Uhuh… almost forgot about that. It started a couple days ago…" He smiled bashfully as he returned to scanning over himself. "Didn't think it'd change so fast, though."

"Bennett, this is great! When do you think you're gonna evolve?" The Eevee's tail wagged rapidly, her fixation moving off of her upcoming mission and onto her friend's development.

"Not sure… was kinda hopin' it's not TOO soon. Would look a bit foolish if I was a big ol' lug and still a trainee, y'know?" Bennett leaned forward, now standing upright again and keeping the pattern hard to see. As the two spoke, the crowd of trainees gradually thinned, with those at the front receiving missions and heading out, and those in the back shuffling forward to replace them.

"Ohh… yeah, maybe. But maybe you evolving would help my dad see that it's time to move you up into the big leagues." Vivian strolled forward, taking a few steps and stopping each time.

"I'll try not to bank on that." Bennett turned his focus back to the crowd. With their numbers dwindling, he could see ahead and notice that Fera hadn't left the guild yet. The girl was instead standing idly beside Cromwell, her gaze locked on nothing in particular elsewhere in the room. Tai sat on the other side of the administrator, looking as though he might doze off at any moment, only kept awake by the knowledge that the authority figure was ready to snap at him for doing so.

Soon, the entire swarm had dispersed across Treasure Town, leaving only the four roommates consolidated around the busy bird. Cromwell glanced between them to make sure all were accounted for, and then plucked a parchment from his pile.

"Bennett, Tai, Fera, Vivian…" The Chatot had adjusted to speaking his daughter's name as formally as did any other explorer, stifling his disdain within himself. "You're on… exploration."

The youngsters were easily drawn in by the statement, Tai especially becoming alert. Cromwell had expected as such, giving a pause for their attention, before resuming.

"There's been a report of a cavern a bit north near the coast… tentatively, we're calling it Waterfall Cave." Cromwell dusted off the paper he held with his wing. "An explorer from the Highlands Guild told us about it. But a bird's-eye view of the location bore no fruit. Waterfall Cave is hidden, for one reason or another."

The Chatot bent the page forward to show it to the group of trainees, revealing it to be a segment of a roughly-sketched map. A spot had been circled shortly inland from a series of waterfalls that poured out onto the ocean from above. The general area mirrored a section on the trainees' map. Bennett furrowed his brow, trying to discern something, but seeming to come up short.

"So… what's the reason for us to go up there? I don't, uh…" The Bidoof chuckled anxiously. "I don't think the guild usually likes goin' off to explore random caves, from our experience… if you recall… the thing that happened..." His laugh continued weaker. He began trailing off timidly as Cromwell stared him down dryly, and soon finished.

"If you're quite done… the claim provided to us by this explorer was that it'd been the spot where a merchant had stored swindled gold." The Chatot fished another paper out from his collection, this one bearing a cavalcade of important information that was too dense for the other four to promptly read. "An associate of the Highlands Guild was caught and convicted of stealing assets from explorers, but the wealth he amassed in the process has yet to be reclaimed. If the speculation is correct, he hid it here, such that he could make a great escape once his fortune was strong enough to support him on its own."

"Guess that didn't work out for him…" Tai nodded along at Cromwell's every word, more present and prepared than ever before. "So, we'd have to find the cave and get the loot out of it?"

"Yes, that'd be the ideal conclusion. It's not my preference to send you all off on a matter such as this, but…" Cromwell huffed, turning away and starting to return the long-winded paper to the stack. "You're our most qualified trainees, at least of those that aren't already on more pressing matters. And the sooner this can be settled, the better." Vivian was surprised at the statement, but meekly nodded at her father's remark. She didn't want to challenge the apparent compliment.

"Stolen money, huh…" Fera folded her arms, tilting her head from left to right repeatedly. "Must be a lot of it in there. Do we get to, uhm…" She smiled shyly. "Keep a bit of it? A coin or two for our troubles?"

"Are you suggesting that you'll pilfer precious wealth that doesn't belong to you?" The Chatot chirped in annoyance. "If you want to start a conflict between two neighboring guilds, then feel free to steal. But under my recommendation, I'd demand that not a single fragment of finance goes missing."

"Sorry, I'm just trying to learn how it works…" Fera frowned down at the bird. "I don't need much money, anyways. You guys give me food, after all."

"Still…" Vivian began her turn in the discussion. "I'm surprised we're doing this mission at all. Isn't this something that the Highlands Guild should handle? It's their money, right?"

"Well… I mean." The bird coughed. "It's an act of goodwill, in that sense. We'll return such a crucial asset to them, and they'll naturally…" He coughed louder, his wing at times obscuring his beak. "Be willing to compensate us in turn, for our troubles."

"Didn't I just say that…?" Fera frowned harder. She wondered if the bird was being deceitful, or if some finer detail had just eluded her. Vivian let her eyelids sink.

"This sounds like the thing that would be starting a conflict…"

"Well, it's not for any of you to consider!" The Chatot flapped his wings once. "Adult matters, for adults to handle. Your task is to search the area and return with the lost gold, and any other trinkets of value. We'll provide you with a cart for the transport back. Am I understood?" He looked around at the four explorers.

"Understood, sir! We're more than capable of this." Tai responded in a firm tone, startling the other trainees around him.

"Uh, yeah… I think we can handle it fine." Bennett tilted his head at Tai's shout. "Y'all don't have to worry. I'm pretty learned with explorin' stuff, so I can give advice…"

"I'll make sure to learn well! Let's go!" Tai spoke again with similar bravado, taking the rough map from Cromwell and starting to slide it into his pouch. With it secured, he marched toward the guild's stairs, leaving his fellow explorers dazed at the bizarre new behavior. Soon, however, Fera followed, and Vivian and Bennett were forced to do the same.

The paths out of Treasure Town's eastern border were most frequently traveled by escort and on wheels. For merchants, having a strong and durable partner that could tow the excess of supplies and earnings from location to location by carriage was a necessity. For explorers, a guild-arranged transport to distant locales was most often in order, but renting out the services of a civilian or an escort by trade would be common for those returning home from afar. Of course, there were other methods that could travel farther, such as journeying with the aid of a Solrock and Lunatone combination. But Fera had only heard briefly of these, and none that used them had come to visit their small town in her time there. Whichever the case, the constant travels had worn down clear and safe roads for all others to wander upon, although any serious journey would be done with such an escort, rather than laboring for days on end to cross the land. Bennett, substituting the role of an escort, tugged forward with the guild's cart strapped to his body, chugging along at a decent pace and only slowing down his companions a miniscule amount. In the cart was a set of burlap sacks, meant to be used to reclaim and carry out the stolen goods without dragging the cart into the depths of a cavern. Tai held his position at the front of the march, with Fera close behind and Vivian farther back to stay at Bennett's side. An hour behind them, an hour left to go.

Fera's eyes were calmly yet constantly scanning her surroundings. She hadn't gone this far out since the trip south to collect apples. Her mind attempted to fixate on the event once more, but she forced it off of the idea with new stimuli from this new path. The forestry that surrounded Treasure Town had dispersed, giving way to an empty plain stretching all around them. Slowly, they had diverged from the coastline and traveled inland, although the last remnants of the salty ocean breeze still reached them from time to time; now, it was intertwined with the aroma of fresh flowers. She resisted a newfound urge to chase after a scent and pluck a flower from its source, putting her scrutiny on Tai. The Stunky had been mostly silent throughout their trip, outside of stray comments to check the status of his fellow explorers.

"So, why are you acting all different now?" Fera spoke out suddenly, putting her paws up behind her head as she walked along. Tai flinched and turned his head, then scoffed and looked away.

"Just trying to be vigilant. Exploration missions are serious business."

"I just didn't expect it from you. Sentry duty is important, but you aren't that vigilant during sentry duty." The Riolu picked up her pace enough to walk beside the Stunky. On his face, she could see the internal debate of lying to her. As he returned her glance, she could see his acceptance that it would be too much effort to lie past his own aura.

"Well, I just… want to apply myself all the way with exploration. Be a real team player, and such." The Stunky's eyes darted away, as though there was some exploration-crucial detail off to his right. The Riolu gawked in the same direction, spotting nothing, before the full explanation dawned on her.

"Ohhh… we had that talk, so now you're trying to be an extra-good explorer when it counts. Right?" The Riolu smiled down at her companion, who grunted and kept his eyes off of her.

"You don't have to say it out loud."

"Seems like you're takin' after Lily, then." Bennett huffed and joined in amidst his labor. "Jus' do your best with it, Tai, I believe in ya."

"I'd like to think it's NOT like her. But thanks, I guess." The Stunky grumbled while continuing on. Bennett gave a sorry smile, staring down at the dirt he was traversing.

"Aww. You don't have to be bashful, that's a good thing, I think!" Fera strode forward with more confidence now, ready to arrive at the mission site and assist her friend in his stated goal. "I'll make sure to tell Cromwell you did awesome."

"Tell him whatever's honest!" The Stunky groaned. "If he thinks you're lying for my sake, he'll think I asked you to do it. And if he thinks that, he's gonna find some way to say I did a bad job."

"Oh, yeah… I guess he does stuff like that. Then I'll…" The gears almost visibly turned in the girl's head. "I'll tell him… you did a bad job? No, wait..."

"You'll tell him whatever happens, in a nice way." Tai's fur was practically standing on end, his body now burdened with the additional task of assuring that Fera didn't tank his chances.

"Yeah. Yeah, I can do that." Fera turned forward, growing a stern expression as she practiced her speaking. "Tai did an average-but-good job! He was a real team player, and he explored quite hard. And we got the money." She glanced at the Stunky. "That last part is a bonus, if we get the money."

"We're GOING to get the money. If he thinks we can do it, then I know I can do it." Tai huffed once more. Vivian spoke up bluntly from the near end of the pack.

"We'll all put in our part. No one is going to do any of this solo, alright?" She strolled closer to continue talking. "Exploration isn't something you can brute force."

"I know that more than you do, Vivian." Tai kept his gaze forward as he spoke the unkind words. Fera glared at the remark, and suddenly clapped her paws beside the Stunky's ears, causing him to jump in shock. "Ack! Don't do that!"

"None of that, alright?" Fera stopped in her tracks, looking down at the male Pokemon with annoyance. "Team effort, for teamwork. No being a bully to anyone else."

"I wasn't…" Tai glared back, before his eyes wandered to Vivian. The other girl bore a similarly bothered expression, and Tai groaned. He turned away, focusing instead on the path spread before them. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be all spiteful. You're just trying to help, and such…"

"Get all the petty stuff out of your system before we get there." Vivian continued to march onward, although Bennett was forced to stall behind the stopped Riolu and Stunky. "No exploration team will accept a Pokemon that's gonna be that easily frustrated."

"Prolly not…" Bennett entered the fray, taking a seat to rest his strapped body. "I've heard of some teams with real loose cannon types… Kastor from Team Hydro is pretty no-nonsense. An' he's got LITERAL cannons, too!"

"They put up with him since he gets the job done. And I wanna be the same kind of explorer." Tai started to walk once again, and Fera followed beside him, the two finally allowing Bennett to resume his progression.

"If you're the EXACT same kind, no one is going to take you seriously at the start, when it matters. You have to be approachable and reasonable to even start a team." Vivian looked back at Tai as she spoke, now at the lead of their entourage. The Stunky seemed to tune her out nonetheless. After enough confused silence, Fera joined in again.

"Uhhh… aren't we already a team? We're on the mission together, so…"

"I wish it was that easy." Tai strode along, putting every fiber of his being into not being frustrated with the situation. The Eevee offered an explanation, realizing that Tai wasn't willing to do so.

"That's not really how it works." Vivian slowed down, just enough for Tai to stomp ahead and become the leader once more, as she addressed Fera. "I'm surprised no one went over this with you, but… exploration teams are independent from guilds. Guilds don't maintain any teams."

"Would be a bit difficult to do, anyways." Bennett chimed in, his body yanking the carriage over a small rock in the road. "The guild chooses who goes to do what based on their skills… so havin' teams would jus' interrupt or prevent the guild from assignin' the right folks to the right jobs."

"So…" Fera's ears dipped down. The situation became clearer to her, in a worrying way. "We're not a team, then? I just, kind of assumed…"

"Hey…! No need to be sad about it." Vivian moved over to stroll beside Fera, brushing against the other girl's leg reassuringly. "We're still good friends, and we're always gonna be doing a lot of explorer work together. And, well…" Vivian thought about the matter a moment longer. "We can be a team when we all graduate!"

"Really?" Fera's expression grew more relieved. "You sure about it? Teams seem like they're a big deal, from what you guys said."

"Yeah! It won't be for a while, really… my dad will probably make it hard for me to graduate, and even harder to leave the guild. But… you guys are the best people I could make a team with."

"Gosh…" Bennett's face grew red from the comment. "You don't gotta butter us up, Vivian. There are better explorers in the guild…"

"Maybe a bit better. But being in a team is more than just being the most skilled. It's about having a good connection with whoever you're in a team with. And you guys…" Vivian leaned onto her back legs, using one paw to hug Fera's leg and the other to pull Bennett over. The trio was joined together in a gentle hug. "You'd be great to work with."

Fera giggled lightly at the heartwarming praise, and Bennett gave an anxious chuckle. The former blinked, and then spoke.

"Does that mean we get a name, like the other guys?" Fera's tail started to wag. Her mind raced with potential titles that could provoke an awed reaction from other explorers and civilians. "Something like… Team Warriors. Team Virtue!"

"I guess I hadn't thought of that… hmm." Vivian leaned from side to side in the hug. She didn't hate Fera's suggestions, but they were more blunt and brash than she had envisioned for herself. "Maybe whoever graduates first gets to choose the name. How does that sound?"

"Feels like I might have a slight advantage, but… who knows, y'all might catch up fast. I'll be free to take suggestions if I'm the first." Bennett smiled widely, enraptured in the thoughts of their future escapades.

Meanwhile, Tai, who had gained yet more distance while the three talked, was now sitting impatiently and facing them.

"And me too, right? I'm included in this?" The Stunky frowned at the touching scene progressing without him.

"O-oh!" Vivian blinked and regained focus on Tai. "Yeah, I mean… you too, I think. Even though most teams are only three people."

"I can break the mold if I want! And there have been larger teams than three, that just makes it special! You can just say if you don't want me in the team." Tai stamped his back leg in frustration. His anger fluctuated as he looked over at Fera, who had giggled once more. "Do you want me in the team, Fera?"

"I think so… it's just, well." The Riolu began to walk forward again, growing closer to the annoyed teammate. "Normally you wouldn't wanna join a team with Vivian right away, I bet. But now you're so ready to explore that it doesn't matter, right?" Tai flinched at the accusation, soon realizing his willingness to partner up with the disdainful girl.

"I-I mean! I could also just find other people!" The Stunky hissed and stomped along the path. "Hatchet's not in a team yet, and he'd have to see how valuable I am!"

Vivian rolled her eyes, now smiling at Tai's weakness exposed. "I don't think Hatchet's allowed to leave Treasure Town yet. And Hatchet doesn't even respect other graduates. Good luck convincing him you're different."

"When I'm a graduate, he'll be convinced! But I'm not gonna be a graduate if we take a YEAR to do this one mission! Let's move, people!" The Stunky continued in shameful fury, his face red at the embarrassing remarks.

"Sure, let's get moving." Vivian kept up Tai's pace, still grinning faintly from the ordeal.

Two hours and then some had passed, and their journey had taken them off the literal beaten path in the past few minutes, with the trees making a reappearance and soon surrounding the four. Bennett applied himself to keep the carriage steady on grass and stone. As they had gradually veered off into actual wilderness, they drew closer to the coast once more. Passing through a wooded arch, the team of four found a plateau that rose high above them, water cascading down from its distant reaches in several streams. Each pillar of water would crash down onto a ridge, before pushing past and gushing off towards the earth once more, down several layers of rocky terrain. The water pooled together as a larger body at the level where the four stood. It then passed by to the west in a river, which would soon pour off into the ocean as one combined waterfall. The constant sound of running water broke up the small chitter-chatter that had amused them during their long walk, as they paused to marvel at the landscape.


Fera stood in awe of the scenery. The sight and sounds of her friends fell away, replaced with silent adoration for the clearing she had entered. Never before had she immersed herself in such a state of the natural world, but it seemed to almost overwhelm her now, she had to invest herself in it. The roaring stream from above and around didn't deafen her, it simply commanded her presence. Even the fresh grassy scent and the whistling wind felt new and alive. After enough time had passed, however, a shout came.

"Alright!" Tai's noise snapped the others out of their trances. "It's pretty, but we aren't here to sightsee! Mission time!"

"R-right!" Vivian nodded repeatedly, coming back to the conscious world. "Just give me a minute to help Bennett detach from the cart! You two start scoping out the cave location."

Fera and Tai nodded, as Vivian turned back to the older boy. Her paws began assisting him in fiddling with the latches and straps of the cart's harness. They chatted about the delightful scenery even now, as well as where they'd stow the carriage to keep it secure and hidden while in the cave.

"So… the entrance should be somewhere around this spot, right?" Fera continued to take in the sights, now also looking for anything out of the ordinary.

"Should be. But if the guild couldn't find it from above, then it's gotta be hidden pretty well somewhere." The Stunky stepped forward. The cave was almost certainly located in the wall of stone that rose up before them, but no entrance could be spotted. He paced next to the body of running water before him, hoping to observe from other angles and grasp the location better. "Eghh… nothing that I'm gonna find from right here."

"What do we do?" The Riolu looked down to Tai expectantly, deferring leadership to him in the hopes of satisfying the conflicting aura that he radiated.

"I guess we'll split up and search around? Better than not doing it, or whatever." As he spoke, the Stunky began to depart. The dense bushery that surrounded them, and the trees that rose up nearby, would make it hard for them to spot each other. "Just shout if you find something. Or, like, if you break your leg."

Fera attempted to do the same as him shortly after, wandering around the waterfall plateau and investigating everything that she could. Even now, the Riolu still couldn't get over her fascination with her surroundings. The beach below Treasure Town and the trees that surrounded it were interesting in their own right, but they were simple to see on their own, and simple to understand. The complete display of nature around her, it was a kind of 'pure' beauty. Even as she aimlessly roamed, yet more facets of this natural place exposed themselves to her, such as small patches of blooming blue flowers, and stick sap that dripped off of the new breed of trees. Slowly, she grew ever more excited that she was an explorer, if it meant she would get to see these parts of the world.

Half an hour passed, and Tai returned from his scouting. Vivian and Bennett had finished with the difficulty of freeing the boy from the straps several minutes ago, but had only given a brief glance at the area around them.

"I checked around the big cliff… couldn't see anything. There's a way to climb to the top, but I wasn't going to go up without someone to keep me from falling." Tai frowned, growing annoyed that he hadn't sussed out the entrance by himself yet. Hearing their voices nearby, Fera relented in her search and trotted back to rejoin the others and their conversation.

"Nothing in the trees, or the grass. Wish Cave was really easy to find, so this feels unfair." The girl took a seat, only now realizing the weight of the long trip and wanting to rest her body. Seeing her do so, the others joined in, gathering in a circle and regaining their strength beside the running water. Vivian flopped down onto her belly, letting the cool touch of the grass rejuvenate her. Fera lied back to do the same.

Tai reluctantly followed their example, moving from an upright sitting position to a more relaxed state against the grass. Bennett fell onto his back, his legs dangling slightly while he settled into place.

With the time to relax and recover, the Stunky began to search his bag, soon plucking an apple and a doughy snack from within. He eagerly dug into his rations, and the mere sight of the food encouraged the others to do the same. Once the food was freed from the bag, Vivian paced herself by eating the healthier apple first, while the others succumbed to the urge to enjoy the baked good right away. All four enjoyed their rest with food in paw, letting the time fly by.

Chit-chat and general delight ensued for the four. Fera shared her newfound joy with Vivian, talking at length about the flora and terrain that had enraptured her. Vivian simply indulged, sharing passively in Fera's excitement. Bennett and Tai engrossed themselves in exploratory matters at Tai's behest, covering details of the merchant's actions and places that could be ruled out as locations for the cave. Neither topic was fully exhausted, but the dwindling meals and the mission's importance led to Tai's focus taking precedence.

"Gotta think of where someone would hide a cave entrance… nothing around here looks manufactured." Tai grunted, now speaking to the group as a whole. He swallowed a large bite of his apple to finish off what was left on the core. "But what's hiding it, then?"

"Hmm…" Vivian rolled onto her side, her nose twitching from the wet grass poking onto it. Her paws lazily batted at her apple core while she tried to process the question. Suddenly, her head shot up. "Oh! Fera!"

"Hmm?" Fera spoke without moving up from her lax position, keeping her gaze at the sky instead of moving it onto her friend.

"Can you have another one of those visions?" Vivian rose up onto her legs, keeping her attention on the matter despite the pull of the soothing grass. "It seemed like it worked last time, at least…"

Fera slowly sat up, her expression dampening. Tai and Bennett looked at each other, the latter sitting up and addressing the Riolu.


"Yeah…" Fera stared down at the grass that lay between the four of them. "It's not easy to explain, so… hear me out, I guess."

"This oughta be good…" Tai gradually got up as well, wanting to participate in the seemingly silly discussion. Fera grew more tense with the extra eyes on her, but pushed herself onward.

"Sometimes, I get this… weird feeling in my head. It's hot and it's strong, but it feels like it's… clearing my mind. And when it happens, I see things that aren't happening."

"Ahh… I get that when I have head colds. Really shivery feelins'." Bennett shuddered at the unpleasant memory of illness. Fera idly shook her head.

"Not delusional stuff. The first time it happened, we were at the Mega Apple Tree." Fera kept her gaze down in her lap. "When you fell out of the carrying box… I didn't know that the box was unsteady. I saw it break. And you fell down, so I came running over. But it… hadn't happened yet. It was something that was about to happen." Fera exhaled as she forced out the words. It felt worse each time to try and believe herself. Tai raised an eyebrow, distrusting but more genuinely interested.

"That's kinda… nonsense. Sorry, but you're not a Psychic-type, and even if you were, you don't just get to see the future." Tai sat with his front legs placed down in front of him, giving Fera an inquisitive stare. Bennett waited in silence for the girl's continuation.

"It's not just the future. When Bennett left for Wish Cave, it was also the past." Fera tilted her head up to inspect the Bidoof. "On the night that you left, you… you were on the floor, reading that book about the cave. And you said that you felt nervous, but you had to go." Bennett tensed up, slowly recalling the scene. "Then you threw the book on your bed, you checked your map at the door because you drew on it, and you snuck out before the buffet started."

The two others looked to Bennett for confirmation. Bennett spoke nothing yet, but turned to weakly fish through his bag. Soon, he pulled out and presented his explorer map, showcasing the peninsula on which Treasure Town resided. Southwest of the guild, there was a circle on the spot of Wish Cave. Tai gulped, but then regained his composure.

"That doesn't prove anything, you know… it was obvious that he left before the buffet, otherwise we would've seen him. The book probably told him where to go, too, so that's how you could find out. And you could've just looked at his map later to see that mark…" Tai stared Fera down, a bit weaker than before. The girl returned his stubbornness blankly.

"I don't really care if you believe me… I didn't wanna bring it up, anyways. It feels fake after all this." The girl lied. The burning awareness that overcame her during the second vision felt as real as ever. But it meant nothing to someone that couldn't feel it too.

"I believe ya, Fera." Bennett spoke while slowly returning the map to the safety of his bag. Fera grew relieved at the comment, focusing on him instead of Tai. "I don't really get it, but I don't get a lotta stuff. And it explains a lotta weird things, too." Tai glanced between the three, frowning, and then looked at Fera once more.

"Well," he started, "can you have one of those visions now? Have a vision of someone going into Waterfall Cave, that way we can just follow them."

"Doesn't work that way." Fera sighed. "I don't know how it works. It just seemed to happen when it needed to."

"Can you at least try? That'd be better than not trying when it could happen. I'd say we need it right now."

Fera paused to think, then reluctantly nodded, getting onto her feet. The Riolu clenched her paws and shut her eyes tightly. She tried to remember and relive the flare in her mind, tried to prod at that sealed space of her soul that awoke so briefly. Thinking, thinking, endless pressing on her mind, but it did not come to her.

"Fera…" Vivian frowned.

Fera put a knee to the ground, placing one palm on the grass and the other on her forehead. Her feelers flicked up repeatedly, her aura sensory abilities mixing in and trying to study the scene around her. The girl emitted a low whining noise from her continued strain, desperate to revive the sensation of knowledge and sight. Nothing returned to her. After enough of the unpleasant sight had passed, Tai interjected.

"Alright, alright, please stop trying…"

With the command, Fera's arms dropped and her feelers fell still. She let out a prolonged sigh, opening her eyes and glancing away from the other explorers.

"Sorry. I know it sounds stupid, but it really did feel like it happened."

Tai huffed. The idea was preposterous, but Fera had never displayed such dedication to or confidence in anything, other than her role as an explorer. Her look of true disappointment forced him to respond.

"Look… if you say it happened… sure, it happened. I wasn't the one that would've had the vision, anyways…" Tai groaned, and repeatedly tapped his back left leg on the ground. He hated the awkward sentimentality, but it mattered to say. "I'm sorry if I made you feel bad about it."

"Thanks, Tai…" Fera's expression softened. "But… yeah. I think we just have to search for the entrance ourselves."

Bennett nodded along, standing up to begin the task anew. "Well, ain't nothing wrong with that. That's what explorers are meant to do, right?" He smiled confidently. "If the guild says it's around here, it's waiting for us to sniff it out."

"Yep! So, what's left for us to look into?" Vivian rose up as well, ready to do her part in the hunt. Moreover, she was ready to leave behind the sensitive subject.

The group of four surveyed the landscape once more, staying close together to share bits of, sadly, useless information while they studied. Eventually, they recentered their efforts on the waterfalls. The stream of water from the cliffs was strong, and the moving pool of water before them was too deep to stand in. Tai tensed up and peeked at Fera.

"You can swim, right? Start going through the water. There could be a key, or something else hidden down there."

"Uhh… not really? I could take a swing at it." Fera studied her own legs. "Cromwell said I should probably avoid water, in case drowning was part of my memory loss, so the only water I go in is in the bathhouse."

"Egh…" Tai returned his attention to the body of water. He didn't care to admit that he wasn't a swimmer either, and thus fidgeted in place at the water's edge.

"No need to stress about it. If it wasn't obvious, I'm good with aquatic issues." Bennett trotted forward, then hopped off of the ground. His body splashed into the water, sinking and vanishing immediately, to Fera's shock.

"I-is that supposed to happen?"

"It is, don't worry." Vivian waved her paw at the other girl. A long pause followed, before Bennett's head burst up from the water's surface, giving Fera a start.

"Ain't anythin' down below. Plus, I doubt you'd be able to carry much cash through the water." Bennett shook some water off of his fuzzy head, Tai shielding himself from the spray.

"Well… is there just not a cave, then?" Tai stammered with annoyance. "I don't think Cromwell's gonna be happy if we show up empty-handed."

"Hmm…" Bennett turned away, splish-splashing slowly along the surface of the water. His interest had been drawn to the cascades. "I'm gonna check somethin' out. Hope I can do this right..." Before anyone could ask for more clarity, he dove beneath the water again.

When the other three saw Bennett again, he was bursting out of the water at the base of the leftmost cascade, cloaked in a swirling aquatic aura. The Bidoof's body slashed into the roaring waterfall, and began to spiral as he submerged himself within the stream. Rather than descending, however, his body continued to rise. His form began rushing up and up through the waterfall as a silhouette, moving faster than a flailing Magikarp. Before Fera could even fully comprehend what was occurring, the Bidoof had crested the first of several ridges leading to the top of the plateau, and was proceeding to scale towards the next one.

"Woah." Fera watched in amazed confusion; Bennett already wasn't the fastest Pokemon in Treasure Town, but now he propelled himself up at speeds that would rival Gekkuya's reflexive attacks.

The silhouette soon reached the peak, and the Bidoof emerged from the deluge, droplets of water twisting and twirling around him magnetically in a way that the others could not see at such a great distance. Then, as soon as he had appeared, he turned and dove back down, crashing through the waterfall and descending towards where he had originated. His body slid in with the rest of the water raining down from above, vanishing once more. He reached the base much faster than he had left from it, but he gave no time to converse with the other three about what he was doing. Soon, he hopped along the water's surface, and then began to ascend the second waterfall.

The silhouette's second ascent did not reach the top of the cliffside. Rather, the form hesitated halfway up, shifting and bobbing around, resisting the downward pull of the stream.

Suddenly, Bennett burst forth. The Bidoof's body raced out of the waterfall and into the cliffside as if he had a death wish. Still surrounded by the flowing aura, Bennett's side crashed into an inlet of stone, and blew through it with ease. With a few steps over to their left to peer past the stream, the three explorers could barely see that Bennett's attack had caved in part of the cliff, a small circular entrance that led deeper inside.

Bennett eventually stepped out, to the rim of the entrance, waving over to Fera and the others with a bright smile. "I found it, I think!"

The trio waved back, still in awe of the sudden display of power demonstrated by their companion.

"What WAS that?" Tai shouted out to Bennett from down below.

"I started practicin' my Aqua Jet! I think it's pretty good now!" Bennett chuckled back down at Tai. "Now I can bust right through a pile of Stealth Rocks, seems!"

"Alriiiight… can it get us up there?"

"Err… not really, but…!" The Bidoof checked the area immediately around him. "I'll find a way in! Pretty sure no regular thief's gonna be reachin' a secret hideout that way!" Bennett vanished back into the cave, leaving the other three behind for now.

A rumbling sound echoed from the highest peak of the cliff. The children looked up to investigate its source, and Fera soon spotted a heavy rock that seemed to be shifting.

A moment longer, and the rock broke open, as Bennett ascended with another Aqua Jet that shattered the stone apart. Bits and pieces flew off the cliff's edge, raining from above to splash down in the body of water while the Bidoof landed from his aerial attack. Bennett's voice called to them again, much more distantly than the first time.

"There's an entrance! Climb on around!"

Fera started to shout in return, wanting to know more about Bennett's new move and the process of discovering the cave, but Vivian tapped on the Riolu's leg to draw her attention.

"Let's just talk when we get up there, alright?"
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