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Pokémon Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Soaring Over Heaven

Introduction - A Brief Description

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Soaring%20Over%20Heaven%20Cover%20Art-min(1).png

Beckoned by the worlds of a mysterious entity, A naive human-turned-Rowlet is dropped into the endless blue skies of flying ships and sky pirates. With a lack of memories and guidance on where to go next, he puts his stake into a partnership with free-spirited privateers. His journey to save the skies will put him on a collision course with warring nations, untamed dungeons, and self-reflection - as all roads lead to the end of the horizon.

Featuring art by yours truly and other amazing artists!


Now then. Where do I begin? Originally I only started to write for PMD in 2022, when I started my very first long story titled Embers and Flowers. I had been inspired by the sheer talent of writers who used original settings to their fullest, wanting to carve my own path with my own story and characters. The result...was a good first attempt, though full of hiccups here and there, but I soon found myself burnt out on my own story pretty quickly. I found my ideas at the time to be lacking, which led to me to shelve the fic and try again with a new premise, this time drawing on my love of certain aspects of some of my favorite media (Xenoblade, One Piece, the mobile game Granblu Fantasy, and more), while having a spin on some concepts. Thus, Soaring Over Heaven was born! This fic is my way of pushing myself to improve not only as a writer, but a storyteller and even as an artist! I learn something new nearly every day, which I try to put work. I'm so excited to share the fruits of my labor with a new audience, and while I'm new to this site and this format in general, I'm more than willing to learn and accept feedback! So please, hit me with your best shot!

Now if there's no more reservations, I'm going to try and link back to this main post when I can. Please bear with me as I grow used to TR's format.

General Rating: T for Teen (Occasional swearing, violence, some mature themes.)

I may try to have a little extra bit at the end of the chapter, usually some concept art/sketches or additional trivia. Feel free to ask me if you want to see anything in particular about this story, outside main plot details of course!



 
Chapter 1: Falling Down

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 1: Falling Down


Hey Maxim.. What would you do if the stars above in the sky disappeared? Would you be curious? Upset they disappeared? Wish for them to come back?



Hey Maxim… If you were scared to hurt someone, why did you do it?





Hey Maxim… did they make you angry? Did they do nothing to you? Or did you…?





Hey Maxim… don’t forget…





Hey Maxim…





MAXIM!


………





All encompassing void, all enveloping darkness.





He awoke to find himself floating in a sea of nothingness. Was he going mad? Why was he here?





There wasn’t a concept of time. An eternity could pass, and he’d feel nothing. In fact, he couldn’t feel anything at all. Where was his body?





Panic crept in. At least he still had his emotions. Maybe he could will his body into existence next..





“No need. You will soon be set free.”





Wha- Who said that?





“I did. You may call me an ‘observer’, if you will.”





And now he was going crazy. At least he won’t be lonely if there’s an imaginary voice to talk to.





“You still doubt me? Here, witness this!”





The darkness was illuminated by a single pulsating orb of light. A burning feeling of energy enveloped him, surging through his existence like wildfire. His very being felt drawn to the levitating light. And then…





“Enough.”





The glow faded and the cold darkness returned. He was paralyzed, weak. Alone.





“Do not fear, for you have been chosen for a grand purpose. A divine experiment in a world of endless sky and unyielding conflict, where unforeseen calamity threatens to tear it apart. To safeguard it, I have searched for a qualified candidate. You have met my needs, knowledge seeker!”





This was too much for him to deal with. Could he just be free already? Even an eternity of silence would be more appealing.





“Very well, I suppose you have been in the dark long enough. I shall send you on your way, but not without the proper knowledge.”’





A low hum started in the darkness, followed by a flash of light. Soon, the void itself started to distort as a ball of light similar to the one before it formed again. The difference was that this one began to absorb the darkness like an inverse black hole.





“One more thing. Regardless of which path you take in this world, remember that you and only you can decide how your story plays out. Your memories shall remain scattered, but meet me at the origin point at the end of the skies, and know the truth.”





Again, he felt himself being drawn into the light, but this time he felt an overwhelming wave of pressure dragging him in. There was nothing he could do but watch as the light grew closer.





And closer.





And closer.





“Farewell for now, Maxim.”





The light enveloped him in a warm embrace, the void vanishing from sight.










Wooooosh





The wind was blowing strongly against his skin. Darkness enveloped behind his closed eyes, but unlike before, he had control over his body.





Wait, body? His body was back?





Eyes slowly opened to overwhelming light that slowly faded. Ears that could hear the howl of rushing wind were the first sense to fully return. As his eyes adjusted, the only thing he could make out was nothing but blue and white blurs.





Then realization hit him harder than the wind. He was falling!





“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”





His voice was back, at least. A small solace for one falling to their doom.





He moved his left arm forward, only to find a bundle of toasty brown feathers instead. Using the right arm netted the same result, raising more alarm bells. Was reality playing a cruel joke on him?





Before he could gather his thoughts, a mighty force struck his back, causing the blur of rushing sky to stop, before resuming once again in reverse. He became disoriented and nausea set in. Feeling his consciousness slip away, he hoped whatever fate befell him would be swift and painless.










All encompassing void.





Had he really come back here, new life cut short already? He shuddered at the thought of dealing with that strange voice again.





...okay? …Not… damaged…”





Oh, another voice. This time, the tone was that of a male’s; gentle and soft, without an omnipotent boom present. Whoever he was, the voice was busy chatting away.





“. .. fall… on… patrol… can’t believe this happened…”





A second masculine voice, this time deep and confident, became locked in a discussion with the first. Both grew louder as they went back and forth.





“I wonder when the little guy is gonna wake up..”





“Hard to say when. Best to not bother him for now and let him rest. Your patrol duties are calling.”





“Hmph, noted.”





Wait a moment, that sounded like it came from right beside him. He struggled to move his body as feeling returned once more, and he began to open his eyes.





A fuzzy haze came into view, while a floral scent hung in the air.. Shapes formed and he was soon left staring at a candle hanging off a dark wooden wall. Staring down revealed a soft mattress covered in green wooly sheets.





He was now indoors, safe from a plummeting demise. Was it all just a bad dream?





“Ah, you’re awake already? Interesting.”





He wasn’t alone either. It was the gentle and soft voice from earlier, this time much clearer.


A humanoid figure came into view, one covered in a white dress with green leggings, and with piercing red eyes paired with green, twintailed hair. On their right arm was some kind of blue band covered in a small symbol. In their left arm was a small notebook and a pen attached to the back on a string. The figure raised their free hand and a wave of pink energy floated over his bed. Rejuvenation washed over him. He had never seen something like this before, and yet a name came immediately to mind as he gazed at them.





“That’s a Kirlia.” He thought. “ Wait, how did I know that?”





“I was worried that Signal had been too rough with you when he recovered you from your failed flight. But my worries were unfounded. Guess I should apologize to him later,” The Kirlia said as he raised a hand to his chin.





Maxim glanced to the side. On a nearby table was a small, circular mirror. He took the chance to glance at his body. Feathers, both white and brown, covered his small form. Instead of arms and legs, he had bird wings and orange talons. A small green bowtie-shaped growth was planted above his neck. He rubbed a wing over his face - even that transformed to a smooth, hard beak.




“I’ve been turned into a r-r-Rowlet?! That damn voice must have done this to me !” He speculated. “ I bet that guy is laughing his ass off, wherever he is.”



Chapter%201%20-%20Realization-min.png


“Excuse me, are you alright?”





He was snapped out of thought by the waiting Kirlia. Now he had to figure out what to do about his current position.





“I-I’m fine”, he stammered. “Please just tell me where I am. I’m not even sure how I got here.”





Kirlia beamed. “Ah, you’re in the infirmary hold of our ship.”





“Ship?” He questioned. “So we’re at sea?”





“Sea…?” Kirlia gazed at him, raising their hand back to their chin. “Unless that’s what you call the vast sky.”





That was enough to make him raise a nonexistent eyebrow. Maxim pressed for more information. “What kind of vessel is this, and just how did I end up here?”





“The name of this ship is Serene Grace , a merchant ship! We were on our way to Cape Tirtouga to deliver goods, when one of our lookouts saw a hole form in the sky. One of our men went to investigate it, saw you fall out of there, and dragged you to safety.”





Maxim put a wing to his beak in thought. So that’s how I entered this world. Would it have killed the voice to spawn me on the ground? “So, another question: how long have I been out for?”





His question was answered by three fingers held up. “Three hours! You’ve been unconscious since you got here. Since then, I was doing some health checkups on you and nothing’s wrong with you. In the meantime, please try and relax .”





“I see.” Maxim sighed. Easiest thing for him to do would be to get a grip on what’s going on now, and focus on what to do next later.





“Sorry to interrupt your thoughts”, Kirlia chimed in, “but I’ve forgotten to ask your name! What do you go by, stranger?”





“Maxim. Just call me Maxim,” he stated.





Krilia smiled. “Quite the name, Maxim! My name is Cecil, nurse assistant! Just take a nice breather and rest yourself. We should be at our destination in one more day! Once we dock, then you can figure out what to do next.”





Maxim stood up on his talons on the bed. “I guess that’s fine, but I still don’t get where exactly in the world this i-”





“Oh, our mystery friend is finally awake?”





A girl’s voice, slightly gruff and full of energy, spoke from the door. Both the transformed human and Cecil turned to the door.





A bipedal creature resembling a weasel, with red limbs attached to a yellow body, stood there. A blue band the same as Cecil’s was wrapped on the right arm, while a blue and yellow striped bandanna was wrapped around her head. Again, a name appeared in Maxim’s mind at the sight of the creature: Mienfoo.





Did the voice turn me into a damn encyclopedia? I’ve never seen these creatures before!”





“Overheard you two chatting up a storm, figured I’d swing around!” The weasel clapped her hands. “Look at this crazy daredevil! How’d you get all the way into one of the straights without getting blown to pieces? Are yah a professional or somethin’?!”





Maxim brushed at nonexistent hair. “Daredevil? I got dropped into the middle of the sky with no warning! I’m not crazy enough to skydive from who-knows-where!”





A sly grin appeared on Mienfoo’s face. She placed a paw on her hips and pointed a finger at Maxim. “Eh? You trying to say Signal wasn’t fibbin’ with the ‘fallin’ from the sky’ story? I’d sooner believe you rowed yourself on the wind with two pieces of wood taped together!” She cackled.





Only three hours into this world and he was being called a liar. Great! Any plan he had of resting was dashed away an instant and uneasiness settled in. Perhaps a change of scenery would help to clear his head.





“Whatever”, he mumbled. “Believe whatever you want to believe.” Maxim turned back towards Cecil, waving his wing at the nurse. “Hey, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look outside. Get some fresh air, you know. Can I rest later?”





“Hmmm, I suppose letting you get some sunlight would be a good thing given your grass-type nature,” Cecil said. “I think it should be fine, provided someone watches you so nothing happens.”





Maxim wasn’t sure what the nurse meant by grass or “types”, but he buried the thought for now.





“Uh, sure, I could definitely use some more sunshine! I’m ready to go now, if you’re willing!” He said, putting mock-enthusiasm into his voice.





“Hold your ponytas! Just what do you think you’re sayin’, Cecil?!” Mienfoo raised a paw with a scowl on her face. “Letting some stranger go out of here without talkin’ to at least a high officer about it! How do we know this mudder’s not a spy or a criminal?”





Cecil frowned. He moved his notebook back under his arm. “Now Rene, why are you jumping to conclusions so soon? There wasn’t even a single item in his possession when he was brought in, nor did we find anything suspicious on his body after moving him to the ward. I get being cautious, but I can tell he’s not a legitimate threat.”





The weasel crossed her arms and looked away. “Bah, fine. But don’t come crying to me if he turns out to be some kinda wacko. I’ll do you a favor and find some bored crewmate to guide him up.”





That seemed to be exactly what the nurse wanted to hear, as a smile crept up on his face. “No need, as you’re going to be the best fit for the job!”





Rene took a step back and looked between Cecile, Maxim, and back to Cecil with widened eyes. “Wha? Since when am I a tour guide? I just came to have a look at him, not babysit him!”





Cecil pressed on. “Well think of it this way: what better means are there to keep an eye on a suspicious mon than with your own two eyes?“





Rene put her paws on her hip. “Well, you got a point there. And if he tries anything funny, then...” A loud clap echoed after the weasel slammed her paws together. “I still got some time to kill off shift. You said you’re ready to go, yeah?”





As much as Maxim agreed with her on picking someone else, he didn’t want to waste time. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” He sighed.





He stood up on the covers and looked down the side of the bed. Slowly moving his feet- no, talons- to the edge, the small owl hopped on to the ground.





“Okay, how do I walk on these things?” he thought.





Maxim took some steps. Despite how stubby his new legs were, walking for the first time didn’t feel strange. It was as if he had always been like this. He briskly moved to the door where Rene was scoffing. “Good! Now stay close to me so you don’t get lost. And don’t even think of tryin’ to jet away behind my back!”





While Rene stepped out into the hallway, Maxim took one last look back. Cecil waved back with a small smile . The former human returned the gesture with a wing before following the weasel’s lead.


Dim, candle-lit corridors and vacant hallways made up the path to the ship’s deck. The interior felt antique with the walls and floors made of polished wood, while the smell of burning candlewax filled the air. A few minutes of walking had led them to a set of steel stairs with sunlight beaming down from the top. They started to climb, with Rene leading the charge.





The sunlight grew brighter as they approached the top. Maxim tried not to grimace, hopping up as fast as he could. Eventually, he reached the last rung of the stairs.





The deck of the ship was beige wood with metal patches arranged around compartment entrances and lids. Twin masts reached triumphantly into the sky, beige sails expanded out in full force. The bridge superstructure was painted black and featured several glass windows, complete with unusual figures moving back and forth. Strange creatures roamed around the deck: a multicolored giraffe directed by a standing gray cat dragged around boxes, a blue beetle played a card game with a fat squirrel, and the strangest sight was an oversized floating bell with red eyes that levitated containers from one side of the ship to another. All the figures shared one thing in common: a blue band tied around a part of their body.





One creature stood out the most to him: a bipedal frog observed everything from a stack of boxes in the center. Matching a spiral pattern on their belly was a long, curved strand of hair on the top of their head. The blue band was on their left arm. In their hands was a small book they occasionally jotted down in.





A tap on the shoulder took him out of further viewing. Rene placed her paws on her hips and was staring him down.





“Don’t spend an eternity starin’ around while gawkin’ at the crew, you might get in their way. Head over to one of the corners if you wanna do that.”





Maxim rolled his eyes. “ Oh I’m sorry, not everyone has a normal reaction to weird talking animals running around some ship.”


Moving over to the railing along the edge of the deck, he glanced down to take a look at the water bel-





Wait, where was the water? No sea, no land, nothing but clouds reflecting the light of the clear sky above. The thick layer of cloud expanded for miles across the horizon.





Maxim reclined back. Rene tilted her head as he ran over as fast as his stubby talons could. An uncomfortable silence lingered as he stared at her leaning against the railing.





“What’s bothering yah?” She asked. “Thought you’d be enjoying the clear day since its easy sunlight.”





“Rene, where is the sea?”





The weasel stared back at him with widened eyes. “Sea? What the hell do you mean by that?”





Maxim raised a wing to his temple. Oh brother, first Cecil and now her. “ Surely I’m not the crazy one around here.”





“You know, a big body of water similar to how oceans cover the planet, or this one I’m assuming. What ships normally sail on instead of the actual sky itself?”





Another moment of silence, followed by Rene bursting into laughter. “Ahahaha! You must have bumped your head pretty hard before you got rescued! Of course a ship’s gonna sail the skies! Dunno what you mean by ‘sea’, but the only thing I see here is some Rowlet that took in a bit too much air for their own good!”





“Ugh, nevermind.” He sighed, shaking off the insult. ” I should have known better than to use reason in a world with talking animals in it.”





A deep and jovial voice spoke from a few feet away. “Hate to interrupt, but are you two having fun sunbathing over there?”





The fro- the Politoed had hopped over. A leather bag with a golden seal in the shape of three bird feathers was on him. The blue band on his arm also featured a golden trim along both edges, unlike the others.





“Ain’t you that Rowlet that got brought aboard?” The frog asked. “I’m surprised you were this quick to spring up after what happened!” He reached a hand out to Maxim with a growing grin on his face.





“Name’s Clyde! I’m runnin’ things on the deck! Thing’s seem a bit lively for now, but just wait until later, haha!”





Maxim hesitantly shook it with one of his wings. The frog was cold and slimy to touch, but he didn’t mind it. At least someone else besides Cecil was willing to play nice.





“What brings you up on the deck? You ain’t plannin’ on trying to fly again are yah?” Clyde teased.





“No sir, I just wanted to ‘get some sunlight’, as the nurse said. I’m not used to waking up in the middle of a ship.” Maxim said, rubbing his head with a wing.





“Hehe, well enjoy yourself for a lil’ while! But don’t forget to get back to the medical bay for some good rest, Especially considering how busy the crew’s gonna be later.” Clyde then winked at Rene, causing her to roll her eyes.





“You need anything, I’ll be over at my little post. See yah!” The frog said before turning over to a blue octopus moving a box. “OI, GRUE, I see you slacking over there! Hurry up and move that box or no drinks for ya tonight!” Clyde then hopped back to his position.





Maxim looked back to the distant horizon. “ Well, at least most of the creatures here seem friendly enough. Guess I was lucky I got dragged here over God-knows-where-else.”





The vast blue sky wouldn’t stay empty for much longer. Running level with the ship from far away was a black dot that grew bigger and bigger. Within a few moments, it was close enough to make out a ship-like appearance.





He turned back to Rene, who was still leaning on the guardrail. “Uh Rene, is there supposed to be another ship anywhere near us?”





“It’s probably some other merchant ship.” She grumbled. “Don’t pay ‘em any mind, because the rest of the crew won’t.”





Maxim couldn’t shake off his uneasiness. “Then why is it getting closer to us?” He raised a wing at the now rapidly approaching ship that was now extending sails and masts.





Rene noticed the object and leaned over the railing hard enough to nearly fall off. “That’s… huh?! They aren’t supposed to be here this early!”





The weasel recoiled before grabbing him by the back of the head. “Shit! We gotta go! I’m taking you back to the med bay, got it?!”





“W-what’s wrong? I thought you said not to worry about it?!” Maxim trembled. An ill feeling of dread took root inside and he shook. His claws dug into the wooden deck as Rene’s grip tightened. She began to drag him away.





“No more time!” She yelled. “We’re leaving right n-!





“PIRATES ON THE PORT SIDE! THE FLAG IS OCHER’S! EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY!” A voice bellowed out from atop one of the masts. The pirate ship’s bottom half was colored blood red, while the top half was a deep orange. Three tall masts with raised sails were present in the front, middle and rear. Coming near parallel to the Serene Grace, the pair froze as two massive hooks fired from the pirate ship and impaled the side. The ship rocked back and forth, knocking Maxim and Rene down. Before they could get up, a massive shadow flew over the railing.





It landed and Maxim’s blood ran cold. Only a few feet away was a cross between a bat and a dragon colored black and purple, a Noivern. On its neck was a dark orange bandanna with a bat-wing styled emblem and gleaming from the tip of its pointed tail was an attached metal blade. Long, speaker-like bat ears twitched as its head swiveled around. Eventually, its gaze lingered on Clyde. He stood as the bat-dragon approached him.





Creatures poured over the side of the ship and spreaded out. From a bipedal brown croc holding a black dagger to a walking cactus with even more spikes taped to its arms, the group was prepared to conquer. The crew had scrambled over the deck, with some hiding behind containers, while others formed a group behind Clyde. A deep and raspy voice boomed from the Noivern, causing pirate and crew alike to pause.





“Well then, I figure it’s about time to get down to business.” The bat-dragon leaned into Clyde’s face, the Politoed unblinking as he continued. “You, Politoed. Where’s the captain?”





Clyde stood straight as a statue, even as the pirate’s dagger tail moved close to his neck. “Aye, I’m sorry if you’re hoping for an appointment, he’s a bit busy right now!” Clyde laughed.





An uncomfortable silence returned to the deck. Maxim’s eyes widened into dinner plates as Rene gripped him closer to her body, a visible scowl on her face. Clyde’s smile didn’t diminish, a nonchalant stare on his face as if he was waiting for a proper response. The bat-dragon straightened up, glanced back to his pirate crew, then back down to the frog. He slowly started to laugh.





“Hehehehehe… HAHAHAHAHA! You’ve got some guts, Politoed. That’s fine, I’d rather drag your pathetic captain out of his hold kicking and screaming after we take your goods.” He sneered, slapping his tail on the wooden floor. He waved a claw at a pair of two black-and-gold-colored serpents with curved blades at the ends of their tails. “Trav, Igor, lead some of the men down below to the cargo hold. The rest of ya, tie up the crew on the deck. Make sure they have a front row seat while we plunder the vessel!”





Rene’s grip tightened as a pair of pirates moved to grab them. The weasel’s eyes brimmed with fury as she attempted to kick them away.





“Blow off, you filthy mudders! This ship ain’t yours for the takin’!” She growled.





Clyde shook his head and motioned both his hands down. Too focused on Ocher, Rene ignored the warning. In a split second, the bat-dragon closed the gap with a leap. His yellow eyes bored into them as he towered above.. His blade tail swished back and forth as if eager to see action. Maxim stayed silent, focusing his willpower into staying calm.





“Well isn’t this crew brimming with steel-coated bravery? I got to admit girlie, the average mon would have ran with their tail between their legs at the site of Blade Tail Ocher starin’ em down.”





Said tail-blade hovered a few inches from Rene’s forehead, causing her to shiver. Maxim gulped as the bat-dragon leaned in.





“Now then..” He sneered. “Let’s see how long those guts of yours last when I rip em outta yah!”
 
Last edited:
Chapter 2: Predators or Prey?

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 2: Predators or Prey?


“So what’s it gonna be, girlie?”





The pirate captain’s tail blade was only a few inches away from Rene’s skull. Maxim was paralyzed as the amused dragon leaned in closer.





“It’s your life, or your goods. Pick one.”





Rene and Ocher locked eyes for what seemed to be an eternity, with the wind being the only thing heard between the two. She knelt down and slowly released Maxim. The former human swore she turned back to him briefly before stating her answer.





“You moppet, pick someone to be a bigger tool than me.”





Everyone on board, from pirate to crew member, glared wide-eyed at the Mienfoo’s bluntness. Even Clyde’s smile had vanished, replaced by a steep frown. Maxim frantically crawled away from Rene.





“Is that so?” Ocher chuckled, pulling back his tail.





Without warning, he slammed Rene face-first into the wooden deck. The weasel let out a yelp as she was lifted up in the Noivern’s claws.





“Going to keep that bravado, eh? I guess I’ll do this slowly then!”





BANG





This time she was slammed down even harder, leaving behind visible cracks on the boards.





BANG





Ocher raised her up for a third time.





BANG





Then a forth, each impact leaving a bigger dent in the floor. As the crazed pirate pulled the battered Mienfoo up again, she was covered in wood shards and bruises .





The Noivern leaned her in close. “Well? Still got that fire in your eyes?”





Rene tilted her head over to Maxim, then stared directly into Ocher’s eyes.





“Yeah, I do.”





A growl came from Ocher’s maw as the dragon raised his claws to her throat. “I’m getting rather bored of yah! Time to cut the fun and skin ya alive!” He turned to his crew. “What do you say, boys?! Want me to give em a proper show?”





Roars of laughter echoed. Ocher raised his claws high in the air before coating them in draconic energy. Maxim’s heart felt like it would beat out of his chest.





Thump Thump





Fear coursed through him as his blood turned to ice in his veins.





Thump Thump





There had to be something, anything he could do! He tried to pick himself up, but his body refused to move. The dragon’s claws began to race forward to sink into-





Thump Thump





“That’s enough outta you lot! No fun n’ games for yah!”





The pirate captain paused mid-swing. All attention was drawn to Clyde, who stood with his chest puffed out on stacked boxes. A golden badge, shaped like a crown of feathers, was in his hands.





“And what do you think you’re going to do with that?” Ocher growled, pointing his tail at the Politoed. A Manectric and a Houndour rushed at Clyde, but he jumped high within seconds. Landing on one of the topmasts, he tossed a glowing orb. The object dropped all the way to the deck, shattering into light as bright as the Sun. Maxim reflexively raised a wing to shield his eyes.





The light faded after a few seconds. Maxim removed his wing to see scores of pirates clenching their eyes and rolling on the deck. Ocher had covered his eyes with his wings, while Rene had buried her face in her free arm.





FWEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTT





Shrill whistling came from the sky. Stacks of containers rattled before several silhouettes rushed out in a tide of newcomers. A blue figure blitzed past a row of pirates, knocking them down in a single strike. The blur impacted Ocher and pulled Rene out of his grasp. The figure stopped and let her down a few feet away. Maxim took in the newcomer's appearance.





A bipedal bird stood arms crossed in front of Ocher. The bird was blue with a yellow bill and a red and blue feather crest on their head. A light blue feather with a streak of white stood out in the center. Covering their torso was a fancy white and blue vest complete with a navy blue scarf on their left shoulder. A name sprung in Maxim’s mind: Quaquaval.





“You really threw me off track showing up this early!” The bird snarked in a deep and suave voice. “Not a big deal!”





A trio consisting of a Cacnea, Krokorok, and Liepard sprung at the newcomer from behind, but the Quaquaval roundhouse kicked them into a stack of empty boxes. “How rude!” He groaned.





The Noivern’s eyes widened. “What are you doing here, Drake?!” He turned over to the other newcomers, all of them wearing the same blue scarves.





“This is a trap!” The bat-dragon roared, slapping his tail into the ground. “Boys, give em’ all you got!”





In a split second, everything went to hell. The Serene Grace’ s deck erupted into a battlefield. Fireballs, spraying water, and even lightning attacks all clashed with each other, cascading colorful sparks and smoke everywhere. Taking advantage of the chaos, Maxim flapped away to find a hiding spot. He only got a few feet before he bumped head first into a black furred Sneasel. The orange scarf tied around their shoulder confirmed that he had made a grave mistake.





“Tsk! I’m gonna pluck your feathers for that one!” The Sneasel hissed, brandishing his claws.





Maxim rolled to the side to avoid a claw swipe. He bolted away, weaving through fallen pokemon and flying projectiles. A fireball went over his head, the heat forcing him to dive to the ground. A slight creak behind him found the sneasel still in pursuit with claws encased in razor-sharp ice.





“DUCK, YOU IDIOT!”





Maxim obliged as Rene launched like a speeding bullet into the Sneasel, sending the mon flying across the deck. The Mienfoo dusted herself off before sending a glare toward Maxim. Bruises and messy fur still covered her body, but her fiery gaze remained unshaken.





“Rene, you’re able to move around?!” Maxim stammered. “W-what’s going on?! Who are these guys?!”





Rene glared back. “I don’t have the time to explain it all, but if you see someone with a blue scarf just know they’re gonna be your buddy! How ‘bout you answer a question for me ?” She leaned forward.





“Why the bloody hell did you run away? At least try to defend yourself!” she barked.





The Rowlet shuddered. Fighting against bloodthirsty pirates? He couldn’t even outrun one!





“I-I can’t fight. Not at all!” Maxim said.





“A pokemon that can’t fight? You must be pulling a Wooloo on me.”





A few seconds of silence was her answer. The weasel signed, before turning away. “Fine. That amnesia of yours must be that bad..” She pointed to a stack of boxes. “Do me a favor. Either stay right behind me or hide away. Just try to be anythin’ other than a moving target.”





Maxim considered his options. If he were to hide he wouldn’t have to worry about constantly being attacked, but on the other hand if a pirate found him… He shuddered. Rene began to walk away, forcing him to make up his mind.





“W-wait! I’ll go with you!” He stammered. “I-I promise I won’t get in the way!”





The Mienfoo sighed and waved her paw forward. Maxim was quick to hop behind. Right as the two made their way around one of the masts, a massive column of water impacted the ground. As the water dispersed, it left behind a curious sight: a Floatzel with Fraxure headlocked under his arm, with his blue scarf wrapped around the base of his tail. Cuts and scars lined his body, while his face sported a huge grin.





YO , Rene! How are you feelin’?!” The Floatzel said with a deep, bellowing voice.





Rene crossed her arms and laughed. “Doin’ good, Conner! I’ll feel much better when this mission’s done.”





The Floatzel laughed back. “Aye! I say we pay 'em back at least twofold for those scrapes!” He brought attention over to Maxwell. “What about the little one over there? Ain’t never seen ‘im before.”





“Oh him?” She shrugged “Says he’s comin’ along. He won’t be much help in a fight, so I guess he’s on cheerleadin’”





The pirate went limp in Conner’s grip. He dropped them to the floor before kicking them away.





“Let’s get a move on then!”










A few minutes later, the daring pair of Rene and Conner cleared out any pirate that got in their way.. Conner hosed down a group of pirates with a wave of water, with Rene following up with a flurry of kicks. To finish them off, Rene charged energy into her fist, hit the closest pirate, and sent them flying into the group like a bowling ball into pins. Maxim stood in awe behind the spectacle.





T his is insane! How are they able to keep up with one another?





His curiosity continued to grow, but first he would need to find a safer spot to observe. Finding a nearby barrel, Maxim hopped inside and peered through a gash in its wooden side.. Beyond the duo’s position, the fighting still waged on with ferocious intensity.





Close to the ship’s bow, Clyde paired up with a Grapploct, the latter swinging around pirates as if they were toys into each other. The Politoed himself bounced on the head of one pirate, jump kicked into a second one, then froze a third with a beam of ice. Before the Rowlet could see what happened next, he picked up on shouting coming from the middle of the deck.





Spaced out enough to form a small arena, Ocher the Noivern and the Quaquaval were staring each other down while carefully moving around in a circle.





“Once I’ve skinned your sorry hide, Drake, every pirate worth their salt is gonna know who the real prowler of the west skies is!” The pirate-captain growled. He flapped his wings which caused a wave of air to rush like a bullet. Drake twirled to the side to dodge, the attack instead hitting the ground and knocking up splinters.





“Now that’s the spirit! It’s great to aim for sky high goals!” Drake taunted, waggling a feather. “But if you’re looking for some better rep, you might want to start with taking on someone in your own league!”





Ocher growled before his form crouched to the ground. Violet light coated his claws as they extended into blades. Drake responded in turn by summoning back his pair a water sabres, crossing them together in an X pattern. .





“Shall we dance?” Drake grinned.





Within a split second, both combatants closed the gap. Ocher attempted to land the first strike, launching one claw at Drake’s side while his tail zipped in from the other. Drake stepped back and struck the Noivern’s arm twice, leaving a visible cut. With a hiss, Ocher leapt into the air, charged his claws with draconic energy, then dived. Drake raised his water sabres to meet the attack head on.





BOOM!





The clash was strong enough to release a small shockwave that knocked down nearby pokemon. As the dust settled, Drake and Ocher were locked head to head: the dragon’s scowl countered by the grin on the Quaquaval’s face.





“I’ve had enough of this, you damned feather bag!” The Noivern snarled, pressing his attack onward..





“Already? I thought this dance was just getting started~!” Drake chuckled back, his twin sabers still holding the line..





The duck’s position slowly started to give, allowing Ocher a small opening. His bladed tail shot forward, causing Drake to veer to the side.The attack landed close enough to rip from the front to the back of his jacket.





“Why you..” He groaned.





Drake swung his leg into Ocher’s torso. The bat-dragon flinched from the strong attack. Drake didn’t waste the opportunity, slamming his foe with flurries of kicks ending with a roundhouse kick that knocked him across the deck and into unlucky Gabite pirate.





Drake took a deep breath. Ice slowly formed on the bottom of his legs, condensing until makeshift ice skates formed under his feet. Ocher rose from the ground. Sparks flowed from Ocher’s maw right before he launched a massive fireball. Drake met the attack head on and cut the fireball in two. Flipping into the air with the ice blade still on his feet, the Quaquaval became a spinning blur. Ocher tried to block using his wings, but the attack broke through before swerving into side. The Novern was launched away, howling as he impacted the ground.





Unfortunately for Maxim, the landing spot was right in front of his barrel. He turned back to Rene and Conner’s position, only to see the two had moved further on..





Shit! I need to get out of here!” He panicked.





A tall shadow loomed over the barrel. Maxim stared into the bloodshot eyes of Ocher. His heartbeat zoomed as the Noivern split the barrel in two with a tail strike. Ocher's claws seized Maxim, the Rowlet struggling against his tight grip.





The crazed Noivern turned back to Drake. “Now then, let down those blades o’ yours before I squish this little one!” His claws began to squeeze Maxim, the breath being sucked right out of his lungs. Tears started to form in Maxim’s eyes.





N-no! Someone! Anyone! Help!





Suddenly, a strange pink light enveloped both Maxim and Ocher. The former human found himself unable to move anything beyond his eyes.. Straining them around, he saw that the pirate captain himself was also frozen with his bloodshot eyes darting around..





Some of the remaining pirates rushed over to their captain’s aid, only to freeze when a shadow flew overhead. The shadow curved around and swept over the deck, knocking them all down. It back around, this time heading straight at the frozen duo. Like a speeding jet, the shadow impacted Ocher. Maxim soon found himself in its claws.





The Rowlet groaned at the familiar sensation of rushing wind against his feathers. He looked up at his rescuer. It was a Braviary, an impressive crest of white feathers billowing out from their head. Patterns on the crest glowed with pink and violet energy then unleashed an energy wave. The crescent shaped attack slammed into the Noivern’s back.





Drake had the opening he needed. He shot into the air, ice energy freezing his legs again. With a yell he twirled into another spin attack. The blow smashed Ocher directly on the head, slamming him face first into the wooden deck. Splinters flew everywhere as the Noivern rebounded onto his back, unmoving.





The sharp end of his tail twitched as Drake removed the blade, then held it up into the air. The fighting came to a standstill as friend and foe alike diverted attention.





Drake took a deep breath, then shouted. “This battle is over! Surrender, and I promise the rest of you will go unharmed.”





Silence passed. Then, one by one, the remaining pirates held up their arms and other substitutes. Maxim let out a sigh, then scanned the deck. He found Rene sitting on a stack of defeated pirates, their orange scarves tossed into their own pile. In the middle of that quelled chaos, Maxim felt a smile creep up on his face. Unpleasant first impression aside, the weas-err Mienfoo was a force to be reckoned with.





He still needed to focus on the pressing issue. Despite floating calmly in place, the Braviary still had a strong grip on him. Maxim swallowed the fear blooming in his heart and spoke.





“Uhh hello, could you let me go already?”





The Braviary stared back, then nodded. Maxim dropped down, quickly flapping his wings. The deck approached faster and faster with the Rowlet’s flaps speeding up. The Rowlet shut his eyes tight, then felt himself gently hit solid ground.





Maxim opened his eyes. Pirates were bunched up into tight groups bound by metal chains, while the unconscious ones were arranged into rows tied up with rope. Blue-scarved pokemon went back and forth between the two ships using the tether lines. Maxim marveled at how coordinated the dismantling was. Even with how busy things were, some mons still remained on deck, hanging out and laughing with each other like nothing had happened.





How can they just joke around like this? He thought. Just who are these gu-





A lone shadow looming over him snapped the Rowlet out of his thoughts. He subconsciously swiveled his head around to see the same Quaquaval. Maxim recoiled back.





“Oh, uhh hey there! Nice to meet you! Drake, wasn’t it?” He laughed, slowly shuffling away.





Drake straightened up and crossed his arms, only to relax with a chuckle a few seconds later. “A Rowlet? Don’t think I’ve ever seen you before!”





A gust of wind passed over the two right as the Braviary landed next to Drake. Maxim took a look at the huge eagle. Small scars and nicks lined their body. A blue scarf remained wrapped around their left leg, the symbol vaguely resembling Drake’s head. Their violet head crest glowed as they locked eyes with the Quaquaval.





The pair locked in a silent stare for a few seconds, before Drake knelled and placed an arm on Maxim’s head. “So you’re the one Signal rescued.. Interesting!” He raised his other arm to his chin. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of your kind on this side of the skies.”





“Y-yeah, that’s nice... Uhh, xcuse me sir, but you’re the captain, right?” Maxim said, recoiling. “The nurse here told me it was a merchant ship, but that’s clearly not what’s going on!”





The Quauqaval chuckled and rubbed Maxim’s head. “Did he now? Well you see, that was just a little white lie! Good on him for not letting the Meowth out of the bag!” He clasped both his feathery arms together.





Standing up, Drake proceeded to twirl in place, placing a hand on his crest. Sparkles radiated from the Quaquaval’s form, completing the fabulous pose. Maxim nearly fell over from shock.





“It’s true, we aren’t merchants.” He waggled a feather. “I’m Captain Drake, leader of Aqua Step! We’re Privateers!





“Priva- what?





“Privateers! Nothing more, nothing less!”





Maxim racked his brain around that word. Privateer Privateer Privateer… I’ve heard that term somewhere before… Think it has some relation to pirates. He paused as a definition came to mind. Privateer - someone with the right to pirate under government rights. In other words-





“Y-you’re pirates too?!” He squawked.





Drake waggled a feather. “ Priv-a-teers~! Get it right~!”





Maxim slapped a wing to his face. This long day was about to feel even longer.










Elsewhere, in the endless void..





“What were you thinking, letting him drop in without coordination?! Did you want him to die before he could even begin to realize his purpose?!”





“Hmm, I suppose my calculations were off. Nevertheless, giving him a chance to meet another variable is the best outcome for him.”





“All the knowledge of the world, and yet you failed! How can you even call this the best outcome?”





“Oh dear sister, always driven by your emotions. He is a hardy individual. If you do not believe me, then wait for the next ‘experiment’ to begin. Even our sibling would agree.”





“Hmph, fine! But should you fail to keep it under control… then I shall step in.”









Drake's Full Design (Drawn by yours truly!)


Drake%202.0-min.png
 
Chapter 3: Finding Your Way

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him

Chapter 3: Finding Your Way


Privateers, huh?





Maxim pondered over the term. To be rescued from pirates by pirates. Fate was truly laughing at his expense again.





“So you are all privateers? What does that mean?” Maxim asked.





Drake raised a wing to his chin. “Well, we do a lot of things. Exploration, capturing targets, fighting pirates, you name it!”





The Quaquaval leaned down at Maxim. “I’m surprised you’ve never heard of that term. It should be well known out here in the Southwestern Skies. Are you from another country, perhaps?”





“Well I, uhh, I have a bit of memory loss,” he stammered. I better just play into it for now. Not like he’ll believe me falling out of the sky…





“Memory loss?” Drake asked.





The Rowlet nodded. “Yes sir. I remember falling through the sky, then something caught me and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was aboard the ship. I don’t remember anything before that.” Maxim glanced down, unable to look Drake in the eye.





“Oh man, sounds like a hassle!” Drake groaned. “And going by what Signal told me, you didn’t have a poke to your name either! Do you at least have an idea of what you want to do now?”





What I want to do? Well…





There wasn’t any sort of thread or established base he had in this world, only some vague idea of his purpose to be here.





Save the world, but from what?





“I don’t really know. I do want to get my memories back, but I don’t even have a way of figuring that out. No leads, or anyone I can ask. Nothing.”





“How tragic to have to deal with that on your own, with no one to help you out.But~!” The Quaquaval flashed a grin. “If you need a good starting point, have I got an offer for you! How about you joi-”





“HEY BOSS!”





A voice yelled from across the deck. Maxim did a double take at Rene effortlessly carrying a burlap sack twice her size. His shock wore off as she tossed the sack at Drake’s feet, causing tied-up orange scarves to fall out.





The Mienfoo spoke with a smirk. “Deck crew worked extra fast this time! We’ve got most of the raiders chained up already!”





Drake returned the grin. “Well done! Bisha might make us a larger quilt this time!”





“Well if she does, she better let us actually fly it like a flag this time!”





“No promises!”





Watching them going back and forth was quite the surprise. Coupled with how she acted around Conner, the Mienfoo wasn’t much of a grouch after all!





The conversation was finally broken by Drake raising a hand to his beak. “I’m glad to see you in such high spirits Rene, but you look rather scratched up.”





Rene rubbed the back of her head. “That dragon bastard roughed me up a bit, yeah, then his crewmates had to keep poppin’ up like weeds! But no worries, I pulled them out all just the same!”





“That’s good and all, but I still want you to get looked at before you try doing anything else.” Drake sighed. “It’s no good if my crew members aren’t in top shape.”





“Yeah, Yeah. ‘Don’t overdo it.’ You don’t have to tell me twice. “ The Mienfoo sighed while crossing her arms. “I’ll head to the Med Bay, no worries.”





She walked off, only sparing Maxim a side glance.





Should I go talk to her? Would she even want to speak with me after being such a burden?





“Oh I’m sorry we got interrupted. She’s pretty eccentric!” Drake said.





“Yeah, I can tell.”





Maxim looked back at Ocher’s pirate ship. The sails are curled up and blue-scarved mons roamed on board , taking apart pieces of the ship. A group of orange-scarved mons were tied around the center mast with the pirate captain himself slumped over in the center.





“Hey, Captain. What’s going to happen to those pirates?” He asked.





Drake flashed him a grin. “They were our bounty this time, so we’re taking them to Calvin Island, less than a day from here. By tomorrow, we should be there with the bounty in tow!”





“I saw they’re tied up, but what if they try to break free and cause trouble again?” Maxim said. He shuddered at the thought of being held at knifepoint by a crazed dragon again.





“No need to worry! Our talented crew is busy dismantling their ship, as you can see! If they get bold enough to break free and try to sail away…”





He took a nearby rock, raised it to the air, and let it drop back down. “Hahahaha!”





Maxim let out a small gulp. “Okay that’s good enough for me!”





Mercifully the Quaquaval moved on. “Now then, back to what I said earlier. I think you should join my cre-”





Again, he was interrupted, this time by Signal’s flashing headcrest. Both of them had forgotten the Braviary had been sitting in place this whole time.





“Argh! I forgot all about your report!” Drake shouted. “Sorry for getting too carried away!”





He knelt down and patted Maxim on the head. “I’ve got urgent business to handle! Once that’s taken care of, I’d like to have a meeting with you later today on additional topics.”





A meeting? What else could he want from me? Maxim furrowed his brow. “Sure thing, Captain Drake. I’ll see you then.”





“Thanks! I’ll be waiting for you in my quarters!” He pointed to the end of the ship. A blue door was right below the steering wheel. The Quaquaval took his leave, giving Maxim a bit of space to breathe.






“YO, ROWLET!”





Or so he thought. As he turned around he was greeted with Connor rushing towards him, flanked by a Hakamo-o and a Weavile. Before Maxim could respond, the Floatzle kicked a tiny broom his way.





Maxim stared at it with a raised brow. “A broom?”





“Yep, that’s right! If you’re gonna just stare around, then you’re gonna make yourself useful and help me brush the blood n’ guts off the deck!”





His eyes widened as his stomach lurched.





Conner’s Hakamo-o companion smacked him on the shoulder and gave him a fiery glare. “Oi oi oi, you’re scaring the lad half to death talking like that! Sorry, he’s got a messed up sense o’ humor!”





The Weavile shook her head. “He’s got a point. If you’re able-bodied, you can work. Crewmember or not, we’ll take everything we can get!”





“Well uhh, I don’t remember how to use a broom,” Maxim said. It wasn’t like he was exactly lying!





A snort came from the Weavile as she crossed her arms. “Yeah right, next you’re going to tell me you forgot how to fly.”





“Well,” Maxim said. “Would you believe me if I said yes?”





That got the trio to stare back at him. Conner’s jaw dropped. The trio put their heads together, trying and failing to whisper out of his earshot.





“Is he serious?”





“What the hell happened to him?”





“Did he get hit on the head one too many times during the fighting?”





“Maybe he’s always been crazy?”





Maxim rubbed his temple. “I can hear you three! And hey, I’m not crazy! I just have amnesia!”





“Amnewha- OH! So that's what Rene was talking about while we were busting heads! Well, you certainly haven’t lost whatever fire you’ve got burin’ inside, grass type!” Conner laughed. The other two joined in.






Maxim took the broom in his talons, quickly feeling disoriented with the extra weight on his foot.





“Ugh! How am I supposed to use this thing?!”





“Tsk! Just try to flap right above ground, then swing your foot from side to side.” The Weavile chimed in, rocking her arms back and forth. “C’mon! Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!”





Maxim flapped his wings as fast as he could and within a few seconds he was slowly lifting off the ground. Flapping his wings in a rhythm, the Rowlet wobbled in air.





“Uhh, what was that you just said? Rock back and forth right?” Maxim said.





The Weavile flashed her fangs in a wide grin. “That’s right! Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!”





“Uhh okay, Heave! Ho! Heave…! Ho!” Slowly, he rocked the broom back and forth, causing it to brush the ground. The motion kicked up dust, forcing him to angle his wings in a way that blew it away from him.





“Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!” She shouted.





His movement slowly became more focused as he relaxed his body just a little t. The broom swung in a steady motion.





The Hakamo-o sighed. “Wow, I’ll be darned. You taught a flying type how to sweep, Silva. That’s an accomplishment.”





“Damn right, Herc! I’m just that good!” She boasted, placing a claw on her hip. “What do you think, Conner?”





The floatzel swept his tails from side to side and side. “Well uhh, he needs to work on his technique some more.” He sighed.





“You heard him, Rowlet! Let’s see you move around!” Silva shouted.





Maxim was reluctant to follow her directions, but he had to show he could do at least this one task. Stumbling forward, he flew in a straight line, wobbling the broom along the path. Small clouds of dust moved ahead of him.





“That’s it! More, more, more!” Silva cheered.





Maxim swept in a calm and steady pace, dust flying everwhere as he pushed forward.. Curiosity started to take over as he wondered how long he could keep this going.





Well, only one way to find out!





Minutes ticked by as Maxim continued to fly and sweep, attracting the attention of several other deckworkers who viewed the scene with silent curiosity and amusement. He was trailed by the trio, Silva still coaching him on. Right as he rounded the base of the center mast, a voice cut across the deck.





“Now what are you three doin’! Stop mankeyin’ around and get back to work!”





Maxim was startled and dropped the broom. All of them straightened up as Clyde bounced down from a rope above. The trio of Conner, Silva, and Herc gave him a small salute. “We’re sorry about it sir! We just wanted to have a lil fun with that Rowlet!” They shouted in unison.





“Well if yah want to mess around, I guess I can cut your rum rations as a lil payment. How about that?!” He barked.





“N-NO SIR, WE’LL GET BACK TO WORK RIGHT AWAY!” They shouted before dashing away. Clyde set his sights on Maxim.





“Sorry about that, lad! Those three are good workers, aye, but take your eyes off them and they’ll be up to Arceus-knows-what!” He sighed and crossed his arms.





“It’s alright, sir. At least I learned I’m good at something here.” Maxim said, staring at the ground. “It was a nice way to kill time before I met the captain.”





Clyde put his arms behind his head. “Drake wants to meet with yah?! I’m surprised. He rushed past me so quickly I couldn’t even tell him hello!”





“Yeah, said he needed to talk with Signal quickly, but he wanted me to come by. Not sure what about though.”





“Hmmmmm, I can’t either.” Clyde said, shaking his head. “ But anyway, before you do meet him, how about you swing by the medical bay? Best to make sure you’re all good to go before that!”





That reminded Maxim. Cecil! I almost forgot! I should go back and see if everything’s alright with him!





“I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong. But I guess it doesn’t hurt to check.” Maxim nodded and walked on, searching for the hatch below. “Thanks, Clyde! You’re a really cool guy!”





The Politoed chuckled at his praise before giving him a wave. “No problem, lad! Give the doctor my regards will yah!”










Past the hatch, the interior of the ship was undamaged. The only sign of the pirates’ attack was an unconscious pair of Seviper tied up to a wall. Their orange scarves were torn to shreds. As Maxim rounded the corner, Rene was walking out of the Medical Bay. The Mienfoo’s cuts and bruises had mostly disappeared; instead there were a few bandages around her body and below her right eye. He straightened up as she walked over.





“Well, you’re just the mon I wanted to see. You look fine, besides a few ruffled feathers,” She said, crossing her arms. “That’s good.”





Maxim raised a brow. Praise? Did some imposter replace her? He decided to roll with it for now. “Yeah, I’m doing good. Can’t say I enjoyed having two heart attacks in one day. But this seemed usual for you and the others. Do you always try and catch pirates like this?”





The weasel placed a paw on her hip and sighed. “Not all the time. Would have been harder to nail the guy with a good ole fashioned hunt. Certainly not with a ship like this.” She pointed at him. “But if you really wanna know more about us, just ask the Captain! He’s waiting for you anyway, right? Try not to take too long getting there!”





Maxim nodded. “Sure thing.”





Rene walked on past him for a bit before turning back. “Oh, one more thing. I guess I got you all wrong back there, yeah? Thought you were a spy n’ all. Wanted to say, my bad.”





Maxim froze. The last thing he expected her to say was an actual apology. “Hey! Wait a moment!” Maxim called out. By the time he did, the weasel had already turned around the corner, long gone.





Well, at least she’s still got plenty of energy in her. He thought, turning back to his destination and heading in.





The overpowering scent of alcohol and other chemicals filled the room. Replacing the dim atmosphere was candlelight from sconces around the room. Several beds were occupied by different mons sporting minor scrapes or bruises. Towards the back, a Sandslash had a black tarp wrapped around their body while a Krokorok had their mouth wrapped shut with white gauze.





Two pokemon were moving through the rows: an elderly Audino wearing small rimmed glasses poking patients with a wooden cane, and the other had mint green.





“Cecil?”





The Kirlia was busy dispensing pink energy to an unconscious Cacturne wrapped up in protective sheets. On hearing Maxim’s voice, he tilted his head toward him.

“Maxim? Oh thank the Emerald Dragon , you’re safe!”





He quickly hugged the Rowlet, still managing the flow of energy. Maxim couldn’t help but return it. After the day’s events, the gesture was a welcome gift. “Yeah! I’m glad to be in one piece! When their captain grabbed me, I thought I was going to get skinned alive! But then, I got rescued by that huge eagle. Signal, I think!”





Cecil raised a hand to his mouth. “My goodness! At least he was able to save you!”





Maxim avoided eye contact with Cecil for the next part. “Also, I talked with the captain. He told me you knew about everything. Is that true?”





The pink glow faded from the nearby bed as Cecil lowered his head. “Y-yes, that is true. You see, I am also a member of this crew, like everyone else. The operation was supposed to be an hour at least from when you went up to the deck. I figured Rene would have hopefully brought you back in time before things began. But when I saw her again, I knew that wasn’t the case!” He hugged Maxim again much tighter than before. “It’s my fault you were put into harm’s way! What kind of medical practitioner lets his patient walk into harm’s way?”





Aww crap, I didn’t mean to have him break down on me! Maxim thought.





“Uhhh hey, don’t cry! I’m still here, unharmed!” Maxim wiggled a wing. “See? You can scan me like before just to check right?”





“Yes, but that still doesn’t excuse my poor judgment. What if you had been hurt, or worse?” Cecil said, shaking his head.





“Well, it’s good we don’t live in a world where that happened.” Maxim said.





“Good for you, but can you two have your little moment outside my operating room?” A deep and gravelly voice said.





Maxim and Cecil turned around to find that the old Audino was glaring at them both. His face was as red as a tomato, and his cane was constantly being tapped into the ground..





“Of all the things to see when I’m having to deal with this many patients.” He grumbled, raising his cane at Cecil. “Boy, I thought I told you to keep your emotions in check while caring for others! You let the heal pulse wear off right in the middle of patient care!”





The angry Audino then set his sites on Maxim. “And you! What do you think you’re doing barging in here to distract my assistant? Unless your need for aid is desperate, wait your turn!”





“Well sir, I was sent down here by Clyde, the deckmaster. He said that I needed to get a checkup before my meeting with the captain.” Maxim spoke.





The Audino sighed and placed both hands on his cane, relenting his anger.





“Of course he’d send someone down here at the worst possible moment.” He adjusted his glasses. “He picked a terrible time for you to come, let me look at you real quick, boy!”





Before Maxim could speak, the Audino began to move his hands around the Rowlet’s spherical form. Once done, he stepped back and tapped his cane once again.





“Bah! You’re fine! It doesn’t take me examining you to tell that!” He grumbled. “Now go ahead and see the captain already!”





At least he wouldn’t have to worry about following the old guy around. “Thank you, Doctor..?”





“Gerald. And now that I’m done with you, it’ll be back to working on the rest of them.” He tapped his cane three times before raising it at Cecil. “Come along, now! If you’re still feeling guilty, then at least make it up by completing your tasks.” The cane pointed over to Cecil’s previous patient, still tied up under the covers.





“Yes sir, you’re right.” Cecil nodded, rising to his feet. “I apologize for letting my emotions get the best of me. I’ll keep them in check next time.” The Kirlia gave Maxim a small wave. “I promise I’ll find a way to make this up to you, Maxim. And one more thing before I go.”





“What is it?”





“I meant every word I said about regaining your memories. I hope you’re able to find yourself again!”





A warm feeling spread through Maxim’s chest. For the first time since coming to this world, he felt a smile tugging at the side of his beak. Now there was only one thing left to do.










The sun was beginning to set and bathing the deck in orange when he came back up. Maxim made his way to the stern, the area devoid of anyone nearby. Right below the elevated deck was a blue door with wavy gold and white patterns etched along the edges. No mistaking it, this had to be the captain’s door. Maxim held in his uneasiness as he inched closer.





I better not keep him waiting any longer. Let’s see, what if I hopped up here?





He gently turned the nob using his talons. It was a modestly sized room with almond-colored wood lining the floor and thick wooden shelves covering the walls. On the shelves were various books and souvenirs ranging from the severed tusk of some unknown beast to a sky blue teardrop-shaped gem embedded in a chunk of rock. Towards the back of the room and tucked in one of the corners was a small bed, thin and gray sheets neatly folded on top of the mattress.





Underneath the oval windows was the heart of the room itself: the captain’s desk. Wide, glossy, and square, it held stacks of papers and leather-backed books neatly arranged on its surface. A small, yellow globe and a long, thin candle were set apart at opposite ends at the desk. In the center rested a tied blue scarf bearing Drake’s symbol, next to Ocher’s detached tailblade.





Drake's desk






The captain was slouched into a leather chair behind the desk, turned away from the approaching Maxim while swirling an empty wine glass in his feathery fingers.





Maxim craned his head up in an attempt to speak. “I’m here captain, right on time. There’s something you wanted to talk about with me?”





His words seemed to fall on deaf ears, as the captain continued his action uninterrupted. Silence lingered in the room for an uncomfortable few seconds, as Maxim felt a chill creeping up his back. Finally, the captain broke the silence with a smooth and deep voice.





“Have a seat.”





Maxim turned to one of chair on his left then hopped into it. Swiveling his chair around, the captain placed down the wine glass on the desk. Compared to the bombastic display he put on during his grand entrance and intervention, this was a complete 180.





“Now then, let’s talk about you .





The Rowlet gulped as the captain’s gaze dug into him. Both of his feathery hands were folded below his face as he continued.





“So me and Signal had a long chat about things, including how he found you. I’ll admit, I found it a bit hard to believe that you fell from a hole in the sky, but Signal’s someone I’ve known and trusted for years. He wouldn’t fib, not even once.”





He reached under his desk and took out a small glass bottle. Inside was something that resembled rainbow-colored glass shards that shimmed brightly despite the lack of light. Maxim felt a strange pull towards the material, leaning forward, only for Drake to return the item back to its hiding place.





The Rowlet blinked several times, as if snapped out of a trance. A shiver ran up his back. “That thing in the bottle, just what was that?”





“Oh, it was some kind of material that covered your body when Signal picked it up.” Drake said, combing through his feathery crest. “He brushed it away and kept it hidden in a small bottle he had on him. Pretty convenient!”





Maxim groaned. “He found that on me? Then can you at least tell me what it is?”





“That’s the thing, I don’t know myself.” He shrugged. “Another mystery to add to the growing pile.”





The Quaquaval folded his hands again, and this time Maxim could feel his gaze boring into his soul.





“I know giving your amnesia you probably won’t know what I’m going to mention, but would you like to hear a little…history lesson?”





Is now really the time for a lecture? Maxim thought. Oh well, I hope this is useful.





“Sure thing, captain.”





Drake cracked a smile before clearing his throat. “Ahem. Quite some centuries ago, there was a skies spanning war, one that saw countless lives impacted and destroyed. It seemed like the world would tear itself apart, until six individual pokemon stepped forth and brought an end to the chaos. These six mons are still somewhat celebrated to this very day. Though there was one that has an air of mystery to them, even now.”





Drake loomed over the desk, almost casting the room into the shadow.





“This little lecture isn’t me going off a tangent. You see, the reason why is that this pokemon was said to have been brought from another world, originally a being known as a human.”





Time crawled to a standstill, as Maxim’s heart nearly pounded out of his chest. A human..? Just like me?





Drake noticed his reaction as his grin deepened within the shadows. “It’s said that when they came to this world, the field they appeared in was bathed in a shining rainbow glow, as if a gift received from the gods themselves. I can’t help but see a teeny-tiny bit of similarities, although they don’t mention a hole in the sky.”





He leaned back into his chair, much to Maxim’s relief. “It’s all just a legend, after all. I don’t exactly think you’re a human. But yours is a strange case. Never heard or seen this happen over the years I’ve flown through the skies.”





Maxim racked his brain around the new information. This has happened before? And somehow he’s right on noticing what I might really be. Just who is this guy?





“Sir, if I may ask? If I was a human, how important would that be for you, or even the world?” He said.





Silence settled in for a few seconds, then was broken by Drake’s laughter. “Oh my my my! It would be quite the discovery of the last few centuries! There’s plenty in this world that would view you as a powerful asset, or a dangerous tool to their own ambitions. To me, you would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to view!”





“Lifetime… opportunity?” Maxim faltered.





“Regardless of who or what you are, I didn’t want to just pick you apart with my ramblings, I wanted to offer you a spot on my crew!”





“Me? Joining a crew of pi-privateers?”





“Mmhph! That’s right!”





“But what would you get out of having me?! You must have heard it from Rene and the others right? I can’t fight at all! I couldn’t even sweep right with a broom! I’m just… useless.”





Maxim slouched in his chair, not even wanting to look Drake in the eyes. I bet even the last human was more talented than me. How does that voice have any faith in me?





“Oh? But remember, you’re a pokemon! So what if you’re weak? We have the potential to strengthen ourselves through all sorts of challenges!” Drake boasted, puffing out his chest.





Drake took Ocher’s tail blade in his hand and raised it towards Maxim. “You want to get your memories back right? Then you’ll need to start somewhere. It’s time to make that choice, Maxim!”





Thoughts of Rene flash into his mind. From being nearly killed by Ocher, to bouncing back and wreaking havoc on his crew. She had gone through it all without batting an eye. Could he really pull off something like that in the future?





I hope you’re able to find yourself again!”





Cecil’s words still lingered, driving him to grip his talons into the chair’s wood. He has to do something, anything, to get his memories back! A stranger Drake may be, but he’s giving him a choice. Pushing reluctant thoughts into the back of his mind, Maxim sighs and makes his choice.





“You’re right. Sitting around scared won’t help me. I’m here, and I’ll have to make the best of it.” He stares into Drake’s blue eyes. “I’ll join your crew, and find a way to return my memories one way or another.”





It’s silent again as Drake rears back. The Quaquaval reached up a hand to his crest, before bursting into laughter.





“That’s it! I knew you had it in you!” He says in between laughs. “Everyone has that fire within them, even if it’s a tiny ember!” Carefully slipping the tailblade into a drawer, Drake reached behind him and placed a tied blue scarf on the desk. He reached out a hand.





“Welcome aboard, Maxim!”





Maxim took his hand and lightly shook it with his own wing. The blue scarf was placed into his talons.





“Good, good, good! I think that's about it for now!” Drake nodded. “Only thing left for you to do is to sign one document for me!”





He put a slip of parchment paper on the desk. Maxim’s eyes traced it all the way to the bottom, where a signature was laid out.





“What’s this?”





Drake moved a cup of ink next to the paper. “It’s the legally binding document that ensures that not only will you be a member of the crew, but you’ll be loyal enough to be willing to abide by our ways of living. Once you sign this, there’s no going back unless you choose to leave the crew, or I force you to. Understood?”





“Understood.” Maxim said. “Now how do I sign it?”





“Place your claw into the ink and then press down on the signature line. That’ll be good enough for me!”





Maxim nodded and stuck his talons in, then pressed down on the paper. It only took a few seconds for the ink to harden and leave a three pronged footmark on the line.





Drake rolled up the paper, then tied it with a red string.





“PERFECT! You’re good to go, Maxim!”





As much as Maxim felt he should celebrate a step forward, there was still lingering worry in his mind. “Okay, so what do I do now, Captain?”





“Mmmmm I suppose its rather late. The ‘orientation’ can start tomorrow. In the meantime how about you head to the mess hall and grab you something to eat? It should be right around the time they open up.” He did a shoo away motion with his hand.





The Rowlet hopped down, careful not to track any leftover ink onto the floor. He began to walk off, turning around one more time to see Drake waving him goodbye. Without another word, Maxim went through the door and closed it shut.





“Well, I hope this mess hall doesn’t take me long to find.” He muttered, walking over to the hatch.










“Well, that was quite the meeting…”





Drake sighed as he pulled out a bottle of wine, pouring it into his empty glass. With how well things went for this mission, it should be smooth sailing till the next. And yet…





He pulled out the rainbow shard’s bottle again, gently sitting it front and center. A chill went up his spine as he closely examined the object. By that Rowlet’s appearance, the winds of change would soon blow in across the world, and he might be front and center. Alas, he would have to wait to see what was next.





On the corner of the desk sat a smooth gem, resembling an oversized pink pearl. Pressing down on it three times, he waited.





And waited.





And waited.





DINNNNNNGGGGGGGGG!!





“Greetings, I see you have something to report to me. I assume that the operation has taken place?”





“Indeed. It’s been done. Ocher’s crew has been neutralized without issue.”





Magnificent! That would be the third one within the last two months! Stellar as always, Captain Drake!”





“Hmph, no problem. Fletchling crews tend to get rather cocky at some point. It took a bit of research, but it was an easy setup. I’ve dealt with worse, you know. Much worse…”





Of course. I will make sure to still reward you accordingly! You will be on standby for a little while. I have another mission for you, but it is not a bounty. Of course, I have to keep you on your toes.”





“Acknowledged.”





I suppose the finer details can be handled at the meeting. But before I go, there seems to be something on your mind. What is it?”





Drake hesitated for a few seconds, mulling over his next few words carefully.





“En route to the rendezvous point, my first mate came across a peculiar pokemon. One that I think will be of interest to us both…”



Rene's full design 2.0 by me

Rene%202.0%20.png



BONUS: Rene The Mienfoo full art by Kitsu_19
It's Rene! (Drawn by Kitsu_19)
 
Chapter 4: Down On The Street

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him

Chapter 4: Down on The Street

With the smell of fresh bread as a guiding arrow, it didn’t take Maxim long to find the mess hall. The expansive room was full of simple tables and chairs made of tanned wood. Windows lined the wall, a sliver of indigo sky visible through each. Ceiling lamps hung down like fruits from a tree. A singular chandelier dangled above the room’s main draw: a lengthy wooden station stacked with bread, soup, and other food Maxim couldn’t make out.





A long line extended from the station all the way to the door, right to his position. He sighed as he realized he would have to wait for his meal. Within a few minutes, the line had steadily advanced. The Rowlet tried his best to keep from nodding off in line, looking around for some kind of focus to keep awake.





“I see yah tryin’ to cut in line!”





“Cut in line?! Says the lying arse who’s trying to skip ME!”





Right ahead was the perfect distraction; a Crocalor and a Timburr at each other’s throats. The latter’s face was as red as the Crocalor’s own scales as he continued to lob insults.





“Has your own heat roasted your brain, you lug? Don’t try and pass me then pretend I’m the one causing the problem! At least own up to it!”





The red gator spat out a small ember. “Bah! I’m no liar! You were the one oversteppin’ your boundaries especially with that oversized plank o’ yours!”





“Oversized plank?!” The Timberr growled, raising said object at him. “Try saying that when this thing bonks you over the head, you moppet!” The Crocalor shot steam out of his nose, as heat began to flow from his maw. Before the two could come to blows-





KABOOMM!!





A purple projectile struck the floor near the arguing pair, shooting splinters and dust into the air. When the dust cleared, there was a hole burned into the ground by a slimy purple liquid. The crackle of dissolving wood was enough to make the duo jump back.





“Whoooopppssss~! My bad!”





A deep yet soft voice came from behind the countertop. The source was a pink and violet colored slowbro wearing a blue apron. A stubby arm rubbed the back of his head, while a strange, spikey shell covered his other one. Even from far away, Maxim could make out what looked like eyes at the base of the shell.





“No fighting, okay?” The slowbro said, waggling a finger from his normal arm. “It’s hard for others to eat when it's too noisy!”





The pair straightened up and quickly nodded. “S-sure thing, Hyde! We’ll get along!” They both said in unison before getting back in line.





Thankfully, the line continued to move without issue. When the time finally came for Maxim to get his share, he took a closer look at the food selection. A thick block of cheese had been cut into many pieces, some placed on small metal plates. Stacks of rolls were placed beside a massive pot of stew being stirred by the Slowbro with another mon, a Grafaiai, perched on his shoulder.





“C’mon, you gotta stir it faster than that!” The simian spoke in a light, but aggressive masculine tone. “





“Uh, excuse me?”





The pair froze and glanced down at Maxim. The Rowlet weakly waved to them. “I was hoping to see what was being served here?” He said.





Both stared silently before the Grafaiai tapped his partner on the shoulder..





“Well, whatardya waitin’ for? Give the kid some grub!”



The slowbro poured some soup into a wooden bowl, then handed it to Maxim. The Rowlet looked over the soup with curiosity. “Huh, what type of soup is this?”





“Tamato Soup! A beloved special from yours truly, Cardin!” The Grafaiai said before taking a mock bow. “One taste and you’ll be knocked into the stars above!”





“Heyyy, I helped too…” His Slowbro coworker sighed.





Cardin rubbed the back of his head. “Oh yeah and Hyde too, don’t wanna forget that! Anyway, enjoy your food! I’ve got to mark Hyde’s ‘accidental shooting’ tally again…”





Maxim looked back at the still-boiling hole in the floor and shuddered.


An unoccupied table in the back was the perfect spot for him to eat. Pokemon around paid him no mind, instead focused on celebration and chatting with friends. All the joyful energy in the air called to a familiar yet far away memory. Friends, had he done things in his previous world? Did he even have friends in his previous life? He pushed away those feelings of loneliness before they took root.





It’s alright. I can worry about making friends later.” He thought. “ Besides, if I stare any longer my soup’s going to get cold.”





He looked down at his meal. The orange colored broth had chunky bits peeking out of the surface, and a rich, earthen aroma radiated from the bowl. He took his first sip, and his world exploded into a mix of bitter, spicy and savory flavor. Again he took sip after sip as a hunger-induced trance took over. By the time he finally looked up from his bowl, it was practically picked clean.





They weren’t kidding! This is amazing!” He thought.





With that satisfying dinner out of the way, Maxim only had one more thing to do: sleep! Arrows and signs helped to guide him down the hatch to the barracks floor, the day’s final stop.





The gargantuan room stretched on and on, filled to the brim with hammocks strung between interlocking beams. So many of them were locked into a diagonal position it caused the room to resemble a maze of silk. Pokemon of all shapes and sizes were either adjusting their hammocks, talking with neighbors, or fast asleep. Larger mons, like a sleeping Tangrowth, easily occupied three hammocks by themselves. And yet it all happened without a care in the world.





His eyes drifted over to a currently unoccupied hammock next to a wall. The perfect place for him to nap. Maxim silently made his way over, looking from side to side to make sure he wouldn’t run into anyone. Hopping into the silk, Maxim turned on his side away from a group playing some kind of card game. Their frenetic whispers were easy to hear, but thankfully not enough to distract him. Amidst the dimming glow of candlelight, Maxim felt his eyes grow heavy.





Here’s hoping tomorrow is a smooth start… He thought right as sleep overtook him.











#########################$#$#$$$#$#$@@@@@@@@@$@$@$@$@^&*^**^*(&^(*





F453ITEGH





FSHEGH





….





Let experiment number ^& commence!








……


…………


……………….






“Well done! It was a success! Congrats all around everyone!”





CLAP CLAP!





“Well, done Maxim, well done!”





CLAP CLAP!





“It wouldn’t have worked without your quick thinking Sa*$*#! “





“Hehe, if it wasn’t for your suggestion, I wouldn’t have figured out how to adjust the power source! You really are your- $@$^





MAXIM!





BAAAAAAAAAARIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG






BARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!






“RISE AND SHINE, THE WINDS OF TOMORROW ARE BLOWIN’ IN!”





Maxim was jolted out of the hammock by the loud noise. As he scrambled to get off the floor, he looked around. Daylight peeked out of small circular windows while pokemon rose up ready to meet the new day. Turning into a sizable crowd, they began to pour out of the room. He sighed and put on his scarf, trailing behind the rest.





One by one the crew members came up to the deck, forming an unorganized crowd. In front of the crowd was Captain Drake, with Signal on his left and Clyde on his right. The Quaquaval stood straight, arms crossed dramatically in the blowing wind. His eyes remained closed as one feathery finger tapped on his arm. Once a few minutes had passed, his posture relaxed, only for him to let out a mighty yell.





“GOOOOOOOD MORNING MY LOVELY CREW~!” He bellowed. “Best be well rested, because Calvin Island approaches!” He turned around and pointed to the distant horizon. Sure enough, an island was slowly getting closer. He turned back to the crowd.





“Once we get there, it’s time to drop off this bounty, and claim another hefty reward. What do you all think about that?!”





“YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!”





The crowd erupted into cheers, forcing Maxim to put his wings to his head. I can’t blame them after that ferocious fighting, but this is gonna take some getting used to.” A small sigh escaped his beak.





“I hate to dampen the mood, but I have some bad news to share. You see, the crew of Blue Horizon suffered an unexpected delay which means it will take them roughly three whole days at least to make it to the rendezvous point. As such, we will be staying on Calvin Island for the meantime.”





All the cheering shifted into groans as a somber mood descended. Maxim was only confused at the news.





Drake remained unfazed. “No matter! This is a great opportunity to take a good break after a long month of work! Calvin Island’s a simple location, but a peaceful one. Enjoy yourself at the local stops, just don’t get drunk enough for us to leave you on the island!”





Laughter bursted out as Drake puffed out his chest for another yell.





“AND REMEMBER, MOVE FORWARD ONE STEP!”





“AT A TIME!” The crowd returned back.





“DISMISSED!”





The crowd slowly began to disperse, leaving Maxim to decide what to do next. Before he could come up with a plan, Drake appeared in front with Clyde in tow.





“Ah yes, Maxim, just the mon I wanted to see!” He grinned, before nodding at Clyde. “Let’s get things started shall we?”





Maxim fidgeted in place. Ahhh yeah, the “orientation”. Hope they won’t put me through hell.





Clyde cleared his throat. “Ah hem! Now then, since you’re now a new crew member, that means we’ve got to lay out some ground rules for ya!”





“Err, ground rules?” Maxim gulped.





“Aye! Our Crew Codes! Every new crew member is required to know them by heart, and you’re no different!” Clyde grinned. The Politoed took out a small navy-blue booklet and began to read aloud.





“The Crew Codes are to be followed at all times! Breaking them leads to a punishment reflecting the act! To start:





  1. Every crewmate is entitled to their own business and affairs, provided it doesn’t affect another crewmate or the crew itself.”




Maxim nodded, pleased that the crew wouldn’t bombard him with a bunch of questions without his permission.





“2. Every crewmate shall work for their daily poke! This includes labor, raids, exploration, etc. Otherwise, no pay! Non-negotiable!”





Does being a flying feather duster count? Surely being good at sweeping is worth a few.. Poke or whatever money is called here.” Maxim mused.





“3. All crewmates are to be vigilant at all times, even when resting! Anyone caught slacking or goofing off at their post is subject to punishment, so no Horseaing around, got it?!”





A certain trio came to mind, but Maxim chased the thought away.





“4. The most important one! A relationship between crewmates is built on trust! Therefore, you must swear that you will remain loyal to your fellow crewmate through thick and thin, and never leave the crew to dry! Anyone caught deceiving or betraying the crew’s trust for their own gain is to be kicked out and marooned from the crew! No ifs, ands, or buts!”





Clyde shut the book with a mighty clap then placed it back into the bag around his hip. “Well that about covers it! Now then, since you’ve already signed the paperwork I think we can move onto the next step. Ain’t that right, Captain?” He winked at Drake, who nodded back.





Reaching into his bag again, Clyde took out a small sack, the clinking of coins giving way its contents. The bag landed at Maxim’s feet.





“Money?” Maxim said, cocking his head to the side. “Would this be my first ‘paycheck’ on the job?”





“Yep! 500 poke! Nice little starter bonus! Shame you joined the crew after we knocked down Ocher, else you would have gotten more than that!” Clyde grinned.





Maxim scooped up the pouch and carefully tucked it away in his scarf. “Well thanks. I guess pay is pay.”





“So what do I do now?” Maxim asked.





“Calvin Island is coming up soon. So while your partner gets ready, why not kill a little time on the deck?”





“Sure thing, I guess. Don’t have much else to do.”





Maxim wasn’t sure how much time had passed as he watched the island grow closer and closer past drifting clouds. Eventually he could make out several features: Forests and grassy plains stretched over the land, while at its heart was a town complete with a harbor filled with docked ships. Near the left edge of the island was a tall forest packed with strange, dome shaped trees. A simplistic yet diverse island, and a welcome place for the crew to stop by.





The ship slowly eased into harbor, careful to squeeze through the gaps provided by other docked ships, finally coming to rest in an open space between two smaller galleons. A loud clack followed by a jolt on deck occurred as gigantic metal rings clasped the ship’s side. Now that the ship had docked, Drake called out from the main deck.





“Alright everyone, feel free to disembark!”





With another set of cheers, the crowd of privateers disembarked, only a few staying on deck. Maxim walked over to the ramp, but Drake’s leg stopped him.





“Oh hey! Don’t leave without your partner!” He chuckled before clapping his hands together. “Hey~! Over here!”





“Alright, Alright! Gimme a sec!” The voice from a very familiar weasel echoed. Running towards them with a bag in hand and scarf missing was Rene, a visible scowl on her face. Her gaze softened when she looked at Maxim.





The weasel placed a paw on her hip. “I’m not that good of a teacher, y’know! You remember how the last time went, yeah?”





Wait, she was going to be his partner? Maxim turned to Drake, who nodded in return.





“Indeed! It’s been a while since poor lil’ Rene here had a partner, and I feel a fresh recruit like yourself should at least shadow under one of our best solo members!” He shot a wink at Rene, but the Mienfoo only shook her head. “She’ll whip you into shape in no time flat!”





Well, I’ll give it a shot, Captain. As long as I’m not launching myself as a living cannonball like her.” He thought.





“Yea, yea, yea! I know I’m awesome. Let’s just get this going already!” The Mienfoo groaned. She pulled out an aged piece of paper, slowly unraveled it, and presented it to Maxim. The Rowlet found himself face to face with a map of the entire island.



Calvin Map part 1



20230324_204116.jpg





“Here’s your own copy, don’t let it go flyin’ away from you. See yah outside the ship.” Clutching her bag tightly, she slid down the ramp.





“Have fun you two! I’ve got business to attend to!” Drake chimed in, pointing down at the dock. A group of armored pokemon wearing light blue scarves escorted the pirates off their ship one by one in chains. Then came Ocher, with the dragon held his head down and ears flat as his once proud form was cuffed to a wooden box. One of the armored mons, a spindly Watchog, pulled Drake to the side to talk with him. The two became locked in conversation as Signal watched from a few feet away.





Upon hopping off the ramp, Maxim was taken out of further observation by a quick tap on his head. Rene stood right behind him, tapping her foot on the ground.





Shit! I better get a move on!”





He gulped and picked up the pace, not wanting to delay his partner further.










Right before leaving the dock, a wooden sign stood next to the town entrance with letters painted in white.





WELCOME TO CALVIN TOWN - Where The Gentle Breeze Blows!





“Well come on, we ain’t got all day!”





Maxim held in a sigh as Rene fussed for him to follow around. The Mienfoo was dead set in getting him acquainted with the town, three day stay or not. Each building in town was constructed out of wood and stone, the average building no higher than two stories. Combined with the simple cobblestone streets and thin metal street signs, the area reminded him of an 18th century village in his original world. Pokemon peeked out of the open windows to sightsee and more at the streets below. He let out a small yelp as a bucket of paint crashed into the street below, a painting Smeargle above slowly waving a paw. A steady stream of pokemon flooded into stores and alleys, forcing Maxim to keep close to Rene.





“The first major stop is just right around this corner!” She called out.





Maxim flapped his wings to keep up as she ran down a narrow street. His novice skill at flying was a bane that forced him to swerve around signs and hanging lamps. The street emptied into a much larger road with a beige sign with faded letters painted on it: Merchant’s Road . Sure enough, rows of wooden stalls, tents, and stands dotted both sides of the road. Maxim looked around. A Mismagius selling various glowing orbs, a Typhlosion running a box opening business, and many others took up shop. There was even a Pikachu with the number 1 on their scarf selling… home insurance? From the surge of pokemon that blew through from store to store it was easy to see that this was the lifeblood of the town.





I’m honestly impressed that this world has a functioning society. But then again, things are crazy enough for this to be sane to me.” Maxim thought as he looked from side to side.





There was one location that really caught his eye, a rather lavish red tarped tent covered in vivid golden floral patterns. Right above the entrance was an arrow shaped sign with the title: Boniface’s Breathtaking Bazaar!





Rene had noticed the store herself, and stopped walking as stared at it. She turned around to Maxim and beckoned him forward. Once he got close enough she looked around before leaning in.





“There’s more to being a privateer than just plundering and exploration. Ya got to be clever and think on the fly!” She whispered. “So I’m not just gonna teach you how to fight, you’re gonna learn another key skill: barterin’!” Grinning, Rene crossed her arms and nodded towards the tent.





“What? You want me to talk them down for prices?” Maxim whispered back.





“Yeah! That 500 poke of yours is gonna go fast otherwise!”





Maxim raised a wing to his temple. “You do got a point. I’m no finance expert here, so I’ll follow your lead on it for now. What’s the plan, teach ?”





That got Rene to flash a wide grin. “We’re going into this fancy tent and givin’ the owner a hell of a price shakedown! C’mon, lets go!”





Rene dragged him through the tent’s entrance. On the inside, rows of scarlet covered shelves held many items from strange, oversized seeds, to glowing disks and a bag full of pebbles.





“Hellllllllllooooo~~! You come to buy Boniface’s goods, yes?” replied a slightly shrill male’s voice.





Maxim glanced up to see a giant walking, talking mushroom walking towards them. Gold jewelry lined the top of the mushroom’s cap while a lime green scarf wrapped around their neck. His biggest draw was the shining gold badge attached to the top of his scarf, shaped vaguely like a diamond. The Shiinotic waved at the pair before speaking again.





“What brings you here, friends? Do you seek goods, services or perhaps guidance?” He raised the orb in his arms forward, slowly rubbing the top with thin fingers.





Even with his friendly attitude, Maxim felt creeped out by the pokemon’s unmoving grin and vacant stare. It was as if he was staring through them. If Rene was also unnerved she didn’t show it, instead crossing her arms with a smirk.





“Goods? You know it! I can tell from a small gander that this place is legit! And that scarf and badge o’ yours is nice too!” She cheered.





The Shiinotic clapped his hands together. “Ahhh thank you! Boniface works hard to establish this branch of his growing merchant empire! Many have come from different islands to have a taste of the exotic goods here! Now then, what are you interested in?”





Rene picked up a shining orb, then presented it to Boniface. “A Rebound Orb! And its nicely polished too! How much for this one?”





“400 poke! In good condition too!” He beamed. The smile on his face deepened when Rene placed a paw on her temple.





“400? That seems a bit..much, don’t you think? It seems in mint condition, but wouldn’t it be easier to sell at a lower price?”





Boniface nodded and spoke.“Ohohoho! You have a wonderful eye! Valuable indeed. But Boniface’s prices are right as rain. That item is worth every penny!”

Rene “I suppose. But this kinda orb ain’t super rare either! Not saying they can grow on trees, but orbs show up often enough!”





“Then if you can find another orb like this in a nearby dungeon, that would prove me wrong. Surely that is easy task for privateer, oui?”





Rene was left at a loss for words. “How did you-?”





“Many faces come through here. Easy to read, easy to know and learn. You’re no different!” The Shiinotic taunted. Rene gritted her teeth as she raised a paw, but that just made him wag a finger.





“Ah ah ah! No more fooling moi! Either pay proper price or Boniface charge you extra premium!”





Biting her lip, the Mienfoo hesitated for a few seconds, before reaching into her pack and presenting her poke. Boniface nodded before accepting. “Merci! Pleasure doing business with you!”





He turned over to Maxim. “Hello, friend! Do you need goods too?”





“I-I’m good! Thank you!” Maxim stammered before skittering away behind Rene.










The two said nothing between themselves as they walked back through Merchant’s Block. Rene kept walking forward without turning her head back once. As crowds of pokemon began to flood in, the pair continued to silently travel.





After a few minutes of walking, Maxim worked up the nerve to speak to her again.





“Hey Rene, are you okay?”





The Mienfoo stopped, sighed and then tilted her head back. “I’m fine. That guy was just too damn tough to crack!”





“Are most merchants hard to deal with like him?” He asked.





“N-no! I promise I can find another one to demonstrate on! That one’s just a fluke, is all!” She said, crossing her arms. Before they could scout out another merchant, the pair received an unexpected interruption.





Rmmmmb





“What the? You good, shorty?” Rene said, raising an eyebrow.





Maxim looked down, too embarrassed to look her in the eyes for his next words.





“I.. may have forgotten to eat anything this morning. Slipped my mind.”





Several seconds passed before Rene howled with laughter, nearly falling over in the process.





“Hahahaha! You forgot? There’s no way!”





Maxim rubbed the back of his head. “I got carried away between everything that happened so far today, sorry.”





“Bah, don’t apologize. Least you can do is go fill your belly on some grub.” Rene said. She pulled out her town map, took a glance, then pointed in the direction of a nearby street. “Map here says there should be a stack of restaurants down there. Go and eat somethin’ there.”





She began to walk off in another direction, catching Maxim by surprise. “Wait, you’re not coming with me?” He said.





Rene shook her head. “Nope! You’ve got to be independent! You don’t need me holding your hand for this!” She clapped her paws together. “Plus, I ain’t hungry anyway! I’ll meet you down there later!”





With that, the Mienfoo was gone, leaving Maxim by himself. His stomach rumbled again, giving him the motivation to get going.





“I better make this quick.” He whispered as he flapped away.










The good thing was that the road was nearly a straight shot. Maxim weaved in and out of traffic by flying, cutting down the travel time. The road crossed into a circular plaza. The wonderful scent of baked and steamed goods taunted his nostrils, only making his growling stomach more weary. The Rowlet came to rest on a bench.





All around, vibrant buildings held restaurants galore. Some, like a sharpedo shaped shack, had a visible kitchen, while a Pidove shaped diner had tinted windows shielding the inside. Maxim’s attention hopped from place to place, until he set his sights on a peculiar one. On the plaza outskirts was an oblong shaped building painted a vibrant blue. On the top of the building was a sign shaped like a Wobbuffet holding a bowl captioned Hideki’s Noodle Shop .





Noodles?” He thought. “ Sounds simple enough for me. Here goes.”





Past a silk curtain, purple colored walls led to a line of seats and tables spaced out on a polished wooden floor. Floral themed lanterns hung from an open ceiling. The menu was displayed behind a counter run by a sulking Sandshrew.





“Ugh, what are yah orderin? Don’t spend too long staring up there, okay?” The Sandshrew said with a weary tone.





Let’s see… Oran Berry Noodles, Colba Berry Slaw, Tamato Berry Bisque, Rawst Berry Ramen? The more items I look at, the more confused I get!” Maxim thought. “ Alien world equals Alien food, that’s something to remember!”





“What’s the matter? Confused, little buddy?”





A voice called out from right behind him, that of a gentle masculine tone. Maxim turned around to come face to face with a large bipedal chicken he recognized as a Combusken. A silky white scarf with a golden badge that glimmered in the sunlight was attached around his neck. The pokemon sported a wide grin with his arms crossed behind his head.





Hurik%20Full%20Body.png





“Honestly if you ask me, you should go with the Oran Noodle Special! It’s calm, refreshing, and tangy! Just the way I like it!” The Combusken beamed. Maxim swore if the bird’s grin widened any more it’d be brighter than the sun.





“But not too spicy?”





“Nope!”





“Well, I’m hungry, and I’m not one to be picky, at least I hope. Hello, one order of the Oran Noodles please!” Maxim said.





The Combuskin chimed in. “Make that two orders please!”





Both pokemon paid for their meals, then went to look for a table. One touching the wall caught Maxim’s eye, but he wasn’t the only one interested. He hopped into a seat only to find the same Combusken facing him.





“Hey there! Hope you don't mind me sitting here too!”





Maxim was questioning why this mon wanted to take with him so badly, but it's not like he wouldn’t mind some company. “That’s fine, but just who are you?”





With a brush of his head feathers, the Combusken puffed out his chest. “Oh me? My name is Hurik, Gold-Rank Explorer!” He pointed to his badge. “Yeah I know, cool right? You can save the praises for later!”





“I see, that’s interesting. But what’s an adventurer?”





That question left the Combusken at a loss for words, as his eyes expanded and beak hung open.





“Wha-wha-WHAT?! What kind of question is that to ask? Have you never seen an adventurer before?”





Maxim rubbed the back of his head. “Err nope.”





“You’re joking, right?”





“No.”

“Are you sure?”





“Yes.”





Absolutely sure?”





“Uh huh.”

Hurik reclined back, rubbing his claws over his face. A few seconds and some low whispers later, and a grin flashed across his beak. “Well okay, I’m not sure where in the skies you’re from, but I guess a little history lesson wouldn’t hurt, would it?”





First privateers, now adventurers? I’ve got to keep tabs on these second-nature jobs.” Maxim thought.





He nodded to confirm. The Combusken sat up straight, then adjusted his badge. A fiery gleam shined in his eyes. “Alright, listen up Rowlet, because Hurik here is gonna give you a crash course on being an adventurer!”










Just outside of town, a party of armed guards had escorted Drake and Signal to an isolated location. The plain white walled house with a blue roof was a shockingly simple place for an important meeting. Suspicion began to creep up on Drake as he realized the place was devoid of security. It even lacked a fence!



“Not exactly up to snuff for such a formal meeting.” Drake said to the armored Watchog leading in front. No response came back.


One of the guards, an Aipom, scurried up to the door and knocked five times. A few seconds later, a soft female voice answered.





“Hello! Please come in!”





The guards parted, allowing Drake and Signal to pass. Drake inwardly groaned at the gesture. He had a bad feeling about who was waiting for him beyond that door. Signal only stared back at him with a sheen in his eyes.





With a gentle turn of the nob, Drake opened the door to the sound of a crackling fire and the smell of warm tea. The inside was just as simple: plain walls, with a pair of tables and chairs placed neatly in the center. The lit fireplace coated everything in a yellow glow, including the mon sitting at a table. Drake’s grin completely evaporated as he laid eyes on his “host”.





A female Indeedee, wearing a golden scarf with a platinum badge attached, sat cross legged with a tea cup in hand. Her almond eyes casted a warm glow as she waved at Drake.





“Matilda?” He murmured. “He sent you?”





A small nod answered him. The Captain almost wanted to swear. Titling his head back, he spoke to his first mate.





“Signal, leave us. Wait for me by the door.”





The Braviary nodded, leaving the house. Once the door shut, Drake took a seat at the table. Matilda poured a cup of tea and then slid it towards him, a light smile on her face. Drake’s frown refused to vanish however, as he glared at her shimmering badge.





“So why did the Governor send you? Hasn’t he been keeping good enough tabs on us?”





The Indeedee said nothing, only taking a small sip of tea after mixing in a cube of sugar. Seconds seemed to stretch for an eternity as he waited for her answer.





“Your tea is getting cold. I suggest taking a sip to ease your worries.” She said, placing her empty cup down.





Drake sighed and took the cup in hand, allowing himself a small sip. The sweet and silky drink went down easy, but did little to help his mood. “Now will you answer me?”





With a small nod, the Indeedee straightened up. “I suppose it was my turn to check on you. Stellar work as always, Captain Drake!”





“Could you get to the point already?” He said, crossing his arms.





“My my, so blunt! I was just passing by when the Governor gave me the order to meet with you!” She giggled. “I promise there’s nought an ounce of ill will by me coming here!”





Matilda reclined back into her chair, crossing her hands in front of her face. “Besides, I wanted to hear all of what you’ve been up to since last we met. The last three missions specifically. And of course, the human you found.”





His grip on the teacup tightened as he tried to maintain a steady pose. Keeping his thoughts clear was key around a psychic type.





“Hmm, he told you a little bit about our conversation yesterday, didn’t he?” Drake sighed. “Surely nobody else knows.”





The Indeedee’s small grew larger. “To my knowledge, he has not. I won’t ask you about that subject yet. After all, we still have some catching up to do beforehand!”





Ignoring the sensation of an oncoming headache, Drake nodded.





“Yes, yes we do. How about I start with Gearly Island?”
 

Negrek

Play the Rain
Staff
Hey, Z102! I enoyed reading this over for Smeargle Swap. A mashup of sky pirates with PMD is a whole lot of fun, and I'm curious to see how it'll play with the usual PMD tropes under such a different sort of setting. I drew Maxim's first flight, when he's sweeping the deck. Thaks for a fun read!
 

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Chapter 5: The First Blow

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 5: The First Blow


“My, My! Quite the little adventure!”


Matilda%20Tea%20Time-min.png


Matilda placed her tea cup down and clapped. Her thin smile only made Drake grip his own cup tighter. Not once during him recounting the crew’s journey did she say a word, instead only responding with small nods or a wave. Every now and then, she would scribble on her little notebook.





“You put even a veteran navy officer to shame with your efficiency. We’re lucky to have such a talented captain in our service!” She giggled. “Now then, about that human?”





Drake sighed and placed his cup down. “Well, there isn’t too much to say about him. We’ve only recently met, mind you.”





“That’s alright. I just want to know about some of his qualities!” Matilda said.





Reclining back into his seat, Drake raised a hand to his chin.





“Well now, if I had to describe him…”










“...And that’s the basic history of Adventurers! Exciting, right?”





As if on cue, Maxim snapped out of his trance and glanced up at the Combusken. Despite the long explanation, he managed to take in the main points. Adventurers were a task force spread out across the skies. Under the service of a guild, they would go around handling all sorts of tasks including rescue missions, bounty hunting, item retrieval and more. Each job would vary from island to island, meaning that an adventurer had to stay on their toes. Despite the risks and hard work involved, Maxim had to admit it did sound rather exciting for a fantasy world job. However, Maxim couldn’t shake the feeling on how close the job seemed to overlap with the basic descriptions of privateers.





I wonder if there’s some kind of innate link between them. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, He thought.





Maxim shrugged. “It’s cool, I guess.”





Hurik raised a brow. “You guess? I’m surprised you’re not over the moon after that. Oh what, does your country or whatever have an even cooler job?”





“Uhh no, I just thought it sounded similar to how Privateers operate.” Maxim said. “Well uhh, without the guild and all.”





Hurik’s eyes darkened while his head feathers glowed, a small wave of heat emanating from his form. He quickly relaxed and rubbed his head.





“Privateers, huh? Funny how your familiar with them and not Adventurers. But anyway, yes the two do share similarities, but with several key differences. For one, guilds don’t function like a crew. Most adventurers are on their own or with a partner or two backing them up. Also, adventurers aren’t given nearly as free reign as privateers are to handle their business, not to mention the entree fees. And one more thing, adventurers don’t handle some of the more… darker jobs their counterparts do.”





Hurik winked at the last point, causing a shiver to roll up Maxim’s spine. “D-darker jobs?”





Hurik nodded. “Well privateers can be considered to be pirates on a leash. And anyone can tell you how the average pirate operates.” A grin creeped on his beak. “Just think about it, having the ability to use troublemakers on your beck and call when needed. Sowing a little chaos here, exploring dangerous islands over there, who else is more useful than those who throw caution to the wind?”





Hurik’s grin instantly vanished as his eyes dimmed.





“But keeping pirates on a leash? That’s kinda careless if you ask me. What’s keeping them from cutting ties and going off on their own once they get bored of dancing to someone else’s tune? Well, several things, but that’s besides the point.”





Hurik sighed and reclined back. Maxim swore he could see a tinge of sadness appear on his face. “Not much chance of being a free spirit with that arrangement. I don’t agree on how some pirates can be willing to do that. Trading freedom for so-called benefits. Hmph.”





A few seconds of awkward silence passed. Just before any of them could break the mold, a massive shadow engulfed them. Standing by their table was a Nidoqueen wearing a white apron stained with grease and other liquids. A tray holding two striped bowls was in her hand.





“You boys order the Oran special, ya?” She asked with a noticeable accent. Both nodded in response. She placed down the bowls before waving and leaving.





Maxim looked down at his bowl. Floating around in the thick broth was an entanglement of blue noodles with meat and strange vegetables finely cut on top. Triangle slices of a blue fruit floated in the center, completing the dish. A sweet, orange-like scent came from the steam, adding to Maxim’s hunger.





A fit of laughter erupted from Hurik as he crossed his arms across his stomach. “You’re just drooling at that dish! Can’t blame you though! It's good stuff!” Hurik chuckled, before grabbing two wooden sticks. “Sorry for going off a tangent, I get kinda heated sometimes, but it’s all good now!”





Hurik pointed the chopsticks at Maxim. “Now then, feel free to dig in while it’s hot!”





While he dug into his meal, Maxim adjusted his posture to take into account his size and the bowl’s placement. An awkward minute of shifting around later, Maxim took his first bite. He was blown away by the sweet and tangy taste of the soft noodles. The broth’s slight bitterness balanced out the taste while the chopped meat and vegetables stood out with their spices. Combined with tender fruit, the meal was perfect: neither too mild nor spicy and blended wonderfully into a hearty dish.





“I could cry, it’s so good!” He thought. This was only his second meal in this world, he never would have imagined such a strong first impression!





Just as Maxim finished slurping up the last of his meal, a shadow approached. Both him and Hurik turned to find themselves face to face with a new visitor. Black fur covered their body from head to toe, only broken up by circular neon-blue lines. A silken white scarf with a golden badge identical to Hurik’s was around their neck. Their yellow eyes are narrowed into thin slits that glared daggers towards Hurik.





Celene





“There you are! Do you have any idea how long I’ve searched for you, only to see you lazing on your ass and stuffing your face?!” The Umbreon snarled, her voice deep and raspy. She brushed at her ears waiting for Hurik to respond.





The Combusken stared back, only speaking after setting down his bowl. “Traveling around the entire island works up quite an appetite! What better way to satisfy it than with a nice bowl?” He shot a wink towards Maxim.





After looking over Maxim, the Umbreon let out a snort. “Who are you supposed to be, Hurik’s little lunch buddy? Did he bore you to sleep with his stories yet?”





“No ma’am, he didn’t. I enjoyed the discussion!” Maxim said. “I’m curious. Are you and him part of the same adventurer’s guild? You have the same badge and everything.”





“Hmph, he’s more than that, he’s my partner! One that decided to go and goof off in town instead of helping me with our tasks.” She scoffed, brushing her ears again.





“If you don’t mind me asking, what is your name, miss Umbreon?” Maxim asked.





Her body relaxed as she tilted her head away, anger replaced by an unenthused stare. “Celene. Part of Team Pale Moon along with him.” She flicked an ear at Hurik’s direction, causing him to wave.





Maxim raised a wing to his beak. “Partners? Were you two sent here on a mission, by chance?”





“Yep, for survey work.” Celene snorted. “At least we were, until my partner decided to cut his work short. I’m not letting you off easy!”





“Okay okay! I finished my meal anyway, so I’m happy to get back to work!” Hurik grinned, sheepishly rubbing his crest. He placed his bowl on the table before he got up and walked off with Celene. Before he got too far away, he cocked his head back.





“Hey Maxim, it was nice talking to you. Hope we can meet again before we leave!”





“Yeah, it was nice! I hope the same!” Maxim called back.





With a thumbs up, the Combusken ran off to catch up with his partner. Left alone, Maxim sat and tried to collect his thoughts, only for the arrival of a third, familiar visitor to interrupt him.





“So I find you chowing down at a noodle place, eh? Not a bad choice.” Rene spoke with her arms crossed.





“Ah, Rene! G-good to see you again!” Maxim stammered. “What have you been up t-to?”





“Well, I went around asking the locals about the different sights and places around here. I learned about a few cool places. Then, I found you before you could get lost, which didn’t take me long. After all, a Rowlet’s pretty rare in this part of the skies.”





She placed a paw on her hip and sighed. “Whew! You should have seen that Umbreon that left here just now. I bumped into her by accident and she gave me a crazy killer stare! Talk about having a stick up your arse!”





Maxim gave a nervous chuckle as he thought about Celene’s aggressiveness. While Hurik was nice, he wouldn’t mind missing out on his partner.





“What’s with the other bowl? You meet some new buddy or something?” She teased.





“Uhhh, it’s nothing to worry about. Now, about those sights, Rene.” Maxim deflected.





“Hmph. Follow me!”





With that, the two slipped out of the restaurant and onto the open road.










Maxim trailed her all the way to the town’s outskirts. Cobblestone gave way to unkempt dirt as they entered a forest trail. Thin trees and shrubs dotted both sides and it was quiet save for the chirping around them.





“Hey Rene, where are we going?” Maxim asked as he flew level with her.





The Mienfoo smirked. “You’re about to see in a moment. Be patient, will you?”





Sure enough, over a small hill, a strange landmass came into view. Carved into the side of a small cliff was a cave resembling a monster’s open maw.. Its eyes were overgrown with vines dangling from them while the teeth were stalagmites and stalactites. A wooden sign with faded black words hung haphazardly from a rope.





GLIGAR CAVE - en of B n its





Maxim was puzzled. This place was marked on his map but it didn’t look like a featured landmark. The dilapidated state made him wonder if the residents were simply trying to forget it existed.





“This isn’t exactly a sightseer’s dream.” Maxim sighed. “You certainly didn’t drag me out here just to take a photo, I’m guessing.”





“What the hell is a photo? I brought you here so we can train!”





“Don’t worry about it, just was thinking of something from- Wha? T-t-training?!” He stammered. “As in, fighting?”





A wide grin spread over Rene’s face as she clapped her palms together.





“That’s right! Part of my role is to get you up to speed in combat. And what better place to do that privately than a dusty old cave?”





He gulped as he remembered his promise to Drake. He did want to grow stronger and he would need a good base to start. That didn’t mean he wanted to dive into some run down cafe with little more than a torch guiding him!.





“W-won’t it be too dark to try and fight in there?”





“Bah! Don’t tell me you’re scared of a little darkness!” Rene scoffed. “Besides, there’s going to be plenty of times you fight with poor vision. Best to learn the basics now than to pay for not knowing later!”





“I suppose…” He groaned.





Heading into the cave, Maxim realized that he could see well even without relying on Rene’s torch.





“Huh? I better chalk it up to my new body I guess.”





Strewn around were the remnants of wooden minecarts and steel rails. What must be pickaxes and hammers embedded in the walls were coated in rust. Large pillars of soil mixed with pebbles rose from the ground. The air was cold and dry, making Maxim hug his scarf closer to his body.





“So this was a mine?” Maxim asked.





Rene nodded. “Yeh. Supposedly this was some mystery dungeon ages ago that eventually transformed into a regular cave loaded in minerals. The locals pretty much mined it out and then bandits turned it into their hideout. But that’s all history now.” She kicked a rock further down a corridor. A small echo of its impact could be heard a few seconds later.





“A mystery dungeon?”





“Oh right, your amnesia.” Rene sighed. “Mystery Dungeons are weirdo places that generate all over the world. Every island has at least one that pops up, teeming with mindless pokemon we call ferals, or wildies as far as us skymen go.”





Her head swiveled from side to side right before she leaned in. “Then sometimes they just… stop being mysterious ‘n all like this place. The wildies inside all disappear and nobody’s sure if they just left or straight-up go poof. I don’t care either way!”





“That’s nuts!” Maxim said. Just how much crazier does this world get? Floating in the sky, talking animals, and now this? He really wanted to groan.





Past a tight tunnel, the pair entered a clearing. Light beamed down from a hole in the ceiling, allowing a good view without a torch.





Withered fabric and rotted wood littered the ground, the remains of tents and minecarts piled up along the walls. Scorch marks of a lit campfire were still visible, though most of the remaining ash was long gone. Boulders strewn around had strange symbols carved into them, only adding to the archaic visage. Rene seemed indifferent to all of it, given how she sat down on a boulder and tossed her torch to the ground.





“Guess this is the bandit’s camp. Ah well! This’ll be a good spot to train in! No distractions, no nosy onlookers, just us and this dusty old cave!”





Leaping into the open campsite’s remains, she raised up her fist and assumed a fighting stance. “C’mon, C’mon! Don’t be a hatchling! Face me!” Her paw waved back and forth.





Maxim sighed and fluttered down on the opposite side. He sure as hell didn’t know how to assume a fighting stance, so he tried his best to give her a cold stare. Seconds passed without a word between the two. Within the blink of an eye, Rene crossed the gap. Her raised fist slammed into the ground in front of Maxim, kicking up dust. He jumped back only for Rene to swing out her leg. The impact sent him skidding across the ground. There was little chance to catch his breath as Rene leaped into the air and slammed her fist down. Maxim rolled away at the last second.





Soon, the spar had devolved into a game of cat and mouse between the two. Rene stayed glued to the Rowlet, hitting him with punch after punch. The blows were meaty and knocked him around, but left him with a stinging sensation at worst. In vain he attempted to claw at her with his talons, but this did little to dissuade her. As he tried to fly up to escape her, Rene landed a mean right hook to his back. The Rowlet slammed into the ground and struggled to get up.



Chapter%205%20-%20FIGHT-min.png



“What is WITH you?!” Rene hissed. “Fight back! You’re a pokemon, for Arceus’s sake!”





Maxim strained his head to look at her, a weary sign escaping his beak. “I know that! I just can’t get anything to happen! It’s like a mental block!”





The Mienfoo raised a paw to her temple, then began to charge energy into her fist. “You know I’ve been holding back on you! I thought you’d get it by now! But still nothing! Why are you so weak, Maxim? You’re useless!”





“U-useless?” He stuttered.





“Yeah that’s right! You want to be a part of this crew and you can’t even throw out a basic attack? You’re useless! Best you could do is be a cabin boy!” Rene crouched low to the ground, preparing to rush again. “And now, I’m gonna knock you down!”





That word bounced around in his head as he gripped soil with his talons. Useless, useless, useless. This wasn’t some spur of the moment decision, he’d do anything to recover his memory and humanity back!





“Even if I don’t have any powers, that doesn’t mean I’m going to just give up and leave the crew!” He yelled back. “I’m not usel-”





…!





A piercing ring echoed in his skull as he felt another memory bubble to the surface, this time allowing him to picture the scene.





A wooden desk was in front of him, with a figure sitting behind it. A stack of papers was laid out before him, with only the figure’s smile being a visible detail. The figure then opened their mouth to speak in a garbled tone.





“I’ve appreciated your effort up to this point, but I’m sorry to say we have no more need for you. Effective immediately, you’re to be removed from the project.”





Maxim slammed his hands, human hands onto the desk. “What? How can you do this to me? After everything?!”





The figure flashed a smile that extended from ear to ear. “Thanks to arrangements, you are well… unnecessary, unneeded.” They leaned over the desk, towering over him. Void-colored eyes burned their glare into Maxim’s own.





“Useless.”





Pain coursed through his skull as he covered his head. It felt like his head was going to split apart.





“Huh, what’s wrong?” Rene asked, cocking her head to the side.





“Just leave me alone!” He roared. “I’ve dealt with enough already! And now you want to take this away from me too?” A green glow enveloped Maxim’s wings as he raised them at her.





“I’m not useless!”





Three feathers launched like arrows, coated in green energy. Rene, startled, lept back right as they impacted the ground. Again, Maxim shot another set. Rene swerved to dodge then pressed on her attack. Motivated by an unknown instinct, Maxim charged at her and slammed into her chest. The Mienfoo froze for a moment, only to backhand him away.





Both of them paused, Maxim letting out small gasps. He shakenly looked down at his wings. A strange feeling of relief came over him, as if he’d climbed a cliff all by himself. He summoned a loose feather again, closely examining it, and threw it at a nearby rock. The resulting impact shattered it into dust.





“This is my own power?” He marveled. Razor sharp feather projectiles? This new body truly was a wonder. He turned back to Rene, who had relaxed her stance and crossed her arms.





“Heh! I knew you could do it! All you needed was a little roughing up, is all!” She grinned. “Think you used another move when you slammed into my chest. Sure didn’t feel like a regular blow.”





Maxim nodded. There was a certain feeling he got from using both attacks, which made him wonder if it really was a natural instinct. “I can use more than one attack, right?”





Rene snickered, “of course you can! Up to four moves at a time! And of course, there’s only one way to figure that out.” She charged energy into her fists. “Cmon!”





The thought of getting pummeled again by her without holding back made him shudder. But there was no point in bowing out now.





“Alright, l-lets do this! For real this time!”





The Rowlet rushed forward, this time with a nervous grin on his face.







“And... that’s it for now.”





Drake crossed his arms as he waited for Matilda to finish writing down his report. The Indeedee had not moved her sight from her notepad. Seconds trickled into minutes before she spoke again.


“Again, I thank you for providing me with such wonderful information! This concludes our meeting!” She reached into a bag and handed him a beige envelope. Gold trimming lined its edges and a gold, three-leaf symbol was stamped to the back. Drake placed it into his vest pocket.





“So what will you do now? I suppose you will have to report to the Sol Knights about our little chat as well?”





“If you think we will take custody of the little one, then you have nothing to fear. He can stay with you for now.” Matilda said.





Drake flicked his crest. “Hmm? I’m surprised that you would trust a no-good pirate like me. What’s the catch?”





For the first time since starting, a frown replaced Matilda’s smile. “The Knights will be watching you closely. Should we deem you inadequate for holding the human, we will confiscate him from you.” Said frown vanished as she put on another smile. “I have faith in you, however! Do continue to impress the governor and myself!”





Drake rose and gave her a small nod. “If we’re finished here, I best be on my way then!” Before exiting, he turned around to see Matilda giving her a small wave. With that, he was finally done with his business here.





Just outside the door, Signal silently waited for him. The large Braviary levitated off the ground and took to the skies, flying in an arc. Drake made sure to put as much distance between him and the house as he could before letting out a hefty sigh.





“Well that was an annoyance. To have a Great Knight meet me at such an ill moment.”





Does he mean to test your loyalty? If so, how much does he suspect of you?” A deep voice spoke from high above. Drake looked up to see Signal’s crest pulsating with pink light.





“It was most likely out of the governor’s hand. The monarchy’s been getting anxious to stay on top of things lately. Me and him are on the same page, so no need to worry.” Drake said.





Signal’s crest gleamed again. “ Fair enough. Shall we return back?”





The captain straightened up his vest before raising a hand to his crest. He swore he could hear a sigh from Signal’s end.





“Indeed! Let’s go back home, first mate!”







“Max..!”





“Maxim!”





“Hey, Maxim!”





Maxim groaned as he slowly opened his eyes to light. Moving his body around, he could feel the softness of grass beneath him. As his eyes adjusted, the sight of orange sky and treetops greeted him. He rose up in confusion. How did he get outside of the cave? As he looked to his side he found Rene staring back at him.





“Took you long enough!” Rene said, arms crossed. “I didn’t think I hit ya that hard!”





He groaned and rubbed his head. “What happened? Last thing I remember was us clashing blows.”





“Well I may have struck you a little harder than I realized and plain knocked you out. My bad!”





“Did I at least unlock a new move?”





“Uhh, well you growled at me. Guess that counts.”





“Growling is a move?”





“Yeah!”





Maxim blinked in response. He had a lot to learn about move diversity, it seemed. Turning back to the cave, the location glowed in the light of the setting sun.





“Hey Maxim. I hope you didn’t take those words of mine to heart too badly.” Rene sighed, rubbing the back of her head. “I just wanted to get you riled up in battle, is all.”





Maxim looked off into the distance. He thought about the word “useless” again and that painful memory. He couldn’t help but stay frustrated, not at her words, but at himself. How come his own personal memories could only trickle back into place but concepts were no issue? No doubt that voice had a hand!





“Yeah, it's no problem. I just wanted help knowing what my body could do.” He looked down at himself. His feathers were ruffled and his scarf was nearly tattered. Rene had really done a number on him. “I was a bit worried you got put off by my freakout.”





“Nah! It’s been too long since I got someone riled up. Bound to happen sometime!” She snickered, causing Maxim to sigh and roll his eyes.





“Pretty peaceful place, eh?” Rene said as she took a seat on the grass. “Haven’t been to an island like this in a long time.” She reached inside her bag and tossed over a small, spherical blue fruit with small pores. Maxim realized it was the fruit from his earlier meal.





“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what an Oran Berry is! Eat it so you’ll get healed right up!” She teased.





Maxim swallowed the fruit, its sweet and tangy flavor delightfully familiar. A refreshing feeling rushed over his body and he felt rejuvenated enough to move around.





“Wow, this feels great!” He exclaimed.





The bliss coursing through him was enough to make him twirl in place. As he looked at the forest around, a nagging feeling crawled up from behind. Far away past a row of trees, he could make out shadows moving around. He rubbed his eyes only to see they had vanished, but his uneasiness was only growing.





“What’s wrong?” Rene asked.





“I dunno, felt like someone was watching us for a second.” He answered.





Rene got up and walked away, swerving her head from side to side. “Hmph, could be some curious villager, I imagine one of them may have noticed us passing through. I guess we should head back for now.”





“Seconded.”





Maxim followed closely behind, not wanting to stick around to find out. Rows of trees came and went with no sign of movement. Only a few minutes later the pair found themselves staring at a curious newcomer. In front was a spherical blue pokemon identified as a Marill. Gauntlet-covered paws held a small wooden sphere, while a blue scarf was wrapped around the base of their tail. A frown was on their face and their body trembled every few seconds.





“H-hey! What do you t-think you’re uh, doing out here?!” The Maril stammered in a young male’s voice. He raised the spear at both of them, gripping it the best his trembling paws would let him.





Rene walked up slowly and placed a paw on his spear. “Ease up, you big baby. We’re just checking out the cave here. Heard it’s a neat local attraction!” She winked at Maxim, who gave her a hasty nod back.





The Marill shook his head. “Famous or not, y-you shouldn’t be going in there! It’s dangerous and unstable f-from years of u-use! You could uh, g-get hurt!”





“And who are you supposed to be, my dad?” Rene scoffed. “Aren’t you supposed to be patrolling the city or whatever your lot does?”





“I’m the o-one who should be asking t-the questions here!” The Marill barked back.





She released her grip and began to walk off. “Eh don’t worry about it, we were leaving anyway. Have fun with your patrol!”





With that, the pair continued on their way, ignoring the guard.





“Don’t you ignore m-m-me!” He hollered, hopping up and down. “T-treat me with some respect!”





I can’t imagine a guy like that could sneak around so easily.” He thought. Turning back one last time, he saw nothing moving around in the forest, and that nagging feeling of his had vanished. “ Whoever or whatever that was must have left already. Glad they did, but I still feel uneasy.”





His thoughts would circle between his newfound powers and the strange encounter all the way back to the ship.
 
Chapter 6: Playing Pretend

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 6: Playing Pretend



Orange skies gave way to violet starlight as the first day on Calvin Island drew to a close. Thankfully, there were no further interruptions once the two came back into town. Maneuvering through the emptying streets, the pair finally reached the docks. Fellow crew members were boarding the ship, with some carrying crates, bags, and other stored goods. One pokemon, an Ambipom, wobbled up the ramp before falling backward. Maxim rushed over, worried, only to see them snoring.





A nearby Heracross snickered at the sight. “Queen’s gown, what a lightweight! Told him he’s got a lot of practicing to do before he can drink with the big boys!” The Heracross slung the unconscious mon over their shoulder and leaped onto the deck.





“Is he gonna be alright?” Maxim asked.





“Eh, he’ll live. Some of us think we can outdrink the other and then this happens.” Rene sighed.





Back on the ship, the two went below decks to the mess hall. Like the day before, a massive line stretched from front to back, with the pair barely out the door. The line moved without confrontation, and Maxim soon found himself in front of a familiar duo.





The Grafraiai and Slowbro were hard at work moving dishes across the counter. While his much taller partner turned potatoes over a small flame, the Grafraiai handed out meals to everyone.


Noticing the Rowlet, Cardin presented a plate to Maxim with a gleam in his eyes.





“Hey Rowlet! Ready to get your pallet blown away by another Cardin and Hyde specialty? This time we’ve got oven-roasted potato slices coated with a zesty glaze made from grinded herbs and nomel berries! One bite of this and you’ll weep of joy!” The tiny chef flexed his thin arms. “I’d like to see one of those local joints match this!”





“I think that one Heatmor’s dish had our number, chum.” His Slowbro companion sighed.





“Hey hey hey!” Cardin growled. “Just you wait, that guy’s flame is gonna be a candle in the wind to our inferno!”





Hyde rubbed the back of his head. “Yeahhh, sure thing.”





Maxim took his seat at an occupied table, then jolted a bit when Rene sat down by him.





“Reservin’ a table, eh? Isn’t that nice of you!” The Mienfoo laughed.





“Oh I uh, I was just trying to c-chill out of the way, you know, uh.” Maxim stammered.





She lightly tapped him on the head. “Relax, I’m just teasin’ yah! Good eye to pick a spot out of the way!”





All around them, pokemon were chatting away or messing around with their fellow crew mates. The two dug in, eating their food without a word passing between the two. Between bites, Maxim broke the awkward silence.





“Hey Rene, I’m surprised you wanted to sit with me. I figured you probably had others that you’d hang out with.”





“I’m not a big party gal. There are plenty of days where I'm happy to sit by myself.” She said, puffing out her cheeks. “Plus I’m your partner now, gotta keep an eye on yah!”





Maxim couldn’t object to that. The two continued their meal in silence. But he had to admit, having someone to spend time with was giving him a slight fuzzy feeling inside.










BARRRRRRINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!





“UP AND AT’EM, THE WINDS OF A NEW DAY ARE HERE!”






Maxim groaned and rolled out of his hammock. The start of a new day had arrived, and with it, another jolt out of bed.





It’s going to be a long time before I get used to this. He thought.





A quick stop by the mess hall and a breakfast of roasted bread gave him a morning boost. Squeezing through the crowded halls of crewmembers, Maxim went above deck. The dull thumping of shuffling boxes and moving pokemon was the first thing to greet him. Most of the crew were busy sweeping the deck, lifting cargo, and other tasks.





Even first thing in the morning, the crew’s got the ball rolling! Talk about no effort wasted!





While his gaze wandered over the deck, he felt a strange sensation nibbling at the back of his mind. The feeling led him to look up at the bow, leading him to a curious sight. At the tip stood a figure covered in a long billowing green cloak. Through an opening around the head, a ruby-colored eye peeked back at Maxim. Despite the figure’s small stature, the other crew members were ignoring their presence. Maxim rubbed at his eyes with a wing only to see that the figure had vanished.



SOH%20CH%206%20Art%201-min.png


“What in the-”





His gaze darted from side to side, scanning for any other sign. He looked towards the stern. There the figure was, sitting on the deck above the ship’s wheel. It waved a dark blue arm, as if beckoning Maxim over.





This is ridiculous! Am I really the only one who can see this happening? He thought. Taking flight, the Rowlet soared just over the heads of his fellow crew members and landed directly in front of the steering wheel. This time, the figure stayed in place and waved back.





“Hey! Just who are you?” Maxim yelled.





A silent shake of their head was the only response. Bright pink energy coated the figure’s form before they vanished into light, leaving Maxim at a loss for words.





Just what the hell was that?





He wouldn’t have the chance, as a large shadow loomed over him. Maxim twisted his head around to see a massive bipedal pokemon standing with their arms crossed. Their jet black body was covered in armor-like scales, scars, and cuts. A pair of axe-shaped tusks sprouted from their snout, the left one’s edge chipped and broken. The blue scarf wrapped around their neck indicated they were a crew member. But that did little to assure Maxim, who was frozen with terror.





“H-h-how are you doing Mr. Ha-Hax-Haxorus, i-is it?” Maxim said with a poorly feigned smile. The dragon type stood statue-like as their red eyes bored into Maxim. A few seconds passed before the Haxorus relaxed.





“Why are you snooping around my quarters, Rowlet? Are you looking for something?” Spoke the dragon type in a masculine tone. His voice was deep yet smooth and commanded enough energy to make Maxim straighten up.





“S-sorry sir! I didn’t mean to intrude!” Maxim apologized, rubbing his head. “I didn’t know this was your area!”





The Haxorus let out a small sigh. “Don’t look at me all scared. I’m not going to bite ” His tail gently slapped the wood floor. “As long as this ship is docked here, I don’t have much else to do but stare.”





Maxim sighed in relief. The last thing he wanted to do was push the crew’s buttons. “Well that’s not a bad thing! I’d rather deal with a slow day than a hectic one like with that pirate crew recently, haha!” Maxim said with a nervous chuckle.





A smile tugged at the edges of the dragon’s face as he looked up at the skies above. “Aye. You’re not wrong kiddo. I’ve seen enough sunrises to know when to appreciate a peaceful day when I see one. You should as well.” The look in the Haxorus’s face softened. “I suppose I might as well ask. What’s your name, Rowlet? I’ve seen a lot of mons aboard this ship, but not one of your kind.”





“Maxim, sir.” He replied.





“Maxim, eh?” The Haxorus raised one of his hands to his chin, causing Maxim to notice said hand was missing a claw. “You new here? Don’t recall us picking up any rookies at our last stop.”





“Yeah, you can say that. I’m still learning a lot about the pir-privateer life.” He stated. “I’m grateful that Captain Drake gave me the chance to be here and stuff.”





“Well you picked a great crew!” The Haxorus chuckled. “Just make sure to put in work, little one!”





“Sure thing, Mr…?”





The Haxorus raised a hand, then pointed his thumb at his chest. “Abel. Just call me Abel. I’m the crew’s helmsmon. Come gentle breeze or rough storm, I’ll get us where we need to go in one piece!”





“Noted! Nice to meet you, sir!” The Rowlet gave him a small nod, then looked back to the deck. Some crew members were leaving the ship for the day, while others were still busy with daily tasks. “Well that reminds me, I’ve got to get back with my partner. I don’t want to keep her waiting any more.”





Abel nodded. “Aye, good to keep your fellow crewmate in mind!”





“Oh wait, one more thing. This might sound weird, but have you seen a floating figure covered in a green cloak anywhere around here? I seemed to be the only one that saw them.”





The Haxorus raised a brow. “Green..cloak..? Hmmm.” He traced a hand around one of his blade tusks. “Green cloak..oh! I know what you mean.” A sign left Abel as he rubbed at his temple. “Not normal for her to get bored this easily. Sorry if you got spooked, just don’t worry about that. You’ll probably meet her again soon.”





“Her?”





He raised a claw to his snout. “Shhhhh, she’ll get annoyed if I talk any more about it.”





Maxim wanted to protest, but decided he had spent enough time getting sidetracked. “Well alright, I’ll be off then!”





As Maxim flew back to the main deck, he saw Rene leaned against the railing. Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t react when he landed in front of her. Maxim tilted his head and poked her with a wing.





“Hey Rene, I’m here!”





“Yeah, I can see you.” She sighed. “Hope you’re ready for another day, ‘cause you’re gonna have more training to do!”





“Sure thing. And I’ll try not to get knocked out early on this time.” Maxim said.





“Let’s head on, then! I want us to start early today! No slackin’!” She huffed. Rene sped down the ramp, waving her paw for him to follow. He chose to glide down alongside the Mienfoo.





As the two were about to take the main path into town, nearby shouting caught their attention. The source came from slightly further down the dock, where the familiar face of Clyde was focused on a pink humanoid figure known as a Tinkaton. Two pairs of goggles were wrapped above her head and around her neck while her blue scarf was tied around one of her twintails. Despite being shorter than Clyde, the pokemon easily wheeled around a cart stacked with metal and fabrics at least three times her size. Though Clyde’s back was turned, the Politoed’s rigid stance conveyed enough.





“Argh! Now what have yer gone n’ done? I thought you and yer little group already peeled enough off that ship to satisfy yer!” Clyde groaned, crossing his arms.





The Tinkaton adjusted the goggles on her head, then flashed him a smile. “That ship of theirs won’t sail again,, so I figured they wouldn’t miss it if I took a few parts with us!”





“Yer calling that a wee bit o’ parts?” Clyde argued. “Yer bum’s oot the windae! I’ve gotten tired o’ listening to the navy cry and squeal like hatchlings!”

“Meh! By the time those lugs even try to complain, we’ve already gave em the slip!” The Tinkaton said. “Out of sight, out of mind!”





The Politoed facepalmed. “By the Queen’s gown, I’ll need to get hammered tonight.”





“She seemed rather…passionate.” Maxim whispered, turning to Rene.





“Hestia? She’s a wild one. I wouldn’t get too close if I were you. She might try to work ya into one of her wacky experiments!” Rene teased.





Maxim suddenly felt more motivated to head into town. “We should definitely get a move on now!”





With a roll of her eyes, Rene walked down the boardwalk with Maxim following close behind.







The town was more lively today as crowds of pokemon flowed through the streets. A dense herd of four legged mons like Tauros and Mudsdale forced the pair to hug the street’s edge. Even as they switched to a side road, the traffic refused to thin out






The chaotic pace and lack of space began to wear at Maxim. His small stature only made things worse. Finally after minutes of weaving around larger mons, he found enough breathing room in the middle of a wide road. His chance to rest would be short lived.





A figure brushed against his side, and with them the tug of something coming off. He looked down to see his scarf was still present, but felt strangely lighter . That wasn’t right. A few seconds went by before the realization dawned. He scanned around to see a black and white blur sped back into the dense crowd.





“What’s goin’ on? You look pissed!” Rene said.





“My bag is gone! Someone took it!” Maxim cried out.





The Rowlet launched into the air, looking for the thief.





“Hey wait up! I can’t fly, you know!” Rene yelled. She waved to Maxim, but he was already high in the air. From building to building, there was no sight of anything beyond visiting customers or relaxing townsfolk. The crowd began to thin out, but as Maxim passed between streets his target remained absent. He came to rest on a slanted rooftop, taking a moment to catch his breath.





“Shit! Where could they have gone?!”





His current position was where the main entrance to Merchant’s Street met another sideroad. The location was vacant outside a pair of passing Furret. Anger building, his claws started to chip into the roof’s tiles.





You’ve got to be kidding me! Only the second day here and I’ve been mugged for my one day paycheck!”





The rustling of a bush below caught his attention. It continued for a few seconds before the white head of a small bear poked its head out. A small leaf was in their mouth while a crudely stitched together black hoodie draped from their neck.





A…Pancham? Wait a second!”





After looking from side to side, the pokemon hopped out of the bush. The black hoodie had a cape stitched below the shoulders. Quickly, they dashed across the street and into a small alleyway.





Having wings was becoming a newfound blessing for Maxim, as they let him trail the Pancham without worry. The black and white pokemon skillfully weaved from alley to alley, eventually heading down a long narrow corridor ending in a square shaped clearing. Tightly enclosed by multistoried buildings, it was hard to believe someone would want to bother with a place like this. The most surprising fact would be that the Pancham wasn’t alone.





Two other mons, a Scraggy, and an Impidimp had seemingly been waiting for the Pancham. Similar to the latter, they had matching hoods color coated to their respective mons. Maxim slowly touched down on an overhang, leaning in as close as he could without giving away his position.





The Scraggy spoke first in a young female’s voice. “Okay Rodrick, we got everything together. Now what’s this big scheme o’ yours that dragged us back in here?”





“Alright Addie, you ain’t gonna believe this, but I pulled a fast one just now!” The Panchim grinned. He pulled out a brown bag and presented it. Maxim had to hold in a gasp, for there was no mistaking the sight of his own handbag.





“Woah! Did you really go and yank it off some poor sod? I didn’t think you’d go through with it!” Addie marveled, poking at the bag. Her Impidimp companion didn’t share the same enthusiasm.





“Hold up, hold up! You’re saying you stole it, yeah? What if the bloke figures out you’re the one who took it?” The Impidimp whimpered, his tone shrill and nasally. “We’ll get in real big trouble!”





Rodrick waved his paw in dismissal. “Don’t worry ‘bout it! The guards couldn’t find a Copperjah in a hayfield! At worst I’ll just drop it off at their office and claim I found it! Easy peasy!”





“As long as you don’t wimp out as soon as you step in!” Addie teased.





“Hey! I told you I’m brave! This bag here proves it!” Roddrick fired back. “Let’s just figure out who’s gonna play what role today! I call being Stacks this time!”





Addie crossed her arms and scoffed. “Guess we’re gonna have to be the Gliscor Twins today, since Minnie and Tay are out. C’mon Lars! Get out the cloaks!”





“Oh, alright. I’m better at playing the bad guy than Stacks anyway..” The Impidimp sulked. He moved over to a corner and pulled out a box stuffed with fabric. Each mon took off their hoods and replaced them with a unique, homemade costume. The Scrafty and Impidimp both wore matching purple cloaks with long slender ears attached on the hoods. Meanwhile Rodrick wore a gray hood with two ears and a paper drill-shaped horn at the top. The Pancham tossed Maxim’s bag over to Lars, who stumbled trying to catch it.





“Oh yeah, let’s go! Now get into place so we can start!” Rodrick cheered.





Maxim tilted his head as he watched them spread out. His bag got stolen by a bunch of kids playing dress up? He’d be the laughingstock of the crew if this got out!





Roddrick assumed a stance while pointing a finger. “Stop right there you conniving twins! Your misdeeds end here!”





Addie reared back before unleashing a comically over the top laugh. “Muahahahaha! You don’t have a chance against us, Stacks! You may have knocked out our minions, but the two of us alone is more than enough!”





Playfully gritting his teeth, Rodrick raised a fist. “We’ll see, you terrible twins! I’m kicking your bums out of this town! Haaah!”





He rushed forward, but froze as a shadow descended. Maxim dusted himself off before pointing a wing at the kid thief. “Hold it you three! Playtime’s over!”





Addie and Lars shot each other a look. “Who the heck is this? Did you invite someone else over to play, Rod?” Addie said.





“No I uh, well uh, I dunno who this guy is!” The Pancham stammered with widening eyes.





“You should know who I am.” Maxim sighed. “After all, you’re holding my bag. Or well, the Impidimp is.” Said mon shivered and dropped the bag to the ground. Rodrick’s jaw dropped.





“Ack! No way! I-I was careful and everything! N-no way you caught up!”





Maxim frowned. “But I did. The wings really help. Anyway, it’s time you give me that back. Now!”





A few seconds passed as Rodrick only stared at Maxim. Then, the Pancham bursted into tears.





“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry! I’ll give it back! Just please don’t tell on us!”





“Y-yeah, what he said!” Lars chimed in, holding back tears. All Addie did was scoff and look away.



Maxim rubbed his temple and sighed. “ Didn’t think I’d feel this bad about stopping a would-be thief.”




“Alright, calm down. I just want my bag back. I promise I won’t tell on you to the guards, as long as you don’t do this again.”





Roddrick quickly nodded. In between sobs he spoke again. “I promise!”





Finally reunited with his bag, Maxim attached it behind his scarf once again. Before he could fly away, his curiosity kicked in again. “I’ll admit, I did see what you kids were trying to do. Some sort of playtime was it? But why steal someone’s bag to serve as a prop?”





All three children looked to one another. Rodrick waved for the other two to come close, then pulled them into a group embrace. A few seconds of whispering later, and Rodrick slowly approached Maxim.





“You ain’t from around here, yeah?”





Maxim nodded. Rodrick looked over his shoulder before continuing. “Well yah see, there’s some cool things about our island here that we learn from birth. You know that cave up there, just outside town? Used to be a bandit hideout and all, REAL bad guys stayed there.”





“Gliscor Cave? I went there just the other day.” Maxim said.





“Yeah that’s right. Mum told me about how the mine was all used up and vacant, then these bad guys, led by Gliscor twins named Slash and Strike, came on a big fancy ship. They ransacked the town real bad.”





“Y-yeah! REAL bad!” Lars said.





Roddrick continued. “The governor at the time lived on the island, in a stone fortress just north of town. Of course, the villagers begged the governor for help, but the guy was a dummy! He couldn’t muster up enough guards to fight back! Then the bandits got bored and settled into that cave up there. Once they had their own hideout, they made things even worse by messing with anyone who visited the island! The village suffered a lot, with the bandits constantly taking food and valuables. Nobody was strong enough to tell em off, so things looked rough.” Rodrick’s head drooped down.





“At least until Stacks came in!” Addie cheered.





Maxim raised a brow. “Stacks?”





Roddrick became starry-eyed at the mention. “That’s right! Stacks the Rhydon! He was a passing adventurer who had stopped by on pure chance! He saw how badly the bandits were treating the townspeople, and decided to step in! He kicked those bandits right of town, then rallied everyone to take the fight to the bandits’ hideout! There was an epic battle as Stacks took on the dangerous duo of Slash and Strike by himself, and knocked them both out!.” The Pancham punched and kicked the air.





“With the two of them down, Calvin Village was freed of the bandits for good! Things only got better from there, as Stacks even helped to boot that lousy governor! Thanks to him, Calvin Island would grow bigger and better than before! If you wonder how our ports got to being so active, you can thank him!”





So this Stacks guy was a real-life folk hero? Interesting. Maxim thought. I can respect them wanting to keep a tradition going, but did they have to steal my bag for that at least?





“So there yah got it! Isn’t that cool as all heck? We even made our own Stacks cloak!” Roddrick beamed, holding up the horned cloak.




Maxim sighed. “That’s nice…but don’t try and get others involved next time! Stealing other’s belongings can get you into serious trouble!”





“I told him it was a silly idea.” Addie groaned. “He wanted to be ‘brave’ and prove he wasn’t a scaredy-meowth. Fat lot of good it did us.”





“Hey! So what if it was stupid! I showed you I got serious guts!” Roddrick fired back.





“Serious guts? More like foolish bravery! Hahaha!”





Maxim flinched at the familiar voice coming from behind him. As he turned around, he came face to face with Hurik the Combusken.





“Well will you look at that? How’s it going, Maxim?” Hurik said.





Maxim nodded towards Roddrick. “Hello! I was just having a chat with these kids about staying away from risky things.”





“Were you now? Don’t worry, I heard everything!” The adventurer cheered. All three children gasped in horror.





Hurik quickly waggled a claw. “Ah ah ah! I won’t tell! But you gotta make sure you keep that promise and stay out of trouble, you three!”





“S-sure thing, Mr. Adventurer!” Roddrick stammered. “In fact, we were just about to head back home! Isn’t that right, chums?” His companions nodded back. “See yah!”





With that, the trio shoved their cloaks back into a box and then ran out of the square. Hurik crossed his arms as he watched them slip away. “Those kids sure are something?” He chuckled.





“Yeah, you can say that.” Maxim said. “Had to admit, the history behind that Stacks guy did sound interesting. Wonder what became of him?”





The smile on Hurik’s face twisted into a frown, and the look in his eyes darkened. “This town is kind, very kind. But they’re also rather…naive to their own history.”





“Naive?”





Hurik nodded. “Often over time, history can be romanticized. The tale of Calvin Town is one such example. Stacks did help to save the town, that’s true, but the backstory behind it is heavily glossed over.”





The Combusken leaned in. “You see, Stacks didn’t come here on a whim. He knew the whole time what was going on. The reason why is because he was a bandit himself.”





Shock coursed through Maxim. “You’re kidding me!”





“Nope. It’s the truth. You see, decades after the event, a report was dug up from the office of the old governor Karka, who had been sitting in office at the time. Stacks was a member of the bandits who grew dissatisfied with them. Karka, seeking a way to mitigate losses and property destruction, cut a deal with him to help overthrow the twins and run them out of town. Needless to say, it succeeded. However, Stacks would use his popular influence to paint Karka as incompetent, eventually causing him to be removed as governor.”





“That’s crazy.. How did you even find out about all this?” Maxim questioned.





“I was curious about this island’s history, so I did a bit of my own research. Quite the controversial subject isn’t it? If you tried to give this information to the residents, they’d deny it to the last breath.” Hurik mused. “It’s been a tale of theirs for decades. No amount of knowledge would ever make them change their views.”





Maxim reluctantly nodded. He did have a point, going by how much those three children adored the story. A folk tale ingrained as a child for decades upon decades. No way the residents would change that if a bunch of outsiders told them to.





Hurik placed a claw on his hip. “Ah well, I’m not one to dash the fun of kids, even naughty ones! I’ve got more important business to attend to! Thanks for another chat, Maxim!” With that, Hurik walked out of the alleyway. Right as he left into the main road, the blue rings of a certain Umbreon peaked just out of sight.





Right as Maxim rejoined the main road, Rene caught up to him. “There you are, you featherbag! What were you thinking just jetting off without me? You got any idea how many streets I had to fly down?!”





“Ah, I’m sorry! I really had to get my bag back!” Maxim said. “I promise I won’t ditch you like that again!”





His apology did little to quell her anger. “Whatever, you can make it up to me when we train. I’m not gonna pull my punches this time!





Maxim let out a loud gulp. “N-noted!”










After hastily eating a pastry from a local bakery, as Rene didn’t want him to fight on an empty stomach, Maxim found himself back at the cave’s entrance. There was just one problem stopping them from going in, a hastily constructed barricade with a red X painted on wood.





“Tsk, what the hell? Who’s tryin’ to seal off the entrance?” Rene complained.





“Maybe the guards are worried about the security of the mines? It’s pretty old and worn.” Maxim noted.





Rene scoffed. “Pff. That place is a lot more secure than half of the caves I’ve ever seen. Held up pretty well while we were bouncing around.”





“Well what are we gonna do now?”





“I can’t just tear the barricade down. The guards’ll whine to the crew. But…” A smile crept onto her face. “They should ‘av thought long n’ hard about sealin’ the other places!” She leaped above the barricade, grabbed onto a bundle of vines, and vaulted her way up.





Maxim looked on, bewildered. “Wait a moment, what are you doing?”





“If they’re gonna block that entrance, I’m just gonna go through one of the ‘eyes’! Easy peasy!”





She swung her paws in an arc motion, cutting through scores of vine. Looking down at Maxim, she motioned him to come up. The Rowlet sighed and flew toward her. The upper level of the cave felt tighter to navigate with how small the tunnels were. The air was much colder and drier, causing Maxim to shudder.





“Looks like they didn’t change a thing! Lazy moppets just put a lock on the door and called it a day! Oh well, let’s get ready to scrap!”





She raised her fists which began to glow with energy. Crouching into a stance, she waited for Maxim to make a move.










“HAAAAAAH!”





Dirt and dust was thrown into the air as Rene and Maxim continued their training session. Despite his partner’s aggressive attacks, he was pleasantly surprised to discover he was getting better with dodging. He also was starting to trade blows too, from pecking Rene on her shoulder or flinging more energy coated feathers into her side. Unfortunately, his partner was far more experienced in combat, and had the resilience to prove it. By the time the two had backed away again, he was out of breath compared to her unfazed glare.





“Heh, you’re starting to get a bit better with this. That’s more like it!” Rene exclaimed.





“Th-thanks, those blows of yours are no joke though!” He wheezed.





The Mienfoo crossed her arms. “Eh, how ‘bout we take a small break? Too early for you to be faintin’, now!”





“Thanks!” Maxim said, dropping on his back. “I’m feeling a bit lightheaded.”





He swallowed an Oran berry lobbed at him, a sigh of relief coming out as the fruit’s rejuvenating energy washed over. “That’s the good stuff!” He cheered.





The two rested on the cold cave floor with only the sound of dripping water as company. Then, another noise began to echo from the main tunnel. The sound grew loud enough for Maxim to realize what it was: two voices having a conversation.





“Hey, do you hear that? It almost sounds like-” He didn’t get to finish as Rene quickly rushed over and put a paw over his beak. Before he could protest again, she dragged the Rowlet behind a jagged rock formation. Her grip was tight enough to render his frantic flaps useless.





“Calm down for a minute! You’ll make too much noise!” She hissed in a low whisper. She cranked her head around to look through a gap in the rocks. The voices started to get closer and closer, becoming clear enough to make out words.





“Stay.. here.. Long time..”





“Closed cave.. Nobody here.. We’re free..”





“This should b.. the place!”





“Alright, let’s get started!”





Maxim paused at the last line. The voice sounded very familiar.





“Guess those guards aren’t so worthless after all, if a little rope and wood is a good enough ward! This island’s all too easy to comply!”





“That’s good though! I had my hunch things would work out this way, and they have so far! But let’s not get overly cocky, Celene.”





Maxim’s blood froze in his veins. There was no mistaking it, that was Hurik’s voice! Both him and Celene were having a private meeting. The clearing became illuminated in yellow light as Maxim could hear the sound of crackling flames.





SOH%20CH%206%20Art%202.png





“Remember, we have to keep things going for at least another day or two. Don’t go blowing our cover, especially with those privateers lurking about.” Hurik growled.





Maxim could feel the bleeding animosity in his voice, a far cry from the cheerful fellow he talked with only earlier. Just who were these two?





“Just another reason for us to hurry up and finish our business on this damn island!” Spat Celene. “I dunno why the captain bothered to send us out here, does he really not have faith in us?”





“I can’t say. Crafty mon, he is. But don’t worry, once we finish this job, it’s smooth sailing from here on. Now let’s discuss what you’ve found out here.”





Their conversation went on for quite some time. Their voices faded in and out as they talked about different subjects and aspects of the island and its daily life. The conversation then wrapped around to its original subject.





“That about does it. We’ll stay one more day, then report our findings to the crew. I’ll have Morris meet us at Umbrella Forest tomorrow night, and we’ll compound our findings together. Does that work for you?” Hurik asked.





Celene let out a snort. “Good enough. I’ll be glad to stretch my legs anywhere else. I’m not big on playing pretend, and this place bores me to tears! Let’s just make sure that bubblering rookie didn’t go and spill his guts in the soldier’s barracks.”





“Noted. Let’s leave, Celene.”





“Celene?”











“Hello, Celene? What are you doing?”





Celene let out a few sniffs before addressing Hurik. “You don’t smell that? A fresh scent, like someone’s here?”





“Nope, not at all.” Hurik huffed. “Sure you’re not picking on something from the other day? Think the guards mentioned that some privateers had visited here.”





“I know what I’m talking about!” Celene hissed. “I can tell there’s something here! Just got to find it.”





Maxim’s pulse began to race. He dared not move, otherwise the Umbreon’s suspicions would be confirmed. A wave of dread washed over him as he wondered what would happen if the two found out they were here. Rene had crouched to the ground to minimize her presence. If she was also worried, she was hiding it.





The echoing of paws on the rocky floor began to grow louder.





And louder.





And louder.





“CELENE!”
 
Chapter 7: Easier Said Than Done

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 7: Easier Said Than Done

CELINE!”



“What!?” The Umbreon hissed.



“We don’t have time for you to waste on your little hunt. Don’t go getting riled up over nothing!” Hurik growled.


Celene Shadow Ball

Celine let out a short, low-pitched chuckle. “No time to waste? Then let me flush ‘em out already!!” Without warning, a large, pulsating black orb soared over Maxim’s and Rene’s heads and into a nearby wall. The resulting explosion caused dirt and rubble to rain down on top of them. Rene’s iron grip prevented Maxim from even letting out a whimper.



Another one flew overhead, striking the ceiling. Stalactites rained down, kicking up more dust. Minutes passed before Hurik’s voice rang out in rage.



“Celine! What in the bloody hell are you doing?” He seethed. “Do you want to bring down this cave on our heads?”



“Hmph! I knew where I was aiming! This place sure as shit wouldn’t go under after a few shadow balls!” She fired back. “Unless you got another idea?”



“We leave now. Morris may need us, and I have no intention of anything getting in the way of tomorrow’s evaluation! You can mess around all you want later, got it?”



The Umbreon snorted. “Dammit, fine! Maybe I was mistaken. Let’s just hope nothing comes to bite us in the ass later, Hurik!”



Their voices and footsteps shrunk lower and lower into the distance, returning the cave to silence. Minutes passed before Rene finally loosened her grip. Wiggling free, Maxim looked at his partner in the eyes as uneasiness washed over.



“Well, I,” Maxim stammered. “I just can’t believe it. To think I talked with that guy.”



Rene cusped her chin in thought as she examined the damage. The wall had a gigantic crater complete with cracks running up and down the center. A jagged stalagmite fell down from the ceiling in front of Rene, prompting her to let out a whistle.



“A bit out of her mind, but I’ll admit, good aim and power. Don’t think a fight with them was worth risking at the moment.” Rene admonished.



“Rene, I’m trying to process all that. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing! All that talk about plans and a captain sending them here!” Maxim trembled.



“It’s pretty obvious those mudders aren’t really who they say they are, but there’s still things not addin’ up for me. If it wasn’t for the fact they mentioned a captain, I’d say they’re clearly bandits. But the thing is, no average bandit’s gonna have the talent to put on a convincin’ act like ‘em! I’ve got a hunch, and it’s not paintin’ a good picture!”



Maxim gulped. “What’s the hunch?”



“No way some bandits are gonna go through all this trouble and effort just to scout out an island. Only one kind of troublemaker can: a pirate!”



Maxim’s pulse quickened. Pirates? Hurik and his partner were pirates this whole time? Considering how bloodthirsty Ocher’s crew had been, what would they be up against this time?



“Rene, if this hunch is right, then that means that everyone here has been fooled completely! But what would pirates even want with an island like this? It’s not like there’s buried treasure or anything in this cave!”



The Mienfoo cusped her chin in a paw. “I ain’t got an answer for that one. If they were just regular pirates, they’d be like that dragon oaf and hunt close by around the island’s routes. But these guys are scoutin’ out. That ain’t like most crews I’ve seen. No, these mudders have got to mean business!”



“S-so what? If Ocher was just a rookie, then this crew’s potentially a real deal?” Maxim stuttered. “How big of a deal are we talking here?”



“Can’t say. But it’s got to be a real crafty crew. This island’s not much else but a trading post. Whatever crew’s here has plans. Big plans.” Rene clapped her paws together. “But if it’s only their scouts, it’s easy pickins’! We’ll wipe em out before they even get a foothold!”



“Well that doesn’t sound too ba- Wait, we ?!” Maxim gave her a wide-eyed look. “Shouldn’t we report it to the authorities here?”



“That’s right! Who else is gonna take em down? Those quivering guards?” Rene doubled over with laughter. “I doubt they could ever get the drop on that pair!”



“We don’t know how dangerous they are. Shouldn’t we get backup from the crew? Like, maybe your buddy Conner could help us!” Maxim fired back.



“Pffff, hahaha! Conner? He’d let the Meowth out of the bag so fast just from blabbering about it. The moment those two get wind of any suspicion on their tail, they might turn and run straight off the island! Plus the more involved, the less of a cut you and me would get!”



“It does sound pretty reckless..” Maxim sighed. “But you do have a point. Our crew are the only ones who can really deal with them. Plus I bet even if we told the guards, I bet those two have the guards convinced enough to dismiss our claims without hard evidence.” Maxim glanced at the cracked wall again. “But I’m still a novice. How am I supposed to keep up with you at this point?”



A grin flashed on Rene’s face. “Hey hey hey, skill and power ain’t the only way to win! Sometimes, what matters is getting the best of your foe! Who says you have to play fair?”



Maxim’s eyes lit up. “What do you mean?”



Rene picked up a small stone, charged energy into her palms, and then shot it forward like a bullet. The stone impacted a large boulder and shattered it into rubble. The smirk on her face deepened.



“Fair and square? Won’t let you get far in this life! If you want to win by any means, take it! We’re privateers after all! C’mon Maxim, let’s get out of this dusty cave already so I can show you how we really do business!”



Substituting skill and power with cunning. That fits the privateer mold, alright . Maxim thought. And if there’s an additional way for me to get stronger, then I should take it.



“Alright, Rene. I still have some doubt, but I’ll trust you on this.” Maxim affirmed. “Show me the way.”



The pair snuck back out of the cave, careful to avoid unwanted attention returning to town. Maxim leaned into Rene as he scanned across the streets. The long shadows casted by the setting sun paired well with the diminishing traffic as shops closed down one by one.



“So what’s the plan? Is this going to be a specialized form of training or what?” Maxim asked.



“We’re getting to that eventually. But since it’s late enough I say we shake down a couple places for info.”



Maxim tilted his head. “A couple of places? Where are we starting?”


“You’ll see!” She giggled. “Follow me!”



Rene pulled out a small bag full of coins. “One thing we can do to try and get some info out of ‘em is a lil persuasion. “



The Rowlet raised a brow. “A little?”



“Hehe, no need to worry. I won’t blow through my money!”



The pair visited store after store, the bribery working on a few locations. After bouncing around up and down the street, the pair still found themselves without a solid lead. They took a break on a wooden bench.



“Nothing, really? Maybe these two are better at covering their trail faster than I thought.” Maxim sighed.



“Crafty lil’ bastards, I’ll give em that.” Rene growled. “There’s gotta be somethin’ they slipped up on. We just gotta keep looking, and fast!” She pointed towards the setting sun. “Only got till tomorrow night to figure it out.”



“Quite the tight deadline! Perhaps it would do you good to have another hand?”



Both pokemon did a double take at a violet pulsating orb floating between them. Wisps of ghastly flames seeped from the object.



Maxim’s heart pounded so fast he feared it would fly out of his chest! “A g-g-ghost?! I must be hallucinating from being in that cave for too long!”



“Don’t give me that look! You can’t be this startled over a lil’ ghost magic! If you want answers, follow me!”



The floating orb darted over to a violet tarped tent covered in dazzling purple jewels. Behind a wooden desk stood a badger-like creature known as a Typhlosion. A purple headdress was wrapped around their head, while a ruby necklace hung around their neck. The orb landed and danced in their open palm and an amused grin creeping on their face. Painted on a wooden sign right below the desk in elegant letters was the name of their store: Lavender’s Box Appraisal.



Looks past between Maxim and Rene as the two silently thought about how to proceed. Maxim was suspicious of the Typhlosion eavesdropping on them, but they also didn’t have much to go off.



“Rene,” Maxim whispered, “you think we should visit?”



The weasel slowly nodded. “I guess a lead’s a lead. Time to bite the ol’ hook.”



As they approached the Typhlosion’s stall, the mon had taken out a small yet long pipe and took a puff. A sweet and smoky scent hit Maxim’s nose, relaxing him.



“It’s not nice to snoop on someone ya know!” Rene snorted. “At least come in person if you wanna chat!”



The Typhlosion put a hand to their paw to stifle a giggle. Putting away their pipe, they leaned over the counter, propping their head up with their hands.



“Oh come on, dearie! Lighten up a bit and chat with ol’ Lavender here!” She spoke in a deep and husky voice. The dancing orb in her hand flickered out before floating above her head. Maxim could swear it pulsated every time she talked.



“You’re looking for information on a certain pair? I can make it worth your while. And put that bag away, girl, I won’t need your poke!”



Rene’s ears twitched. “Tsk! How much of our stuff have you been listenin’ to?!”



“Dearie, I’ve seen and lived through enough to read a mon when I see them. Now what reason could you be after those adventurers, especially given those scarves of yours?” Lavender beamed.



Rene sighed and whispered in the Typhlosion’s ear. The shopkeep’s grin didn’t vanish, but there was a strain on her face. She nodded and pulled out her pipe, taking a long puff before releasing it.



“Yeah those two are… unusual. You see, I’m a traveling businessmon. Been here, there, and everywhere over Soluna. I've seen many adventurers but those two are from the normal, sniffing out every road and alley, getting into other people's business. They asked me to open some foreign boxes, but I declined."”



“Hold on a minute! What’s this about boxes?” Rene interrupted.



Lavender reached down and rattled through her shop for a few minutes. She pulled out a shimmering blue box and placed it on the counter. Made of wood, the box had gold vines gildedits corners and a golden symbol a doglike pokemon placed on the lid.



“Looks pretty doesn’t it? This is the kind of box you’d fine half the world away in Validus of all places before anywhere close to here! Having foreign boxes isn’t unheard of from adventurers, but for them to have several from all around the world is questionable.” She looked at Maxim and gave a wink. “I’m sure you privateers know more about worldwide treasure collecting than I do~!”



“Oh, uh, yes indeed, ma’am!” Maxim chuckled nervously. “But is this enough evidence for us to work with? Your testimony is gladly appreciated, but I still feel we need more.



The Typhlosion pulled out her pipe again. “Good point, dearie. If I may have a suggestion, there’s one other who’s also monitored those two.”



“And who’s that?” Rene asked.



“Boniface, of course! That fellow’s always got his eye on the street. It’s pretty creepy if you ask me. But there’s no one else I would say has a better view for the situation!”



Rene let out a low groan. “Really? Nobody else?”



“Nope! He’s in a league of his own. Trust me, he’d be over the moon to stamp out a threat to his business, no matter how small.” Lavender chuckled while Rene’s ears flattened.



“Yeah, yeah, I think I get it..” Rene groaned. “I guess we better head over there before it gets too dark. Thanks for the help.”



“Yes ma’am! Thank you for the assistance!” Maxim chimed in.



Lavender let out a hearty chuckle. “No problem! I figure you privateers being here would be a perfect time to resolve a problem! Good luck!” She began to hum in a singsong voice.



Right as they left her booth, the Typhlosion stopped them in their tracks with another floating orb.



“Oh and you, Rowlet! You got a real curious spirit about you! I hope we can meet again!”



Maxim forced a grin on himself and waved back. “Sure thing!” On the inside, he was doing his best not to panic.



Shit! I hope Rene didn’t hear that!






“If I didn’t have to see this place again, I’d be good.” Rene groaned as she stared at the familiar sight of Boniface’s store. If the ghost merchant’s info was truly correct, this would be their best shot. Maxim steadily approached the tent’s main entrance, brushing it aside to the sight of the eponymous Shiinotic sorting through a crate of goods.



“Oh, visitors? Boniface is busy, please wait just a b-” The mushroom froze at the duo’s presence.



“Hey, how’s it goin’?” Rene chuckled while rubbing her neck. “I know last time was a bit rough ‘n all, but we wanted to stop by again!”



The Shiinotic raised a hand to his nonexistent chin. “Yes, I suppose Boniface has some time for you. You are planning to buy goods, no?”



“Well uhh you could say that.” Rene shrugged. “Best if my partner here explains it.” She nodded to Maxim.



“Hello sir, my name is Maxim, and we need your help with an important matter. A shopkeep by the name of Lavender told us you know a little bit about a certain pair of adventurers.”



Boniface’s eyes narrowed. “Adventurers, hmm? What about them?”



“Well you see, we have reason to believe these adventurers are not who they say they are. If you have any information that could help, we’d appreciate it.”



Leaning in with a darkened look on his face, the Shiinotic spoke. “Hmm, for a good cause yes? How does friend plan on making use of information?”



Maxim felt a bit of hesitation to spill the beans on their plan, but if this shopkeep was their best bet, he had to come clean.



“You see sir, there was a bit of an incident earlier. We were training in the cave north of town, when these two appeared and started talking as if they were planning something bad. Before we knew it, the Umbreon tried to blast the cavern to draw us out, but thankfully she gave up and left.”



The Shiinotic’s eyes widened as Maxim continued.



“We have a theory they’re really pirates putting on a front, but we need hard evidence to prove our hunch is correct. If it is correct, we want to drive them not just out of town, but off the island. If you’ve heard of the local legend, it’s similar to that, sure.”



That got the Shiinotic to look up in thought. Turning his back to the pair, he spoke only a single phase.



“Friends, follow me.”



Maxim turned to his partner. A small shrug was her answer. The pair followed Boniface past a red tarp into a small enclosed room. Stacks of boxes filled with goods decorated the area while a sole brown bookshelf leaned against a wall. Boniface’s fingers traced the shelves of the bookcase before he pulled out a violet book covered in gold trimmings. He flipped through until he found his page.



“What Boniface show you now is top secret! No one else must see!” He spoke, raising a finger to his lips.



Maxim raised a brow as he looked over what appeared to be a list of names and a highlighted sets of numbers resembling dates.



Appointments XX/XX/ZXZX


Calvin Guards - 09:XM

Mayor Drosel - 12:ZM


Lacroma Guild Adventurers - 3:ZM
XXXXX



The last one caught his eye, as it was clearly marked through without a second thought. “Lacroma Guild Adventurers? What happened with this one?”



“Worked out deal with guild. They send reps to purchase supplies, but deal fell through.” Boniface sighed. “Adventurers called away to other business, and forced deal on hold. They were the only ones to come to island, or so Boniface thought.”

He tipped his mushroom cap downward, concealing his face. “Those two came in one day, said they needed certain items. Boniface has seen many, many adventurers across his travels, but these were strange, no. They were no adventurers. Not from the fake shine of those badges, to the claims of coming from the same guild that canceled. They even demand the log book! Hmph! Fake, frauds, and charlatans!”



Maxim's eyes went wide. To think those two had put on a front in public to this extent, and the guards had yet to wisen up. Perhaps those kids were right about the security being inept here.


“You didn’t go to the guards about all this?” Rene scoffed. “Don’t tell me they’re that inept!”



The Shiinotic tipped his cap again. “Guards are no help! They scoff at the log book and pass it off as mistake! Those two put on good enough act!”

The former human felt anger start to rise within. Those two had twisted the truth to denying actual evidence. “That settles it then, sir. It’s up to us to stop them before their actions lead to untold harm.” Maxim said.



“Hell yeah! We’re gonna take the fight to them, and send em’ off in chains! I can feel that reward money in my hands now!” Rene cheered with a big flashing grin.



Boniface was silent, choosing to face away from the pair. He placed the logbook back onto its shelf and paced back and forth in thought. “Friends sound determined. Are you sure that’s a promise to keep? Enemy could be strong, strong! If friend wants to win, does friend have a strategy?”



Maxim grimaced as uneasiness crept back up. “W-well, we were going to work on one tonight! I have faith in my talented partner here!” He nodded over to Rene, who put on a strained smile.



Boniface snapped his fingers. “Non, non! Boniface says your attitude is good, but the preparations are inadéquate! Okay friends, let’s do this! Come back tomorrow morning, and Boniface will get some things ready for you!”



Rene’s ears perked up. “Wha- really?! You’re going to help us?”



“Of course! Pirates are bad for business! You help Boniface to take out trash, Boniface helps you!”



Relief washed over Maxim.! “Thank you so much for this, sir! I promise you won’t regret it!” He rubbed his wings together in delight.



“Boniface hopes he won’t! Now then, leave! Shop is closed for today!” He swept his arms forward, motioning for them to leave. With a nod, the two left the shopkeep to his devices.



Outside, violet dusk replaced the orange sky. Realizing that they needed to make a beeline for the ship, Maxim turned toward Rene. “It’s probably too late for you to teach me that technique, isn’t it? I doubt I could learn it in less than a single day…”



Rene put her arms behind her head. “No worries! It won’t take but an hour if you’re quick on thinkin’! You’ll see!”



He wanted to have faith in her words, but his worry over the gathering storm of tomorrow’s fight was hard to dispel. He looked down at his right wing to see he had been shivering. Maxim shook his head. There was no point in letting fear get the best of him now!



Still, as he glanced over the darkening horizon, he took a deep breath and steeled himself for the coming storm.
 
Chapter 8: Born Under Punches - Part 1

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 8: Born Under Punches - Part 1

Day broke over the horizon, bringing with it the next morning call. A good night’s sleep was the last thing Maxim expected, but feeling well rested was a welcome surprise. As he made his way to the deck, he was greeted with a cloudy sky and chilly breeze. Crewmembers were out and about as usual, but there was only one who caught his eye.





“Rene?”





The Mienfoo was fast approaching, however, even from far away he could tell something was off. Her fur was disheveled and her posture was hunched over. While baggy eyes darted from side to side, she clinged feverishly to the bag wrapped around her shoulder. As he called out her name again, she came to a stop.





“Hey Rene, is something bugging you?”





She stood up straight, brushed a paw over her fur, and tightened the loop on her bag. “I’ll be fine. Just a restless night, nothing more.”





Maxim tilted his head. “Are you sure? It looks like you got thrown in a washer.”





“A wha..? Ugh, listen! I’m well enough to handle what’s going to happen later, alright?!





He nodded, not wanting to set her off this early. “Alright.”





“Hey you two! How’s it goin’?!”





Both turned their head to the sight of Conner the Floatzel, who was carrying a rectangular box nearly his size with ease. Absent from his side was his Weavile and Hakamo-o buddies. He set the box down with a hefty slam and then pointed at Maxim.





“Hey there, Rowlet! You’ve been enjoying the island so far?” Connor said with a toothy grin.





“It’s relaxing, I suppose. A nice rest from the situation I found myself in.” He chuckled, the irony of his pressing goal gnawing at his mind.





“That’s good!” Conner cheered. He turned to Rene next. “And how ‘bout you, Rene? Not too bored right?”





“Could be more lively, but I’ll deal with it.” She shrugged. “Where’s the two lackeys?”





“Clyde’s got ‘em busy with other stuff. Said the last thing the crew needed was us putting our ‘eads together or somethin’ like that.” The Floatzel said with a heavy sulk.





Maxim raised a wing. “Oof. Hope you manage well even without them.”





“No worries! I won’t let it get me down!” He exclaimed, letting out a hefty laugh. “How about you two join me tonight with the rest of the crew for a big ole’ chugg off before we leave the island tomorrow? Last mon standing wins!”





Rene shook her head. “Would be nice, but we gotta pass on that. Late night trainin’ is a must for the little guy!”





“Well alright! The offer’s gonna be valid all night! Can’t say the same for the rum!”





All three erupted into laughter, with the thought of the crew all passed out drunk nearly driving Maxim to tears. As much as he still felt the weight of being new to everything, a moment like this gave him a warm feeling in his chest. Conner twitched up mid laugh, however, and quickly looked around.



“Woah shit, I better not get too carried away! He’ll yap at me! Until next time, buds!”


Both him and Rene waved Conner off as he bolted away with his cargo. The former human had to admit, he hated to see him go!


Alas, a vital task is still a vital task, and the two were going to need to make every moment count.










As the pair made it back to the merchant’s street, Maxim felt relief at the lack of traffic. The last thing he wanted to do was get sidetracked by a wannabe thief again. Passing by the different stalls, he locked eyes with Lavender. The Typhlosion gave a wink and a wave that he returned with his own shaky one. Before long, the two were at the red-tarped entrance to Boniface’s store.





Maxim gave Rene a nervous gulp. “We’re finally here. Time to see if he’s got the goods ready.”





She cocked her head. “He better! I didn’t come first thing in the mornin’ to have to wait even longer!”





Inside they found the familiar mushroom chatting with a Dedenne customer.





“Ah yes, yes! This item is a fine choice indeed! I hope you enjoy-” He froze as he saw the pair approach. Kneeling down, he whispered into the Dedenne’s ear. The small creature nodded before taking off with a bag between their teeth.





“Hello, friends! Right on time, as expected.”





Maxim rubbed his head. “Given our crew’s morning alarm, I doubt we could ever sleep in. It’s loud enough to wake the dead.”





The Shiinotic chuckled before waving an arm. “Noted. Now then friends, follow me!”





Back inside the storage room, Maxim found his attention drawn to an assortment of various items placed on a dusty table. Oran berries were tied together in a knit sack while three orbs laid bundled together with several seed-like objects. Boniface picked one up with his spindly fingers and presented it.


“These are very nice items, no? Many limited ones, so I was choosy. Only can spare so much.” Maxim yelped as Boniface threw the seed at him, the Rowlet catching it barely with his beak. “Please, use them wisely.”





Rene whistled as she looked over an orb. “You’re giving us all this for free? Quite the gentleman!”





“Not free. You send those impostors out of time, and that’s repayment!” The mushroom scoffed as he raised another seed, this time a glistening heart shaped one, at Rene.





“Aye, fair enough. We’ll give em a good pummelin’ for ya!”





The Shiinotic ignored her answer and pulled out a map of the island instead. His finger rested at a forest theme icon outside of town. “Okay, friends! Destination is outside of town. Take west road all the way till you see domed trees over all. That is Umbrella Forest!”





“A place even more secluded than the cave. I can understand why they would pick there. Especially if it’s full of those feral pokemon you mentioned, Rene.” Maxim said, turning over to the table. “So these items are supposed to aid us, correct? I fear I’m not that knowledgeable on them. Would you care to explain before we go?”





A wide smile appeared on the mushroom’s face, chilling him to the bone.





“Ahh yes of course, of course! Friend is still counted as customer, yes! Sit down, sit down! Boniface will explain it all to you~!”





His voice echoed with delight across the room. Maxim felt a slight headache coming on.





On second thought, maybe I should have asked for a written description instead…








The Shiinotic had filled his head with hours’ worth of information to the point he thought it would burst. The first thing Maxim did after leaving the tent was stretch his body. Rene also did the same, letting out a small yawn.





“Thought I was gonna fall asleep if I stayed there any longer. Doesn’t help last night was a bitch.”





“I didn’t expect it to be such a detailed subject. Makes these items seem all the more valuable.” The Rowlet remarked as he patted his bag.





“Well anyway, we follow the west road out of town and it’ll be a long, solid shot straight to the forest. Easy enough!”





Weaving through traffic, they snuck out of the city. Thankfully, the guards around the edge of town were too busy slacking away underneath overturned boxes to notice. The winding road took them through open grassland, rugged hills, and windy plains as the Sun traveled overhead. A massive wooden gate dwarfed by the approaching forest’s canopy came into view over another hill.





“We’re here.” Rene spoke. “Moment we go in there, no going back. If you got any doubts, best check them at the door. Got it?”





He stared back at the forest’s looming presence. No going back. This is the real deal, time to prove myself.





Maxim gulped then nodded. “I understand. I’ll have some faith we can do this, partner.”





Rene patted him on the back. “Heh, that’s more like it! Try and keep that attitude up!”





She led the way inside, closely following a dirt road flanked by overgrown grass on both sides. The path emptied into an open field, giving a much clearer view.





“Alright let’s see what we… ah!”





Maxim felt his beak drop open as he took in the mystery dungeon’s atmosphere. Trees with trunks tall enough to extend into the sky populated the forest. The majority of their branches congregated at the top of the tree, creating a dome of leaves dividing sunlight into smattering light. Moss, shrubs, and other small plants peppered the forest floor. A warm breeze flowing through brought the scent of soil mixed with flowers. Here amidst the chirping and skittering of pokemon unseen, the former human felt strangely at peace.





It’s like I’m being drawn in. Being here feels so right, but why?





A tap from Rene took him out of his trance. “Hey, don’t go dozing off! We’ve got some ground to cover, so keep up!”



Umbrella Forest - 1st Floor


Moss-covered rocks carved narrow pathways for them to squeeze through. Weaving through the thin underbrush, the two followed twists and turns, cautious for the first signs of contact. Sure enough, right as they reached a fork in the road, they found themselves with company. A flying beetle-like pokemon known as a Ledyba hovered right beside a spider-like pokemon called a Spinarak. Both chittered at each other while staring back at them.





Maxim gulped as he turned to Rene. “I shouldn’t be surprised this place has its residents. Don’t think we can talk our way around these guys, can we?”





A sigh escaped the Mienfoo’s lips. “Nope. You can’t reason with wildies. The only things they understand are a good pummelin’. Now let’s ready up, it’ll be good practice!”





Without hesitation, Rene dashed towards the oversized insects. Before either could react, she unleashed a sweeping kick that knocked them into a wall. To seal the deal, she slammed her fist into each pokemon’s chests, eliciting a screech before they collapsed into unconsciousness.





Maxim shivered as he watched her stretch her arms after the display. He would be lying if he said his blood didn’t freeze at the sly grin she flashed back.





“You’re up next! This won’t be the last of em!”





Down another set of wooly corridors, Maxim took note of various items strewn across the floor. Some looked about as expected of a forest, with odd shaped stones or fruit such as apples or oran berries, while some were unexpected.





“Is that..loose change? Iron barbs? A disk? Did peop- er, Pokemon live here before?”





“Beats me! All I know is that dungeons tend to have items like this appear at random! It’s free stuff, so don’t mind if I do!” Rene shrugged. She grabbed some of the stray coins and slotted them into her bag.





The corridor spread out into a small clearing with two massive logs jammed into an X shape in the center. More bugs were crawling, skittering or flying around. As Maxim attempted to avoid attention by gliding underneath the twin logs, a small hiss alerted him to a nearby presence. Sure enough, another Spinarak launched itself forward. Maxim rolled to the side, scanning for Rene.





“Hey, Rene! We got some more company!” He yelled.





The Mienfoo was some way behind him, duking it out with a pair of Caterpie and a soaring Butterfree. “A bit busy! Handle it yourself!” She spat out while sidestepping a wind gust from the Butterfree’s wings.





I’m going one on one here? Dammit!





The Spinarak launched globs of silk his way, forcing him to twirl away. He lept into the air, bobbing and weaving around more attacks. As the bug released a stream of needle-like projectiles from its horn, Maxim dived in.



Ch 8 Art 1


A far cry from Rene’s speed and skill! His mind raced. I won’t lose to something like this! His beak became coated in energy and slightly elongated. He pulled up instinctively, impacting head on into the Spinarak. The bug screeched as it flew into a nearby log with enough force to crack the trunk and lob splinters into the air. Lying face up, his target was still outside the occasional twitch.





A jolt ran up his spine as realization set in. “I did it? I did it! I won!” He cheered. The former human’s first real fight since coming here had resulted in victory. Rene’s training is starting to pay off!





“Aye, nice job. Don’t get too comfy, now!”





Speak of the devil, the weasel was still behind him. The grin on her face and lack of visible damage told who came out on top of her own encounter. She tightened the strap on her bag before walking past him.





“Come on, we still got a long way to go.” She smirked.





Ahead of the clearing was a circular patch of grass with the odd presence of a vine covered stairwell leading down. Maxim did a double take looking the structure over. “What’s a staircase doing out here? I don’t even see a remaining foundation with it!”





Rene chimed in. “This dusty old thing? It’s a natural part ‘ere. Mystery dungeons have staircases that go from floor to floor. Good sign when you find one, means we can keep movin’ on!”





She placed her foot down on the stairs and within a moment vanished. Maxim could only blink in confusion.





What? How is that possible?





He hopped around the stairwell in a complete circle, but nothing seemed out of place. He tapped his talons on the aged stone of the first step. Nothing happened. With a sigh he walked down and for a split second his world was encased in darkness before finding himself in a grass covered field. Rene was in front of him, arms crossed while tapping a foot on the ground.





“Took you long enough.”


Umbrella Forest - 2nd Floor





Thin corridors lined with moss gave way to wider crevices entangled with blue tinted vines. Shrubs also dotted the landscape, some in full bloom that filled the air with a sweet aroma. A long, winding path spilled out into a grassy field extending over a small hill. Caterpie roamed across the grass, seemingly oblivious to the travelers. One crawled over a particular area devoid of grass and was enveloped by a green gas. Screeching, the bug ran away only to loop around in circles.





Maxim looked on. “What the hell happened there?”





“Hit a trap like a moron.” Rene jeered. “Mystery dungeons can be full o’ em! That poor moppet over there can’t make heads or tails o’ anythin’!”





He flew up, careful to not leave Rene too far behind. Better to be safe than sorry at a time like this.





“Mind if I keep off the ground for now? I don’t want to take the chance.”





“Sure thing. Lucky you havin’ the wings out of trouble.” She sighed.





As the two traversed the field, the Caterpie were slow to put up an offense. A few tried to rush in, but Maxim easily dodged. Rene kicked anyone that got in her way, while he either flew over or tackled them. One attempted to shoot sticky silk at his back, but a quick flap of his wings blew the attack back. As the bug attempted to run after him, it moved over another bare patch and was sent flying away by a glowing arrow. Maxim could only shake his head.





“Poor thing.”





The good thing was the whole floor being one area meant the next staircase’s area was easy to find. Tucked away in the northwest corner of the room, it sat unguarded. Rene stopped just short of the first stone and motioned a paw forward. He resisted rolling his eyes as he hopped down.






Umbrella Forest - 3rd Floor






The scent of flowers became strong enough for Maxim to rub at his head as they passed by nothing but shrubs. Beautiful as it was to see entire corridors in full bloom, the vivid colors were becoming an unintentional distraction.





“ACHOO!”





Rene had let out a mighty sneeze that echoed across the floor, attracting some wild mons to their location. Following a quick dispatch, the pair walked on a long rocky path.





“You okay, Rene? You’re sniffling a bunch.”





“Oh me? I’m fine!” She said in a nasally tone. “No way I get done in by a little poll-CHOO!” Another sneeze echoed across the floor.





“The sooner we get out of these flowerbeds, the better.” He spoke. For as far out there in terms of concepts this world had, the lack of tissues had to be an anomaly. “Maybe I should fly just a bit higher to give us a better angle.”





Rene sniffled again, wiping her nose with a nearby leaf. “That’d be nifty! And blow some of that pollen away too, why don’t yah!”





A dull buzzing noise caused him to freeze in place. As he looked from side to side the noise grew louder and louder from all directions. Leaping over the wall of shrubs were several wasp-like pokemon with massive stingers attached to their arms. Their crimson insectoid eyes radiated malice as they raised their arms to attack.





She clicked her tongue. “Beedrill? Gotta be a nest on this floor.”





“A nest full of these things? We better find that next staircase quickly!” Maxim said, flying just out of range of a Beedrill’s jab.





They bolted down a moss covered tunnel, cool air flowing over them. With Beedrill fast on their trail, a solution would have to come quickly. His partner reached a paw into her bag, pulling out a flame shaped seed that radiated heat. A thin smirk flashed on the Mienfoo’s face.





“I said I’d show ya how to handle things our way. Time to really show ya!”





Tossing the seed up into the air, Rene backhanded the object hard enough to send it flying into the nearest Beedrill. The resulting explosion rattled the tunnel and caused Maxim to fall down face first. Spitting dirt out of his mouth, he rose up and stared back at the beedrill’s location to find three of them collapsed in a smoldering heap. The remaining ones rushed in, stingers raised to wreak retribution.





Maxim let out a small yelp as a stinger passed inches from his face. Taking flight, another Beedrill launched a rising strike he countered by diving away. Rene fared slightly better, knocking away two Beedril with a single kick before blitzing through a third using a speedy strike. She let out an unintelligible yell before tossing an object his way. Instinctively, he caught it with his talons. The crescent-shape seed nearly caused him to freeze on its appearance alone.





“A Stun Seed?”





He didn’t have the time to process what to do next. The Beedrill were upon him. With a shiver he threw it into the nearest one, causing it to freeze in place. The trailing ones, too much in a frenzy to notice something wrong, slammed into the leader and caused a three mon pileup on the ground.





Here goes!





Maxim struck one in the side with his energy coated beak before headbutting it, sending the mon rolling away. As another tried to rise up to help, a feather from his wing impacted its head. Despite the shivering feeling in his body, he willed himself enough to stab its chest with his beak. The pokemon twitched before flopping on its back. The leader still remained frozen in place, not moving a muscle even when Maxim waved a wing.





“I better not try my luck.” He sighed before looking around. “Now where’s Rene?”





A yellow blur flew overhead into a nearby wall with a mighty thud, followed by a familiar figure flipping in right beside him.





“Hope I didn’t keep ya waitin’ too long. Not too fond of bugs.” Rene said, rolling over a fainted Beedrill with her foot. “Alright, let’s move on. Rather not have to fight a full hive, ya know.”





“No objections here!”






Umbrella Forest - 4th Floor






Thankfully, the next floor wasn’t as eventful. Though Rene had thought it necessary to demonstrate another aspect of dungeon items by eating one of the blast seeds and turning a poor Caterpie into charcoal.




“You got to be kidding me! How is it safe to eat a literal bomb?”





Rene flashed a large grin. “I can’t tell yah, but whatever energy is in these seeds you can spit out without a care. Just don’t try holdin’ it in!” One more was raised out of her sack. “Care to try it, too?”





Maxim waved away the offer. “I-I’m good! I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks just yet!”





“Pff. Suit yourself. You ain’t gonna become a bushfire off one bite.” She scoffed.






Umbrella Forest - 5th Floor: The Heart of the Forest






Violet starlight and crisp cold air welcomed them to the final floor. Flatland took up acres of land dotted with grass and little else. The area was still surrounded by towering trees, but they served little more than a backdrop to the naked landscape. Even the rustling of wild pokemon was missing as the pair walked around.





Maxim’s eyes swept around the land slowly. “This seems a bit…simple to be the center of the forest. Why is everything so vacant?”





“Beats me.” Rene shrugged. “Guess it could be a dungeon thing. Any sort o’ logic goes right out the window.”





Near the edge of the clearing was a natural wall of vines and shrubs with a large enough opening to allow them to squeeze through. An orange glow shined through the gap, illuminating the approaching darkness of night.





“The Sun’s already set, so how is there still-” His mouth was covered by one of Rene’s paws. She mouthed off silently, just slow enough for him to make it out.





A fire.





Creeping through the underbrush, the amber glow only grew brighter. Rene stopped in front of a pair of large ferns, parting the leaves to peek through. As Maxim hopped right behind, he was stopped by her arm. She raised a finger to her mouth before pointing beyond the gap.





It was another clearing only a fraction of the first one’s size. Occupying the center were three cut logs arranged around a raging bonfire. Silhouetted against the flames were Hurik and Celene, this time joined by a Marill gripping a wooden sphere. All three were locked in conversation too far away to make out. The topic seemed to be joyful given the smiles present on all three. The Umbreon even affectionately rubbed her body close to Hurik, the Combusken returning it in kind with a scratch under her chin.





That crazy Umbreon being lovey dovey? I didn’t think she could have a compassionate bone in her body! He thought as his jaw dropped. And just who is that Marill?





Rene must have had the same desire for more information, as she shuffled around the underbrush to get closer. An over the shoulder stare called for him to follow. Treading softly through fallen leaves, they were close enough to hear.





“So it’s settled then. We’ll leave in the morning.” Hurik said, nodding.





The Marill sighed in relief. “I’m glad! Playing guard got so boring in the end. Nothing but the same lax routine day in and day out!”





“Well you handled it well! For a newbie I’m surprised you kept your cool for over a week.” Hurik chuckled.





“Oh please, even a child could outwit these shitty guards!” Celine said. “Don’t go thinking you’ve earned your wings yet!”





“But the captain’s sure to give m- err, us, a sizable reward right? I didn’t go through all that hellish training just to get a measly sum of poke.” The Marill’s ears drooped.





“Pff, quit your whining! You’ll get your reward and even some glory if you’re lucky! And besides..” Celene purred as she rubbed against Hurik again. “Maybe the captain will give us more than a little praise, too~! Handling a whole island is sure to boost our standing.”





The Combusken rubbed his chin, attention focused on the kindling bonfire. “Perhaps. Frederick’s a bit hard to gauge at times. I still don’t get why he’d send us to such a quiet isl-”





CRACK!





It happened in an instant. Maxim had leaned too much wait on a withered shrub, causing its branches to snap off. If it were any other floor, no doubt the sound would go unnoticed. Unfortunately..





“What the hell is that?!”





It’s just his luck that one little mistake gave it all away.
 
Chapter 9: Born Under Punches - Part 2

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 9: Born Under Punches - Part 2

“Show yourself!”





Jig’s up, it’s now or never!





Maxim turned over to Rene, who only stared back at him with a noticeable scowl. With a small sigh she walked out of the underbrush.


“No point in fooling about any longer. Good for me, cause those bushes were getting pretty stuffy!”





Hurik curled up his trembling claws into a fist, while Celene crouched towards the ground baring her fangs. The Marill only raised his spear, shaking in place.


“That scent! I knew it smelled familiar! It’s the same one from the cave!” Celene said, face twisting into a scowl. “So I was right after all!”





Rene flashed a smirk. “Damn straight, I saw that demonstration of yours! You two are a lot more vicious than you let off. Can’t keep your nose away from me? If you wanted to date me, all you had to do was ask!”






The Umbreon glared back daggers. “Let’s see you keep that tongue of yours once I rake the fur from your hide!” Violet energy began to condense into an orb in front of her, only for the attempt to stop once Hurik waved a claw. The Combusken shot both his partners a look before focusing on both newcomers.





“This is quite the scene. And here I was hoping nobody would be willing to come all the way out here. What a fool I was.” He crossed his arms before nodding towards Maxim. “Well, fancy meeting you again, Rowlet. Though the circumstances are less than ideal.”






A part of Maxim felt the same, regardless of the two being on opposite sides. “Hurik. It’s true we were there during the cave meeting, but even then, what I heard was hard to swallow. I need to know the truth. Are you really an adventurer, or not?”






To his surprise, the Combusken looked hurt for a moment, even turning away from him. But he quickly rebounded and flashed him a dull glance.





“I was. But that was a long time ago. Things are different now. Real different.” He raised a claw directly at Maxim. “Answer me this. Are you really a privateer? Or just playing pretend yourself?”






The Rowlet’s eyes widened at the question. How did he know he was a privateer when he never mentioned it once? Had he known this whole time? Did his scarf give him away? He raked through his mind for possible answers, but couldn’t come up with a clear solution.






Rene decided to answer for him. “Of course he is, you moppet! What kind of stupid question is that to ask?”






“Y-yeah! That’s right, I’m a member of the crew, through and through!” He bolstered, pushing away any doubt for now.






The Combusken sighed, placing a hand on his hip before gesturing for the Marill to come forward. Celene remained standing, the blue rings on her body fully illuminated.






“Then there’s nothing left to say. If you heard everything, you know who we really are.”






“Nah we don’t, not until I really shake the info outta yah! Mind giving us the name of your crew?”



The trio looked at each other with raised brows, before turning their attention back. “Does the name Black Joker ring a bell? Figure that’s a household name by now.” Hurik smirked.






For the first time since meeting the weasel, Maxim saw a look of absolute shock on her face. She straightened up, and raised a paw to her temple.





“No fucking way, in this neck of the skies? What do you even want with a backwater island like this?!”






The campfire flame went out, yet the field remained illuminated thanks to both of Hurik’s arms igniting with fire. The Combusken’s stare turned downright predatory, as if he’d been waiting for the perfect reaction. With a twisted grin on his beak, he spoke with a cocky tone.




“No need. It’s not like you’ll have to worry about our business ever again. Celeste, Morris, it’s time to work out another kink. Let’s get rid of them.”




Maxim’s heart sank as the pit in his stomach grew wide. To think that one of the most amiable mons he had met since coming here could show his true colors on a dime. While he felt the familiar coldness of fear creeping up, it was being suppressed by another emotion, bubbling anger.






“Hurik, you-!”





“Not another word, Maxim.” The Combusken spoke calmly. “The line’s drawn in the sand and we have our own sides to represent. I’ll at least make this quick.”






“Not a chance in hell! I’ve had to deal with a lot already since coming here, and my journey’s only begun!” The former human screeched. “ If you want to play everyone for fools, then you better be the one to deal with the consequences!”






A chuckle escaped Rene’s lips. “That’s the spirit, Maxim.” Balling up a fist, she charged energy into her palm, easing herself into a striking position. “No need to waste any more breath on them. Let’s take em down, nice and easy! Handle the pipsqueak on the right, and the other two are all mine!”





Maxim locked eyes with the Marill, his foe’s fearful gaze hardening into a fierce stare. The former human took a deep breath before raising a wing.




“Sure thing. I can handle this.”





The Maril made the first move, spraying a steady stream of water towards him. With a dodge to his side, Maxim retaliated with a feather shot that nicked his shoulder. He hissed and curled his tail around his body, causing a red aura to cover himself. Seconds later, the Maril curled into a ball and leaped at the flying Maxim. The Rowlet immediately dove to the ground.





He’s more focused than his appearance suggests. I better not underestimate him!










His partner was being kept on her toes as well. Hurik unleashed a flurry of flame-covered punches while Celene backed him up with a blast of dark energy. A twirl into the air kept her safe, but Hurik followed up with an uppercut, striking her in the side. Rene rolled onto the ground with a yelp before forcing herself back on her feet.





Celene lept towards her, mouth coated in violet energy, only to be greeted with a roundhouse kick to the head. The opening gave Rene a chance to score a mighty punch into the Umbreon’s side, causing her to gasp for air as she tumbled away. Rene lept backwards as Hurik slammed into the ground with a glowing kick, dirt spewing into the air. A twisted scowl on his face was mirrored with a deep grin on Rene’s.





“You guys are good! I knew you couldn’t be amateurs from the moment I saw you!”





The scowl on Hurik’s face only deepened. “I suppose I share the same feeling. You’re not some two-bit cabin girl.” He put up his fists before raising a leg, the limb bursting into flame. “A shame I’ll have to put an end to this. I quite enjoyed this bout!”






Rene crouched forward, coating an open palm in energy. Light condensed into a sphere, which the Mienfoo cradled in her other hand.


“You’re getting ahead of yourself. Don’t cry when I knock you flat on your arse, alright?!”





“Grrrrh! Hold still you flying-!”





The Marill didn’t get to finish the remark as Maxim rammed head first into him. He rolled back before spraying another torrent of water. The Rowlet was undeterred, weaving around in a circle while shooting out another pair of feathers. His target was able to knock one away but suffered a small gash in his side from the other. Despite the advantage Maxim had, he still had yet to deal a decisive blow.





I can’t keep this up forever! I have to find a way to take him down for good!





He looked down at his pack. There were still several unused items at his disposal. Just the trump card he needed! Reaching into it using his beak, he pulled out another stun seed.




Better make this one count, Maxim!





Putting his wings to the test, he swooped down towards the Maril, right as the pokemon curled his tail around his body again to bolster his defenses. A perfect moment for him to strike. With a speedy head fling, the seed rocketed straight at the Maril, shattering in his face. Within a second, the Marill shook in place before freezing up with a twitch. The wide-eyed and gaping mouth look on his face was just the reaction Maxim was hoping for.




He flung energy-coated feather after feather, slicing the Maril all over his body. One more feather hit and exploded right in his belly, sending the pokemon flying. Covered in wounds, the Maril trembled as he attempted to rise, only to collapse back into the dirt. Maxim waited a few seconds, finally breathing a sigh of relief realizing his foe was unconscious.





I-I did it! I took him down all by myself! Granted, I got the drop on him, but still!





He couldn’t afford a rest when the battle was still going strong. His head swiveled around as he caught sight of Rene locked into combat with Hurik.




Hurik vs Rene




Hurik slammed a knee into Rene’s side, eliciting a curse from her. The Mienfoo responded in turn with a backhand, causing him to skid back. As he rubbed his beak, a trickle of blood ran down one of his nostrils.




“Nasty one, you are! You weren’t even putting your all into that!” He admonished.




Rene scoffed before swinging out a series of kicks, forcing Hurik on the defensive. “If you’re impressed by that, you wouldn’t last a day in my crew!” Charging energy into her palm, she slammed it into Hurik’s chest, unleashing a blast which knocked him back. Choking out groans, the Combusken leaped back on his feet and ignited his fists again. Again, both mons closed in on one another, trading flurries of punches and kicks. The cascade of dull blows nearly disoriented both and forced them back.




She looked down at her body. Several spots of her fur were either singed or frayed up. She hissed as she moved her right arm, a dull ache running from her wrist to elbow. The bastard certainly was a skilled opponent! As she raised her fists for another round, a familiar brown blur sped past her before attempting to ram into Hurik. The Combusken saw the maneuver coming and leaned to his side to avoid it, clocking Maxim over the head with a chop. The Rowlet gasped as he hit the ground, bouncing up before Hurik grabbed a tuft of feathers behind his head.



“Let go of me!” He yelled, wiggling around in Hurik’s grip.





Rene rushed forward, causing Hurik to drop him before kicking the Rowlet away.




“Bastard!” She yelled. Right as she was about to hit him with another palm attack, a black figure slammed into her side. Rene thrashed around as the Umbreon she’d mistakenly ignored bit and clawed her over and over, sharp pain erupting from new wounds. Finally having enough, she kicked Celene away before leaping into the air and slamming a leg into the dark-type’s chest. A howl let out from her as she rolled away. Rene barely had time to block a kick from Hurik, which knocked her back and gave him an opening.





A flaming fist impacted her torso, jolting her enough to let down her guard before a powerful overhead swing slammed her face first into the ground. The Combusken added in another kick for good measure, knocking her into the underbrush. This time, her whole body felt as if it was on fire. Even twitching a finger felt like it’d been struck through with a nail.




For what felt like the millionth time, she cursed under her breath. That damn Combusken really was a load of trouble! And she really should have smacked that Umbreon’s skull in a little harder. Complaining wasn’t going to turn things back in her favor, but neither was trying to underestimate her opponents. She groaned as she hopped back up, doing her best to hold back the rising bile in her throat from the radiating agony she was feeling. The Combuskin was fast approaching, and the twisted smirk on his face combined with the roaring flames in both hands told her that he was ready for the kill.







Maxim teetered as he got on his talons once again. His anger rose again at how casually he’d been knocked away.




Cmon, cmon! I got to get back in there! Rene needs help!





He yelped as something slammed into him, feeling weight press him towards the ground.



“Little lost Rowlet, not much good without your partner.” Celene chuckled with pure venom in her voice. “Too bad she won’t get to hear you scream as I pluck out those feathers!”





Celene%20chases%20Maxim.png




The Umbreon bit down into his wing, Maxim screaming as the excruciating pain racked his body. Celene slammed him into the ground, a chuckle escaping her as she threw her head from side to side before throwing him. The former human rolled away, using the nearby underbrush to cushion the blow. He winced as he looked down at his wing, which was left a bloody mess with several dislodged feathers. Even a small tap with his other wing flooded him with pins and needles.



His vision began to get hazy as the Umbreon slowly approached, a wicked grin etched into her face as she flashed her fangs. Violet energy coursed into her paws as her claws elongated into blades.




“I wonder how hard you’re going to cry once I skewer you! Maybe I’ll even take some of your feathers as a farewell gift!”




The Umbreon’s cackling made him sick to his stomach. The way she was relishing in his pain made the image of that Noivern appear in his mind. How could some pokemon take so much joy in other’s suffering? He looked down, realizing his pack had survived his thrashing. He quickly flicked through his items, taking into account his few options. He could heal back up using an oran berry, but might end back up in the same situation again. No more stun seeds, so he couldn’t pause her assault. There wasn’t even an orb left, as Rene had taken the remaining ones for herself. His pulse quickened as the tap of the Umbreon’s claws grew closer.



“You done bleeding out over there? I’m ready to finish this up so I can help Hurik get rid of that bitch too!”





He looked past another oran berry to see one remaining blast seed left. As he looked back to Celene again, a plan began to form in his mind. A very dangerous, reckless, foolhardy plan, but his one shot at turning the tide.





As Celine approached him, she let out another cackle and drew energy into her front paws.





“Poor little Rowlet. You can’t fly away with your wing like that!” She sneered, slashing away at the underbrush. There Maxim was facing away from her, shivering. “What’s the matter, don’t want to look me in the eye? I’m not that cruel! I promise I’ll make this quick so I can help Hurik already!”



He turned around to face her, face puffed out. The Umbreon’s ears twitched as she noticed a bright orange glow to his cheeks.



“What the hel-”










Hurik slugged Rene in the chest, causing her to slump forward. “What happened to that smart mouth of yours? Was it all bark no bite in the end?” Another flaming fist shot forward, impacting her snout. “Those government chains only weaken you, privateer! That’s why I couldn’t stand serving as an adventurer! All that hard work, and for what?!”




Rene attempted to dodge his right hook, but he used the opportunity to slam a kick into her gut. She let out a scream as she rolled across the grass. The Combusken let out a sigh as he rolled her over and slammed his leg down on a bruised arm, causing her to cry out.




“This job was going perfectly, until you and your crew had to come to mess it all up. No matter, I’m removing you here and now!” He growled. Raising both claws clasped together over his head, he ignited them into a roaring inferno. His target remained unmoving as he tensed up to swing down.



BOOOOOOMMMM!





Hurik’s eyes widened as a small explosion went off nearby. Turning towards the source, his jaw draped as Celene flew through the air, covered in ash and dirt, before slamming into the ground with a dull thud.


An echoing yell erupted from his throat. “ CELENE!




In his hubris he had shifted focus from the downed Rene, just the moment she was waiting for. In quick succession, she hopped back up and headbutted Hurik, knocking his balance off. Ignoring her aching body, the Mienfoo charged every bit of energy she could into her palm before grabbing him by the face. The resulting blast slammed him face-first into the ground and sent her flying back, the force so strong that dirt rained down. When the dust settled, the Combusken attempted to jump back up, but soon twitched in place.




Shivers racked his body as he struggled to even lift a claw. “I-I’m paralyzed? N-not here!”




His mood only worsened as he found himself face to face with a grinning Rene, slanted over while covered in burns and bruises, still very much alive.




“I told you my partner was the real deal! Your fault for underestimatin’ us!”




She slammed an energy-coated punch into his face, sapping some of his strength to close up a few wounds. Straightening up her posture, she prepared to leap into the sky.




“DAMNIT DAMNIT DAMN IT ALLLLLL!”




Both looked back over to Celene, who had gotten up but had a noticeable limp in her back legs. The Umbreon’s yellow eyes were twitchy and bloodshot, her fur was showered in dirt, and her face was slightly burned from the blast seed’s effects. She continued to rant, frothing at the mouth while inching over to an unmoving Maxim.




“Played me for a full you little shit?! This is an easy mission, all ruined because of you, you, you! I’mgonnaripyouapartpiecebypiecedamnitDAMNITDAMNIT!”




Rene could hardly contain her shock. “She’s lost her damn mind!” As the Umbreon got closer, she charged remaining energy into a shadow ball. The orb grew larger and larger till it was at least the Rowlet’s size. Maxim remained unmoving.




Rene growled before raising a fist her way. A tug at her tail stopped the Mienfoo in her tracks. Right behind her, Hurik had a tight grip on the appendage with a near mangled arm, fire brimming in his eyes. Using his other good arm, he impacted her hard enough to knock the wind out of her lungs. His breathing hitched as he grabbed Rene in a tight hug.




“Do it Celene, finish him off!” The Combusken screamed. “Don’t worry about me!”




The Umbreon’s frothy grin turned feral. “He’s all mine!”




“Maxim, get up already! If you don’t move, you die!” Rene screamed with her remaining strength. Her body refused to move any further.





The Umbreon leered over the still Rowlet. He was face down, completely obvious to the gallow of death hanging overhead. She tilted her head up.


“You’re through!




MAXIM!



A ball of light rocketed across the field, slamming directly into the Umbreon and causing her attack to fly into the distance. Celene shuddered from the blast, turned over to Hurik with an empty gaze, and fell over.




“Celene!” His grip slackened, allowing Rene to wiggle free and kick his legs from under him. Vines shot from underneath the ground and entangled Hurik, sapping any remaining strength.




“W-what is the meaning of this?! How?” He choked out.





“Ohohoho~! You three have been very, very naughty! I come to punish you!”





Rene found it hard to believe, but for once she was grateful to hear the familiar accent of Boniface. The Shiinotic made himself known as his cap illuminated the dusk-shrouded field. He wasn’t alone: just behind him was a group of pokemon, all wearing blue scarves and armored gloves. Several raised wooden spears into the sky, signaling their intentions.




“Are you alright, friends? Boniface took his time, but I grabbed more allies!”





Despite the dull aching from her chest, she let out a weak chuckle. “You’re a hell of a shopkeep.”




“All right then, all right!” An Aipom guard said as he approached Hurik. “Let’s get you and those other two hauled out!”




The Combusken remained quiet and kept his head down, refusing to look the guard in the eye. Turning back to the group, the Aipom shook his head. “This one’s not much of a talker, eh? We can question you later!”





The guard took another step forward only to recoil back when flames encircled Hurik’s body. As several guards attempted to stop him, the Combusken flew out of his now charred vine restraints and into his campsite. Overturning a log, he pulled out an orb and lobbed it into the air. The object shattered and covered the clearing in smoke.





Rene coughed as she struggled to see through the smoke orb’s effect. A shadow quickly passed between her and Boniface. “Shit, it’s no good!” She yelled. “Keep ya eyes open!”




A high pitched whine echoed through the field, then a flash of light. The smoke soon dissipated, leaving everyone to look around. She let out a gasp as she saw no trace of the trio minus their now ruined campsite. They had given everyone the slip.




“Contact the base! We can’t let them escape!” The Aipom screeched. A long, drawn out sigh came from Boniface as he tipped his cap down.




With another scan across, Rene turned her attention to another pressing matter: the still-downed Maxim. She hobbled over to his location, gripping a dangling arm. Using her mostly good hand, she shook the Rowlet’s form over and over again.




“Hey, c’mon! Get up now! We won but they got away!”




Silence lingered for a few seconds before Maxim gave a weak groan. Looking up at her, he was puzzled by her soft look. “I heard. G-glad that my idea worked good enough. Man, I feel tired.”




She gripped him as hard as she could without straining his injured body. “We can rest when we get back to the ship. I think I can shove a reviver seed down your beak if you gimme a few.”




His vision became blurry as a lightheaded feeling took over. His eyes slowly drifted shut as Rene’s words slurred into the background.




“That’s nice, give me a moment to rest..”




Darkness engulfed his world as he lost consciousness.



“This ain’t funny at all, you stay awake with me, got it! Hey!”


“Maxim!”







.
..


You’re quite the headache, you know.”




Nothing but darkness surrounded him. His form was unrecognizable, but that familiar voice had returned. Had he somehow died, and found his way back here again?



Good news, you still draw breath. Ease your worries. My siblings would never let me hear the end of it if your story ended here already.”



Siblings? This damn voice had siblings? Maxim pondered. Please tell me I didn’t get called back just to hear about family scrabbling!




“I decided to let nature run its course for now, while still observing your every movement. I am rather impressed. Only a few days for you to embrace bravery. How inspiring!”



“Glad I could impress.” He snidely remarked.


“Of course, the road is long and winding, but I believe you have the potential. Glad I was right. Now then, I suppose this causes for a bit of a reward!”



“What the hell? Is this some kind of game for you? I didn’t get almost maimed to death just for you to go ‘hip hip hooray’ at my situation! I want my memories and humanity back, so at least give me a bit more help!”





The voice sighed, echoing through the void. “Oh Maxim. I promise you I take this all very seriously. This was the task provided to me, and I must have as many variables as I can account for. There are concepts beyond your reach and understanding that I am managing for you and everyone else’s sake. If only I could tell you...”



Maxim let out his own sigh, feeling defeated. “So that’s it huh? Just gonna keep me in the dark? You know trust is a two-way street, right?”


The voice kept silent, leaving Maxim uncomfortable. He couldn’t tell how long it was before his host responded again.


“I apologize. It seems I’ve held you long enough. I promise next time, I will deliver something of interest to you. For now, I can give you this reward.”


Once more like the first time, a ball of light appeared and began to draw in the endless darkness. Maxim yelped as he felt the orb sucking him in.


“A memory of yours, once closely guarded. The more and more you go along, the closer you get to your own truth. I only pray you come to terms with it. Until next time..”



The light embraced him, and he knew no more.
 
Chapter 10: When Tomorrow Comes

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 10: When Tomorrow Comes

Shrill ringing buzzed around in Maxim’s ears as he slowly opened his eyes. As the sound wore off, his blurred vision focused until he could make out a dull gray ceiling.







Where... Where am I?








As he looked down he realized he was resting in a bed, covered in a light blue blanket. He grabbed and pulled it off with a tan, very much human hand.








What the hell?







It wasn’t just his hand, he was in a human body wearing striped blue pajamas. As strange as it felt to be human again, Maxim had no trouble rising out of bed. The bedroom he was in was wide enough to hold several pieces of furniture, including a massive wardrobe and two matching wooden desks on opposite sides. Speaking of sides, one was colored with sky blue walls and hanging movie posters, while the other was a light pink with elegant decor over nearly every surface. The latter side’s occupant, an unrecognizable small figure, slept away in a frilly pink bed.







Despite the strange dichotomy of the room, the sight felt familiar and comforting to him. Light pierced through a crack in the door, baiting Maxim’s curiosity. He softly tiptoed over, careful to not wake his unknown roommate. The door creaked open, allowing him to slip through. White walls and a shiny polished wooden floor were the first sights to greet him. A cat-shaped clock hung from one wall, while a bird shaped carving was nailed to another. A scent like freshly roasted coffee put his mind at ease.







It feels comforting being here. If only I could just remember where I am! Maybe if I look around, that’ll tell me?







He tiptoed around, careful not to alert any unseen residents.






The closer he got to the light source, the louder the voices grew. The hallway opened to a large open space with a massive glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Fancy patterned fabrics decorated each side, and as he looked down from a marble railing, he could make out two standing figures with blurred out features locked in conversation.







“Now are you sure you have to go out this late? Is it really that important to the point of calling in the middle of the night?”







The second figure sighed before speaking in a deep, masculine tone. “As much as I would tell them to wait till morning, this was one of the breakthroughs we were hoping for. I can’t let my colleagues handle this without my input. I’m sorry.”







The first said nothing, but crossed their arms. Even without visuals, Maxim could tell they were staring the other down.






“I know what you’re going to say. And I get it. This is all very poorly timed and I hate that it has to be this way. But please, this could potentially change life as we know it! Make things better for society! Our son already looks up to me, and I want to make sure our children continue to have that source of inspiration!”








Tension masked the room as seconds passed with silence. The first figure sighed before letting down her arms. “Okay, I’ll let you go. But, promise me you’ll be back here in the morning. I’d hate for our kids to miss out on celebrating our anniversary with their own father.”







“I will, I promise.”






The two embraced, lasting a few moments before the second figure broke away first. Both froze as they heard a creak come from upstairs. Maxim jolted back as realized he had unknowingly stepped on a flimsy board.







“Who’s moving around up there? Maxim, is that you?” The second called out.







Before he could move again, the world around him began to fade into flickering white lights. The human looked around, then gasped in horror as his own body slowly disintegrated as well.






Not yet! I still need more answers!







He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing happened. He fell forward on vanishing knees, white light overtaking his vision.










“..!!”







Maxim awakened again, this time in the familiar sight of the ship’s medical bay. A wax candle hung over his side, bathing the bed in orange light. Disappointment washed over him as he raised his feathery arm to check his body.






So much for remaining human a little longer.







“Oh thank goodness, you’re awake!”







Sitting beside the bed was Cecil the Kirlia, busy scribbling away in his brown notebook. He flashed a smile. “I’m glad to see you again, though not under these circumstances. On the bright side, Rene will be delighted to know you’re alright!”







“How long was I out for?” He groaned. Trying to move his other wing was out of the question given it was encased in bandages. Even lifting it a bit made him wince from dull pain.







“Ever since last night. Despite being covered in a lot of wounds herself, she summoned enough strength to get you all the way back. I had never seen that much worry from her in years! I also shared that same feeling!” Cecil raised his hand. Pink energy flowed into Maxim’s body, filling him with a relaxing sensation. “For now, please rest. Seeing as how the crew is in an uproar after last night’s events, it would do you good to stay here.”






Maxim raised a brow. “What about Rene? Is she recovering too?”







“Err, yes and no.” Cecil sighed. “We let her rest and heal up after making sure you were stable, but she decided to take off for the Captain’s quarters despite our protests. To my knowledge, she’s remained there for the last few hours.”







“I see.. You said the crew was in an uproar. Is the Captain dealing with them?”







The Kirlia rubbed his brow. “I wish I could tell you. Me and Dr. Gerald have been stuck here looking after you and stopping anyone else from breaking in. You’re already the talk of the town, for better or worse.”







The noise of tapping wood turned their attention to Dr. Gerald approaching the bed. A scowl was etched onto the Audino’s wrinkled face as he tightly gripped a thick book under his arm.







“You two just had to go and pull your little stunt last night. Now everyone’s trying to poke their heads in where they don’t belong!” He slammed his staff downward, causing both of them to flinch. “Well, kid? I hope you’re real proud of yourself!”







The rising embarrassment made Maxim unable to look the Doctor in the eye. “Well it wasn’t my initial idea to go hunting down phony adventurers! I got roped in, I swear!”







“Intentional or not, you better be ready for the consequences.” The doctor snorted. “Many mons are goin’ to come lookin’ for answers.”







There was knocking on the door before another pokemon came in. It was Clyde, who waved before hopping over. The Politoed’s arms were crossed with a frown on his face, but he still greeted them with a friendly tone.







“Aye! How’s the wee lad?”







Cecil opened his notebook. “Stable. Able to hold full conversations. Wing is still damaged but should at least be able to move around some. With enough care and rest, he should be back to normal fairly quickly.” Closing the book, he nodded over to Gerald, who rolled his eyes.







“Good to hear! Cuz’ the Captain’s wantin’ to speak with ‘im!”







His beak flew open. He figured the Captain would shoot for another meeting with him, but this soon? The Rowlet only just woke up!







Cecil was quick to chime. “With all respect, Clyde. My patient still needs rest before leaving the room. Surely even Captain Drake understands that.”







“Oh I wish we could let ‘im rest. But, the Captain’s dyin’ to hear his side of the story. He’s already got as much as he could from Rene.” The Politoed sighed.






“Then why not come down here to speak with the Rowlet? Surely our captain could spare the time!”






“Nuh uh, you know how the captain is!”







“Then tell him to make an exception! His health matters more!”







Maxim could only sit and watch as the two went back and forth. The thought of others fighting over his well being felt hard to swallow. Both were interrupted by the dull thud of a cane hitting the ground.







“If you two want to argue, do it outside! As for making a decision..” The elderly Audino placed a hand over the Rowlet’s head. Pink energy flowed into his body, filling him with a warm, soothing sensation. After the doctor lifted his hand, Maxim felt stiffness leaving his bandaged wing.







“This feels lovely!” He cheered. “Thank you doctor!”






“Hmph, don’t get too excited, boy! That’s only a good enough boost to help you move around! Bring your feathery tail back here so you can fully recover, got it?!”





“Noted.”







Cecil raised a hand in protest, but retracted it and looked away. Maxim knew he’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel somewhat guilty. “Hey Cecil, thanks for looking after me again. I swear I’ll be back as soon as I can.”







“I know. Please be careful.” The Kirlia sulked. Clyde nodded in agreement, then motioned for the Rowlet to follow. The two hopped out onto the deck.







“Oh lad, one more thing, keep close to me and keep movin’!” Clyde grunted. “ I don’t want a gossip crowd houndin’ us!”







As the two crossed between a row of crates, Maxim took notice of other crewmembers eyeing him. Some turned to nearby mons to whisper away.







“That’s…Rowlet…weird guy!”







“How’d…pull off? …carried…Rene?”









“...had it in him! …really that good..?”







The pair reached the Captain’s door, stepping to the side as Rene hopped out. The weasel jumped back once she saw the Rowlet up and about.







“And here I thought you’d still be dreamin’ away!” She chuckled. “Hard to keep yah down, ain’t it?”







“Must be. Here I was thinking I’d be a roasted Rowlet after last night’s stunt!”







Both laughed in sync with each other. Clyde also cracked a grin, but pointed at the door. “Glad to see you two startin’ to bond, but the lad’s got business with you-know-who!”







Rene crossed her arms. “Sure thing. Just try to keep awake during his lecture, got it?”







“ No worries. I’ll save napping for the medical bed.”













Drake's quarters were dark outside a single candle at his desk. The Quaquaval sat straight in his chair, hands gripped together. Seeing the approaching Rowlet, he perked up.







“There you are! It’s good to see you up and about!”







Maxim raised a brow. “You aren’t mad at us, Captain?”







“Mad? No, no! I am a tad bit annoyed you two did all this while keeping it secret, but I’ll let it slide for now. “ He rose out of his seat and slammed his arms on the desk. “I’m quite proud of you! In only a few days of joining you worked well enough with your partner to foil a nefarious scheme!”





“P-proud?”







“Indeed! You showed that potential I’d seen. Given time, you could become a star member of the crew!”







His cheeks tinged at the captain’s words. It’s true, he did manage to pull his weight out there! He should feel proud of himself! Yet, there was a nagging feeling in his chest. Hurik’s words still echoed in his head.






“Captain… thanks for the praise. It means a lot given my situation. But, I know you didn’t call me here just to boost my confidence, right?”







Drake gave a slight nod, then joined his hands under his chin. “Correct. I have several thoughts about these recent events, but I think it’s best if I run some things by you first. I heard from Rene you managed to talk several times with one of the current fugitives. Is that correct? If so, then did anything he say catch your eye by chance?”







Maxim felt himself wince a bit as the Captain’s stare became focused. Whatever answer he gave would need to have significant meaning.







“There were…some things I thought over. A lot of it was just casual talk. When we faced each other after the truth was revealed, he mentioned something about the Black Joker Pirates . His crew I guess. Rene freaked out about it, so I guess it must be something serious?”






The captain let out a deep sigh, slumping back into his chair. From under his desk he pulled out a bottle of wine and poured it into a glass. “Slithering Servipers, the lot of them.” He muttered. “Let me tell you this now, Maxim. Things may have been steady for now, but the future’s uncertain. I fear things will only get harder for us from here on out.”






“Sir, just who are those pirates?” The Rowlet questioned.







The former human locked eyes with Drake, the captain’s gaze softening before turning away. “Pirates typically are an independent crew, each operating on their own rules or terms. Some are more bold than others, some wait in the shadows, and some prefer to mix being bold and lying in wait. The third group are threats beyond measure, their web of vice and deceit weaving from one side of the skies to another. That kind of organization is what the Black Joker pirates are. A thorn in our side all the way to the Solunian Queen herself. The fact that they even deemed a small island to be worth their time only proves how dire it is.”






Questions quickly bubbled in his mind. “Wait, so they’re an organized group of many pirates or something? How big are we talking here? Also, Solunian Queen? Just what are you talking about?”







“Okay one at a time, haha! I’m glad you’re curious!” Drake laughed. “To answer your first question: yes and no. It’s a singular crew through which their captain has managed to forge several key alliances throughout the world in order to bring together an underground net of pirates. What makes them dangerous is how through other crews, they’re able to further their own agenda of a flourishing pirate ring. As long as they stay hands off in the shadows, they don’t need to fear the light.”








“That’s insane.” Maxim gasped. “How is it possible to keep such an operation running?”







“Well, many things. Careful planning and cunning, for one. Allocate certain resources here, some bribery and blackmailing there, you know. Anything that can be of use is applied on their end. Combined with pirate crews willing to rouse up chaos at the drop of a hat, and it’s a recipe for disaster. I mean it when I say things are going to get a lot harder from here on out.”







A chill struck Maxim down to the bone. There had to be plenty of mons that fit right in line with Hurik and Celene’s ruthless way of thinking. If those two were just small fry in the long run, there was no telling how worse the top brass were.







“Captain, about the Solunian Queen? I can’t remember a thing about any sort of kingdom.”







That seemed to brighten the Captain’s mood given how fast he straightened up. “Oh goodness! I never even considered you wouldn’t even remember the basics of this country!” Reaching under his desk again, he unfurled a scroll on his desk. A huge map was decorated with islands large and small, all arranged around the largest landmass in the center part of the map. At the top left of the map, the word SOLUNA was emblazoned in a shiny gold font. Maxim took in the details, glancing over several names before settling on the largest landmass’s name: Albion . In the bottom corner of a map, a blue ship icon hovered above a tiny dot of an island. The realization of their present location hit him like a sack of bricks.





Soluna-min.jpg




“Quite a bit to take in, isn’t it? And to think, that’s not even covering the extended territories beyond! You see, us privateers serve under the flag of the Solunian Empire, one of the world’s leading powers! Under the rulership of the lineage blessed by the Sun and the Moon, the nation has surmounted countless trials and tribulations. The current ruler is Queen Estelle IV, an iron willed woman with radiant character! Thanks to her efforts, several structural reforms have swept through the empire.”







Maxim rubbed his chin. “Fascinating. Since you mentioned structure, how does that work in terms of our current position in the empire?”







“Well.. it’s all a bit complicated! In general, the expanded territories, the ones beyond the capital island of Albion, are divided between the traffic of three major groups: the Solunian Navy, Adventurer Guilds, and then us privateers.”







“Oh? A..triad of powers?”



Ch%2010%20Privateers-min.png



“Mmhm! To specify, the first two groups remain within the scope of the crown’s control, with the navy being the might and adventures serving the common people. Us privateers? We’re the wild cards! Independent and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. Want to send us into ruins to find treasure, prowl around for any unwanted vessels, or raise a little hell on troublemakers? We’ll do it all!” Drake ran a hand through his head crest. “Of course, due to this, there’s more than a few individuals up top that have it out for us. If they got their way, we’d either be kept under a tighter lease, or worse.”







The Rowlet shuddered as the captain chuckled after that last statement.







“But don’t worry! We’re much too useful for the government to restrict us, so long as we play by their rules. After all, there’s only so much one navy can do by themselves!”







He looked away to the side, trying to process all this information. A massive empire, multiple factions, and even the side they’re on wasn’t completely on board. All potential hurdles to his goal. There was no telling how long it would take him to make meaningful progress.







“Hey, hey, hey! Maxim, look at me!” Drake spoke up with a bright smile. “It’s a lot to take in, but don’t let it overwhelm you! Just remember to believe in yourself and the crew.” He rose out of his char, raising his finger into the air. “Our motto is: One Step At A Time!” The captain struck a wide-legged pose, tilting his head down. Maxim swore he could see sparkles radiating from his form.








“Uh, thanks captain.” He said, rubbing his bandaged wing. Your confidence is something else, Captain…







“Now then, I do believe we have a bit more business to discuss!” Drake said, resting back in his chair. “I think I’d like to have you and Ren-”







He was interrupted as the door swung open with a heavy thud, followed by Rene rushing up to his desk. The Mienfoo’s eyes were wide open as she panted.







“Captain! It’s the Azure ! She’s here!”







Drake rose up and walked over, clasping her shoulders. “Just now?”







The Mienfoo nodded. “It’s circlin’ around! I dunno what crazy stunt they’re tryin’ to pull?”







“Of all the damned ways to come in!” The Quaquval swore before rushing out the door. Rene followed suit, leaving Maxim to trail behind.







Just what the hell’s going on outside?







On the deck, several pokemon were standing mystified at the sight above: A slender, three masted ship soaring in an arc above the harbor. The ship descended lower and slower after each pass, getting close enough for Maxim to make out a navy blue keel and gold figurehead. An unexpected chill brushed over his feathers. Was the wind starting to pick up?







Drake, who had raised a hand to his chin, suddenly twisted back and pushed both him and Rene back.







“Stay back you two! Get as far away as you can!” He shouted. Straightening up, he summoned a pair of water swords.







A pit formed in Maxim’s stomach. I don’t understand! What’s got him spooked?!







“Hmm~! You’re way too slow!”







Another chill washed over. A sudden gust blew him further back. As he pulled himself up, that’s when all hell broke loose.







Drake was slammed into his side by a speeding blur, a grimace forming on his face as his talons gripped into the deck’s wood. He swung his leg in an arc, deflecting the blur’s next impact. It tried another attack, this time coming straight down from above. Drake was barely able to clash with the attack in time, the force knocking Maxim down once again. To his side, his partner was frozen to the ground, eyes widened as she could only watch the spectacle.







“T-This is real fuckin’ bad. She’s really pent up this time!”







Before he could ponder her words, Drake’s shouting diverted his attention. The captain managed to block several more strikes, but splits and tears appeared on his jacket. His proud feathery crest became disheveled. As the blur sped in for another attack, Drake combined his blades into a massive watery greatsword and slammed it into the deck with a mighty crunch. The blur leaped into the air at the last second.







“ENOUGH! Don’t you think this is a little much?!” He screamed at the top of his lungs. To everyone’s surprise, the blur came to a complete standstill, allowing a view of his tormentor.







Silvery fur covered their tall and lanky form. Their head had a golden gem above scarlet eyes and a long, trailing feather curling on the opposite side of their ear. A purple scarf was wrapped around their neck, a symbol similar to their face stitched into the center. Curling their mouth into a wide smirk, they brandished their most noticeable trait, long and curved claws that could easily cut a target to pieces. The pokemon, a Sneasler, relaxed their posture and placed their arms behind their head, flashing a cocky grin.






“Just the warm up I needed. Gotta admit, you’re getting slower by the day, broher~! Maybe I should take over being captain of this crew!”







Maxim did a double take. The Sneasler, speaking with a deep and teasing woman’s voice, waved a claw. Drake dismissed his swords and slammed his foot into the chipped deck.







WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, KATSUMI?! At least look around before pulling your little trick!”







“I can’t help it! You know how long I had to spend driving your little ship around?! One week! I was half-bored to death!” She crouched to the ground, coating her claws in a violet, pulsating energy.







“And man, I’m STILL bored!” She hissed, fangs bared into a twisted grin. “You better make it worth, brother!”







Maxim could only watch in horror as the pokemon leaped at his captain in a split second, time slowing down as Drake raised his arm to respond.







Can I please catch a damn break?!
















“U-urgh.. My head..”







On an unremarkable sail boat bound for a distant harbor, one shiny Umbreon stirs from her slumber. To her side is a Maril, still unconscious. At the helm is Hurik the Combusken, slouched over the wheel with still-unhealed bruises. Celene limped over to his side, wincing from aching joints.







“Glad you’re awake. We managed to escape just in time.” He cheered. “M will likely be out for the remainder of the way back. He’ll be fine with some rest.”








“Oh good for him, but what about us?” The Umbreon snorted. “Not even a single oran berry to spare?”








Hurik sighed and remained focused on the skies ahead. “I wish, but I was barely able to get us on board in time before the guards found our hidden path. Good news is that I burned our documents, save for what I could carry, so they won’t be able to track us.” He reached into a nearby satchel and pulled out a stapled set of documents. “This should be enough to keep the mission from being a complete failure.”







Her fur stood straight on end at the last word. Failure meant whatever hopes they had of being promoted were dashed, let alone what their captain would do once he got word. She had spent months of hard work to gain his acknowledgement, all for nothing.







The Combusken took note of her reaction, this time taking out a black colored badge in the shape of a four-pointed mask. Her eyes nearly bulged out of her skull as he gripped it tightly.







“You want to call him now?! Not even a moment to rest?”







“Better for us to admit our failure now then wait until we return. I can’t imagine how thrilled he would be for us to dump this on his doorstep.”








Black claws raked into the wood below. She hated how he had a point. The last time someone had withheld information from the captain, they were lucky to even walk again. A whimper escaped her mouth as she averted looking at Hurik. No matter what happened now, she was sure to pay the price.







“Don’t worry. I won’t let you two take all the responsibility.” He stated. “ It was my idea to volunteer, after all. Therefore, I’ll take the fall.”







“You idiot! How can you even say something like that! I don’t want you to do that for me, it’ll make me look weak!” She hissed as her claws sunk deeper into the wood. “If he punishes just you, how am I supposed to look anyone else in the eye? Don’t forget what you promised me.” Her ears drooped to the ground with a whimper.







“You promised…”








“I know. Let me handle the talking.” He winked. “I can smooth things over. It’s a promise!”








That did little to ease her fears, but she chose to let him handle it. He pressed a button in the center, causing a high-pitched beep. The button flashed several times as the pair waited for an answer.






* Beep*





*Beep*





*Beep*





DING!








“Hmph. Who’s calling this line? State your name and reason for calling, and perhaps I’ll answer you.” A woman’s voice, deep, gruff and authoritative, came from the device. Hurik swallowed and took a deep breath. After locking eyes with Celene, he spoke calmly.







“This is Hurik here, reporting on the Calvin Island mission. I would like to give an update to the captain, Mercury.”







A few moments of silence went by before the other line responded. “Proceed.”








“The status of the mission… was a failure. We managed to integrate ourselves well within the island’s meager defenses, but it all went south when a privateer crew interrupted our plans. We were forced to flee.”







Mercury’s voice erupted into anger. “A failure? All due to one crew? How in the hell did you mess that up? You told me you could handle it!”







“I did. Unfortunately that one knick in our plan costed us everything. I apologize.”







“You’re sorry? You really think that’s going to be enough for us to give you a pat on the back like everything’s alright?!” She growled. “You’ll be lucky to have lookout duty when I’m done with y-”








“That’s enough. I’d like to give my own thoughts, Ms. Mercury.”







Celene’s blood turned to ice in her veins as a deep and refined male’s voice came from the line. The polite tone able to quell Mercury’s temper was all too familiar to them both.




Hurik turned to the Umbreon, the device slightly trembling in his claws. “Of course, Captain, I hope you got all that.”







“I did! How disappointing things turned out like this, Hurik. You know I’ve had high hopes for you since you first arrived. A shame this will be a black mark on your record for quite some time, hmm?”








The Combusken’s grip grew tighter as he silently swore. “I understand this won’t bode favorably for us. I’m ready to accept any punishment you have waiting for us back onboard.”





The captain cleared his throat and spoke again. “Of course. I’ll have you give me a full rundown on the situation. I’d like to at least know the crew that outed you.”






“Well, they had blue scarves covered in white teardrop markings. From what I’ve gathered it was a crew by the name of Aqua Step.”







The captain let out a small gasp, followed by the line going silent. The two shot each other a raised eyebrow.









“Captain, is something wrong?”







A steady stream of cackling echoed from the other end, followed by the sound of something slamming onto a desk.







“This is quite the development! Just when I thought things couldn’t get interesting! It’s your lucky day Hurik, that just put me in a good mood! I suppose I’ll give you a lighter punishment when you arrive. Do not delay if you want to keep it that way!”







“Wait, Captain!” He shouted.







* CLICK*








The device fell to the ground. The pair locked eyes, fear brimming between the two of them. Only the sound of rushing wind passed through as Hurik plotted their next course.










*CLICK*








“Hmmm, quite the interesting turn of events.”







A figure reclined into their lavish leather chair as they traced a claw across a detailed map of Soluna. His second in command, wrapped in a beige cloak, clicked her tongue as she leaned against the wall. “Just their shitty luck, huh? What an embarrassment. I give them everything to make this mission a breeze and they somehow mess that up! They’ll be lucky to work with intact hides when I’m done with them! I knew we should have gone with Rollo’s ide- Are you even listening to me, Joker?!”







The figure tilted their head against an open palm, moving a coin across the map like a piece on a game board. Red eyes lazily looked at her, before darting back down.







“I am, I am! I find it more hilarious than anything. Who would have thought Drake would be active at such a small, meaningless island? I hit quite the jackpot, it seems!” He took the coin into his paw, twisting it around each claw before launching it like a bullet at his number two. Her reflexes proved sharp enough to catch the object in time. She let loose a growl before placing the coin back on the desk.







“Well, how do you want to handle it? I don’t have the time to waste on your petty grudge if you’re even thinking of pursuing him!” She clamped down on the desk’s edge, forming a small crack.






The figure chuckled, tossing the coin into the air. “Oh Mercury, our little affair can wait. After all, I know I’ll see him again. Only this time, he’ll be the one groveling at my feet for forgiveness. And then…”






Catching the falling coin, he slammed it onto the map. The coin was placed dead center in a marker labeled Grit Island .







“I’ll make him beg, beg for all those days and nights I felt humiliated and weak. And even then, I won’t grant him reprieve. I can wait, Mercury, for as long as I need.”







He reached under his desk, and took out a shimmering blue feather. Even years later, its luster remained. Oh if only he knew how much he had changed, how much stronger he’d gotten. If he had chosen to remain, that fool’s dream would have come true by now.







“The longer I wait, the sweeter his fall will be.”





Ch%2010%20feather-min.png




ARC 1 - FIN
 
Bonus Story: Winter's Union

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Well uhh, Merry Late Christmas I guess. This was supposed to be posted earlier, but I got hit with last minute writer's block. My apologies. This is a bonus, dubiously canon short story idea I decided to do since I wanted to be festive! It's not meant to be taken seriously and it has a few formatting errors, but I hope it will tide everyone over while I finalize the upcoming next chapter! Till next time! Happy Holidays!

“Well this is u-unexpected.”


Maxim took a good look at the scene before him. Slanted roofs and cobblestone streets now blanketed in snow as the sun rose over a new day.


“A-ACHOO!”


Even being snuggled between comforting sheets inside of a warmly lit cabin didn’t spare the former human from the chilly air. No doubt due to the unique properties of his new body.


Damn that voice again! Why couldn’t they give me built in cold resistance? Even a slight chill leaves me shivering for warmth!


His partner, spread out across a bed on the opposite side of the room, yawned as she stretched up. “Can’t be jealous of you grass types in this kinda weather. I’d be beside myself if I had to wrap up everytime I put a foot out the door!”


Maxim groaned as he stared out the window again. When the crew had needed to make a brief stop for some specific materials, they had decided on a small, rural town that thrived off its unique lumber. The crew’s mechanic, Hestia, decided half of the crew would need to be off the ship while her team got to work, forcing them to stay at local cabins for the time being. While checking out the village, they had learned the place was also full of grass-types and fire-type pokemon who helped the former keep warm through the cold. Lucky for them, but the poor Rowlet didn’t have that luxury!


Rene was already at the door, scarf and bag present. “C’mon now, can’t be hidin’ away in here all day!”


With a sigh, he put on his scarf, tied it as tight as he could, and slipped out into the cold side by side with his partner.







As he passed through the village’s main street, Maxim took note of the residents. Pokemon of all shapes and sizes moved from store to store, piling on gifts, food, and other items into wagons or carrying them all by themselves. Red and green fabrics decorated various pokemon, with plant-like pokemon having a red scarf radiating heat wrapped around their bodies. As a Leafeon with a red stocking around one ear rolled a cart past the two, he leaned over to Rene.


“Huh, what kind of celebration are they doing here? Seems quite festive.”


Rene raised a brow. “Wha? Did your amnesia seriously make you forget about one of the biggest holidays in all the skies?” His silence gave her an answer.

“You gotta be- okay listen up! All these mons here are gettin’ ready for the Winter’s Union! Every year, pokemon get together and have a celebration involvin’ gifts and other junk for others. Got friends, family, a lover, whatever? This is the time to go all out for ‘em!”


He smiled. What a nice holiday, though he had a strange nagging feeling that it reminded him of something from his past.

She crossed her arms. “It started ages ago when some Delibird did a bunch of good deeds and got some Articuno to bless him with the power to deliver gifts. Think the guy’s name was Nic-Nicol-err… Nikolai, or somethin’. I dunno. Either way, there’s a legend where he comes on the first night of the Winter’s Union around the world to deliver presents and all that jazz.”


“That sounds..fantastic!” Maxim cheered with stars in his eyes. And it sounds really familiar, but I can’t place a bead on it. “Do you think it’s true?”


Rene did a double take before speaking. “What do you think I am, ten? Don’t tell me you think that myth is real!”


He rubbed the back of his head. “Well… Things are crazy enough for me to believe anything, haha!”


Especially in a world like this.


The weasel threw her arms into the air. “Yeah, whatever. If you wanna grab anything while we’re here, now is the time. Just don’t blow all your money on useless crap, got it?”

“No worries, I’m not the type to drain my wallet!” He saluted with a wing.


“Good. I’m goin’ on my own. See if you can find anythin’ of value here.” The Mienfoo sped off, diving into a surging crowd of shoppers. Guess it was up to himself to find something worth buying. As he scanned from store to store, he saw a Kecleon shaped sign that advertised dungeon items at a reasonable price. Sounds good to me!


Weaving in and out of traffic, the cold air began to aggravate him again. Despite how useful his scarf was, it wasn’t enough to counter his body’s natural weakness.


“Oh no! A-A-ACHOO!”


“Eek!”



A powerful sneeze caused him to lose focus and crash into someone, knocking them both to the ground. He got up first, shaking his head to focus his vision. A bag had been overturned, spilling wrapped boxes into the street. The poor victim, an Eldegoss, rubbed her head as she slowly rose.


“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to run into you! You’re not hurt, are you?” The Rowlet panicked. A small frown was present on her face as she waved a leaf.


“It’s okay, young one! Nothing’s wrong with me. I got a bit distracted, but this old flower can’t be uprooted that easily!”


She began to pick up the spilled gifts, but Maxim flew ahead and scooped up a pair in his claws. “If you would ma’am, allow me to help you!” He placed the boxes into the bag before lugging it into the air. “The least I can do is help you get these home.”


“Oh young one, I’m not that frail! Are you trying to humor this old lady?” She chuckled. “But who am I to shun a kind offer?”


The Eldegoss went ahead, turning around to wave at him to follow. Being sure to stay behind without overtaking her, he followed the mon through winding road after winding road, finally reaching a small, yet well maintained wooden cottage just near the village outskirts. She opened the door and motioned for him to go in. The bag was large enough to make it a tight squeeze, but Maxim managed to fit it in.


The inside was simple: a few pieces of furniture here and there, a fireplace with simmering embers, and plaid painted walls with a few hanging ornaments. Towards a small enclave in the back, a small stand with a withered, yet preserved leaf caught his attention. Around it were stuffed pokemon-shaped dolls and silver trinkets.

“Woah. Nice place!”


The Eldegoss smiled. “Indeed! I always do my best to take care of this place! Have a seat and rest!”

Maxim felt relief as he collapsed into a silky soft pillow. Having to do all that flying in the cold air had worn him out. After a few moments she returned with a tray in hand. A small green tea kettle and matching cups were placed side by side on a nearby table. “Come on, young one! Mind enjoying a small refreshment?”


“Uh, sure. Though wouldn’t that be weird since I’m a stranger, Miss..?”


“I’m sorry young one, I didn’t introduce myself yet!” She giggled. “My name is Edia! How about yours?”


“It’s Maxim, ma’am. I’m a traveling sailor who was trying to shop around.” He glanced down at his teacup. Technically not a lie!


“Ah, so you head from island to island on a crew?” She raised a leaf with a giggle. “Did you stop by to take a break for some holiday cheer?”


“Err, not necessarily… It was mainly for business reasons for our crew. I do admit, I come from far away, so seeing this kind of celebration is a treat!”


Edia gave a nod in response. “Indeed! Winter’s Union has always been a big celebration for our little island! Years ago, me and my husband James, Gods rest his soul, would decorate our home to the brim! You should have seen the two of us! We were a festive whirlwind! Once he passed, our children offered to help every time.” The Eldegoss sank back into her seat. “But now, times have changed. They’ve all grown up and moved out to different towns and islands. By the time they could come back, it would already be the day of the Union. My neighbors were nice enough to offer to help this year, at least. But I’d hate to burden them.”


He frowned. Quite the little problem. No offense to his gracious host, but he doubted the aging grass-type could handle all of it by herself. As much as he knew he should probably be on his way before his partner got too annoyed, he couldn’t leave her alone!


With a raised wing, Maxim gave a small salute. “Excuse me, Miss Edea. I know it seems rather sudden for a stranger to offer his help, but I’m willing to try!”


The Eldegoss’s ruby eyes lit up like a candle. “You would? I’d hate for you to go through the trouble!”


“It’s no problem, ma’am! Leave it to me!”


Working side by side, Maxim helped to hang shiny ornaments and ribbons on the upper parts of the home while she handled moving the grounded decor. Lifting up bundles of fake presents to hang from the ceiling was also a non-issue due to his wings. As strange as his new body was, he was grateful for its uses every now and then. By the time the two had finished, the cottage looked more vivid than ever, nearly every inch covered in a mix of red, white and gold.


Edia twirled around with glee before hugging the Rowlet. He gave a blush that he was grateful to have buried away in her poofy “hair”.


“Ohh little Maxim! I haven’t felt this invigorated with decorating since Phillip was still here! If he were still among the living, I know he’d be over the moon faster than the emissary herself! Thank you from the bottom of this old woman’s heart!”


Rubbing the back of his head, he grinned. “No problem! It was a fun little exercise! As long as that helps you, I’m happy to be of service!”


Edia twirled in place. “I figure you’ll be on your way soon, but at least let me give you a small gift! Wait here one moment!”


He sat and rested for a few moments, wondering what she meant by a small gift. Soon, the grass-type came out of a small kitchen with a wooden box in hand.


“I originally had an extra amount saved in case of anything happening when my children and their families visited, but I have enough to last!” She opened the box, revealing a stash of freshly baked star shaped cookies! Black seeds dotted along their shape, while a nutty aroma filled his nose.


“Incredible!” He marveled. “These look delicious!” He took a chunk out of one and a sweet yet invigorating flavor jolted his tongue. Amazing! It had to at least be on par with one of Cardin and Hyde’s dishes! Quickly gulping down the rest, the Rowlet eagerly accepted the gift. “This is a fantastic gift, Mrs. Edia! I couldn’t ask for more!”


“Enjoy it, little Maxim! It’s in the spirit of St. Nikolai to give!” The Eldegoss beamed. “I do want you to do one more thing!”


He twitched. “And what would that be?”


Edia floated over to the stand with the preserved leaf. Gently rubbing it, she placed a small, worn out delibird shaped doll in front.


“Have a wonderful Winter’s Union.”








By the time he got back to the central plaza, the sun was beginning to set. With the temperature falling, Maxim knew he’d have to make it back to the cabin fast.


Cmon, almost there!


Over a hill with a winding dirt road, the cabin came into view. Feeling the frosty air nipping at his fingertips, Maxim sped straight into the cabin’s porch. The sounds of voices engaged in a conversation could be heard as he got closer to the door. He cracked open to peek.


There sat Rene on her bed, with several boxes and bags surrounding her. Drake, their captain, stood side by side with his first mate Signal, both wearing red scarves tied around their necks. Maxim attempted to gently open the door further, but the aged door let out a sharp creak. Everyone turned their attention to the nosy Rowlet, while Drake let out a small chuckle and placed his hands on his hips.


“Oh, Maxim! I was just wondering where you had flown off to! How did your little shopping trip go?”


The former human turned to his partner, who only crossed her arms. “It went alright. Got a bit sidetracked, and didn’t find anything of notice. Sorry!” He raised up the cookie box. “Although, I did get some nice little snacks, if you want any.”


“Ooh~! Quite delightful. Shame I’ll have to pass, but do enjoy yourself!” Drake winked. “I’ll leave you two for now! Hestia should finish her upgrades tonight and then tomorrow, we sail! Until then!”

The eccentric captain and his (mostly) silent companion exited the cabin. Rene sighed before lying back. “Talk about a day. I spent forever trying to get just a few damn seeds because everyone decided to pour in all at once! I sure as hell ain’t a holiday girl. What about you?”


He rubbed at his left wing. “Well uh, it wasn’t too bad. This village is a pretty nice place! I’d think I’d rather deal with excited shoppers than some of the crazier things in this world.”


“Hmph. Well I guess you ain’t wrong.” She yawned. “Ugh, I’m spent. Gonna tucker in early tonight. Till tomorrow, then!” Rene covered up and turned away.


Maxim resisted the urge to roll his eyes. I shouldn’t be that surprised. He did share the same sentiment, but the glow of town lights in the distance caught his attention. Sure enough, in the distance was a gargantuan tree erected in the center plaza. Ornaments and fabric wrapped around the tree all the way to a four pointed wheel on the top. The peak shined brighter than any star in the sky.


“That’s amazing!” He whispered. After spending more time watching pokemon dance and parade around the snowy landscape, tiredness began to seep into his feathers. With night falling, Maxim decided to finally hit the hay. Rolled over in his spherical form, the Rowlet drifted off to sleep.







..

….

THUNK!


Maxim’s eyes shot open as he hopped up out of bed. Looking around the dimly lit room, he saw nothing but Rene’s sleeping form and her gifts.


That couldn’t be my imagination, right?


THUNK!


No, no, clearly it wasn’t! The Rowlet frantically flew over to Rene’s bed, shaking her form with his talons.


“Rene, get up! There’s something on the roof!” He squawked. The Mienfoo only tossed and turned, swinging at Maxim with a stray paw. “Hell you mean…somethin’ roof? Probably nothin. I’m tryin.g… to sleep..”


“Rene, please!” He begged. “I don’t know what it is, but it’ll bother you regardless even if you ignore it!”


The Mienfoo rose slowly, stumbling out of bed. She hissed as she rubbed her eyes, before waddling to the door.


“I swear whoever this is, I’m gonna send them flying over the town.” Rene growled. As the pair cracked open the door and walked outside, the sudden chill of cold air slammed into them. Wrapping his scarf tightly around his chest, Maxim scanned around. Nothing was out of place, even when he turned to the roof.


“See, what did I tell you? A bunch of nothing! I’m going back to b-”


An object slammed into the ground in front of them, causing both to jump back. Right in front of them was a red sack, holding two boxes inside. Maxim’s eyes went wide as the moon as he looked up. Flying around was a delibird pulling a red sleigh. There was something off about the mon, as their body was covered in a metallic sheen, while their eyes glowed with a digital blue light.


“Mission complete. N1k0 unit 122523 has completed delivery. Moving to next location! HeehooHO!”



The strange penguin shot into the sky, faster than anything Maxim thought possible. While the sparkle trail they left began to fade into the distance, his partner was left stunned.


“Holy shit…you saw that too, right? I ain’t going insane, am I?” The Mienfoo blinked back.


A massive grin appeared on his beak.


“Sure was something, wasn’t it?”









A young boy’s eyes stared in wonder at the snowy landscape before him. While snow this time of year wasn’t unexpected, he had never seen it get high enough to almost bury the road a foot deep! Properly covered, he started to scoop up as much as he could into a ball. He grinned as he set his sights on his first target, an unsuspecting girl covered in a pink coat.


“I CALL FIRST SHOT!”


The snowball impacted the back of her knit hat, causing her to yelp.


“Max, you jerk!”


In retaliation, she quickly rolled her own snowball, tossing it full force. His grin grew deeper as the two went into full snow warfare. Within a few minutes, the victor became clear as the girl rolled over in the snow.


“No fair… You got the drop on me this time! How come you always get things your way? Even Santa gives you more gifts…”


The boy, chuckling from his victory, also lay on the ground, moving his arms and legs back to make a snow angel. “Sorry sis, I’m just that good!” He raised his head up to blow a raspberry.


“Now now, you two! Don’t mess around too much!” A mature woman’s voice called out from the driveway. “Both of you are precious gifts to the world!”


“That’s right!” A male’s deep voice echoed. “No matter how many gifts the two of you get, remember there’s not a better gift than having your family by your side!”


“Yeah, whatever! I’m gonna get Max back for this!” The girl growled.


“In your dreams!” Teased the boy.


The older man chuckled. His children were something else, alright! Clapping his hands together, he knew what he had to do. “Tell you what, how about we do some nice family bonding by building a snowman together? I have the rest of the day off, and I can think of no better time to spend it than with my greatest gifts of all!”


Both children perked up. “Build a snowman?” They both answered together.


The older male clasped his hands once more. “You betcha! Now lets gather up the snow! Maxim, make sure to grab the bucket out of the garage! Laura, help us get some accessories!”


As all three got to work, the older woman giggled from the side. Even with the frigid breeze slipping through the neighborhood, the warm feeling in her heart remained unchanged. Christmas came and went, but the love the family made sure to stay behind.

..

….


Merry Christmas, Maxim.
 

Kiba Makuro

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/Him, They/Them
Hey Zee I'm here for United V-Wheel.

Chapter 8, Born Under Punches Part 1, Chapter 9 Born Under Punches Part 2, and Chapter 10 When Tomorrow Comes

Maxim and Rene get some really solid breakout moments in these chapters. The environment, the positions of the side characters; the ones on their side and not, and each other were really great.

Rene is loads of fun here when she lets her personality loose on the wild Mystery Dungeon mon. The Mienfoo has more layers than just the hothead, snarker, she’s quite the tactician. Rene was never a hand-holding teacher when she first sparred with Maxim. She didn’t believe in his will to fight as a member of the crew early on in the story because of his initial awakening.

In Umbrella Forest Rene gave Maxim room to spread his wings and had faith in him. That faith allowed her to focus on Hurik and Celene for the most part.

Maxim had some of his backstory, why he has to prove himself on display from earlier chapters.

After the fight with Hurik, Celene, and Morris he is knocked out, but that does mean he can’t get some information from the voice that talked to him in the beginning and a couple other chapters. And boy do we get something I’ve wanted to see in a PMD fic in a long while, a better glimpse at a former human’s human life.

Not just anecdotes, and them saying what they remember but actually going to the past or seeing more of their life before they became a Pokemon. Especially when the troubles from his old life, being deemed useless crept up before and here.

Chapter 10 brings us back to the crew so we get to see quite a few characters. Cecil, and Drake are fun. The Kirilia’s relationship with Maxim is great to see grow, even if it was just a little bit compared to the early chapters.

Our showstopper is the Quaquavel though, doing his captain-ly duty of exposition. Drake is interrupted and then put to the test by someone new.

A Sneasler named Katsumi, who called him brother, she gave some interesting words before we cut to last sections of When Tomorrow Ends.

There’s some good things prose wise and some areas for you to work on but I wouldn’t mention them all in the review.

Some areas I liked, some of the descriptions of the effect of actions. Like the extent of moves effects on the characters, and on the environment.

Passive voice creeps up quite a few times unfortunately, like “X let out a _” you want to only use it a few times, try to use action words especially for fight scenes and tense moments.

Actions that happen to characters are sometimes passive too ‘X “was” _ by a _ . ‘Try to start off the sentence with the action, ‘a _ hit X with a _’ brings out more of the active voice, even in past tense.

Please utilize Pokemon species names more often in the paragraphs relating to them. It’ll help us remember who is speaking and offer a break in repetition of names or pronouns.

Speaking of pronouns, you need to be careful and not just start a sentence with one, and repeat it with actions over and over. It can make some paragraphs clunky to read and visualize.

There’s not too much over reliance on epithets past Born Under Punches Party 1, which is a good thing you started to fix. But it does bleed into Born Under Punches Part 2 and When Tomorrow Comes.

You start changing from past to present tense a couple times in various paragraphs around the middle of When Tomorrow Comes.

Back to the world building and characters for a bit.

Maxim and Rene show us more of the area of Calvin Island. After the previous stint in Gligar Cave being a former Mystery Dungeon and hearing all the danger of privateers, and adventurers it’s nice to see the real thing. A Mystery Dungeon.

We get our first Mystery Dungeon run and a real chance to see your take on it.

After seeing the almost strangely empty end or rest point of a Mystery Dungeon we meet with Hurik and Celene, along with a Marill, called Morris and learn of a new group, the Black Joker.

Interesting that the Combusken calls the Umbreon by “Celeste” but the text does not switch to that when referring to her, Celene.

Now as a precaution sometimes you want to remind the audience the full name of your mcs group, especially when you start mentioning other groups.

I had to read a comment to remember the ship’s name, the Serene Grace. Drake’s crew’s name, the Aqua Step, only said by Hurik at the end of When Tomorrow Ends.

In Chapter 10 we finally get more details on where we are, the lands of Soluna. Captain Drake gives us a decent sized bite of lore without it feeling like a dump which is really nice. (Nice map!)

Maxim learns about the four forces of the world, it helps us understand the true threat of the Black Joker Pirates. Solunian Navy, Adventurer Guilds, and the Privateers.

The Solunian Empire, which controls the Navy, which might be a force we see more of later and perhaps have some tension with. I’m interested in Queen Estelle IV, however I’ll have to be patient. She hasn’t been completely revealed yet which is cool. Good to introduce her name and save it for later.

We’ve got other things to worry about,namely another new name, Azure. I wonder what all of that is.

It’s a bit painful to finish the Maxim side of When Tomorrow Ends with on a cliffhanger and then go to the Black Joker’s pov. Hurik and Celene talk about their failure on Calvin Island, and then have badge call with Ms.Mercury and her boss Joker.

Who threatens them, before we see that Mr. Joker here used to know and has fought Drake. Perhaps when the Quaquavel used to be a pirate maybe?

Normally one would not have yet another pov swap at the end for the chapter, even if it’s a pretty cool teaser and strong ending of Act 1. The shifting of povs like this fits better for primarily visual media, like a comic or a game.

I think it would work better as a smaller section, a small one in between chapters and not in the main chapter, and then it would fit in with written media better like fanfiction.

Sorry I ended off on a downer note, I really enjoyed reading your chapters and can't wait for the next ones to come. Your characters and world are definitely a solid foundation to your story, and the issues I mentioned aren’t major things that’ll be hard to fix, learn, and adapt to.

I look forward to reading more Soaring Over Heaven in 2024!
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
Heya, dropping in for this as part of my review exchange with you for that beta reading you provided for Like a Dragon a while back. Though I’m going into this story mostly blind beyond that it’s set in Alrest a set of floating landmasses, has some Xenoblade inspiration going on, and that a lot of people seem to like Maxim as a character from it.

So good enough. Let’s dive right in and see what this is all about:

Chapter 1

Hey Maxim.. What would you do if the stars above in the sky disappeared? Would you be curious? Upset they disappeared? Wish for them to come back?

Hey Maxim… If you were scared to hurt someone, why did you do it?


Hey Maxim… did they make you angry? Did they do nothing to you? Or did you…?

Wait, is this a take off the “personality quiz” opening? Since I’m kinda getting that vibe right about now. Though as a general suggestion, but for your forum versions, I’d suggest using less spacing between your different lines of text since it made things a wee bit distracting to read in its original presentation. (The style of spacing your story has on its FFN version would probably be a better fit here.)

Hey Maxim… don’t forget…

Hey Maxim…

He’s asleep right now, isn’t he? Though I wonder if this is some sort of past encounter he’s dreaming about.

MAXIM!

………

All encompassing void, all enveloping darkness.

Are the periods supposed to be a scene break? If so, consider either replacing them with a linebreak ( [ hr ][ / hr ] minus the spaces ) or centering them for formatting.

Though ah yes, this is totally a good sign™ and not ominous at all.

He awoke to find himself floating in a sea of nothingness. Was he going mad? Why was he here?

So… time for a personality quiz? :V

There wasn’t a concept of time. An eternity could pass, and he’d feel nothing. In fact, he couldn’t feel anything at all. Where was his body?

Yup, sounds like it’s time for a personality quiz.

Panic crept in. At least he still had his emotions. Maybe he could will his body into existence next.

“No need. You will soon be set free.”

Yeah, I figured. Though let’s see what sort of spin you put on the formula here.

Wha- Who said that?

“I did. You may call me an ‘observer’, if you will.”

An ‘observer’, huh? Given your list of inspirations in your first post, I’m not fully sure what this is pulling from most, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

And now he was going crazy. At least he wouldn’t be lonely if there was an imaginary voice to talk to.

“You still doubt me? Here, witness this!”

The darkness was illuminated by a single pulsating orb of light. A burning feeling of energy enveloped him, surging through his existence like wildfire. His very being felt drawn to the levitating light. And then…

“Enough.”

Maxim: “Wait, what on earth did you even do?
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The glow faded and the cold darkness returned. He was paralyzed, weak. Alone.

Maxim: “So… are you going to explain to me what’s going on, or…?”
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“Do not fear, for you have been chosen for a grand purpose. A divine experiment in a world of endless sky and unyielding conflict, where unforeseen calamity threatens to tear it apart. To safeguard it, I have searched for a qualified candidate. You have met my needs, knowledge seeker!”

Ah yes, so we really are going straight to Alrest for a setting, since boy is that elevator pitch for a setting familiar. :V

This was too much for him to deal with. Could he just be free already? Even an eternity of silence would be more appealing.

Careful what you wish for there, Maxim…

“Very well, I suppose you have been in the dark long enough. I shall send you on your way, but not without the proper knowledge.”’

Maxim: “... Wait, you actually saw that narration?! But I thought that supposed to be in my head! Or an omniscient narrator’s! Or something!”
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A low hum started in the darkness, followed by a flash of light. Soon, the void itself started to distort as a ball of light similar to the one before it formed again. The difference was that this one began to absorb the darkness like an inverse black hole.

Wait, but wouldn’t an inverse black hole spew stuff out of itself?
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Though it’s still a neat visual there. I do wonder how Maxim is reacting to it, though.

“One more thing. Regardless of which path you take in this world, remember that you and only you can decide how your story plays out. Your memories shall remain scattered, but meet me at the origin point at the end of the skies, and know the truth.”

Maxim: “And you’re not just letting me keep my memories in full for this why…?
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Again, he felt himself being drawn into the light, but this time he felt an overwhelming wave of pressure dragging him in. There was nothing he could do but watch as the light grew closer.

And closer.

And closer.

Maxim:
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“Farewell for now, Maxim.”

Maxim: “Wait, but I didn’t agree to any of thi-!” OvO;

The light enveloped him in a warm embrace, the void vanishing from sight.

Maxim: “Again:
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Wooooosh

The wind was blowing strongly against his skin. Darkness enveloped behind his closed eyes, but unlike before, he had control over his body.

Maxim: “♫ Wind goes passing by, through the sunset sky. This wind will carry lots of- ♫ Oh wait, wrong story for that, huh?” @v@

Wait, body? His body was back?

Narrator:
dsmGaKWMeHXe9QuJtq_ys30PNfTGnMsRuHuo_MUzGCg.jpg


Eyes slowly opened to overwhelming light that slowly faded. Ears that could hear the howl of rushing wind were the first sense to fully return. As his eyes adjusted, the only thing he could make out was nothing but blue and white blurs.

And cue seeing the cliff’s edge dropping into the cloudy abyss below in 3… 2…

Then realization hit him harder than the wind. He was falling!

Ah yes, the Gates to Infinity style entrance to the world. Good thing that our buddy has wings, right?

“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”

Oh, so he really is
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-ing right about now. o<o

His voice was back, at least. A small solace for one falling to their doom.

Maxim: “Gee, what a consolation there.” >v<

He moved his left arm forward, only to find a bundle of toasty brown feathers instead. Using the right arm netted the same result, raising more alarm bells. Was reality playing a cruel joke on him?

I mean, I kinda suspected it’d be the case from the opening, but I suppose that’s the hard confirmation that Maxim is a human-turned-Pokémon in terms of background.

Before he could gather his thoughts, a mighty force struck his back, causing the blur of rushing sky to stop, before resuming once again in reverse. He became disoriented and nausea set in. Feeling his consciousness slip away, he hoped whatever fate befell him would be swift and painless.

Well, it’d be a short and pretty boring story if that were so. So let’s just skip ahead to the part where you come to, huh?

All encompassing void.

Had he really come back here, new life cut short already? He shuddered at the thought of dealing with that strange voice again.

...okay? …Not… damaged…”

Maxim passed out, didn’t he?

Oh, another voice. This time, the voice’s tone was that of a male’s; gentle and soft, without an omnipotent boom present. Whoever he was, the voice was busy chatting away.

... fall… on… patrol… can’t believe this happened…”

Maxim: “Wait, what on earth even happened to me?” @v@

A second masculine voice, this time deep and confident, became grew locked in a discussion with the first. Both grew louder as they went back and forth.

“I wonder when the little guy is gonna wake up..”

“Hard to say when. Best to not bother him for now and let him rest. Your patrol duties are calling.”

“Hmph, noted.”

I’m guessing these two are from the banner art. My money’s on the Mienfoo and Kirlia, but we’ll see.

Wait a moment, that sounded like it came from right beside him. He struggled to move his body as feeling returned once more, and he began to open his eyes.

A fuzzy haze came into view, while a floral scent hung in the air. Shapes formed and he was soon left staring at a candle hanging off a dark wooden wall. Staring down revealed a soft mattress covered in green wooly sheets.

He was now indoors, safe from a plummeting demise. Was it all just a bad dream?

Narrator:
bdd.jpg


“Ah, you’re awake already? Interesting.”

He wasn’t alone either. It was the gentle and soft voice from earlier, this time much clearer.

A humanoid figure came into view, one covered in a white dress with green leggings, and with piercing red eyes paired with green, twintailed hair. On their right arm was some kind of blue band covered in a small symbol. In their left arm was a small notebook and a pen attached to the back on a string. The figure raised their free hand and a wave of pink energy floated over his bed. Rejuvenation washed over him. He had never seen something like this before, and yet a name came immediately to mind as he gazed at them.

Whelp, check one for the Kirlia being present in that initial pair that Maxim overheard.

“That’s a Kirlia.” He thought. “ Wait, how did I know that?”

Oh, so that’s the knowledge he was given to function in this world. I wonder if it extends to other things such as literacy in the local script or even a general awareness of how his new world is laid out.

“I was worried that Signal had been too rough with you when he recovered you from your failed flight. But my worries were unfounded. Guess I should apologize to him later,” The Kirlia said as he raised a hand to his chin.

Signal, huh? Though I wonder if that’s the Quaquaval from the banner since it’s hard to think of how a Mienfoo would be able to do much to intervene with a failed flight.

Maxim glanced to the side. On a nearby table was a small, circular mirror. He took the chance to glance at his body. Feathers, both white and brown, covered his small form. Instead of arms and legs, he had bird wings and orange talons. A small green bowtie-shaped growth was planted above his neck. He rubbed a wing over his face - even that transformed to a smooth, hard beak.

Maxim:
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Kirlia: “Um. Rowlet, are you okay right now?” ._.;

“I’ve been turned into a r-r-Rowlet?! That damn voice must have done this to me !” He speculated. “ I bet that guy is laughing his ass off, wherever he is.”

The art accompanying this moment is pretty neat. Nice work, there.

“Excuse me, are you alright?”

He was snapped out of thought by the waiting Kirlia. Now he had to figure out what to do about his current position situation.

“I-I’m fine”, he stammered. “Please just tell me where I am. I’m not even sure how I got here.”

I’ll go and tee up Black Tar in the background for when the realization sinks in on Maxim here.

Kirlia beamed. “Ah, you’re in the infirmary hold of our ship.”

Wew, so we’re just getting thrown in headfirst into how this world works, huh?

“Ship?” He questioned. “So we’re at sea?”

“Sea…?” Kirlia gazed at him, raising their hand back to their chin. “Unless that’s what you call the vast sky.”

Oh, so no ‘Cloud Sea’ here in this setting. Though what on earth is at the bottom awaiting the unlucky souls that fall off of terra firma in this world?
Maxim: “Wait, how do you have a ship without having a sea?”
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Kirlia: “You might want to step outside and look around a bit.”

That was enough to make him raise a nonexistent eyebrow. Maxim pressed for more information. “What kind of vessel is this, and just how did I end up here?”

Kirlia: “Again, Signal recovered you from a failed flight. And how on earth do you not know what a Titan Airship is?”
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Maxim: “
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5vd5cE3n0M

I’m sorry, a what now?”

“The name of this ship is Serene Grace , a merchant ship! We were on our way to Cape Tirtouga to deliver goods, when one of our lookouts saw a hole form in the sky. One of our men went to investigate it, saw you fall out of there, and dragged you to safety.”

Kirlia: “Really, just what were you expecting when I mentioned that you were on a ship, Rowlet?”
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Maxim put a wing to his beak in thought. So that’s how I entered this world. Would it have killed the voice to spawn me on the ground? “So, another question: how long have I been out for?”

Considering what the listed influences of this fic are, Maxim, bold of you to assume that there is a ground for you to stand on that wouldn’t kill you.

His question was answered by three fingers held up. “Three hours! You’ve been unconscious since you got here. Since then, I was doing some health checkups on you and nothing’s wrong with you. In the meantime, please try and relax .”

“I see.” Maxim sighed. Easiest thing for him to do would be to get a grip on what’s going on now, and focus on what to do next later.

Maxim: “... Wait, but where on earth am I anyways?” OvO;
Narrator:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePypW6n1egQ

Maxim: “Nobody asked you, okay?!” >v<;

“Sorry to interrupt your thoughts”, Kirlia chimed in, “but I’ve forgotten to ask your name! What do you go by, stranger?”

“Maxim. Just call me Maxim,” he stated.

Aaaaaaand there’s our namedrop.

Kirlia smiled. “Quite the name, Maxim! My name is Cecil, nurse assistant! Just take a nice breather and rest yourself. We should be at our destination in one more day! Once we dock, then you can figure out what to do next.”

Maxim: “(How on earth did I even get roped into this?!)”
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Maxim stood up on his talons on the bed. “I guess that’s fine, but I still don’t get where exactly in the world this i-”

“Oh, our mystery friend is finally awake?”

A girl’s voice, slightly gruff and full of energy, spoke from the door. Both the transformed human and Cecil turned to the door.

Oh, so someone different from Cecil and whoever was with him earlier. I wonder if this is the ‘Signal’ that he was talking about.

A bipedal creature resembling a weasel, with red limbs attached to a yellow body, stood there. A blue band the same as Cecil’s was wrapped on the right arm, while a blue and yellow striped bandanna was wrapped around her head. Again, a name appeared in Maxim’s mind at the sight of the creature: Mienfoo.

Aha, there’s another member of the banner art gang here.

Did the voice turn me into a damn encyclopedia? I’ve never seen these creatures before!”

Nah, it just uploaded the Pokérap into your brain or something like that so that way we could avoid the umpteenth repetition of “What kind of Pokémon are you?” and “How do you do the things you do?”

“Overheard you two chatting up a storm, figured I’d swing around!” The weasel clapped her hands. “Look at this crazy daredevil! How’d you get all the way into one of the straights without getting blown to pieces? Are yah a professional or somethin’?!”

Maxim: “
dsmGaKWMeHXe9QuJtq_ys30PNfTGnMsRuHuo_MUzGCg.jpg

Especially since I have no idea what any of you two are talking about. And who are you again?”

Maxim brushed at nonexistent hair. “Daredevil? I got dropped into the middle of the sky with no warning! I’m not crazy enough to skydive from who-knows-where!”

Not yet, anyways.

A sly grin appeared on Mienfoo’s face. She placed a paw on her hips and pointed a finger at Maxim. “Eh? You trying to say Signal wasn’t fibbin’ with the ‘fallin’ from the sky’ story? I’d sooner believe you rowed yourself on the wind with two pieces of wood taped together!” She cackled.

Oh, so Signal’s the Quaquaval from the cover art, huh?

Only three hours into this world and he was being called a liar. Great! Any plan he had of resting was dashed away an instant and uneasiness settled in. Perhaps a change of scenery would help to clear his head.

Or make you pass out again when you realize that you’re in “Alrest, but with Pokémon”. That seems equally likely, just saying. :V

“Whatever”, he mumbled. “Believe whatever you want to believe.” Maxim turned back towards Cecil, waving his wing at the nurse. “Hey, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look outside. Get some fresh air, you know. Can I rest later?”

dis-gon-b-gud-lawn-chair.gif


“Hmmm, I suppose letting you get some sunlight would be a good thing given your grass-type nature,” Cecil said. “I think it should be fine, provided someone watches you so nothing happens.”

Maxim: “What on earth do you mean ‘nothing happens’? This is a ship, right?”
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Cecil: “An airship, Maxim.”

Maxim wasn’t sure what the nurse meant by grass or “types”, but he buried the thought for now.

Whelp, we’ve discovered the limits of the knowledge that the Voice gave Maxim. Kind of a bum deal there
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“Uh, sure, I could definitely use some more sunshine! I’m ready to go now, if you’re willing!” He said, putting mock-enthusiasm into his voice.

“Hold your ponytas! Just what do you think you’re sayin’, Cecil?!” Mienfoo raised a paw with a scowl on her face. “Letting some stranger go out of here without talkin’ to at least a high officer about it! How do we know this mudder’s not a spy or a criminal?

giphy.gif


I really should find an excuse to do something similar myself at some point.

Cecil frowned. He moved his notebook back under his arm.

Now Rene, why are you jumping to conclusions so soon?” the Kirlia chided. “There wasn’t even a single item in his possession when he was brought in, nor did we find anything suspicious on his body after moving him to the ward. I get being cautious, but I can tell he’s not a legitimate threat.”

Ah, so that’s our Mienfoo friend’s name. Duly noted. Though I think this bit might work better as separate paragraphs.

The weasel crossed her arms and looked away. “Bah, fine. But don’t come crying to me if he turns out to be some kinda wacko. I’ll do you a favor and find some bored crewmate to guide him up.”

That seemed to be exactly what the nurse wanted to hear, as a smile crept up on his face. “No need, as you’re going to be the best fit for the job!”

Ah yes, I’m sure that Rene will just be thrilled to hear that right now. Also, it’s just belatedly dawning on me, but Rene’s phonetic accent gives me some vibes of Nia from XB2. Don’t know if that’s a deliberate thing or if I’m reading a bit too much into things or not.

Rene took a step back and looked between Cecile, Maxim, and back to Cecil with widened eyes. “Wha? Since when am I a tour guide? I just came to have a look at him, not babysit him!”

Yeah, again. Nia vibes, since I certainly remember her having a moment like this early on in XB2.

Cecil pressed on. “Well think of it this way: what better means are there to keep an eye on a suspicious mon than with your own two eyes?“

Rene: “Not letting the stranger we know nothing about out of the infirmary and keeping him restrained to his bed?” >:|
Cecil: “Yeah, well we ruled that option out, so what’s the next better way of doing things?”
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Rene put her paws on her hip. “Well, you got a point there. And if he tries anything funny, then...” A loud clap echoed after the weasel slammed her paws together. “I still got some time to kill off shift. You said you’re ready to go, yeah?”

As much as Maxim agreed with her on picking someone else, he didn’t want to waste time. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” He sighed.

Narrator: “He was not remotely ready.”

He stood up on the covers and looked down the side of the bed. Slowly moving his feet- no, talons- to the edge, the small owl hopped on to the ground.

“Okay, how do I walk on these things?” he thought.

Like so, Maxim:
giphy.gif


Maxim took some steps. Despite how stubby his new legs were, walking for the first time didn’t feel strange. It was as if he had always been like this. He briskly moved to the door where Rene was scoffing.

Good! Now stay close to me so you don’t get lost. And don’t even think of tryin’ to jet away behind my back!”

Huh, guess that the Voice also provided Maxim with the motor skills necessary to make use of his body. Makes me wonder how soon he’ll be able to fly.

While Rene stepped out into the hallway, Maxim took one last look back. Cecil waved back with a small smile. The former human returned the gesture with a wing before following the weasel’s lead.

I’m not sure if there was something missing after “small smile”, but you had a floating space there between it and the period ending the sentence.

Dim, candle-lit corridors and vacant hallways made up the path to the ship’s deck. The interior felt antiquated with the walls and floors made of polished wood, while the smell of burning candlewax filled the air. A few minutes of walking had led them to a set of steel stairs with sunlight beaming down from the top. They started to climb, with Rene leading the charge.

The sunlight grew brighter as they approached the top. Maxim tried not to grimace, hopping up as fast as he could. Eventually, he reached the last rung of the stairs.

One of these days, you should really get around to making a doodle of the Serene Grace’s interior if you already haven’t done so, since this sounds like it’d be really neat to see art of.

The deck of the ship was beige wood with metal patches arranged around compartment entrances and lids. Twin masts reached triumphantly into the sky, beige sails expanded out in full force. The bridge superstructure was painted black and featured several glass windows, complete with unusual figures moving back and forth. Strange creatures roamed around the deck: a multicolored giraffe directed by a standing gray cat dragged around boxes, a blue beetle played a card game with a fat squirrel, and the strangest sight was an oversized floating bell with red eyes that levitated containers from one side of the ship to another. All the figures shared one thing in common: a blue band tied around a part of their body.

Ah, so there’s our ship’s crew. I wonder how many of these guys are going to become recurring characters in the future.

One creature stood out the most to him: a bipedal frog observed everything from a stack of boxes in the center. Matching a spiral pattern on their belly was a long, curved strand of hair on the top of their head. The blue band was on their left arm. In their hands was a small book they occasionally jotted down in.

I’m going to guess that that’s a Politoed, though I wonder if it might have made sense to throw in a passing mention of said frog being green-and-yellow at some point to make it clearer for readers, since I did a double-take at that description at first with the mention of the ‘hair’.

A tap on the shoulder took him out of further viewing. Rene placed her paws on her hips and was staring him down.

“Don’t spend an eternity starin’ around and gawkin’ at the crew, you might get in their way. Head over to one of the corners if you wanna do that.”

Rene: “Also, I’m pretty sure that most of them will find that rude, just saying.”
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Maxim rolled his eyes. “ Oh I’m sorry, not everyone has a normal reaction to weird talking animals running around some ship.”

Prooooobably for the best that he did not say that one out loud. ^^;

Moving over to the railing along the edge of the deck, he glanced down to take a look at the water bel-

Wait, where was the water? No sea, no land, nothing but clouds reflecting the light of the clear sky above. The thick layer of cloud expanded for miles across the horizon.

Ah yes, cue Maxim passing out again in 3… 2…

Maxim reclined back. Rene tilted her head as he ran over as fast as his stubby talons could. An uncomfortable silence lingered as he stared at her leaning against the railing.

“What’s bothering yah?” She asked. “Thought you’d be enjoying the clear day since its easy sunlight.”

Maxim: “Where on earth is the sea?!
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Rene: “Again, this is an airship. It sails through air. And what on earth is a ‘sea’, anyways?”
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“Rene, where is the sea?”

The weasel stared back at him with widened eyes. “Sea? What the hell do you mean by that?”

Man, when I call ‘em, I call ‘em.
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Maxim raised a wing to his temple. Oh brother, first Cecil and now her. “ Surely I’m not the crazy one around here.”

- Maxim stares out at the Cloud Sea endless expanse about him -
Maxim: “I’m sorry, but how on earth is this physically possible right now?” ·v·;

“You know, a big body of water similar to how oceans cover the planet, or this one I’m assuming. What ships normally sail on instead of the actual sky itself?”

Rene: “... Did you hit your head when Signal recovered you or something? I think that you’re a bit loopy right now, Maxim.”
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Maxim: “(Maybe I really am the crazy one around here…)” >v<;

Another moment of silence, followed by Rene bursting into laughter. “Ahahaha! You must have bumped your head pretty hard before you got rescued! Of course a ship’s gonna sail the skies! Dunno what you mean by ‘sea’, but the only thing I see here is some Rowlet that took in a bit too much air for their own good!”

Yeah, I figured.
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“Ugh, nevermind.” He sighed, shaking off the insult. ” I should have known better than to use reason in a world with talking animals in it.”

That actually makes me wonder what is keeping this world aloft and if there’s a deeper reason than “just because” behind it.

A deep and jovial voice spoke from a few feet away. “Hate to interrupt, but are you two having fun sunbathing over there?”

Wait, is this Signal, or…?

The fro- the Politoed had hopped over. A leather bag with a golden seal in the shape of three bird feathers was on him. The blue band on his arm also featured a golden trim along both edges, unlike the others.

Yeah, that’s probably not Signal. Even if I suppose I should be less surprised that the Politoed turned out to be more than just background eye candy.

“Ain’t you that Rowlet that got brought aboard?” The frog asked. “I’m surprised you were this quick to spring up after what happened!” He reached a hand out to Maxim with a growing grin on his face.

Maxim:
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“Name’s Clyde! I’m runnin’ things on the deck! Thing’s seem a bit lively for now, but just wait until later, haha!”

Oh, so that’s Politoed’s name. Duly noted, then. Though the crew really is going to fill out fast as a supporting cast, huh?

Maxim hesitantly shook it with one of his wings. The frog was cold and slimy to touch, but he didn’t mind it. At least someone else besides Cecil was willing to play nice.

“What brings you up on the deck? You ain’t plannin’ on trying to fly again are yah?” Clyde teased.

I mean, if the Voice gave Maxim enough implanted knowledge to know how to walk with owl feet…
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“No sir, I just wanted to ‘get some sunlight’, as the nurse said. I’m not used to waking up in the middle of a ship.” Maxim said, rubbing his head with a wing.

“Hehe, well enjoy yourself for a lil’ while! But don’t forget to get back to the medical bay for some good rest, Especially considering how busy the crew’s gonna be later.” Clyde then winked at Rene, causing her to roll her eyes.

Oh, so they’re going to be putting Maxim to work in future chapters, huh? >:V

“You need anything, I’ll be over at my little post. See yah!” The frog said before turning over to a blue octopus moving a box. “OI, GRUE, I see you slacking over there! Hurry up and move that box or no drinks for ya tonight!” Clyde then hopped back to his position.

Ah yes, so there’s a drinking culture in this setting, too. Wonder what’s on the menu.

Maxim looked back to the distant horizon. “ Well, at least most of the creatures here seem friendly enough. Guess I was lucky I got dragged here over God-knows-where-else.”

inb4 this mental note by Maxim ages like milk in the span of like 3 chapters.

The vast blue sky wouldn’t stay empty for much longer. Running level with the ship from far away was a black dot that grew bigger and bigger. Within a few moments, it was close enough to make out a ship-like appearance.

… Or maybe it’ll be more like the span of 3 paragraphs.
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He turned back to Rene, who was still leaning on the guardrail. “Uh Rene, is there supposed to be another ship anywhere near us?”

Maxim: “This is a completely normal occurrence… right?”
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“It’s probably some other merchant ship.” She grumbled. “Don’t pay ‘em any mind, because the rest of the crew won’t.”

Okay, the fact that Rene is saying this is getting me thinking that I should go ahead and tee up the XB3 sea battle theme, since I know enough about how stories work to know that that black ship is bad news based off that sort of dismissive reaction.

Maxim couldn’t shake off his uneasiness. “Then why is it getting closer to us?” He raised a wing at the now rapidly approaching ship that was now extending sails and masts.

Rene noticed the object and leaned over the railing hard enough to nearly fall off. “That’s… huh?! They aren’t supposed to be here this early!”

The weasel recoiled before grabbing him by the back of the head. “Shit! We gotta go! I’m taking you back to the med bay, got it?!”

Yeah, I knew it.

“W-what’s wrong? I thought you said not to worry about it?!” Maxim trembled. An ill feeling of dread took root inside and he shook. His claws dug into the wooden deck as Rene’s grip tightened. She began to drag him away.

“No more time!” She yelled. “We’re leaving right n-!

Yeah, good luck with that one, Rene.

“PIRATES ON THE PORT SIDE! THE FLAG IS OCHER’S! EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY!” A voice bellowed out from atop one of the masts. The pirate ship’s bottom half was colored blood red, while the top half was a deep orange. Three tall masts with raised sails were present in the front, middle and rear. Coming near parallel to the Serene Grace, the pair froze as two massive hooks fired from the pirate ship and impaled the side. The ship rocked back and forth, knocking Maxim and Rene down. Before they could get up, a massive shadow flew over the railing.

Ah yes, time for the theme music:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ5maG8Wd4g


It landed and Maxim’s blood ran cold. Only a few feet away was a cross between a bat and a dragon colored black and purple, a Noivern. On its neck was a dark orange bandanna with a bat-wing styled emblem and gleaming from the tip of its pointed tail was an attached metal blade. Long, speaker-like bat ears twitched as its head swiveled around. Eventually, its gaze lingered on Clyde. He stood as the bat-dragon approached him.

Oh, hello, sky pirates. I see that this plot isn’t wasting any time at all getting Maxim in trouble.

Ocher: “Also, who on earth picked that song for the background music? DJ, put on something that’s actually fitting for my crew before I cut you!
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFdUYdFz9ks

Ocher: “Ah yes, that’s more like it.”
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Creatures poured over the side of the ship and spreaded out. From a bipedal brown croc holding a black dagger to a walking cactus with even more spikes taped to its arms, the group was prepared to conquer. The crew had scrambled over the deck, with some hiding behind containers, while others formed a group behind Clyde. A deep and raspy voice boomed from the Noivern, causing pirate and crew alike to pause.

“Well then, I figure it’s about time to get down to business.” The bat-dragon leaned into Clyde’s face, the Politoed unblinking as he continued. “You, Politoed. Where’s the captain?”

Maxim: “(Wait, why on earth are they just standing around like that?!)”
Rene: “(Look, it’s a long story, but just go back to the infirmary and stay there!)” >_>;

Clyde stood straight as a statue, even as the pirate’s dagger tail moved close to his neck. “Aye, I’m sorry if you’re hoping for an appointment, he’s a bit busy right now!” Clyde laughed.

Huh. I didn’t realize you were rolling with Noivern’s tail barb being sharp in this setting. It might have made sense to telegraph that by having pirate captain drag it against the deck and leave a gouge as an intimidation display or something to hint to the readers that “Noivern’s got a pointy bit back there and he’s ready to use it”

An uncomfortable silence returned to the deck. Maxim’s eyes widened into dinner plates as Rene gripped him closer to her body, a visible scowl on her face. Clyde’s smile didn’t diminish, a nonchalant stare on his face as if he was waiting for a proper response. The bat-dragon straightened up, glanced back to his pirate crew, then back down to the frog. He slowly started to laugh.

“Hehehehehe… HAHAHAHAHA! You’ve got some guts, Politoed. That’s fine, I’d rather drag your pathetic captain out of his hold kicking and screaming after we take your goods.”

He sneered, slapping his tail on the wooden floor. He waved a claw at a pair of two black-and-gold-colored serpents with curved blades at the ends of their tails.

Trav, Igor, lead some of the men down below to the cargo hold. The rest of ya, tie up the crew on the deck. Make sure they have a front row seat while we plunder the vessel!”

Ah yes, wholesome fellow this Noivern is here! /s

Rene’s grip tightened as a pair of pirates moved to grab them. The weasel’s eyes brimmed with fury as she attempted to kick them away.

That seems more than a little ill-advised given that these guys are obviously outclassing you in strength and you don’t seem to have a surprise baby Lugia factor that can turn things around, Rene.
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“Blow off, you filthy mudders! This ship ain’t yours for the takin’!” She growled.

Pirates:
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Clyde shook his head and motioned both his hands down. Too focused on Ocher, Rene ignored the warning. In a split second, the bat-dragon closed the gap with a leap. His yellow eyes bored into them as he towered above. His blade tail swished back and forth as if eager to see action. Maxim stayed silent, focusing his willpower into staying calm.

I did a double-take there since at first I thought you didn’t name the Noivern, but you technically did during the emergency PA. It might have made sense to add an additional reminder or two in the dialogue, especially coming from Clyde.

“Well isn’t this crew brimming with steel-coated bravery? I got to admit girlie, the average mon would have ran with their tail between their legs at the sight of Blade Tail Ocher starin’ em down.”

I mean, at least he’s not “Blackblaze Ocher”? Since this bat’s technically got the color scheme and biological equipment to own the name, so maybe he’ll be less of a bloodthirsty psycho than his dialogue seems to indicate?
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Said tail-blade hovered a few inches from Rene’s forehead, causing her to shiver. Maxim gulped as the bat-dragon leaned in.

“Now then..” He sneered. “Let’s see how long those guts of yours last when I rip em outta yah!”

Sounds like I spoke a little soon, since boy is this moment reminiscent of one involving another blade-wielding psycho that Ocher’s been vibing with thus far.
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Boy, was that a note to leave off on for this story. You’re pulling out all the stops to keep your readers coming back, huh? Though I’ve gotta give you props for the setting, it’s definitely a rare bird for Pokémon settings in general, and even from what little we’ve seen of it so far, it leaves quite the impression. The characterization is no slouch either, and you do a good job at getting who your characters are across in short order, especially Ocher quite literally diving in at the end there. The artwork that you added is definitely a nice touch, and it goes a long way to adding to the overall experience of reading this fic.

I don’t have that much to nitpick beyond that there were a couple moments where I felt that more description or focus on internal gears turning from Maxim’s head were called for. Some of that might have been due to the fact that I was getting into things quite a bit, especially in the second half. I don’t know how much of it was deliberate or by happenstance, but I had some:

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moments with some of your sources of inspiration which were fun to see play out.

I’ve got a full plate this Review Blitz, so I don’t know how much I’ll come back to it while it’s going on outside of our review exchange, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this story in the future @Z102eternal . You made quite the first impression just in your first chapter, and I'll be looking forward to seeing where things go from here. ^^
 

Gyeig

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. samurott

Review of Chapters 1 through 3.​


Hey Zero. Decided to pick this fic up again for realsies now that Review Blitz is active. I remember listening to this fic being read on Union before, and that I enjoyed it a fair bit back then. So now’s as good a time as any to jump back in, no?

My first impression while reading these first 3 chapters you wrote can be summarised down to ‘Fledglings’, but that isn’t the whole story, and it’s not a complaint, either. In a lot of ways, Soaring Over Heaven reminds me a lot of Fledglings - There’s a similar element of pirates in the story, it’s just that they’re sky pirates. There’s a similarly large cast of characters to keep up with, even though it’s clear who the main character is.

But perhaps the biggest of all those comparisons: The tone feels strikingly similar to the saturday morning cartoon vibe that Fledglings is going for. Characters aren’t shy to spell out what they’re thinking, Maxim isn’t particularly subtle about his thoughts, and there’s a general goofy undercurrent to what’s happening, even though ‘what’s happening’ is pirates threatening to kill everyone aboard the ship Maxim finds himself on.

And that’s all perfectly fine, especially if that’s the tone you were aiming for. I like stories and characters that are just a lot of fun, and seek to entertain the audience with familiar tropes in a new setting. In that sense, you’re doing a good job, because I sure did enjoy these early chapters. Drake especially (odd name for a Quaquaval) - casually throwing the baddies aside so early on is to be expected, and he does a fiiine job at doing that. He’s the standout character by far, something compounded upon by the tonal shift at the end of Chapter 3. Is he really all fun and games despite being a not-pirate himself, or is there something far murkier lurking underneath the surface here?

Now as with every fic, it ain’t all gold. I’ve got my fair share of criticisms, not all as important and maybe not entirely correct, but hopefully understandable.

First things first, I’m not entirely sure if opening the fic up with a large action sequence was the best idea? With how many characters are introduced, we really don’t get much opportunity to get a feel for who’s who and what they’re like before we’re supposed to root for them during the attack. I had to stop at times to puzzle together who was doing what, or which name belonged to which Pokemon again, or just take a breather to try and dispel some confusion here. Given that they’re not immediately stopping somewhere to deal with something else, I think you could’ve lengthened the introductions somewhat before the pirate attack happens.

Second, Maxim is… kind of a stock protagonist at the moment? Even after a few chapters, I’m not really picking out anything major that makes him stand out from the rest of the cast, other than that he has the most screentime and is the POV character. I feel that there’s a lot more that could’ve been implemented - reactions, body language, etc - that would’ve alleviated this to a large degree. If there’s any character that should be making a splash pretty early on, it’s the protagonist - and right now, he gets overshadowed by Drake to a significant degree. Unless you’re planning to make Drake a second protagonist (which I doubt given the way Chapter 3 ends), that’s not for the better.

There are also some messy word choices and goofs I encountered while reading - some examples of this include Kirlia being spelled ‘Krilia’ in chapter 1 (I’m confident that isn’t supposed to be the character’s name, given that they introduce themselves as Cecil moments later), a similar case where Floatzel is spelled ‘Floatzle’ in chapter 3, the Audino ‘setting his sites’ in chapter 3 (I assume you meant sights, unless they’re somehow using the internet), and Chapter 3 mistakenly being labelled as Chapter 2 on the FFN version. These were just the ones I noticed at the end, by the way - you might want to go back and patch these up as they were starting to get distracting.

Alright, I’m going to cut things off right here. Like I said, I enjoyed this a fair amount during the fic reading, and I enjoyed it still now that I’ve read it for myself. There are some things that you should have a second look at, but I like the groundwork that’s been laid here. Thanks for the chapters, and best of luck with your future writing!
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
Well my old trick of copy/paste via reply is not working so appologize if this review reaction gets out of order i guess.

Review blitz chapter 1

So i suspect Maxim is our p.o.v. character. Interesting that from the questions they are asking, what they did, and why and how it's phrased...

All those hints point to the fsct that Maxim might not be a good guy here. He definitly is bare minimum forgetting something pivitol as his very memories seem to be rubned away from the protag status getting pinned on him.

You know I get voices in bold trying to pull the ominous, all knowing, all powerful card is a thing, but i don't think Max here is impressed. Intimidated and drug along for the sensation/light show, yes, but there is a strong "wake me up later" aura here.

With shades of why me and arg coming up close behind.

So mysterious voice wiped Max's memories to he could transplant knowledge easier... Creepy... I wonder at the value of that new knowledge considering the source.

I kinda imagined Max being released from the void kinda like how toothpaste must feel coming out of the tube. Nothing but compact pressure and dark, an opening and light, then this ominous pressure/slucking as you get sucked out into the world with a plop.

So since Max can i.d. basic sensations like wind, ect, i suspect some things like survival mechanisms are included in the brain download.

Clearly not all survival mechanisms are included. I'd be surprised if he doesnt complain loudly about this later, since he has (toasty?) feathered limbs and no clue how to use them after literal God-Deer punted him from the mon loading area and into the sky.

I really hope this isn't a Jamanji situation where there is only x amount of lives because this one sounds done.

Well, thats one bullet dodged. And Max has the pokedex in his head... Doesnt he? Nice build up of both the place he's recouping and the Kir' person overseeing him. That was really clear.

And we got a name, Cecil. Poor thing has no idea how rattled her client is. Guessing Max wasn't a grass type fan in his old life? Hope he wasn't a bird phobe.

The establishment of the sky, ships in it, ect, sounds a bit Skyward Sword meets Myazaki. It's going to be fun to see more of as it opens upespecially when Max can get up and about... I hope his flying 101 braindownload kicks in though, or he's in so much trouble.

Plus, how is he going to explain... Everything. The sky hole. He hasn't thought of that yet but i suspect its going to come up soon.

I am surprised Cecil hasn't asked him how he doesnt know the geography and pulled a "where are you from" card yet. Guess they dont wanna stress him too much yet.

Rene though has no such scrupples. He also has to roll out of the room after shoveling all his feet and paws in his mouth while still talking... And wow, he's still talking.

The ship sounds a fun place to people watch. Shame Max seems uninclined to do so and is focusing his freak out over the fact that alien animal land has a sky sea instead of a sea sea. The fsct he starts to pick a fight with Rene over his expected norm vs the actual reality in front of him... Despite being warned from Cecils previous descriptions.

Methinks Max is a bit stubborn.

And of course theres sky pirates. I figire either Max is goimg to accidemtly tap some fey power (or mon moves) and chip in out of sheer terror or pelt his vegi chicken mc nugget bod below deck. My moneys on the second option but hey, never know he just seems a bit low in the luck stat all things considered.

Well thanks for the fun read.
 
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Chapter 11: Invitations

Z102eternal

Bug Catcher
Location
United States of America
Pronouns
He/Him
Chapter 11: Invitations



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Art from NOISe (also know as ampthenoise) on Discord

Katsumi closed the distance in the blink of an eye, claws glowing with violet energy. Water circled around Drake’s hands and formed into twin blades. The Quaquaval raised the blades to block her strike.


"That’s enough."


The Sneasler was enveloped in pink light, frozen in her lunging pose. A growl escaped her lips as she dropped to the ground. Standing back up, she crossed her arms and yelled into the sky..


“Tsk! Cutting my fun short! You’re a real pain, featherbrain!”


A brief gust of wind blew through as a familiar white feathered Braviary landed between the two combatants. The massive eagle shot a glare towards Katsumi, causing her to sigh.


“Fine! I’ll call it quits for now.” She waggled a claw. “But my itch to fight ain’t going away anytime soon! Best remember that, Drake!”


Speaking of the captain, he let out a sigh and slumped his shoulders. “Thank you, Signal. I’ll handle it from here.” He raised a hand towards the rowdy Sneasler. “Alright Katsumi, can we talk this over? You’re giving everyone quite the scare.”


“Oh c’mon! You all are getting soft on me!” She teased, sticking her tongue out at a wary Ambipom. That was the only que the monkey needed to back away. “Don’t tell me the so called best crew this side of the western line is this easily spooked!”


That’s easy for you to say! This is too much for me! Maxim inwardly panicked, while slowly inching away from the scene. Surely it would do them a big enough favor, if he could take a breather in the captain’s quarters! Unfortunately, this caught the Sneasler’s attention enough for her to peek in his direction. The sharp look in her eyes was like a predator who’d spotted their prey. A single footstep in his direction sent his heartbeat soaring.


Oh shit!


Her focus then shifted over to Rene, still frozen on the ground. Moving as fast as the wind, Katsumi blitzed over and scooped up the Mienfoo in her arms. His partner attempted to wiggle out of the hug, but her captor had an iron grip. “Oi Oi Oi! W-what the hell?!”.


RENE! My adorable, precious little sister! It’s been too long!” Katsumi purred, squeezing the poor Mienfoo even tighter. The fur around Rene’s cheeks started to turn bright red. “C-can you cut it out already?! This is so damn embarrassing!” She groaned. A few seconds later, The Sneasler compiled.


There was a twitching sensation building in Maxim’s head. Seriously, what was this lady’s problem? “Uh..Rene?” He whispered as he hopped close. “What’s up with her?”


Asking that question turned out to be a big mistake, for she turned around the fury in her eyes was hot enough to melt steel. “An old friend of Drake’s, and my bloody battle tutor, if you can believe that.” She raised a finger in her tormentor’s direction. “It’s good to see you again, sis. But bloody hell, did being on that ship drive you mad?!” Rene groaned.


“Oh, Rene, one day you’ll understand!” She tilted her head over to Drake. “At least your ship’s finally here, so where’s my payment?”


The Quaquaval shrugged his shoulders. “About that.. I won’t be able to pay you until we make it to Aquarius Island, sorry!”


As the Sneasler brandished her claws with a twisted scowl on her face, Drake quickly took out a letter from his coat pocket. “Easy now! Easy! The governor is going to make good on his promise, and plus he has another mission for us that will pay out quite nicely! Just read this letter!” He unfurled the envelope and placed a beige document into her claws. Her eyes widened while looking it over. “Well I’ll be damned! He really wants us to do a guild’s job for this much?!”


She rolled the paper up with her claw tips, then slipped it back in. “Gimme one good reason I shouldn’t leave you behind as soon as I get my reward!”


A smirk crossed Drake’s face. “There’s going to be another crew there helping out, the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. If you show your crew’s skill to be within the Governor’s approval, you’re sure to get your offer approved!”


Katsumi flashed a wide grin as she put a claw on her hip. “Driving a hard bargain, huh? If your word is good enough, I’ll think it over! Let me talk with the few crew members I got and I’ll get back with yah on that.” She pointed over the harbor, where the vessel now gave a full view of its splendor.


Three navy blue masts with thick and mighty sails carried the ship to its docking point. The sky blue deck featured a long, white wavy pattern resembling the crew’s scarves along the side. The figurehead of the ship was all gold, molded into the shape of a seal-like pokemon. Similarly golden highlights were attached to the ship’s stern, all combining to form a majestic package. Painted on the front sail and a huge black flag above center mast was the familiar white symbol of Drake’s crest.


Maxim’s beak dropped open. It’s gorgeous! The Serene Grace might as well be a wooden raft!


Cheers erupted as the crew waved hands, tentacles, or other parts into the air. Drake flashed Maxim a triumphant grin, while even Signal and Rene had a smile. From the docked ship, a small party of pokemon departed from the ramp, taking with them a cart full of cargo.


“HEY, GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
Maxim watched in amazement as the ship’s Tinkaton, Hestia, barreled through the group while dragging a massive wooden hammer on one shoulder. Stopping in front of the ship’s ramp, she raised both of her hands to her mouth.


VULCANNNNN! GET YOUR ARSE DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW AND TELL ME HOW MY BABY’S DOIN’!”


After a few moments of silence, a hatch onboard flew open as the massive form of an Aggron leaped out. In their claws was a small black box with a silver lock. The Tinkaton leaped onboard and took it, hugging the box close to her chest.


“Goodness gracious! Your voice could wake the dead.” A female voice spoke in a deadpan tone from above the ramp. An Espathra wearing a violet scarf and beige bag tiptoed past the scene, shaking her head. Once she was clear of a group of crewmates, she sprinted towards the other vessel. In a single bound, the ostrich leaped onboard the ship, only feet away from Katsumi.


“My apologies. By the time I had realized what she was planning, she had already taken her plunge.” She glared at the Sneasel for a few seconds, who returned the gesture with a wave and a yawn. “Serving as both a deckmaster and navigator has been quite the exhausting experience, not that my captain’s impulses helped.”


Katsumi rubbed the back of her head. “Oh c’mon, Hypatia! You should live a little! There’s more to life than being stuck inside all day reading dusty old books! Every pirate should feel the howling wind against their skin and the rush from hopping into action!”


“And of course, not the point I was trying to make.” The Espathra sighed.


The Rowlet raised his brow at Drake, who rubbed his temple. “Okay, we can save that discussion for later. Now then, there’s a more important matter at hand!” Shaking his head, the captain stepped up to the deck’s center.


“Listen up everyone!” He yelled, pointing a finger to the docked ship. “Our flagship finally made it here with the help of Katsumi’s crew! You know what that means, correct?”


The crowd exploded into cheers. “Alright! Good stuff! I got some news to share, however! The Governor’s recently called for our aid again, this time on Aquarius Island! We’re going to be teaming up with another crew to explore a set of newly discovered underwater ruins.”


Hushed discussion broke out among the crew. Several shook their heads in thought.


“I know it's an out of the blue joint request, but I promise you the Governor is offering a six figure sum and additional rewards upon our completion! “


That got the crowd back into a frenzy, lobbing bottles to empty boxes into the air! Maxim jumped back as a bottle shattered into glass only inches away.


“As for the other crew that’s participating… I don’t know, eheh! Regardless, let’s do our best to show our one of a kind talent! ..Just try not to butt heads with them too badly!”

A wave of approval echoed from the crowd. As Drake began to wrap up, Maxim saw a window to leave. He snuck past a few crewmembers before making it to the ladder. A sigh of relief came out. Now all he had to do was kick back and relax for a moment before whatever else dragged him out.


Thump!


A familiar pale blue furred limb blocked his way. Glancing up, he stared into the crimson eyes of Katsumi, a grin etched on her face.


“Now where are ya off to, little Rowlet?”





Warm sunlight, the relaxing scent of roasted coffee, and a comfortable padded seat would be enough to soothe anyone’s weary soul. And yet, for the Scrafty gripping his hands together with a lump in his throat, peace was the last thing on his mind. Across the table, a Smeargle sat idly by as he scribbled over an unfolded map. Time and time again, he wondered just how his partner could go about his day without a care in the world.

“‘Ey, Bran, it’s about that time you know…”


The Smeargle didn’t bother to lift his head, still writing on his map.


“Oi, Bran, you can hear me right?!”


Still nothing, as expected from the gold-rank mapmaker lost in his own little world.

“Son of a-”


“I can hear you just fine, Joakim.“ The Smeargle yawned. “Try to hold it together before he calls.”


“I’m trying, but just the fact that this whole operation is riding on us and some rowdy pirates is driving me a little nutty here!” He huffed, tapping a digit on the table.


An Illumise hovered over to their table with twin porcelain cups in a tray. The bug-type placed each in front of the pair. “Your refreshment, gentlemen!”


“My thanks, milady.” answered, finally raising his head up to take a sip. Let out a small sigh and reached for his own. Maybe a little tea is what I need..


The Illumise waitress flashed a smile. “Anything else you need?”


“Nothing else, just that we’re expecting a big call soon, if you catch my drift.” Joakim nodded over to a golden, leaf shaped pager sitting at the table’s center. She nodded back and quickly fluttered off.


Sure enough, the device began to glow with a green, pulsating light. The Scrafty gulped before tapping the button. He twiddled around with the golden badge attached to his orange scarf.


“Ah ha! Greetings, Team Pathfinder 1! I assume you made it to Aquarius Island without issue, yes?”


A calm, refined and deep masculine voice slipped out from the device like butter. He swallowed another gulp. This was no time for him to be acting like a rookie!


“Of course, fair Governor! We had a bit of a rainstorm, but nothing we couldn’t handle!”


Their benefactor let out a satisfied grunt. “Perfect! Have you started your preparations for the incoming crews? I know it will be a touch and go affair, but I promise it will not require much input on your part.”


Like hell, he thought. Having two strong pirate crews in the same location? Might as well go ahead and hand over a match for the powder keg! A quick but deep inhale was given before he spoke again.


“In all honesty, Governor, I do respect the opportunity you gave us, but seriously, how can we keep everything in line with only a handful of us? Why not send in another guild to help out instead of these ruffian pirates?”


Amused chuckling crackled over the line. “A joint operation between two guilds would be a delight! Alas, the guilds in West Soluna have been spread thin enough as is. Thus, it is necessary to rely on the aid of our privateers. Do not fear, I know their captains personally. I promise no harm will come to you nor the fair residents of this island. You have my word under the Queen’s Oath.”

Joakim slumped his shoulders. No changing his mind at this point. “Un.. Understood. Is there at least a little bit more aid you can send our way?”


“Hmm, there should be a ship that arrives in a few days with a special package. Use that item to assist with your exploration. For now, gentlemen, that will be all from me. I look forward to hearing about what lurks in Aquarius’s depths. The thought of finding a lost secret of the Six Heroes fills me with glee!”

“Understood, sir! We will take care of final preparations in the meantime!”


“Good. As always, From Dusk till Dawn, May Her Majesty's Will Be Done!


The pager’s light faded as the device went silent. Joakim slumped back into his seat, raising his hands to his face. His partner only shrugged as the Scrafty slot him a glance, pen placed to paper. He reached for his untouched teacup, a soft groan escaping his lips as he realized the tea had gotten cold. Regardless, it would be a small comfort considering the restless day and nights that awaited them all. Their job was only just beginning.


Bran crossed his arms behind his head. “May want to order that waitress back here. Looks like you could go for another spot, eh?”

The Scrafty wished he could crawl back into bed, as little good sleep would do him.


Just my luck…






Clack Clack Clack


A cloudless sky bathed in the warm orange glow of the setting sun, oblivious to the sight of a wrecked deck resulting from ship-to-ship combat. Quite the lovely sight after a long day of work!


Clack Clack Clack


As he combed over the merchant ship’s deck, he saw the scars of battle: claw and hoof marks carved into wood, dust and ash scattered about, and shredded debris cluttering space. Towards his side, numerous pokemon were knocked unconscious and tied up. Most were placed closely together, but larger ones were wrapped with rope around the mast. A part of him almost felt pity for them. Almost.


Like Magikarp in a stream, straight into our net! Lucky for us, unfortunate for you!


He stepped over a fallen Vigoroth, raising his shimmering red cloak over their body. He’d hate to get it torn by accident again. All around him, his fellow crewmates worked on moving goods, cleaning up both ships, or cooling down after the engagement. On everyone’s body, whether from a feathery tail, rocky arm, or glimmering horn, there was the familiar sight of a maroon scarf marked by the pattern of a four pointed star.


The mark of the Lucky Star Pirates.


“Alan! Don’t wander off already! At least help us clean up a bit!”


A young female’s voice shouted from across the deck. A Grovyle covered in a gold and green cape sprinted over to his side, leaves twirling in her wake. The way her face was twisted in a frown convinced him to pause then and there.


“Sorry Katerina, hard to keep myself still. My blood’s still pumping after that heated fight!” He couldn’t control the grin that popped up on his face. Not after the rush he got from blowing away pokemon after pokemon!.


The angry look on her face vanished in a moment as she pointed down. “Hey Alan, y-your tail!”


He snapped out of trance. Sure enough, his scarlet red tail had fully ignited and was dangerously close to the wooden deck. One relaxed breath later reduced it down to a reasonable ember.


“Ah shit, I’m sorry!” The Charmeleon said, rubbing the back of his head with a grin. The last thing the crew needed was a repeat of the Brinn Incident. The crew wouldn’t forgive him if that happened! He scanned around. “Where’s Juste? He should be following you.”


A column of water came rushing down before parting to reveal a Frogadier wearing a hooded blue and gold cape.


“Juste, what are you doing?” Katerina pouted. “I thought Adele told you to help with lookout duty!”


Their friend bowed his head. “Je suis désolé. I got a bit bored and saw you too had met up again. We all haven’t been together since the mission started.”


“I understand, but orders are orders!.” Katerina sighed. “I don’t want to get punished again, so can we take a vow to keep out of trouble for now?” The Grovyle summoned a leaf into her hand and raised it in Alan’s direction. “Especially you! For next time, promise me next time you won’t go crazy and leave me behind again!”


He flashed a toothy grin. Oh that Katerina, always worrying too much! She just needed to live a little more, after all, that’s the reason they formed a team with Juste!


“I promise I’ll let you have a few enemies to yourself, next time!”


“Alannnn!!!”


Juste could only crossed his arms and look away. The Frokadier wasn’t choosing a side this time, it seemed.


“Enough fooling around, you three! If you care to loiter then you’re available to work!” A woman’s voice echoed across the deck as the clack of walking heels grew close.


All three of them froze, for only one woman outside the captain herself had the authority to shut them down. Approaching from the ship’s stern were two pokemon. The first was a Tsareena wearing a fancy blue vest covered in golden trim with a tricolor hat to match. Her hair was exceptionally long, tied with two maroon hair bands and ending below her knees. Crossing her arms, she glared fierce enough to quiet any protest.


But the real star of the show was the mon next to her.


A Lopunny clad in a red vest and boots with gold lineworks walked in front. A red captain’s hat large enough to cover the base of her ears stood out on her head, while a four pointed star icon was below both of her eyes. Her maroon scarf was tied around one ear, complete with a special symbol shaped like her face on both her hat and scarf. As she held a She raised two fingers in a V symbol to her face before flashing a beaming grin.


“It’s fine~! Seeing how well they did, I’ll let it slide this time!” The Lopunny teased in a cheerful, high-pitched voice. “Their hearts tend to be in the right place… err sometimes!”


His flame retracted to a small ember as he rubbed the back of his head. “Greetings, Capitaine! I was just surveying our target’s battle damage. So far everything’s good as gold.”


“Great! But uh, would it kill you to keep yourself in check a little bit? I thought we talked about this before.” She puffed out her cheeks and put her hands on her hip. “Pirate or not, teamwork is what keeps us afloat! Keep an eye out for others, or your flame could get snuffed out in the heat of battle!”


Her first mate chimed in. “Indeed. I had my eye on you in battle today. You did well, but you’re still too reckless!”


“But, Madame! It all worked out in the end, no? A few mistakes maybe, but we were victorious!”


The Tsareena flipped through her hair. “Nearly hitting your crewmates multiple times due to your carelessness is far from a minor issue. Need I say what happened the last time we turned you loose ?”

“A-ah but that was an accident! I just got a bit carried away!”


“Alan.”


“Besides, it’s hard enough trying to keep track of everything when so many are rushing at you!

“Alan!”

“And if we look-


The Tsareena slammed her leg into the wood below, causing it to warp and crack. The glare she gave towards him shook the Charmeleon to his core.


“Enough. I’ll have a meeting with you later. For now, help the rest of the crewmembers clean up. Understood?”


He bowed his head, not daring to test his superior’s patience. “Yes, Madame Adele!”


“OI, WE GOT A LIVELY ONE OVER ‘ER!”


Everyone’s attention focused on the nearby scene of a thrashing Pidgeot bound by ropes. The grey vest on his body had been tattered and seared, while the remains of a shredded hat lay at his talons. Alan felt a tiny sliver of pity at the sight.


The Lopunny whistled as she approached the bound mon. The two locked eyes for a few moments, before she dropped the box at his feet. The Pidgeot gasped in horror as they flicked the box open with their beak.


“You-! What do you think you’re doing to our ship!” The flying type accused in a masculine tone. “We have precious cargo with an officially stamped letter from the country of Diamante! What you're doing violates the cross-sky treaty!”


Jeannette placed her hands on her hip. “Cross-sky treaty eh? That don't count when you got a fake letter pal!” She unfurled the letter, before ripping away the stamped portion. “This stamp’s coloring is way too light to be the real deal! It would have fooled anyone without an untrained eye, but my partner over there is more than qualified to catch your tricks~!”


Adele nodded. “Indeed. As someone who’s handled paperwork for years, your laughable attempt to imitate a royal seal leaves me sorely disappointed! As punishment, I find it fair enough to confiscate those goods of yours!”


“Wait wait wait! Don’t do that! You’ll regret it, you hear? I have good friends in good places that’ll make your head roll, Lopunny!” He squawked, futility wiggling around in his bindings.

“Hmmm, is that so?” Jeanette sneered, kneeling down. Cusping his chin, she waved the box in his face. “Let’s see how that attitude of yours holds up locked in a cell!”


With a clap of her hands, a pair of Machoke surrounded him. The bound captain continued to thrash about as his captors lifted him up.


Heh, so much for him! Alan thought. Should know better than to try running through our turf!


His words would be put to the test only a moment later, for before the Machoke pair could drag him away, the Pidgeot ripped through the ropes with a stray talon. As quick as the wind, the flying-type barreled towards Jeannette and snatched the box out of her hand.

“H-how?!”


Alain grit his teeth as he propelled forward. No need to think about what happens next, only what he had to do.


“Alan, wait!”

“Don’t rush in, my comrade!”

His partners’ words rushed through his ears, but that wouldn’t stop him now! The Charmeleon climbed rope after rope before clawing his way up the wooden mast. Splinters flew as his claws gashed through the wood. Every muscle in his body ached after every rope climb towards the top.


Almost there!


The Pidgeot was almost past the crow’s nest. If he didn’t catch up now, it would be too late. Flames danced around his legs as he considered his best option, one that had the potential to backfire badly. But what was risk without reward?


An ignition below his feet shot him forward like a cannonball past the Pidgeot. The flying type froze as he locked eyes with the determined pirate. That split second hesitation was all Alan needed.


Curling his fist as hard as he could, heat swirled around and coated his limb in flames. A guttural roar bellowed from his lungs as the condensed fire punch slammed full force into the Pidgeot’s cheek.


ch%2011%20clash-min.png



“Back down you go!”


The Pidgeot let out a high pitched screech as the impact sent him careening back down to the deck. Wood gave way and cracked into splinters as the force of the impact jolted the deck. When the dust settled, the Pideot was lying a twitching, singed heap right before Jeanette. Adel locked eyes with his captain with a jagged grin on his face. I hope you feel proud of me, Captain!


His joy soon gave way to horror as gravity took hold. The hotblood warrior was one evolution too short to try landing on his own. Right before he slammed face first into the deck, a shroud of vines caught him. Alan gasped and looked over to find Katerina with her hands pressed towards the ground. With a flick of her claws, the vines dropped him down gently, causing him to give a sigh of relief.


“Thanks Kat-”


Her fist slammed into his arm, making him wince.


“You’re so unbelievable! What were you thinking!?”


Yeah I deserve that, at least. Rubbing his arm, he moved over to Jeanette. The Lopunny picked up the box and sighed.


“I should have made that idiot swallow a sleep seed down his gullet! Stupid, stupid me!”


“Well at least I knocked him down for good! ”


She didn’t turn around, but waggled a finger. “Yes you did, you crazy ashtray! I’ll give you thanks for that! But next time…” She tilted her head far back enough to give a wink. “You might not be that lucky! So that’s why we’re gonna have to di-sci-pline you later, got it?”


The Charmeleon inwardly groaned. If I have to do another round of Adele’s “sessions”, it's gonna be a miserable week.


Forcing a grin, he raised a thumb to his chest. “Sure thing la capitaine, I can handle anything that comes my way!”


Ch%2011%20trio-min.png


“That’s what you said last time.” Katerina sighed.


“He’s in over his head again. Ohhh no.” Juste groaned.


Alan remained unflinching. Regardless of feelings, he would blow through any obstacle in his path. If he had to grit his teeth and bare it, then so be it!


Just you two wait, one day we will be the greatest pirates the world has ever seen!


A shadow flashed overhead, taking him out of his thoughts. Whatever pokemon it was, they blitzed past so fast he never got to see them before the blur dived back into the clouds. Something light tapped him on the forehead.


“What the hell?”


Sitting at his feet was a beige letter sealed with a golden, three leaf symbol. Brown fingers snatched up the letter before he could move.

“I’ll be taking that~! I’ve been waiting for this!” Jeanette grinned. She read its contents closely with Adele by her side. The two locked eyes right before the Lopunny jumped for joy.


Alright! We finally got a big mission on our hands, everyone!” She raised her finger into the air, producing a coin that shimmered in the orange skyline. “Let’s wrap up here, drop off our bounty and get ready to set sail for Aquarius Island!”


The blue clothed Tsareena returned her beaming smile with a slight nod. Twirling around, Jeanette tossed the letter into the air.


“Now let’s get ready to show everyone why we’re the stars of the show!”
 

Negrek

Play the Rain
Staff
All right, back again, this time to give you some proper feedback on your story! I had fun reading it for Smeargle Swap, so it's only appropriate I give you a bit more of a response.

First of all, it's got to be said that "sky pirates PMD" is a real banger premise! You've got a very different world going on here than I've seen in other PMD fics, and I'm excited to see where you take it. There's the wonderful opportunity for tension here, where the group Maxim's landed with seem benevolent--at least, they aren't out to immediately mistreat him--but they are after all pirates (errr, "privateers"), and may not have his best interests at heart. The scene at the end of Chapter 3 where Drake's communicating with an unknown party about Maxim gives me the sense that his intentions might not be entirely above-board, which injects some fun dramatic irony into the situation. And, while Drake's crew are tasked with apprehending other pirates, and thus "bad guys," specifically, I wonder whether being a part of the group might eventually have Maxim run up against some situations where he's not entirely comfortable with what the captain's asking him to do.

Whether or not you go that direction with the story, though, I think this is a really fun setting for a PMD fic, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it! It sounds like there's plenty of intrigue afoot, and I'm sure Maxim's going to have a tough journey ahead of him, even if the whole crew does turn out to have his back in the end. It'll be fun to see how the skyship setting changes the usual dynamic of an adventure in the pokémon world, too--usually characters are pretty mobile and can come and go as they please, but when you're way up in the sky, you're pretty much going where your ship is going; it gives the main character a little less agency, and it'll be fun to see how that ends up playing out.

There are pros and cons to starting a fic with a big battle scene like you have here. I think it makes a good opportunity to introduce a lot of characters in a small span of time, as you can give them a quick introduction through the way they behave on the battlefield. This works really well for Drake here, for example--he definitely makes an entrance, and establishes himself pretty much immediately as a flamboyant goofball and a highly competent fighter. However, it can be difficult to establish stakes this early in the story, when the readers know little about the characters and their situation, and that can make it hard to generate investment and interest in a fight. I think you did a good job of handling what was a chaotic scene with a lot of moving parts--shifting area of focus, having a number of turnabouts and back and forth between the two factions--but a battle that was a little over a chapter long felt like a bit much at the start of the story for me. I'm glad that things seem to have calmed down, at least for the moment, and we'll have a bit of time to learn more about the characters and the world, which is what I'm most interested in at this point.

We haven't had a ton of time with most of the characters up to now, but they're all distinct and lively, which is going to be important if we're flying around with them for much of the fic. My favorite at this point is definitely Drake; I do have a weakness for bombastic characters who have more going on than their attitude suggests. Maxim is fairly low-key, and amnesia always makes things tricky, since it often removes a lot of a character's motivation, but he has a lot of room to grow. I enjoy his humble and earnest reaction to being asked to sweep the deck and having to learn to fly on the spot. I think he'll be fun to stick with as the story progresses.

I can see you've been having trouble with the forum inserting extra blank lines between your paragraphs. You might be able to fix that by putting a [noparse][/noparse] tag at the start of your chapters and then [noparse][/noparse] at the end of them.

Anyway, this is an interesting mix of very standard PMD tropes (amnesia, world-saving quest, adjusting to a new body) and some very different takes on the genre, and I look forward to seeing where you take it. I had fun with the opening chapters and am hoping for more to come! And, not related to the fic itself, it's always fun when someone's able to illustrate their story. I've been enjoying the images and the extra flavor they add to the fic. It's clear this one is a labor of love for you, and I think you're off to a good start!
 

Ambyssin

Gotta go back. Back to the past.
Location
Residency hell
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. silvally-dragon
  2. necrozma-ultra
  3. milotic
  4. zoroark-soda
  5. dreepy
  6. mewtwo-ambyssin
Blitzy New Year!
Disclaimer: My blitz reviews are stream of consciousness styled rambles. Let me know if you have any questions.

Despite the listing of your influences the summary reads more like the child of Pirates of the Caribbean and Skies of Arcadia dressed in a PMD onesie.

Off the bat, before any individual chapter comments, I do have to strongly recommend you alter the manner in which you're posting these. Because the giant spaces you have in both the AO3 and TR versions make them a right pain in the ass to read despite the nice art. I actually chose to read this on FFN because all the empty space was that obnoxious for me. As someone also posting to all three sites, the best way I go about avoiding this problem is:
-Put your draft into the FFN document editor first and save it.
-Copy the chapter from the FFN document editor over to TR's rich text editor. This will preserve all formatting and not add gigantic spaces. The only things you would need to fix are any lines of text that are centered or underlined.
-You can then add in whatever images you want using the image tool in the post box.
-Post the chapter on TR.
-Highlight and copy the contents of the post itself from TR and put those into AO3's rich text editor. Again, you will have to re-center, re-underline, and re-upload images into the document. But you will not end up with these gigantic spaces in between your lines.

1: This is just the final boss theme of Mega Man Zero 4.
-I've seen my fair share of takes on the PMD opening. Having the big menacing voice — I'm calling them Olmec because they say something similar to "The choices are yours and yours alone" to this guy — tell the human they've been chosen for a specific purpose isn't entirely new.
-We interrupt this original PMD fic to bring you the opening to Gates to Infinity, apparently.
-One of my personal pet peeves with PMD fics: if Maxim already knows what pokémon look like, then I really don't see the need to bring the flow of the piece to a halt to describe their appearance. You could make note of certain differences and accessories while Kirlia is in the process of healing Maxim, for example.
-Maxim remembers Olmec, eh? Duly noted. Guess they'll come face to face eventually.
-So, from a mechanics standpoint, things look good overall considering you said you don't have much writing experience under your belt. However, I'm noticing some of the classic staples of early writing. Dialogue, for example, is being formatted incorrectly, particularly in regards to speech verbs and dialogue tags. I checked your latest chapter real quick to confirm and, unfortunately, it doesn't appear this is something that's been corrected. It's not exactly an easy thing to explain in a review. I'm going to link you to this thread and suggest you scroll down to "dialogue and punctuation."
-On top of that, I notice things like constant attempts at using unconventional speaking verbs, as opposed to just "said" or "thought." I get it, you want to avoid coming off as repetitive. I did the exact same thing too with my first fic. Unfortunately, it usually has the opposite effect where it reads as much clunkier. "Questioned," for example, reads a lot more awkwardly than "asked."
-Similarly, overuse of epithets. Again, I get not wanting to be repetitive, but a character's name and their pokémon species should suffice. Using other things like "the weasel" or "the former human," comes off as clunkier to me. And, if anything, using real-world animals as epithets makes it harder for me to remember who's what species. Meinfoo aren't the only pokémon based off weasels in the franchise, for example. This is a magnified issue given that this opening part is introducing an entire crew to us, in addition to our main character, in addition to throwing pirates into the mix.
-I'm also personally of the opinion that thoughts-as-dialogue should not have quotation marks with them. It makes it come off like Maxim is addressing someone telepathically or something.
-Is the Serene Grace a togekiss-themed ship, perchance? :V

2: Por qué no los dos?
-Yeah, no, Rene's definitely got at least a concussion. No more fire in her eyes.
-Aaaaand we're already into early violence. Given this is only chapter two, these are either one-off baddies or the recurring joke antagonist group. That's usually how these things tend to go.
-I don't really know what to make of all the initial violence. Since, like, it's throwing a bunch of characters at me and I don't feel like I've much time to get a read on them yet. Rene's feisty and headstrong and Drake seems to be rather cavalier. That's about all I got. I suppose framing it from the perspective of Maxim being a total load who's just trying to hide and "spectate" makes it a bit unique. It's also relatively short by the standards of some PMD fic fights.
-A sister driven by emotions? That sounds like Mesprit to me. And knowledge is Uxie, who is probably the original voice that talked to Maxim. So, uh, lake pixies and stuff. Azelf's vibing somewhere with its thousand-yard stare.

3
-Y'know, if they're in a ship that's flying through the sky, wouldn't it be exhausting to be a flier on board that ship? If Maxim's trying to sweep, he'd have to fly both to lift up the broom and to constantly keep up with the ship. I mean the ship might just be stopped in place right now, but it's a logistical thought I had going forward.
-I guess Cecil's a big Rayquayquay fan? No other emerald dragons of reverence spring to mind, at least.
-This one serves to spend, uh, a bit more time introducing us to the members of the crew. There's a lot of them introduced in quick succession and I can't help but wonder if it'd have been better off spaced out a bit to give the intros time to breathe and whatnot. Though I'm pretty sure I've done similar things in the past. It's not too bad. I just don't have much to say about it.

4
-Still getting introduced to even more crew members, huh. I'm guessing the chefs don't have that big a role to play here and are just background characters.
-Ah, yes, it appears the simulation— I mean fic is breaking. Knew I should've installed that antivirus.
-Oh god they have Wigglytuff Guild-style announcements.
-I reiterate that I'm still not a fan of attempting to describe the pokémon species in question when our POV character knows it already. Even if that knowledge was given to him (by Azelf, presumably), it's a bit clunky for my taste.
-Lmao Rene didn't roll high enough on her persuasion check to barter. Task failed successfully.
-There are still traditional guilds on top of the pirates. Got it.


Overall, mostly Saturday morning cartoon vibes so far. Which brings another island hopping fic to mind. Chapters are brisker, which are a plus to me so far. Maxim's more of a reactionary type character at the moment. The mysteries are happening around him. Some stuff he reacts to, others not so much. Time will tell if he can grow from that or not.
 
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