*Crazy Absol Noises*
Thank you so much! =D I'm hoping I've added enough changes and plot smoothing so that older readers can enjoy, too. Some have already returned on FFNet and I am super stoked about that!Whoa, this story was well worth the wait. I'm glad I haven't read the original version so I can get into this blindly and enjoy it more since it'd be an entirely new experience for me
Fantastic, thank you =D Cleo and Spark's relationship is pretty heart-warming, and I love writing the pair. They even have their own backstory I plan to share at some point further down the line, as the original has its own collection of back-story one-shots which need some serious fine-tuning. This is so much fun work for me, I love it!I really like our protagonists so far. Cleo and Spark have a very good synergy between them and you can tell easily from their interactions that they've been partners for a long time at the very least.
I'm really glad to read this. Tinker and Cleo's relationship is one of the aspects I've altered in this re-write. They weren't as conflicting originally, and Tinker was rather fond of Cleo.Cleo's interaction with Tinker in the office does show the contrast between the two in that Cleo would prioritize saving anyone at arm's length while Tinker kinda only looks at the big picture while fully willing to make sacrifices along the way.
You'll have to wait and see about Harbinger ;) you've only had one perspective on all of this so far.That Absol seems a bit like a dick if not outright petty. He goes around foretelling disasters he himself causes which ain't cool. I wonder, or hope rather, that not all dark types in this world are evil and racist/typist(?) towards other pokemon. After all there are still a few nice peeps in oppressive regimes irl as most just want to live their lives comfortably.
Thanks for pointing that out. I think it was down to me using the American spell-check which was defaulted on Scrivener. There are spelling differences between some UK and American words. I've switched this to UK now, given I use a lot of British idioms and spellings by default. Hopefully this will fix things, but I apologise to my American readers if anything looks odd from here on out!This story was pretty well done, barring a few typos I spotted here and there. I'm excited to see where this goes, and it's great that it's basically a soft rewrite of an already finished fic, so updates may very well be regular.
2 - Mischief
The dining hall was bustling as it always was first thing in the morning. Cleo slid through a group of nattering pokemon to join Spark at the table. The small dedenne was sat beside a snubbul who, despite being too involved in his breakfast, took the time to look up and smile warmly at the meowstic. Cleo returned his greeting, then flopped down beside Spark.
“Great spread today!” said Spark just before taking a bite out of an oran berry.
Cleo couldn’t agree more. To look at it, one wouldn’t think the cold season was drawing in. It looked like the Guild had just had a fresh harvest.
She reached for a plate and grabbed a few slices of dried fish to add to it. Coupled with a savory root gravy, it went down a treat.
Spark wiped her whiskers and looked up at Cleo. “So what’s the plan for today?”
“I thought we’d finally head out,” said Cleo. “I think five days is a suitable enough rest.”
“Yeah, I’m starting to get itchy feet.” Spark reached for another berry. “I’d better fill up though if we’re gonna be travelling a while.”
“It’s a two day walk to New City,” said Cleo. “You won’t be struggling. I’ll restock our supplies before we leave.”
“Fantastic!” Spark punctuated that by stuffing an entire cheri into her mouth.
It was little wonder the dedenne didn’t choke. Cleo stifled a laugh and tucked into her own breakfast.
“Oh, I should let Tinker know we’re heading off, too,” said Cleo.
“Can’t,” said Spark. “He’s apparently already left.”
Cleo let out a small sigh of relief. She hadn’t really spoken to him since they’d arrived. In fact, she’d actively tried to avoid him. The only other contact they’d had was small-talk over dinner two evenings prior, when they’d found themselves sitting next to each other. Things had seemed a little tense.
“Did he say where he was going?” Cleo ventured.
Spark shrugged her shoulders and swallowed her mouthful. “Nope. He didn’t speak to me. I heard it off JuneBerry.”
Cleo didn’t know who JuneBerry was, but Spark’s answer didn’t exactly solve anything. If Cleo was to guess, Tinker had probably headed back to New City. Cleo hadn’t heard any news about locals in trouble, and Tinker didn’t often venture outside. He just sent out his own Warriors while handling affairs from his desk.
Cleo wiped her paw across her mouth and scooped up her empty plate. “I’ll meet you back here after I’ve grabbed supplies, okay?”
Spark gave her a thumbs-up then returned to re-stocking her plate. Cleo had long since stopped questioning where Spark put it all. She left the dining hall, pausing only to place her plate on the shelf beside the door.
The store room wasn’t far away. A wooden elevator box hung inside the wall, and she lowered herself using its creaky pulley system. The sides of the box scraped along the chute, occasionally snagging in place. It was somewhat unsettling, and a clear sign that the Guild Hall, despite appearances, was as hastily built as the rest of the town.
It finally opened up into a dark room. She could already smell the ripe berries, guiding her nose towards the wooden boxes at the back of the room. Dim light flickered from torches high above her by the elevator, but yet more danced around amid the boxes, casting erratic shadows across the walls. A charmander poked his head up and staggered beneath the weight of an overflowing basket. He set it inside another pulley system, smaller than the elevator, then poked his head inside.
“Sending them up!”
The dumb waiter creaked, lifting the basket out of sight. The charmander returned to his task, gathering berries one by one and examining them, before deciding which ones to put into another basket for the kitchen. He looked up when Cleo made her way towards the supplies.
“Oh hi!” he said. “Are you here for supplies?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Just stocking up for a two day journey.”
“Going to New City, huh?” He smiled warmly and lowered what he was holding into the basket. “I can help you pick things out if you like?”
Cleo eyed him curiously, assessing him. Her claws twitched at her sides and she bit her lip absently.
“No thanks,” she said. “I know what I’m looking for. I won’t disturb you.”
“It’s no problem, honest!” He straightened to look at her, and his eyes widened briefly. His face fell slightly, but he tried to mask it with a smile. “Oh. Right, I understand. Sure, help yourself.”
Cleo nodded stiffly and clambered amid the boxes. Trusting others was always something she’d struggled with. Sure, she could put her life on the line for innocent pokemon, but would turn down help for a simple task like this… She shook her head at herself and began sorting through the varied selection of berries.
Pokemon often used berries, not just for food but medicinal reasons too. Oran and sitrus berries were a frequent go-to, although both Cleo and Spark preferred oran to the bitter tang of sitrus. She made sure to stock up on enough oran berries to see them though more than two days. On top of that, she made sure to grab a couple of cheri berries for Spark. A personal favourite of the dedenne’s.
As well as a couple of pecha berries, and rawst perchance they needed them, Cleo also restocked her dried fish. Spark didn’t touch the stuff, but Cleo had been raised on it. It was packaged in brown paper, and slotted in nicely at the back of Cleo’s satchel, behind her map. That way, it wouldn’t turn the berries salty.
Satisfied, Cleo headed back towards the elevator.
The charmander gave her a friendly ‘bye!’ as she entered it. She returned it with a polite wave, and dragged herself back out of the storage room.
Spark was waiting by the dining hall door, and her long whiskers twitched in a happy smile. She bounded across the floor and scrambled up Cleo’s leg to her shoulder.
“So what didja get?” she asked.
“Now that would be telling,” Cleo teased as they left the Guild.
“Aw! Come on!”
The sun beamed down on the little town, baking the dirt streets until they were almost too hot to walk on. The town was bustling with pokemon, most of them keeping close to the walls. Cleo followed the path through the buildings towards a small market. She quirked an eyebrow at it, then looked down at her bag.
She’d managed to amass some items during her last job that she’d successfully buried beneath all the berries, but unloading them off on the market might not be a bad idea. She didn’t use items in battle herself. Iron thorns were a simple means to peg her tent into the ground, as opposed to something to throw at her foes. She was clumsy with them, and had never mastered the art of throwing them straight.
She passed by a table that specialised in such items, but the seller was deep in debate with a skarmory. The metal bird had recently shed some feathers and was trying to get a good price for the material, which the graveller who owned the stall was desperate to underpay for.
Cleo decided to take her wares elsewhere, following the stalls around to another filled with battle items. Normal and water gems were the main focus, and to no surprise of Cleo’s, there wasn’t a psychic gem in sight. Typical. That was one item she might have actually considered.
“Can I help you?” The seller was a cinccino.
“Yes, actually.” Cleo fumbled through her bag for the small paw-full of iron thorns. “I was wondering if you were interested in these?”
The cinccino gathered them up and examined them with intense scrutiny. “I think two gold coins would be enough?”
Cleo shrugged. “I’ll take-”
She staggered forwards as someone bashed into her, her words cutting off as she reached out to steady herself on the table. Two of the gems fell off to the floor, rolling away beneath the feet of a passing ursaring. She turned her head towards the sound of scampering feet, but whoever it was had slipped away unseen.
“Little toe-rag,” Spark scoffed.
Cleo muttered an apology to the cinccino and stooped to grab one of the gems. The other had been picked up by the ursaring. Cleo’s heart sank when she noted the crack in the surface of the water gem in her paws.
The cinccino’s lips turned down in a sad frown. “I’m afraid I’ll have to charge you for that.”
“Will the thorns be enough?” Cleo asked.
The cinccino shook her head. “They’re three gold each.”
Cleo sighed and reached into her bag for her coin pouch, but her claws closed around something hard and round. She pulled it out and her eyes widened. A rock?
“What are you doing with a rock?” Spark asked.
Cleo’s heart sank even further and she dropped her paw, searching the crowd of busy pokemon. “I think whoever bumped me robbed me…”
“We were robbed?!” Spark twisted on her shoulder and shook her fist at the air. “Get back here, you thief!”
“It’s a little late now.” Cleo turned back to the cinccino. “I’m really sorry, I-”
The cinccino lifted her paws and shook her head. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s just one coin. I’ll keep the iron thorns, though.” She closed her eyes in a smile. “Just… catch that thief before he robs anyone else?”
“Thank you so much.” Cleo turned from the table and dashed through the crowd.
It didn’t surprise her. Even amid the Outcasts there were dishonest pokemon. Yet another reason not to trust so blindly. She cut hastily through the crowd, trying to spot anyone who looked remotely suspicious.
Spark tapped Cleo’s ear and pointed straight ahead. “Is that the thief?”
Cleo narrowed her eyes at the retreating fluffy back of a whimsicott. His running gait was almost as if he were in slow-motion, rising daintily into the air as the breeze carried him further along.
“Oi!” Spark shouted. “Stop right there, you thief!”
The whimsicott looked back at her, and his orange eyes widened. He turned and picked up his pace, galloping towards the edge of town.
Spark bailed off Cleo’s shoulder and took off after him, screeching at him to stop.
Cleo shook her head sharply and raced after him. Spark was alarmingly fast, outrunning Cleo and almost snapping at the whimsicott’s heels. He gave another glance back and let out a ‘yikes!’ before desperately trying to speed up. The wind was no longer in his favour, having dropped and leaving him to outrun the speedy dedenne alone.
Spark’s whiskers lit up with electricity and she fired a thunderbolt at the whimsicott. It staggered him, slowing him down enough for Cleo to come within striking distance.
The meowstic unfurled her ears, and a blast of purple light struck the thief. He yelped and stumbled forwards, but he didn’t hit the floor. Instead, Cleo lifted him in her psychic attack and turned the fluffy pokemon around to face her.
She came to a stop beside Spark, panting to catch her breath. “You’re fast, I’ll give you that.”
The whimsicott touched a thumb-claw to his chest. “Are you talking to me?”
“Do you see any other thieves in bubbles?” Cleo scoffed.
The whimsicott turned his head left and right, straining to see behind him. Then he turned back to Cleo and shook his head. “Nope.”
Cleo and Spark exchanged glances. It had been a sarcastic and rhetorical question, and Cleo wasn’t sure if the whimsicott was returning the jest or being serious.
She turned back to him and held out her paw. “Now. Give back what you stole from me, and I’ll let you go without any fuss.”
“Oh darn it!” His face fell and his arms flopped at his sides. “I can’t! I need it. At least… I think I do.”
“What kind of answer is that?!” Spark squeaked, rising to her hind legs. “You can’t just go around stealing things because you need them!” She paused and her nose crinkled. “Especially if you aren’t even certain you need them!”
“Exactly,” said Cleo. “And replacing it with a rock? It’s not as if I didn’t notice you’d bumped into me.”
“I switcheroo’d!” he explained. “It’s all I know for pick-pocketing.”
Spark looked up at Cleo. “He’s rather honest for a thief.”
Cleo stared up at the levitating whimsicott. Spark wasn’t wrong. He was being oddly honest. Something didn’t smell right.
“Spark’s got a point,” she said. “Why would you explain yourself? Most criminals I pump for information are so unwilling to give it up that I have beat it out of them.”
The whimsicott paled. “That sounds rather unnecessarily violent.”
Cleo and Spark both turned slack-jawed.
The whimsicott raised his paws in a shrug. “What can I say? You caught me.”
“But…” Spark stuttered. “But you’re the bad guy!” She lowered her head into her paws and groaned. “What a cheesy line…”
“Hey, I’m not a bad guy!” said the whimsicott. “I’m just lost!”
“Then you’re in the same situation as all of us,” said Cleo. “Most pokemon these days are lost.”
“Are they?” He glanced back at the town and made a thoughtful noise, before returning to Cleo. “You two don’t look very lost. You seem to know where you’re going.”
Cleo blinked a couple of times, then sighed. “I give up. You’re not making any sense. Just give back what you stole from me, and we’ll be on our way.”
The whimsicott scratched his fluffy head. “Okay. I’ll give it back, but… can you please help me?”
“That depends,” said Cleo. “You said you need that money pouch, so I’m going to hazard a guess you don’t have anything on you?”
“Nope!” He shook his head sadly. “Just fluffy little me.”
He reached into his cottony down and pulled out Cleo’s brown money pouch. He tossed it towards her, sending it straight through the bubble and into her waiting paws. Immediately, Cleo dropped her psychic and the whimsicott dropped onto his bottom with a grunt.
He stood up and dusted down his behind. “So… are you going to help me?”
“Sorry.” Cleo stuffed her pouch back into her bag and marched past him with Spark on her shoulder. “I don’t help strange pokemon, especially not if they’ve just robbed me. You don’t know who to trust in this day and age.”
“But you can trust me.” He trotted to keep up with her. “I just want you to keep me company for a while.”
“Company?” Cleo twirled on the spot to look back at him.
“Yes!” he said with a smile.
“I’m afraid I don’t do that either.” She turned and marched away, picking up pace to try and lose him.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because you never know who’s going to turn around and stab you in the back.”
“Or steal from you,” Spark added. “Or ‘switcheroo’.”
“Oh.” The whimsicott looked downcast. “But I gave it back, right?”
“Sure,” said Cleo. “But you wouldn’t have needed to if you hadn’t stolen it in the first place.”
“Well you have my full trust that I won’t do it again!” he said, rushing to keep up with them. “And I won’t stab you in the back either. My claws aren’t even that sharp!” When Cleo didn’t respond, he went on, “I’ll just follow you. You won’t even know I’m here! My name’s Mischief by the way. What’s yours?”
Cleo grit her teeth together, biting back the urge to retaliate. Spark sank down on her shoulder so far she couldn’t even make out the bump under her fur. If he was going to insist on following them, the best thing they could do would be to remain silent in the hopes he’d grow bored and go away?
The Outcast town was well behind them now, and the sun was high in the sky, baking the ground and scorching the dry plants. Tough weeds and young trees rose around them, casting shadows that provided some temporary relief from the sun. The ground had grown much more hostile, hard and rocky with large jagged crags that rose up around them, shoved out of place by trees and brambles that had exploded through once-small cracks. Tufts of grass sprouted along stretches of the rugged landscape, dotted by delicate wildflowers that struggled against thorny brambles.
Spark poked her head out of Cleo’s fur and twisted to look behind them. “We’re still being followed…”
“I’m aware.” Cleo didn’t look back, not wanting to prompt conversation with their tag-a-long thief.
“Yes, but I’m getting hungry,” said Spark, “and I’d really like to stop soon for lunch.”
Cleo sighed and slowed to a stop beside a young berry tree. Its sparse branches were rapidly losing their leaves, and overripe berries lay scattered along the floor, many of them dried up from the heatwave. Cleo flopped against its trunk and began rummaging through her satchel.
Spark dropped beside her, glaring at Mischief as he approached them.
“Is it lunch time already?” he asked with a friendly smile. “Time sure flies with company, doesn’t it?” He skipped over with the typical whimsicott gait and examined the canopy.
Cleo and Spark remained silent, cautiously tucking into their berries and deeply wishing the whimsicott would just leave them alone.
He gave a little hop and drifted up towards the branches, scrambling around above their heads. A few yellow leaves drifted down, almost blanketing Spark. They were soon followed by a wrinkly oran berry that hadn’t decided to vacate its home yet. Within moments, Mischief was beside them again, clutching another overripe berry in his paw.
“Argh!” Spark abandoned her lunch and leapt to her feet, sparking vehemently. “I can’t take it anymore! I’m gonna have to say something!”
Cleo watched Spark out of the corner of her eye. Mischief took a wary step back, more-so to avoid the electricity that was dancing over the dry ground.
“Why are you following us around like a growlithe pup?” Spark demanded. “What do you want?!”
Mischief glanced up at the sky then shrugged. “Company.”
Spark placed her paws on her hips. “Seriously?!”
“I think what Spark is trying to say,” said Cleo slowly, “is that first you rob us, and then you follow us around claiming to be lonely. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well…” Mischief scratched his fluffy head and leant back against the slender trunk of a young tree. “You see… thieving isn’t really my style. At least, I don’t think it is. I didn’t like it, anyway. It felt wrong, and you two are really unhappy about it so… I’m gonna guess it’s bad?”
“Of course it’s bad!” Spark snapped. “A hatchling could’ve told you that much!”
Mischief just nodded and juggled his berry between both paws.
Cleo inclined her head on one side. “So you’ve never stolen anything before today?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I mean… you see, I don’t really know why I am, to be honest. I just woke up outside this morning. Around here, actually.” He waved a paw at their immediate surroundings. “I think… I’m lost. I dunno…”
Cleo and Spark stared at him, dumbfounded. Something was very off about this whimsicott. A lot of pokemon slept outside (although it wasn’t recommended given the state of the world) but the more he said, the more strange he seemed.
“Where are you from?” Cleo ventured.
“Oh that I know!” Mischief’s face lit up with a smile. “I’m from the Clean Place!”
Cleo and Spark blinked.
“The what?” Spark asked.
“The Clean Place!” he repeated. “They were really nice there! Those I remember, anyway. Although I only remember being surrounded by other pokemon, and called Mischief. Then I woke up here.” He waved at the ground again.
“You woke up here?” Cleo pointed at the floor between her feet. “This spot, right here?”
“Kind of.” Mischief extended his arm towards the surrounding rugged ground. “I woke up, then headed towards the town because there were pokemon there and I was hungry. Although this tree has berries.” He looked up at the branches above Cleo’s head then took a bite out of his oran berry, sending tangy juices over his chin.
“So where is this Clean Place?” Cleo asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I’d never been outside. At least… I don’t think I did. I really can’t remember.”
A brief silence washed over them, broken only by Mischief slurping berry juices off his paws.
Spark looked up at Cleo and said in a hushed whisper, “I think he’s had his memory wiped.”
Cleo shook her head. “He remembers too much for that.” She turned back to the whimsicott. “Mischief… your story doesn’t settle well with me. But I’m starting to think you’re telling the truth.”
“Of course I am,” he said. “Why would I lie?” He then inclined his head on one side and his eyes became distant. “At least… I don’t think I’m lying.”
“Your memories seem to have been tampered with. Can you remember any pokemon from this Clean Place?”
He shook his head. “Sorry. All their faces are blurry. But I remember they were nice to me! And excited, although I can’t remember why.”
“This just cements my fears,” said Cleo. “Why would someone want to tamper with your memories?”
Mischief finished licking his paws clean then gave another shrug. He then dropped to all fours and began examining the berries on the floor.
Spark sighed into her lunch and looked up at Cleo. “You’re thinking of helping him, aren’t you?”
“Not so much ‘helping’,” Cleo replied quietly as she watched Mischief sample one of the dried and rotten berries with some level of disgust. “But I think it would be a good idea to have him with us.”
Spark crinkled her nose in a frown. “Why?”
“So we know where he is,” said Cleo. “I have a funny feeling…” She scratched her head and sighed. “Mischief, if you really want company, then you can tag along with us for a while.”
He stood up and beamed at them. “Really? You’re going to be my friends?”
Spark scoffed a little too loud.
“That’s stretching it a bit.” Cleo gathered up her bag and lowered an arm for Spark to climb back onto her shoulder. The dedenne stuffed the rest of her oran into her cheek pouches before scampering up onto her usual perch. Cleo then turned back to Mischief. “Let’s just say ‘companion’ for now, okay?”
“Okay, Companion For Now!” He bounced lightly on his feet. “So where are we going?”
“Spark and I are on Guild Business,” said Cleo.
“Important Guild Business,” Spark said, puffing out her chest.
“You can follow us for a bit,” said Cleo, “but we’ll part ways when we reach the moors. Maybe you’ll regain your memories before then and can return home.”
“That would be nice,” he said. “But if we’re going to be Companions For Now, I need to know your names. You know mine, I’m Mischief. You are Spark and…” He pointed from Spark then to Cleo.
Cleo grimaced. She hadn’t been planning on giving out their names. “It’s Cleo.” She moved past Mischief to follow the dirt track towards the moors. “If you’re going to tag along, then you’ll need to keep up. We’re on a tight schedule, and we won’t be slowing down for you.”
“You already know I’m quick on my feet!” he said as he skipped lightly after them. “I mean, you had trouble catching me before, right? Wow, I think this is gonna be fun!”
Spark tensed and swished her long tail. “I’m beginning to think Mischief is less his name and something the Clean Place called him for being a nuisance.”
“Ooh look! There’s more berries over here!” Mischief skipped away from them to gather up some fallen berries from beneath a razz bush. Each one had clearly seen better days, and left a purple residue on his paws. “Would you like me to gather some for you?”
“No, no…” Spark’s nose crinkled with distaste. “We’re really fine.”
Cleo grimaced and lowered her head into her collar. If Tinker could see her now, the meowstic who refused to take on an extra companion, he’d roll onto his back laughing.