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Pokémon Shattered Crests Book 1: Lines Broken


Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
150 I think I can do 150, let's see. (end word count was 900)

For review tag round... whatever I guess..

a/n: also I tried to use quotes and the whole text I was writing kept... quoting itself... like the whole review, so I wound up changing fonts to show your writing versus mine. Sorry, not too sure what I did wrong but as I'm on a time crunch I couldn't find a fix..

Your drapion has a loose definition of friendlies, though the terminology makes me think this is a war setting or one with tight resources since the "us versus them" mentality taken to this degree usually is the staple of those settings.

Wonder how he got his message out. Showing that could have elaborated a bit on how the world worked, and given a great springboard to distinguish him from the "friendlies" and elaborate on their relationship before the claw around his neck is put in place and leaves the reader wondering how rational the unnamed protagonist is.

Now I did look up a Drapion as at first glance all we have is tail and neck... And seriously having him retained more creatively, (getting squished so his multi legs were left sprawled, them kicked out with vine ropes hidden by the foilage, ect) well there's ways to have him built up a bit in the attack even if it's a bit one-sided and the scuffle not going in his favor.

Points for his attacker for being large though.

And a bit more articulate considering the dialogue differences between attacker and attacked. Wondering if Dra's got a bit of foilage in his mouth or pebbles or if it's his normal talking pattern.

Or a split lip... exoskeleton around the mandible... how would that work?

So how would Dra'(I'm sticking with this as a nickname until we get a name here I'll switch when it shows up) know the attacker was a she? smell, sound, lucky guess?

Ohh a wild name appeared. Nasch, made me think of Neitz for a moment, don't know why.

So heavy, strong, and hot, no wonder the Dra' got squashed flat.

Since we got the Charizard description and then Dra's actions as two very different ideas why not break them down into two different paragraphs. The narrative rules are a little looser rule wise and it and the break help reinforce "hey I'm doing two different things here". instead of making the reader pick them out of one continual line.

If you want the specifics of how and why this works I'd suggest talking to someone on the writing help forums.

The mon got up and looked at her. His former attacker was a female Charizard. Strong built, but still slim and tender in appearance. Her eyes were blue and quite calm, and on her shoulder was a Norfarion crest.

He began rubbing the back of his head and blushed a little. "I-it's fine miss."

Ah another name, and one straight from Norse mythology, does she have a Persian sidekick, please please tell me there's a Persian sidekick that would fit so well... not that I'm biased or anything.

Bit of a grammar goof here, wrong "to" used here.

who just stared it for way too long before accepting it, albeit shivering.

Autocorrect happens so no worries.

Alright so imagining a char's build and Dra's it almost sounds like she's holding hands with him and I just got off a pixar kick so I'm imagining a walle/eve sort of handhold and trying not to laugh a bit here, not the mood I think you wanted to set but perhaps if you wanted it to seem less... of that vibe she could be holding him somewhere else. Even on his armored wrists. Again, I'm waking in with some skewed perspectives so a grain of salt for that advice.

Now a real flying type would be offering a flight, I'm just saying, why walk when you can carry but to each their own....

Laughs, it's mom sense, and that's all the kids going to take away from that rather lengthy explanation. Though how the bush wasn't smoking is a point in yon orange's favor.

Charming family dynamic here, we got mobster as we have a balance between kill or be killed, hush the chatty catty, and family-first vibes. The outsider bug types going to be in for a ride I can tell.

Hmm, so we're meeting a water type family playing/survival training interesting.

Now how do they get those moves? just wondering as they have different moves from their conversations so there's a process right? Oh boy and I just imagined partners pairing up to get kids with specific egg moves and... would that be like the olden ways of breeding certain bloodlines for "purity" and yeah will stop that's a bit off the path there.

nice use of "arm" instead of sleeve since so far as we can see clothes are a human concept.

Nice use of descriptors for the Feraligator dad for the story it's probably the best build-up of traits thus far. And you turned it to reinforce the description of the sibs a nice touch.

So the kids have an... alliance sense as a natural gift that's going to be useful if this turns militant but get dodgy if it turns morally grey...

The ending got a little murky, part of it was a deluge of characters thrown about as well as the situation legitimately got murky.

So my closing thoughts were what happened to the Dra' who was being escorted? The lack of him arriving and Freya being there alone makes it ambiguous as to when the kids playing is happening. Is it in the present, or is Dra's pick-up in the future, or was Dra' conveniently "lost" at some point and the family-focused segment a means to draw away from a possible weak link begin disposed of? THe last seems far-fetched as Freya seemed legitimately sincere in building bridges with the poison bug, but still, it's murky enough for me to not be sure.

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
  6. heliolisk-fobbie
Heya, sorry for being so late to give this thing a bump, especially with that offsite Review Tag in limbo for like a month. It's been a bit of a crazy time for me to do reviews lately. Though in the interest of getting things unstuck, I'll be jamming out a quick review of Shattered Crests, picking up in:

Chapter 4

“Come on, one of yah’ll win already.” Ciecro said, letting out an intentionally loud yawn.

[ ]

“Hush.” Jaron glanced at Ciero, hissing, “I’m trying to think.”

“Can’t yah tink fasteh?” Ciecro grumbled, rolling on his back. Despite how bored of the game he was, the ceiling was just as dull, so he tilted his head upwards till he could see their faces upside-down. As he watched Jaron grab a red piece, Ciecro let out another big, careless yawn.

“Ciecro!” Jaron snapped. “Shut up!”

A minor tweak I'd suggest there. I'd also recommend taking a paragraph to set the scene for where Jaron and Cicero are at the moment, since it was admittedly a little hard to tell what was going on at first.

While Jaron’s upside glare was funny to look at, Ciecro didn’t appreciate the outburst and was about to fire back till Seliph beat him to it. “Ciecro, please try and be quiet.”

Yeah, this would be another reason to slow down and describe things more earlier on, since I had no idea Seliph was present until this point, since he's not acknowledged at all in the dialogue or current description.

Crossing his arms and sulking, Ciecro watched the two resume their lame game. Slowly, his eyelids started to droop as Jaron kept silent, planning his move. He watched Jaron finally pick up one of the wooden, black pieces on his side and jumping one of Seliph’s pieces. “Your turn,” Jaron said, a bit nervous about his move as Seliph browsed the board.

Jaron: "... Not sure why I'm playin' this when you always win at it, but..." ^^;

Since it was Seliph’s turn, Ciecro stopped trying to hold back his yawn. Jaron gave him an annoyed look, while Seliph more or less wasn’t bothered, focusing on what to do. The Frogadier grabbed a piece, taking one last look before jumping three of Jaron’s pieces and setting his piece at the end. “King me, please.”

Yeah, figured. Though I wonder if there's ever going to be a time later on where Jaron will properly best Seliph in checkers at some point.

Jaron’s mouth hung open in complete disbelief. “Wh-…bu-…how? Uh…”

Normally, Ciecro would giggle at Jaron’s mind exploding in front of him, but he couldn’t help himself to one more yawn, thus becoming the target of Jaron’s anger exploding.

“Damnit Ciecro, can’t you hold your stupid yawning‽”



“Bu’ I’m tired an’ watchin’ yah’ll play dat is borin’.” The Charmander yawned again, rolling on his back and closing his eyes as if he was asleep.

“Then how about you go to bed, you stupid baby!” Jaron shouted, starting to stand on his feet before Seliph pressed a hand on the angry Totodile’s shoulder, laughing at his brother’s fuming.

“You’ll get me next time.”

Narrator: "He absolutely won't get him next time."

“You’ll get me next time.”

Jaron crossed his arms and sulked.

Seliph started putting the pieces away. After a few seconds of neither sibling doing anything, he looked up at Jaron, saying, “Come on, don’t be like that. It just takes some practice.”

I mean, this is why ranked matchmaking exists in competitive games. It's literally a statistical thing in video games that people who lose a certain ratio of their first 5 or so matches tend to check out and write off the game thinking that they won't have any hope of getting good enough to compete.

Jaron rolled his eyes. “I doubt I’d beat you.” He knelt down to help pick up the pieces, as Ciecro continued not helping. “I bet I’d sooner beat Uncle Tethe than you.” Jaron paused for a second, staring at a piece before looking his brother in the eye. “Why do you think Uncle Tethe came here?”

Seliph shrugged. “He probably has his reasons.”

Jaron: "Well obviously, Seliph. But how about you stop bein' such a smart-ass and give some thoughts about what some of dose reasons would be, huh?" >_>;

“Grown-up reasons.” Ciecro sat up and spun around to look at the board.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, Ciecro. Tetheron visiting before Uncle Swift and Uncle Garon’s turn seems uncanny.” Seliph resumed putting the pieces away.

“Plus mom was pissed at seein’ ‘im,” Ciecro added, standing up. Crossing his arms and staring at the board, He just stewed in thought before mumbling absent-mindedly, “I can’t wait till I’mma grown-up.”

Jaron: "Are ya two seriously okay with jus' stayin' in tha dark like this?!" >_>;
Seliph: "Yup. Next question." >:|
Cicero: "I... dunno about dat one, Seliph..."

“Huh? What did you say?” Seliph looked at Ciecro, tilting his head slightly.

“Grown-ups getta know an’ do all dah tings us kids aren’t supposed tah do.” Ciecro brushed his foot on the ground like he was kicking something light. “I wish I was a grown-up, den maybe dad would lemme do tings instead of babyin’ me.

I'm pretty sure that the story is building up to Cicero getting his wish in the worst way imaginable within the span of like a couple chapters, so... ^^;

“Well, I wouldn’t say he’s babying you,” Seliph said with a smile, flipping one of his red pieces like a coin. “Plus, we are still in training.”

Ciecro scowled in return. He looked at the piece in his brother’s hand, tensing up a little as he focused on it. “…Sure” The Charmander turned around and walked out of the room, leaving the other two bewildered at his tone and exit.

Easy fo’ him to say, Ciecro grumbled in his mind as he shut the door behind him. He walked up and pressed his head against the wall, staring the floor with a frustrated gaze. After a few minutes of internal complaining, he heard Gathor’s voice coming from past the door.

“Kids! Come ‘ere!”

You probably want to take a sentence or two to emphasize that Cicero's pissed or something there, since admittedly, I didn't get a solid visualization on what was off about Cicero's mood just from him leaving until the next paragraph and putting a couple things together.

“Coming, dad!” Seliph’s voice answered as Ciecro walked over to the door. The Charmander placed his hands on the door, listening for the two to leave. Once he was certain the two had gone, he slowly opened the door, his heart beating faster and his breathing getting heavier.

He squeezed himself through the crack and softly shut the door behind him. The flame on his tail flickered vibrantly as it shook parallel to his hands. After taking a deep breath and calming down, Ciecro let go of the knob and tiptoed over to their beds. He got on all fours and reached into the straw on Seliph’s bed, feeling around inside.

[ ]

Come on, where is it? I know he put somethin’ ‘ere. His frustration grew at his lack of success till he felt something hard. In a moment of excitement, Ciecro wrenched his hand out of the straw and gazed upon his findings.

Oh right, Seliph's book. IMO, you probably want to slow down and show things from his perspective about Seliph's mysterious doodad and how he knows about it (e.x. did he see Seliph messing with it, did Seliph mention it in passing, etc.)

His eyes shot open as he felt something hard. He pulled his hand away out of instinct. Taking one last look at the door, Ciecro reached in and after a short count in his head, removed the object from its hiding place. [ ]

Huh? Why does he have a key?” Bewildered, Ciecro peered closer. It was rather plain looking, though it had some distinctive markings unlike the others. Going full sleuth, Ciecro browsed over it, hoping for some kind of clue.

... Wait, how does Cicero know what a full key is? Since there wasn't any real hint that he would know that in the past.

Also, you probably want to remind the audience what that key looks like. I'm assuming it's the book that Freya gave Seliph, but it's admittedly a bit vague at the moment.


Ciecro about jumped out of his scales as he threw the key up in the air. Quickly he dove and managed to catch it before it hit the ground.

“Ciecro! Where are yah‽” Gathor’s voice boomed from behind the door.

Now would be a good time to stuff that back into Seliph's bed and hurry off to your parents, just saying.

The nervous Charmander pressed the key tightly to his chest and answered. “C-comin’ dad!”

“Well hurry up. We have tings tah tawlk abou’ an’ don’ have all night!”

inb4 they all get the talk regarding the key that Freya gave to Seliph.

As the sound of Gathor’s footsteps stopped after another door slam, Ciecro plopped down relieved. However, not wanting to make them wait longer, he quickly crawled back to the beds. Ciecro took one last long look at it, memorizing the décor and design of the rather boring key, before placing it back and standing up.

He rushed towards the door, grasping the knob with his hands but suddenly paused. His eyes lowered as he looked to the side. Maybe…maybe I should- He looked back at the beds, debating in his mind. After a few minutes, he shook his head and with a determined scowl on his face, he faced the door and twisted the knob.

IMO, this thought process is something that you might not want to cut off but display in full, since I was admittedly double-taking at what Cicero was wavering about.

Silently, he went down the short hallway to where the light from the front room touched the dark corridor. He paused just behind the open door, taking a second to breathe before stepping around it and into the light. His parents had moved the chairs to one end of the room, sitting in them as if they were judges while his two brothers waited on their respective stools, moved from the eating room.

Without a word, Ciecro made his way to the last empty stool. He could feel the chills from everyone looking at him as the thoughts on his discovery lingered in his mind. Cicero shoved all the tension as far into his head as he could as he climbed up, he reminded himself no one saw him and tried to get comfortable.

Something about the last sentence feels weird in its present state. I went off on a bit of a limb to suggest a potential rework, but there's multiple ways of slicing that apple.

Seeing he was seated properly, Gathor gave a confirming nod to Freya, who proceeded to clear her throat. The three kids in front looked at her as Freya began. “Your father and I have been talking and we’ve decided a few changes are in order.”


Oh, so they are getting the same talk that Seliph got. Things... must be looking pretty bad for the family.

Ciecro leaned in closer as did the other two.

“Firstly, training exercises will be on the mountain. Secondly, we’re adjusting the boundary rule to the end of the front yard.

Which is a terrible omen for how things are going, since if you have to reel your kids in to the point where they can't leave the property for their own safety, they've likely already been spotted in the woods by those cultist guys.

“That much‽” Jaron blurted out, quickly closing his snout shut after a disapproving look from his father. The little Totodile curled a little in his seat. Both Seliph and Ciecro stewed on this news, till Jaron unclamped his snout and asked a follow-up question, although more respectful this time. “Did we do something wrong?”

“No, this isn’t punishment,” Freya replied with a calming smile.

Seliph: "Mom, this would frankly be more calming if we knew it was because of punishment-" ._.
Freya: "Seliph, hush." >_>;

Jaron let out a breath of ease relief, Seliph tilted his head, while Ciecro looked at their mother and asked, “Den why?” All eyes focused on him once more as he repeated, “Why are yah sayin’ we can’t play in dah forest pas’ dah fron’ yawrd?”

“It’s just a temporary measure, Ciecro. The town is busier this time of year so we are trying to avoid trouble.” She looked at each one of them as she asked a more general question. “Remember why we made the boundary rule in the first place?”

Cicero: "No, since it was never explained in the story before and this is the first mention of any 'boundary rule' at all?"

Freya: "Let's... fix that then." -_-;

Jaron was the first to raise his hand. After a confirming nod from Freya, Jaron answered, while scratching the side of his head a little fuzzy on the details. “Was it when we accidentally scared that ugly lady near town?”

Ciecro shriveled in his seat as did Seliph. Yeh, she was ugly. Ciecro agreed in his mind, trying to wipe the newly popped up memory from his mind. Suddenly, he heard a snort. Looking up, he noticed Tetheron repositioning himself in the chair while doing his best to suppress his giggling his with claw. His dad apparently found it amusing too, keeping his eyes shut but a big grin on his face.

“Jaron, a Jynx isn’t ugly…just different,” Freya scolded mildly, rubbing the back of her face with a tired expression. Her eyes scowled immensely as the room was filled by Tetheron’s uncontrolled laughter.

Tetheron: "Nah. They're just ugly, sis. No need to beat around the bush-"

Freya: "Tetheron, I swear to gods. Take things seriously right now!"

Ciecro smiled at his Uncle’s reaction, laughing to himself but not daring to join out loud.

“Sorry mom,” he heard Jaron say, but upon looking at his little brother, Ciecro noticed Jaron was trying his best not to laugh too. Seliph also had a hand pressed firmly against a shaky face, trying to avoid making noise either.

Ciecro took a breath and waited for the laughter to die down and Freya to begin again.

Freya: "Anyhow, now that the males of the household have started acting mature again... where was I?"

“In any case,” Freya resumed with a bit more firmness in her tone. “We’re halfway through Xern so traders will be coming to ply their wares in town. We don’t want to have another incident like that.”

Xern is an in-setting month? And I presume that it's named after 'Xerneas'? If so, it might make sense to give more context hints that it's a month through something like "the month of Xern" or "traders will be coming to ply their wares in town at this time of month" or something like that.

Ciecro’s smile faded. He looked at the other two, who nodded in obedience.

“Ciecro?” he heard his mother say. His eyes were fixated on the floor as his grip on the stool tightened. He could feel his heart beat a little faster, as he looked his mother dead in the eyes confidently and asked. “Bu’ why now?”

Freya raised a brow. “I thought I explain-”

“Bu’ why dis year?” Ciecro pressed further, his eyes narrowing a little as his yearning for an ‘adult’ answer grew with every second passing.

“Ciecro, don’ interrupt yah mother,” Gathor rebuked.

Gathor, you do know that the older your kids get, the more unruly and "hormonal teen" they're going to get, right?

This really feels like a moment where you should just shoot straight with the kids even if it's scary, since the alternative is them doing something stupid like trying to sneak out of the yard out of boredom since they don't understand the stakes at hand.

The Charmander shut his mouth but kept gazing at Freya, who was rather confused at Ciecro’s constant gazing at her. She broke her gaze from him, probably trying to think of what to say.

However, Tetheron leaned in closer to his nephew. “Yeah, trust me pal, this year isn’t a good one to have you all out.”

Ciecro tilted his head, confused.

Cicero: "Dad, are you and ma gonna explain why that's the case, or...?"

Seeing all eyes were on him, Tetheron shrugged as he elaborated. “Well, I mean, I’ve been in town and I’ve seen some weirdos there right now.” He patted his chest in affirmation. “Like, tons of them around, so that’s the main reason why it’s this year, right Freya?”

Tetheron had a confident smile on his face as he looked at the leering Freya. Gathor also looked at Tetheron with a disapproving look.

Ciecro looked at his Uncle with a leer of his own, more or less since his parents were.

“Are they more Jynx?” Jaron innocently asked.

Tetheron: "Gods, I hope not. But I was referring to-"
Freya: "Tetheron. Stop. Talking."

Freya sighed deeply before answering, “No Jaron…not ‘more Jynx’.” As she answered, she growled at her brother a little.

Ciecro focused on the scene of his mother eyeing Tehtheron like a head to bite. Slowly, his eyes drifted to his Uncle, currently trying to do damage control and suddenly. “Den who?” Ciecro asked.

“Tradesmon,” Freya quickly replied, glancing at him for a second. “And Xern is their major trading month so we’re going to respect their space, right Tetheron?”

Jaron: "But don't tradesmon come around every year? You didn't keep us penned up in the front yard at around this time last year-!"

Freya: "Jaron, things are different this year, okay?"

“Aheh, right, yeah of course.” Tetheron answered his laughter clearly showing remorse for his earlier attempts to help.

Ciecro’s eyes lowered as his fists tightened. A scowl formed on his face as he imagined the key from before in his hand. No. He quickly raised his head. “We scared dat ugly hag three years ago.” Hopping off the stool, Ciecro stared his mother directly in the eyes. He felt warm inside, powerful even as he defended. “We’re betteh abou’ dat stuff now.”


I mean, from the way they've been portrayed in the past 3 chapters, I wouldn't buy Jaron and Cicero being above pranking townsfolk, just saying.

“Ciecro, mind what you say,” Freya scolded him, but he wasn’t gonna stop now. He just kept staring right back at her scowl with the best scowl he could pull. At least, till Gathor’s voice grabbed his attention.

“Ciecro, Yah mother told yah already. Now sit down.”

Ciecro’s gaze fell, but he clenched his fists. “But…but da-”


He looked at her and instantly regretted what he saw. Freya was out of her seat, staring down at him with her snout slightly raised. Her eyes were as calm like white and orange glass. “Just a few days ago you were spying on the guest I was going to see, correct?

Cicero: "Ma, I was literally respecting the boundary rule back then!" >///<
Freya: "Not in spirit, you weren't."

Ciecro froze as his eyes widened. All his momentum felt gone as his head fell slowly. His nerves tingled all over as he felt his mother’s stare still digging into his head.

“Correct?” Freya asked again.

Reluctantly, he shook his head.

“Then clearly you haven’t gotten better about it.”

Oh, maybe he did break the boundary rule to spy on that messenger. It's a bit hard to tell, really.

Tetheron: "(Just saying, sis. You probably would've been better off just pretending you were grounding them or something like that.)" -v-;
Freya: "(After letting them off the hook for two days? It'd just raise more questions, Tetheron!)" >_<;

The words felt like a Brick Break on his Protect. His eyes widened as they stared at the floor. Desperately, he looked up to her and said, “What? But yah didn’ have a problem wit it den.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Do you speak for how I feel?”

Unclasping his fists, Ciecro just looked at his mother, frozen.

Pretty sure that this insistence on trying not to scare the kids is going to wind up coming back to bite everyone in the ass, since even from just what's there, you can tell that Freya's heavily pantsing things and trying to herd Cicero into accepting being cooped up and just shutting up for a while.

“I was busy with our guest, so disciplining you slipped my mind. But I don’t want my son getting into any more trouble because of his curiosity and recklessness. Dragging this out further won’t change my answer. Now sit down before you earn a punishment, Ciecro Valm Almkin.

Filing that one away for a name. So this is the 'Almkin' family, huh? Or else do names work differently than in reality in this setting?

The use of his full name felt like a deathblow. His head lowered as his shoulders moved slightly inwards. He closed his eyes as he felt the eyes of everyone on him, the silence just adding to the torment. Slowly, he turned around and walked to his stool and climbed up on it, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone.

Once he was back in place, he just kept his eyes shut, curling himself inwards a little as he just wished the meeting was over.

“Any other questions?” Freya asked.

Cicero: "Didn't ya just insinuate we'd be punished if we asked more-?" >_>;
Freya: "Any other questions?"

The following silence felt like an eternity for Ciecro. Part of him wanted to ask, to get his answer, but he couldn’t do it.

“Get some sleep. We have an early day tomorrow. Dismissed.”

... in retrospect, I kinda wonder if there ought to have been more acknowledgement about Jaron and Seliph there. Like if they're getting weirded out by the direction Freya's going with Cicero or something, since they kinda just faded to the background for a while even though they're all sitting at the table and seeing all of this.

Ciecro waited till he heard the two walk past, not opening his eyes for a second. Whatever they were thinking or expressing, he didn’t want to know, same for the three adults. He just got off his stool and walked out, shutting the door.

He stood there in the darkness of the hallway, lost in his defeated thoughts as he watched the other two go down the hallway towards the back of the house to get ready. Nothing felt good and in the end, his best wasn’t enough. His fists clenched as his anger started to pick up, burning up from the shame he felt. [ ]

Slowly, he looked back at the door, a small scowl forming as his body started trembling again. Trying to be as quiet as he could, Ciecro crept back to the door, pausing with every step to suppress his nervous shivering.

I feel like we're missing some transition here for transitioning from "Cicero is salty from Freya brushing him off" to "Cicero enters sneaky mode and gets butterflies in his stomach". It would also be a good opportunity for showing off what's going on in his mind and what he's up to (I mean, it probably has to do with the key, but you might as well explicitly state that).

Once at the door, he pressed the side of his head against its rough, wooden surface and the metal plating of the keyhole. The fire on his tail picked up slightly as his shivering died as he focused on listening.

“What were you thinking” The angry voice of his mother uttered from the other side.

“I’m sorry, I thought he’d go for it,” Tetheron defended before Ciecro heard the sound of a whack followed by Tetheron grumbling.

Sure is a good thing the adults didn't think of doing a sanity check to make sure the kids were in bed given how desperately they were trying to avoid shooting straight about the cultists, huh?

“Next time, keep your stupid beak shut and let me handle my own son, damnit.” Freya grumbled, then sighed as she added, “Now they’ll be wondering who is coming to town. Arceus, ugh…”

Technically, that's just Cicero since Seliph and Jaron have fallen off the stage as far as we know at the moment, but she's not wrong there.

Ciecro’s eyes narrowed, tensing up at the following silence. He relaxed a little once Gathor spoke up, “Don’ worry, Freya. I’ll make sure dey focus on dey’re trainin’ tomorrow.”

“It’s not that…Gathor I hope I wasn’t too hard on Ciecro. I know he’s just curious and he didn’t do anything wrong, but…”

“I know, I know,” Gathor’s comforted in a gentle tone.

Pressing closer, Ciecro mouthed, “But what?” His previous skittishness replaced by the anxiousness of getting what he desired.

Are you sure you want to know the answer to that, Cicero? Since usually there's a terrible track record for kids in stories trying to find out about secrets adults are keeping from them.

“I’ll be sure tah check on ‘im.”

“What about Jaron and Seliph?” Tetheron asked, causing Ciecro to grumble at the conversation shift.

“Seliph already knows and Jaron will obe-”

Ciecro wrenched his head away before she finished, staring at the keyhole shocked. ‘Seliph already knows?’ Ciecro’s eyes lowered as his gaze drifted to the light coming from under the door. Dat key…Did mom give ‘im dat?…

[A scowl started to form as Ciecro rubbed his arm.] Why Seliph? He sniffled. It’s not fair. The poor Charmander rubbed his snout with his arm, till suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder.

You probably want to play up more of a vibe of Cicero feeling hurt or betrayed before he starts to tear up, since he read more "pissed" to me, so it felt a bit weird to see him starting to cry from it.

Also "poor" feels like something that ought to be shown in description rather than stated by the narrator. Like make the reader pity Cicero after his mind goes to some less okay places or something like that.


The Charmander let out a scared, “Dya‽” as he spun around, almost punching Jaron in the face.

Jaron backed up, raising his arms to protect his face as Ciecro’s startled expression shifted to a stressful angry leer. “Jaron,” he angrily whispered.

... Their parents heard Cicero scream, didn't they? Otherwise, if Cicero's cry was supposed to still be quiet, you probably want to explicitly emphasize that, since at first I thought that he screamed decently loud there.

“I’m sorry bro, you didn’t come so I came to see-” Before Jaron had the chance to finish, Ciecro clamped his jaw and looked at the door. After a few seconds for the shock to die off, Jaron pulled at Ciecro’s grip on his snout, trying to tell him to stop amid the forced clamp.

“Quiet, do you want to get us into trouble?” Ciecro chastised in a whisper. The rebuking worked and Jaron stopped trying to pull Ciecro’s hands off.

Jaron: "... Cicero, you can take tha hands off, you know. I don't feel like gettin' into trouble either here!" >_<;
Cicero: "Jaron, just shaddup fer a minute!"

However, both their eyes shot open as the sound of footsteps came. Shit! Ciecro screamed in his mind. Seizing Jaron before the poor Totodile had a chance to think and quickly pilling him to the wall, Ciecro remained absolutely still.

“Kids?” their mother said from the other side of the door.

Never mind then, guess Cicero did make a racket earlier.

Ciecro held tightly onto Jaron’s snout, pulling the Totodile as much into the corner made by the door as possible.

Despite the discomfort, Jaron didn’t struggle, equally worried about getting caught. After looking down the corridor, Freya sighed and mumbled something as she shut the door.

I'm legit surprised that that worked. Though I guess that Freya just didn't have much of an appetite to punish her kids that night anyways, since that was quite the failed spot check there.

Ciecro sighed in relief as he let go of Jaron, who gave him an angry look.

“Did you have to hold it so hard?” Jaron angrily whispered, rubbing his poor snout. “I’m not five, Ciecro; I can be quiet without your help. So stop clamping me shut. I don’t like…it?” Jaron’s hands lowered from his precious snout as he noticed Ciecro pressed against the door, trying to listen in. Raising a brow, Jaron walked next to Ciecro and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Hush,” Ciecro commanded, pressing his head harder against the door. After a few minutes, the light underneath the door went out, followed by the sound of a door being shut. “No, no, damnit dey moved.” The Charmander broke from the wall, stomping his foot on the ground.

Jaron: "Cicero, could you get any louder right now?" >_>;
Cicero: "Jaron. Shut. Up."

Once he had settled, Ciecro just looked at the ground, only look up once Jaron walked in front.

“What’s wrong?” Jaron leaned in closer. “Why were you listening on mom and dad?”

Ciecro scowled at Jaron. Crossing his arms, Ciecro snubbed him, refusing to answer.

What's that supposed to mean?” Jaron tilted his head at Ciecro’s rather mean reaction. Growling a little, Jaron pointed at his brother and said “Mom and dad said we shouldn’t listen on them. So why were you listening? What did you hear?”

IMO, you probably want to have Jaron have more of a direct response than a straight "Huh?" there. Just feels a bit disconnected from what Cicero's doing to him.

“I didn’ get tah hear nothin’.” Ciecro replied, attempting to shut the conversation down. “Now let’s go tah bed.” Ciecro was about to head down the hall till Jaron stepped in front.

“You did too hear something. You almost got us both in trouble for it. So I think I should get to know what they said too.”

“I said, I heard nothin’.” Ciecro repeated, growling a little.

Jaron: "Cicero, I might not be that bright, but seriously. How dumb do ya think I am?"

Jaron wasn’t backing down, however. “That’s not true. Stop being unfai-”

“Jus’ shut up!” Ciecro snapped. Keeping a firm gaze, Ciecro watched Jaron’s former defiance shrivel back into surprise and then timid remorse. [ ] After a few sniffles, Jaron held the top of his snout, saying, “I’m sorry. You don’t need to tell me.”

Ciecro paused, his eyes dropping a little as Jaron rubbed his snout. After taking a glance at the door, Ciecro sighed and turned towards Jaron. “Sorry…”

This feels like another part where you could've used an extra sentence or two to transition more into Jaron's mood crashing and him starting to cry there.

There was an awkward silence, before Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder, making him jitter or a second. “Let’s jus’ get ready fo’ bed, okay?”

Jaron just slowly nodded, quickly turning around and heading to their room.

Ciecro just watched in silence, his fists clenching. Once Jaron was gone, he put his head against the wall and just let out a gruff exhale. Aggressively, he pushed off the wall before walking towards their room. He kicked the wall hard, but not enough to hurt himself before exiting the hallway and shutting the door behind him harshly.

Those two aren't going to be sleeping a wink that night, are they?

Alright, onto final thoughts:

It's a transitional chapter, though I think that it did a pretty good job at building up on that general atmosphere of foreboding that's been growing since the start of this story. Like everything that we encountered this chapter just screams "something really bad's gonna happen really soon", and I gather that the main point of this chapter was to build that up and show off characters not named 'Seliph' a bit more. I wasn't expecting Cicero to have gotten wise to Seliph's key, since he didn't seem to be the clued-in type. While I thought it could've been built up a bit better in earlier chapters, it was a nice reminder that Seliph lives in a family, and that few things truly stay secret when you're under a shared roof with them.

As for things that I didn't like... I kinda wonder if there should've been more pointing at things to come in this story, since the entire chapter was basically "kids get summoned by parents, get a really evasive 'you need to stick around home for a while', get shot down when trying to pry deeper, and get wind that something is wrong before going to bed". It just felt like it was missing that "X-factor" that made things feel complete, even if it was something as simple as the adults laying out what the real stakes are while the kids are asleep or something like that.

For whatever reason, I didn't feel there was as much underdescription this chapter. Maybe because it was one that was a bit light on action. I did feel that there were a number of bits that felt under-transitioned or else could've used more of an insight into how the wheels were turning in the characters' heads. If you go back to revise this chapter at some point, it might be something worth keeping in mind. I did feel like there were some bits that were more "told" than "shown". It wasn't enough to take me out of things, but it might be worth a once over to see if some of those things that are said can be shown through described events or stimuli or the like.

But altogether, I think it was a nice chapter, @Vray . If definitely a lot more bite-sized than I'd been accustomed to from past reviews. Hope the feedback helped you, and you can look forward to some version of this going live as a formal review within about 24 hours.
Chapter 18: Sessions in Specious


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 18
Sessions in Specious​

The air felt quaint on Ciecro’s scales as he took slow, steady breaths. His eyes were closed and his arms angled in front of his body, claws closed. He thrust them forwards as he opened his eyes and snarled upon the feeling of synergy flowing all from his body into his claws. An orb of fire appeared in front of his claws, expanding as it fired a beam towards a large rock, resting on the other end of the hill.

The flames collided with the rock like violent waves on the base of a cliff. With a heavy exhale, Ciecro shifts his right leg back and spun his body, keeping his left arm focused on firing the flames on the large rock as he swung his right on the opposite side, making a straight line with his arms. He snarled as he felt the strain of a second Flamethrower fly from his right, colliding with another boulder.

Muscles tensing and breathing slowing, Ciecro endured the strain on his arms that burned like he was pushing two pillars away from him. Once he felt he was ready, he raised his head and open his maw, feeling the energy inside his body convert into flames in the back of his throat. With a roar in his mind, he unleashed the third Flamethrower.

A second later it crashed into a third boulder on the hill, only this time there was another noise aside from the crackling of flames.


Ciecro’s eyes went wide with surprise and horror. He dropped his arms and ceased firing his moves as he looked forwards, managing to spot some blue ball tumbling down the hill making a bunch of painful grunts.

Oh shit! His body burst to life, forgetting its fatigue from the endurance work out, and hurried down the hill after the poor victim of surprise and gravity. Eventually, the figure stopped at the bowl base of the hills nearby and Ciecro was a mere few seconds behind, the whining in his muscles catching up with him as he stopped right next to the poor guy.

“Sorry abou’ dat, sir. Are yah a’ight?” Ciecro asked with a hasty panic in his tone as he looked for an arm or something to grab on to help the living ball of blue up.

“I’m alright, Ciecro. Just didn’t expect you to fire at me, heh.”

The Charmeleon tilted his head and then the voice clicked. “Oh, commissioner.” He tensed up, his arms frozen at his side, completely void of their earlier desire to help as the Seismitoad got back to his feet.

“I guess it was pretty obvious that stone I was standing in front was for your training. Guess I’m getting slower, heh.” The Commissioner’s hearty chuckle eased Ciecro’s tension, pretty much like a bellowing lullaby.

Ciecro rubbed his head, but instead of a laugh, he looked at the side with a frown. “Sorry fo’ almos’ burnin’ yah. I shoulda been mo’e-”

“Oh no, no, no. The fault was mine” The Commissioner patted Ciecro on the shoulder giving a smile that backed up his statement. The Seismitoad started rubbing his bald head. “It doesn’t feel too bad. Us Seismitoad’s have a good, squashy buffer after all. And your old Humphrey happens to be part of a long line of bulky defen-…?” Suddenly, his rubbing turned into patting. “What the?”

“Sir?” Ciecro raised a brow as the Commissioner started glancing around.

“Oh! There it is.” He reached down for a worn but durable, cabby hat that exuberated a woody green that matched his town ranger band. A sigh followed as he started dusting it off on his arm. The amphibian glanced at Ciecro’s slightly lowered head and smiled as he put his hat back where it belonged. “Again, not your fault Ciecro. Though, not gonna lie, you seemed to handle yourself pretty well under all that move strain.”

Ciecro’s eyes snapped up to his elder’s.

“Those were pretty big rocks after all. You carried those from that one lake shelter spot, right? The one you and your friends hang out at sometimes?

Ciecro crossed his arms and looked to the side. “Y-yeh.” The Charmelon fought against wanting to smile, though he couldn’t help relaxing his posture at the compliment.

“Wow, and then you went into just three move endurance training? Heh, really makes me miss my youth. How long were you planning to keep those flames going?”

“Uhh…” Ciecro paused, debating on if he really should say the time, but eventually gave in to his conscious. “Fifteen minutes.”

Humphrey whistled, looking back up at the rocks. “Damn, keep training like that and you’ll be blowing flames the size of buildings no problem at all.”

“It’s not dat impressive.”

“Not impressive? Now, come on, don’t be so modest. The fact you’re fit enough to aim for fifteen minutes of three flamethrowers at a good throttle from three parts of your body? Why a kid your age being told to do something like that would think it torture.”

The Charmeleon’s body tensed at the thought. It wasn’t that he wasn’t flattered by the compliment, but power like that shouldn’t be for someone so young. He wasn’t ready for that kind of power after all. But then again, that’s one of the reasons he chose to be a ranger. His mulling was interrupted by once more being the subject of a question.

“Are you alright? You seem tense.”

Ciecro glanced back at him for a second. The smile on Humphrey’s face had shifted to a neutral if not curious gaze.

“I’m okay. I should geh back’ta trainin’. Sorry again, Commissioner.”

“Hang on a second.”

Ciecro paused, his claws tightened. Dread filled his soul as he closed his eyes and waited for Humphry to say what he was guessing the Seismitoad would say.

“You shouldn’t push yourself too hard, boy. Is…this all for that test you have in a week?”

The Charmeleon’s eyes opened to a scowl. “Yeh.” Ciecro turned around, shoving his frustration away to display a determined, but respectful returning gaze. “I ju’ wanna make sure I’m ready fo’ it.”

Humphry looked back up the hill. “You know. Jaron told me you were up early training today. His indication seemed to imply this has been a pattern for you recently.”

Great… Ciecro wanted to get annoyed by this, but it was just something he could see Jaron doing.

“He’s worried about you. Look, Ciecro, I know the aptitude test is important, but you have been training awfully hard for it I imagine. You sure you need to keep on going so hard for it?”

“Of course,” Ciecro answered. “An’ I geh he’s worried an’ all, bu’ dis test is impohtent. I wanna pass it.”

Humphry rubbed his chin, giving Ciecro a skeptical gaze that confused the younger mon. “What does section B7 of the Ranger’s manual all about?”

“Uh…” Ciecro’s moved his eyes up, thinking for a second. “Referin’ tah General transpoht regulations. Heavily focused on outta town an’ mahketable goods.”

Humphry crossed his arms. “Good. What about what to do when coming across someone in peril?”

“Repoht it tah HQ if yah can. Go assis’ withou’ riskin’ yah or dah other mon. Handle dah situation as best yah can based on dah emergency rangeh guidelines fo’ dah specific scenario.”

Humphry leaned in closer, shifting his fists to his side and smirking at Ciecro. “What event was what caused the reformation of Section F11 of the rangers manual?”

Ciecro scowled, stepping forwards once and moving his head just below Humphry’s. “A gang boss, named Yukon Ezmo dah Fourth, utilized in-town storage units tah steal wares from merchants undeh dah guise of weatheh damage. So now such goods are kept in a rangeh guahded storage location.

Humphry pulled back, giving a hearty laugh. “Wow, it took you no time at all to get those. Geez, if that’s your quiz part, I shudder to see what the sparring you could do.”

A flush of red filled Ciecro’s cheeks, albeit very hard to see red. His head moved to the side with a scowl. “Doesn’ mean somethin’ won’ happen durin’ dah exam.”

“True, but give yourself some credit, Ciecro. You’ve worked really hard. You can afford to give yourself some slack amid this. After all, even you shouldn’t overwork yourself.”

“I’m no-…” A heavy sigh followed as Ciecro rubbed his arm. “I’ll be okay. I know yah an’ Jaron are worried, bu’ I jus’ wanna be sure.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell Humphry wasn’t pleased by the answer, a frown forming on the Seismitoad’s face.

I jus’…if I study an’ prepare up until dah test, I should be fine. Like…I can’t fail it, so I’ll do wha’ I need tah. His eyes narrowed and he felt his right fist tighten. I’m sorry, sir. Bu’ I can’t slack on dis. It’s too impohtant tah jus’ half-ass it.


The Charmeleon looked up. “Yeh?”

Humphrey turned towards the direction of town, his smile returning on his face as he looked back. “Since it’s nearing lunchtime, how about we head into town and get a bite to eat.”

Ciecro’s stomach growled at the offer, making him awkwardly try and fail to suppress a smirk. Humphry laughed, prompting Ciecro to give in to his elder’s request. “Heh, guess it wouldn’ hurt.” He turned around and proceeded up the hill to get his bag. The smirk on his face vanished as an uncertain scowl formed. I hope he ain’ plannin’ on doin’ it now.

Once the bag was thrown over his shoulder, he took a second to gaze at the view in front. Dough…if we are doin’ it today. I hope she isn’ as obsehvent today.

< O >

Ciecro felt his stomach growl as he stood in front of a wooden building, dwarfed by its neighbors. It bore the impression of an abandoned structure, repurposed into a small time homely feel. What it lacked in decorations or exterior colors was made up by a local legacy. After all, not everyone could make such a rundown-looking dump a popular visit from everyone in the time Dolly had.

He could almost taste some food in his mouth, but as ready as his stomach was, the boy hesitated. It wasn’t hard to guess the other reason why Humphry was bringing him here and it bothered him like a group of gossipers at a nearby table clearing talking about you.

Ciecro about jumped at Humphry patting him on the shoulder. Thankfully, the Seismitoad was too engrossed in staring at the door with a glutton look in his eyes. “Dang, whatever is in there smells good. Come on, boy, let’s go.”

Humphry went on ahead, leaving Ciecro to his thoughts. The boy’s head fell, scowling as he shook his head. Jus’ forgeh it. Mustering himself from distracting thoughts, the Charmeleon walked up to the door, slightly open from Humphry’s lack of shutting it properly.

The door creaked open as Ciecro stepped inside, the color of the interior slowly becoming more detailed as his eyes adjusted to the dimmer emura lighting. He slung his bag over his shoulder as he walked forwards, spotting Humphry already at a bar on the far end, his eyes focused on Humphry and a Kangaskhan cleaning a cup with a white rag.

“Ah, morning Ciecro.” The Kangaskhan said with a smile that almost warmed the atmosphere of the room.

“Guess we picked a good time to visit, huh?” Humphry said with a grin, sprawling over his bar like he was in his own home.

“Yep, Mister Hummel.” Dolly set the cleaned glass on the counter and locked a glance with the Seismitoad.

Her comment prompted Ciecro to stop and browse the room. Sure enough, there wasn’t another soul in there. “Business slow?” he inquired, weaving around the last few tables that separated him from the other two at the bar.

“Nah, it’s usually slow after breakfast and before lunch. Plus, with market season going on, who’d want to spend their lunch eating the same old food?” Dolly chuckled in such a way that made Ciecro unsure of who she was jabbing at herself or her customers.

“Not sure why dey wouldn’.”

“Why thank you Ciecro. What a nice thing to say.”

Instantly, he grumbled and looked at the side, regretting his comment. He set his bag down and scooted a stool over and sat down, lowering his eyes at the bar as Dolly spoke again.

“Someone’s grumpy today.”

Ciecro didn’t reply.

“Yeah, I interrupted his training so I decided to get him an apology lunch.”

Grumbling at Humphry blurting it out, the Charmeleon sighed and leaned on his arms resting on the bar.

“I see. Well, aren’t you the gentlemon. So what’ll I get you two?”

“Two sweet stirs, if you don’t mind.” Humphry glanced at Ciecro, who lazily grunted his approval.

The Kangaskhan nodded and turned around to take a pitcher from the counter. She then poured its golden liquid into a silver flask as she slightly turned her head, saying, “I’m surprised you two are up so early. I get training, but why are you up Mr. Humphry?”

Humphry scratched his chin as he answered, “Not by choice. The missus had things for me to get from market. She’s in one of those, fickle moods.”

Turning her head enough to look him in the eyes, Dolly asked, “She wanting to redecorate the room again?”

Humphry shook his head as a heavy sigh followed. “Worse, the house. Sometimes that female makes me want to dive into a puddle and stay there.”

Chuckling as she started scooping some powder in with the liquid, Dolly said, “True, but it would be she’s toadally worth the hassle, no?”

Ciecro smirked a little at the pun, but it went away as he heard a less than silent grumble from Humphry. The Seismitoad dragged his hand down his face with a look that implied he’d rather hear his wife’s nagging over Dolly’s stupid puns.

“What?” Dolly said, playfully sounding offended. “It’s funny.” She put a lid on the silver cup and began shaking it as Humphry sighed.

“Maybe to sadists like you, but for everyone else it hurts.”

“You wound me, good sir.” Dolly leaned back, smirking at the commissioner and saying. Her mischievous eyes met his flustered and confused ones. She then raised the cup high and then swung it down, making the liquid slosh inside. “And you shake me to my core.”

Humphry face-planted on the bar. “Just make the drink.”

Dolly laughed. “Now you’re just overreacting.”

Humphry lifted his head. “Look, would it kill you to not overdo it? I didn’t come here for a lame wordplay dressed up as a comedy.”

The Kangaskhan gasped with a big smile on her face. “Why Mister Hummel. What has gotten into you today? You’re normally much sweeter than this.”

Ciecro watched the two go back and forth, his mind drifting away from their verbal sparring. While the looming test was still at the forefront, he couldn’t deny that despite his earlier protests, he was glad to be here. The area here just gave a sense of relaxation, just like he was lying in a Misty or Grassy Terrain in a sea of clouds.

He rested his chin on his arms as he shifted his eyes in front, staring at the rows of spice containers and pipes that ran to the room in the back. His eyes lowered. I guess I could use a break. A little grin formed. As long as it’s ‘ere. Jus’ hangin’ out wit dah commissioner, Dolly, and Jaz….wai’… Ciecro sat up, causing the two to stop wherever in their argument they were to look at Ciecro startled. The Charmeleon looked at Dolly asking, “Where’s Jaz?”

“Jasmine?” Oh, I sent her to go get some things for me from market.” Dolly shrugged her shoulders. “No telling when she’ll get back.”

Ciecro sighed.

“Though knowing her it shouldn’t take her too, too long,” Dolly smirked Humphry’s way. “Then again, she has been doing her ranger training so no telling how that rubs off on her errand running abilities time-wise.”

Humphry scowled slightly and crossed his arms. “Hmph, are you saying I’m teaching her to run errands slow because I don’t have anything to show for now?”

“Maybe,” she said with a smart aleck smile.

“Well in case you haven’t noticed, ma’am, I’m on duty.” He gestured to the armband on his upper arm.

“Oh? Why do they have you working on a weekend?”

The smile returned on the Seismitoad as he puffed out his chest and pushed his fists to his sides. “Simple. Because as commissioner of the rangers of Perion Town. I am duty bound to keep this town safe from natural disaster to walking disaster.”

Dolly giggled at that last line. “Quite admirable, sir. But if anyone Khan do it, it’s you.”

The smile went away. “Need you try and pull a fast one on me?”

“I have to keep up the practice.”

“But that’s your third one.”

“I could do a fourth, but.” She suddenly raised her hand high and brought it slamming down onto the bar, causing both males to flinch. She took the lid off and slid two glasses in front, pouring a honey-colored liquid into both until they were filled to the brim. Gently scooting the glasses to them, she crossed her arms and with a warm, eye-shut smile said, “Dig in, boys.”

Ciecro took his into his claw and stared at the liquid inside for a second. He jolted as a second loud smack on the bar stole his attention. He noticed Humphry taking his hand away from the empty glass. Already? He looked up at the Seismitoad, who was licking his non-existent lips with his tongue.

“You could at least savor it for a second,” Dolly chided as Humphry raised a finger with a confident grin.

“It’s how I eat, Ma’am.”

Dolly pushed a hand on her waist and raised a skeptical brow. “Remind me again why it’s your wife that drives you crazy.”

“Now, now, I mean it. Us Seismitoad’s have some of the best taste buds out there. Why they may as well be lining down my throat for how long the taste lingers even from a simple swig.”

“Really now.” She leaned her cheek on her propped-up fist, not exactly impressed by the fact nor it being an excuse. “Well can you tell me what your super taste buds say about the drink?”

“That it’s nothing but delicious,” he answered with an affirming nod. “I’d like another if there’s still some left in that mixer. But only enough for half a glass. Lunch is on the horizon.”

“Sure thing!” Dolly said with a chipper tone and wink. She reached for the mixer and tipped it over till the golden goodness had filled the glass up halfway.

Ciecro finally looked back down at his untouched drink. His stomach begged him to partake and he complied, raising the glass to his mouth and opening his maw wide for it to flow right in. His eyes shut as he felt his taste buds spring to life with the pleasing sensation of a sweet caramel flavor running down his throat.

He set the cup down with a pleased smile, licking his chops as he hummed a, “Mmmmmmm.”

“Guess we have another satisfied judge. Glad to know I haven’t lost my touch.”

Ciecro nodded. “Like yah eveh could.”

“You flatter me.” Dolly leaned on the counter, looking at the two. “Well, is there anything else, boys, or is that all?”

“Actually, there is something else.”

Ciecro growled in his mind as he sprawled on the bar, dipping his snout into his arms. ‘Ere we go.

“I was wondering if we could go ahead and do Ciecro’s session for the day.”

Dolly looked at Ciecro. “Uh, alright. You up for it, Ciecro?”

The Charmeleon wanted to just answer ‘No’, but he knew that it’d just go down the hole of ‘why’ so he just sat back up and sighed. “A’ight.”

“Good. Though.” Dolly tilted her head. “Are you feeling alright today?”


“You don’t look fine to me.”

Her words felt patronizing to the boy. The Charmeleon, looked at the side, avoiding her knowing gaze as if it was a blinding light.

“Are you sure we should do it now?” He heard her ask.

“May as well. No one is here and no telling if we’ll all be in this one place later today.”

“Fair point.”

“Are yah sure we can’t do it lateh?” Ciecro asked, though deep down he knew that Humphry was probably right. “I’ve got trainin’ tah do an’ I’d rahter do somethin’ productive.”

“Are you saying this isn’t productive?” Dolly leaned in closer, a more serious look appearing on her face.

“I’m sayin’ I’m not in dah mood tah feel wohse an’ make it hahdeh on myself fo’ today.”

Dolly shut her eyes. “Ciecro, I know it’s…demeaning in a way to have these, but it’s important you be honest with us about your struggles.”

His eyes shut, wishing the sound would vanish along with the color. “I jus’ have things tah do an’ really not in dah mood fo’ it.”


The authority in Humphry’s tone sent a chill through Ciecro’s spine as he scowled firmly.

“I don’t have to remind you that you got off lucky.” The stool squeaked as the Seismitoad shifted on it. “I also sympathize with you, but you know these sessions aren’t here to make you feel bad about yourself, they’re here because we genuinely want to help prevent you from doing something you’d regret.”

Ciecro swallowed, his insides quivering as if he’d eaten something bitter. His eyes lightly opened, staring off to the far end, the colors all folding into a blurry image in front as a melancholy mood took hold of his heart. They were right. They’ve always been right and he just didn’t like to hear it. It was his own fault he even had to have these sessions in the first place.

With that in mind, he sat up, took a deep breath, stared down at the bar with a frown, and said, “I jus’ wan’ dat day tah come already.”

“What day?”

“Dah Rangeh Aptitude test. It’s on Uxiday.”

Dolly cupped her hand under her chin. “Today’s Lunday so counting today….five days away?”

Ciecro answered with a lazy nod. Despite the big day being a little under a week, it always felt like it was just in a few hours and an eternity away at the same time. It was a dreadful feeling that made him just want to burst into the ranger station and demand he take the test now.

“Yeah, pre-test jitters are awful. I remember those very well, heh. But I passed.” Humphry brushed his nose with all the confidence of a young master test taker. He then patted Ciecro on the back. “And this boy here is far more prepared and smarter than I was.”

Ciecro leered at him.


“Jus’ don’…” Ciecro plopped his head on his arms. Right now, he wanted to be busy doing what he needed to pass, not sitting here hearing ‘words’ as nice as they all sounded. Needing flattery was for the weak, at least he felt weak when hearing it. A soft sigh came from his maw as he continued. “I know I should pass…I will pass. It’s jus’…” His claws tightened as he concluded his thought with, I have to pass.

“Just what?”

Ciecro looked up as his gaze met Dolly’s concerned one. He felt a shiver in his throat, as he saw ruby eyes and an orange face. The hardness yet tender when needed feeling came up in the back of his mind as he looked at his mother’s face, only for his mind to finally get back on track and shift to Dolly’s brown face and brown eyes.

His heart didn’t slow down its beating. Stop it! A mixture of anger and embarrassment filled his soul as he got off the stool.

“Ciecro?” Dolly stiffened as the Charmeleon got his bag, trying to shove down all the rampaging thoughts and feelings in his head.

“I’m sorry. I jus’ can’t today.” He looked towards her but avoided looking at her face in case it happened again. “Can we jus’…do it anohter time?”

Looking at Humphry he was about to ask him too until he froze up. For a split second, he saw Gathor’s face too. His mind rushed back to that time before, to how he felt learning under the commissioner. Shutting his eyes, he fought his body’s urge to shiver as he waited for their answer. “Please…”

It felt like an eternity for him till Humphry said, “Alright. I understand.”

The boy let out the air in his lungs as he opened his eyes, scared the faces would be wrong again. “Thanks…fo’ dah drinks.” He copped a smile, albeit a clearly struggling smile as he turned around and headed out with the fastest walk he could muster.

“Wait, Ciecro, two more things.”

Ciecro stopped, turning around slightly as the Seismitoad got up from his stool.

“Jaron wanted to see you. He’s probably somewhere in the market.” The Seismitoad then grabbed his hat and tipped it a little. “And secondly. I know you’ll do fine.” A smile followed from Humphry that set Ciecro’s mind to unease due to what he saw earlier. He gave a hasty nod and made his way out.

As he stepped outside, he darted to the right and headed into the ally. He dropped the bag and just sank down to his knees, pressing his forehead against the wall and just breathed. His claws tightened into fists that pressed firmly against the wall. Jus’ stop it…stop! He wanted to smack the wall hard but controlled himself. I…I know dey want me tah pass. Dey know I will pass. I…I shoulda jus’ stayed. Well, guess I’ll go see wha’ Jaron wants. Shaking his head, he stood up and grabbed his bag. Pulling it over his shoulder, Ciecro started heading down the ally, his mind adrift.

What could he even say? That those two reminded him of his dead parents? That he wanted them to be proud of their son from Arceus’s place of peace away from this world? That he knew both sets of adults didn’t approve his actions before and he understood he needed to grow?

Nothing. Words never meant anything more than just what they were. His actions were needed then his actions were needed now. He understood they were worried and appreciated that, but…he also understood it was his own actions and lack of self-control that made them so worried in the first place. I jus’ need tah get pas’ dat test. Den I can take a rest.

He stopped as he saw a bit of light ahead and the sound of many voices all chattering about things. Main street, huh. Shrugging, he decided to head on it, looking around at all the stands with their bright colors contrasting the dirt at their feet and the buildings that surrounded the display. He turned left and started walking around as he looked on. Very busy dis season. His claws tightened. It’s been almost eight years. I remembeh we used tah keep askin’ tah see dah mahket’s in town an’ how dey’d tell us we couldn’. Dough…being able tah go intah town. Seeing dah mahket…it’s not as flashy as I always tought it was…I wish I could share dis wit’ dem. It feels so, pointless without someone else yah love ‘ere. Why would anyone wanna wade in dis shit alone? Mons get crazy dis season. Glad Jaron’s dah one dat handles dese tings. I doubt I’ll find’im soon in dis mess-

His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice coming from one of the stalls. He turned and squinted at the spot, noticing a Croconaw talking with a Butterfree while a Fraxure watched the whole display. So, he actually got outta bed, dah dweeb. Ciecro smirked as he noticed the crest on the mon’s right shoulder, walking over as the conversation Jaron was having become easier to make out among the bustling crowd and other haggling going on.

“What do you mean you’re out‽ How can you be out? It’s not even noon yet.” Jaron stated, shaking in a way that some folks would say was, ‘on the verge of hopping mad’.

A Butterfree, wearing a market cloak that draped over her little blue hands, flapped her wings flustered. “I’m sorry, but I got a very good rush for that product earlier. I should have some more stock in a week…maybe”

Jaron facepalmed, grumbling something unsavory under his breath.

“It’s fine, Jaron.” The Fraxure next to him comforted the Croconaw. “I’m sure we can find some somewhere else.”

“Ugh, but she liked that smell the most out of all the soaps they dish out here. Why the hell does that lake dweller have to enjoy such a specific selection of scented soaps like-…” Jaron looked at a sign and read aloud, “‘Siphonia Mountain Daffodils.’ Where the hell even is this mountain?”


“How do you know that?”

Vragon gave him a ‘really’ look and sure enough, Jaron rescinded.

“Alright, fair point.”

Ciecro got a little chuckle out of the scene as he walked over. “Hey dweebs.”

The two looked at him, their frustrated looks shifting to wide-eyed smiles.

“Ciecro!” Jaron exclaimed, hugging Ciecro like he forgot they were in a crowded street.

The Charmeleon, on the other hand, didn’t forget and promptly moved him back, rolling his eyes as he grumbled, “Geez, Jaron. Wha’ are yah, five?”

“You’ve been gone all day, you jerk.” Jaron huffed, crossing his arms and raising his snout from Ciecro. “I think me hugging you is to be expected. Plus, I’m having to do all the errands today because you weren’t home.”

Ciecro shrugged and adjusted his arm so it held the back over his shoulder. “Did yah get’er gift ready?”

Jaron’s grouchy face shifted to his signature grin. “Yep. We should get it in a few days.”

The Charmeleon nodded, eyes now turning to Vragon. “Why are yah ‘ere? Decided tah stop early?”

“Yeah.” Vragon sighed. “Just lost the motivation to keep going thanks to somebody.” He leered at Jaron, who smirked at him. “So I decided to help him get the errands done.”

“Wha’s left?”

“Nothing. They don’t have the soap she wanted.” Jaron shook his head. “Damn, I knew I should have gone here earlier.”

“Well, if we had, we would have missed out on those candles she likes.”

“True.” Jaron uncrossed his arms and looked back at his backpack. He shifted it up a little as he grumbled, “why is market season such a bitch?”

“I don’t know. But since we’re done, I guess we should head back.”

Ciecro turned and started walking off. “Well den have fun I guess. See y’all at dinneh.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Jaron asked, prompting Ciecro to stop and look back at his brother.

“Tah go get some lunch an’ den continue trainin’.”

“Uhmm…can I ask you for something?”


Jaron fiddled with his backpack straps, as his head lowered. “I could use some help working on my Technical Machine Administrator. I’m getting really close to finishing the core part and I’d like to get it done before Aunt Dresha’s birthday.”

Ciecro did a half-grumble half-sigh as he stared at the sky, saying. “If yah need someone tah hold dah thing, why not jus’ ask Vray tah do it?”

“Ciecro…” Jaron replied, annoyance in his tone.

Looking down at Jaron as if he was being challenged, Ciecro said in a firmer tone. “I’ve got trainin’ fo’ dah test tah do. I can’t spare time workin’ on yah projects.”

“Then can we come train with you? I want to help you be ready.” Jaron asked, a smart aleck grin forming on his face.

The Charmeleon didn’t budge in face nor posture. “Don’cha hafta drop dah stuff yah bough’ off?”

“But…well.” Jaron’s claws tightened on the straps as his head lowered, thinking about how to answer that. “We can just all go eat lunch, then drop off the items, then go and do training. How’s that?”

Ciecro’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Look, I’m not in dah mood fo’ walkin’ a lot mo’e den I need tah an’ dis trainin’ is fo’-”

“Come on, Ciecro, please.” Jaron scowled at him. “You’re always training and get home too tired to do stuff. I know your test is important, but I can help you get ready for it today. Just for today.”

“Now Jaron-” Ciecro paused mid-sentence as he saw Jaron stiffen up, the scowl growing a little weaker as the clear desire to spend some time showing through the subtle yearning in his eyes. The Charmeleon thought back to when Jaron was still a Totodile.

He really does still have dat baby face. He chuckled in his head as a small smirk formed. I guess it wouldn’ hurt. Looks like he needs it. Ciecro nodded. “Okay, yah can train wit’ me.”

Jaron’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Thanks bro.”

“Guess I could use some help preparin’. Getting’ borin’ trainin’ by myself.”

Training as in sparring right?” Jaron inquired, Ciecro answering with a nod.

“Obviously, Jaron,” Vragon butted in with a smug grin. “You expect Ciecro to be studying in the fields with books?”

“Shut up, Vray.”

Smirking, Ciecro twisted his head to look down at Vragon. “Obviously, Vragon. Yah expect tah help me get sparrin’ practice wit’ dose weak muscles of yahrs?”

“Hey!” Vragon snapped. “What was that for?”

“You deserved it.” Jaron teased.

“Screw you!”

Ciecro shook his head as he got between the two before they got into another word or fist fight. “Bitch lateh. Lez jus’ hurry up an’ get some food an’ drop dose things off so we don’ waste dah day. Wanna save some time fo’ Vragon’s trainin’ while we’re at it.”

The two paused for a few seconds before nodding.

“Yeah. I am hungry,” Vragon said, putting a claw on his stomach.

“Come on! If we finish lunch before noon we should have plenty of time for both training regiments.”

The two boys nodded at each other and hurried off to the nearest stall with food on it, Ciecro following behind at a casual stroll with his back over his shoulder and a smug gleam in his eyes.

Maybe comin’ tah town wasn’ a bad idea, Commissioner.
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Chapter 19: Outside Your Peace


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 19
Outside Your Peace​

Ciecro held his arms in front in a basic stance position, fists clenched and breathing slowed. He turned his head slightly, focusing his attention on Jaron, on his right, rushing towards him. He could tell Jaron wasn’t going at a full sprint, either due to them being on a hill’s incline or just relying on Vragon to deal with the first strike from the other side.

He smirked as he faced right completely and rushed at Jaron, claws at his sides as the two brothers rushed each other. Ciecro feinted to swipe left but then tumbled with his entire body to swing his tail at Jaron as they neared a collision.

However, the Croconaw was nimble enough to jump away and roll on his side, quickly placing his left claw into the dirt to halt his momentum.

The Charmeleon did the same, stopping his body upright with his right claw, but he quickly used his left to parry Vragon’s incoming strike so it grazed past him. He then shoved his head and torso into Vragon’s back, sending the Fraxure flat on his face.

“Ack!” Before Vragon could get up, Jaron hopped over him to bring down a slash of his claws onto Ciecro, but the Charmeleon darted right. The two began to run up the hill as the Fraxure got back to his feet, following at a slow-paced jog.

Ciecro was getting close to the summit when he felt a claw slice swipe onto his leg. “Gah!” He quickly fell into a roll and twisted his body so he came up facing the other way as he raised his arms, just in time to catch Jaron’s follow-up slice.

He snarled as he felt his brother’s claws begin to dig onto his scales. Unfortunately, despite being stronger than Jaron, his brother had the vantage point and was pressing his weight firmly down on Ciecro preventing his escape.

I don’ have enough time. Ciecro roared as he pushed with all his might, temporarily throwing off Jaron’s attack, and swiftly grabbed Jaron’s claws; attempting to throw him off guard.

Jaron quickly stepped back, using his tail to help brace himself from falling over as the two boys began doing a power struggle with their arms.

“Go for it, Vray!” Jaron shouted as he pushed harder, giving the Fraxure time to strike. Unfortunately, Ciecro had an avenue for escape, that being to fall back into Jaron’s push and kick him overhead. “Dya!” Jaron exclaimed as he landed on his back with a thud.

“Jaron!” Vragon said in surprise, halting his charge.

Ciecro quickly got back to his feet right as the Fraxure looked at him. The Charmeleon gave a cocky grin and spread his arms wide, inviting the intimidated Fraxure to try his luck.

Vragon took a deep breath and rushed Ciecro’s position, going for cautious swipes that were all parried by Ciecro’s arms. The Charmeleon snickered to himself as he suddenly caught one of Vragon’s swipes, making the Fraxure gasp and yanked the boy towards him. Vragon’s beak collided with Ciecro’s chest.

“Oof.” Right as Vragon pulled back, reaching for his snout, Ciecro grabbed Vragon by the shoulders, spun him around, and then he grabbed Vragon by the underarms.

“What‽ Dya!”

Chuckling, Ciecro heaved Vragon above his head, leaning back on his tail for support. He quickly moved a foot forwards as he shifted one hand to grab near Vragon’s lower back, right above the tail, while the other side to the armored back near the neck.

Ciecro smirked to himself as he held Vragon above his head. “How’s dah view?”

“Put me down!” Vragon snapped, flailing about in the air, unable to lay a scratch on Ciecro.

As fun as it was keeping Vragon suspended like that, Ciecro could see Jaron getting back up on his feet. So, he granted Vragon’s wish, by tossing him at Jaron, who cushioned Vragon’s fall. The two boys tumbled onto their backs, both groaning.

“The hell, Ciecro,” Jaron snarled, sitting up.

“Heh, kinda got carried away,” Ciecro smirked and walked up, offering his hand, which Jaron accepted it though he was still scowling.

“I’ll say you did,” Vragon growled, sitting up and rubbing his head. “I could have landed on one of Jaron’s scale spikes you jerkass.”

Ciecro shook his head. “Yah’re tougheh den dat. Or do yah mean tah say yah’re jus’ a baby.” He held his hand out to Vragon, who begrudgingly accepted it.

Once all three boys were on their feet, Ciecro took a few steps away and turned around. “A’ight. Resume.”

“Are you serious?” Vragon said with a dumbfounded look. “How are you not tired?”

“Bitch later, Vray.”


“Look, we can take him. Just stop whining and let’s reform our strategy.”

Vragon grumbled but complied as the two stared down the confident Charmeleon. The Fraxure took a deep breath and shut his eyes for a second in thought. “We need to strike at the same time.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Jaron grinned as the two boys split up and began walking to Ciecro’s sides, Vragon at the higher elevation and Jaron at the lower one.

Ciecro adjusted his stance to low guard as he glanced from one to the other before finally having to choose Jaron to keep his attention on. Jus’ like dah staht. He muttered in his head. Dough, dey migh’ try somethin’ sneaky. Bes’ be prepared fo’ dat.

A few seconds later, Jaron lunged towards Ciecro at full spring, causing Ciecro to tense his muscles. Grapple ‘im fihst an’ avoid Vray. “Oof,” Ciecro grunted as Jaron rammed right into him, pushing Ciecro back though the Charmeleon had a good lock on Jaron’s head. He could hear Vragon running behind him and thus immediately fell left, feeling the minor sting of Vragon’s claw grazing him.

“What?” He heard Vragon exclaim as he fell down the hill, pulling Jaron with him into a tumble. Ciecro then let go, shifting his claws to grab the ground and stop himself as Jaron tumbled down for a little while longer.

“Get back here!” Vragon shouted, lunging for Ciecro to tackle him, but Ciecro flicked his tail, smacking Vragon on the side of his face and causing him to stutter to the side. He seized his chance and lunged for Vragon, shunting him right as the Fraxure faced him and causing Vragon to start tumbling down the hill with painful grunts mixed between the rolls.

Right as he turned to confront Jaron, his eyes widened as Jaron was right upon him. “Ack!” He was sent sprawling onto his back, the Croconaw on top of him. Ciecro raised his arms to shield his face as Jaron scratched at Ciecro viciously.

Finally, Ciecro got his bearings once he saw an opening. He pulled his legs up as best he could, snaking his tail up onto Jaron’s head.

Jaron gasped at the surprise distraction, giving Ciecro all he needed to push Jaron off and turn the tables. The two went tumbling down again, rolling over a recovering Vragon as they kept going and going until reaching the bottom.

Ciecro used his strength to pin Jaron at the bottom, panting heavily as he shut down Jaron’s attempts at struggling.

A few snarls and desperate attempts to free his hands later, Jaron went limp, panting as he sighed. “Alright, you win.”

Ciecro nodded and got up, pulling a disappointed Jaron up. “Hey, yah almos’ got me.”


Seeing Jaron’s downer mood, he patted the Croconaw on the shoulder. “I mean it. Yah’re very good at keepin’ me on muh toes. Yah know me too well, heh.”

Jaron’s face perked up.

“Cool, great, I’m fine too by the way.”

Both siblings looked up the hill to see Vragon limping down, rubbing his side.

“Yeah, don’t worry. I don’t mind being rolled over by you two fatzos.”

“Aheh…sorry about that Vragon.” Jaron started up the hill. “Not much I can do when tumbling down with Ciecro on my case and mind.”

The Charmeleon was heading up after them, till he stopped at a stinging pain on his side. “Huh?” He glanced down and to his surprise, there was a long, but thankfully not deep cut. “When did I-?”

“Ciecro?” Jaron’s eyes widened as he spotted the wound. “What happened?” he cried as he rushed over, staring at it with horror.

“It ain’ dat bad.” Ciecro shrugged as Vragon joined them.

“Maybe not, but you’re bleeding and it is long.”

The sound of Vragon clearing his throat garnered the two’s attention. “Well, I suppose it’s my turn to shine, no?”

“Huh?” Jaron looked at the wound and then back at Vragon. “Are you sure? It’s a bit big.”

“No worries. Besides, it was probably because of these bad boys that it happened.” Vragon tapped on his right tusk.

Heh, well fine. Yah can show off if yah wanna. Ciecro nodded as he let Vragon walk up and touch his wound. Jaron made a little squeak of a protest that was instantly shut down by a faint yellow light glowing from the spot Vragon touched Ciecro.

The Charmeleon closed his eyes and smiled as he felt the calming sensation in his side. His stinging began to subside.

“There we go.” Vragon pulled back, however, he suddenly began to stutter a little.

Jaron was immediately on the case, quickly latching his hands on Vragon’s shoulders to steady the disoriented boy. “You alright?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Vragon blinked a few times as he glanced at Ciecro. “Hey, can we pause training for a bit? I’m kind of drained after that fight and healing your wound just now.”

“Sure. Let’s get some wateh.” Ciecro and Jaron helped the tired Fraxure up the hill as they all sat down around Ciecro’s sack. Taking out the canteen, Ciecro offered it to Jaron who instantly took it and chugged down a few gulps.

“Mmmm…” Jaron took it from his maw, shaking his head rejuvenated as he offered it to Vragon. “Thirsty?”

“Very.” Vragon snatched it and began gulping down his needed share.

Meanwhile, the Charmeleon was feeling the spot where the cut used to be. The scales on there were as good as new, with the only indication of the cut being some minor blood smudges.

“Geez, Vragon, save some for Ciecro.”

Looking back at Vragon, Ciecro saw the Fraxure’s eyes go wide as he took the canteen from his mouth.

“Aheh…whoops.” Vragon did a weak little laugh as he handed the canteen to Ciecro. It felt light and when he tipped it over, barely enough liquid to fill the base of a cup poured down onto the grass. The two gave Vragon a half-shut gaze as the Fraxure sighed.

“Sorry, I was just really thirsty.”

“Dang it, Vray.” Jaron sighed and shook his head. “You shouldn’t have healed him fully.”

“Hey, it’s not like I knew I was going to be so parched. Look, I’m sorry.”

“Come on, you know that when you heal wounds bigger than a scrape you get all disoriented and shit.”

“I’m not fragile, Jaron. I can take healing some dumb cut.”

Jaron’s eyes looked to the side. “I know…it’s just…Well-”

“Oh don’t even start.” Vragon stood up and glared down at Jaron, startling the other two. “If this is about that one time, well forget it.”

“Like hell to that.” Jaron scowled as he stood up as well. “You were out for hours and you didn’t even heal the guy’s face fully. Like, we have to go at this slowly, not just shotgunning it when we don’t even know what Gift you have.”

The Fraxure’s gaze lowered towards Ciecro’s side, staring at it with a bitter expression.

Ciecro’s gaze fell too as he thought, Yeh…he wound up bein’ ou’ cuz of me bein’ stupid an’ lettin’ my angeh take control. He sighed in his mind as he looked up at Vragon. “Vray.”

The Fraxure shifted his eyes to meet Ciecro’s. The topaz iris emanated a look of resistance although Ciecro could see that behind it was a weak foundation. He nudged his head towards Jaron and the Fraxure reluctantly looked back at the younger sibling.

Ciecro looked too, seeing Jaron’s stern face now one of understanding and sympathy.

“Look, Vray. I’m not saying don’t use it. It’s just…” Jaron sat down, pulling some of the grass out as he tried to formulate his thoughts. “Gifts aren’t always just a net positive. Some have drawbacks or side effects that can hurt you or worse if you aren’t careful about it.” He looked up at Vragon, saying, “They’re not like abilities. They use synergy directly. Your synergy. My Wary. Ciecro’s Death Wrath. And whatever one you have, all of them rely on our power. And we don’t have infinite synergy to supply them.”

Vragon sighed, plopping down on the ground and shaking his head. “How am I supposed to learn more if we don’t experiment?” He reached out and pulled some grass too, albeit more roughly than Jaron. “The only thing I have to anything Clans related is you two and you two don’t even know too much about your own kind.”

Ciecro frowned a little. It sucked hearing those words, though he’d be lying if he didn’t feel the same. Glancing at the sea of prairie before them, Ciecro thought. Yeh…we don’ know much. Like who dose enemies were from back den o’ even wha’ Norfair is like.

“It’s not like we don’t want to know more about our heritage, Vragon.”

Ciecro glanced back to see Jaron eyeing Vragon with a frustrated scowl.

“Cool it with the passive aggression.”

“Your right. Sorry, that was uncalled for.” Vragon’s head fell with a guilty look.

“Yah fine,” Ciecro added, crossing his arms and closing his eyes. “We all don’ like bein’ in dah dahk abou’ it. It feels wron’.”

“I just…”

Ciecro opened an eye to see Vragon’s melancholy frown.

“I just want some headway. It doesn’t even have to be for my memories, just something. But…” he stared upwards at the clear blue sky with a few islands of clouds floating. Ciecro and Jaron also looked up as Vragon finished his thoughts. “I don’t think we’ll ever get those answers while we’re here.”

The silence felt heavy for the Charmeleon. This was why he didn’t like talking like this. All this moodiness and stuff would just cause awkward silence for a few minutes and nobody enjoyed that. Finally, he’d had enough and stood up. “Yah feeling refreshed, Vray?”

“Huh? Uhm…sure.”

“Good. I’m tired of talkin’ abou’ dis stuff. Let’s train.”

“Spoken like a true meat head.” Jaron chuckled.

“I’ll meet yah’re head wit’ my fist.” Ciecro punched into his palm, giving an intimidating grin.

“Heh, sure, sure. Shame it’s Vragon’s training session now.” Jaron chuckled as he stood up.

“Do we have to?” Vragon groaned, standing up as well.

“It’s important you’re capable of using your moves efficiently.” Jaron raised a finger, in a manner that was hard to tell if he was just trying to mock inquisitive personalities or just Vragon. “After all, how can one be expected to defend oneself if one doesn’t learn how to properly use one’s power?”

Ciecro shook his head. Yep…definitely mockin’ Vray.

Vragon seemed to get the message too and rolled his eyes. “I guess that’s true. There are dangers and all that. Though…”

The two watched in silent curiosity as Vragon stood there thinking for a moment.

“Do you guys….do you think those guys might come back one day?”

“What guys?”

“Those guys from your past. The Red Eyes.”

The brothers grew tense, scowling as if Vragon had said something insulting.


Ciecro felt the flashbacks begging to be let into his mind again, but he forced them down. “Don’ worry. Dey aren’ gonna come.”

“But…how do you know?”

“We’re rural enough that it shouldn’t matter. They can stay the fuck away for all I care.” Jaron leered in the direction of the town. “Perion Town is small, but I thank Arceus every day that it is like that.”

“But, what about learning more abou-”

“I don’t care.”

Ciecro raised a brow while Vragon stiffened up in surprise as Jaron glared at the two of them.

“If staying in a lackluster town like this keeps all that shit from coming into my life, I’ll gladly stay here. Who cares anyway, it’s not like being Norfarion nor that dumb Formula enhanced our lives at all.”

That ‘Norfarion’ part made Ciecro growl a little. Deciding to distract himself from venting at Jaron’s mindless venting, he looked over at Vragon and noticed the Fraxure’s face stared at the ground bummed. The fiery orange eyes of the Charmeleon took a more pitying look as he resonated with being upset at Jaron’s phrasing even if deep down, he agreed with Jaron. If he had to choose, he’d rather just stay here in the peaceful town than bother with anything outside, though, wanting to honor his parents’ heritage and thus his own was important as well. Though, the poor guy didn’t even know where to start, so in some ways he was the same as Vragon.

“So…we should be alright.” Jaron sighed. “We don’t have the formula, we don’t have any ties to Norfair, and we don’t have Seliph with us. All those things can just stay away and leave us alone.” Jaron crossed his arms and raised his maw.

A burning feeling rose in Ciecro’s chest as a slight snarl escaped his mouth. However, he quickly pivoted his gaze to Vragon as the Fraxure spoke up.

“But, what if something does happen? It’d help to at least know something.”

“Like what?” Jaron skeptically asked.

“I don’t know…jus-”

“Enough. Drop it, Vray.” The Fraxure stared at him in surprise as Ciecro clenched his fists and glared at the Fraxure. “Dah Red Eyes aren’ gonna look fo’ us. Dah Formula is long gone. An’ if Seliph was comin’ back fo’ us he’d have fuckin’ done so years ago. Nothin’ out dere cares abou’ us, so I say fuck it an’ focus on dah now.”

A second after his rant, Ciecro felt some guilt swell up in his heart. He’d practically told Vragon to stop looking into things, like his missing memory, which was a terrible thing to say. His arms sagged a little as he sighed, sympathizing with Vragon’s feelings but just being too done with this conversation to bother making amends. “Dis is why I said we should drop it.”

“Yeah….I’m sorry.” Vragon’s arms went over his stomach, one rubbing the other’s wrist softly like it too was sad.

Ugh… Ciecro walked over and patted Vragon on the shoulder. “Hey, as I said. No harm done.”

“Are…are you sure?”

“Yeah. Sorry for blowing at you there, Vray,” Jaron added, his signature grin returning. “But I’m with Ciecro. Let’s drop this depressing topic and focus on the fun stuff.”

Vragon smiled and shook his head. “Alright. Guess it is more fun to train with you meat heads.”

< O >

Rain poured on the window of a dimly lit office. An Obstagoon, wearing a sleek, black brim hat, was sitting at a desk, reading some map with a smug grin on his face. His eyes focused on the continent of Triacal, specifically a town on its eastern edge, ‘Crion City’. As his gaze traveled further eastward on the map, it came to a certain straight called ‘Valiance’ that was formed by the country Valendor to the north and the northwest portion of the continent Bermuda to the south.

He leaned in closer as he looked into Bermuda, showing various travel lines, all of which had been crossed out near their middle. A ‘Dong!’ sound scared him to sit up as he looked at the clock on his wall, an anxious glare covering his face. Damnit, what’s taking him so long?

Leaning on his propped-up arm, he started tapping his fingers on the desk. That runt better not have gotten caught. I swear, Harken will never- He stopped as he smelled something strange. Sniffing the air, a dark smile crossed his face. “Ah,” he got up and walked to the door and undid the bolt, opening the door to see, standing on a scaffolding overlooking a large warehouse, a Greninja drenched from the rain outside. He wore a sleeveless vest over a blank loose silk shirt that covered his shoulders and upper arms. Around his waist was a generic if not worn travel belt equipped with about four travel packs with even numbers on both sides.

The Obstagoon leaned on the door and smirked. “So, you have it?”

The mon nodded as the Obtsagoon backed up, ushering him inside but not before taking a brief look around at the closed-up, shipyard warehouse and shutting the door. “You didn’t see any ‘characters’ whil-”


He paid the abrupt answer’s tone no mind and instead focused on the prize, he was in the business of material after all. “So…did you find it?” The Obstagoon inquired as he led the Greninja over to his desk and sat down on the wooden seat, which squeaked under his weight.

Walking over and taking a stick from the Obstagoon’s writing cylinder, the soaked stranger dipped it in the ink and proceeded to draw a link on the map. It started from a certain landing point in Northern Bermuda and traveled through, intertwining in areas until it finally met with the Western Ocean of ‘Friedne’.

Leaning over the desk, the Obstagoon asked, “That’s the route? What can you tell me about it?”

The Greninja set the stick into a liquid solution part of the cylinder and pointed to a certain spot. “Here. This is where they’re able to take their route safely. Since every other one pretty much has to go around the fighting areas, they capitalized on this path due to a certain deal made between them and some Rayquiem forts in the area.”

“Ah, so that’s how they get their goods through Bermuda. Heh, no wonder they’ve been making great time, what with avoiding the fucking Valendor killjoys or Norfarion paranoid pricks.”

The figure tensed up a little but went on to say, “As for who these individuals are that can grant you some access. Here,” he pulled out a piece of paper tucked safely in a pouch and scooted it to the boss, who unscrambled it and began reading.

“Good. I’ll send this to Harken. He can get somebody down there to negotiate.”

“Are you sure he’ll be able to get an arrangement?”

“Sure, I’m sure.” The Obstagoon said with a slight tone of disappointment as he put the paper into his desk. “This is Harken we’re talking about. The mob boss has extensions, he’ll figure out a way. And who knows, maybe he can shut down the competition’s little deal as well. Two for one.”

“I suppose. But regardless, about my payment?”

“Sure, sure. Just one second.”

The shipping warehouse boss got up and went to a certain bookcase. Sliding it aside, he put his claws onto a metallic vault with an octagon pattern on the front. He then started pressing the patterns on it as the Greninja watched.

Slowly, the water type moved his left hand back, faint blue light forming on his hand that traveled down and began forming the base of a Water Kunai. His muscles stiffened and his legs bent slightly forwards, ready to lunge at the target he kept his eyes fixated on. The throat.

“Clank!” The door opened, causing the Greninja to relax and let his water kunai disintegrate before it was fully formed.

“There we go.” The Obstagoon hummed as he pulled out a certain orb from a pile of various things inside and set it on the desk for the other to grab it. “It wasn’t easy, but I managed to get the recording you wanted. For…” he scratched one of his fangs with a nail for a second, trying to think of a word to say. “Liabilities sake, I had to make the boss’s end of the conversation silent.”

The Greninja scowled.

“Hey, hey, but it’s there. I’m sure you’ll get all the information you need. You don’t need the boss’s end for that.”

“So you listened in on it?”

“What? No, as if I’d listened in on Harken’s business. I don’t have a death wish, like you do.”

The Greninja nodded and pocketed the orb in the same belt pack he pulled the paper out of.

“Shame that you’re playing with fire and all. What are these ‘Red Eyes’ to you anyway?”

“Nothing you should concern yourself about.”

“Fine, fine. Not like I have reason to pry.” The Obstagoon shrugged. “You’re a good dark worker and an even better night one, so you’ve earned your privacy.”

The figure nodded and turned to leave as the Obstagoon suddenly threw his arm around the Greninja’s shoulders and chuckled.

“Hey, since I like you, I’m going to give you some advice.”

“I’ll pass thank-”

The grip grew stronger, making the Greninja tense up. The boss’s smile faded to a neutral expression as he said, “Be careful. If you’ve got something to hide and it’s something to do with these Red Eyes, best make sure you never, ever give them an opening. I’ve heard things about the fucked up things they could do to you and do alongside the mob bosses here in Triacal. If you’re going to pick a fight with them, you best be ready for them to bite back even harder.”

The Greninja’s eyes narrowed, filled with conviction or was it anticipation? “I’ll be careful.”

“Good!” The Obstagoon exclaimed with a happy pat on the back and a pleased grin. “Well, then I hope it helps. Because I know damn well this info of yours will do wonders for fucking up our competition. Take care, Ricky.” He turned around and sprawled his arms over the desk, looking at the map with a devilish grin.

“Right…glad it will help.” The Greninja replied with a somewhat melancholy tone as he left, straightening his sleeveless vest and putting a hand over a pouch on his belt. The one that held his payment.
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Chapter 20: Testing Barriers


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 20
Testing Barriers​

Jaron sighed, tapping his writing stick on the table as he read over his ranger studies book. His eyes darted over to the clock. Five more minutes, he thought, looking back at his notes that were more like a blueprint outline of the lesson’s topics than actual jotting of class notes.

His eyes trailed over to the door. I hope Ciecro’s class didn’t let out early. A small scowl formed. Since his test is tomorrow, he’ll probably be way worse about his training than normal. I doubt I’ll see him at all tomorrow too. He has to be there early and I can’t be present at all at the station. He sprawled onto his desk, sighing into his arms. Though, I haven’t seen much of him at all this week. I think the only real time we ever got to ‘hang out’ was when he let us train with him Lunday. Jaron’s eyes shut. And since then it’s just been the same with him. Wake up too early, do his ranger classes which aren’t even in this damn building this week for Arceus knows why since I’m stuck here with this lecturer, come home, and go to bed early. Ever since he let us train with him on Lunday.

Twirling his writing stick in his hand, Jaron’s eyes followed the inked end of it as he mumbled in his mind, I just hope he’s still in class. This is the first time all week he’s had a class in this building and may be my last real chance to just be around him before the party.

A small scowl formed as he looked at the clock again. Ugh, can’t he just dismiss class already, who cares abou- His eyes went wide and his jaw fell open. What‽ How can it be five minutes past the hour? He glanced at the red Grapploct lecturer, currently going over some random rules in the Perion Region that nobody gave a shit about instead of looking at the easy-to-spot clock on the wall.

Fucking course he’d do this! Ugh, well I have to hurry so fuck the formalities. Jaron raised his hand and gave a loud cough.

“Huh?” the teacher turned around.

“It’s five past four, sir,” Jaron said, pointing to the clock.

The teacher’s eyes followed Jaron’s arm. A squishy-sounding sigh followed as the teacher shut his book with one of his free tentacles. “Alright.” He faced the class, putting two of his tentacles on the desk one of which bore the green ranger band of Perion. “We’ll finish this section next session.”

Instantly, Jaron started putting away his stuff, while the teacher kept talking.

“Remember that your peers are taking their aptitude tests tomorrow so classes or training activities that day. Instead, I want you to read over the chapters for the next lecture on the weekend and be ready for discussion next Diald-” The teacher paused as the creaking sound of a door filled the room.

Jaron stopped midway through the crack, looking at the teacher, who was leering at him. He rolled his eyes, “Chapter 45 for Dialday. Got it.” And with that, shut the door behind him. Ugh, petty.

He shook his head as he walked to the middle of the station’s main lobby. His eyes glanced around at all the few mons that were either busy talking or getting their things together. At realizing Ciecro wasn’t among them, a dreadful feeling befell him. Oh no! He turned to look at an upper balcony and sure enough, he could see the door where Ciecro’s pre-exam class had been, open and likely empty. Arceus! Jaron slammed his foot on the ground. Of course, the stupid teacher would take too long this time of all times! He ranted on and on in his head as he shoved the front doors out of his way and stomped his way down the dirt pathway, ignoring any stares or giggles from anyone nearby.

Fuck that stupid class for making me late. Now I’m going to have to search everywhere to find hi-

“Hey! Jaron!”

“Huh?” The Croconaw turned around, eyes widening with surprise at who was walking towards him. They softened to a more neutral gaze as an Absol sat down in front of him, her white fur clean, her short claws sharp, and her face with a warm yet conniving smile. Jaron shut his eyes and turned to the side, adjusting his backpack. “Hey, Jaz…”

The Absol raised a brow and tilted her head, the tilt slightly exaggerated by the curved horn protruding from the side of her head and sharply pointing upwards. “You look like today absolutely sucks.”

Jaron glared at her.

Her eyes widened and then she facepalmed. “Sorry, I didn’t notice.”

“You’ve been around that Kangascum for too long.” Jaron crossed his arms, growling to himself.

“My, you’re really in a bad mood.” She got up and walked around him, looking down at him out of the corner of her eye. “Anything in particular, or is it just one of those ‘wrong side of the bed’ moments.”

“I got stuck overtime in class and that made me miss Ciecro today.” Jaron and Jasmine glanced back at the smaller station building they had emerged from. “And I really wanted to talk with him today.” Suddenly, his eyes widened and he shot a pressing look at Jasmine. “Did you see him today?”

She raised a paw to her chin, scratching it lightly with a roll of her claws. Her thin fur line waved in the wind that blew around them. “Well…I did see him in class but didn’t get the chance to talk with him. Most of the class had me busy with the pre-test stuff and a loose summary and right as class ended he was out the door before I could even blink.”

“Damnit.” Jaron’s head fell, gently moving up a little as a little bit of hope remained as he asked,” Did you at least see where he went?”

“Nope.” She shook her head. “By the time I got out, he was long gone.”

Jaron glared at the ground.

“Why do you want to talk with him now anyway? Can’t you just do it when he’s home?”

“No, because he’s being paranoid about that stupid test.” Jaron pulled the shoulder straps on his backpack as he walked onwards, his heavy steps matching his angry expression.

“That’s fair. I’m a little worried about it myself,” Jasmine said as she caught up to him, walking alongside with elegance, at least compared to Jaron’s stomping.

“Wish I could tell him he’s overreacting.”

“Well, I doubt he’d take that well.” Jasmine flicked her head and leaned her head in closer, giving the sour Jaron a friendly grin. “I know I wouldn’t.”

The tactic worked as Jaron cooled down a little and shifted to a more melancholy look on his face. “I know. I’m just…you know he’s been…well.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jasmine turned her head to look at the gate to the ranger station they were nearing. “Dolly told me he was stressed about it and training an awful lot for it.”

“Not just that.”

“‘Not just that’?” Jasmine repeated, stopping right under the archway as Jaron looked back at her.

“I think he’s bothered by something and I don’t know what. But I know it can’t just be the test.” Jaron adjusted his straps again as he looked directly up at the old wood above his head. “I can see it on his face every time.” The atmosphere felt chilly as if the wind had turned its temperature down and they had just noticed it. “I feel like I’ve seen him like it before. Like, around the time we started living with Aunt Dresha. I’m not sure how to describe it.”

“You think he’s thinking about Seliph?”

“I dunno. Maybe. But the day Seliph left us was a few weeks ago and he’s gotten over it by now. So why is it during this test he’s all...negative and not listening to anything people say to the contrary.” His head fell.

“That is odd. Maybe it’s just the test mixed with those feelings?”

“Maybe. I know we eventually gave up on Seliph coming back for us and he never did anything to contact us. I don’t even know if he’s alive anymore.” A small scowl formed as the air now felt heavy, the chilling feeling leaving Jaron as he felt heat building up inside. “I hope he’s not dead…but-”

Jasmine walked over. “I get it, you miss him.” A glare shot right up at Jasmine, catching her off guard.

“I do not.” Jaron snarled, turning around and stepping into the dirt street. “That jerk left us all alone, ordered us not to look for him, and never once even tried to get back in touch with us. It’s like he just vanished into thin air after saying, ‘Don’t look for me or you failed your parents’.”

“I…” Jasmine clawed at the ground awkwardly as Jaron watched her.

The Croconaw felt a little bit of shame build up in him, ranting at his friend about something as off-topic as some old memory from eight years ago and personal frustrations. It compelled him to apologize. “Sorry for that.”

“No, I get it. It’s just a weird image, given he helped you two get to Perion only to leave you both here and never try to talk. I just…well.”

Jaron shrugged. “If he does come back that’s what I want to ask him. I want to know why he never tried making contact with us again.” He rolled his neck. “Though…maybe it’s a good thing. I like my life here and I don’t want it all thrown apart.”

“I can feel that.”

Jaron nodded. He turned and started heading down the pathway along the brick wall of the station yard, waving and saying, “See yah later, Jasmine. Thanks for the-”

“Hey! Wait a minute!”

“Huh?” Jaron stopped as Jasmine pranced over to him, slight offense in her stare.

“You just going to leave me hanging like that? Don’t we always walk together to get Vragon from the Town Hall’s library?”

“Oh…uuuuhhhh” Jaron’s eyes shifted to the left, staring at the brick wall for some help. Come on, think of an excuse. “I…kind of…well.”

Jasmine raised a skeptical brow. “Spit it out.”

The Croconaw sighed, leaned close, and whispered, “Alright, it’s about the you know what.”

“Huh?” Jasmine turned her head towards the sky, thinking eventually looking back at him with a sweet smile. “Uhm…hint?”

“Don’t tell me you forgot about tomorrow!”

“Oh! The par-”

Immediately, Jaron shushed her. “What are you trying to do?” He growled at her, while she looked back at him with a far less serious look.

She held her head high and lamented with the least convincing frown Jaron had ever seen, “Oh no, now she’ll find out now that I’ve said the surprise in a random street, with random people crossing, far from the lake that she lives and can only travel in.”

“Okay, I get it,” Jaron huffed, rolling his eyes. She giggled, causing him to look at the buildings across the street with a less prickly frown. “I guess I overreacted a little, but still.” He faced her. “I want it to be a surprise and nothing to go wrong.”

“Relax, I’m just teasing you,” Jasmine said with a wink as she walked in front. “Besides, I’ve seen you draw more complicated blueprints for sandwiches than your plan for the party.”

“I guess…But I’ll be doing it mostly on my own since you and my brother are taking your test tomorrow and Vragon still has to work that day.”

“I feel yah.” Jasmine nodded, the two of them turning to look at the Town Hall, which thankfully wasn’t far from the ranger station. “So, as you were saying.”

“Oh right.” Jaron cleared his throat as they both started down the street towards Town Hall. “So, besides the surprise party, me, Vragon, and Ciecro all saved up to get her a nice gift. It should be ready today and Vragon was going to go pick it up.”

“Ah, I see.” What did you guys get her?”

Jaron opened his mouth to answer, but suddenly he closed it as a sly grin formed on his face. Jasmine’s expression shifted from curiosity to annoyance as Jaron crossed his arms, raised his snout just a tad, calmly shut his eyes, and said with a smart-alecky tone. “Well, what’s a surprise if not to be a secret?”

Jasmine grumbled. “Are you for real? I thought you were getting it for Miss Dresha.”

“Well.” Jaron shrugged and chuckled faintly. “If I were to tell you, that’d risk it potentially leaking out. I have to keep my bases well covered, Jasmine, it’s just the principle of being professional.”

“So it’s going to be like that, is it?” Jasmine huffed, stopping as they reached the large dirt ring around Town Hall.

“Relax, why not wait till you can actually see it,” Jaron said with a smile, turning around so he could see her unamused face while he continued around the circle.

“Hmph.” Jasmine puffed her chest and raised her snout.

It amused Jaron to see her agitated like that, so much so that he had to do his best to stifle any urges to rub it in. He was about to turn around until suddenly, a wave of dread filled his soul as he heard.

“So, you didn’t want me to go with you to pick up Vragon, because the gift is at the Town Hall, right?”

Jaron glanced back. “Uh…yeah.” He picked up the pace a little, Jasmine matching him as they kept crossing the circle while following its path counterclockwise, thankfully unobstructed by any traffic considering market season was still hounding the main streets with vendors and buyers.

“So that must mean you were using some local service at Town Hall to have this made. They don’t exactly do mail and all.”

Jaron grumbled as they rounded around, reaching the stone stairs as Jasmine kept theorizing aloud.

“It can’t be a book since water and paper don’t mesh well together and even if you found a way, I doubt you three would get her something so basic. You’d want to get her something you both know she’d appreciate, but probably something she could use too.”

Geez, would you just wait? Jaron ranted in his head, having to force himself not to tell Jasmine that directly. Shaking it off, he started up the stairs but stopped as a cold sense of dread filled his spine at the sound of a giggle. Jaron turned around and looked at Jasmine’s sly grin. If he could sweat, droplets would be falling like rain. “Jasm-”

Jasmine pointed at him with her paw. “You got her an engraving of a picture, didn’t you?”

“Wh-what?” Jaron’s jaw dropped.

“Well? Am I right?” Jasmine strode over, clearly already knowing the answer to the question but wanting to hear it from him anyway.

“N-n-no.” A flustered Jaron turned around, pulling up his straps, and briskly started up the stone steps. He cringed and felt his face flush red at Jasmine’s soft and arrogant giggle.

“Ah, so I am right.”

You’ll be right in the way of my fist if you don’t shuddup, Jaron threatened in his mind. A heavy sigh followed as Jaron finally caved in, turned around, and nodded with a scowl. “Alright, miss know it all. Happy you spoiled the surprise for yourself?”

“Yes, I’m quite happy I was very good at deducing through my witty reasoning.” Jasmine joined him on the step and sat down, rubbing a claw over her mouth as if she was stifling some laughter. “But I must admit something.”

Jaron raised a brow as Jasmine turned her paw upside down, scratching her chin as her eyes glanced upwards. “I have little idea what the picture actually is.”

“I think you’ve been guessing enough.” Jaron started up the steps, Jasmine closely following.

“Suppose you’re right.” Jasmine shrugged, her carefree tone irritating Jaron.

He lightly jiggled his as his eyes rolled in their sockets. ‘I’m Jasmine and I’m going to tell you about what gift you got as a surprise out loud for anyone to hear. Look at how awesome, smart, and cool I am.’ Geez, sometimes I hate her, especially when she rubs it in when she’s being ‘inquisitive’.

“Is it one of you three and her or of that picture on your mantle in your ro-?”

“Jasmine!” Jaron exclaimed angrily as he shunted the doors open and stomped in, paying no mind to anyone in the library’s reaction. “Can you wait five fucking minutes?”

Jasmine zipped her lip, mainly because everyone’s eyes were now on the angry Croconaw and her, and they were hardly welcoming. Vragon was also looking at them, his expression not hostile but surprised and embarrassed.

“Ahehehehe…well just make sure it’s back in two weeks.” Vragon handed a book to a Jynx that was eyeing Jaron with a cold stare.

“Thanks,” She said, as she walked away from the counter, shaking her head and taking a quick glance at Jaron as they passed one another. “Just like his brother.”

Immediately, Jaron turned around and opened his mouth, but paused as he felt a touch on his shoulder. He turned to see Jasmine, shaking her head at him. The Croconaw let it out in one big exhale and turned around, Vragon greeting him with an encouraging smile.

“Hey, Vray.” Jaron bent his arm over the counter and leaned in. “You almost done so we can pick up the package?”

“Just about.” Vragon nodded as he disappeared under the counter. “She was the last one. Just gotta make sure everything is in order for my replacement.”

Jaron turned his head, glaring at the Jynx exiting the library. Jynx will never stop being ugly to me. He rolled his eyes.

“I thought you were going to let it go.”

“What, so I can’t be obvious I don’t like hearing what she said?” Jaron said, pulling back as Jasmine leaned in.

“More like, we’re on the verge of a shushing wave gone tidal if you don’t keep your voice down,” she whispered. The two didn’t bother to look at all the stares and instead just turned around to Vragon.

“Hey, if you want, why don’t you two go ahead an-?” Vragon paused, looking at Jasmine with a wide-eyed look.

Jaron sighed heavily. “It’s fine. Miss stupid here knows.”

Jasmine did a fake gasp, placing a paw on her chest. “My word.”

“Your word is ‘Quiet’ right? You already told me it,” Jaron sneered as he turned around. “Sure, I’ll go ahead and pick it up,” he mumbled as he went for the stairs.

“Okay, cool,” Vragon said, his tone dropping a little mid-enunciation.

Jaron didn’t bother waving or even turning his head. He could just feel all their stares at him. He had years to just get used to the normal ones due to him and Ciecro being foreign and their crests a dead giveaway to that, but these hostile ones he never thought he’d get used to. Ciecro’s not some punk. Clyde got what he deserved and Ciecro doesn’t deserve to be looked that way. Fine way to treat someone that’s going to become a ranger and protect your snobby little a-

“I’m sorry, Jaron.”

He ceased his ranting, glancing back at Jasmine, right as he put his claw on the stair’s railing. “Oh, don’t mention it,” he said, starting up the steps. His steps felt heavy as his head sagged slightly, thinking about his brother.

“I didn’t mean to upset you back there.”

“It wasn’t you. Just that stupid Jynx and everyone else.”

“Yeah…look, give it some time. People will stop caring about it in a year I imagine and it’s only been three months.”

“I know shouldn’t take it out on everyone and behave.” Jaron’s scowl shifted to a bothered frown.

“It was sort of my fault. I kept instigating you.”

“Yeah…” Jaron pulled his straps, keeping his claw there this time. “I don’t know how Ciecro stands it.”

“Hrm?” Jasmine leaned in a little as Jaron looked back and continued.

“Ever since he did that, he’s gotten probably three times the stares I’ve gotten. I bet people even gossip about him, but he takes it fine. Or well…pretends to.”

“‘Pretends’?” Jasmine tilted her head. “I mean, I bet it does bother him, but he seems to be good at handling stuff like that.”

“Too good.” Jaron’s scowl returned as they reached the top floor and started heading past the row of shelves and study tables. “He never really talks to me about anything and it’s ticking me off.”

Jasmine raised a brow. “Ciecro making you that upset?”

“Why shouldn’t I be?” Jaron retorted, making Jasmine flinch back. While she immediately looked around at anyone about to shush them, Jaron flung his head forwards uncaring about whose reading time he bothered. “We’re brothers and there’s something bothering him. He won’t tell me a thing and is being his stupid, quiet self. I hate when he keeps secrets from me over some stupid ass reason he never talks about. It’s just obvious excuse-making and this test is no exception.” Jaron’s eyes lowered. “He used to tell me everything especially when we were still new here. He…he needed me.”

“Hey now, he still does.” Jasmine moved to Jaron’s side, giving him a little assuring bump with her shoulder as their eyes met. “Maybe, whatever the reason, it’s tough for him to talk about.”

“I hope….” Jaron’s gaze moved to the floor again as it changed from brown wood to white wood as they entered the center of the Town Hall. The two stopped and looked up at the statue of Humphry’s ancestor. “I just hope he can trust me sometime about it. I want to help him and if it’s about three months ago, or Seliph, or whatever it is…I want to be there for him.”

Jasmine nodded. “Well, I’m sure he knows that. I know for a fact he cares and trusts you.”

“I know…” Jaron did a deep sigh as his eyes trailed past the statue to the blue sky through the windows. “I just…want to be sure.”


Jaron blinked, surprised at himself almost as equally as Jasmine. What? I am sure. He shook his head. “Dang, what am I even talking about, heh.” He did his signature grin as he chuckled at himself.


“Nevermind me.” Jaron smiled at her as he turned towards the archway where the engraver’s office was housed. “I’m just saying things without thinking.”

“I suppose so.”

The time to the door to the engravers felt long and heavy for Jaron. What was he thinking in thinking something like that? Guess it’s just getting to me. Jaron shook his head as he found the door right in front of him and proceeded to knock. His mind shifted from mopiness to anxiety as he started asking less bothersome and more rapid-fire questions to himself about what the metal picture would look like.

Eventually, the door opened, and the Arbok stuck his head from behind the door. “Yes? Oh! Hello there, Jaron was it?”

“Yep.” The Croconaw nodded and set his claws on the nob, though pushed a little instead of pulled due to his excitement. “I’m here to pick up my order.”

“Oh? Right, let me see. It was under the name, ‘Almkin’ right?”


Jaron and Jasmine shared a delighted look until their faces shifted to shock at hearing the Arbok say, “Oh, I already gave it to-”

“What‽” Jaron’s snapped his gaze back to the Arbok, eyes scowling with fierce rage as he stepped back and ripped the door open, startling the Arbok and Jasmine. “You gave it away‽”

“No! No, let me explain. You see-”

“I’m here.”

Jasmine and Jaron turned to see a huffing Vragon jog over to them, resting his claws on his legs as he said, “Sorry for the wait, next employee was a little late. Did you get it?”

“No,” Jasmine said with a blunt tone.

“No?” Vragon raised a brow and looked at Jaron for an explanation.

The Irritated Croconaw gestured a finger at the Arbok, grumbling, “This guy gave it to somebody else.”

The Arbok gasped and defended with, “Now hold on a minute, I can expla-”

“You gave our gift to someone else‽” Vragon shouted in disbelief, his face shifting to red-hot anger, just like Jaron’s.

“If I may have a word in this conver-” He wasn’t given a chance to so much as finish that sentence before Vragon was directly in front of him, staring at him like a furious mother at some stranger messing with child.

“Who the hell did you give it to? Do you just let anybody waltz up and claim an order under the pretense of a last name without so much as verify-”

“Will you shut up for one second so I can explain!” The Arbok roared, causing Vragon and Jaron to back off, albeit keeping their judgmental expressions.

Jasmine just stayed in the back, too busy processing all this to look away but too concerned about being on the receiving end of the boys’ anger to try and mediate the situation. All three focused on the Arbok as the Poison Type cleared his throat.

“What I was trying to say is I gave the order to your brother. ‘Ciecro Almkin’.”

“Huh?” Jaron looked both ways almost as if Ciecro was around before saying, “Wait, Ciecro was here? When?”

“Almost seven minutes before you got here. I’m terribly sorry, but he told me he was a part of the order so I felt comfortable giving it to your fam-”

“No, no, it’s fine.” Jaron sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry for that freakout. Did you see where he last went?”

“I believe he went for the front entrance to Town Hall.”

“Makes sense,” Jasmine added, walking next to the wide open door and sitting down. “It’s the closest on the route back. Would explain why we missed him on the way in.”

Jaron slammed a fist into his palm. “It’s still market season so he must be taking the alleyways. That’ll slow him down a bit. If we hurry, we can catch him!” Instantly Jaron started rushing off to the three’s surprise but stopped to hastily say, “Thank you, sir!” and resume his mad dash.

“Hey! Wait for me!” Vragon exclaimed rushing after Jaron while Jasmine bid the poor Arbok a nod.

“You get used to it.” Before the Arbok could reply, she bolted after the two, leaving the mon to just shake his head.

“I sometimes wonder if it’s because their youths or clans mons that makes them so rambunctious. At least they have manners.” A little grin formed at another successful, satisfied customer.

< O >​

Ciecro maneuvered through the alleyways, one turn after another almost like a mini-labyrinth. He rubbed the back of his neck as he felt his backpack sag on his shoulders, directing his thoughts to the contents inside.

I hope Jaron doesn’ mind me showin’ Dolly it. I’m sure she’d love tah see it. A smile formed on his face as he pictured her reaction, maybe a pun threw in there or two. It made him chuckle softly.

Suddenly, his instincts kicked into gear as he heard footsteps. He stopped, eyes narrowing and his nerves tingling as he eyed the corner he was nearing for the alleyway.

“Tck, still got it, huh?”

Ciecro’s eyes opened wide as his lungs froze up. “Cl-Clyde…”

A mon stepped from around the corner, a Monferno. His strong arms were crossed, his tail flame was cackling steadily, and his eyes were glued to Ciecro’s with burning yet stoic anger. The Monferno’s face bore a large white ‘X’ across, intersecting over his nose where he seemed to have had some kind of injury.

If Ciecro wasn’t tense enough, he now was as he attempted to get an eye on his surroundings without taking his eyes off of Clyde in case the swift Monferno tried something.

“Funny running into you here, you sick fuck.”

Ciecro started to back away until suddenly he almost could feel someone touching him. He spun around and sure enough, there was a Bellibolt behind him.

Hopping back, Ciecro suddenly felt himself lifted in the air, his body having a pink hue of dim light around it. “Bwa!” He flailed about.

“Restrict him.”

He felt some invisible force pull his arms out wide. “Hey! Stop!” He shouted as the Bellibolt henchman chuckled, taking off the backpack and handing it to Clyde.

“Drop him.”

Ciecro hit the ground on his back as the force vanished. He rolled onto his stomach and glared at Clyde, who stood in front of the Bellibolt and a Braixen, both of which were smirking down at him.

“Give it back!” Ciecro shouted, getting to his feet.

“Make us.”

“Shove it.” The Monferno said to the Bellibolt, handing the backpack to the Braixen as Clyde walked forwards.

Ciecro’s body felt tense, especially since he knew where this was going. He watched Clyde crack his knuckles as he felt the urge to go ahead and start, but his mind pushed it down knowing he couldn’t get into a fight now of all times.

“Now…I want us to truly settle this.”

Snarling, Ciecro let his arms lower a little. “Clyde, we aren’ supposed tah figh’.”

“I don’t care what those favoritism grownups think, especially when they let you almost kill me over a sob story.” Clyde raised his fist. “It’s very simple. Fight me and you get your backpack back. Nothing more to it, punk.”

Ciecro’s jaw shut as he looked at his bag, the precious gift he, Jaron, and Vragon had worked hard to get. “Yah’d say dat abou’ dah commissioneh too?”

Clyde tensed up. “Don’t try and talk your way out of it, you freak.”

The anxiousness built in him as his adrenaline urged him to stop trying to hold back and teach this punk a lesson. To put him in his place. Ciecro, shook his head. “No, I’m not gonna figh’ yah.”

The Monferno pointed at him, getting impatient. “You owe me you feral! You almost broke my head in over some dumb words and everyone treats you like you’re special because of that fucking mark on your shoulder.”

Ciecro glanced at his right shoulder for a second, seeing the top part of the black birthmark over his scales. “Yeh, an’ oters don’ trust me because of-”


Ciecro’s eyes opened as Clyde stepped towards him, pressing a finger to his chest.

“They fucking don’t trust you because you almost killed me in some feral-like rage.”

“I don’ wan’ trouble.”

“Then you should have thought of that before you attacked me. Though I didn’t expect you to be able to think when someone so much as insults your or your heritage. Is that how you Norfarions are? So honor bound to your fucking legacy that you think you’re better than everyone else?”

“No, dats-”

“It’s exactly it!” Clyde shouted, stepping towards Ciecro, causing the Charmeleon to match it with a step back to avoid an engagement. “You think that because you two live with some old fish and your real parents are gone that you can just flaunt around, and act all tough and disrespectful?”

“No, of course not!”

“Yeah, well your words mean shit. Simple fact is, whatever those Norfarions do to get punks like you in line sure as hell ain’t gonna get done to you.”

“Whadda yah know!” Ciecro shouted back, finally stopping his backwards stepping as Clyde stopped in response. “Yah’ve always talked shit tah me an’ I am sorry I beat yah face up! I truly am. I don’ wanna figh’ yah an’ we aren’ supposed tah so why can’tcha jus’ leave me alone‽ Rangehs don’ go afteh each ot-”

“Because you’re a dangerous person and the fact nobody else can see it, really tells how lazy the folks here are.” Clyde clenched his fists and raised them. “And don’t you fucking dare bring up that ‘rangers’ shit. Rangers don’t attack people because their feelings got hurt, let alone almost kill somebody!”

Ciecro flinched as his scowl started wavering.

“You want to do the right thing?” Clyde stepped forwards again, Ciecro stepped back but gasped as his back touched the wall of the alley. “Then freaking don’t even think about becoming a ranger.”

Ciecro snarled at hearing that but made no reply outside of an angry stare that looked like it had a shaky base.

“Because Rangers protect others and as far as I can tell you have to worry about protecting from yourself. So, I’m gonna protect others from you.”

“I’m not gonna hur’ anybody!” Ciecro felt what seemed like something pierce his chest at the thought of the words. Death Wrath. His body felt shaky at the thought as he shook his head. No, I won’. I…I’ll control myself. I’ll be disciplined like Dad. I’ll-

“You already did.” Clyde pointed at his face. “You did this! You’re lucky it was me you did it to and not someone more innocent.”

Ciecro’s focused glare faltered as he looked to the side, arms shaking, and fists clenched in a mix of rage and doubt.

“Now…since everyone else went so easy on you, I suppose I’ll have to teach you, your lesson. You can’t just do what you did and get away with it. That’s injus-”

“And what are you doing right now?”

Ciecro held his breath, his wavery eyes shooting wide as he looked past Clyde, who also turned around. “Jaz…”

Jasmine was walking down the alleyway towards them, Vragon and Jaron having currently some staring standoff with the other two, albeit neither party engaging.

“Looks to me like you’re more doing some kind of vigilante sense of revenge rather than justice.”

Clyde sneered. “Oh boy, here to defend the rotten freak too? How would you like it if he got free after almost killing you?”

“He didn’t ‘get off free’ and you know that.” Jasmine stepped around Clyde, moving in front of Ciecro and leering at Clyde with a face almost as strong as Clyde’s anger. “And despite that, it’s not your choice. The simple fact is, Ciecro isn’t an adult yet and thus was given some slack, albeit with added scrutiny.”

“Tck, as if some dumb session to talk about his feelings are-”

“You know it’s more than that.” Jasmine pushed her paw down. “Do I have to tell you again that Ciecro walks a thin line? You think if he starts another fight with you he won’t get expelled and barred from being a Ranger?”

Ciecro felt his heart freeze up at hearing that. His head fell. Yeh… he remembered that conversation he had with Humphry and while it was private it was obvious to everyone that was an additional stipulation.

“Now look at you. You’re going to jeopardize your own ranger running for some grudge about getting beat up three months ago? Your family didn’t have to pay for your recovery nor will Ciecro be sided with if he starts a fight with you.” Jasmine pressed her paw forwards and leaned in, looking directly into Clyde’s eyes with their gazes a mere foot apart. “You’re better than this, Clyde, so act like it.”

Clyde’s angry stare turned towards the wall, his arms crossed as he thought over her words. “Tck, he’s lucky you sympathize with him.”

“Only for the right amount. I never said him beating you up was right. That’s something Ciecro will have to deal with…just like you would have to deal with the consequences if you forced him to fight you. Now grow up, Clyde.”

The Monferno sneered at that, but after a minute of the silent standoff, shook his head and turned around. He made for the other pathway on the alleyway, his hooligans watching him with shocked faces. As they turned to go, Clyde snarled, “Leave it.” And walked on.

The two goons looked at one another before the Bellibolt set the backpack down and hurried on after their leader with the Braixen.

Ciecro rubbed his arm, relief overflowing him despite the lingering hurtful words of Clyde still in his mind. He held his head up and looked at Jasmine. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Jasmine turned around, smiling at him almost as warm and kind seeming as Dolly. “I- Oof!”

Startled, Ciecro was Jasmine get shoved out of the way and suddenly felt his body being squeezed.

“Ciecro!” Jaron exclaimed, looking up at his brother with eyes full of worry. “Are you alright? He didn’t attack you, did he? If he did I swear I’ll-”

“Easy, Jaron.” Ciecro smiled, putting a claw on Jaron’s shoulder, causing the Croconaw to let go of his squished frame. “I’m fine.”

“I’m not.”

Ciecro looked to see Jasmine brushing some of the dirt off her mane, a little smile forming at the humorous way Jasmine looked when upset.

“Could’ve warned me, you blue idiot, before you stampede me into the wall.”

“Sorry, Jasmine.” Jaron’s head fell, full of remorse.

Her grumpiness picked up to a soft smile. “It’s done and dusted.” She paused and facepalmed. “Not again.”

“Oh! Dusted! Like dah ground.” Ciecro chuckled. “I ge’it. Good one, Jaz.”

She groaned into her paw as she dragged it down her face. “Can you guys just show it to me already so I don’t continue getting hurt?”


“The gift, you big red dork.”

“Oh!” Ciecro was about to go back down the alleyway for the backpack, but stopped at seeing Vragon walking down carrying it in his claws.

“I’ve gotcha covered Jasmine.”

Vragon set the backpack down as all four gathered around it. The Fraxure undid the flaps and after a little bit of searching pulled out something wrapped in a nice clean cloth. As Vragon undid the cloth protector, pieces of a golden metal revealed themselves, occasionally glistening when light managed to strike its surface.

Jasmine looked in awe as Vragon set the finished piece on top of the backpack for them all to gawk at. It depicted the Lanturn they all knew swimming with a Walrein, joy on their faces that looked so real. Their expressions matched the photograph, although the improved coloring and sharper contrast of the background gold color to the paper’s tan made the image almost more alive.

Ciecro could stare at it for eternity, at least until his gaze was sapped by Jasmine whistling. “That’s a step up in a birthday gift, I have to say. She’ll love it.”


Everyone looked at Vragon, who had his claws on his side and puffed out his armored chest with an eye-shut grin. Ciecro almost chuckled at seeing Jasmine instantly regret making that compliment with her half-shut stare as the Fraxure elaborated, “We wanted to get her something she would no doubt be able to use for good but also something close to her heart, so what better than a version of her favorite picture she can keep with her underwater?” Vragon curled his claw under his chin and looked up. “It was-”

“Was using your brains,” Jasmine smirked, causing Vragon to leer at her. She chuckled at how upset he was at her ruining his bragging moment.

Ciecro almost chuckled too, however, his attention was grabbed when Jaron said his name.

“Hrm?” He looked at the Croconaw.

“Why did you pick up the gift?”

“Oh well…I was gonna show Dolly.” He looked down at the metallic image, slowly reaching down and picking it up into his claws. He stared at their smiling expressions, his eyes narrowing slowly as the image seemed to fluctuate between the two swimming in the water and what he would envision was a picture of his family.

‘It’s very simple. Fight me and you get your backpack back. Nothing more to it, punk.’ Clyde’s voice rang in his head as his grip on the metal picture grew tighter. His eyes shut as he took his right hand off of it and used his left to offer the picture to Jaron.


He heard Jaron say, but his eyes were fixated forwards, past the gap between Jasmine and Vragon, focused on the wall where he had run into Clyde the first time. “Yah take it.”


Ciecro, let the picture fall into Jaron’s hands, the Croconaw getting a good grip despite the abruptness and his confusion. The Charmeleon knelt down and closed up his backpack.

“Wait, what about you? Don’t you want to show it to Dolly too?”

‘You think if he starts another fight with you he won’t get expelled and barred from being a Ranger?’

He stood up, put the backpack on, and without looking at any of them said, “I need tah prepare fo’ dah aptitude test.”

Jaron’s just froze, mouth agape and eyes wide.

“Are you sur-?” Jasmine started, but Ciecro cut her off.

“Yeh…I’m sure. Thanks fo’ dah help.” He had just taken his first step when he stopped, shutting his eyes hard at hearing Jaron’s voice, a mixture of anger and hurt in it.

“Ciecro, stop.”

The Charmeleon straightened his back but didn’t dare turn around. He simply shifted his head a little, saying. “Yeh?”

“Why can’t you come with us? You’ve trained and trained that’s all you do anymore. What’s going on?”

Ciecro felt his chest grow heavy, his muscles tensing at Jaron’s attitude, wanting to combat the defiance of his younger brother. He tempered those feelings with a calming breath as he simply said. “Dah test is tomorrow.”

“You’re not stupid, Ciecro! Stop lying to me!”

That was it, Ciecro turned around, his scowl meeting Jaron’s. The fierceness in their eyes burned bright in their irises, be it because of their anger or their Norfarion heritage.

“I ain’ lyin’ to yah.”

“Yes, you are!” Jaron shouted, sniffling.


“Stay out of this, Jasmine!” Jaron snapped, glaring back at Jasmine, who instantly backed away.

“Dats enough, Jaron.” Ciecro said with an authoritative voice. Jaron turned back to him, their eyes once more resuming a staring duel of brute force.

“You keep blowing me off every time. I haven’t been able to do anything or just be with you since last week. I’m sick of it, why are you avoiding me?”

Ciecro’s eyes narrowed. “I have dah test tah work on.”


“Enough buts.” Ciecro let a small snarl escape his maw, causing Jaron to tense up. “Yah’re notta baby, Jaron. I get I’ve not been able tah be wit’ yah, bu’ yah know damn well why. Dat test is very important tah me.”

“I just…I wanna help you.” Jaron’s gaze was shifting to desperation. “We’re a team. I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.”

Ciecro remained silent, staring into the begging gaze of his younger brother as his mind focused on one point. I can’ stop till I’m strongeh…disciplined…an’ able tah be dat on my own. Ciecro closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Jaron, I…I don’ wanna talk abou’ it.” He tensed up at Jaron raising his voice again.

“You never want to talk about it!”

“Guys,” Vragon interjected, but by this point, any mediation couldn’t avert Ciecro finally setting the foot down.

“Den stop pesterin’ me abou’ it an’ accept dat.” Ciecro glared at his brother, who instantly flinched at Ciecro taking the offensive. “I need tah be responsible an’ pass dat test, an’ I need tah do it on my own. If yah wanna help, den can it when I ask yah tah ‘can it’.”

Jaron’s head fell, his shocked face shifting to hurt and angry.


He looked up at Jasmine, who was also unhappy at his outburst, and to be honest, he was too. He felt the guilt swelling up inside as he reached for the straps on his shoulders. “Look, Jaron, I’m glad yah car-”

Jaron just turned around, stomping away without a word.

“Jar-…” Ciecro’s voice trailed off as he watched his brother march down the alleyway, not bothering to look back. Vragon was hot on Jaron’s tail and Jasmine started walking too.

She took one glance back at Ciecro. Her gaze wasn’t judgmental, but worried. Worried about him and Jaron, while also giving a message for him to apologize to his brother without words.

Ciecro turned and looked down the other alleyway as he was left all alone. His head fell. I wish…Jaron… His first step felt weighted as he looked up at the sky. I’ll pass dat test…den, I’ll make up wit’ Jaron.

He looked at his right claw, opening up for his gaze as it wavered, sharing his uncertainty. He clenched it, almost as if he was silencing its worries and assuring it everything would be okay, even if he had to work hard to make it that way.


Dragon Enthusiast
  1. flygon
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Heya Vray! This is a review for chapter 1, crossposted from FFN.

Interesting opening, starting with some intrigue and context less exchanges, but I was able to follow just enough to get into the scene. This is a decent opener despite the lack of context, so good job there. Also, bonus points for featuring a Charmander, if only for my personal biases.

Very cute family dynamic, and while I think introducing the crests and expositing that through the kids felt a little forced, I also recognize its necessity. I think it was graceful enough. About half of this opening chapter is just hiding and some unknown mystery of why it's important, but it's a little vague. I wonder if it would help to have a little exposition earlier on that in particular, since right now I feel a little lost on things that the characters involved would already know more about. I guess that's an advantage of being from the kids' perspective for now...

The chapter ends with a big mystery of what was being said, and tons of death and/or capture flags of the children's' families. It's pretty heavily telegraphed, but I wonder when it will start kicking off.

Overall, though, I'd say this was a good opening chapter that was lacking in a more solid sense of conflict. Yes, there is conflict, but it's ill-defined. There is intrigue and some exposition, and the pieces are almost there, but it's not enough to get a good picture beyond a cliche plotline of a cursed brand and people who want to destroy it. And I doubt that's what is actually the case, at least not entirely. But I think as a casual reader I would certainly hope for more, quickly, in the coming chapters.
Chapter 21: Testing Patience


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 21
Testing Patience​

Humphry hummed to himself, arms behind his back as he stood on a hill a little off the beaten path leading into town. It was a nice sunny day, the perfect day for the aptitude test and the cool air did wonders in keeping his nerves from constantly knotting from the stress.

After a glance at the sun, Humphry’s relaxed smile shifted to a neutral look of mild concern as he turned his gaze down the hill.

“What time is it?”

A Luxray, lying in the grass nearby, yawned and shook his mane. Next to him was a Vespiquen, her small wings flapping with great speed and her large claws cupped in front of her abdomen. Both wore pink bands similar to Humphry’s but with Phiska City’s symbol. She looked down at the Luxray with a displeased look. “Well?”

“I just got comfortable.” He rolled onto his back, smirking with a clear enjoyment of her distress at his demeanor. “Besides, Humphry’s standing right there.”

She grumbled. “Don’t be rude-”

“Oh, I don’t mind. It’s about half-past ten. They should be getting here any minute now.”

“Half past ten!” The Luxray exclaimed, eyes wide and rolling onto all fours.

Humphry just stared back, a bit caught off guard at how serious he was taking this news after pretty much being so carefree in front of his boss.

The Luxray sat, grumbling. “Is it customary for your tests to take so long?” He sneered with a cold glare.

“Frizzzk,” The Vespiquen Commissioner buzzed up to him, agitated. “Zzzo help me if you don’t-”

“I’m just thinking of the road ahead,” Frisk defended, pulling a little back so he had some space from the buzzing bug. “Took us two whole days to get here from Phiska City. I don’t want us to keep everybody there without us for a whole week.”

The Vespiquen grumbled and pressed a talon to her small eyes. “Well can’t you be a bit more tactful inzzztead of blurting out like a buffoon?”

“Buffoon!” The Luxray growled, arcing his back a little.

Humphry walked down and coughed into his hand to get their attention. “It’s alright. I am sorry at how inconvenient this is for you two coming here, but I want to thank you all the same.” His body eased up at seeing the two calm down slightly, but both still looked upset. Sensing a chance to ease things over, Humphry shut his eyes and gave a warm smile. “But it shouldn’t be too much longer. Once the kids get here and the other groups we’ll shift into the combat portion of the test and that should take no more than twenty minutes tops. You both will be well on the road before noon.”

“I hope so,” Frisk mumbled as he laid back down in the grass.

Glancing at Frisk and shaking her head, the Vespiquen hovered towards Humphry. “I would like to apologize for my zzzubordinate.”

“Nah it’s fine. I imagine he does good work for you and all.”

“If you don’t mind me azzzking, why did you call so many groups for thizzz aptitude tezzzt running? Perion Town izzz lovely, but izzz your turnout really zzzo big to warrant thizzz much help?”

Humphry flicked his cabby cap a little as he gave her a confident nod. “Well, allow me to explain.” He gestured towards the town as he started. “So this round we’ve got about twenty young uns for the aptitude test, which is the most I’ve ever had by a good amount. My force could accommodate it, but given since we’re a small town in the middle of the market season, I didn’t want to lessen security for such an important time. Plus, I don’t want to break up the general tradition of other commissioners and their first captains assisting in the program since it helps give the test takers some good insight into other stations.”

“I zzzee…and you wanted so many commizzzzzzionerzzz and their firzzzt officerzzz becauzzze?”

“Simple. I wanted some good quality and to make it easier on everybody. I could just run it with the rangers nearby, but that’s only Commissioners Zebzena; Phillips; Counzel; and because I’m good enough friends the trip is an excuse to just catch up as well, Orgul. Which is a decent size, but we’d need to have two of us run the written test portions at the very least, which leaves me with only eight rangers for twenty kids for the entire battle portions.”

“That izzz a bit little for battle evaluation. You each would need to battle two with zzzome having to do three to even it out the bezzzt.”

“Exactly.” Humphry snapped his finger. “So I needed to get some extra help. And I thought to myself,” He pressed his hand to his chin, mimicking the posture he would have had. “Why not get some good quality help from some of the bigger cities? Sure it’d be a pretty long trip, but it’d bring some broadness for the kids and it would give you all a good chance to see some potential recruits for your forces. After all, I imagine keeping the cities safe is a lot more work than us out here in the middle of nowhere, heh.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that. What a kind gezzzture.” she turned her head towards Frisk and her eyes narrowed coldly. “Izzzn’t that right, Frizzzk?”

“Yes, Captain,” Frisk answered without so much as a glance, too at east in the grass again.

Humphry didn’t pay the rudeness any mind as he continued. “And I’ve heard good things of Phiska’s force being tough as talons made of metal, so I just had to ask you lot to help with the battle portion.”

“I zzzee, well I’m flattered.”

“No problem, ma’am.” Humphry tipped his hat toward her, making her giggle a little. “I’d be a fool to pass on this chance.”

“Well, bezzzidezzz me and Frizzzk here, who did you get?”

Humphry raised his fingers as he named both off. “Commissioner Methis of Sable City and Commissioner Rilla of Crion City.”

“Oh joy, Rilla.”

“Frizzzk.” The Vespiquen spun around, angrily buzzing. “Don’t talk about a Crion’zzz commizzzzzzioner like that!”

“Come on, boss, it’s not like she’s here to get all upset at us for not liking her snobbish, ‘superior than thou’ attitude.” Frisk sat up and started licking his paw.

“I know, but-”

“If it makes you feel any better, Captain Nerom.”

Frisk’s ears perked up at being addressed by his title.

“Commissioner Rilla is helping with the written portion of the test with Undo.”

“That’s a relief.” Frisk tilted his head. “But why ask her to begin with?”

“Well, she does offer one of the best versions of the written test this side of Triacal. So I felt it proper to ask her for the kid’s sake.”

“Still…you sure you want that pompous lady to come here and run every-”

“Frizzzk, please. All thizzz negativity is going to make you age zzzhed long before you’re old.”

Frisk snickered as he looked away and snubbed her with a raised snout.

She sighed, but perked up as she asked Humphry, “Honezzztly, one of thezzze dayzzz you’re going to go too far with that mouth of yourzzz.”

“Tck, well then go ahead and fire me if it bothers you so much,” Frisk snapped.

“Pleazzze not now-”

“She’s not wrong you know. Grumpiness doesn’t make you age slower.” Humphry turned around, eyes widening as the voice’s familiarity filled his nerves with life. Walking up the hill towards them was Commissioner Orgul, with a blue ranger band around his left, thin Bisharp shoulder.

“Amyas!” Humphry jogged down to meet his friend halfway and after an embrace, he said, “You made good time. Where’re the others?”

“Getting something to eat so they don’t fight on an empty stomach. Sorry, we’re late.” Amyas rubbed the back of his metal helmet-like head, a goofy smile on his face.

“Oh no, not at all. The written part is taking longer than anticipated.”

“I see, well.” Amyas put his gauntlet hand on Humphry’s shoulder. “More time to catch up then.”

“You sure?”

“Huh?” Amyas raised a brow as Humphry threw a childish grin on his face.

“I wouldn’t want you to drop down from starvation in the next few minutes.”

“Shut up, prick.” Amyas playfully punched Humphry’s gut, the two chuckling.

“Ah, zzzo you’re Commizzzzzzioner Orgul of Plainier Town?”

Amyas nodded. “Yep, Amyas Orgul.” He introduced, doing a small, but respectful head bow to the Vespiquen. “And you must be Commissioner Sectonia?”

“Indeed I am.” She did a little curtsy bow, albeit without the legs. She gestured her arm to the Luxray. “And this is my first captain, Frizzzk Nemron.”

“How do you do,” Amyas said with a hearty smile, while the Luxray kept his disinterested frown on full display.

“I do well enough.”

“Ahehehe, well that’s certainly good to hear.” Amyas looked at Humphry. “So how’s everything here in Perion?”

“Fine, fine. How about Plainier?”

“Alright. Nothing too significant. At least not as significant as your little stuff. Nervous much?” He crossed his arms and leaned in with a prying grin.

“Heh, well kind of. Twenty is a lot and, I’m glad you and everyone else could come and help.”

Right as Commissioner Orgul opened his mouth to answer, a voice from lower on the hill interrupted.

“Help the needy they say. Even rangers are that sometimes, especially in places like this.”

Humphry glanced downhill, his smile going as a singular Phalinks marched up the hill, eyes looking all smug.

“Great, one of Rilla’s noisemakers,” Frisk grumbled in a whisper as he lay down in the grass.

Despite not appreciating the tone of this mon, Humphry kept his smile up and gave a respectful bow to the Phalinks that joined them. “Of course. Commissioner Rilla’s reputation for the written test is well earned, Captain…uhm?”

“First Captain Asmodeaus,” The Phalinks corrected, as he turned his gaze to the others nearby. “Ah, so it wasn’t just Crion you called aid from. Though, not to be rude, but Phiska wouldn’t be my first choice.”

Commissioner Sectonia’s wings flapped faster as the insult agitated her. “We happen to be clozzzer to Perion Town than Crion City.”

“I’m aware. But I suppose having so many test takers they needed some heavy lifters.”

She buzzed, as her arms shook at their sides. Until Amyas stepped in between. “Woah, Woah, everybody. We’re better than this. We’re adults, let alone rangers.”

The Vepsiquen sighed. “Yezzz, you’re right.” She looked at Humphry, saying, “If I may, what wazzz the rezzzt of your plan?”

“Huh? Oh well, I’d rather wait till the rest are here.”

“Oh come on,” Amyas shrugged. “We’re here and it’s not like it’s painful for you to tell us.”

“You might as well.” The rude Phalinks said, looking up at the sky. “Not like we have anything better to discuss.”

All eyes focused on him with annoyance until they turned back to Humphry. “Well,” the Seismitoad rubbed his chin and shrugged with a smile. “Why not. All right so here’s what we’re going to do.” He straightened his posture, puffed out his chest, moved his left arm behind his back, and held up a finger. “Since there are twenty kids for this, I was thinking of splitting the groups so that each group would get three students. The pairs would comprise of a commissioner and a first captain, neither being the of the same branch.”

“Isn’t that needlessly complicated?” Captain Asmodeaus commented, not even bothering to bring his eyes from whatever clouds they were gazing at.

“I don’t think so. It’d give the kids some good mixture of different rangers and even would be good practice for us too, I figured.”

“I like it,” the Bisharp said with a nod. “I’m sure Somwei would appreciate not working with me.”

“That makes two,” Frisk smirked at his boss, who leered back at him.

“Anyways, I’ll be helping too. And the groups I was thinking of would be-”

“Hold up one second.”


The Phalinks turned around, leering at Humphry as he continued. “If you’re splitting it up three kids per pair, and you have seven pairs running this operation, then one group would get two.”

“Huh, you’re right,” The Vespiquen buzzed, looking at Humphry for an answer.

“Ah well, there’s a reason for that. Me and Captain Tork of Vergium Town will be handling the two in that group.”

“Captain Tork? You sure he’s a good option for that?” Amyas said, pressing his metal hand to his chin. “I mean, he’s their strongest ranger. Even broke one of his student’s arm last year during their town’s aptitude test.” A goofy smirk crossed his face as he looked to the side. “Boy was Commissioner Zebzena pissed.”

Humphry smiled a little at remembering that afternoon but focused back up as he continued with, “It should be fine. I chose him specifically for the strongest student. That’s mostly the reason-”

“Ah, so you’re going to have Tork take on the troublemaker, I see.”

Humphry paused, his mouth agape as he looked at Captain Asmodeaus, who was looking at him with an icy, yet amused stare. Shutting his mouth, Humphry took a deep inhale through his nostrils and said, “I’m not sure where you got that notion, but-”

“From around town. I don’t blame you though, from what I heard he’s gotten quite the bad reputation. Odd you’d consider such a delinquent for this test.”

“Everyone deserves another chance. Besides, he’s very committed to the cause.” Humphry leered at the Phalinks, though his mind was racing. I thought the gossip about Ciecro had died down well enough. Sure he gets rude stares, but nobody cared enough to soil his reputation with out-of-town rangers. Unless it was Clyde…Ugh.

“It’s alright, I understand. Taking what you can get is just sometimes what is needed-”


“Hrm?” The Phalinks looked up at Humphry, who walked up and stared down at him as if they were fangs ready to inject venom. “I’d request you not tout local gossip.”

The Phalinks grunted and turned around. “Local gossip about an attempted mur-”

“I didn’t request you to come here to ramble about someone eager to become a ranger. It’s not the reputation that makes a ranger, it’s in here.” He tapped his chest. “And I won’t shun someone wanting to do the right thing when I can give a guiding hand. Now, please stop circulating local gossip about a student’s personal matter.”

“Tck, very well. I’ll respect your decision, Perion’s Commissioner.” The Phalinks looked back up at the sky, almost as if their tense conversation hadn’t happened.

Humphry felt a tap on his shoulder as he turned to see Amyas patting him. An encouraging smile was on his face, the kind that made Humphry instantly warm up.

One clearing croak later, Humphry said, “Okay so where was-” He froze as a beeping sound filled their ears, prompting him to reach for his belt. He pressed the com orb and it split. “Commissioner Hommel speaking?”

“This is Captain Undo. We’ve just finished the tests and are getting everyone ready.”

“Good, first go let the kids get some lunch while we get the rangers to the meeting point and get everyone up to speed.”

“Yes sir!”

He switched the com off and stuffed it back into his belt’s pouch. “Alright, you heard the mon. Let’s go get everyone and head to the rendezvous point on the outskirts.”

The Luxray stretched, arching his back and grunting. “Finally.”

His boss sighed as they started towards town, the Phalinks following along with the Bisharp. However, at seeing Humphry just standing there, Amyas turned back.


“No, I’m alright. Just nervous.” He smiled at his friend, but it went away at seeing Amyas wasn’t convinced.

“Hey, don’t let some snobby captain get to you. Your job ain’t easy and you’ve got sound judgment.”

“Oh no, I’m fine. If words like his got to me, I’d have quit a long time ago.”

Commissioner Orgul crossed his arms and tilted his head. “Then what is it?”

“We need to hurry.” Humphry started as Amyas walked beside him.

“Talk and walk?”

“Heh, like old times at our station’s academy?”

“Why not?”

“Heh. Sure thing.” Humphry looked forwards. “It’s mostly about that student.”

“The one Captain Asmodeaus was talking about?”

“Yeah…just gets under my skin some snob head being so quick to deny the boy.”

“I suppose. It isn’t right in my book, but my book isn’t their station’s rulebook.”

“True. But the kid really is a nice boy with a good heart.” Humphry looked at Orgul, a smile on his face. “Being a ranger is something he’s committed to becoming.”

“I imagine.”

“No, I mean, he really wants it. Like badly.”

“He does?”

“Yep. He’s been training and studying hard just so he’ll pass this test. I’ve been following him and I bet if you saw his progression you’d be impressed.”

“Maybe. I trust your judgment of character.”

Humphry looked at the grass in front as they walked. “Say, Amyas.”


Humphry looked back at his friend, an idea forming in his mind. “Do you have to head back right after the test?”

“I mean, I don’t need to. Something up?”

Humphry crossed his arms. “Want to meet him?”

“Meet who?”

“The boy I’m talking about.” Humphry’s gaze looked forwards, staring at the town as it stood tall amid the grassy plains surrounding it. “Ciecro Almkin.”

< O >​

“Oof!” Humphry grunted as he slid back on the ground. His arms were sore from blocking the Psycho Cut heading for his head, but as he lowered them they tensed. He saw his opponent, Jasmine, her horn ceasing its pink glow as she arced downwards like she was getting ready to pounce.

“One minute remaining!”

Humphry glanced at Tork, holding his large, right hand up while his left displayed the holographic timer in the other. His eyes trailed over to Ciecro, who was completely focused on Jasmine with a nervous scowl.

Heh, one-minute ei? He faced his opponent again, right in time to see her charging at him with Megahorn. He rolled his neck and planted his legs. Alright, let’s put on a good show for the next goers.

As suddenly as her horn started growing, it stopped its greenish glow and returned side as her body accelerated with a white streak behind.

Faking into Quick Attack, heh. He slammed one of his fists into the ground, a stream of brown light shining as mud flew towards her like it was a Water Gun from some water type’s mouth.

Jasmine darted left, but Humphry rotated in his spot, slamming his fists into the ground, one after another to create new Mud Shots to keep her back. Sorry, Jasmine, you ain’t getting through that easy.

The Absol picked up the pace, but Humphry was comfortably able to keep up given he had to merely twist to her sprinting in a larger circle.

Come on, your clock is ticking. A confident smile formed on Humphry’s face as Jasmine finally gave up trying to flank him and instead leaped in the air, her head horn shining pink energy as she twisted her head. “Yaaaargh!” A Psycho Cut crescent wave soared right towards Humphry.

Now’s my chance! He raised his leg, like how a Hariyama would before slamming it into the ground, sending another Mud Shot to intercept the Psycho Cut. It broke through the psychic move as Jasmine scowled, dashing away from the incoming move right as she landed with swiftness.

Dang, I forgot how nimble she was. A smile formed on his face. Guess there are perks to being a speedster. Humphry cupped his hands together, slowly pulling them apart as if he was making a snowball. Between his palms, a cyan ball began forming that looked in the shape of a snowball but had a twirling snowflake in the center.

“No, you don’t!” Jasmine exclaimed, her horn engulfed in a pink glow as she sent another Psycho Cut right at him.

Humphry smirked, turning his body so it would hit his shoulder, and closed his eyes. Too bad for you. Pain surged on his shoulder as the move broke apart as he toughed out the hit. I’m a defense-built Seismitoad. A goofy grin formed as he finished forming the sphere. I get it from my momma’s side.

“What?” Jasmine gasped, dumbfounded at how he just took it without a second thought, allowing him to throw his arms up and send the sphere up above the two. It burst apart, causing a swirl of wind and ice above their heads that rained down upon them.

“Hail?” Jasmine absentmindedly asked, raising her paw to shield her face from the wind and small ice.

“Yep,” Humphry answered with a happy stare, though his body was far from appreciative of the temperature drop and the pelting of the ice. As the ice pellets struck the right arm that shielded his face, Humphry stretched his left outwards as water streams ran down it, glowing with a blue light.

Jasmine gasped, as it emerged from Humphry’s arm like an aqua Ekans and started orbiting the Seismitoad in a slithery motion. Her eyes widened. “Wait…that’s?”

“Ahhhh, that’s much better.” Humphry lowered the arm shielding his head, smirking as the orbiting Aqua Ring emitted a pulsating glow that flowed into Humphry like small, almost transparent streams of water. The Seismitoad put a hand on his head, croaking as he laughed. “Better do something quick Jas-” He froze midsentence as he saw Jasmine had vanished. Behind? He swung around, but it was too late.

“Ack!” Humphry felt a sharp sting in his stomach as Jasmine rammed him with a Megahorn. “Why you!” He tried grabbing her, the adrenaline and instinctual fear filling his mind.

She hopped back, using Quick Attack to get some distance.

Humphry rested on a knee, panting a bit as his nerves ceased their despair in his gut and remembered the minor pelting Hail and relaxing Aqua Ring.

That’s…ugh, smarts. He groaned as he got to his feet, taking his hand away from the part where she rammed him. As he felt the pain in his stomach, his mind focused on the feeling of the metallic device on his left arm. His fist clenched. Damn, and that was on fifty percent suppression and it still felt like I was about to get run through. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if we weren’t using inhibitors. He shivered a little as he thought of it anyway, even if it was just as simple as being stabbed.

“Ten Seconds!”

Immediately, Humphry snapped out of his stupor and slammed a fist into the ground, sending a Mud Shot Jasmine’s way. She hopped to the side and rushed towards him with Quick Attack.

That’s right, come on in. He feigned to shield his head with his arms, but right as she was about to strike he pushed them outwards. Her move struck his arms as she went over, Humphry making her altitude a bit higher with a helpful push.

Alright, Humphry Hommel! Epic finish! He slashed his right arm in front, a blue line forming. He raised his arms as from the line, blue glowing water rose in the form of a wave. As it came to life, the water appeared beneath him, however, he didn’t sink inside but could stand on it freely. It moved him up the wave as it grew larger, mimicking the arm movements he did over his head.

Jasmine’s eyes bulged at the horrifying sight of a three-story wave heading her way from the top of the hill, while she was airborne.

“Oh yeah!” Humphry exclaimed, a powerful almost maniacal glee in his eyes as he swung his arms down from atop the wave upon the poor Absol that was just landing.

“Time!” The Hariyama shouted about a second before the wave crashed on the slope and traveled to the dip between the hills.

“Jaz!” Ciecro shouted, jogging forwards a little to try and spot his friend amid the slowly sinking water.

Jasmine shot out of the ground, spitting out water and coughing. “What was that‽” She coughed some more, the taste of seawater in her mouth. “I got it in my mouth, blegh!” A nasty scowl emerged on her face as Humphry waded over to her, laughing unrestrained.

“I haven’t done that in a long time.” He reached over and helped her to her feet in the water, which was beginning to sink into the dirt. As he led her up the hill out of the Surf water, he gave the sour Absol a warm smile. “You did pretty good.”

“Thanks.” She managed to say amid her coughing and spitting. “But did you really have to do that?” Her eyes narrowed into a minor scowl, as they reached dry land.

“Can’t make it too easy for you, heh.” Humphry rubbed his head. Jasmine started shaking off the water, Humphry shielding his face as droplets struck him all over.

“Oh, mon.” Jasmine looked down at herself, shivering a little. “I’m a mess.”

Humphry shook his head as he looked up to see his Hail sphere begin to vanish and the chilling wind die down. “Well, nothing about battling is clean.”

“Don’t remind me.” She leered as he chuckled.

“Anyways, mind taking off your inhibitor.”

“Oh ri-”


They both looked up to see Ciecro rushing down towards them, taking care to slow down before he started tumbling from the speed. “Yah a’igh’ Jaz?”

“I’ll live, but my fur is another story.” She grumbled, clawing at her inhibitor forearm guard.

“Careful now, these things aren’t cheap.” Humphry requested.

There was a clinking sound as the inhibitor fell to the ground. Jasmine picked it up and handed it to Ciecro, who started putting it on his arm.

“Anyways, let’s have your fight on a hill that isn’t currently drying, ei?” He patted Ciecro on the shoulder. His smile went as he saw Ciecro’s downcast head and scowling eyes. They looked shaky. Humphry’s eyes trailed down to Ciecro’s right arm where the inhibitor was attached, between the elbow and wrist. He saw minor, but rapid shaking.

“Hey.” Ciecro looked up at him as Humphry smiled warmly. “You’ll do fine.”

Ciecro seemed to ease up, but his face drifted to the side as if a visual telling of how much he disagreed with Humphry’s confidence. Come on, Ciecro. It’s time, so get your head in- A pat on his shoulder made him croak in surprise and turn around.

“That was a good battle, Commissioner.”

“Oh, uh, hehehehe…” Humphry awkwardly rubbed the back of his head. “Thanks, though I think I went a little overboard at the end there.”

“It was a very impressive Surf.”

“Why thank you, but we should get a move on to another hilltop for you two’s battle.” He looked at Ciecro, who stiffened up at being mentioned. Geez, it’s like a whole new Ciecro. I know he can get nervous, but dang. Humphry gasped. “Oh right!” He undid the lock on his inhibitor and handed it to Tork as he looked at the two trainees. “Let’s go.”



The trio started up the hill first, Tork following behind while trying to put the inhibitor in a spot where it would fit snugly. Of course, large hands weren’t the best when it came to undoing and redoing straps.

“Sorry about that. We don’t have troves of money,” Humphry mentioned, taking pity on Tork’s struggle.

“Oh no, I understand. Just need to, mmmhm, undo this.”

“Do you want some hel-”

“Nah, I’m fine. I’m not letting some stupid thing like a strap beat me.”

“If you say so.” Humphry looked back at the kids in front, his gaze softening as he could still see some jittery posture in Ciecro. Geez, tighten up any more and you’ll twist yourself into a knot. He sighed in his mind as the trio reached the top, Humphry and Jasmine stopping about three meters from the pinnacle.

Ciecro took position on the right side of the hill’s summit while Tork walked over to the left side, almost done in his fiddling with the inhibitor.

Humphry’s gaze was locked on Ciecro. Ciecro… he shut his eyes, talking as if he was using telepathy with the Charmeleon. Your power is yours. You don’t need to be afraid of it. Every child has to accept their abilities. It’s no different for Clansmons. His eyes opened, full of compassion. It was no different for me.


Humphry’s eyes blinked and looked at Tork, who was standing at attention, ready for battle. Nodding to himself, the Seismitoad raised his right arm, as he moved one of his large fingers in his left over a spot on the orb it held. “Okay, settings to fifty percent! Raise ‘em up!”

Both turned their arm devices so that the green numbers were visible. They twisted the dials till it displayed the number fifty.

“Alright, you first Tork.”

Tork nodded and carefully moved his other hand to the circular dial the number rested inside. His large fingers pressed the opposite sides and twisted the cylinder, causing the number to change to red and the inhibitor to make a clanking sound akin to one twisting a lock.

Humphry nodded and looked at Ciecro who did the same. “Alright!” Humphry pointed his right arm to the sky, announcing, “This will be a seven-minute performance-based battle. Basic rules of cordial battling apply. Now.” He flattened his palm above as the two combatants faced each other. Humphry swung his arm down, pressing on the orb as he shouted, “Begin!”

Instantly, Tork lunged forwards, moving at great speed toward his target.

Ciecro was dumbfounded by the speed of the large mon, that he just narrowly pulled up his arms to block the first of what became a volley of Bullet Punches. Ciecro’s grunts were drowned out by the rapid slams of the fists until finally one hit at a good enough angle to knock Ciecro’s defenses aside so that the Charmeleon could get slammed right into his chest.

Humphry heard Jasmine gasp as Ciecro went rolling backward down the hill. The Seismitoad’s eyes narrowed as he felt his body stiffen. Come on, Ciecro. You got this, just remember all your training.

A little later, Ciecro pushed off the ground with his hands, handspringing back to his feet and firing a Flamethrower at Tork. The Hariyama charged right into the Flamethrower, punching at it with Bullet Punch.

Ciecro’s eyes reflected his surprise and confusion at the large mon not only being able to use Bullet Punch to prevent his body from being singed, but also to keep advancing down the hill albeit at a step per two seconds.

Humphry’s eyes narrowed as he gaged the distance with his eyes. He’s got about twenty seconds. If Humphry felt the secretions on his skin increase on his head as he eyed Ciecro with a stone-focused stare and his heart beat faster. Come on, kid. He’s going to getcha if you don’t do something about it.

By now, Ciecro had snapped out of the surprise and was throttling his flames fiercer, hoping it would stop Tork in his tracks. Alas, a few seconds after being exposed to the fiercer torrent of flames, the Hariyama was once again advancing down the hill.

Humphry raised a brow at seeing navy blue scales form at the base of Ciecro’s tapered tail and advance down towards the flame. They glistened, full of synergy like a solidified form of the Flamethrower being unleashed currently.

Okay, so Dragon Tail then. Humphry watched with anticipation, excited to see what Ciecro would do as the Hariyama was now almost upon him. Wait. He peered closer, realizing Ciecro was standing upright, his chest puffed out and his neck pulled back slightly thus forcing his head to bend to fire the flames. He’s cutting his flames’ pathway intentionally? His surprised face shifted to glee.

Ciecro quickly leaned forwards, the path from his throat to his maw no longer bent. The flames shot out at a faster rate, catching Tork off guard with the increased intensity and forcing him to halt his advance. The Charmeleon then shut his mouth and charged, taking no time for Ciecro to reach Tork and hop and slice with a forming Dragon Claw.

The ranger wasn’t going to get hit that easily, bending his body to avoid a strike to the head. “Huh?” Ciecro leaned into his claw swipe, spinning his body so his Dragon Tail covered the area where Tork’s head went and landed a direct slap on the mon’s face. “Ouch!” Tork grabbed the spot on his face while Ciecro landed and rolled on the grass, getting up in a low knee posture.

“Not bad kid.” Tork complimented, taking his hand from his face and closing it into a fist. He twisted around and slammed at Ciecro with a Power-Up Punch, but Ciecro pivoted out of the way. As the first move struck the ground, Tork tried to pin Ciecro with his other arm.

Ciecro dove in front, slamming a Thunder punch into Tork’s leg.

“Ack! Why you!” Ciecro darted around Tork, staying very close to the mon’s large, stubby legs while keeping up his attacks and ensuring he wasn’t trapped by the mon’s large hands.

Humphry’s eyes widened. That’s the Ciecro I know! He glanced at the clock. Three minutes.

“Hold still you little-ooof”

Humphry’s eyes shot back to the action as Ciecro backflipped off of Tork’s chest, landing a hit on the mon’s lower face with his tail.

“Ow!” Tork shook his head and charged after Ciecro, slamming down at the recently landed Charmeleon with Power-Up Punch.

Humphry saw a smirk on Ciecro’s face as the Charmeleon as he hopped from his spot, using the momentum from the move’s shockwave to butterfly double twist away and land with his arms stretched towards Tork. Orange orbs of fire formed in them and fired upon Tork, who raised his gray, metallic glowing hands to shield his face.

The Hariyama started Bullet Punching at the fire again, but this time Ciecro had the high ground which made it harder for Tork to advance at a faster pace.

Humphry smiled at seeing how confident Ciecro looked. The Gyarados had come out of the cave and was swimming in the sea, feared and fearsome in its movements.

The smile faded as he saw Tork swap to only punching with one hand and stopping his progress entirely. What is he- The other hand shifted from metallic grey to gleaming white. Humphry saw a similar glow of white energy in the form of a circle at Ciecro’s feet. Ciecro! Look out! He shouted in his head.

Ciecro noticed the ring beneath him, but by then it was too late. A powerful gust of white streaks that twirled like a powerful wind shot out of the ground, sending Ciecro airborne. “Dyaaaa!!” Ciecro shouted as he was spun uncontrollably by the Whirlwind.

“Ciecro!” Jasmine exclaimed, rising to all fours.

Humphry’s eyes narrowed. Guess Tork has some impressive moves of his own.

The Vergium Captain’s eyes narrowed in a pleased manner as he lowered his hand and it stopped glowing white. In kind, the Whirlwind from below Ciecro stopped blowing and the poor Charmeleon started plummeting to the ground screaming. Tork tightened his fist, Power-Up Punch appearing in his hand.

Seeing this, Ciecro surged Dragon Tail and twirled forwards to block it with his move. To his surprise, Tork merely stepped to the side and in the blink of an eye, grabbed Ciecro’s tail from the side and pulled him down.

Humphry gasped at seeing Ciecro slammed into the ground.

Ciecro tried to get up but was immediately pulled into a swing by the Hariyama. “Waaah!” Ciecro was pulled around in a circle by his tail. “Let me go!” Ciecro tried to get a shot of Flamethrower onto Tork but paused at seeing black energy in the hand grabbing his tail. It traveled along his tail before engulfing the Charmeleon like some kind of black aura.

Humphry sealed his lips as Tork let go, sending Ciecro flying down the hill.

“Is that-?”

Humphry nodded. “Yup…Fling.”

“This is going to hurt.” Jasmine closed her eyes, while Humphry kept them squarely fixated on Ciecro as the Charmeleon hit the ground on his back.

The black aura around him erupted violently, like a buried trap exploding on an unfortunate traveler. Ciecro went flying again, hitting the bottom of the hill on his stomach and rolling onto his side.

The Fire Type, pushed with his arms, rising to a knee before looking back up the hill at Tork charging down the hill, accelerated by Bullet Punch.

Ciecro fired Flamethrower from his mouth, slowing Tork’s progress but not halting it.

Humphry looked back at the orb timer, shouting, “One Minute!” He saw Ciecro’s body tense and his eyes widened with a form of panic in them. Sorry champ, rules are rules.

Despite the shock of the time, Ciecro calmed down fast as he focused back on the large target coming down towards him, pelting at the flames with those massive hands. He surged Dragon Claw in his hands as he started walking towards Tork while firing the flames.

Humphry nodded. Good idea, he’s faster than you with Bullet Punch, so closing the distance is very important.

Once he was close enough, Ciecro ceased using Flamethrower and pushed off for a rush, only to stumble a little as a small gust of Whirlwind blew from the side of him.

No! Humphry watched with horror as Ciecro was too off balance to avoid the follow-up Power-Up Punch. He tried blocking, but couldn’t form a base and was overwhelmed by the force and sent back down the hill, landing on his back with an “oof”. As Ciecro pushed up with his arms, looking up at Tork while he lay there, he saw the Power-Up Punch’s energy erupt and flow into Tork’s arm in red streams that vanished inside the hulking body.

As Ciecro stood up, he stumbled a little forwards. He panted and his arms sagged.

“He’s tired,” Jasmine said with horror in her tone. She looked up at Humphry, saying, “And this is on fifty percent?”

Humphry nodded, the cold truth in his mind. “Yep. Captain Tork is their strongest ranger and Ciecro’s gotten hit a lot.”

Jasmine looked back at the fight with concern.

Humphry’s eyes narrowed as he watched Tork rush Ciecro again with Bullet Punch.

Ciecro backed away, doing his best to avoid the punches or parry them, but was eventually overwhelmed. One by one, he was slammed by the punches.

Jasmine shut her eyes and looked to the side.

Humphry felt a heat rising in his heart at seeing Ciecro being pelted like that. A scowl crossed his face. You’re better than this, Ciecro! He said in his heart. Stop fooling around and fight like the fighter you-

Ciecro got knocked back and, for a second, they looked at each other. Humphry’s angry stare met Ciecro’s tired and frustrated one. It was shortlived as Ciecro hand to cover his head as another Bullet Punch went his way. The Charmeleon was on a knee, holding his head under his claws as Tork slammed him with Bullet Punches from above.

Humphry looked at the timer. “Fifteen secon-!”

Ciecro roared, pushing his arms forwards with Thunderpunch right into Tork’s incoming one. The clash sent a small ripple into the air as Ciecro pulled one hand back and slammed it again.

Tork, surprised at this sudden counteroffensive, backed off.

Ciecro leaped up onto Tork, and pummeled his face with Thunderpunch.

A flustered Tork, flailed around, trying to grab at Ciecro from his head, but the Charmeleon’s rapid punches made it hard to focus. Eventually, he regained enough of his bearings to try and swat Ciecro off.

The Charmeleon hopped above it the swipe and grabbed onto Tork’s shoulders from behind, wrapping them to choke.

Tork gagged as he tried to free his throat.

Humphry’s mouth went agape as he watched Ciecro pull back with all his might, making the large Hariyama begin to fall backward. What are you- He soon found out the answer as Ciecro pulled up onto Tork’s shoulders and flipped back onto the mon’s chest as he hit the ground.

Ciecro grabbed Tork’s face and pulled his head back, bringing it down into a harsh headbutt that made Tork’s eyes shoot wide and a harsh cracking sound.

“Ciecro!” Humphry rushed down the hill, seeing the Charmeleon surging Thunderpunch. “Time!”

Almost as if he had snapped out of some trance, Ciecro pulled back and stared at Tork’s face.

Humphry stopped beside Tork, hearing the poor mon groan as a large bruise was forming. The Seismitoad bit his lip as he scowled.

< O >​

“My goodness.” A Tsareena gasped, looking up at the Hariyama sporting a black bruise on his right eye.

“Yeah, got quite the peck there, I did,” Tork chuckled, his voice having the added effect of a Ducklett quack due to the bandage over his nostrils. “Guess you weren’t kidding about him being your strongest applicant, mon.” Tork rubbed his eye as the Tsareena shook her head and bent her hips the other way.

“Well, it’s a nice change of pace. I was getting a bit tired of broken bones from applicants.”

“Hey!” Tork angrily replied, the intimidation ruined by the nasal tone.

Humphry sighed, holding his cabby hat in his hands and bowing his head to the Tsareena. “I’m sorry Commissioner Zebzena. I didn’t mean for-”

“Oh relax. As I said, I’d much rather this than the other way around.” She put a hand on her hip, her eyes reflecting the sincerity of her words. “Besides, giving Tork a black eye and broken nose like that is impressive.”

Humphry sighed. “Thanks, but I don’t think anyone else would quite agree on that.”

“No one battles expecting to not get hurt in some way,” She sighed, flicking her plant-like hair. “Anyways, the big oaf will be fine. We’ll be heading out once we get some numbers from here. No harm done.”

Humphry did a grateful head bow and put his hat back on. “Thank you kindly. It’s awfully nice of you.”

“Don’t sweat it. Tork’s had worse. Tell that kid who did this my compliments to his fighting prowess.”

“I will.” Humphry smiled as he turned around and walked out of the room. Phew. He put a hand on his hat and shook his head. Glad it wasn’t anything serious. As he walked down the hallway, he felt a heavy feeling surmount on his back as he thought back to Ciecro’s face looking at Tork. Poor guy. What an awful way for his test to go.

Right as Humphry passed a corner he stopped at hearing a voice say, “So, how is he?”

“Hrm?” Humphry turned and crossed his arms. “Tork’s alright, Amyas.”

The Bisharp leaning on the wall got off.

“So, I take it your combat is done.”

“Yep.” He shrugged. Stretching his arms, Amyas said, “Pretty good bouts.”

Humphry smiled at his friend’s optimism. “Good to hear.” Humphry looked at the door to the infirmary, his smile going.

“Something wrong?”

Humphry shook his head. “No. Just idly thinking. So, you going to take me up on my offer?”

“About that party?” The Bisharp crossed his metal gauntlets. “Sure, sounds like fun. Though, are you sure I wouldn’t be intruding?”

The Seismitoad shook his head. “Nope. You’d be my guest. Plus, you want to meet Ciecro right?”

The Bisharp nodded. “So, was he the one that…?” His eyes darted back towards the hall.

Humphry’s smile went as he nodded. “Just don’t talk too much about the test to him.”


Humphry adjusted his hat, raising a brow as he felt a strange chill in his body. What? His eyes started browsing the room.

“What time and where was it again?”

Humphry kept looking around, as he said. “Oh uh…by the lake. There’s a river that goes into it. I’ll meet you there at nine.”

“Sure thing, buddy.” One back slap on Humphry later and Amyas was on his way out the door.

The Seismitoad just stood there, watching his friend leave with a frown on his face. What was that feeling just now? He rubbed the side of his head as he blinked. Well, whatever it is. It’s gone now. He started leaving, taking one last look behind as he exited.

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
  6. heliolisk-fobbie
Heya, it's been a while since I last crossed paths with this story, though I did have you as an author on my hitlist of people I wanted to try and pay forward during RB4, so sounds like as good a reason as any to just drop in and pick up where I left things off with in…

Chapter 5

A thud sounded as Gathor shoved a boulder into the ground. He smiled and dusted his hands, while looking proudly upon the impromptu move range he’d just set up. Shifting his smile to a frown, Gathor moved his hands around the boulder and shifted it to stand better.

Wait, so how badly do those places get torn up between training sessions anyways? Since where does Gathor get replacement boulders from? ^^;

Meanwhile, the three sat on a few rocks near the side of the mountain and watched their father tweak the boulders, like one trying to align a picture frame yet being dissatisfied with the result each time.

Seliph and the kids aren't established as being here in this scene just yet. You might want to explicitly state their presence here instead of going with "the three".

Move endurance trainin’ huh? Ciecro theorized in his mind, his prediction supported by the groaning from his siblings.

“Endurance day,” Jaron whined as he laid down on his boulder and went limp.

I wonder if those reactions there correlate at all with the kids' overall fighting style/philosophy, since I noticed that Cicero had a more muted reaction than Jaron and Seliph at doing more endurance training.

Seliph rested his arms on his legs and grumbled. “We already had to walk all the way up here.” With a heavy sigh, Seliph laid back next to Jaron. Shifting on his side, Seliph looked at Jaron’s displeased face and asked, “You ready for it, Jaron?”

Jaron: "No, not really-"
Seliph: "Good enough, let's just get this over with." -_-;

“Blegh,” was all Jaron answered with. The two began sharing their mutual disdain for this exercise while Ciecro just looked off in the distance.

Oh, so Cicero really is the odd duck out in terms of how much he tolerates endurance training, huh?

They all had a good view from their flat, open cliffside; one could see almost the entire forest that sprawled around the mountain and even the start one of the signature plains that dotted Triacal in the distance.

Wait, is Triacal the name of the land that they're in? If so, I kinda wonder why it's taken so long for the story to reveal it when it feels like the sort of detail that Tetheron would've mentioned in passing at some point given that he's got contacts with places that are very far afield.

His idle view gazing was interrupted by Gathor’s approach along with his brothers quickly sitting up from their sprawling.

“A’ight, kids, line up an’ pick yah stone,” Gathor calmly ordered.

Seliph: "Dad, did we really have to hike out into the middle of nowhere to whale on a bunch of rocks-?" >_>;

Seliph and Jaron hurried on over to the two end ones, annoyed and ready to get things over with. Ciecro just walked normally to the one in the middle, lining up to his siblings. Each of the kids was about fifteen feet from his paired boulder.

Small recommendation for a wording tweak since "get this over with" felt a little weird to see in the context of a paragraph in past verb tense.

“A’ight,” Gathor said, stepping past them and giving each one a glance. “Keep yah move on yah bouldeh as best yah can fo’ ten minutes.”

Wait, is this one specific move here Gathor's asking them to practice with? Or is this supposed to be 'moves' plural?

Ciecro heard Jaron groan as the Charmander looked at his rock, ready to begin.

“Okay, Seliph, use Water Pulse. Ciecro, use Dragon Rage. Jaron, use Scald. Everybody ready?”

Jaron: "We have to do this for ten minutes?!"

Gathor: "Yes? Why'dya think I brought all these Ethers up here for?"

“Yes, father.” The water types replied, while Ciecro just eyed his boulder and narrowed his eyes.

Oh, so Cicero's going to do better than his bros at this exercise, huh?

“A’ight, Get ready!” Gathor raised his arm as the three tensed up. “Three!”

Ciecro, moved his arms forwards as he took a deep breath,


Gathor: "One-and-a-half!"
Seliph: "Dad! Come on!" >.<

He held the air in his cheeks as his insides rose in temperature. His tail’s flame flickered fiercer. Ciecro could feel energy moving throughout his body as heat filled his throat. “One!”

Ciecro opened his eyes and focused on the target, before swinging his arms back and unleashing Dragon Rage right as his father yelled, “Launch!”

Whelp, time to see how fast boulders get deleted from existence by Pokémon attacks in this setting.

The purple fire with yellow core struck violently upon the boulder, as the other two were subjected to a Water Pulse and Scald respectively. Feeling the air in his lungs depleting, Ciecro eased the pushing on his throat for a steadier, longer lasting Dragon Rage.

I kiiiiinda feel that this would've had a bit more impact if this were described in more visual terms. Especially for Jaron and Seliph's attacks which are basically just mentioned by name with no further description in this sequence.

He relaxed a little after seeing Jaron’s Scald cease hitting the rock first. Glancing over at the other one, Ciecro grumbled in his head at seeing Seliph’s rock still taking the steady hits of enlarging circles. Come on! Ciecro begged as he started to struggle with keeping his move going.

Some more suggestions for some wording tweaks here.

After a few minutes, Ciecro was forced to stop attacking cease firing. With a heavy pant, he looked over to Seliph, who was keeping his arms fixated in position, like he had just started. After a little growl to himself, Ciecro shook his head and resumed spat up another gout of Dragon Rage.

You know, I wasn't pegging Seliph as the type who'd come out on top here, though I suppose he is the oldest brother and furthest along by evolutionary stage, so it makes sense.

The process repeated of him and Jaron having to take a minute to regain air catch their breaths, while Seliph, occasionally had to roll one of his arms before returning it back.

Wew, so Seliph's literally just still going with his attack here, huh? Is he doing that trick musicians do where they breath in through their nostrils while continuing to play notes, except applied to attacks?

“Two minutes!” Gathor shouted.

Those were some really short two minutes there. .-.

Ciecro quickly stopped his Dragon Rage and inhaled for a finishing stretch. As he did, he noticed Seliph’s rock looked rugged, with its surface chipped by the Water Pulse. Glancing back at his rock, Ciecro noticed it had damage too, although not as badly as Seliph’s. No amount of Dragon Rage would even the score damage-wise with, at least as good as a Water Pulse to on a rocky surface.

Would suggest a bit of a rephrasing here.

Disappointment filled Ciecro’s heart until he noticed his boulder was slightly tipped away from him due to from the force he’d been exerting on it. [ Cicero has a light up moment here ]

I’ll tip it oveh! Dat’ll show Dad how tough I am! Invigorated, Ciecro took as big of a breath as he could before unleashing an even stronger Dragon Rage upon the rock.

Cicero's going to wear himself out before the 10 minutes are up trying to show off, isn't he? Since this sounds like the exact opposite of what you'd want to do in an endurance exercise.

“One minute!”

It felt like the air in his lungs were disappearing as he struggled to keep the powerful flame up. Did he misjudge how hard it would be to keep it going?

Ciecro blinked, trying to push through the fatigue he was feeling. Come on! He pleaded for the boulder to move and slowly he could it tipping. A rush of excitement filled his mind and soul.

IMO, these two parts of your second paragraph feel distinct enough that you should consider dividing it up. Though guess we'll find out whether or not Cicero winds up faceplanting in short order.


Ciecro stopped immediately, not on command but out of surprise. His hands draped in front as he hunched over, panting heavily. Worriedly, the Charmander looked up to his boulder only to frown in defeat at it remaining mostly upright.

I mean, at least Cicero didn't wind up coughing and wheezing and needing to sit down from overexertion? So it could've been worse?

“Good job, all round.” Gathor congratulated. Shoving his fists onto his sides, Gathor looked at all three with a pleased smile. Jaron was too much of a panting mess to respond, Ciecro was just staring at his boulder dumbfounded, while Seliph gave him thumbs up amid some wheezing. “Take a break while I clear dese things fo’ battle practice.”


Gathor: "... Cicero, if you need to sit down, just take a moment to catch your breath."

Seliph walked past Ciecro to help Jaron back to their spots, as Ciecro trudged over, sat down on the ground near the side of the mountain, and stared at the ground with a frustrated look.

“I…hate…move…endurance…training,” Jaron complained, while panting as Seliph helped him onto one of the rocks.

I had to double-take to make sure that was Cicero looking down frustrated and not one of the other bros. It might be clearer if you broke this one-sentence paragraph into two separate ones.

Seliph chuckled, sitting down on a nearby one and leaning back to stare at the clear, blue sky. “Yeah, it does suck. But hey, it isn’t running laps this time.

... Wait, how relatively tiring is attack spam versus running around for Pokémon in this setting anyways?

“I guess…” Jaron pulled at one of his feet, before looking at Seliph and bluntly saying, “But move endurance training still sucks. I’m just glad it’s over.”

“And hey, you did it.” Seliph sat up, giving Jaron an encouraging smile.

This feels a little too samey with Seliph's phrasing and like it's basically saying the same thing. You might want to consider tweaking Jaron's wording a bit to be a bit more distinct, or else for him to say something slightly different than "this training sucks" since Seliph basically said that right before.

Jaron gave an unsure look in return. “What good is keeping a move up if I’m just tired afterwards? I can fire moves already, do I need to keep them up for so long?”

To prevent you from being worn down and picked off by endurance hunters which almost certainly is in the cards given that you have to hide in the woods with your family to keep a low profile?

“It ain’ jus’ abou’ how long yah can keep firin’.”

All three quickly shifted their gazes to their father, walking over while rolling his arm.

“Then why?” Jaron asked, sliding off his rock onto his feet. After a few breaths and keeping his stance up, he asked further, “Why do I need move endurance anyway?”

Gathor: "Jaron, I'm sure I've explained this ta' ya in da past..."

Jaron: "Look, that was offscreen and doesn't count." >_>;

Gathor tapped his chest then pointed at Jaron’s chest. “Yah’re trainin’ in dere. Move endurance also helps build up yah ability tah use yahr synergy fo’ moves. Like buildin’ muscle fo’ liftin’ better.”

Jaron tilted his head and began scratching it. “So, like making my moves come out stronger?”

Guess Gathor's going with a different explanation of strengths there, not that this doesn't seem like a valid point. Though I wonder if this has any impact in helping Jaron and Cicero get closer to their midevo stages at all, or if that's independent of strengthening their present bodies' strength and endurance.

Gathor chuckled, making Jaron blush awkwardly. “Not quite, Jaron.”

Suddenly, Gathor scooped Jaron by the underarms before setting him gently onto his shoulder. Turning to the left and gesturing at the view before them, Gathor continued on.

Moves are our power, but tah use ‘em as moves we need tah convert dat power," the Feraligatr explained. "When yah used Scald, did yah notice how yah felt tired while doin’ it? Moreso den just rapid fire?”

Would recommend chopping this bit up into a few pieces.

Jaron nodded with enthusiasm. “Very tired.”

Gathor chuckled, rubbing Jaron’s head for a second. “Yep, but how do yah feel tired?”


Jaron: "... Doesn't that just happen after ya attack enough times? PP is a thing in this setting, ain't it?"

Gathor took his right hand before carefully pressing a finger to Jaron’s throat. “Does it jus’ feel tired ‘ere?”

Jaron thought for a second before shaking his head. “It feels mostly tired there. But my arms and legs feel a little tired too.”

Gathor looked at the other two and said, “And yah both feel tired all over too, right?”

Seliph: "Dad, you had us attacking for ten straight minutes!" >.<
Gathor: "But ya did feel tired all over, right?"

Seliph nodded, while Ciecro just gave a minor grunt.

“Y’all feel dat way because dah power comes from all oveh yah. So when part of yah is usin’ a move and it starts tah run dry, it takes synergy from dah rest of dah body. Dat’s why move endurance is important. I helps wit dah circulation as well as yah move stamina.”

I wonder if this means that it's also theoretically possible for a Pokémon to kill itself in this setting through just move spamming sufficiently long and hard to the point of suffering the body equivalent of a RROD.

Jaron just kept a blank stare at his father, causing Gathor to smirk.

“Didn’t yah mother teach yah how mons use moves?”

Oh, so we're getting move worldbuilding now, huh? Well you've got my attention here, so let's see where this goes...

Blushing a little and fiddling with his hands, Jaron shook his head.

“I think he fell asleep during that lecture, father.”

[ ]

“Seliph!” Jaron shouted as Seliph got up from his sitting spot.

IMO, you should make it obvious that this is Seliph a bit earlier on, whether it's through something as simple as a speech tag or in a dedicated paragraph of description turning the "camera" back to Seliph.

“Hah! Nothin’ tah be ashamed of, son,” Gathor assured Jaron, patting the embarrassed Totodile’s head. “I’d snooze too if I had tah listen tah her talk on an’ on.”

Probably a good thing that Freya isn't here, since I can already see her
face in reaction to this. :V

Seliph walked over with a big smile. “Yeah, but she’d smack you awake,” Seliph said, punching Gathor in the side, mildly acting like Freya.

Yeah, I figured.

“Woah!” Gathor cried suddenly, bouncing back on his right foot. Jaron and Seliph looked at him in confusion till Gathor, with a big smile on his face, whined, “Don’ hit so hard. Yah’ll break me in half.”

Gathor's got the most obvious
expression while saying all of this, doesn't he?

Deciding to be silly like his dad, Seliph rammed into Gathor’s stomach, making the big gator go “Oof”.

“Have yah gone primal‽” Gathor playfully whimpered. Seliph’s reply was just pushing harder, forcing Gathor to finally give up on being easy and push back from falling over. Gathor gave a challenging chuckle at Seliph’s pushing as hard as he could. “Yah gotta do betteh den dat, boy- ack!”

To his surprise, Jaron had left his shoulder and was climbing onto his head.

“Pull as hard as you can, Jaron!”

Oh, so they are actually going to manage to make their old 'mon fall over, huh? :V

“Will do!” Jaron excitedly replied with his signature grin as he roughly grabbed his father’s face, right as Gathor tried reaching for Jaron’s tail.

“Help!” Gathor pitifully cried out, the smile on his face a bit obscured by Jaron’s arm. “Somebody, help! Dah kids have gone feral!

Oh, so feralization by the likes of Dungeon Madness is a thing in this story too, huh? Noted for the future, though this is a clever way of implying that without needing to go full exposition fairy for the audience.

It wasn’t long before the mixed forces of Jaron’s pulling and Seliph’s pushing and a hint of Gathor's willful yielding letting it happen finally toppled the mighty Feraligatr over.

Seliph and Jaron The two leaped on their fallen father, hitting him with playful punches and laughing, while he begged in exaggeration amid his own laughter, “Please, spare me! Ahh!”

Would suggest splitting this paragraph up and rephrasing a little since some of the wording read a little stilted to me.

As the hearty three did their roughhousing, Ciecro watched them from his spot. His eyes took turns focusing on one of the three before finally just looking off his right hand. Lowering his head, Ciecro slowly clenched his hand just short of a fist. I can almost feel it. He thought, imagining the key in his hand. I wish dat-

IMO, the whole 'key' thing is kinda abrupt here. While I get that Cicero had been thinking about that last chapter, this is the first time it's come up at all in this one, so you probably need a bit more transition into this. Either here, or sometime earlier where you reveal that Cicero's still thinking about the key Freya mentioned on-and-off.

His thoughts were interrupted by the booming voice of his father. “A’ight guys that’s enough wrestlin’. We got trainin’ tah do.” He heard Jaron and Seliph utter bummed ‘aww’s. Ciecro’s eyes narrowed at hearing Seliph whine like that. Hmph…so he’s dah adult, eh? Dat whineh gets dah key an’ dere twust. A scowl formed on the Charmander’s face as he clenched his hand fully into a fist, the force he was exerting causing it to shake slightly.

Cicero: "(How on earth is dat fair?!)"

Seliph: "Cicero? You alright? You look kinda moody all of a sudden for some reason." ^^;

“Hey, Ciecro! Come!” Gathor called to him and he immediately complied. Without a word he joined the other two as Gathor gestured towards a flat, open area away from the boulders they used earlier. “Okay, so it’s battle practice time. So, who wants tah go first?”

This also feels a bit sudden here since Cicero read as fairly upset earlier, so it's a bit weird to see him just go along without some moment to proverbially "snap to attention". It might make sense to write that out a bit more explicitly in the narration.

Before anyone else had a chance, Ciecro raised his hand and quickly added, “Can I say somethin’?”

Gathor raised a brow, but permitted it with a nod.

Ciecro moved his raised hand to point at Seliph. “I wanna battle Seliph.”



“Him? Why?” Gathor crossed his arms as all three looked at the Charmander.

Ciecro took a breath, pushing back their stares in his mind to reason, “Because, Jaron is probably still tired.”

Seliph: "Oh, and like I'm not?"

Cicero: "Oh come off it, Seliph. I saw what you did to that boulder, you've clearly got energy to spare right now!"

“Hey!” Jaron protested, before Gathor held out his hand, indicating him to stop.

Ciecro clenched his mouth shut as Gathor looked at Seliph. “Are yah fine battlin’ Ciecro first?”

You have a couple typos involving phantom 'r's here. Not sure what the story behind that was, but yeah.

The Charmander held his breath with anticipation, not releasing it till Seliph answered with, “I suppose so.”

Gathor gave a nod and the two siblings walked to their respective sides of the flat area, while Jaron joined Gathor at the side.

Both boys started loosening their muscles, as their father yelled, “A’ight normal battle. Stop when I say stop and no foul play.”

Something about this sequence feels a bit dry. It might have made sense to show a bit more of what was going on inside Cicero's head or something like that.

The two nodded and stared at each other as Gathor started counting down. Ciecro leered at Seliph, who was caught off guard by the glare.


Yeah, same here, since I didn't get a firm feeling at all that Cicero was testy and snippy right now.

Ciecro rushed towards Seliph as fast as he could, as the Frogadier thrust his arms forwards and sent a single Water Pulse in his direction. Despite managing to roll away from the growing ring of water enlarging circlular move, Ciecro wasn’t fast enough to avoid the rim. He felt the water strike his legs, sending him off course into an ungraceful landing onto his back.

Ah yes, a great start™️ already for Cicero.

Ciecro gnashed his teeth as he felt his legs sting from the move. Rolling onto his belly and picking himself up, Ciecro growled as he heard Gathor ask, “Yah okay, Ciecro?”

“Yes!” He replied, rolling his head before giving Seliph another scowl and planning his next move.

Gathor: "Uh, Cicero? Yer soundin' just a bit testy right now-" ._.;
Cicero: "A'hm fine, okay?!"

“A’ight, Resume!”

Ciecro charged once more. Seeing Seliph thrust his arms forwards again, the Charmander quickly darted left. Dat’s right, don’ fire yah move yet. Just keep it ready. He kept going in a large circle around Seliph, as the Frogadier kept his arms pointed at him, ready to launch Water Pulse.

Cicero, you do realize that even if this brilliant plan of yours works, it's likely to accomplish little other than to piss Seliph off, right?

Now! Ciecro pivoted, heading directly for Seliph again. This time, when Seliph fired the Water Pulse, he rolled to the side earlier to evade the expanding move. Firmly stopping his roll with his right leg, Ciecro fired a responding Dragon Rage as fast as he could.

Seliph leaped away from it and landed safely, extending his arms for another attempt.

Cicero: "Oh come on!"

No you don’t! Ciecro turned his head and body, moving the Dragon Rage towards Seliph, but sadly he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Seliph.

Cicero: "... Startin' ta get da feelin' this was a bad idea."

The Frogadier was now the one running in a large circle around Ciecro, easily leaving the move behind. Fine! Ciecro ceased firing and quickly dashed to the left as Seliph fired Water Pulse at him. Once clear of the move, Ciecro fired Dragon Rage back, which collided with another Water Pulse Seliph sent his way.

I'm not sure if I follow Cicero's 'Fine' there. Like I get that he's supposed to be agitated, but I don't really get a feeling about what he's agitated about there.

The explosion was close enough to send some water splashing towards Ciecro, forcing him to cover his eyes. Once the stinging on his arm leveled, Ciecro moved his arm away and quickly tried to spot his brother. However, he was suddenly be hit in the shoulder by smaller Water Pulse.

“Ack!” he whimpered as he clenched the spot. He looked to his right, with Seliph there, smiling from his direct hit.

Seliph: "Gotta stay on your toes, Cicero." ^^

Ciecro snarled at Seliph, while holding his shoulder.

Seliph: "Cicero, chill out. It's just a sparring match-" ._.;
Cicero: "Shaddup, Seliph! Nobody asked you!"

Seliph crossed his arms, bothered and a bit annoyed by Ciecro’s angry stare. “Hey, you just stood there so don’t be sore abou-”

“Shuddup!” Ciecro yelled, standing up and ripping his hand from his stinging, dampened shoulder. The Chamander rushed at Seliph once again.

Boy can I call 'em, or what?

Yah tink yah’re smart? Well I’ll knock yah smart! Ciecro surged Slash in both of his claws.

Oh yeah, this is totally going to end well and not with somebody leaving the field in tears.

Seeing that, Seliph quickly moved his left arm in front to fire a Water Pulse as his right formed a Cut stick.

Wait, a what now?

Yah’re not betteh dan me! With the mightiest roar he could muster, Ciecro crossed his arms above his head, leaped, and crossed sliced right onto the incoming Water Pulse. His move cut through the water, splashing it into his upper face and lower body. Confused from the water hitting his eyes and stinging, Ciecro’s blindly landed onto his face. He yelped from the hit as he held his head and rubbed his eyes.

Wow, so Cicero literally faceplants from his attempt to take on Seliph, huh? Though this kinda ties in with the point that I was making earlier about how it'd probably have been good to show how Cicero was parsing his jealousy towards Seliph over the key / more shown of what was going on in his head, since this "you're not better than me" feels like it wasn't built up towards as much as it could've been.

“Ciecro!” he heard Seliph cry, before feeling his brother help him up. “Are you okay?” Slowly, Ciecro opened his eyes, fighting through the stinging before he could finally see. As the pain eased, he looked slightly upwards to Seliph, who looked down at him with a relieved smile.

inb4 Cicero's visibly trying not to cry right now, since he got frustrated and tried to make a show of how tough he was only for Seliph to just casually humiliate him without realizing it.

Ciecro just silently looked at him, making Seliph’s smile shift to worried confusion. “Ciecro?” was all he could say before the Charmander pushed him back and leapt upon him.

“I don’ need yahr help!” Ciecro shouted, punching and scratching at Seliph’s face.

Jaron: "Um, pa? Maybe you should step in right now." O.O

“Ciecro! Stop it!” Seliph pleaded, defending his head with his arms. “Get off of me!”

“Ciecro, stop now!” Gathor shouted as Jaron gasped.

I'm honestly surprised that Gathor didn't just beeline over and pull Cicero off, since things have really obviously gone beyond the level of "sparring for training" right about now and into "grudge match that will make Seliph and Cicero mad at each other for the next week" territory.

Ciecro wouldn’t relent. Yah ain’ betteh den me! Ciecro shouted in his head, over and over, till a hand gripped his tail. Yelping in surprise, Cicero was pulled off Seliph and hung in the air upside down. He froze, as he stared straight into his father’s scowl.

Oh, there's the intervention there. Though IMO, the bit in underline would sound a lot better were it written in active voice and not in passive voice. Basically describe the process of Cicero getting yanked off more as it happened and not after the fact.

Not taking his eyes off of Ciecro, Gathor asked, “Are yah fine, Seliph?”

“Yes sir.”

Ciecro’s frustration returned, but the discomfort of the moment limited his nerve to say anything. He just looked away from his father’s eyes and glared in a random direction.

Gathor: "Cicero, seriously! Da hell's gotten into you?!"

With a snort, Gathor set Cicero down and ordered, “Seliph, practice block forms with Jaron. Ciecro and I are gonna have a talk.”

Not sure what the deal is, but you seem to be misspelling 'Cicero' a bit in a couple places around this part of the chapter.

Gathor led Cicero behind some rock formations and gestured for the Charmander to move right behind the rocks.

Despite complying, Cicero refused to look up to his father out of a mix of shame, worry, and anger. He rested his back against the rock and waited through the few painful minutes of silence.

Cicero: "Um... I can explain?"

“Ciecro…” Gathor’s voice sounded very authoritative, but wasn’t too rough to sound harsh. “Why did yah staht hittin’ yah brother and why did yah ignore me?”

Ciecro didn’t reply, but tensed a little as Gathor asked once more. After taking a breath, Ciecro gave in and answered, “Because I was losin’ an’ it got to my head.”

Gathor: "You realize that's not makin' ya sound better right now, right?"

“Is that dah truth?”

Ciecro’s muscles froze, almost as if the blood inside him had solidified into instantaneous ice. His heart beat faster as he kept a shaky leer to ground. What do I say?

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I won't do it again?"

Since, really. I'm a little surprised the Cicero's not more worried about Gathor potentially being really, really mad at him right now.

Cicero…” He heard Gathor get onto a knee and say, “look at me.”

Cicero freaked out in his head and closed his eyes. Imagining Gathor’s angry gaze felt like a cold Ice Beam to the chest, shriveling him up and making it hard to think straight. After Gathor started asking again, Cicero desperately blurted out, “No!”

IMO, this would've worked better if this was 'shown' more and 'told' a bit less.

“‘No’? Why ‘no’?”

“Why should I?” Cicero answered, more out of nervous sniping and irrational thought than actual confidence.

“Because I’m yah father an’ we need tah talk.”

Gathor: "Seriously, Cicero. This ain't a good look for ya."

Cicero kept shivering, before Gathor put his hand on Cicero’s shoulder. Something about the heavy arm on his made his body relax, probably due to nostalgic feel of his father’s touch. His breathing slowed and his eyes opened, although they were fixed squarely on the ground.

“…Cicero, what’s wrong? Why are yah afraid tah look at me? I’m not mad jus’ worried.”

I kinda wonder if that should've been played up more for whatever's going on in Cicero's head. Since it's a little unclear what exactly he's afraid of here. Like if Gathor found out that Cicero knows about the key, what exactly does Cicero expect will happen because of it?

“Worried?” Ciecro’s said in a low tone. Worried… Something about that word shifted all his thoughts from fear to earlier, when Gathor asked if Seliph was okay. Frustration slowly began to return the longer he dwelled on that scene.

“Yes, Ciecro. Yah wouldn’t do dat tah Seliph.”

... Actually, I just realized that 'Ciecro' is indeed the name and not 'Cicero'. Even though I've apparently been getting this mixed up since the very very start. Yay me as a reader, just go ahead and ignore those earlier spelling correctoins.

Though how on earth does Gathor not notice Ciecro's mood taking a turn for the worse in live-time? .-.

The Charmander scowled at the ground. Seliph…worried… Slowly, he raised his head and looked at his right hand. “Worried…” His right hand started shaking and closing.

“Yes…yah know dat right?” Gathor’s tone seemed different, like he was picking up on something changing in Ciecro.

What, him getting increasingly
in live-time wasn't hint enough? ^^;

“Sure...I know dat.” Ciecro mumbled as his fist clenched tightly.

“Ciecro-” Gathor started, but ceased once he heard Ciecro growl at him.

I’m done wit dis! Ciecro yelled in his mind. He looked right at his father with his fierce orange eyes and harshly snapped, “I know, so don’ waste yah worryin’ on me!”

Gathor: "Okay, seriously Ciecro, what happened? Did you an' Seliph get into a fight before trainin' or something?" :|

Gathor’s eyes widened, before settling into a scowl of his own. “Don’ yell at me boy,” Gathor rebuked, but it was met with a challenging snarl from his son.

“I’ll yell if I wanna!”

“How to get grounded for the rest of your life as a base morph with one easy trick”™️

Gathor stood up, his height overshadowing Ciecro. “Ciecro, what’s gotten into yah? Why are yah bein’ so aggressive wit me?”

Ciecro crossed his arms, snorted, and looked to the side. “Nothin’s gotten inta me.”

Sticker, sceptilisk,

Ciecro: "I mean it, okay?!" >.<

“Somethin’ clearly has fo’ yah tah growl at me and attack yah older brother like dat.”

Ciecro’s muscles tightened and his eyes narrowed as he mumbled, “Tck, worried I’d hurt ‘im.”

Gathor: "Coulda fooled me earlier wit' da way ya just kept goin' ta town on his face." >_>;

“What was that?” Gathor demanded, his voice raised slightly.

Ciecro retorted, “Isn’ dat dah truth?”

Taking an aggressive step forwards, Ciecro yelled as loud as he could. “Yah might as well jus’ go an’ check on Seliph if yah dat worried!” Tears started forming in his eyes, as he kept on Gathor face albeit not really seeing his father’s reaction. “Go on, I don’ care! Go make sure I didn’ hurt ‘im in my stupid rage an’ punish me like dah bad kid I am!”

Gathor: "I jus' wanted ya ta tell me what was goin' on..." ._.;

Panting a little, Ciecro braced himself, ready this time for whatever Gathor would throw at him, or so he thought. He paused; his aggressive, dominant scowl slowly melting away at his father’s face, which was still serious but not like before.

Slowly, Gathor’s eyes shifted left, deep in thought. Small growls or grumbles were coming from his closed mouth followed by an eye closed sigh. Suddenly, Gathor started leaving, but not before placing his hand on the rock formation and saying as he glanced back at Ciecro. “If yah wanna be left alone…okay. I love yah…an’ I’m sorry I made yah feel dat way.”

Gathor: "Though for the record, if you won't tell me what's goin' on, yer ma's gonna have to deal with this later." >_>;

The sad look in Gathor’s eyes took all of Ciecro’s attention. It stung more than any poison or blow, leaving the Charmander at a loss of not just words, but actions too. Once Gathor took his hand off and resumed leaving, Ciecro went after him, reaching his arm out. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words didn’t come and without another word Gathor disappeared behind the rocks.

Ciecro stopped in his tracks as his right arm fell to his side, open and limp. His face lowering as tears started to flow again. After wiping his eyes with his left arm, he made his way to the edge of the rock formation and leaned past them to see the others.


Gathor was talking with the other two, who looked worried at whatever their father was saying.

Ciecro pressed his back against the cliff, his eyes wide, his breathing slow, and his claws clasping roughly on its rocky surface. Did…Did I…h…h-h-hur-.

He couldn’t finish it. He didn’t want to finish it. Tears started to flow once more as Cieco slid down onto the ground, sniffling and shaking like a newborn.

I-I hate all of dis!He leaned forwards and slammed his fists on the ground hard, unconcerned by the following pain. He pressed firmer onto the rough earth as tears fell from his face, hitting the ground near his hands.

I would recommend breaking up this last paragraph into at least 2, or in the suggestion, 3 pieces and making Ciecro’s internal thoughts a bit more “stammer-y”. Though I see the Sayaka gif wasn't far from the mark there.

A gentle breeze blew across the opening where the house stood, occasionally hitting Ciecro as he sat outside the house. He was too troubled to care about the annoying wind, too lost in thoughts to stare at anything but the dirt field a few meters away. Images of his battle with Tetheron filled the spot as did the thoughts of how happy everyone was then. Now, just two days later, it was empty, and he felt alone and sad.

Yes, that tends to happen when you let jealousy get the better of you and make stupid decisions, Ciecro.

Finally, he shifted his depressed gaze to different patches of dirt in the grass near his feet. He circled between all of them with his eyes before he heard the complaining rumblings from his stomach as he got a whiff of the food being prepared inside. Sighing heavily, Ciecro stood up and walked over to the empty battlefield and plumped down onto its edge, making sure his tail’s flame wasn’t in the grass.

Leaning over, Ciecro started to draw in the dirt. First he made a picture of himself blowing fire. Heh, he chuckled at the silly stick figure and triangle body him. Leaning in closer, he next drew a tree, although it only had four lines.

Pausing Ciecro paused for a minute, Ciecro before he brushed dirt over the tree drawing till only the long stump line was left. Carefully, he drew a diamond at one end, before adding a few spots at the other end. A frown formed as he stared at the key drawing in the dirt.

I would recommend chopping this up into at least two paragraphs. The above is a suggestion for a potential way to pull that off.

He sighed heavily as he hunched over, just staring at the two drawings, glancing from one to the other.

“Hey Ciecro!”

He about jumped from his spot. Jaron? Instead of looking at Jaron, he swiftly brushed over his drawings.

Jaron: "Er... hey, are ya over that freaky... whatever it was you had goin' on earlier?" ^^;
Ciecro: "Jaron, seriously. I don't need this right now!"

“What did you draw?” Jaron inquired, leaning over Ciecro to get a glimpse at the spot.

“Notin’,” Ciecro replied nervously.

“Oh…” Jaron scowled slightly, before scratching his neck. “Fine, I guess.”

Jaron: "Since you sure seemed to be puttin' in a lot of work for 'nothin'' there-" ^^;
Ciecro: "Jaron, it was some stupid stick figures that no longer exist. Look, do you have a reason for buggin' me like this right now?"

Relieved that Jaron wasn’t pressing further this time, Ciecro stood up, dusted off his hands and bum, composed himself with a breath and asked Jaron, “Do yah need sometin’?”

Jaron nudged his snout towards the house. “Mom and Dad wanted me to tell you dinner is almost ready.”

- Ciecro's stomach growls -
Ciecro: "... Right, guess it has been gettin' kinda late."

“O…Oh…” Ciecro looked to the side, awkwardly. “Well, I’ll be dere.” He looked back at Jaron, and noticed Jaron looked annoyed. “What’s wit dah face?” He asked, facing Jaron.

“Nothing,” the Totodile huffed as he crossed his arms, raised his snout, and closed his eyes. “And by nothing, I mean something I’m not going to tell you.

Sounds like a recipe for causing an argument there, Jaron, but you do you.

Ciecro groaned and rubbed his head. “Dis again?” he grumbled, unfortunately loud enough for Jaron to hear.

“I’m not stupid, Ciecro.” Jaron suddenly stepped closer with an interrogating, narrowing eyed stare, catching Ciecro off guard. “You’ve been acting weird ever since you listened in on mom and dad.”

Jaron: "Seriously, what on earth did those two say to get you in a mood like this?" >_>;

Ciecro was about to say something before Jaron quickly held up an arm and informed, “I didn’t tell them.”

“Phew. Thanks, Jaron.” Ciecro’s relaxation vaporized as Jaron moved his head closer, antagonistically.

“So why are you being such a jerk now?”

The underlined was never really described beforehand, so it kinda undercuts the moment a bit.

“Huh?” Jaron’s gaze increased in pressure, as if he was pushing Ciecro against a wall with it.

“You’ve been a jerk ever since that night. You never attack Seliph like that. You even made Dad worried.” Jaron pointed at Ciecro and demanded. “I want to know the truth and I want it now.” He ended with crossing his arms.

Ciecro: "..."

Jaron: "Or I can go and tell mom and dad if you're going to be this much of a pain in the tail about it."

“I’ve jus’ been havin’ some…err…” Ciecro about panicked as he saw Jaron scowl even more at the stuttering. “Well uh-”

“Just tell me. I’m tired of you acting this way.” Jaron demanded, stiffening his form to come off as determined. “I want the old Ciecro back, so what’s wrong?”

Careful what you wish for, Jaron.

Angered a bit by Jaron’s accusation of changing, Ciecro crossed his arms and after calming himself, replied, “Well…yah can’t.”

Jaron’s eyes widened in surprise, before shifting to skeptical. He leaned in once more to asked, “Why not?”

Ciecro: "Because if I tell you, dere's a good chance that you're gonna be mad at Seliph just like I am?"

Jaron: "Okay, now you really need to tell me what's going on, Ciecro." >:|

Getting frustrated at Jaron not backing down, Ciecro grumbled. “Because…Er” He paused, causing Jaron to scowl more at this delay.

“Why not?” Jaron asked again, growling a little.

Fed up with this pressing, Ciecro just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Because…yah’re too young.

[ ] He facepalmed, dragging his hand over his face. “Ugh, look Jar-” He stopped at hearing a sniffle. Quickly face Jaron, Ciecro stayed still at the sight.

Would suggest breaking that up and also expanding things such that Ciecro realizes "wait, that was stupid and hurtful of me to say", though I always had the impression that Ciecro and Jaron were roughly the same age as each other. Guess that wasn't fully accurate.

Jaron’s head was lowered, his eyes narrow and focused. The Totodile sniffled again. “Is that why?” Jaron’s asked, though his voice was cracking despite his best efforts to keep face.

Ciecro looked to the side, shamefully looking at the side. “Well...it’s complicated.” Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder and tried to explain, “Tellin’ yah now wouldn’ be right, becau-”

Ciecro: "Again, ya really don't need ta get mad at Seliph, Jaron." ._.;

Jaron swatted his hand away. As if frozen in time, Ciecro just looked into Jaron’s angry and tearing up eyes.

“Fine!” Jaron shouted, in a quivery, tempered voice. “If I’m too young and stupid for you to trust me, okay then! Stay a jerk!”

Well, things went well™️. Guess you should've spoken up, huh, Ciecro?

Ciecro remained silent and motionless, while Jaron was all fidgety and struggling to say more.

“So…so…” Jaron turned around and rushed away as fast as he could while sniffling.

Ciecro: "... W-Wait, Jaron! I'm sorry! I didn't mean t-!"

Snapping out of his stupor, Ciecro reached out for Jaron, pleading, “Jaron wait! I didn’ mean-” He stopped and his eyes widened. As Jaron headed inside Ciecro looked at his right hand, as a realization filled his head.

Shakenly, Ciecro tightened it to a fist as his face filled with rage. Unable to contain it anymore, Ciecro let out an angry yell before dashing into the forest. I wish I neveh foun’ dat stupid key! He cried in his mind, as he disappeared into the brushes of the dark forest.

Ah yes, grieved frustration to cause even more issues in short order. What could possibly go wrong here when you and your family are actively being hunted, Ciecro?

Alright, time for the conclusion. I thought that the chapter built off of the prior one alright from Ciecro's perspective, if in a very "needed to remember things that happened in Chapter 4 clearly manner". Though I'm pretty sure that this is going to become a catalyst for things going seriously sideways since... yeah, everything about the ending note just screams "this isn't going to end well.

That said, I did think that there were some lingering issues that kinda got in the way of this chapter. You have some typos and iffy wording here and there that might merit doing a stepthrough of the chapter reading it aloud to try and phrase a couple things more smoothly. There were also some lingering issues with lack of description in some parts and "tell and not show" in others that might merit attempting to address if you ever go back to revise this chapter.

Though all in all, I thought the chapter turned out @Vray . Even if I've got a bit of an ominous feeling about where things are going to wind up going from here, since I'm honestly a little surprised that things haven't gone massively pear-shaped for the kids and their family just yet. We'll see how much longer that lasts.

Hope the feedback helped, and good luck with reviewing if you're taking part of Review Blitz. ^^
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Chapter 22: Rememorabilia


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 22

“Seven Thirty,” Vragon mumbled to himself as he stared at the holographic numbers that the orb from Jaron and Ciecro’s room displayed. “Hmmm…let’s see.” He put it away and took out a small notebook fastened to his librarian job’s belt, which he had also borrowed for this occasion.

He dragged his claw down the list of names. Hmm…it’s taking Mr. Hommel a while to get here. His eyes rose from his notepad and looked toward town and the large drop to the lake below. Browsing the horizon, Vragon sighed at not seeing the two blue spherical mons anywhere in view.

Turning around, he looked at the riverside where the preparations were nearly done. Some mons were lighting up some torches for the tables, some were setting up the tables and chairs, while some were chatting instead of doing their work. Amid the party preparers was Jaron, orders to those nearby.

Heh. A small smile formed on his face as he watched Jaron’s mannerisms and posture, like a mini-manager being as imperative as possible. Don’t see ‘work face’ Jaron very often. He turned towards the lake, his smile shrinking although his happiness still was as strong as ever. I’m glad so many mons wanted to come. Guess, Aunt Dresha is really valued here. Not just as a supplier for those berries, even if that’s how it probably started. He looked down at his notebook, his eyes narrowing slightly as he read the names on the list to himself.

As he flipped the page, he felt the faint tugging of his pendant, which prompted him to take it into his hands and looked at it quizzically. I wonder if there was someone like her in my life before. Someone like, Ciecro and Jaron too. He raised a brow, as he felt the question excite his curiosity. Maybe my actual siblings. Huh, wonder why I never really thought of that? Guess those two do a good enough job. He chuckled as he let the pendant fall down as he glanced back at everyone else.

Hmmm…‘Fuck it and focus on the now.’ His smile faded as he remembered Ciecro’s words from that one conversation a few days ago. ‘Those two do a good enough job.’ His eyes looked upwards. Like Aunt Dresha as a caretaker. Maybe I am being a bit, too hasty about stuff like this. I’ve got a good life here… His head lowered as his claw instinctively wrapped around his pendant. I wonder if I’m giving off that impression. I hope not. I really like it here.

He let go and crossed his arms. Ciecro may have just been on edge, can’t blame him with the test and what Clyde pulled. But… He glanced back, focusing once more on Jaron. He alternated gazes between Jaron and his pendant. I don’t know. Something…something about all this just feels missing. I feel missing.

He shook his head and rolled his eyes. ‘Well duh, you’re missing your memories, stupid.’ Chuckling at his little impersonation of Jaron, Vragon let his pendant fall. It’s been a rough week. I should focus on them for a bit. After all, they deserve-

“Excuse me?”

Vragon jumped with a gasp, glancing at the origin of the voice, turning out to be a Bisharp standing next to him with his arm stretched out halfway to tap him on the shoulder.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s uhm…fine.” Vragon raised a brow as he spotted the ranger’s blue ranger band. “Is there something wrong, sir?”

“Huh? Oh, no, no.” Amyas smiled as he tapped his band. “I was just invited to this party by Mr. Hommel.”


Amyas nodded then offered his metallic gauntlet for a hand with a smile. “I’m Amyas Orgul. Commissioner of Plainier Town.”

Vragon accepted it, relaxing at the friendliness in this stranger’s eyes. “Nice to meet you. I’m Vragon Almkin.”

“‘Almkin’?” Amyas raised a brow. “So you’re Ciecro’s brother?”

“Uhhh, not exactly.” Vragon put a hand over his chest as his gaze lowered slightly. “It’s…kind of silly to believe but-” He looked back up to the confused Bisharp as he tried to figure out how to answer that question without sounding crazy. “Well, I came to this town around five years ago and have been living with Aunt Dresha since then.”

“So you’re adopted?”

“N-no. I’m more uhm…” Vragon started rolling his wrist, fiddling around with words in his mind until Amyas’s chuckle grabbed his attention.

“No need to be so uptight, son. It’s not like I’m going to arrest you. That’s Humphry’s job and he’s left you free for apparently five years.” He crossed his arms and smirked, which mixed with the logic succeeded in putting Vragon’s mind at ease.

One deep breath later, Vragon answered, “So five years ago I was found in the forest. I don’t remember anything that happened to me past that point. I only knew my first name so they offered to use Almkin as a replacement for my last for legal documents and other things that require a last name.”

“I see. Definitely peculiar, though I could see why they would do that.”

“Yeah, it was nice of them, and since I was going to stay with them-”

Amyas raised a brow. “Oh no, I mean you would pass as a sibling of theirs.”

Wait, I would? Vragon crossed his arms, skeptical of this claim. “How?” Especially since he’s never even met me.

Amyas pointed to Vragon’s right shoulder. “That’s why.”

“My crest?”


“But it’s Averion. Not Norfairon like theirs.”

“True, but the Clans offspring take crests based on either parent. So it could be inferred there was a Norfarion and an Averion for parents.”

“That’s true.” Vragon’s head lowered. I didn’t know that.

“Though, it would seem a bit odd, since most Clansmons you see in Triacal are Norfarions exclusively, which by itself is rare.”

“Huh?” The Fraxure snapped his head back up at this fact. “Why?”

“The Norfarions have a colony in the north-eastern part of Triacal. Near Shimmer Hill. It’s quite rare for any Clansmon to be this deep in the continent let alone be a non-Norfarion.”

“Interesting. Why do they have a colony here in Triacal?” Vragon pressed a closed fist under his chin as he listened with intrigue.

“Well, for trading mostly, but there’s probably other reasons.”

“I see.” Vragon’s gaze lowered a little. Wow, I didn’t even know there was a colony of Norfarions here. Dang, guess I really do know little about all this. His mind went back to his prior thoughts as he could feel frustration building up.

“Nice pendant.”

“Huh?” Vragon looked at Amyas and then to the object the Bisharp complimented. “Oh, thanks. I had this on when I was found.” He cupped it under his claw and held it out for better viewing.

“Where were you found?”


“How far?”

“A ways. I don’t remember how far it exactly was.”

“And you don’t remember how you got there?”


“Not even if you were attacked or not?”

Vragon paused.

Amyas raised a brow. “Uhm…Vragon?”

Vragon’s gaze lowered, unease in his eyes. “I…don’t know.” The air felt colder all of a sudden for the Fraxure. ‘Attacked’? I wasn’t found with any injuries but…I guess it’s a possibility. So why do I feel so weird about it? Without thinking, Vragon started rubbing his left claw’s wrist.

“Sorry for asking that.”

Instantly, Vragon brightened his expression and shrugged. “Oh no, it was a fair question. I just have…well…never thought of that scenario before. And even then who can say? I certainly can’t, heh.”

Amyas’s concern that he had crossed a line didn’t improve, though he gave an affirming nod and a slight smile. “Well, I do hope you get your memories back.”

“Thank you.” Vragon scratched the back of his neck as his gaze lowered to the side. Change the topic. Change the topic. Oh! He looked back at the ranger, saying hastily. “So, who did you come with?”

“Oh, Mr. Hommel. He invited me.” Amyas crossed his arms and looked towards town. “But he seems to be late.”

“Yeah.” Vragon pulled out his notepad and flipped it open. “He and his wife are the last ones on the list,” Vragon sighed, closing the notepad, and started browsing the dim horizon for any sign of the missing guests.

“Typical Humphry.” Amyas pressed his hand to his chin as his gaze drifted upward. “Hmmm…or maybe it’s his wife this time.”

Ugh, why this celebration of all times to be late. Vragon grumbled to himself as he kept looking for any sign of the Hommels. Due to the sun having disappeared beneath the horizon, seeing any Mons, let alone blue ones was like trying to spot a Ditto in a valley of Muk. Ugh… Vragon shook his head as his gaze trailed towards the lake, specifically at the large reflection of the moon on its calm surface.

“Ah yes, what a nice view,” Amyas said, standing next to Vragon, who looked at the commissioner.

“It is.” There was something strange about how relaxing it was to look at this lake at night. It wasn’t anything special nor had uncanny lights about it, but the calmness of the water with the moon’s imprint just seemed to stir the soul just right. However, the stirring stopped when Vragon spotted something on the far side.

“Huh? Ciecro?” Vragon leaned a little closer, making out a bit of red in the far distance near the shoal. “What’s he doing there?”

“Wait, you mean Ciecro Almkin?”

“Yeah.” Vragon pressed his claws to his sides and scowled slightly. “I thought he was helping Jaron. What’s he doing…there.” Vragon’s voice faded away as the obvious reason dawned on him. He sighed and turned to Amyas. “Thank you for the conversation sir, but I probably should go get him.”

“Oh, well, if you don’t mind. Can I come along?”


“Yes. You see, I’d like to speak with him.”

Vragon’s eyes narrowed a little. “Is it about his test?”

Amyas shook his head. “Nope, only Humphry is allowed to talk about that. No, I just want to give my regards to him.”

“Give your regards?” Vragon tilted his head, surprised at this stranger showing some admiration for Ciecro.

“Yes. Humphry has told me a lot about him. He sounds like a nice young male according to Humphry, so I’d like to meet this boy my friend speaks highly of. Maybe even set up a sparring match with him before I go.”

A heavy sigh followed from the Fraxure. Ciecro’s probably in a bad mood. I don’t think I should bring anybody else; he may just want to be alone. Although. Vragon rubbed his chin as he looked back at Ciecro in thought. Meeting another commissioner might be the cheer-up he needs. I don’t know why Amyas wants to see Ciecro outside of what he claims, but he doesn’t seem to be having anything bad to say or ill intentions. Plus, Ciecro’s been clean on his record since the incident.

Vragon nodded. “Sure.” He took one more look towards town and once satisfied that the Hommel’s were still not in view he turned around, gesturing for Amyas to follow.

They rounded the lake’s perimeter ring before branching off to head into the hillside. As they went up a specific hill, Amyas glanced around a bit concerned.

“Uhm…where are we going?”

“To the tunnel,” Vragon said with a grin.


“Yep. It connects to Aunt Dresha’s underground home that shore you saw Ciecro at. Aunt Dresha is currently taking an afternoon nap so I don’t want to wake her up till everyone’s ready for the surprise.”

“Ah, so that’s why. That’s awfully nice of you all, surprising your Aunt like this.”

Vragon shrugged with a less-than-humble grin. “Well, the surprise part was my idea. I just had to do a little bit of ‘prep’ to get her into a napping mood.”

“Oh?” Amyas raised a brow, his smile going.

Vragon stroked his chin, shut his eyes, and confidently chuckled, “I just happened to need her help with some of my researching, which took us a few hours of tedious and thorough reading.”

Amyas chuckled, relieved. “Well, sounds like it was very effective,” Amyas stated as they went down the hill and rounded around a wooden trap door. The two flipped the sides open and stepped inside.

Vragon reached for the wall where a belt pouch hung on a metal steak without having to feel around for it. He carefully searched each pouch until he felt the spherical object he was looking for. “Alrighty.” He pulled it out and twisted it, causing the orb to glow with a bright light.

“Woah,” Amyas exclaimed in surprise as he shielded his face from the sudden burst of light.

“Oops, sorry.” Vragon cupped it into his hands so it only projected light in one direction, cracks between his fingers aside. “That better?”

“Much.” Amyas gestured towards the path. “Lead on.”

Nodding, Vragon took lead and the two proceeded down into the cave.

“So did somebody dig this tunnel out?”

“Yep. We hired some mons to do it.”

“How come?”

Vragon closed his eyes as he thought back, not worried about stumbling or running into something since he knew this tunnel like the back of his claw. “Well, when I joined them I needed a place to stay. So Aunt Dresha decided to have her home expanded so I could have my own room. During that, the talk of an emergency exit came up and we decided to connect this tunnel to the house and to the cavern that leads the shoal.”

“I see.”

Vragon smiled as he looked upwards. “Yeah. Of course, I, Jaron, and Ciecro mostly used this tunnel for getting to our spot.”

“The shoal you were talking about?”

“Yeah. The one Ciecro is at. It’s where we all like to hang out together when we have time and don’t feel like training.”

“Oh? You’re training too?”

“Not to become a ranger.” Vragon glanced back as he explained, “but self-defense is important. If I’m a good battler then I could take care of myself. That kind of logic.”

“Solid line to go by.”

“I’ve still got a long way to go.” Vragon sighed as he looked forwards.

“Everyone has to start somewhere.”

A frown formed as Vragon thought, Start or play catch up. He briefly looked at the orb glowing in his hands as they neared the turn.

“Something wrong?”

“Nothing really.” With the turn in sight, Vragon paused.


The Fraxure turned around and looked up at Amyas. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” Amyas said, though there was a hint of curiosity in his friendly face.

“What do you want to talk to Ciecro about?”

“Like I said. I’d like to meet him and give him my compliments and maybe set up a future sparring-”

“But why?”

Amyas raised a brow. “I don’t understand. Is something wrong with me talking to him?”

Vragon sighed and looked up at the roof. “I’m guessing he’s going to be in a bad mood.”


“Yeah…this whole week he’s been preparing for the ranger’s aptitude test and well…he came back looking all bothered.” A serious stare went on the Fraxure’s face as he locked eyes with the Commissioner. “I’m worried his test didn’t go well. So…if you’re going to talk about anything related to that, please don’t.”

Amyas nodded. “You have my word.” A small smile formed as he crossed his arms and tilted his head. “I must say. It’s nice to see you looking out for his wellbeing.”

“I owe him a lot. Him, Jaron, Aunt Dresha.” Vragon felt his cheeks blush a little as he looked at the side, embarrassment rising up as memories popped up. A little chuckle happened, prompting Amyas to raise a curious brow. “Sorry, about that.” Vragon smiled back. “I just wanted to cheer him up. Ciecro…he’s the reason I know how to fight at all.”


Vragon raised his other hand, surging a Dragon Claw. “Yeah. When I first came here, I couldn’t do moves. I don’t know if I had forgotten how or whatever the reason was, but it just was hard to do them. Let alone holding them for a long period.”

Amyas’s eyes widened in surprise. “I’ve never heard of that before. Well, outside of really fringe cases like war veterans.”

“Yeah. Ciecro taught me a lot about endurance and being able to handle my power. He’s a really good fighter and I’m a better fighter now because of him. So, yeah, uhm.” Vragon lowered his head and rubbed the back of his, slightly embarrassed. “Sorry, I just felt a little compelled to say that. I just hope your talk can cheer him up-”


Vragon opened his eyes and looked at Amyas. “What is it?”

“Shine that light over there again.”

“Uhm…okay.” Vragon did so, revealing just the normal cave wall. “What is it, sir?”

“I don’t know. Just thought I saw something. Maybe it’s my imagin-” Amyas stopped mid-sentence. His body tensed like a cold breeze had caressed its surface.

“Sir?” Vragon leaned closer. “CommissionEERRRR!!!” Vragon exclaimed as Amyas grabbed his arm and yanked him back, slamming the other one to the ground. Vragon hit the ground hard as the Luminous Orb bounced out of his palm and onto the cave floor.

“Amyas, what is-” He was cut off by the Commissioner being slammed into the wall by some kind of shadow.

“Get that orb!” He said, followed by a hard grunt.

While Vragon processed what was going on, he saw the shadow turn. Large intimidating eyes stared at him, purple sclera with red irises. A large, white-toothed smile formed as the shadow moved what looked like a hand, and a black sphere formed at the tip.

Vragon gasped and immediately scrambled back, but the impact of the Shadow Ball sent out a repulse that knocked him onto his stomach again. “Ugh…” Vragon pushed back to stand up but froze as he looked forwards.

Up ahead the cave was illuminated by the Luminous Orb. However, on the far end, a figure was walking towards him. This figure wore a beige poncho with a hood over the head. A green spike was poking at the top of the hood, white long legs that moved like bending pillars shown from beneath this poncho, and the arms at the side were green with pointy elbows that started extending.

A shiver filled the Fraxure as the stranger’s right elbow started glowing.

“Vragon!” He heard Amyas shout as he got in front of him, right as the figure sent a Psycho Cut right towards them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Fraxure this attacker was aiming for but the orb, which burst to pieces upon being struck, plunging them all into darkness.

His heart felt like it was bursting from his chest as he scrambled up in the dark, almost falling as he turned around, and rushed as fast as he could for the turn that would lead out.

“Run!” Amyas said, only to be followed by a pained grunt from the Bisharp.

“I’ll handle the Bisharp! Get him Siegfried!” A fiendish voice called as another clash rang out.

The sounds of his footsteps echoed in semblance, though it was hard to tell if those echoes were from Vragon’s own footsteps or those of his pursuer. He dared not glance back, not just because of the darkness but because he feared he would see his chaser.

Right as he rounded the bend, he heard a whizzing sound. For a brief second, there was a flash of pink light behind him which vanished as the cave wall to his left exploded from some kind of impact, sending Vragon tumbling onto his stomach. He tried to scurry to his feet but only got so far before he was slammed onto the cave floor, pinned by the back by some thin yet forceful appendage.

“Let me go!” Vragon cried, struggling as the figure shifted a little, lessening the pressure. Attempting to use this to escape, Vragon was soon disappointed to be flipped onto his back and pinned once more, this time at the neck.

When he looked up, all he saw was a flash of red and heat on his face. The pressure on him was gone as he looked down the cave, briefly illuminated by some flames that soared towards the stranger, who crossed his elbows glowing in Psycho Cut to block.

“Vray! Run!” Ciecro shouted, rushing in front of Vragon and firing another Flamethrower.

The Fraxure didn’t need to be told twice. His legs sprang to life as he rushed out of the cave, Ciecro following closely behind.

While it was night out, the difference between being in total darkness to the dimness of the shoal was like night and day. So much so it made Vragon’s head spiral in confusion as he stumbled down to his knees in the middle of the shoal. He panted heavily as Ciecro joined his side, kneeling in front of the panicked Fraxure.

“Are yah hurt?”

The Fraxure managed to utter a “No.” but his fear amplified as he saw Ciecro stand up and fire once more. He spun around to see the Flamethrower being cut in half by the cloaked Gallade walking towards them.

Slowly, Vragon rose to his feet, trying to calm down so he could support Ciecro who stared at their foe unflinchingly.

“Hmph…suppose it makes sense the Norfarions here would be friends with the Averion.”

“Huh?” The two boys said as the figure moved his hand up to his hood.

“Well, then let’s get this over with.”

Vragon’s fear shifted to curiosity as he looked into the stranger’s eyes. The irises were bloody red, but gleamed faintly in the nighttime. They filled him with dread, but also seemed somewhat mysterious in a way that made him feel also at ease. Though, a troubling thought crossed Vragon’s mind that shoved his secondary feelings aside. “Ciecro, is tha-” His jaw shut as he saw the look of disbelief and frozen horror on Ciecro’s face.

The Gallade’s gaze met the Charmeleon’s. “Tck.” He swung his arm, sending a Pyscho Cut straight for the Charmeleon, who pulled back startled as if he had just seen his foe.

Instantly, Vragon threw himself at Ciecro, shoving the Charmeleon out of the way as the move struck him on the side. It sent him spiralling sideways and hitting the dirt, tumbling till he struck some of the rocks near the back of the shoal opposite the cave’s entrance.

Everything felt dizzy as he tried to move. His muscles felt five times as heavy, not helped by his current state being akin to a drunker on the verge of going deeper than tipsy. Despite this, Vragon managed to get on a knee and start standing up when he heard a muffled noise.

“Huh?” He looked left. “Look…out?” There was a flash of pink heading right for him. He tried raising his arms in front to block, but his guard was easily broken as he was sent flying into the rock wall, knocking all the air out of his lungs, and falling onto his face dazed and groaning.

< O >

Jaron gasped as he almost stumbled onto a crate as he held his head. A harsh chill surged through his body, causing him to shake involuntarily. He instinctively moved his claw over his heart as he did slow breaths to calm down.

What? He shut his eyes, trying to process this feeling and focus on understanding it, so much so that any voices near him sounded like muffled gibberish, and any touch he felt barely registered.

Why’s my Wary? His eyes shot open, widening at the realization his Wary was warning him of something near the lake. He looked towards it and a second later rushed towards the cliffside, ignoring all the calls to his name. When he reached the edge, he peered straight to the cove, and to his horror he saw what looked like fire in the distance. The beam of flame was disrupted by some pink energy, though it was too far to make out who sent it.

He was startled as a hand latched onto his shoulder.

“Jaron? What’s wrong, you looked ill,” Humphry asked him until the Croconaw looked back at the lake. “What’s going-”

‘There wasn’t time’ was all Jaron felt as he pulled out of Humphry’s grip and jumped towards the lake. He felt the wind on his face as his raw emotions of horror shifted to rage as the few seconds passed until he cut into the waves of the lake.

Despite the darkness of the lake, the light from the moon touching the water’s ceiling provided some semblance of direction for the Croconaw. Jaron flattened his body and swished his tail, propelling forwards and gaining speed as he reduced his drag.

As he hurried onwards, he heard a loud splash of bubbles behind him but didn’t dare look, almost out of fear of it making him be too late to help his brother.

Not even a minute later, Jaron was coming to the other side of the lake. He went deeper and then angled himself upwards and used Scald from his palms to propel himself upwards, straight out of the water and into the air.

He pulled his legs forwards and landed on all fours, opening his maw as it formed Ice Beam while his eyes tried spying the assailant.

“Hrm?” The cloaked stranger glanced at Jaron, who immediately fired his stored Ice Beam. The nimble mon did a pivot hop with a twist, almost like he was dancing. He then landed low, surging pink energy into his elbow, and swinging it to fire at Jaron.

Jaron dove to the side to avoid, but right as he was about to counter he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. It was Vragon, starting to sit up rubbing his head.

“Vray!” Jaron rushed over to the Fraxure as Ciecro pushed the Gallade back with Flamethrower and moved in front as the Croconaw checked on Vragon.

“Ugh…Jaron?” Vragon looked at him, blinking a little until they went wide as he pounced on Jaron. A Psycho Cut soared overhead and struck the rock wall behind them.

“T-t-thanks.” Jaron weakly chuckle, but ceased his smile as Vragon got off of him, focusing on their adversary. “Can you fight?” Jaron inquired as he stood up.

“I’ll try,” Vragon said, stifling a groan as he held his side.

Damnit, he’s injured. Jaron jogged up to where Ciecro was, whispering. “Vragon’s too injured to go up close.”

“I wouldn’ wan’ ‘im too anyway,” Ciecro replied, scowling at their foe, who threw more Psycho Cuts at them. Ciecro fired Flamethrowers to meet the incoming attacks.

“Okay!” Jaron said, gasping as Siegfried leaped through the smoke of the clashed moves and sliced at them.

Thankfully, Ciecro was fast enough to intercept with Dragon Claw, but the momentum from their foe was too much to stop. The Charmeleon was knocked into some backwards somersaults before stopping flat on his stomach.

“Ciecro!” Jaron snarled as he lashed out at Siegfried with Slashes that grew on the sides of his arms like curved blades. He clashed against Siegfried’s Psycho Cut elbows until the agile Gallade did a backflip, striking Jaron in the under jaw with his leg, and sending the poor Croconaw onto his back.

Fortunately for Jaron, Siegfried had no time for a follow-up, for when he landed he was startled by something to his right and was struck straight in the chest by a Mud Shot.

“You alright there Jaron?” Humphry said, taking his fist off the ground and jogging over to the Croconaw.

“I am now,” Jaron said, refocusing on the target, who was standing up and staring at the group with a slightly annoyed expression.

Siegfried’s elbows extended and glowed green.

“So what’s the plan, boys?” Humphry asked, standing next to Jaron as Ciecro joined up on the right end.

“Beat this guy up.” Jaron leered at Siegfried, snarling in such a manner that it surprised Humphry.

“Alright then.” Humphry took a step forwards and punched the ground, shooting Mud Shot to the Gallade, who merely sidestepped the attack.

However, Jaron followed up with a Scald, forcing Siegfried to leap above only for him to be swatted down by Ciecro’s lunge with Dragon Claw.

Siegfried quickly sprang back mid-backflip, landing on his feet gracefully and sending out a Psycho Cut, which was shattered by another Mud Shot. “Tck.” He stood up, looking at the three until a noise from the cave got his and their attention.

“Ack!” The Gengar grunted as he plopped on the ground on his back after being flung out of the cave. He sat up to rub his head only to instantly go eyes wide. “Shit!” He flew back as Amyas phased right in front of him and drove his right arm, cloaked in black energy, into the ground where the ghost was.

Vex landed next to Siegfried, keeping his eye on Amyas while saying, “What now?”

“I’ll tell you what.” Humphry pointed at Siegfried with a confident grin. “You guys give up that’s what. I can’t wait to hear why you lunatics want to attack a child once we bring you in.” Humphry’s smile vanished, replaced by a serious look that harbored disgust.

Amyas positioned himself in front of the cave’s entrance, asking, “Humphry, did you-”

“Yeah, they’re on their way. Shouldn’t be too long now.”

Vex slithered as he looked up at his accomplice. “Well?”

Siegfried’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll handle them. You get what we came for.”


Siegfried stepped forwards, an unsettling ease filled Jaron at how unconcerned this Gallade was. Humphry literally said more rangers were coming. So why is he-?

His thoughts were cut off by the Gallade charging at them, while the ghost phased into the ground.

“No, you don’t!” Humphry punched the ground to send Mud Shot.

Immediately, Jaron readied a follow-up Scald and the Gallade looked him straight in the eye. Huh? For a brief moment, the Gallade’s red eyes glowed in a strange way that Jaron hadn’t seen before. Yet, for as long as he stared into it a strange feeling accompanied it. A feeling of some other force touching him from inside his body or soul.

He blinked, seeing the Gallade avoid the Mud Shot, and fired Scald, only for Siegfried to angle his body low so it soared right above. What?

This evade allowed Siegfried to quickly fire a Psycho Cut in reply, striking Humphry on the shoulder, making him step back and grab it with a pained croak.


Siegfried hopped into the air, surging Leaf Blade into his right extended elbow this time, and brought it down upon the Seismitoad, who quickly pulled back to avoid being cut. Unfortunately, Siegfried’s left extended elbow had Psycho Cut, which he promptly threw point blank into Humphry, blasting him back a few feet into the shallows of the lake.

“No!” Amyas charged at Siegfried.

Jaron was bumped to the side by Ciecro, who also rushed for the Gallade with Dragon Claw. “Cover Vray!” He shouted as the two’s moves met with Siegfried’s forming a tri-lock.

Scrambling back up, Jaron rushed over to the rocks where Vragon had stayed back. “Take my back,” Jaron said, as he stepped behind Vragon and peered at the walls around them. “He could be anywhere.”

Vragon nodded and stood up, the two browsing the sides and ground for any sign of the shadow moving.

Jaron scowled as he tried to use his gift to pinpoint where this foe was, but it was too busy being set off by the fight happening nay ten feet from him. Suddenly, he felt a wary high from his right and immediately looked towards it, only to realize it was coming from the Gallade.

It was brief, but Jaron did spy the Gallade’s eyes glow red again as he deflected one of Ciecro’s Dragon Claws and twisted to avoid the Metal Claw by Amyas. Why are they glowing like that? He’s got to be- Jaron gasped at what followed.

Ciecro went for a rush slice on the side, while Amyas leaped more outwards and pushed off the sand to lunge right at Siegfried’s back. However, the Gallade, blocked Ciecro’s passerby scrape and twisted his leg to kick away Amyas’s Metal Claw at the side with pinpoint accuracy.

“What?” Jaron and now Vragon watched as Siegfried’s spiraled once and he landed on one leg, while his other was stretched out towards Amyas and his elbow locked with Ciecro glowing pink. The Gallade’s leg started to move in a small circular formation that quickly picked up speed and sent out a mini Vacuum Wave that pushed Amyas back into the wall next to the exit. Ciecro didn’t fare much better as once Amyas was taken care of, the Gallade swung his extended leg into an arch to break the block they had. He then swung his arms in front, unleashing a cross of dual Psycho Cuts. The Charmeleon, despite mustering a defense with his Dragon Claw, couldn’t stay grounded and was knocked into the rocky area near Jaron and Vragon.

“Cie-!” Jaron stopped as his wary shot up from the left now, and he immediately responded by firing Ice Beam in that direction.

Vex’s shadow darted along the wall as Jaron followed, Vragon taking position behind the Croconaw to keep Siegfried back with a Dragon Breath. Unfortunately, Siegfried was too nimble to be pinned and merely had to leap to the side and fire a Psycho Cut. The move struck the ground between them and sent them sprawling onto their stomachs.

Jaron rolled onto his back to fire back at Siegfried, but was startled by a light from his right.

“Don’t think so,” Vex smugly said as he spread his arms, the white glow on his body shining even brighter as beams of light surged across, striking Jaron all over like hot needles of rain. The poor Croconaw was knocked near his brother, who quickly sat him up and fired Flamethrower only for Siegfried to step in the way and part it by extending the Psycho Cut in his elbow to part the fire in half.

Jaron panted as he felt the front of his body sting from the burn. He looked on helplessly at Vragon who was instantly assaulted by Vex and pinned to the ground.

Vragon struggled, but the ghost’s eyes turned blue with pink rings emanating from the pupils and moving outwards to the end of the eyes. A similar pattern started to form on Vragon’s eyes as they slowly began to shut.

“No!” Jaron tried to stand but had to fall flat on his stomach to avoid an incoming Psycho Cut.

He heard Ciecro rush by him along with Amyas on the far left.

“Go now!” Siegfried ordered as he rushed towards the two, igniting Psycho Cut into his elbows and clashing with the two mons.

Vex nodded and lifted the sleeping Vragon into his arms and floated up.

Jaron felt a surge of horror in his body as his blood boiled like hot lava yet also chilled like the coldest of ice storms. As he slowly got up, Vex flew overhead, unimpeded by the two currently combating Siegfried. Jaron opened his mouth but he couldn’t form Ice Beam. What if he hit Vragon? What if he missed? His body faltered as Vex rounded out and was about to ascend up and out of view until the ghost looked down and shouted with fright.

Jaron looked forwards and saw a swirl of glowing water shoot out from the lake, reaching upwards like a giant serpent with a dragon head made up of water opening up to ingest the two.

Frightened, the ghost almost dropped Vragon, managing to grab him by the leg, and flew up with the Fraxure just barely escaping the loud snap of the water beast as it fell back into the lake from whence it came.


Jaron glanced to the right to see Humphry take his hands out of the water, staring angrily at the ghost getting away. The Seismitoad looked at Jaron and gestured, “Jaron, come!”

The Croconaw was at a loss of words, but he managed to start pursuing Humphry, who made a break for the cave.

A second later, a Psycho Cut slammed into the top of the tunnel, caving in the entrance.

Humphry shielded his face from the upset dirt. He and Jaron looked in shock at their only hope of pursuit blocked by the caved in ceiling. Anger filled Humphry face as he glared at Siegfried.

“You bastard!” Amyas rushed at Siegfried, his body going hazy and disappearing.

Siegfried’s eyes glowed once more before Amyas vanished. The Gallade went low in the blink of an eye and shoved his hands forwards, causing a gagging sound to happen as Amyas reappeared in front, his gauntlet’s side spike was right where Siegfried’s throat was and his chest was where Siegfried’s arms were now. The Bisharp stumbled back, holding his abdomen as he dropped to a knee.

Amyas looked up at the Gallade standing over him. “H-h-how?”

“Stop him!”

Humphry’s shout snapped the Gallade out of any further punishment to Amyas and he leaped back, pulling out an orb, and pressed it as Humphry’s Mud Shot flew towards him with Ciecro’s Flamethrower following. There was a cyan pillar of light that beamed around Siegfried and disappeared as suddenly as it came, leaving nothing for the moves to strike but the wall beyond.

Jaron froze. They…they got away. He dropped to the ground under the shallow waters, clenching the dirt as his heart rate sped up. Vragon was gone. Taking by those things. His claws clenched as he felt overwhelmed with anger and horror.

“Jaron, snap out of it.”

He looked up at Humphry, who grabbed him by the arm, forceful yet gentle enough not to harm the boy.

“Jaron, you can sense them right? Use your Wary.”

“I … but how will we-?”

“Now’s not the time.”

“Hey!” A shout came from above as the four all looked upwards.

Dolly and Jasmine were staring down from the cliff side nearby, as close as they could be without losing sight of the group.

Humphry moved his hands over his mouth and shouted back, “Come over to this side! The cave is blocked and I’ll need you two!” Humphry turned to Jaron and placed his hands on the Croconaw, startling the boy a little.

“Jaron…” Humphry paused for a second as he looked to the side.

When his eyes met again with Jaron’s the Croconaw could see a layer beneath that serious look, a layer that almost made him feel like Humphry wanted to hug him.

“Jaron, we’ll get him back. But you need to sense them out. So please.”

The Croconaw nodded and pulled away from Humphry, who proceeded to do whatever he was planning. Jaron walked towards the rocks, staring at the wall for a second as he promised himself and Arceus to do this. My Wary is mine. He shut his eyes and focused, though his thoughts drifted upon hearing Humphry’s voice once again.

“Undo, go to the party and keep things calm there with one or two others. Send Violet and Mecks to the lake as fast as possible. A child has been kidnapped.”

Jaron shook his head. Focus. Don’t let the feelings overwhelm you. Jaron’s breathing went in rhythm with his heart, which had slowed down considerably with his empty state. You’ve done this plenty of times. Just focus on the here and now. He could feel his body move, his arm reaching out for the invisible answer to the question they needed answered.

His claw felt shaky, recoiling at the feeling of dread and danger that his body was feeling. However, his mind remained dominant, albeit pushing himself to walk towards it like a runner pushes one’s muscles at the last leg of a long race.

He gasped. It’s…that way. He opened his eyes and stared at a portion of the wall as if it was a physical manifestation of the direction. Hope filled his soul as he turned around and exclaimed, “Humphry! It’s that-”

Humphry was moving his arms above his head in a circular fashion with a blue light coming from the lake in front.

Jaron jogged towards Humphry’s side to see Amyas and Ciecro swimming in what was a slow-moving whirlpool of water. The Croconaw noticed how Ciecro looked like a flower in the middle of a fire field, but it didn’t make him laugh this time. Too much was going on for the poor Croconaw.

“Which direction did you say it was?” Amyas asked.

Jaron stepped in front and pointed to the spot. “They’re in that direction.”

“Noted.” Amyas looked at Humphry and nodded. “Send us up.”

“Alright, hold your breath you two.”

Ciecro took a big gulp of air and held it like his life depended on it, whereas Amyas was far calmer about his submerging as the water began to spiral at a faster intensity around their spot.

Humphry’s breathing went heavy as he clenched his hands into fists and moved his arms low, suddenly surging them up with a loud croak as a pillar of water shot up in a spiral with the two inside. He then pulled it towards him and Jaron, causing the pillar to tilt so the two above would drop safely on the cliff above while the water from the pillar drenched the two and the cove.

Jaron shook the water off his face and hurried into the shallows. “Alright, our turn.”

“Jaron.” Humphry moved his hand outward as he sat down, panting. “Wait a minute. I need to rest.”


“I’m sorry, I just can’t.”

Jaron’s fists clenched as he glared at Humphry. “Then why didn’t you send me too?”

“Cuz, we’ll need you and that Wary of yours to help us find those guys when the rangers get here.”

Looking to the side with his angry gaze, Jaron marched over and sat down near Humphry.

“Though, there’s another reason.”

“Huh?” The Croconaw looked up at Humphry, who looked back at him, with a soft look.

“They’re the ones you told us about, right? The ones that attacked your home?”

Jaron’s eyes lowered as he tilted his head down, staring at the sand with a mixed expression of remorseful memories and tense anger.

“Not the same, but they have the eyes.” Jaron looked up at the stars, now clear and bright with the sun gone. Why is this happening again?
Chapter 23: Your power, your Impotence


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 23
Your Power, Your Impotence​

Urm...Ugh...Wha? There was a slight sting in Vragon’s head as his eyes slowly opened to a blurry scene in front of him, too dark to make out. My head. He groaned as he moved his hand to comfort his head, but stopped, confused at how effortless it was for him to reach above his head. Huh? The next confusing feeling was the wind on his face being accompanied by something cold and hard.

What’s going on- He then felt a third feeling, this one finally clearing his foggy mind. Realizing the thing touching his face was his pendant, which thankfully was something gravity couldn’t get it around his tusks. Snatching it up like he would die without it, Vragon looked around and eventually saw the ghost holding onto his left leg.

“Hey!” Vragon shouted in fright, kicking up at the creature with his free leg.

“Ugh! Stop that! Oof!” Vex’s eyes changed color once more to that sight Vragon instantly recalled.

“No, you don’t!” The Fraxure took a deep breath.

“Don’t you freaking- Dya!” Vex let go of the Fraxure right as the Dragon Breath soared at him, singeing the ghost on the side as the Fraxure fell onto a grassy hill below.

Vragon groaned a few “Oofs” and “Acks” as he tumbled down the hill, finally stopping near the base bruised and dizzy. He shook his head as he tried to stand up, only to quickly dive back down upon remembering Vex was still around. Feeling his pendant in his claws offered some relief as he felt secure enough to let it go and look around.

I’ve got to hide…but where? He crawled his way uphill, going around its side bend hoping Vex wouldn’t happen to be searching there. However, one loud groan nearby forced him to stop and stay low, like a Squirtle going into its shell.

“Ugh, fuck that piece of-”

Vragon shifted ever so slightly, trying to get a good look at the ghost while not giving himself away.

“Where in the-? Hey! Come out!” Vex snarled as he glanced around anxiously.

Vragon crawled his way back up the hill, hoping to put the mound between him and Vex. Unfortunately, Vex flew up into the sky, forcing Vragon to stop and press himself as close to the ground as possible. As he took a few tired breaths and rested his head on his backwards-angled tusk he shut his eyes. No way I’ll get back with him flying around. Hopefully, he’ll land soon.

His left eye slowly opened and tried to spot the outline of the blades of tall grass to the starry sky. When did I fall unconscious? The last thing I remember was looking into-…Hypnosis. Of course. He sighed in his mind as he leaned his head forwards so his forehead also touched the ground. What’s-

His thoughts and body froze at hearing another voice.

“Vex! What are you doing? Where’s the kid?” The Gallade’s snapping voice made Vragon’s body want to merge with the ground.

Shifting his body a little, Vragon looked to see the Gallade on the other hill, walking down it, those red eyes glaring up at the ghost intensely.

H-how? Vragon held his breath as he watched the ghost land next to Siegfried.

“The idiot almost burned my face off. I didn’t have time to adjust my landing let alone to get another grip on him.”

Siegfried didn’t reply, just walked forwards disappointed.

“Hey! I almost made it to the rendezvous point,” Vex defended, but Siegfried brushed it off, simply walking down and looking around with a narrow stare.

“Just fly up and look around for him. He can’t have gotten too far.”

Vragon watched the ghost fly into the air and then focused back on Siegfried. He pressed his body to the ground and took a deep but quiet breath. Just stay still. His claws dug into the dirt. Relax…You aren’t easy to spot. He opened his eyes and look down at the Gallade through the blades of grass.

So, they had a ‘rendevous’ point? Then this was planned…but why? Vragon felt curiosity building up in him. But how did that Gallade get here so fast? Maybe an orb? Would make sense he would make it back so quickly, especially if they had this planned beforehand.

The Gallade had reached the base of the hills, though this just made it harder to spot the Fraxure on the side of the hill in front. Or so the boy thought, for Siegfried shut his eyes entirely and let his arms hang at their sides.

Huh? What is he doing? Vragon’s eyes narrowed as he peered at Siegfried from his hiding spot. Then, he felt a cold shiver in his spine, a feeling one gets when a shadow looms over them. He almost looked back, just to make sure Vex hadn’t snuck up on him, but the ghost was still searching in the air.

Is…is he causing that? How?

The Gallade then opened his eyes, making Vragon hold his breath. Siegfried raised his head so that his eyes were level with Vragon’s and surged Psycho Cut into his elbows as they extended.

There’s no- Vragon shot to his feet and ran as Siegfried sent the Psycho Cut right for his hiding spot. “Way!” The explosion behind made him lose his balance and start tumbling down the side of the slope a little bit. He scampered to his feet as fast as he could, the adrenaline killing any pain he had gained from the fall.

Not long after, he heard another Psycho Cut whizzing through the air. He shielded his head and dropped down as it soared overhead, striking the ground near the base of the hill.

Vragon turned around and fired Dragon Breath, too wrapped up in the moment to try and aim. His instincts were right as a Psycho Cut was heading his way and collided with the Dragon move, unfortunately, the impact repulse sent him backwards, rolling down the hill once more.

He finally came to a stop near the base, laying on his stomach aching. Get up! He willed his body, but as he raised his body and head, dread filled his soul. The Gallade was rushing towards him, elbows lit with pink light that dazzled in the night scenery.

“Down!” A voice called out to him from behind. All questions he had were flung to the side as he shoved his body down and covered his head, a Psycho Cut soaring over him.

The Gallade leaped over this new attack but was met by a swift blur with a silver light trail that rammed into him. The two beings broke off in midair, with Siegfried landing higher up the hill and the other landing in front of Vragon.

“Found you.”

“J-Jaz?” Vragon looked up to see Jasmine, a small smile forming on his face amid his wheezing. “How did you-”

“Later, I need you to fight.”

“R-right.” Vragon turned around to see the Ghost taking position on the hill opposite Siegfried.

“I suggest you not interfere, girl,” Siegfried stated, his calm tone at odds with his infuriated glare at the Absol standing between him and his objective.

“Fat chance!” Jasmine retorted, surging Psycho Cut into her horn.

“Fine.” Siegfried went into a low stance, moving his arm back to swing a Psycho Cut at them. “Have it your way.”

Vex’s chuckling made Vragon look back at the ghost.

“Just fair warning. Your way is gonna hurt.” He spread his arms as a dazzling light started forming.

“Vray! Together!” Jasmine exclaimed as she leaped up and swung her head, sending a Psycho Cut towards the forming Dazzling Gleam.

Vragon roared as he unleashed his Dragon Breath for support, a powerful explosion that lit up the hills in a light mixed with fairy, psychic, and draconic colors.

< O >​


Ciecro slowed to a jog as he reached the pinnacle of the hill, standing next to Amyas as he stared forwards at what the Bisharp was pointing at.

There was an array of colorful energy flames erupting from what likely was a move collision caused explosion nay two hilltops away.

“Let’s go!” Amyas and Ciecro rushed down the hill as Dolly had just reached their spot. As they ran side by side, Amyas looked at the Charmeleon and said, “I want you to get to your friends and guard them.”

“Yes sir.” Ciecro could feel his anticipation for battle soaring inside him, prompting his body to push faster and harder up the slopes to the determined battleground. Soon enough he had the lead of the rescue group and cleared the top of the hill overlooking the conflict.

He saw Jasmine and Vragon desperately trying to fend off their attackers, albeit the weakened Vragon struggling to hold up his end.

The Charmeleon about threw himself down the hill as he snarled, ready to dish out some payback. Their eyes may have scared him as a kid, but now they were just things to beat up as an adolescent.

“Vex! Behind! Keep them away!” Siegfried shouted.

“Roger!” Vex spun around and crossed his arms, a pinkish-white hue enveloping his arms and started growing.

Ciecro stopped to meet the move with Flamethrower.

“Keep going!” Amyas shouted, rushing past and crossing gauntlets in front, as the beams of light soared and struck at them, bouncing off their steely exterior and slicing into the ground on the side of the mound. “Dolly, assist!”

Dolly by this time had reached the top of the hill and formed a Focus Blast. She curled it under her arm like a heavy ball and twisted back before tossing it with a heavy grunt. It spiraled in the air with a spin as it flew in the air in an arc pattern around the Dazzling Gleam.

Vex spotted the move heading towards him, phasing into the ground as it slammed near his side, uprooting the dirt that would have gone straight onto his face.

With the Dazzling Gleam dying out as a result, Ciecro and Amyas charged back down the hill, but the shadow of the ghost did as well.

“Jaz!” Ciecro shouted.

“Look out! He’s in the ground!” Amyas also exclaimed.

“On it!” Jasmine flung a Psycho Cut at the ground between them and Vex, forcing the shadow to halt and dart right. “He’s there!”

Vragon open-fired Dragon Breath at the ground, but Vex flew out maintaining a good distance from the blue and yellow flame that chased after him in the air.

Ciecro opened his maw and fired at Siegfried, who was rushing the duo while they were distracted. Siegfried pivoted to the side and sent a small, but speedy Psycho Cut that forced Ciecro to stop, drop, and roll. “Jaz! Behind yah!”

The Absol spun around, ready to fight the incoming Siegfried only to freeze up in confusion as the Gallade was struck by some unseen force on the side of the head. For a split second, a hazy form began to show next to the Gallade, the arm striking the Gallade’s face being coated in some black energy. Siegfried was sent spiraling down the side of the hill while Amyas stood, leering down at him with an arm coated in Sucker Punch.

“Woah.” Jasmine said absent-mindedly, her momentary awe cut short as Ciecro jogged down to her, saying her name. “About time you guys showed up.”

“Yah both okay?” He asked, looking at her and then Vragon, who was resting on the grass panting.

They both nodded.


All three looked to see Amyas staring at Ciecro, gesturing his head to the left. “Hold for my order.”

Ciecro nodded and jogged to flank Siegfried’s position. He felt the flames in his throat build up, begging to be unleashed on this monster. However, he stood firm in his duty as a defensive observer, watching the Bisharp point his metal gauntlet towards the Gallade.

“Stand down now or I will cut you down.” Ciecro’s eyes widened a little, seeing a hint of his superior’s true anger at that moment. It almost bolstered his own pride, knowing that he wasn’t alone in being fed up with this bland character.

Siegfried rolled his neck, it cracking a bit as it readjusted from the earlier hit.

“Fine then.” Amyas’s gauntlets shined a silvery gleam as he rushed the Gallade. “Attack!”

Ciecro’s flames flew towards the Gallade, who once more nimbly avoided, right into Amyas’s strike. The Gallade and Bisharp met in a fierce lock of Psycho Cut and Metal Claw.

Now’s my chance! Ciecro clamped his mouth shut and rushed forwards, feeling the power move from his throat to claws, growing into Dragon Claw. Go low, so Amyas can follow if needed, he planned. As he charged in, he kept his eyes fixated on the Gallade in case he attempted some kind of break-off or getaway. However, the Gallade took a second to glance at Ciecro and his eyes glowed faintly.

A strange feeling came over Ciecro, like a ghost was passing through his body. It almost made him stumble during his run. Huh? Despite this, he kept rushing, not wanting to waste this chance to take this bastard down. He rushed low and swung with all his might, his claws ready to shred the flesh of this mon, no this Red Eye.

Ciecro felt the air in his lungs lock as his eyes widened in confusion as his claw struck nothing but the air. He started to glance upwards, but a firm force of the Gallade’s leg, lifted up with great speed and brought down in kind pressed his stare to the ground. The Charmeleon’s sharp teeth dug into the insides of his mouth as he felt the Gallade put his weight on him.

Thankfully, it was only for a second, for Amyas pressed harder at seeing Ciecro’s pinned state, forcing Siegfried’s foot off the boy.

“Roll!” Amyas shouted.

Ciecro had barely thought the word in his head before his body complied with the action, shifting over onto his side and allowing him to see the sharp point of the Gallade’s elbow extend into the dirt where he once lay. He kept his motion until he was back on his stomach, pushing up immediately, though his mind was distracted, which happens when one is almost pinned to the ground.

He looked back, his breath heavy as the clashes of Metal Claw and Psycho Cut glistened before him, almost like they were the only light source. However, amid their clashes, there was a faint glow of red. Ciecro instantly recalled it, his body remembering that feeling.

Is…wha’ is he- He stepped forwards, only to quickly jerk his body around at hearing Jasmine shout.

“Ciecro! He’s heading for you!”

Ciecro’s eyes darted around the hillside, trying to spot the shadow. It was in vain due to the limited lighting and Ciecro only found the ghost when he was right behind him arms spreading outwards.

Vex’s dark grin became masked in a white and pink light that grew in intensity, almost blinding Ciecro. As the Charmeleon stepped back and moved his arms in front, he felt what could be described as hot darts that struck an icy pain into him. The force accelerated and picked up his feet, sending him hurling through the air uncontrollably till he plummeted down.

“I’ve go-” Was all he heard before he hit something softer than the ground and tumbled over until he stopped on his back. Groaning, Ciecro started opening his eyes, the dazzling light still carrying traces in his vision, but clearing up to reveal the night sky.

“Ciecro!” He looked a little up to see a pair of yellow eyes staring down at him.

“Sit him up!” Another spoke, Ciecro not getting a chance to look before Vragon started helping him up.

He felt a sturdier hand grab his shoulder and soon he was staring into a pair of brown eyes. “Ciecro? Hey!” A large hand snapped in front of his face, making him blink.

“I’m…I’m fine!” Ciecro shouted, almost like it was a lum berry for his disoriented state.

“Dazzling Gleam shouldn’t have any additional effects,” Vragon stated, him and Ciecro glancing to see Jasmine back on her feet and firing Psycho Cuts at Vex to cover for them.

“Well, that’s what happens when it hits you point blank, Vray.” Dolly grabbed Ciecro by the underarm and yoinked him up, the poor Charmeleon almost falling again from the suddenness of it. “Though, thank Arceus it’s not very effective.”

Ciecro let out a weak, “Uh huh,” before an explosion of a rogue Shadow Ball brought his attention back like a Marowak’s Bonemerang.

Dolly immediately stood up, her eyes glowing blue again.

“Piss off!” Vex snapped as he dove into the ground before Foresight could take effect.

Dolly glanced back at Ciecro, raising a brow. “You good to fight?”

“Yeh.” Ciecro got to his feet as Jasmine leaped in front of him next to Dolly, both standing between the literally grounded ghost and the two boys.

Vragon gasped, prompting Ciecro to look at him and then to turn around as they both spotted Amyas and Siegfried’s clash resulting in the Bisharp being blown away by a Vacuum Wave up the hill.

The Bisharp’s battered body rolled up, almost reaching the summit before plopping down, motionless.

“No!” Ciecro surged his Dragon Claw and stepped in front of Vragon.


“It’s fine! I’ll ‘andle ‘im!” Ciecro shouted back to Dolly. “Dat ghos’ can’t flank us!”

Dolly nodded and gestured for Jasmine to help as the two entrusted the Charmeleon with their backs.

“Vray, can yah do some Dragon Breath’s fo’ me?”

Vragon nodded, his burning scowl serving as an indicator of how much he wanted this Dragon Breath to sear this foe.

“Don’t feign a spine,” Siegfried stated as his elbows glowed that annoying pink light again. “You’re only just making it harder for yourselves.”

“Shuddup already!” Ciecro growled as he rushed at Ciecro, hopping up to do a slice for the mon’s face, which was easily deflected. He then swung low for the legs, only for the elbow to extend to blow. Gasping, Ciecro pivoted his body back, narrowly avoiding a slice from the other arm that would have cut squarely across his stomach and chest.

Vragon covered his retreat with a Dragon Breath, but Siegfried merely swung his arm, sending the Psycho Cut through most of it and eventually doing a cancel repulse that knocked Vragon onto his back.

Snarling, Ciecro pushed his arms forwards and unleashed Flamethrower at the mon. “Take dis!”

Siegfried raised his arms in front, the pink glow in them changing to green as the flames struck them. However, the fire didn’t break through, instead, it was almost leeching off the new move as a form of fuel as real, non-synergetic fire does.

“Wha?” Ciecro’s mouth hung open as he saw his move practically be absorbed into the Leaf Blade. “How did-?”

For the first time since the fight had started, the Gallade raised his brow, surprised at Ciecro’s confusion. “How?” Rolling his eyes, the Gallade crossed his arms in a ‘T’ formation. “Don’t try me, boy. Playtime is over.” One of the arms stopped glowing green underneath the flames and went back to pink. Half a second later, he swung, sending a horizontal Psycho Cut right for Ciecro, who immediately dropped to a knee and bent low for it to soar overhead.

“Ah!” Vragon, who had just gotten up, dropped to the ground as it flew and crashed into the ground near the base of the second hill. The flames burst upwards with a fiery passion, forming a wall that suddenly started spreading.

“Wha?” Ciecro stared in horror. He’d never experienced his own move being used against him let alone in a way he had never seen before. His despair filled as the flames obscured Dolly and Jasmine, both of whom realized what was going on behind them but were too late to cross.

“No!” Ciecro stood up and stretched his arms out, thinking in his mind and soul for his flames to stop. His wish for them to sputter out went unanswered. His arms lowered and he looked at his right hand, feeling his body shake to its core.

“You’re doing it wrong.”

Ciecro spun around, his heart racing as Siegfried walked towards them once more, the fire in his left extended elbow still burning furiously in the Leaf Blade. “Wha’ dya mean?”

Siegfried rolled his eyes and threw a vertical Psycho Cut at Ciecro. The Charmeleon quickly sidestepped it, but as it soared past him it disintegrated, merely evaporating into pink particles that vanished amid the flaming wall near them.

“Are you telling me you don’t understand something as basic as nullifying your own moves?”

“Of course I do!” Ciecro snapped back. “Yah’re doin’ somethin’ tah stop me fro-” The poor boy stopped at hearing the Gallade burst into a suddenly mocking laughter, that made him feel like a stone that was forming cracks.

“You really don’t know why you can’t stop the fire.” The arrogant smile on the Gallade’s face was poison for the eyes as the Red Eyes gazed upon the flames burning in the Leaf Blade. “But I guess it makes sense you wouldn’t, if I could so easily absorb your move into mine. I’m surprised I didn’t think of this earlier, but to my defense, I wasn’t expecting to fight a Norfarion boy that hadn’t learned the basics of external synergy control.”

“Shuddup!” Ciecro shouted, pointing his arms at the Gallade, who tilted his head and eyed him with a look that was more mocking than any phrase that could be said. The boy’s arms stayed there, shaking slightly as he felt the world’s weight on him just from the mon’s mere stare.

“Well? Go ahead. Do it.” The Gallade spread his arms. “Prove you can do it. Or are you not as Norfarion as you’re supposed to be? Shame, I prefer Norfarions that just do things and shut up.”

“You don’t have to prove anything to trash like him!”

Ciecro glanced back at Vragon, who was surging Dragon Claw. The Charmeleon could tell the Fraxure was more saving face, but it was inspiring to Ciecro.

“‘Trash like me?’” Siegfried shook his head. “You’re lucky we want you alive. Else this contest would have ended at the shoal. But perhaps you two need evidence.” The Gallade

Ciecro glanced back as Siegfried raised his arms up and with a shout pulled them over his head. The flames behind the two erupted, instantly grabbing their attention.

“They’re-” Vragon started but was startled as the fire shot out to the side, expanding the flame wall even further.

What little hope Ciecro had for Dolly and Jasmine to just go around it despite Vex’s ever-present onslaught was gone. Angrily, he looked back at Siegfried. “How‽ How are yah usin’ fire-type moves!”

“You’re such a moron.” The Gallade rolled his eyes. “Were you just spacing out when I said your control over your expelled synergy was weak? Why do I need to know a fire-type move when you gave me one I could use. Your Flamethrower is sustained by me now and I can power it as much as I will it.”

“N…No.” Ciecro breathed out, softly as if his body could barely bear to let the words out.

“Don’t listen to him.” Vragon urged Ciecro. “It’s not like he can just take whatever move you dish out. It must take a bit of his own to take over your move’s synergy, let alone sustain it.”

Siegfried turned his eyes to Vragon, his smile lessening but still present. “Perhaps then I should speak to you instead.”

Ciecro’s scowl returned as he moved his arm in front of Vragon.

The Gallade lowered his arms, the flames in the Leaf Blade going out. “I’m just going to give you one more chance to come with us before I knock you out.” The smile had vanished entirely, the blank expression giving off an uncanny amount of aggression, be it from the Red Iris that made them uneasy or just being sick of seeing this guy’s face. “Because I don’t care who I cut down or maim. You are coming with us, and any harm that’s done will be on your head as well.”

The Charmeleon glanced back at Vragon at the lack of a reply. Vray… He stared down the enemy once more as he surged Dragon Claw. Dis guy loves tah tawk. But Ciecro knew in his heart that this guy was more than talk. His wounds spoke to that very well and the quivering in his arms threatened to spread to his entire body like a plague.

Come on, think, Ciecro. Dere’s gotta be a way tah bea’ ‘im. The Gallade started walking again, causing both Ciecro and Vragon to back up. Huh? Ciecro noticed movement at the top of the hill.

Amyas was getting to his feet, looking winded, but surging black energy into his gauntlet.

Sucker Punch! A brief moment of relief covered Ciecro, until the Gallade stopped advancing. Right as he looked at the Red Eye, those eyes glowed again and he felt that invasive feeling. Huh? Wait. His hope transformed into despair as the stranger’s eyes stopped glowing and small smirk formed on the Gallade’s face.


The Bisharp disappeared into a blur as the Gallade side-stepped as Amyas reappeared, his dark move piercing the air where the Gallade’s torso once was. The visible confusion on Amyas’s face was cut short by him being driven off balance by Siegfried slicing upwards on his arm, which thankfully was protected by the Sucker Punch. What wasn’t protected, was Amyas’s torso which no mere second later had a firm knee driving into it.

“Ack!” Amyas moved to block, but Siegfried twisted over Amyas and landed behind. Nimbly, the Gallade angled his arms underneath the prone Amyas and pulled the right one back in an arm lock, applying pressure that made Amyas’s metal mouth grit and drop to a knee.

“Amyas!” Ciecro surged Dragon Claw.

“Don’t be stupid, boy.”

Ciecro stood there, staring in anger at the powerless situation. It then dawned on him. Dose eyes…dey mus’ be…dats how he knew. There was no other way Ciecro could think of. Amyas had been silent enough and a psychic powerful enough to pierce a dark type’s mind and read its thoughts wouldn’t be fighting so up close nor even the playing field for his foes. Siegfried had been tipped off, by Ciecro himself. I… This revelation made Ciecro’s shaky legs cave and he fell on all fours, horrified at what he had done.

Vragon joined Ciecro’s side, worried that the wounds of the Charmeleon had started. “Ciecro?” The concern on the Fraxure’s face shifted to their opponent as Siegfried spoke again.

“Tell me.” He applied harsher pressure, making the Commissioner yelp from the spike of pain and drop onto both knees.

Amyas glanced up at Siegfried, his eyes looking like a wounded, furious feral wanting to lash out at its first chance to strike.

The Gallade glanced down at his controlled foe. “Is your job worth your arm?”

“Let him go!” Vragon shouted, the desperation in his voice enough to send chills through Ciecro.

Siegfried’s eyes then turned to Vragon. “And tell me, Averion.”

Ciecro could hear the faint gasp from his friend as he listened to the Gallade’s threat.

“Are you so cowardly to let a mon lose his arm for your sake?”

“I…” Vragon’s weakened scowl looked like he was on the verge of tears. His body was shaking and the pupils in his eyes moved around in small, sporadic motions. Amyas pained cry as Siegfried pressed harder snapped both boys’ attentions and made their hearts drop.

“Well? Just the first arm of many to you? Are you going to let the whole town be your wall?”

Time stopped for Ciecro. He could feel his soul spiraling in rage, purging his fear like wildfire. How… He rose to a knee as his scowl returned, as strong as ever. Dare… The memories of that night with Dresha, hearing her say that sentence was all too much for him then. “Fuck yah!”

Only the sound of the cackling fire around them was heard for a brief moment. Siegfried raised a brow.

“If yah take ‘is arm off…I’ll burn yah to ash! An’ if yah send more, I’ll burn ‘em as well!”

“Please, don’t masquerade yourself as some confident Norfarion. You didn’t even know how to pull back your moves. The simple fact is-”

“Ciecro, don’t let Vragon go to them!” Amyas shouted, trying to stand in his position to get a punch in to potentially free himself but was easily subdued again.

“No! Stop!” Vragon shouted, stepping forward and reaching out.

Quickly, Ciecro grabbed Vragon, pulling him close as Vragon stared in horror. Ciecro looked back at Amyas, their mere stare suffice for their conversation. He saw Amyas nod and he braced himself for whatever was about to happen. “Let ‘im go!” Ciecro exclaimed, praying the Gallade’s eyes wouldn’t glow.

“Or what?” Siegfried said arrogantly, pushing harder on the arm. However, that irritated glare shifted to wide-eyed shock. He gasped as he looked down at Amyas.

Amyas’s head was pulled back, eyes shut as he fought through the pain in his arm to drive the blade on his head right into the Gallade’s side. “Now!” He screamed as he pulled away, twisting his arm as best he could to remove the pressure.

Ciecro charged up the hill as Amyas pulled with all his might to free his arm.

Siegfried let go, his arms going to his side as his overcoat began to be stained with blood.

Amyas grabbed his arm as he fell backwards and rolled down the hill a little.

“Vray! Coveh ‘im!” Ciecro shouted as he rushed around Amyas and roared, thrusting Dragon Claw for the Gallade’s face. A Psycho Cut blade was ushered to the Gallade’s defense, both pushing hard on each other’s arms in a lock. Their eyes were glaring into each other, Ciecro’s up at this ancient force for him now bleeding and the Gallade down at the boy who just wouldn’t stay down.

“Dyaaa!” Siegfried pushed Ciecro back with a stronger force, lunging at him with the fury of a wounded creature lashing out as a survival response.

The onslaught was overwhelming as Ciecro barely managed to get his Dragon Claws in the way. However, he soon felt a slice on his arm as he misjudged the distance. Focus! He commanded himself as he countered the attacks, avoiding eye contact with the Gallade at all costs.

This counter to the Gallade’s uncanny tactic came at a cost of his defensive vision. Ge’ some distance! He ordered himself as he clashed with a blow, using it to push off so he could see both arms better now.

Siegfried lunged for him, crossing his arms with a dual Psycho Cut slash of blades that Ciecro raised his Dragon Claw to block. “Ack!” Ciecro could feel the moves digging into his hands, noticing the cracks in his own moves.

Since defense wouldn’t last, offense was the go. Ciecro diverted some of his power to Dragon Tail, biding for his chance. As Siegfried did an overhead slice upon him that he parried to the side with a swipe of Dragon Claw, he spun around with his tail, hoping to ward the Gallade away to regroup. Alas, Siegfried didn’t jump back but instead jumped over Ciecro nicking him on the shoulder with a cut.

“Ahh!” Ciecro felt the pain in his shoulder as he blocked another slice from the side.

“Pathetic!” Siegfried shouted, his tone like a Flamethrower of his own as he pressed harder down onto Ciecro’s guard. The Charmeleon shifted both Dragon Claws to block allowing Siegfried to pull back and swing from the other side, striking Ciecro before he could transfer his defenses and knocking him to the side, slightly off-balance.

Siegfried lunged and Ciecro pressed his feet to the ground. Hit! The boy screamed in his mind as he pushed off, lunging for Ciecro. Horror filled him as the Gallade pivoted and circled his arms around Ciecro’s arm, flipping the boy over his body and slamming him to the ground with a harsh thud.

His head cried out in pain, but Ciecro fought through the haziness it caused to open his maw for a last-ditch Flamethrower, but it wasn’t fire that came out. It was a yelp of pain as he felt his left shoulder be pierced by the Gallade’s Psycho Cut. It came out as quickly as it came and as Ciecro grabbed for the open wound he looked up, seeing the point right over his head.

The breath in his lungs froze as he watched it come down for him. However, the pink light of the incoming death was knocked aside as something new towered over Ciecro. Amyas, whose form came out of that hazy phase form.

“Amyas?” Ciecro said with panted breath as the Commissioner looked down at him, the arm he had seen twisted and broken being the Charmeleon’s savior. “Yah’re arm.”

“You can thank your friend for that,” Amyas said, stepping over Ciecro to guard him as the boy rolled over onto his stomach, holding his injury. Ciecro looked down the slope and what he saw brought horror and solemnness to the good news. Vragon was lying on the grass, unconscious, with some blood on a few areas of his body.

He needs medical attention. Ciecro rose to a knee. We hafta end dis now. He raised his head and said, “Amyas, wai-”

“You’re hurt Ciecro. I’ve got it from here-”

“No…” Ciecro got onto his feet, adjusting to the pain in his shoulder. “I can help. ‘Is eyes glow when he’s tryin’ tah read minds. Don’ look ‘im in deh-” Ciecro was cut off by Siegfried tossing a Psycho Cut right at him, but Amyas stepped in the way, allowing the move striking his body and disintegrate into pink particles that vanished soon after.

Amyas glanced back and smirked. “Go on.”

Righ’ dat move doesn’ affect ‘im. Ciecro walked to Amyas’s side. “I don’ know how it’s possible, bu’ when ‘is eyes glow as he looks at yah, he gets’n idea of wha’ yah abou’ tah do. Dat’s how he knew yah wuz comin’.” The look of anger on Siegfried’s face made Ciecro smirk.

“I see.” Amyas raised his gauntlets into an offensive pose. “Very well. Are you sure you can fight?”

“Wit’ yah helpin’ me, yeah.”

“Alright.” Amyas leaned in and whispered, “We take him from different sides and try to avoid looking at his eyes directly. If you see his eyes glow, shout it out and immediately disengage.”

“Got it.” The Charmeleon started jogging around as Amyas repositioned between Siegfried and the Fraxure. Siegfried’s attention was focused on him and once more the eyes started to glow, prompting Ciecro to look away from it. A shiver filled his spine, but much less powerful and likely from his own anxiety about the situation. “Glow,” Ciecro said as Amyas nodded.

“Tck, so that’s it huh. How truly pathetic.” Siegfried looked at his opponents, lowing his hand from his bleeding side.

“What’s pathetic is wasting the chances you’re given.” Amyas crossed his gauntlets. “I don’t want to know how many you wasted to be on the path you’re on now.”

Siegfried sneered at this and raised his blade, leveling it towards Amyas. “Then come, Commissioner of an irrelevant town.”

The two charged, with Ciecro jogging closer. We’ll suhvive. Jus’ don’ be stupid an’ oveh-extend. He took position uphill at an angle behind Siegfried and took a deep breath, feeling the power building in his throat. He unleashed Flamethrower, forcing both mons to disengage and hop on opposite ends of the move.

Ciecro broke his move early and rushed downhill with Dragon Claw, Siegfried rushed uphill with Psycho Cut. Ciecro pulled to the left and swung his right hand’s Dragon Claw high while thrusting for a slice at the side with his newly formed Dragon Tail.

Sadly, Siegfried blocked both, albeit in an upside-down ‘V’ formation.

Amyas phased once more into Sucker Punch, but Siegfried had glanced back. Immediately, the Gallade pushed hard on Ciecro’s right arm, forcing his Dragon Claw to go down, allowing him to cartwheel over the Dragon Tail and escape Amyas’s punch from behind.

The Charmeleon pulled back as Amyas engaged head-on. Damnit, dat mon seems tah still ‘ave good defense even wit’out dat dirty trick. Ciecro grumbled in his head as he went further uphill to get on the other side again.

Once more an opportunity opened up and Ciecro went for a slice, but it was blocked by a quick slice of a Psycho Cut. Ciecro was about to ram, but the Gallade’s eyes glowed and he pulled back. “Glow,” he said, prompting Amyas to be more cautious of his advances.

The commissioner and the Red Eye resumed their duel as Ciecro jogged from his spot on the upper hill, peering for another chance. Dis isn’ workin’. It’s wearin’ ‘im down, yeah, bu’ one mistake. His eyes lowered. How can we end dis? He looked back at the fight, watching their silhouettes clash amid the flame wall background. If I go in, he blocks, makes ‘is eyes glow, an’ den I hafta fall back. It gets us nowhere. We need tah ovehwelm him. Ciecro looked at his beaten, bloodied, yet ready-to-fight right claw.

Try somethin’ differen’. A smirk formed on Ciecro’s face. Be impromptu. He charged for Siegfried, going for another slice. Once again, the Gallade moved to block, but this time Ciecro used his Dragon Claws to catch the move. He moved his legs forwards and fell backwards, using the Gallade’s extended elbow to ease his fall.

“Ack!” A startled Siegfried exclaimed as the extra way shifted him down.

Ciecro rolled onto his stomach, swiping at Siegfried with a forming Dragon Tail and landing a solid strike on the mon’s stomach.

The Gallade stepped back, holding his stomach as Amyas leaped over the Charmeleon and went for a thrust that was successfully blocked.

It worked! Excitement filled Ciecro’s soul as his body felt light from joy, drowning out the pain he felt with excitement and anticipation for another strike. But what would he do this time? Siegfried most certainly would expect something now and may just choose to break off.

Ciecro watched Amyas engage the Gallade, seeing the expert blocks and strikes from the back. He slowly got up, keeping his eyes focused on the scene and then inspiration struck. He rushed forwards, stopping right behind Amyas. “Amyas get ready.”

“What?” Amyas said, as he pushed Siegfried back from their move lock. “You’re supposed to take the other si-

“Trust me,” Ciecro said, moving his arms to his sides, opening their palms as he felt the synergy building up in them.

Amyas nodded and began resuming the engagement, with Ciecro staying close behind, mimicking the steps and pushes forwards. He waited in silent anticipation until there it was. The red glow on the other side of Amyas’s helmet head.

“Glow. Ooof.” Amyas’s attempts to step back were cut off by Ciecro stepping forwards and blocking him. The Charmeleon then reached his right claw around the Bisharp’s side and fired a small Flamethrower straight ahead.

Siegfried flinched, as the move fired in front.

Ciecro then pushed Amyas aside with his other hand and sliced with Dragon Claw. The distraction worked, for Siegfried couldn’t get a good footing for his defense and his Psycho Cut was knocked aside by Ciecro.

Seeing himself exposed, Siegfried used his off-footed state to push back and gain some distance.

“Hup!” Ciecro fell into his strike, diving forwards as he flipped his body into a somersault, feeling power in his tail as the scales of Dragon Tail formed, sharp as ever. He heard the tearing of fabric or skin. He couldn’t see which it was, but he could hear the painful cry of the Gallade as his legs hit the ground and he sat up.

A smug grin formed at seeing Siegfried backing up, holding his battered shoulder. The side of the cloak had been torn, exposing the right arm which had small streams of blood flowing down it from the top. Yes! Direct hit!

Ciecro got to his feet as Amyas joined his side, irritation in his statement, “Warn me next time.”

I didn’ wan’ ‘im tah-” The Charmeleon stopped, staring in disbelief. His eyes fixated on the shoulder, which he could better see now that he was standing, revealing part of a black birthmark on the outside where the arm and the shoulder linked.

“I understand, but one wrong move-…Ciecro?”

The Charmeleon’s dumbfounded look prompted Amyas to see what Ciecro saw. “He…a clans mon?”

Hearing those words made Ciecro’s body feel like it wanted to contort. In front of him was a Red Eye and yet…one of those that would be considered his people. A paradox of being in front of him. “Why do-?” was all he said, before a snarl replaced his speech.

But then, he blinked and shook his head slightly. This rage…it felt so odd. After all, this mon was an enemy since they met, he even tried to hurt his friends and brother, and yet this feeling of betrayal was all too real. It didn’t make sense and yet it sort of did, neither having an explanation Ciecro could put into words.

“You piece of trash.”

Ciecro glared up at Siegfried, his scowl tightening as if it was on the defensive compared to the Gallade’s glare. The Gallade walked towards them, holding his injuries as his burning gaze pierced Ciecro, who was unprepared for the incredible shift of expression from this mon.

“Why can’t you fucking stay down or die?” The left elbow blade started glowing pink. “You stuttering Norf.”

Amyas moved a protective arm in front of Ciecro. This helped ease Ciecro, allowing him to look back at the crest and study it better. I’ve neveh seen dat one befo’e. So it ain’ Norfarion nor Averion. Den which of dah five is it? His thoughts were interrupted by Amyas stepping in front to take a Psycho Cut for Ciecro.


“No problem. He’s one his last winds I bet.”

“I’m sure you’d like that, Commissioner.” The Gallade snarled as he took his other arm from the wound. “But this is far from done.” He slowly moved his bleeding arm up towards his eyes, and both Ciecro and Amyas braced for what new attack was about to come.

“What?” Siegfried stopped, as the sound of an explosion came from beyond the fire.

Ciecro and Amyas glanced back to see something come flying through the fiery wall and land on the grass.

Vex was panting as he pushed himself to his feet. “Siggy we-” He glanced up to see Amyas and Ciecro both rushing towards him with moves activated. “Eeeep!” He phased into the ground and raced past them like a cowardly shadow and came up on the other side next to Siegfried who eyed him with no less anger than he gave to the two of them.

“What the fuck are you doing‽ You’re supposed to-”

“We need to go now!” Vex uttered, but Siegfried roared.


“You don’t under-” Vex stopped as he looked past Ciecro and Amyas, at something above them to be more precise.

Ciecro followed Vex’s gaze to see a tidal wave tower over the flames, covering the sky as it ascended over the firewall. On top of this glowing blue wall of synergetic water was Humphry, his arms raised overhead in motion with the wave. “Party’s over scum!” Humphry thrust his arms down as the wave began to violently descend upon them.

“Wait! Vray is-” He felt the air leave his lungs as he felt a strong arm wrap around his chest and pull him. The world blurred for a second as he felt a powerful rush of wind around his scales, only for it to stop the millisecond the blurring did. He was on the top of the hill, the great tidal wave in front. Next to him was Amyas, setting Vragon down who he held under his other arm.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as he watched the brief second before the tidal wave slammed down upon the two red eyes and the slope of the hill, engulfing the fire into a wall of smoke and sending glowing water all over, some even making it as far as the three on top.

As the water began to settle, the Red Eyes picked themselves up from the water, what was left of Siegfried’s cloak was soaked and weighing him down, while Vex was busy spitting out water and making “Blegh” sounds.

Between them was Commissioner Humphry, his fist pushed against the ground as water dripped from his body, the same posture he had before impact.

“You!” Siegfried tried to strike with Leaf Blade but gasped and dropped to a knee, his wounds fighting his attempts to move. His eyes widened at seeing the large Seismitoad rush towards him. He raised his free arm to block, but Humphry instead slammed the ground.

“Huh?” He glanced down, the ground beneath the shallow water contorting as it softened and not from the water. Siegfried got one last gasp in before he was sent flying into the air by way of Mud Shot geyser. “Hit him hard!”

Ciecro looked up to see a group coming in from the air at the Gallade. He saw two rangers and Jaron, one of the rangers being a Mismagius using Telekinesis on the other two.

The Furret ranger twirled in the air as the Mismagius flung him towards the airborne Siegfried, his wide tail becoming engulfed in a metallic coating as it slammed into Siegfried. The Gallade slammed into the hillside, knocking away the shadowy water.

“Jaron!” Humphry shouted as the Croconaw fired Ice Beam at the spot. The water served as a good sealing when frozen, trapping Siegfried’s lower half and making him shiver uncontrollably.

“Siggy!” Vex floated and swung his arms, sending Dazzling Gleam towards the group in the air and Humphry. The Seismitoad made an Aqua Ring that absorbed some of the beams, while others grazed his body. Meanwhile, the Mismagius dropped the Furret ranger and Jaron down so she could focus on evasion.

Vex was interrupted as his body started going static. “Ugh…this? Not you again!” Vex snapped.

Ciecro glanced down hill to see Dolly walking towards Vex, her eyes were glowing blue and a smirk formed as what looked like holographic rings of technology appeared around Vex. He looked in horror as they did a sort of scanning motion and then faded. “He’s all yours, Jaz.” A silvery blur zipped past Dolly, causing splashes of water to be sent up as Vex was knocked to the side.

Jasmine stopped and then surged another Quick Attack, striking Vex in the back. Another blur then came as Vex spat out air at the uppercut from a Grapploct using Feint that sent him flying.

Vex flipped around and flew, making a dart for Siegfried.

Amyas surged Sucker Punch but quickly used his phase speed to get in front of Ciecro, who was about to be struck by a Psycho Cut thrown from the trapped Siegfried.

“Ciecro!” Jaron shouted, distracted by his brother being in danger, that Vex merely had to avoid Humphry’s Mud Shot, a task he easily did.

Siegfried slammed his Psycho Cut infused blade to shatter the ice and reached up as Vex flew by and grabbed it, flying off with his ally.

“Get back here!” The Furret ranger shouted as the Mismagius flew in pursuit.

The Grapploct zipped forwards as well using Feint, while Jasmine was stopped before she could by Dolly.

Humphry watched the two rangers pursue the fleeing duo and turned towards Ciecro. “You alright?”

Relief filled Ciecro at seeing Humphry’s face. He nodded, but that was unfortunately when his body decided to stop dulling the pain. He grabbed his arm and slithered as Humphry immediately jogged up to him.

Amyas was over Vragon, inspecting the unconscious Fraxure.

“Vray!” Jaron exclaimed, rushing up the hill as Humphry helped Ciecro sit up. The Croconaw dropped to Vragon’s side, looking over the unconscious Fraxure with fear of the worst.

Ciecro’s eyes looked at his brothers. His mouth shut. There was nothing he could say. All he could do was submit to Humphry’s gentle push to get him to lie on his back and rest. He shut his eyes and tensed as Humphry started inspecting his wound. I’m sorry Vray. Yah had tah save my tail instead of me protectin’ yah. The lids of his eyes tightened as tears swelled in them from a mix of pain and self-anger. Please be okay…Arceus please let ‘im be fine.
Chapter 24: The Uncertain Now


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 24
The Uncertain Now​

Humphry sighed as he stared at the piece of paper on his desk, currently void of any blemish or color. His eyes trailed up to where an old clock hung on the wall, ticking back and forth with its golden pendulum swaying like a Hypno’s makeshift pendulum.

Ugh…where do I begin? He looked down at the paper, his gaze growing more cynical. ‘Hey, can you send some rangers to town, just in case those kidnappers return with a bunch more of them?’ I could see their faces now. He sat back, not taking his frustrated eyes off the blank paper until there was a knock on the door. He straightened up and after a half-cough, half-croak Humphry said, “Come in.”

The door squeaked as Amyas scooted through the narrow opening and gently closed the door behind him. “Welp, Zirkoth and I are all packed. Just got to get Tork ready to bring back for Commissioner Zebzena. Is the letter done yet?”

Humphry sighed as he hung his head. “No…”

Amyas raised a brow. “How far are you?”

“Haven’t even started.”

“Really?” Amyas placed his gauntlet hands on his sides and tilted his head. “It’s just a letter, Humphry.”

The Seismitoad looked at his friend with a half-shut stare. “Then how would phrase asking for reinforcements in response to two mons that tried to kidnap a child? Two mons that we have no proof have reinforcements outside of an eight-year-old testimony from two Norfarion children and a vague threat of ‘they will kill all the mons in this town’ over something the oldest one was carrying.”

Amyas looked at the roof for a second and then back to his friend. “Yeah, point taken.”

“To anyone else, it’d sound like I’m either insane or over blowing a situation to get a bigger workforce temporarily.” Humphry shook his head and snatched a stack of papers in his hands, tapping them on the table to align them.

“I mean, it’s not that ludicrous to believe. Sure, there’s a lack of strong evidence, but this is the Red Eyes group we’re talking about. They’ve attacked a few places.”

“Random kidnappings you mean.” Humphry’s eyes curved from their frustrated scowl to a solemn frown. “Kidnappings that happen in more rural provinces or among the poverty areas of towns. You have no more jurisdiction here in Perion than I do in any other city province. Something like random kidnappings of unimportant mons doesn’t warrant a cooperative investigation when those resources could be spent elsewhere.”

Amyas’s eyes lowered as he leaned his back against the wall. “True. Even Rangers can’t just do whatever they want. But this isn’t just random kidnappings, this is clearly organized.”

“That’s my dilemma. These kidnappings are organized by a strong group. The losses are harmless enough for actual towns to just let slide. So imagine if another town asked for your help in dealing with kidnappings. ‘Why can’t your guild handle its own region?’ Even re-occurring kidnappings aren’t enough to get a region-wide crackdown on an organization that operates outside Triacal. Especially one that bites harder than its mute bark.”

The Bisharp looked at the window. “What about the boy’s testimony? It was an attack near a town, right?”


“Which town?”


Amyas got off the wall and pointed at the papers. “Okay, so why don’t we use that? It’s well documented and it’s a good example of-”

The Seismitoad made an angry croak. He got up, walked over to a file shelf, pulled out a document, and opened it. “Forensics: Causalities report. Four rangers, three Norfarions, and various other mons of undetermined origin.”

“Okay, so then why not lead with that?”

Humphry’s eyes rose to Amyas’s stare, bearing behind their blunt stare a cold sense of truth. “Because Bantal Town would either deny it or downplay it.”

“Huh?” Amyas tilted his head as Humphry put the file away.

“Eight years ago, I went to Bantal Town to follow up on the boys’ testimony. I couldn’t get access to the family’s home, nor the forensics, nothing.”

“Wait, hold on. They denied you the forensics? Then how did-”

Humphry did a deep, tired sigh, putting the file back as a shocked look came over Amyas.

“Humphry you didn’t.”

The Seismitoad stared at his file shelf, eyes narrow and cold. “They didn’t ‘deny’ me the forensics. They lied about there even being an attack or even the Norfarion family ever living there.”

“What?” Amyas walked up to his friend, his face shifting from disbelief to anger. “That’s criminal! They can’t just-”

“They can and did. I don’t know why, but I wager it was out of fear be that direct or speculation about what the Norfarions or what the Red Eyes would do.” He briefly looked his friend in the eye then turned and walked back to his desk. “And why shouldn’t they be afraid? A warzone in the forest. Bodies cut into pieces. Just reading that forensics report I copied made me sick to my stomach.”

The Seismitoad could almost sense the tonal change in his friend, his spine filling with a chill he had no doubt Amyas felt as well. “If information like that got out you’d pretty much be killing off Bantal Town’s reputation for safety like that.” He did a snap for emphasis. “Even if these Red Eyes never struck near there again, it’s a permanent blemish. A very noticeable blemish.”


“Corrupt? Desperate? A necessary evil? I don’t know. I just know that rangers are sworn to protect their towns.” Humphry walked over, finishing his thoughts as he sat down. “And some would even protect their towns from the truth.”

The Bisharp’s eyes lowered to the side as he stood there in idle silence.

“I thought many times about whether I should publicize those documents or not. But so many gears played into this that I just couldn’t. Humphry crossed his arms and leaned forwards. “It probably would do more harm than good. Bantal would accuse me of lying or theft, depending on if they admitted it was true. They might even attack the boys’ testimony and credibility.” His eyes shut as he let his head hang low. “I couldn’t put Ciecro and Jaron through something like that. Not after they just went through the loss of most of their family and their brother leaving them here. I just…couldn’t.”

Amyas walked up to the desk, eventually saying. “Do they know?”

“No more than their testimonies.” Humphry’s weary gaze rose a little. “Telling them would be harder than telling the guilds.” Humphry sat back. “You wouldn’t believe the state their parents were in. You’d think their bodies were desecrated.”

A feverous scowl formed on Amyas’s face as his gauntlet pressed harder into the wood. “This is wrong. I just…How could that commissioner just cover this up? If Norfair found out, there’d be hell to pay.”

“Norfair is still bound to treaties. An invasion of Triacal or occupation for investigation would just make other countries tense with them and their cousins. That’s also forgetting what the Red Eyes could do if they were voiced as the antagonists, they and whatever allies they have here would retaliate.”

Humphry felt a chill in his spine at seeing his friend freeze up at his retort.

“I snuck in and copied that file from Bantal because I trusted those two. I could just see it in their eyes.” A pained scowl formed on Humphry’s face. “That’s why,” he sniffled. “If I can’t give them justice. I’ll give them the protection they deserved from the start.”

Amyas’s expression softened as he pulled back.

“It’s the least I could do.” His eyes lowered to the letter. “That’s why this letter is so important. Now it’s my town that’s caught in this. I have to weigh the scales of what to say and what to be silent on. But I do know this. I won’t let the Red Eyes get off so freely.”

The Bisharp fell silent, perhaps out of restraint or respect. Not long after, he took his gauntlet off the desk, leaving a minor dent in it, and shifted to a warm, small smile. “Well, don’t fret. You finish your letter when you do, but when I get back to Plainier Town I’ll be sure to send support your way.”

“I’d appreciate that very much.” A small but genuine smile formed on the Seismitoad’s face. However, once his stare looked back at the letter it shifted to an eye-shut frown. “I don’t think I’m going to finish the letter today. I’ll just go ahead and get ready for Jaron.” He reached for his cabby hat hanging on a wooden drawer’s knob and straightened it on his head. He paused as he once more looked down at the empty parchment with a heavy frown. “I’ve just been staring at it.”

“I can’t blame you, based on what we’ve talked about.” Amyas crossed his arms as he watched Humphry walk from around his desk. “It all sounds very dark.”

“Jaron and Ciecro are lucky to be alive.” He gripped the handle, pausing as memories drifted into his mind like a leaf in the morning breeze. Turning his head, Humphry looked at the clock on the wall, ticking and tocking without a care in the world. “I remember when Miss Dresha told me the last thing Seliph told her. I admit, I assumed ‘Seliph’ was suffering from having survived a horrible encounter, but when I actually looked into it…” His heart willed him to cease speaking, almost as if he’d make those boys in his memory cry if he did.

“I can only imagine.”

“You’re the first mon I’ve ever confessed to about the file.” Humphry looked back at the door, his shoulders sagging a little.

“I’m honored you trust me so deeply, especially with something as big and frightening as this.”

“It is scary.” Humphry twisted the knob and eyed his friend as he smiled warmly at Amyas. “But…I’m glad I finally got to tell someone about it. This knowledge has been heavy on my mind for a long time. I’ve even woken up in cold sweats from it before.”

“Too much information.” The two chuckled as Humphry opened the door and Amyas walked through it. “But I getcha. I’d be frightened too.”

“Indeed.” The two looked down the empty hallway, in bothered silence.

“Sooooooo,” Amyas shuffled a little in front, tilting his head and leaning in front of Humphry like some sort of little child would a stranger that caught their eye. “What are you going to do in the meantime?”

“Well, I’ve already enlisted some volunteers to keep an eye out for the town. I’m hoping to get a few more temporary rangers for defense.” The two started walking down the hallway, side by side. “As for right now, I have what rangers I have at the hospital and Miss Dresha’s home keeping an eye out for our suspects.”

“Good. What about the kids?”

Humphry replied as they rounded the corner. “Ciecro and Jaron are living with me. I felt it was best to keep the brothers together during this troubling time, plus his injuries weren’t too bad so we settled on healing sessions at my home instead.”

“Well that’s good to hear,” Amyas said, with a following sigh of relief. “And Vragon?”

“At the hospital. He’s been unconscious since the attack, though I was notified this morning by Dr. Uximo that he’s regained consciousness.”

A smile crossed Amyas’s face as his eyes lowered to the floor. “I’m glad to hear that. I would have-”

“There’s no way you could have known.” Humphry patted his friend on the shoulder as they stopped in front of a door. “And besides, our opponents were very capable. I’m just glad none of you were fatally harmed.”

“Yeah…I can’t deny, I wasn’t expecting him to have those kinds of powers.” Amyas’s eyes narrowed. “I can’t believe a Red Eye had a Clansmon Crest. Which one was it?”

“I think Phonecian, but I’m not certain.”

“Huh.” Amyas walked up to the door. “Those gifts are something else. Between that mon’s predicting our moves and Vragon’s healing powers, these abilities of the Clans seem miraculous.”

“It is a sight to behold.” Humphry nodded as Amyas pushed the doors open for them both. The two started down the staircase, one or two rangers around the station, taking care of some paperwork. The lack of the usual chatter and mons going about left a small amount of unnerve in Humphry’s spine.

“So, I’m curious,” Amyas said as they reached the base of the stairs. “What are Jaron and Ciecro’s gifts?”

“Well, Jaron has a gift called Wary and Ciecro’s is Death Wrath.”

Amyas raised a brow. “‘Death Wrath’?”

Humphry shrugged. “I’ve never seen him use it. But from what Jaron told me it’s a sort of second wind state.”

“That it?”

“I don’t know. The brothers don’t seem really keen on talking about it.” Humphry’s eyes narrowed. “Which given the name, I can comprehend why they might not want to.”

“I see. And Jaron’s Wary is for detection?”


“And Vragon’s is?”

“Uh? You know.” Humphry started stroking his chin as they proceeded on the path. “Some healing gift.”

“I know, but what’s its name?”

“Oh…I don’t know.”

“You don’t?”

Humphry shook his head. “All we know about these gifts is from the brothers and they have rather limited knowledge about it as well. To be honest, just Clan knowledge, in general, is very sparse for us and them.”

“Hmmm.” Amyas’s stare turned towards the roof, “You ever considered taking them to the Norfarion Colony at Shimmer Hill?”

“I have.” Humphry sighed as he pushed the doors to the station open, feeling the rush of humid wind. It was rather pleasant, like a splash of water on a hot day. “But it is far away. For a trip like that, the two would have to have finished their year’s studies and be strong enough to handle the journey.”

“You think they’re ready now?”

Humphry nodded. “Ciecro at least, though I have confidence in Jaron as well.” Humphry looked towards the training facility on the main station’s left. He noticed that it hadn’t let out yet and his eyes narrowed as he finished, “Once all this chaos has settled and we’re past the Dry Season, I can pose the idea to the boys.”

“Understandable.” The two stopped under the archway of the open gate, both staring up at the cloudy sky. There was a silence that followed, the kind where both knew there was more on each other’s minds but couldn’t be the one to start it off.

“Humphry.” Amyas finally broke the silence as he faced his friend. “Don’t hesitate to contact me.”

“I won’t.” He offered his hand and Amyas accepted it. “You and the others have a safe trip back to Plainier.”

“Thank you.” As they let go, Amyas turned around but paused.

Humphry could see the hesitation in his friend’s body. How it willed the Bisharp to plant his legs in front like a great oak of a forest, hiding his place from the harshness of the elements. It brought a smile to the Seismitoad’s face as he thought of what to say. Alas, he didn’t get enough to think as his friend resumed his path down the street. Humphry watched as the Bisharp back waved his gauntlet without looking back.

“Stay safe.”

Humphry’s mouth sealed shut as his eyes lowered to the dirt path in front. It felt darker than normal, likely due to the pre-storm sky, though his heart felt it was also due to the drastic, underlying changes going on. As he turned, his mind drifted back to when he first met the boys, how dark the cave felt when Miss Dresha relayed the final words she had heard from Seliph.

‘Everyone in this town will die if I don’t leave.’ His eyes fell upon the Town Hall. How void of color it was without the brightness of a blue sky and a yellow sun to fill it with warmth. His eyes widened as for a split second, he lost grip of his imagination and imagined that legacy of his ancestors torched ablaze, the cinders dancing up in malicious glee amid the blaze that spread through the town like a flood.

A fierce scowl formed as his fists tightened. If a Hommel ever caves in, it will not be for many generations more.

< O >

Jaron rolled his backpack strip over his arm, closing his eyes as he sighed in his mind. He hadn’t paid attention to the lecture for a while now and was simply waiting to leave.


He snorted in surprise, straightening his posture. “Y-y-yes, Sir?”

His Grapploct teacher was staring at him, the long blue tentacle still writing on the board. To Jaron’s surprise, his expression wasn’t the usual annoyance at the Croconaw’s demeanor in class. A faint sigh followed from the teacher as the eyes turned back to the board. “You’re free to leave if you need to.”

The boy let go of his strap, feeling the classroom pressure weighing on his shoulder, which somehow didn’t compare to the weight on his mind. Any other time he would be overjoyed at being able to just go about his day without listening to another boring lecture on stuff he could easily read up on, but today wasn’t any other time. It bothered him how he couldn’t be grateful in his heart for this.

His eyes browsed the room, seeing all his fellow students looking at him, various emotions conveyed in just a simple lock of eyes. Being stared at was nothing new, but this felt like the ocean compared to the puddle of any large staring day.

“Thank you,” he mumbled as he got out and left. As he shut the door behind him, it dawned on him how quiet the station had gotten. Of course, he was leaving before class had fully disbanded, but this quietness just felt too unnatural. The halls felt longer, the air felt thicker, even the door felt heavier, and the quietness felt like a terrible omen.

Jaron shook his head, hurrying his way to the exit and as he placed his hands on those wooden doors he paused, taking a few heavy breaths. What is happening to me? Was it his Wary or something else? It was just too much to think about. He had to get out of there and do anything else. He shoved the doors open, channeling a little of his anger into his push.

Pulling back onto his backpack’s straps, he felt the almost chilling air as he walked on the path. The sky was a gloomy grey, feigning a storm on the horizon which didn’t help his mood at all. Everything was wrong and it was just his first day back.

He took as deep of a sigh as he could, hoping the exaggeration would help ease his mind, and let his worries more just roll off like a ball tumbling down a hill. Guess I’ll wait at the gate for my escor- He stopped as he spotted Humphry near the gate. Humphry?

He felt a small warmth inside at seeing Humphry, but lost that warmth as he got closer. He noticed the Seismitoad was staring down the street towards Town Hall, bearing a very serious scowl on his face. Did something else happen? Once close enough, Jaron took a deep breath and said, “Hello sir.”

Humphry flinched and looked at Jaron. “Oh, hello, Jaron. You’re out early.”

“So are you,” Jaron answered with a small smile, hoping to cheer the Seismitoad up a little.

“True. Guess I made the right choice.” Humphry dropped to a knee. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright…” his gaze turned to the bricks on the walls that held the rusted gates, afraid his eyes would say what his mouth wouldn’t. Despite this, his nerve caved a few seconds later. “Just worried about…you know.”

“Yeah. We’re doing our best to keep you guys safe.”

“I know.” Jaron’s claws went onto his strap, his emotions building up and fighting with his urge to remain calm. I just want it to be enough this time.

“Well, are we ready?”

“Yes sir. I have my stuff.”

“Good.” The two stepped onto the dirt street. Humphry glanced upwards, holding his hand over his eyes. “It’s pretty dreary weather, isn’t it?”

“Probably going to storm, yeah…” Jaron turned to head back until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“I have some good news for you.”

“Huh?” Jaron listened as they started crossing the street, going down the center dirt path towards the south side of town.

“I was contacted this morning by Healer Uximo today.”

Uximo! Jaron’s eyes lit up as he jogged in front. “Wait, do you mean?”

Humphry nodded. “Yep. Vragon is awake. I was going to take you to visit him before we head home.” He pulled on his cabby hat and shut his eyes as if he was posturing for some dynamic announcement, even if Jaron had figured it out by now.

“Yes!” Jaron hopped with excitement. “Is he alright? He’s not in pain is he?”

“He’s fine, if not a little weakened.”

Jaron once more grabbed at his straps as he calmed down. “That’s good.” He shut his eyes as his body stiffened a little. His smile went as he spoke, “I remember when he tried to heal Clyde’s face. He wound up being unconscious for two hours, so…I was worried he’d never wake up, or at least not for a while.”

“Well, he’s stronger than you and I give him credit for.”

“I’ll say.” Jaron turned around as they resumed walking. “I’m just glad he’s alright. I’m glad he was able to heal that Bisharp’s arm, though I wouldn’t have wanted him to harm himself too bad.” Jaron’s eyes bulged at realizing what he just said. “I…I mean, not that I would want him to, well, have a broken arm if it meant, uhm. It’s just that-”

Humphry’s bellow made Jaron feel embarrassed and rub the back of his head. “Don’t fret, I get your point. Amyas may take a little poke at you for that one, but he isn’t here. Though, mind if I ask you something?”

“Sure, anything,” Jaron answered as a small smile crossed his face.

“How was Ciecro this morning? You both were asleep when I had to leave and I didn’t want to disturb you.”

Instantly, whatever positive energy there was in Jaron’s face vanished as he lowered his head. “He’s recovering alright.”

“You don’t sound like he is.”

“Well, he is feeling better. Just, still his quiet self, I guess.” Jaron grabbed at the strap again. His grip tightened on the strap as a sigh escaped his mouth. “He’s not talked to me since the attack. Just faint grunts. I’m worried about him.”

“Hmmm…I imagine he has a lot on his mind.”

“Yeah.” Jaron’s head lowered.

“It sounds like you do as well.”

Jaron looked forwards, remembering the last time he and Ciecro had a real conversation. How it was in that alleyway the day before the test. It felt horrible to think that there hadn’t been anything since their fight, but he had learned Ciecro was very stubborn in these things. After all, whenever he tried to force things they’d just end up worse and this was almost poetic justice for that even if everyone else would disagree.

“Yeah. I just...” He shook his head. “Nevermind.”

“It’s okay, you can say it.”

“There’s nothing to say,” the Croconaw replied, a bit firm in his tone. He turned his gaze towards the buildings opposite the street from them, not wanting to see Humphry’s reaction and to be alone in his thoughts. I know what he’d say. “You’re being too hard on yourself”. Or some shit like that. But I could have ended it there if I had just taken the fucking shot. But I froze like a…UGH! A faint snarl escaped him as his walking turned to stomping. I’m always too afraid, always too slow when it freaking matters. I couldn’t do a damn thing when we were attacked eight years ago, I got sick that time too just to make it harder, I didn’t stop Ciecro from punching Clyde’s face in, and now I was too afraid to take that important Ice Beam shot. His eyes closed as he fought the urge to sniffle. Ciecro got his shoulder stabbed and Vragon’s been out for two days because of me. They could have gotten worse. I just…wish I was strong like how they were. I don’t want to keep being a burden to-

“We’re here.”

“Huh?” Jaron looked back at Humphry, who had his hands on the door to a tall, white building with an insignia of a red flower on it, one of the universal signs of a hospital. The Seismitoad raised a hand over his eyes as he stared up at the sky.

Jaron looked up as well, feeling small drops of water hit his skin and the ground.

“And not a moment too soon.” Humphry twisted the knob and opened the door.

“Right.” Jaron rushed inside, looking around at the rather cozy interior of the hospital’s main lobby. The sounds of the rain pelting on the outside picked up as Humphry shut the door. The Croconaw sighed with relief as he walked towards the side lobby where a fire had been started while Humphry handled things with the receptionist.

Dang, guess they redid this place since last time. He chuckled to himself. They better have, considering the last time was eight years ago, heh. His eyes veered from the warmth of the fire to the window getting flooded by the heavy rain.

He set his backpack down and walked towards the window, leaning closer to get a good look outside. Glad I’m not in all of that. He didn’t mind the rain, but he did mind when he had a backpack with books inside.

He rest his arms on the window sill, turning his head to the side to press his snout onto the chilling glass that separated him from the rain. His eyes looked at the corners of the window as his mind wandered. This place scared me so much the first time. Same with Uximo. But, both wound up being very nice. I like this town. It’s not perfect but it’s my new home now.

He turned his attention to the street outside, easily able to see the outside despite the rain pelting on the window. Guess no one wants to brave this rain right now. Can’t blame- Huh? He noticed someone step out of the building a little down the street and start jogging away from the hospital. The figure was blue, wearing some kind of sleeveless vest with some short-sleeved black shirt underneath that.

Jaron leaned towards the edge of the window, hoping to get a decent enough look, but the figure disappeared down the street. Was that…a Greninja? Jaron lowered his head as he tried to re-imagine the person he saw.

“Hey, Jaron!”

Snapping his head around, Jaron quickly rushed to his backpack and started putting it on. “Coming!”

< O >​

A heavy sigh broke the rhythmic sound of the water as Miss Dresha stared at the empty bed from the her hole filled with water. She raised a brow at hearing something odd. Blinking she, looked over at Jaron’s work desk, seeing a mon standing there holding Jaron’s TM machine project.

“This too?”

“H-huh?” She blinked until she remembered the green armband on the mon. “Oh…yes, that too. And please be careful with it, he’s been-”

“Sure ma’am.” The ranger took the arm to a wooden box and placed it gently inside. “Anything else?”

“Uhm…” She looked around the room again, but instead of seeing what else to send the boys she just saw how empty the room looked. It was a return to form, a form she’d known for many, many years. It sounded easy when Humphry asked her for the boys, but now she was second-guessing her decision. “I’m…I’m sorry, I need a moment.”

She dove into the water, going deep enough to be obscured by the rocks. She moved her fins to her shut eyes as if trying to rub tears away. These two days were just too fast.

The old Lanturn looked back up at the hole, the dim light no longer something she looked forward to swimming to every day. She sighed in her mind and swam around, diving through the holes and pathways until she came to an opening in the tunnel. There was a soft, large sponge that was segmented into a metallic circle to keep it in one piece. The room was lit by a few Emuras kept in glass spikes, though their warmth was lacking today.

She swam over to a waterproof desk, peering closely at a metallic square, which had that picture engraved on it. Of her and her late husband, swimming happily together, something she missed. She took it into her fin looking at it solemnly.

It’s for their own good. They’re safer in town with the Commissioner, she assured herself, hoping it would ease the hurt. I hope they’ll be glad to have their stuff sent to them. I wish I could have sent it sooner, but it was just.

She shook her head and set the picture back. With slow swishes, she swam above the sponge and let her body settle on its squishy surface. Idly, she stared forward at the wall on the other side of her room. I should have had a picture made of them. Just something. I hope those three are alright. Her eyes closed as she tried to sleep.

Instead of dreams, what flowed was memories. Strong memories of those mons that she didn’t know what to do with initially, only to now feel a hole in herself that they were gone. I wish you could have met them. I know… She sniffled. I hate being alone again.

Her eyes opened slightly, her body feeling between the realms of asleep and conscious. However, she shot awake upon seeing something move near the cave entrance. Huh? She moved up as suddenly a hand grabbed the rocky wall.

The beating of her heart accelerated for a brief moment until the figure came fully into view. However, she was focused on this mon’s eyes, those blue eyes. You…you’re.

The Greninja in front of her moved slowly to the side, pointing to his shoulder where a crest resided, one exactly like Ciecro’s and Jaron’s.

Seliph‽ She swam to him, rubbing her eyes just to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating. “Is that really you, Seliph?” She asked, her voice slightly muffled by the water, but not as badly as a non-fish mon’s would.

He nodded, and then opened his mouth, trying to mouth something.

“Oh! Follow me.” She swam to the other tunnel as Seliph swam after her. As she led him up a tunnel, her mind raced with a million questions. Where had he been? Why was he back? How did he get to her? So many questions that would have to wait just a little longer.

Up ahead there was a hole where the water ended. She moved to the side to allow Seliph to swim past and climb out. Poking her head out of the water, she brightened her head lantern to reveal to the damp Seliph a small storage room.

“Huh…what is this place?”

“It was made some time after you had left. Just an extra storage room.” She went silent, watching Seliph stand up and take in his surroundings. The Greninja’s vest and shirt were torn in a few places but looked like it was made by tough material. Around his waist was an equally worn belt, possessing about as many pouches as a ranger’s belt. His arms and legs had a few scrapes, but looked strong.

“I imagine you have a lot of questions,” he said, turning around to look at her. His blue eyes sent a dreadful feeling throughout her body, like an omen of impending doom, not helped by what he said the last time they spoke.

“It has been some time.” She swam up to the edge of the pool. “How have you been?”

“I’ve survived.” He reached for a pouch on his belt, took out an orb, and began tossing it in his hand. “But to get to the point. I don’t have a lot of time right now.”

She raised a brow. “Huh?”

“I need you to do something for me.”

“Wait, Seliph-”

“Please listen. It’s important.”

Reluctantly but respectfully, she held her tongue and let him continue. He sat down, letting his feet dangle into the water as he set the orb to the side.

“So, I trust you know about the attack two days ago.”

She nodded, a serious expression crossing her face. “I know. Why are they after Vragon?”

“I don’t know.” He spread his arms back. “But I do know they’re going to some interesting angles to get him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Basically, expect another attack.” He took the orb back into his hand and looked at it. “You have a communications orb, yes?”

“Uhm…yes, the Rangers have one I can use. Why do you-?”

“Good. I want you to contact whoever has my brothers and have them brought back here with you.”

Her eyes went wide and mouth agape. “I…I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can.”

“No, you don’t understand. They were moved to Humphry’s house because it’s safer there and-”

“They aren’t the target. The Fraxure is.”

Dresha’s eyes lowered. “I know that, but.” She looked back at Seliph, mustering her nerves to look him straight in the eye. “Why do you want them here? Do you have something important to tell them?”

“No, I just need them out of the way.”

Disbelief crossed her face. “W-what?”

“They’ll be safer here than in town. I imagine the Red Eyes will make another attempt soon, maybe even tonight.”

“Bu-but I can’t just…Why are you asking me?”

“Because you’re one of the few mons I imagine they listen to. I know them well, they’ll want to get involved. Which is why them being here will keep them safe and out of the way from whatever happens.”

She blinked. The words he said she just couldn’t believe were coming from his mouth. “If the town is being attacked you need to report-”

“I don’t know how they’ll strike, I just know they will try to capture the Fraxure. If things get ugly then-”

“How do you know?” She answered, her tone starting to catch up with Seliph’s firmness. “Seliph, you’ve been gone for eight years and now you’re back. You can’t just-”

“Listen.” A glare crossed his face that made her freeze up. He sighed as he put the orb away. “How many mons attacked last time? Two, right? It was only two.” He crossed his arms, leering down at her. “Two mons that almost got away with the Fraxure. You think they’ll just use two next time?”

“They…they were distracted by the party and had no idea there was going to be an attack. They’re better prepared now.” She gasped as he chuckled, mocking her statement.

“You’re wrong. They can’t be prepared.”

“What is wrong with you?” A scowl formed as she answered, “Commissioner Hommel is very capable and is doing his best to keep your brothers safe as well as Vragon.”

“That won’t be enough.” Seliph stood up again, looking at the wall. “The Red Eyes are more than simple thugs. Whoever those two were, they attacked too early.”

She raised a brow. “Too early? What do you mean?”

“Not for you to know.”

“What? Why?”

He rolled his eyes. “Because you’ll then tell the Commissioner and he’ll adjust things for that.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is I can’t waste this chance.” Seliph glared down at her, disintegrating her nerve in a second. “You think I was being paranoid when I said they would kill everyone to get what they want? I meant it, and I still mean it now.”

Her head lowered, as a heavy silence followed. A sniffle followed from the fish as she shut her eyes. “How did you even get here?”

“Getting past the Rangers wasn’t too hard, but enough questions. Are you going to ask for my brothers to be brought back here or am I wasting my time?”

“That’s enough.” Glaring up at him, her lamp light grew in illumination. “You can go ask them yourself.”

A firm scowl formed on his face as Dresha continued.

“They’ve waited for you for eight years. Eight years for anything to indicate you were even alive. Who do you think you are, coming here and demanding I ask them to come here along with pretending you never came?”

“I left them here for their protection. I’m asking you to have them brought here, for their protection.”

“And why do you want me to keep quiet about you being here? I imagine that’s also what you want.”

“Like I said, because I know they’ll just come rushing in to help. This isn’t a game, Miss Dresha, this is far larger than you, or me, or this damn town. I can’t expect them to understand that which is why I’m begging you to understand that.”

Her mouth sealed shut as the anger inside her began to calm down. Those glassy eyes of hers lowered as Seliph continued.

“I can’t guarantee anyone’s safety in this fight. That’s why I need you to trust me.”

“They…can help you. They want…to help you.”

Seliph’s aggravation sent ripples through her like she was a pond of water. “Just give me an answer.”

“But Seliph-”

“Yes or no.” His tone was so icy it was almost like a different person was talking to her.

“I’ll…I’ll think about it. You’re asking me to lie them.”

“I understand. I hope you’ll do the right thing. Do you have a way out? I would prefer not to take the tunnels again.”

“Seliph. They’ve grown so much since you left. They were pivotal in stopping those horrible mons the first time. Can you…please consider…” She stopped her request at seeing Seliph’s eyes lower to the side, narrowing in a cold, jaded way. Whatever she was saying he wasn’t listening to.

Seeing he wasn’t interested in talking anymore, she sank a little into the water saying, “You can take the door. It’s not hard to find the tunnel passage and move out.”

Without a word, he walked for the door on the opposite side.

“Seliph, I’m sorry for being harsh. I just want you at least talk to-” the sound of the door shutting caused her to grow silent. The emotions rushed all over her at once as she sniffled, closing her eyes and moving her fins to comfort them. To talk to them because I know they miss you terribly.

< O >

The sound of rain filled the empty room of the dark inn apartment until the knob on the door started shaking. The door squeaked open as if it were in pain, resisting the Greninja, who was shoving it.

“Stupid door!” He ranted as he slammed it behind him, fastening the lock shut with his key. “What is that fish thinking?”

He snarled, turning around and tossing the keys onto some random furniture as he took off his vest and shirt, throwing the wet clothes onto a chair as he stomped over to a wooden bed frame with a pile of straw and a pair of blankets.

“I’m glad I didn’t go into any detail, given how conflicted she turned out to be.” He sighed as he sat down, reaching for an orb and checking the time. “I should probably get some sleep. If there was any time they would strike, it’d be at night.” He set the orb aside and opened the drawer, pulling out another orb as he lay down.

He twisted it and the top uncapped itself, displaying a holographic picture of a Dusknoir. Its huge pupil was a scarlet red with the thin iris being red as well, albeit a bloody red with a distinguishing hue to it even in the hologram. This Red Eye wore an overcoat that ended before his elbows, split in the middle and was held together by a button. Seliph theorized it was something from the eastern side of the gulf, but he’d given up on determining the ethnicity of this mon a while ago.

As he pressed a button with his outer finger, his other hand reached into his belt and pulled out a glass vial that he started twirling as he listened to the message. There was only the sound of static, although the Dusknoir was moving slightly with his arms behind his back in stoic, professional posturing.

Tck, ‘liabilities’ He whined in his mind as he waited impatiently for the off-screen image Harken to stop talking. His eyes snapped to attention at seeing the Dusknoir begin stroking the grey skin underneath his singular eye. This motion from the right arm exposed the shoulder from under the overcoat, showing a tight bandage in the region halfway to the elbow.

“That is right. Once our operatives have landed we should be able to handle searching ourselves, though we shall happily accept any information you manage to acquire. All we do require is for you to have docking space for us, arriving and leaving, as well as arranging some levels of disruption for the rangers in this region, while we search for our objective.”

Another bit of silence followed as the Dusknoir listened to the silent reply.

“I understand if this is asking quite an amount, however, I can assure you we shall reward you handsomely. Given our current dealings with distribution, I imagine you understand the benefits of this minor concern of ours.”

That being the boy. Seliph commented as he looked past the image. He raised his right hand and held the glass vial between two of his webbed fingers, the red liquid glistening in the dim light with an ethereal and otherworldly glow.

“All I require is your efforts here and in a few towns. Just business as usual for you, if not a little bit more. Our current stationed operatives can and will assist you, save for those on this mission. If it pleases you, we can lend you some extra monpower for any, ahem, projects you have in mind during this time.”

Another silence followed, the Dusknoir stiffening to what was likely not the best of reception.

“My request comes directly from our leaders themselves. I understand your…concern, however, in trusting us you will find the rewards to be splendid.”

Seliph sighed, putting the vial back in as there was another silence patch.

“Would you have continued business with us if we weren’t capable of holding our end of the bargain?”

The image went into a rough, distorted static as the recording ended, prompting Seliph to sit back up again. I’ll find out just how capable you are. He threatened in his head as he opened the drawer and tossed the orb in. He rest his hands on his knees as he glared at the dim lodgings. I’ll find out how your damn formula works. I’ll find out every evil secret you and your ‘leaders’ have and make sure you answer for every. Single. One.

His eyes looked at the window, softening up a little at the sight of the rain. It reminded him Dresha and that while their conversation may not have gone anywhere it was good to see her again. That feeling of warmth, of someone whose touch made you feel safe, made him wish he’d been softer in his talk with the fish.

Hesitation filled his mind as he looked at the drawer. His hand started shaking, wanting to reach inside for the one thing his mind desired him not to touch. As his hand raised, he felt his heart beat faster.

It’s going to be alright. They don’t know you’re here so the trap is ready and set. His hand felt around inside until he felt a thin string and some hard objects. Slowly, he pulled out a lace string with three stones attached to it, each one stuck to the string by some hardened frubbles.

He theorized Ciecro was the one that put it in since he didn’t do it. The first time he was on his own, the first night he had to unpack for the night. When he realized the memento was packed in his backpack he wanted to rip it up but he wound up just sobbing. Now, he just stared at it, looking back on the memories with emotions that varied as the weather does in the day.

Shutting his eyes, Seliph slowed his breathing down. Suppressing the feelings that attempted to creep up. I wish…mons could just understand and obey orders. But perhaps it was a bit unfair of him to think they should. But life didn’t care what was fair or not, at least that’s what he’d come to believe. Once I get what I need, I can leave them in peace. He put the necklace back into the drawer and gently shut it.

After setting an alarm on his orb, he pulled the blanket over his body and shut his eyes, his head enjoying the soft touch of the cloth pillow filled with straw. It’s…the right thing to do.
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Dragon Enthusiast
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
  7. jirachi
This is a review for chapter 2!

The first two scenes were cute and showed kids being kids. However, I feel that those first two scenes were a bit redundant to one another. The first one was good for establishing that they were still just kids and so on relative to the first chapter, but the second one seemed to be more of the same establishment just in a different perspective. I feel that there could have been a way to combine them without having so much of the chapter dedicated to it.

The third scene, a bit of father and son talk, was sprinkled with a lot of little tidbits about their parents' backstories that I definitely appreciated. Also helps explain the accents and how they speak differently to one another, and I appreciate that sort of differentiation being made.

And the final scene where something actually happens! Or, well, talk of something happening, with their mother's brother making an appearance in town. I wonder how far travel takes under normal circumstances if they can speak more casually about traveling there. I'm not totally sure what rural means in this case. Still, it gives a small sense of progress, though I'll admit with the way things had been flagged in the previous chapter, I was expecting a little more in this one. Oh well.

Overall, good stuff, a bit slower paced than I'd prefer with some of those redundant scenes, though I noticed a handful of little typos here and there, or the incorrect usage of breath and breathe. Might be worth running this one through Grammarly real quick to find those easy fixes.
Chapter 25: A Storm not Passing


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 25
A Storm not Passing​

The Charmeleon’s eyes stared lazily down at the large bowl resting on the table in front of him. The warm steam rose from it, lightly touching his face with its misty form as a smell that’d make any mon’s stomach growl filled his senses.

“You gonna eat?”

“Hrm?” For the first time since getting this bowl, Ciecro looked away from it. “Uh…I’m jus’…not dat hungry, ma’am.” His eyes lowered again, not willing to bring himself to look Mrs. Hommel in the eyes after his dodgy answer.

“Oh, well that’s quite alright.”

His eyes narrowed as he stared blankly at his soup again, imagining the individual pieces of vegetables as rocks in some kind of tannish sea. He picked up a wooden scooper and started stirring the soup around. At leas’ it ain’ hurtin’ much anymore, he commented in his head, noting the present but less than irritating painful beeps in his right shoulder as he stirred.

Despite this good news, it was still far from where he wanted to be. I’ve got tah get ready in case dey come back. That was all he had on his mind. All he wanted at this moment. His claws clenched firmer on the soup spoon as he thought back to that Gallade. The smug look on his face as he held Ciecro’s fire in his extended elbows, mocking him.

An’ den it turned out he was…whateveh clan has dat crest. Bu’ why was he wit’ dem? I don’ undehstand. Aren’t dah clans an’ dah Red Eyes against each other?

Since beating up Clyde, Ciecro had grown accustomed to stares, so it didn’t take him long to notice his brother looking at him from the right side of the round table. Of course, he tried to hide his knowledge of this as much as he could. I’m glad he got tah visit Vray today. Dough, it’s cuz of me dat happened in dah first place. He thought back to Amyas, watching that Gallade have Amyas in that threatening lock with the Bisharp going as far as to damage his arm to inflict a battle-determining wound. It made him feel almost ashamed though also inspired. The image shifted to one where he was in that lock and it was Jaron where he stood. I wanna be strong enough tah do dat too if needed. Maybe this thought was a little childish, but to sacrifice for those you cared about was something he always valued. Something his family valued, maybe even something Norfarions valued. It took strength to have the will to do that. Something to aspire to.

Ciecro flinched back at a snapping sound. One of the fruits on the center plate had vanished from its spot. He looked past the stack of fruit in the middle of the table to see Humphry chewing with a pleased look on his face.


“Hrm?” The Seismitoad raised a brow as he stopped chewing, looking at his wife who looked displeased. “What?” He said, making her scoff.

“Where are your manners?”

He gestured to the two. “It’s just Ciecro and Jaron.”

“Oh my goodness, Humphry!” She stood up from her stool, hunching over her lover, who was leaning back in surprise and maybe a small amount of fear. “Can you not talk with your mouth full‽ That is very improper and gross even when it’s just you and me.”

“Sorry hun, it’s-”

She put her hand over his mouth, making both boys flinch back again. “Swallow.”

A brief silence followed, broken by a loud gulp. She took her hand from his mouth and sat down.

Humphry, on the other hand, wasn’t going to take this sitting down. “Come on, they’ve been with us for two days now. There’s no need for formalities,” he said with a grumpy look of displeasure.

“I don’t like encouraging bad habits. You’re a Commissioner, Humphry. Set an example.”

“How young do you think they are?”

The two Seismitoad’s started arguing, prompting both boys to awkwardly look at each other. Jaron leaned in close whispering, “You think they’re always like this at home?”

Ciecro shrugged and his gaze dropped again to his untouched soup.

“Well?” Jaron said, hinting in his tone that he wanted an actual answer.

The Charmeleon shook his head and stood up. He appreciated what Jaron was trying to do, but this and the couple’s arguing was just too much noise. “Sorry, I’m gonna go up to our room.”

Instantly, their bickering stopped. “Oh…are you sure?” Miss Hommel asked, with a frown on her face.

Ciecro nodded and was midway through turning around when Humphry’s cough got his attention.

“Before you go up, I’ve got some great news for you.”

The Charmeleon raised a brow as Humphry got up from his stool and walked over to him.

“I’ve finished assessing your test and while I’ve yet to write the formal letter I can spare you the wait.”

Everything felt still for Ciecro as he listened intently. His claws started to shake as Humphry put a hand on his shoulder. The poor Charmander about collapsed from the weight of the hand alone.

“Congratulations, Ciecro.” He grabbed Ciecro’s lax hand and shook it firmly. “You passed.”

The Charmeleon’s eyes widened as he felt shivering throughout his being. A smile started forming as his eyes lowered in disbelief. I passed.

“That’s wonderful,” Mrs. Hommel said as Jaron got off his stool.


He looked over to see Jaron run over to him, sparkles in his eyes.

“Told you, you big dolt.” He punched Ciecro’s shoulder, making the Charmeleon grunt from the pain. “Oops.” Jaron weakly laughed. “I was a bit too excited, I forgot.”

Ciecro leered, but Humphry gently putting his hands on both their shoulders snapped him out of his sourness.

“Well, this calls for some celebration, no?”

“Sure! I just hope I can pass mine whenever I take the test.”

“I’m sure you will, Jar- Hrm?” There was a beeping noise coming from nearby. All three glanced at a nearby counter, but only Humphry walked over to it. The Seismitoad picked up a com orb and pressed its top with his outer finger. “Commissioner Humphry speaking.”

“Apologies Commissioner, but your presence is requested at the station. There’s been an incident. Code: Veris.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened. So, a serious incident.

Humphry sighed and said, “Will do. Hommel out.” He turned off the orb and took it to a rack where his ranger belt, band, and cabby hat rested. “Sorry to leave during dinner but duty calls and all. I’ll see you boys in the morni-”

“Humphry.” Mrs. Hommel got up and walked over. As she was about to speak, he pressed a finger to her closed mouth, an assuring smile on his face.

“Hey, now, don’t worry. It’s just a late work night, nothing special.” He slid his finger over to her cheek, lightly caressing it.

Her eyes lowered, an uncertain look in them which Ciecro related to all too well. While it was reassuring that Humphry was so calm if not warm hearted right now, it just didn’t feel as genuine as the Seismitoad was letting on.

Ciecro watched Humphry kiss his wife’s forehead and head for the door. The Charmander’s fists closed, as he mustered the nerve to say, “Sir.”

Humphry stopped twisting the knob. “Hrm? Yes?”

“Can…can I go wit’ yah?” His eyes narrowed, trying his best to maintain eye contact with the Seismitoad.

“What? But your shoulder needs-” Jaron stopped but stopped as Humphry answered.

“I appreciate the gesture Ciecro, but your brother is right. You should give your shoulder time to heal.” He smiled at the boy as he opened the door. “Get some rest boys. We’ve got to celebrate tomorrow after all.”

“Bu-” Ciecro reached out but stopped as the door shut behind the Seismitoad. The muffled sound of the rain was all there was to hear as Ciecro lowered his arm and his gaze. Wha’ if… The image of Humphry getting struck square on the chest by the Gallade during the fight at the shoal came back. Then Amyas’s restricted scene followed. Stoppit! Ciecro shook his head as he clenched his fists harder.


He looked up at Mrs. Hommel, who was trying to imitate her husband’s smile, albeit not as convincing.

“Humphry worries me and all, but he isn’t a commissioner for nothing.”

Ciecro’s eyes lowered. Amyas was a commissioneh. A heavy sigh followed. “I’m goin’ tah bed.”

“I see. Well then pleasant dreams. Don’t worry about your food, I’ll save it for you.”

“Thanks…” Ciecro turned around but right as he reached the archway Jaron grabbed him by the wrist.

“Ciecro, wait a minute.”

He glanced at Jaron with a tired expression. “Lateh, okay?”

Jaron’s claw slipped of Ciecro’s, but his gaze didn’t falter. “Bu-”

Ciecro pressed a claw to his eyes. “I jus’…” He sighed and walked up the stairs, leaving Jaron at the base of the stairs in silence. He turned and opened the door to the guest room he was staying in, but not after glancing at the opened door of the other one, where Jaron was housed.

The covers on the straw bed weren’t made, the school books were just randomly lying around, and the TM Administrator was still in its box. Yeah… Ciecro shut the door behind him, leaning his back on it as he kept his claws on the knob. Been a while since he’s been like dat. He looked at the window on the opposite side of the room, seeing the streaks of rain flow down it as they hit its surface.

He took his claws off the knob and held them out in front, posturing them like he was firing a Flamethrower. He winced a little at the pain in his shoulder, but it wasn’t unbearable. I need tah be ready in case dey come back. I was lucky dat Amyas was dere. An’ dat he took dah wors’ of it. He crossed his arms as he walked over to the footrest of the guest bed. Dat punk won’ be so lucky when I figure out how tah bea’ his flame stealin’ thing. I just gotta…

He leaned on the wooden footrest as he held a palm in front, back end facing the floor. Red light flowed up from his palm, forming a small flicker of fire in it. So…wha’ abou’ yah do I not control? He turned and aimed for the window, taking a breath. A small Flamethrower shot out, hitting the window. He pulled his arm back, closing his fist as the red flames sputtered out into minor embers that died quickly.

Okay, I can cut it off easily enough. An’ I know it wasn’ some gift dat allowed ‘im tah do dat. So…a skill he knows? Maybe? Ugh. Ciecro pressed a hand on his forehead. How do I counteh somethin’ I don’ know an’ can’t test? He looked back at the window and once more pointed his arms at it.

No, I shouldn’. I don’ wanna damage somethin’ in ‘ere. He crossed his arms, looking around the room that now seemed more like a prison than a guest room. Ugh. Dere’s already been an incident. I jus’… He shook his head as he walked over to the window. I’ve gotta stop ‘em. I’ve grown up from before, I’ve gotta be able tah figh’ an’ win! He punched the wall next to the window in frustration.

Dey’ll be sorry dey came ‘ere. I’ll make ‘em sorry. His orange eyes burned like cinders. If dey try an’ hurt Jaron or anyone I’ll stop ‘em. That’s all that mattered. Not resting, not celebrating, and not even passing that dumb test mattered. Everything was wrong again and he had to help take down those that were responsible.

His gaze turned to look at the window, the rain beating its thick glass. With a determined scowl, he undid its lock, slid it up, and shoved his head out into the rain. He squeaked at feeling the cold rain on his back and head but kept it outside. It’s jus’ dumb rain, he said over and over in his head, though his body didn’t agree. The final straw was when some of the droplets dripped down his back and started touching the top of his tail.

He yanked his head back in and slammed the window shut, panting before growling in frustration. It’s jus’ damn rain! Why is it so hard tah handle it‽ He kicked the wall beneath the window, mentally restraining his body from punching the window. If I can’t handle dumb rain, how can I- He stopped, noticing a closet door nearby that was nudged open, likely from his punch from earlier. He walked over and opened it, seeing it mostly empty outside of some boxes, a few spare baskets, and.

A rain cloak! He snatched it off the hook it hung and held it out in front, the slick outer surface of the coat was a drastic difference from the soft, grippy interior. The hood was pretty big, probably made to fit Humphry, which was perfect for Ciecro.

He looked at the window, a smile forming. Heh, betteh den goin’ out without it. Undoing the button, he draped it over him, redoing it as a determined frown formed. Dat Gallade makes my Flamethroweh obsolete in a one on one. So firs’ step. Get betteh at controlin’ it so dat doesn’ happen again.

Pulling the hood over his head, Ciecro walked to the window but hesitated as his claw went on the lock. I should. He glanced back at the door. I should at least tell ‘em where I’m going an’ wha’ I’m doin’. His eyes narrowed as they lowered. Bu’ if I do dat, dey’ll jus’ stop me. Opening his right palm and looking at it, Ciecro debated in his head for a few minutes before closing his claw, settling on a choice. I’ll leave a note. Bu’ dis is too important. Being worried doesn’ protect anyone. I’m, sorry dat’s how it is, Jaron. His eyes rose to look at the window, a small scowl forming as he recalled seeing Jaron, paralyzed and seconds from death. I’ll masteh wha’ I have to.

< O >​

Humphry let out a heavy grunt as he shoved the door open, dripping wet as he stepped into the lobby of the dimly lit ranger station. “I’m here!” He exclaimed as he nudged the door shut behind him, looking for a hanger to put his rain cloak on.

“Good, this way.” A Grapploct said from the second floor, having stepped out of a dark room with some minor blue light coming from inside. “Don’t worry about making a mess.” With that, the Grapploct walked back inside the room as Humphry hurried to the stairs.

Well, that’s worrisome. Blount not being a stickler about dripping on the floor. When Humphry reached the door, he could feel the tension in the air, despite it only having Ranger Blount and their Mothim support ranger, Fergus.

“So, what’s this about an incident, Blount?” The Seismitoad started undoing his rain cloak and took off his hat, setting them down on a small school desk nearby.

“You know of that old mon that lives on some of the larger hills beyond the town limits?” Blount inquired as he nestled into his seat.

“Mr. Barak, right?” Humphry answered, trying to get comfortable in a seat that was too small for him. “That old plant enthusiast?”

“Correct. Fergus, first image.”

Humphry turned his eyes towards the blank blue rectangular hologram in front as the Mothim’s eyes glowed pink. A clicking sound occurred as a loading circle appeared and then disappeared as quickly as it came. The commissioner’s eyes went wide as he saw in the hologram a picture of what looked like a torn-up room. Dirt and shards from broken potted plants lay about, a chair had been upended, and even the window had been shattered though Humphry took note of no glass on the inside. “How long ago was this?”

“We don’t know, sir.” The Grapploct sighed, staring at the image with as much concern as Humphry’s surprise. “Violet was on patrol and decided to check on him given his notable absence from his usual weekend activities. She took visual casts of all the rooms less than thirty minutes ago. We’ve just received the last one.”

The initial shock wearing off, Humphry leaned back a little, hoping the poor chair could support him while he stroked his chin. “Notable struggle perhaps. Mind showing the floor beneath the window?”

“Of course.”

The image went darker as the floorboards specified zoomed out of the image, moving around in a three-dimensional effect for the rangers to observe.

“Not even a smidgen of glass, eh?” Satisfied, Humphry motioned for Blount to return the image to the neutral state. “What about the other rooms?”

“Well, the only other rooms are a pantry and a storage for rainwater.”

“And the front door?”


The Mothim nodded as his eyes glowed pink again, tapping the orb with a slight pink stream of energy as the next image came up.

Raising his brow, Humphry let his hand fall from his chin. “So…the door wasn’t forced open?”

“No sir, it was in standard condition, similar to the door leading to the back.” The Grapploct rolled one of his tentacles as he further elaborated as the door was displaced from the image for a brief moment, “Before you ask sir, ranger Mecks’ had a report about a week ago in regards to Mr. Barak, specifically noting how usually grumpy he was when viewing the foliage. This is in relation to an earlier bust we did on a broker we theorize he’s been buying Fonsa Leafs earlier despite their illegality in this province. He was quite vocal about how oppressive we were being.”

Humphry smirked a little. Figures. The old coot should be grateful we didn’t throw the book at him. “So you’re telling me there wasn’t any notice of abnormal stress or the like?”

“No sir. We busted his original broker and I doubt he could have stumbled into debt with another in the time given, especially with how much cracking down has been done on the business in the nearby towns.”

“So then the most likely conclusion is our would be kidnappers got to him.”

“Agreed.” The Grapploct nodded to Fergus, who once more changed the image to show the back, messier half of the room.

“Considering Mr. Barak was a customer of an illegal broker, we should have a file on him, correct?”

“Yes sir. There have been previous arrests after all.”

“I’d like to see that file.”

The Grapploct nodded to a Vileploom, who was standing by in the dark corner of the room.

As the ranger darted out of the room to fulfill that request, Humphry leaned forwards, eyeing the window with a strong gaze. “So I’m guessing our ghost suspect literally went through the door.”

“Likely, I presume Mr. Barak was in his chair at the time.”

“Were the food or water in the other rooms disturbed?”

“None that Violet can definitively say, though it’s possible some items were stolen. It’s just hard to tell without a pre-image of the pantry given this mon could be a minimalist for food.”

“But not for plants I see.” The Seismitoad sighed. “Is Ranger Violet the only one there?”

“As of right now, yes. However, I did send Gisela and Mallaidh to support the investigation with equipment.”

“Has a sweep of the premises been made yet?”

“For the front upon initial entry, yes sir, but I was going to wait until the other two arrived with the equi-”

Humphry shook his head. “Best get a head start on it. I want to see the layout before any tampering is started.” As the Grapploct nodded, Humphry turned his attention to the Mothim, who flinched a little at hearing Humphry address him directly.

“Do we have an established com linked to Ranger Violet?”

“Uh…yes.” The Mothim’s eyes glowed pink once more. The orb, which was currently tucked in the circular socket of the Mothim’s small vest, dislodged and floated over to Humphry, who snatched it out of the air and raised it to his mouth.

“Ranger Violet, this is Commissioner Hommel. Do you copy?”

“I do sir,” a feminine voice said from inside the orb, muffled slightly by the tapping sound of rain. “Good to have you on the line.”

“Have you checked the premises at all?”

“None outside of my entry, sir. I was waiting on standby for the others to arrive for a proper-”

“If you don’t mind getting a little wet, I would like to see the full premises.” Humphry took a deep breath as he then said, “Go out the back door. I want to see what the rear of the house looks like.”

“Yes sir.”

The three rangers waited anxiously, staring at the orb in Humphry’s hands in silence. This wasn’t helped by Violet, a Mismagius, who didn’t need to make additional sounds when moving. The Seismitoad about jumped upon hearing her voice again.

“I’m here. Do you want me to cast the scene for you all?”

“Just a standard image will do.” Humphry sighed with relief as he noticed the Vileploom had returned, holding the file out for him. “Though, give me a brief description while you taking it.” He set the orb down and opened the file, listening intently to the Mismagius along with the three others.

“Understood…So, there are large claw marks on the wall here and minor ones on the door. I can see some large pieces of glass on the grass here.”

Okay, so that confirms it was from the inside. Humphry glanced at the older image, expectantly. “Anything else notable?”

“Nothing I can see sir, the rain isn’t helping make it easier for me. Sending the image now.”

His eyes narrowed as the loading image appeared again until the picture displayed. While the raindrops in the image were a minor nuisance, the scenery was as Violet described. “Hmmm…” Humphry looked back at the file. If this is a hostage situation, why take this old coot that has no relatives? It’s easy, yes, but what gain would it give them? If it was to trade for medical supplies then we would have been contacted by now, unless it had just happened, which wouldn’t make sense given the condition the Gallade was left in.

Humphry looked at the image of Mr. Barak in the upper portion of the file. He was indeed a rather old-looking Clawitzer, whose right pincer showing signs of decay and scrapes. The mon also looked a little unhealthy, at least in this picture. So why choose this old, leaf addict mudder?

The Seismitoad then glanced back at the image. “Fergus, go back to the first image.” The Mothim did so and Humphry studied the window from the inside perspective, taking note of the turned-over chair. Hmm…the claw mark wouldn’t make sense if this ghost entered from the back. He must have entered from the front, the old male then must have tried to escape through the window. I could see him leaping for it, maybe to avoid a move being used by propelling himself with his own.

“Anything you want me to detach for you?” Fergus asked but Humphry was too focused to answer.

Half a minute later, he rolled his wrist. “Go back to the image taken outside.” As the image came up, Humphry looked at the ground where large pieces of glass were somewhat visible. I imagine he’d have gotten cut up a little from it. He raised the com orb to his mouth again as he started reading the file again. “Violet, take an image of the area that the glass fell, this time try and focus your Luminous Orb on the glass area. I want to get a better look there specifically. Casting shouldn’t be necessary, just proper lighting.”

“Yes sir, just give me a minute.”

Nodding, Humphry could finally focus on reading the file with his full focus. Let’s see, age two fifty-six, born in Treasure City, Professional Medical Mixer for two hundred years, notable drug addict… He sighed in his mind as he looked back at the screen. Think, Humphry, why would they target this mon during their mission to capture Vragon?

“Alright, Sending it to you.”

“Good.” Humphry got out of the seat and walked up close to the screen, remaining unfazed in his stare as it popped up on the screen as a much brighter holographic visual. “Hrm?” He placed his fingers on a certain portion near the base of the wall where the window was, feeling the hologram solidify upon his touch. He tapped on the spot and said, “Zoom to a proportional radius of seven inches and enhance without compromise.” The hologram did as such and his brow was raised.

“Do you see something, sir?” Blount said, getting up from his seat as Humphry glanced at Fergus.

“Fergus, take a look here if you will. You’ve got better eyes than us.”

“Yes sir.” The Mothim’s wings started flapping as Humphry made space for him. After a few seconds of staring, the Mothim made a humming sound. “I think something is on the ground and at the base of the wall.”

“Really?” Humphry looked back. The light was helpful, but all he saw were the blades of grass and the part of the wall above that line. “Are you sure?”

“Positive. I see traces on the ground and a little on the wall between these blades here. They’re more droplets, but it’s too dark and muddy looking to be raindrops.”

“True. You got that, Violet?”

“Yes sir. Want me to take a look around?”

“Please do.”

Humphry nodded to the Mothim, who fluttered back to his seat, while Humphry walked over to his and picked up the file from the desk armrest.

“You think it’s blood?”

“Probably, Blount.” Humphry looked back at the picture. “I know Clawitzer have hard skin, but,” he looked back at the image, saying at the hologram. “Return to default zoom.”

It did so and Humphry nodded, seeing how sharp the window pieces remaining on the wall were. So, what happened to this old timer? Did he escape or-


Humphry looked at the orb, his nerves tensing up as he detected a change in Violet’s tone along with her slightly drawn-out enunciation. “What is it, Ranger Violet?”


Humphry’s eyes widen. He pressed his hand firmly on the hologram as the part he touched solidified for it. “His what? Spit it out.” He ordered as he heard a gasp from the other side.

“It’s…his larger pincer sir. It’s lying on the grass here.”

“By Arceus,” Blount said with a horrified look in his eyes.

“Shall…Shall I send an ima-”

“No. Thank you.” Humphry scowled as his arms lowered. I don’t get it. Was it really just a looting spree for things, because the pantry looked like it hadn’t been looted? Though he would make a decent target being so remote. He opened the file once more. Think, Humphry, think. Wait.

He looked up at the screen. If it was… “Violet. Look at the window.”


“I want you to examine the broken window for any traces of blood.”

“I…yes sir.”

The Grapploct walked over to Humphry. “You found something, haven’t you?”

“Don’t bet on it just yet. But I was wondering.” He faced his coworker and tapped his finger on the file, specifically the picture. “If the Gengar entered from the front and Mr. Barak went out the window, how could our intruder have made that claw mark himself?”

“So you assume there’s another member of their group?”

“Yes. And if my hunch is right.” He paused, waiting for the report.


He raised the com orb to his mouth. “I copy, Violet.”

“There’s a few bits of blood, but very minor. Not even an inch deep. Though, there’s more of it on the left side, specifically the mid-portion.”

“That must mean whatever made that claws mark also cut his right pincer clean off.”

“But, the claws would be on Mr. Barak’s left side,” Blount pointed out as Humphry nodded in agreement.

“Which means the cut was precise. And also means.” his eyes met Blount’s, the anticipation in his coworker’s stare caving slightly at how serious Humphry was staring. “They wanted him alive.”


Humphry looked back at the file. “He was a medical mixer, an addict, and also a lover of plants.”

“So, you think they got him to heal their wounded ally?” Blount gestured towards the screen. “But, we have a problem. How long ago it was.”

“Hmmm…He has a pit greenhouse, right?”

“Yes sir,” Blount said as he looked at the screen. “I think I know where you’re going with this.”

Smirking, Humphry said to the orb. “Violet, I want you to go to the greenhouse and check the place.”

“Yes sir.” A few minutes later, Violet spoke again, “There’s a few plants and fruit lying around. It looks like someone else has been searching here.”

“Guess they nabbed whatever resources they could,” Blount sighed, as his eyes frowned.

Humphry kept his smirk up. “Any apples there?”

“What?” Violet, Fergus, and Blount said in unison.

“Just trust me. I want you to find an apple, cut it open, and take a basic picture of it. I just want to see the inside.”

“Y-yes sir.” A few minutes later the screen displayed a yummy-looking apple, cut clean in two.

“It looks like a normal apple,” Fergus said, his wings spreading out as Humphry snapped his finger and pointed at him.

“Exactly. It’s not molded.” He looked at the screen. “Apples are one of the earliest fruits to mold and given it’s lying on the ground during a time when it’s been humid and rainy-”

“That implies it must have been after the attack at Dresha’s.” Blount clapped two of his tentacles together. “I must say, good detective work.”

Humphry’s smile faded as he looked at the file. “A retired Medical Mixer that is old and isolated.”

“That must be why they kidnapped him.” Fergus flapped his wings in excitement. “They must be healing their Gallade accomplice.”

But how did they know he was there? A cold feeling filled the Seismitoad’s body as his eyes raised to look back at the fruit, a dreadful look in their stern gaze. They must have been informed by someone. Maybe even the same someone who told them about Vragon. He shut his eyes and set the file on the desk next to the orb. “Blount.”

“Yes sir?”

He looked at Fergus and then Blount. “I want you to call Violet and the other two back right now. Station them with Mecks at the hospital.”

“Wait, what about the investi-”

Humphry walked past him. “I’m not taking any chances.”

“What do you mean?” Fergus asked, a curious look in his eyes while Blount formed a scowl.

“We may be attacked again sooner than we thought. If they nabbed this guy two days ago, it’s quite possible their Gallade has recovered considerably. Count that with them having a third, which seems stronger and more skilled than either of them.”

“Understood. And you?” Blount reached out as Humphry tossed him the com orb and headed for where his damp clothes were.

Humphry took his hat off the top and placed it on his head. “I’ll go on ahead and support Mecks.” He quickly put his raincoat on and left the room, going down the stairs and pulling out a com orb from his belt. “Hello? Hun?” He grunted as he shoved the doors to the station open, the harsh rain hitting him and his coat as he race walked for the gate. Come on, come on, pick up. The whole point of an emergency com is for-


“Oh thank God, you picked up.”

“Why I- Humphry, do you really think that I-”

“Listen, hun, I’m sorry but I need you to listen. I want you to get Jaron and Ciecro and bring them to the ranger station. They can sleep in the-” He stopped both talking and walking upon hearing Mrs. Hommel gasp.

“What is it? Doris? Doris, what’s goin-”

“Jaron?” The sound of a door creaking open was next. “Oh no.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Jaron’s not in his room.”

His heartbeat accelerated the moment he heard this, as he looked in fear at the orb. “Is there a disturbance?”

“No, just…wait, let me check on Ciecro….No, he’s not here either.”

“Damnit. Doris, get up the neighbors. Tell them to go round up the volunteers. The list should be in my desk. We need to find those boys, now.” He looked upwards as he resumed his pace. What are they thinking, going out in this storm this late?

< O >​

A soft roll of thunder bellow, drowning out the pelting upon metal by the drops of dew from the sky. The metal doors long since rusted were now being moved for the first time in a while. A snarl came from the outside at their stubbornness.

“Come on, move!” After a bit of pushing, they caved to the Charmeleon’s force, who about fell inside as he hurried in. He pushed the rain cloak off of him and tossed it aside, forming flames in his hands that he held close to his back. His muscles de-tensed as he felt the moisture on top of his upper tail evaporate. “Dere we go.” He picked up the raincoat and hung it up properly before stepping into the middle of the room.

The place was dusty with a few leaks here or there, but mostly dry. It was fortunate that such buildings in towns were due more for repurposing than simple demolition.

Ciecro interlocked his fingers and pushed outwards, cracking the bones in them. Alrigh’ let’s staht. He let his arms fall in front as he looked at the floor, which thankfully was simply dirt instead of wood. The fire returned to his palms and shot out into a steady blaze in front, brushing onto the sand like waves on the shoreline.

Hmmm… Ciecro ceased, staring at the scorch mark on the floor. Satisfied, he walked over and grabbed some random piece of cloth and was about to toss it on the spot when a screeching noise made him freeze in his tracks. “Wha’?”

The rusted doors of the warehouse were open much wider than when he squeezed through as three figures walked in, all wearing rain cloaks as well, save for the Bellibolt. Despite the limited lighting, the flame-tipped tail of the front figure was a dead giveaway.

Ciecro let the cloth fall out of his claw as his gaze went from surprise to annoyance. Ugh, Clyde. Ciecro scowled as his eyes darted from left to right, his peers taking off their rain cloaks.

The Braixen groaned as she started rubbing her large ears. “They’re so wet. Ugh. Clyde can you help me dry-”

The Monferno tossed his cloak aside with a wet flop and started walking toward Ciecro.

The Braixen rolled her eyes as she reached back, levitating the stick in her semi-wet furry tail to her hand and twirling it like some miniature baton. The Bellibolt bore a gleeful, mischievous smile as he and the Braixen took position on Ciecro’s sides, standing about five feet away.

The Charmeleon sighed and looked at Clyde. “Why are yah ‘ere?”

“I could ask you the same thing.” The Monferno looked around the place. “After hours. Abandoned place.” He raised a brow as his gaze drifted towards Ciecro’s wounded shoulder. “No bandages? Guess you put the Norfarion in Norfarion stubbornness-”

“Why are yah ‘ere?” Ciecro snarled as Clyde’s eyes narrowed.

He crossed his arms and arrogantly tilted his head. “While you were busy recovering, I’ve been keeping an eye out for those attackers if they ever dropped on by again.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened. “Yah were enlisted?”

“No.” He looked up at the roof, his expression softening a little. For a brief moment, it was like Clyde of the past before getting his face punched in was standing in front of him. “I took it upon myself.”

“And been dragging us into it too,” The Braixen added with a sarcastic tone, making Clyde glare back at her.

“You don’t have to come.”

She sighed and crossed her arms. “Nevermind.”

“Now…” Clyde stepped towards Ciecro, who tensed up. “Relax, punk. I’m not going to fight you while you’re still healing, let alone while there’s this incident going on.”

“Den wha’ do yah wan’ den?”

Clyde stopped a few inches from Ciecro’s face, their mutual stares being very intense despite lacking in aggression. “I want to know what you’re doing here. Like I said before, it’s after hours and Humphry wouldn’t let you just run around while you’re injured.”

Ciecro looked to the side and snorted. “None of yah business.”

An annoyed sigh followed. “Figured you’d say that. Guess you left without his permission, huh-”

“Wha do yah know!” Ciecro stepped forwards, almost pressing his snout onto Clyde’s nose. The Monferno pulled back slightly, eyes widened for a second before settling down.

“I’m not dumb, Ciecro.”

“Tck, coulda fooled me.”

“You know, I’m being nicer than you deserve. I’m only asking you because of the attackers that are here for your friend.” Clyde walked around Ciecro, stopping shoulder to shoulder. He leered at Ciecro as he continued. “Why are they after the Averion?”

“How should I know?”

Clyde continued walking around Ciecro, who relaxed a little but kept a tense front. “Well, then what do you know?”

“I…” Ciecro’s eyes lowered.


“I…don’ know anythin’ else.” Ciecro’s eyes lowered slightly, raising suddenly at Clyde scoffing.

“Tck, you’re pathetic.”

“Wha’dyu say?”

“You heard me.” Clyde snarled as he walked over to his friends. “You’ll zip your mouth like a Banette’s if it meant not hurting your pride.”

“Oh yeah! Wha’ abou’ how yah keep wantin’ tah figh’ me?”

“Heh, like right now?” Clyde said with an almost mocking tone as he turned around and pointed at Ciecro’s crest. “Unlike you, I know when to swallow my pride. After all, I’m just a kid studying to be a ranger. I don’t have a get-out-of-punishment crest like you.”

“Why do yah dislike Norfarions so much?” Ciecro snarled. “I barely know wha’ Norfarions are like.”

Clyde rolled his eyes. “I didn’t care about Norfarions. I’ve heard general rumors and gossip about them, but those are just rumors and gossip. You were the one that gave me a front-row seat to what your kind can do and over some simple comments about your dad.”

Ciecro tensed up, his breathing going slow as Clyde continued.

“I never liked you Ciecro. You and your brother are hotheaded and arrogant and when I decided to step up to that, you made it very clear the kind of person you were. I guess it makes sense why Norfarions stick to their kind if this is the end result without some kind of discipline. Lording over us ‘normal mons’ like living is some kind competition.”

“Look, jus’ shuddup.” Ciecro shook his head. “I don’ care tah hear yah rantin’. It’s none of yah business wha’ I’m doing ‘ere.”

“Fine. But I’m going to have to tell this to Humphry.” Clyde started to walk away, but Ciecro’s voice made him stop.


Clyde smirked a little as he looked back. “Why should I?”

Ciecro’s eyes lowered. “I…was jus’ tryin’ tah train.”


“In case dere’s another figh’. I want tah be able tah fight.” Ciecro looked back at Clyde, willing himself not to back down.

“Wouldn’t resting be better for that?” Clyde crossed his arms.

The Charmeleon didn’t reply, though his brain tried its best to think of a rebuttal.

“Yeah,” The Bellibolt walked up, making Ciecro lean away from the large, round mon. “It is weird. I think he’s lying.”

Snarling back at the Bellibolt, Ciecro said, “I’m not lyin’”

“Then you’re stupid.” The Braixen moved her palm under her snout, smiling at Ciecro snobbishly. “What good is training if your arm doesn’t heal?” She giggled. “Everybody knows-”

“Oh can it, bitch.”

She gasped. “Why you.” She looked at Clyde, pointing at Ciecro. “He just called me a-”

“I heard him.” He walked past the dumbfounded Braixen and curious Bellibolt, stopping right in front of Ciecro. “And if he wasn’t injured, I’d make him answer for it.”

The Charmeleon snarled back, stepping forwards. Their tense standoff was interrupted by another sound coming from behind Clyde’s group that easily drowned out the background rain.


Ciecro shoved Clyde out of the way as he looked to see his brother stepping into the expanse, dripping wet from head to two and furious. The Croconaw had a shoulder strap that had a satchel, though it looked a bit loose implying he put it on in haste.

“Uh…Jaron.” Ciecro couldn’t find the words, especially since he was still processing that his brother was here.

“What? Surprised I’m here?” Jaron stomped towards him, his tone like poison as he stopped in front and leered upwards at his brother. “Well, sorry that I checked on you after dinner. Did you want some more alone time?”

Ugh…’ere we go. Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder. “Jaron, I was jus’-”

“Save it.” Jaron swatted the hand aside. “I’m sick of you just going off on your own like this. You’ve already passed the test, why do you need to keep doing this?”

“No way,” the Braixen said, her face showing disbelief. “You actually passed?”

“Shut up, bitch.” Jaron snarled, making her leer at him. However, the Croconaw ignored her and shouted, “So what’s going on? Why are you going off on your own still and why is fucking Clyde and his goons here?”

“Now listen here you loud, little-!” The Braixen began her snooty tone even when mad playing on Ciecro’s last nerves.

He turned around and in unison with Jaron said, “Would you stay out of this?”

She growled, looking at Clyde for any kind of support, but he kept silent, wanting to see this play out. “Ugh.” She crossed her arms and pouted to the side.

With no more interruptions, Ciecro looked back at Jaron. “Look, I jus’ wanna be prepared in case dose goons come back.”

“For God’s sake, Ciecro, your shoulder is still recovering.” Jaron pointed at Clyde, who tensed up in scowl and body as Jaron continued, “And can you please tell me why the fuck he’s here?”

“I didn’ invite him if dats wha’ yah worried abou’.”

“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried you’ll get into a fight with him.”

Jaron’s anger was starting to rub off on Ciecro, especially since this lecture was being played again. “I know, Jaron. Yah don’ need tah keep remindin’ me.”

“Oh sorry, am I pestering you again by asking why the fuck he’s here with you?” Jaron pointed out as he gestured his claw outwards to Ciecro, like he was bestowing this counter to Ciecro as a gift.

“Look. I’m tellin’ dah truth.”

“Then why not just leave then?”

Ciecro’s eyes looked to the side as Jaron’s head lowered.


“It’s rainin’ outside.”

“That didn’t stop you from coming here for this ‘training’. What the hell does that even mean? Training for what?”

“Fo’ dose goons return-”

“Stop lying to me!” Jaron lashed out, pushing at Ciecro’s stomach as a few tears started to form in his angry eyes. “You’re always training. You’ve been training for almost a fucking month now! What are you training for and why are you training so hard? Stop keeping whatever secret burden you have and just be honest with me!”

Ciecro growled though he didn’t retaliate physically. “I don’ have a ‘secret’, Jaron. I don’ hafta tell yah every stinkin’ detail abou’ my thoughts. I already hafta do dat in dose sessions, so lay off.” Jaron snorted angrily as he crossed his arms and looked to the side. Ciecro’s gaze drifted to the side as well, his scowl softening despite not being done lecturing Jaron. “How many times do I hafta tell yah I can manage fo’ yah to jus’ get it? Or do yah not trust me like yah say yah do?” The silence that followed made Ciecro’s heart churn. He’d done it again. With a heavy sigh, he turned towards his brother again, his gaze low and heavy. “Jaron…wha’ I mean is-” He stopped speaking once he looked at his brother.

A cold chill filled him, a chill that the rain outside couldn’t even come close to replicating. He saw his brother stare to the left, his teary eyes bearing a sudden look of horror. “Jaron!” He grabbed his brother’s shoulders, making their audience flinch. “Is it your Wary?”

The Croconaw slowly nodded.

“Is it dem?”

“I…I don’t know. It’s similar, but it feels so much more-” Jaron gasped. “Vray!” He pulled himself from Ciecro’s grip and rushed for the door, nearly running over Clyde in the process.

Growling, Ciecro ran after his brother, not bothering with the raincoat.

“What the? Hey!” The girl’s voice called out but stopped as Clyde rushed after them.

“Come on you two!” Clyde shouted.

The group of five hurried down the street, undeterred by the rain and thunder.


Dragon Enthusiast
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
  7. jirachi
Chapter 3! An overall slow chapter, and I'm very antsy for something to finally actually kick off the story, to be honest. More on that with my stream of consciousness thoughts below:

The adamancy for not telling her child something important about the key just to lead to mystery and drama is a very tired trope in my opinion, and it just feels contrived for the sake of suspense no matter how justified it seems in-universe. This is especially egregious because without knowing how important that key actually is, eventually it would realistically lose its importance without something substantive behind it. What if he loses faith in his mother later, or he's deceived about what the mother said or meant? It'd be so easy to convince a child who doesn't know the truth what that truth is. I feel like it's not very wise to give that kind of justification when they're entrusting something so dire to a child in the first place.

Three hundred thousand years of conflict? That's an outright absurd amount of time for tensions to rise, that's older than human history. No kinds of tensions could possibly last that long without someone accidentally adding two extra zeroes. Empires don't last that long!

300k years is another big issue because how does someone being half of both mean anything? In 300k years, statistically, that's a crazy amount of time for the waters to get muddied.

The rest of the chapter goes by inoffensively, and ends with more kids being kids. It was a nice bit of levity, is what I would have said earlier, but at this point these are very hefty chapters and this is also the third one. Nothing much has actually "happened."

I had said in my first chapter review that it had a good opener and a good hook for something to happen, but now it's been two more chapters of a big "something's coming, something's coming" and at this point it's very much overdue. The lore was appreciated aside from the logistics, but I still have no sense of a grasp on what's actually supposed to happen here. I'm just waiting. This is the point where in the story, kids being kids is filler rather than a nice change of pace—because nothing has changed yet. I'm hoping next chapter finally sees that happen, but it definitely should have been earlier, with more concise scenes leading up to it.


Dragon Enthusiast
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
  7. jirachi
Man, how did I know it was a Jynx before they even confirmed it?

Anyway, hi, chapter 4 (and 5) time! And wow, chapter 4 one is practically half the length of the previous chapter. It's promising in a way, since I suspect that means more might happen in a short time? That's my thought going in, at least.

"The words felt like a Brick Break on his Protect."
...Perhaps you meant Reflect? Protect deflects Brick Break just fine, aha.

Seems that some dissonance is brewing between the two kids, maybe even some envy between the one they trusted versus the one they didn't. And the key was stolen, so I suspect that'll be either important later or lead to some friction when they find out.

Still, unfortunately, that's all that really happened in the chapter. About the same pacing as before, which is unfortunate.

With how short the chapter was, I also went on to chapter 5, which opens with... more training and some world building on how they channel their moves. I'm assuming that since these intricacies are being brought up, the specific means of channeling that kind of energy is important later? It's hard to tell at this point because we've been doing nothing but training and slice of life for a while with this looming threat of taking shelter in the background for the actual plot, presumably.

I'm noticing a small amount of passive voice in some of the combat scenes in particular. For example, "he was suddenly be [sic] hit by a Water Pulse" is passive. It could have been changed to "A Water Pulse suddenly hit him." Shorter, snappier, more direct. This is only chapter 5, though, so maybe it's fixed in future chapters.

Yep, tensions reached a boiling point here, and I guess now it's all out in the open. No idea what that'll mean, though... I wonder if that immaturity is sort of a self fulfilling prophecy as well, since that immaturity could have also been why they didn't trust him in the first place. Granted, trusting the kinda in general like that is questionable, so... breaks even there.

If I know my story beats, either a heart to heart is going to happen in chapter 6, or he's going to get caught by the folks he's supposed to be hiding from, or otherwise spotted, because he stupidly ran into the forest. Five chapters in, I'm kinda hopeful for something to happen to give this Adventure-tagged fic some adventure!
Chapter 26: Descent (Dread)


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 26
Descent (Dread)

“‘A phizon of 5 inches, 12.7 cm, or 1 corbal in length holds a capacity limit for synergetic travel of 50 flame years. Devices utilizing this do not require massive amounts of circulatory and efficiency relief due to this class of phizon’s spaciousness compared to its smaller siblings.” He pulled the book over his face and uttered a muffled sigh. Welp, I think I’m at my limit. Good on Jaron for going into Synermechanics, but I can’t read any more of this word soup.

He closed the book and stared at the cover. Though, it is pretty cool how all this stuff work. He set the book on a small night desk next to his stray stuffed hospital bed. His eyes glistened faintly in the light of the dim emura held in a glass cylinder, staring at it like one stares at a campfire on a cold night. Gently, he pressed the base of this cylinder and watched as a particle field around the Emura barely revealed itself before vanishing once more as it pulled away from the Emura. The light from this stone began to dim, now becoming like the cinders of a burnt-out campfire.

A small smile formed as he leaned back, staring upwards. I can see why Jaron would like this stuff. Though, maybe it’s mostly because of the mechanical part of it rather than the synergy aspect. His eyes drifted to the window, watching the rain beat against it as his happy reminiscence disappeared as his path of thought took a turn.

Still raining, huh. He sat up, turning his gaze towards the shut door to his hospital room. I guess there’s no sense in staying up. Better go have the final check-up. He slid off the bed and walked toward the open door. I feel fine enough, but doctor’s orders. Though… He paused before reaching it and crossed his arms. I guess I was out because of healing that arm. So then, it take me two whole days to recover from healing a wound like that? I mean, I feel fine if not a little tired. A slight chill filled him as he pushed down the unsettling thought. I hope I’m not losing something else I don’t know about when I use my gift.

Sighing, Vragon leaned over and said, “Mecks, I’m ready to go to bed. Can you get Dr. Uximo for the check-up?”

“Sure, need anything before I go?”

“No thanks, I just want to get it done so I can retire.”

“Okay. I’ll let him know to hurry on over, Vray.”

As Mecks started speaking into the ranger com Vragon turned his troubled stare towards the window. Without thinking, he reached and clasped his pendant, his body seeking its calming touch while his mind couldn’t.

Humphry said that the Gallade guy was a clansmon. So, does that mean there are clansmons in the Red Eyes or was he just a random one off? He shook his head as a scowl began to form. What even are these guys? And what do they want with me so badly that they’d- he snarled, not wanting to remember that threat from the Gallade.

Slowly, his eyes drifted to the right as he lifted his arm. Looking at his Averion crest, Vragon thought, I don’t understand. What could I have done to make them go that far? His arm fell as he stared at the floor, a firm scowl on his face and his claws clenched tightly. How could he do something like that? Make me choose something like that?

He brushed his snout, a small sniffle coming out as he began to calm down. Well, it’s not like I know that piece of garbage. His arms wrapped around his torso as he looked back at the dim emura. I guess with all the context removed, we would be distant cousins. But still…

The scowl returned as he reached for his pendant and held it up to eye level. They’re bad mons and I doubt they’re being honest with me. It’s just more questions and no answers. Like you.

His stare went cynical, as he tilted his head during his mental interrogation of the pendant. Not like you’re helping me get answers either. Why do I have you and feel like I should have you if I’m Averion? What even are you supposed to be? He sat on the footrest of the bed, letting out all his frustration in a singular, silent stare. A few minutes later he sighed and let it drop. Maybe if I had mixed parentage then that would explain it, if it isn’t just a Clans cultural thing. Though, even if it is.

His eyes trailed to the door once more, this time with a curious look on them. It’s taking Uximo a while to get here.

“Is Uximo busy right now, Mecks?” Vragon stood up and walked toward the open door. “Mecks?” As he looked out the doorway. He froze, eyes wide as his heart raced.

He tried to rushed down the hallway but was knocked back as something shot out of the opposite wall into him. Too confused to respond, Vragon was grappled onto his stomach, his right arm pulled into a lock.

“Ack, Hel-!” He managed to say until a purple energy closed over him, in the shape of a boney claw.

“Shhhhhh,” Vex slithered as a smile formed on his face. “Don’t want anyone else coming in harm’s way, right?”

Vragon’s fury fought his momentary fear, forcing him to try and struggle. However, the arm lock was too much for him to free and the ghost’s position too controlling to allow Vragon any chance to move. Despite this, he tried until he heard the door squeak.

Looking up, he saw a Haxorus walk in. He had a dark green hue to his scales, some of which looked chipped or scratched. His physique looked strong and his posture composed. What drew Vragon’s attention the most, however, was the Red Eyes this mon possessed. They weren’t just the kind he had seen before, they were accompanied by a stare that felt more intense than the Gengar’s and the Gallade’s combined.

The Haxorus’ let his Dragon Claw disappear, as the blood covering it dropped to the floor.

A pained scowl formed on Vragon’s face as he shut his eyes and started struggling again.

“Quit it you,” Vex snarled in a harsh tone and pushed harder on Vragon’s arm, making the Fraxure utter a muffled cry.

No, I won’t let you! Vragon surged Dragon Claw into his locked arm, but unfortunately for him, Vex was positioned right above it, safe from being cut. The other arm was pinned by Vex’s leg, unable to move even an inch.

Get off me! Vragon screamed in his head.

“Be still.”

Vragon stopped, his eyes opening as he looked up at the Haxorus, who went on a knee to get a closer look.

“This is the guy,” The ghost said above him. “Black with white lines on the harder scales and yellow eyes. Averion too.”

The Haxorus didn’t reply, simply staring down into Vragon’s eyes, a seeming curiousness despite their hardened look.

Vragon raised a brow, his fear and anger set aside to match the curiosity in this towering figure’s look. Who…are-?


The Haxorus’s gaze suddenly went cold making Vragon shiver and want to pull back. The Haxorus suddenly latched his claw onto Vragon’s face, making the boy yelp and push it down, snarling aggressively.

“Trishula, sir?”

“I have to make sure.”

Vragon squirmed in fear as the Haxorus’s eyes narrowed and his claw started to feel warm on his face, heating up just low of searing pain.

“Mecks!” A voice shouted, causing the Haxorus to pull his claw back and shift around.

Vragon could feel the ghost above him stiffen as the sound of rushing footsteps could be heard outside. Wait…Humphry! He looked at the Haxorus, who was walking around the footrest, dark blue energy swirling around his claws, ready to form Dragon Claw at the second he needed to. No! Vragon struggled again, but sadly the ghost was alert enough to restrain him. He screamed as loud as he could, but his voice wasn’t loud enough to penetrate the muffling effectively.

I can’t break out! What do I-? He saw Trishula press his back against the wall next to the door, ready for when the Seismitoad entered.

Vragon let his head fall, his muscles hurting and his mind clueless about what to do. At that moment, he noticed his tusk pressing against the floor, causing his head to be in a rather uncomfortable position.

“Vray! Hang on!” His heart raced as he stared at the door out of the corner of his eyes. He let his body go limp as he started taking slow breaths, remaining as calm as he could despite the sound of Humphry’s racing footsteps.

Three, two, one, now! With all his might, he lurched back, surprising Vex enough that the grip on his head lessened enough to twist it and drive his right tusk to the ghost.

Vex gasped and pulled back, managing to avoid being poked and quickly regained control over Vragon, but the damage was already done.

Vragon went limp again, relieved that the footsteps had stopped. As he looked at the Haxorus, he saw a brief glance of frustration at Vragon’s captor before once more looking at the door ready to strike with surging Dragon Claw.

The silence was unbearable for Vragon as his breathing picked up. Please, don’t die. He fought the images of Humphry getting stabbed, snapping to focus as there was another sound.

The Haxorus moved slightly off the wall, surprised as well.


Horror formed on Vragon’s face as the Haxorus lunged for the doorway, the energy swirling into ripe Dragon Claws, but before he could get into the hallway he was swamped by a blueish glow. Vragon shut his eyes as a second later, he felt the force of a wave on his body, along with the ghost’s weight being lifted off. He was swamped over into the wall, gasping as he tried to get his bearings back until his focus was stolen by a crashing sound.

Humphry was standing there, dust from the wall covering him. The Seismitoad waved his hand as the Surf pulled away from Vragon and rose to hit the two.

Vex phased into the wall, while the Haxorus thrust his claws forward and lunged forwards, tearing a hole for himself through the thin wave.

“Run!” Humphry shouted as he slammed his fist and shot Mudshot at the Haxorus, who pivoted to the right around the footrest.

Vragon quickly hopped onto the messed up bed and fell off the other side at Humphry’s feet.

“Go!” Humphry shouted, slamming his second fist over Vragon to send more Mud Shot to pin the dragon back.

Vragon scrambled to his feet, going through the rubble wall so fast he almost ran into the wall on his way out. As he scampered down the hall, he looked back.

He stopped running, staring at the hole in the wall. He surged his own Dragon Claw, but couldn’t muster the nerve to go to Humphry’s aid nor to flee. Gasping, he looked down the hallway to see a purple flash followed by a Shadow Ball headed right for him. He raised his claws to block as it struck, sending him down the hallway onto his back.

Groaning, he sat up seeing Vex fly towards him. Vragon cried and scrambled to his feet, but then he was yanked by a force down the hallway. As he landed on his side, he saw a flash of rainbow light in the shape of a beam fly down the hallway.

“Vray, are you hurt?” Dr. Uximo asked, as his move exploded down the hallway.

“No,” the Fraxure answered, starting to get to his feet. “Humphry, he’s still in my room.”

“Don’t worry about him right now, we need to ge-” Uximo stopped as he fired another Psybeam at an incoming Shadow Ball, the repulse causing both to shield their eyes. “Where is-” Uximo began but was cut off by a slam from the side.

Vragon watched Uximo hit the wall and slump with a groan. His eyes turned to the Gengar now between him and a dazed Uximo. Vragon lashed out with Dragon Claw, fearful the mon would try and harm Uximo while he was down, but all he managed to do was get blasted by a small Shadow Ball that pushed him down the perpendicular hallway.

Coughing, Vragon tried to sit up, his chest hurting.

“Not this time you little punk.” Vex floated and flew after the Fraxure, who tried to rush away.

“This way!”

“Huh?” Vragon looked ahead to see a window at the end, only it was open with a figure in it. He stopped running and surged Dragon Claw.

The figure swung his arm as some kind of dark purple flash happened, with Vragon feeling the rush of something whizz past his head. He turned around to see Night Slash kunai stab into the wall that Vex phased into.

“Hurry!” The figure held out his hand.

Vragon looked back at him, hesitant.

“I’m not one of them,” The stranger said, pointing to his eyes which were as blue as the sea.

Despite his uncertainty, Vragon trusted this point and ran for the stranger. Once close enough, Vragon was grabbed by the stranger and pulled out the window. Before Vragon could so much as process let alone shout, he felt himself being grabbed tightly and going through the air, the stranger leaping from the window and flipping around.

As they landed, the stranger went into a roll to avoid any potential damage to his legs, letting go of Vragon so he could quickly get up and surged Night Slash kunai in case the ghost pursued.

Vragon spat out the rainwater he got in his mouth from being flat on the flooded roof and looked up at the Greninja with a snarl. “What is wrong with you‽”

The stranger looked at him with a brow raised before a cheeky smile formed. “Sorry, the first time is usually the worst. Anyways,” He looked back at the window, prompting Vragon to look as well. Sure enough, the ghost flew out and the stranger flung his kunai at him, which the ghost evaded.

Vragon took the time to look this stranger over. It was a male Greninja, at least Vragon guessed because of the voice. His body looked rather lean with cuts on a few areas. The black shirt was made of some fine fabric, built for the rain. The worn vest the stranger wore on top of that wasn’t as good though.

His observations were cut short by the Greninja pointing in a direction and shouting, “Move! I’ll cover for you.”

Vragon obeyed, as the stranger followed closely behind, taking every opportunity to dissuade the Gengar or the Gengar’s Shadow Balls with his Night Slash kunai.

As he reached the edge of the roof, he judged the distance and looked down instantly regretting it as his stomach started to knot up. Can I make that jump? He backed off. “I-I don’t think I can clear-” His words were cut short by a loud crashing sound from the hospital building.

“What the-?” His eyes widened as he watched something leap from a recently made hole in the wall near where he and the Greninja had left and landed with a harsh thud on the roof.

What are you‽ Vragon’s jaw dropped open as the stranger stood up and turned towards them. Those eyes once more leered with intimidation at the Fraxure, filling him with fear.

“Wait, don’t-!”

The stranger’s words weren’t fast enough, as a startled Vragon took a step back without thinking, bumping into the edge of the roof. The combination of the wetness from the rain and being startled caused him to tumble over the edge, yelping as he flailed about for something to grab on.

What? He looked all around, finding himself suspended in the air. He yelped as something phased through the wall.

“Relax, I got you.” It was a Mismagius, the green band around her neck sending instant relief for Vragon. She flew up and set him down on the roof on the other side, turning her pink, glowing eyes towards the Gengar. “Get as far as you can.” She flew up and began engaging the Gengar in aerial combat.

With the ghost taken care of, Vragon turned his attention to the current fight between the Haxorus and the Greninja, which was more of a game of dodging on the Greninja’s part. Despite the earlier order, Vragon was too engrossed in the fight to leave, like he had a personal stake in it despite not knowing either of these two.

He jumped as something rushed past him and leaped over the gap. A Hitmonlee twist flipped, igniting an white energy into his leg and bringing it down upon the Haxorus, who blocked the Mega Kick with a Dragon Claw.

Swiping it away, the Haxorus had to shield himself from the Greninja’s Night Slash kunai.

The Haxorus slightly turned his head, leaping forwards and spinning his body around to face another mon closing in. A Scizor with a ranger band flew right for the dragon but pulled up early to send rippling Air Cutters at the Haxorus.

While the flying move cut into the roof, the Greninja leaped across the gap and rushed for Vragon.

“We need to move.”

“What? But what about the rang-” He squeaked as he felt his arm grabbed.

“You’re the target, not them.”

Vragon tried to wrestle out, but both glanced back seeing the rangers getting knocked aside from a swing of the Haxorus’s tail. The mighty dragon’s eyes met Vragon’s once more, but only for a second as he lowered his head, forming a ball of dark blue energy with a vibrant orange center at the tip of his head spike.

What move is that? Vragon thought as he watched the two rangers try and go for a counterattack of Mega Kick and Bullet Punch, though the Haxorus tanked both moves to send the sphere up into the air with a swift raise of his head.

Vragon watched it fly up, mesmerized by its glow. As the orb reached its pinnacle and exploded, he felt the air leave his lungs as fear took hold of him like it was freezing him in ice. The dark blue and orange light was enveloped by a much more intense white light that filled Vragon’s vision entirely. He fell to a knee, his head starting to hurt as well as his right arm that he instantly grabbed with his left claw. Despite how much it hurt, he didn’t make a sound, just continued to stare upwards at this light as he felt faint tremors around him.

His body refused to respond as he looked at the light, feeling like it was looking back at him. What feeling he had left managed to detect he was no longer on the ground. While the scenery in the corner of his eyes changed, the white light remained the center point of his vision and the object of his full attention.

Finally, he shut his eyes as the pain in his head picked up, the levels of pain dwarfing his right arm from before. What is happening‽ he thought, his first coherent thought since the Draco Meteor. He clenched his head tightly as it got worse, his breathing heightened as his body shivered with fear of death.

Then, he felt a touch, a cold touch that made him lurch back and look. His headache was gone as was the pain in his right shoulder, but his fear and panic were just as real as when he stared into that light.

“Woah, easy.”

Wherever he was, it was dark. Though there was a light source coming from behind a black silhouette in front of him.

“You’re safe.”

He blinked, seeing the traces of two blue circles in front. They looked like eyes the more Vragon peered into them. As he adjusted to the darkness, he made out the form of a slender mon, eventually recognizing him as the stranger from before. “You-you’re-”

“Shhhhh,” the stranger raised a finger to his mouth, but his eyes were calm and understanding. “Whisper.”

“Oh…sorry,” Vragon said, looking around. “Where are we?” They seemed to be under some kind of tarp, the kind used to cover open crates to prevent water from soaking their contents. This tarp was held up above their heads by a pole, making their hiding place more like a tent.

The Greninja backed up, sliding over their light source, a hole in the floor. He gestured towards it, but put a finger to his mouth.

Vragon crawled over to it and looked down. It was a view of the floor below, the distance likely two floors from where they were. Down there was mostly an open space with various portable, emura lights scattered around. “A construction zone?”

The stranger nodded. “Yes, this is where I was trying to take you.”


The stranger sat back, relaxing a little in a way that made Vragon start to relax too. “We’re hiding.” The stranger whispered, looking down through the hole as well.

Vragon shivered as he looked up. “You mean, those guys are still-”

“Relax.” The stranger met his fearful gaze with a calming smile. “I won’t let them hurt you.”


“You’re rather timid,” The Greninja said with a smirk, leaning back and resting a hand on his side.

Vragon wanted to scowl at that remark, but it almost felt rude to leer in such a way at someone that saved him from the Gengar.

“What’s your name?”

“Uhm…Vragon.” He looked back, his curiosity rising. “Yours?”

“You can call me Ergon.”

“Ergon?” Vragon’s head tilted.

The Greninja chuckled. “It’s a weird name, I know, but there’s a good reason for that. It’s actually my middle name.”

“Your middle? What’s wrong with telling me your first name?”

The stranger looked back at the hole. “I don’t like giving out my first name just like that.”

“Oh.” Vragon’s head lowered as he looked at the hole too. The view was of a lower floor, which looked rather messy in how torn up it looked, likely the current room being repurposed. “Huh?” Vragon leaned closer, seeing something down there near some crates. His eyes widened at seeing what looked like a Greninja, pressed behind some crates with a Night Slash dagger drawn. He looked up at the stranger, verifying that some teleportation hadn’t happened.

A minor chuckle came from this supposed ‘Ergon’. “Confused?”

“Very. How are you doin-” He stopped as the stranger pulled his left hand from behind his back. It had a glowing grey light swirling around it.

“It’s a move called, Substitute. Have you heard of it?”

“Y-y-yeah.” Vragon slowly nodded as their gazes turned back to the doppelganger below. “So, you’re using a decoy?”

“More than that.”

“Huh?” Vragon snapped his gaze back up as the stranger looked at him with a confident smile.

“You’ll see.” Without another word, he turned his attention back down, as Vragon did as well.

His eyes narrowed as he felt his body tingle with excitement and concern. What’s his plan? He jerked back slightly as he heard the sound of rubble.

The stranger closed his grip, as the doppelganger tightened up to the crates, ready to slice.

Vragon felt a chill as he heard footsteps echoing beneath them, amplified as he saw the Haxorus from before walking into the room. He had a Dragon Claw surged and his eyes looked alert.

He looks powerful, Vragon thought, watching this mon browsing the room.

“Look out! He’s there!” Another voice exclaimed, making Vragon flinch back but the Greninja smile.

The ghost was flying towards the fake, Shadow Claw surged as the fake turned, and looked at the Gengar in surprise.

“Ahh!” Vex shouted as he stopped.

Vragon’s and the Greninja’s eyes widened.

“What?” The Greninja whispered surprised while Vragon stared dumbfounded, a swift burst of flames flew from the Haxorus’s claw just narrowly missing Vex’s face as it struck on the wall, leaving a searing black mark on it.

“What the-? Why are you firing Incinerate at me?” Vex demanded but looked back at the fake who was still in the same position. “Huh?”

The Haxorus picked up a random piece of wood and tossed it at the doppelganger. A flash of colorful light erupted below as a loud, thrumming sound their heads.

Vragon gasped, his breathing picking up as he saw it in that field of colors that white light again. His body filled with fear and he bolted.


He ignored the stranger’s voice, instead throwing off the tarp, and running with all his might. He had to get away from that light, no matter how much it called to him. His rationale was gone, all that remained was the pain in his right arm, his headache, and the overwhelming fear of staring at impending doom that he had to flee from.
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Chapter 27: Discipline (Brink)


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 27
Discipline (Brink)​

“Dah hospital should be on that street!” Ciecro shouted, pointing forwards before picking up the pace. The excitement was intoxicating, so much so that he hardly noticed the rain anymore.

He cleared the exit, glancing down the road for a second before darting down it. Almos’ dere! I hope we’re in time.

Something whizzed past him in a flash of white light, causing him to trip and fall on his stomach. “Ack! Huh?” He looked up to see the white blur slow down and fade into the form of an Absol, that immediately rushed over to him.

“Ciecro!” Jaron exclaimed, rushing over to help his brother back on his feet.

“Jaz?” Ciecro said as the Absol faced them. “Wha’ are yah doin’ out ‘ere?”

“I could ask the same” she said, a few pants amid her question. Her head turned, noticing the trio arriving behind the sibling pair. “You guys?”

Clyde pointed down the street. “We’re checking out the hospital. Jaron here thinks those goons from two days ago are making another attempt, at least that’s what he feels whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

“It means he’s in danger,” Jaron answered with a leer at Clyde.

Jasmine nodded, “He’s right.”

Clyde raised a curious brow as Jaron looked at Jasmine more fearful than pleased he was correct. “Dolly got a message from Humphry that they’re going after Vragon again. She sent me ahead while she rounds up the volun-”

Jaron cut her off by looking upwards and making a panicked cry.

“Jaron?” Ciecro grabbed his brother and then looked upwards as well. There was the sound of some kind of explosion coming from the rooftops nearby, a flash of dark blue and orange light erupting with trails of small meteors falling around like fireworks.

Ciecro pulled Jaron up against the wall, the others joining them as these orbs of fiery light struck the road and some nearby buildings, causing powerful explosions in their wake.

“What on-” Clyde started, but suddenly pointed. “Clara! Help him!”

The Braixen looked to see a Hitmonlee falling from the building, flailing about. She pulled her stick out, her eyes surging with pink light as she slowed the mon’s fall but couldn’t stop it. She fell to her knee, panting as Clyde helped her up while Ciecro rushed for the Hitmonlee ranger.

“Sir! Are yah okay?” Ciecro asked, trying to help the mon, but the Hitmonlee waved his hand.

“Get clear.”

Obeying, Ciecro backed up towards the wall as the Hitmonlee heavily jogged over to it, placing his hand on it to recuperate himself.


Ciecro looked to see a Scizor fly down, landing next to them with a look of relief and concern. “You alright?”

“I’m fine,” the Hitmonlee said with a dismissive wave. “Just bad position when he let that Draco Meteor loose.”

The Scizor turned his attention to Ciecro, his concerned look shifting to a stern stare. “Why are you out here? It’s not safe.”

“I uh.”

“Humphry sent out a message that there was an attack going on,” Jasmine said, joining next to Ciecro. “Dolly sent us ahead to help while she gets volunteers.”

“Well, this situation is far from standard protocol. You kids need to get somewhere safe.” The Scizor glanced at the buildings across the street, a dismal look on his face as he saw the damage to some of the buildings. “Help the emergency mons deal with this damage. We’ll deal with the threat.”

Having regained his strength or perhaps nerve, the Hitmonlee got off the wall and reached into a pouch on his shoulder strap. “Violet? You okay?”

“Yeah,” a voice said from the orb amid some foreign static, be that the connection or damage surrounding the Mismagius ranger. “I had to dive into the building for cover. Lost track of the Gengar.”

“We need to find them before they get too far. Where did the boy go?”

“I don’t know.”

“Damn.” The Hitmonlee shook his torso head and looked down the street. “Well, keep a look around.” He looked at the Scizor, saying, “Go help her find those mons. I’ll go the hospital and check on the commissioner.”

Nodding, the Scizor’s wings flapped with incredible speed as he floated upwards before zipping off into the air.

“You kids get somewhere safe, you here.” The ranger left without hearing an answer as Ciecro’s eyes lowered.

Humphry. His fists clenched, trying to push out the worst thoughts he could. He’s…okay. I know it, He assured himself, but it did little to kill off those horrible thoughts in the back of his mind.

Ciecro blinked, remembering Jasmine was still next to him. “Oh uh…” He saw for a moment a brief look of concern on her face.

“Over here!” The Bellibolt shouted, prompting the two to hurry on over to what looked like a construction zone for a repurposed building.

“Huh?” Ciecro noticed Clyde and Clara were hunched over his brother, who was fiddling with a chain lock. Jogging over, Ciecro asked, “Wha’s goin’ on?”

“I think they’re in here,” Jaron said, not taking his eyes off his work.

Ciecro looked up at the towering structure. “Dere?”

“Apparently.” Clyde leaned against the wall, staring down at Jaron’s lock picking with a disapproving glance. “We probably should be alerting the rangers instead of picking locks like we’re trying to rob the place.”

Jaron leered back. “Feel free to sprout wings and tell them.”

“Just focus, squirt,” The Braixen commanded, looking at her stick and sighing. “Why have a dark lock anyway? Who’s going to go into a repurposed building?”

“Dark lock is industry standard you twat,” Jaron answered with a snarl. “It’s been that way since locks were a thing.”

“Still stupid.”

“It’s not stupid, it’s practical.” Jaron turned his attention back to his work. “What’s the point of a lock if a psychic can just twist the schematics inside? Putting a tera-infusement on it is pretty much a necessity for it to do its basic function.”

The Braixen rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Why do you know so much about this random stuff anyways?”

“It’s not random, it’s a hobby.”

Clyde rolled his eyes. “Why am I not surprised you’d have lock picking as hobby.”

“Can it, Clyde.” Ciecro snarled, stepping up to Clyde who turned to meet Ciecro’s challenge. Ciecro went silent, holding himself back from saying what he badly wanted to and instead saying, “Le’ ‘im focus.”

The Monferno didn’t reply, just rested his back against the metal bars of the barrier and crossed his arms, leering back.

One heavy sigh later, Ciecro turned around to Jasmine. “Jaz.”


“Dat rangeh goin’ to dah hospital. Yah need tah tell ‘im dat dose bad guys are ‘ere.”

Jasmine looked at the door, annoyance in her expression. “While you all go charging in without me?”

“While we go in looking for Vray,” Jaron corrected.

“He’s righ’.” Ciecro walked up to Jasmine, their eyes less than a foot apart. “We all can hold till dah adults get ‘ere. Vray can’t make it on ‘is own, dese guys are jus’ too strong.”

Jasmine’s eyes lowered as she, much to her reluctance, accepted the truth of the matter and walked past him. “Don’t do anything stupid,” she said as she zipped away in a Quick Attack.

I won’ dis time, Ciecro promised as he heard the clanking of the chain unraveling.

“I got it,” Jaron said with glee as everyone shoved the gate open and hurried inside.

As they piled in, they found themselves in a torn-up lobby. A lot of the wood had been uprooted and the walls were torn with some holes in them. The place was dusty but did have various metal poles placed around for added support.

“Well this is flattering,” the Braixen said with a disgusted look on her face.

“This building has been neglected for a while.” Clyde walked over to the counter, brushing off some of the dust. “It only recently got repurposed.”

“Marvel later, right now we’ve got to move,” Jaron stated looking upwards. “I definitely sense them better now that we’re inside, but it’s faint. I think they’re above us, but I don’t know how far.”

Ciecro nodded. “Kay, we need tah hurry den.” The group pressed onwards, running down the hallways until Clyde came to a halt in front of a pair of doors. “Clyde, wha’ are yah doin’?”

“Stairs.” Clyde shoved the doors open, revealing a square spiraling staircase of stone steps leading upwards.

Jaron rushed in first as Clyde followed with Ciecro taking third, while the last two took the rear.

As they ascended, Ciecro said, “How did yah know dah stairs were ‘ere?”

“My father is one of the mons working on this building. I’ve been to the site a few times before.”

“Really?” The Braixen said. “I know your dad was in construction, but I didn’t know he brought you on-site. Lucky us.”

Ciecro kept his eyes focused on Clyde as they rounded up the stairs. I didn’ know dat. He hadn’t given it any thought, but in that moment he realized just how little he knew about Clyde. The words the Monferno said before, about protecting the town, found themselves settling on his conscious. Sure, the guy was a pain in the tail, but there was some faint sense of comfort in knowing that an asshole like Clyde shared Ciecro’s feelings about the town’s wellbeing. Though, it would help if Ciecro wasn’t a problem in Clyde’s eyes.

“Here,” Jaron said abruptly, stopping at an open archway, its door having been taken off its hinges and set aside neatly and out of the way. “This is the floor they’re on,” he whispered.

Ciecro leaned in, glancing down both corridors. “Where?”

“Somewhere, there.” Jaron gestured his arm forward, making everyone give him disappointed looks. “Look, that’s the best I got.”

“What’s the plan then?” The Bellibolt asked, quivering slightly.

Ciecro lowered his head to think, but his thoughts were cut off by Clyde speaking.

“It’s safe to assume that Fraxure kid is nearby. We should try finding him and where those guys are. The rangers shouldn’t be too far behind.” Clyde stepped into the hallway. “Me and Ciecro will take this way. You three take the other.”

“What?” Jaron and the Braixen exclaimed before remembering to whisper.

“We’re trying to find Vragon. If you see those bad guys, don’t engage them. If they spot you, just get out of there. The groups I’ve selected should be sufficient for both.”


Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder and looked at him. “It’s a’ight. Yah’ve got yah’re Wary an’ I’m no slouch.”

“Ciecro that’s not what I-”

“Jaron, dere isn’ time tah argue abou’ dis,” Ciecro pointed out. “We’ve gotta find Vray before dey find ‘im. Okay?”

Jaron’s head fell, as his fists clenched. “Okay,” he said in a low, disagreeable though understanding tone. He looked at the two in his group. “Come on.” He went down the right hallway with the other two following behind, both giving Clyde concerned glances before heading off.

The two fire types watched in silence as the trio rounded the corner, then went down the hallway. They cautiously made their way from space to space, room to room, checking every corner and listening for the slightest noise that wasn’t theirs.

Suddenly, a noise prompted both to be quiet. Wha’? Ciecro looked over at an open doorway where there was some flashing. Tapping Clyde on the shoulder, he motioned the Monferno to follow and the two silently crept around the corner, taking position on both sides of a rubble wall where some violent synergy was erupting like flares of colorful fire taking an almost misty form.

“Wha’ is goin’ on in dere?”

Clyde peered closer. As the flashings of chaotic light started to die down, the form of the Haxorus revealed itself, along with the crashing sound of boxes and a metal rod. Both braced against the wall as the noise died down and a voice spoke up from the other side.

“What the fuck was that?”

“A trap.”

Both boys froze, not daring to get a look at the second speaker. I don’ remembeh a mon wit’ dat voice from dah firs’ attack. Ciecro did a silent gulp as he mustered his nerve to move, while listening carefully to the conversation.

“But, I saw him.”

They heard the dragon’s heavy footsteps. “A fake. Deliberately placed next to this synergy storage device.” There was a sound of the Haxorus shoving something aside. “Tampered. Its safeties and ports have been cut so the synergy can escape the second a strong enough source is near. That intended source being you and I.”

Someone made a trap fo’ dem? Ciecro looked over at Clyde, who bore an equally confused look on his face. Using this information to bolster his nerve, Ciecro turned around and leaned over, peering past the rubble wall to look at them. He softly gasped at seeing the powerful-looking Haxorus staring down at the metal rod, which was currently sputtering out what little synergy it had left inside it in small, colorful sparks while the ghost looked on in disbelief and horror.

“What kind of sick fuck would-” Vex said, but stopped as he looked at the Haxorus. “Wait, you think it was that guy?”

“I have no doubt.” The Haxorus answered, turning his body and thus making Ciecro pull back behind cover. “He and the boy are still here somewhere.”

“When I get my hands on him, I’ll-”

Suddenly, the Haxorus swung around and sliced through a whizzing Shadow Ball, cutting it into pieces that flew past him and struck the ground.

Vex, while surprised by this, managed to fly away from a follow-up Air Cutter that struck the spot where the dragon stood, causing the dust in the room to pick up.

Landing near, Vex looked to see a Scizor hop from an upper scaffolding with the Mismagius float down to the level. Their expressions went stern as the dust settled and the dragon became visible again with no apparent injuries or hindrance from the move.

“Vex, find the target,” the dragon said, effortlessly igniting Dragon Claw in his right claw.

Vex didn’t need to hear anything else, immediately phasing into the floor.

“Violet, go after him.”

The Mismagius phased partially into the floor, looking up to say, “Are you sure you can handle it, Gisela?”

“I’ll be fine.” The Scizor said, a bit firmer in tone as she went into the floor fully. With his fellow ranger gone, the Scizor’s expression shifted to anger, anger that looked like it had been held back for too long. His claws surged with a metallic glint as he went into an aggressive stance.

The two boys watched the Scizor zip fly towards the dragon, thrusting his claws forward with incredible speed, while the Red Eye pulled back, evading and dodging the barrage of Bullet Punches.

“No way,” Ciecro said under his breath as he started standing up, watching the Haxorus parry, avoid, or block the Bullet Punch.

“Did he use Dragon Dance before or is he just that fast?” Clyde questioned. The two watched as the duel went around the large room, with the dragon slicing for an opening, but the Scizor pulled back in time.

He flew up and unleashed Air Cutter once more, but the Haxorus merely walked forwards, moving his body to let the spiraling discs of solidified air whizz past him.

The Scizor snarled as he saw this mon avoid the last one with a simple turn of the head. “You piece of-” He vibrated his wings, sending out green sound waves of Bug Buzz that bore down on the dragon, trying to push him down on his knees.

While the dragon bent slightly, his legs remained firm. Instead, he moved his claws together, forming a ball of fire at the tip of his claws that he shot out into the Bug Buzz. Incinerate cut through the Bug Buzz, striking the Scizor on the side.

Wincing from the nick, the Scizor landed on a platform about a floor above.

“This does not concern you ranger.” The dragon said, in a low, emotionless tone.

“Fuck you!” The Scizor shouted, his wings igniting with cyan light. “I’ll make you pay for killing Mecks!”

What‽ Ciecro pulled back from the wall, his back touching the opposite one as he felt his heart spring to life in surprise. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Clyde was equally shocked and disturbed. They were distracted by the Air Cutters being unleashed, but the Haxorus hopped away, twisting his body to avoid them and shot a quickly made Incinerate that whizzed through the air and struck the Scizor right in the stomach.

“Ack!” The Scizor clasped his stomach, trying to fly away, but the dragon flicked his wrist to fire another Incinerate bolt to strike the wing, causing him to plummet and hit the ground at an awkward angle.

The boys watched in horror as the Scizor was pelted over and over as the Haxorus walked towards him while flicking Incinerates at him.

“Ugh, I’m not…done yet!” The Scizor exclaimed, as his defenses grew tired. Finally, one flaming bolt pushed the Scizor’s arm to the side and a second was sent right into his chest, knocking him into a pillar of stone. He hunched over, grasping his seared wound as the Haxorus grew closer.

Ciecro’s breathing picked up as he watched the Scizor yell, forming white lights that danced around him in the shape of blades. Powered up, the Scizor lunged for the Haxorus, but the dragon remained undeterred, simply ducking under the Bullet Punch aimed for his head and spinning to slam the ranger with his tail into a different pillar.

The Scizor cried in pain as he held his side, traces of blood leaking from the cracks in the exoskeleton.

“These matters concern far more than your town’s existence. You would have been wise to stay out of the way of such greater things,” the dragon said, resuming his walk to the ranger, who was struggling to pull himself up with the pillar.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as his fists clenched. “No…” he mumbled under his breath as he saw the Dragon Claw ignite in the dragon’s claw. “Leave ‘im alone!” Ciecro roared, charging.

“Ciecro!” Clyde shouted, but it was too late. The element of surprise was gone and the Red Eye turned to see Ciecro thrust his claws forward to send a Flamethrower. He pointed his left and fired a countering Incinerate.

The moves clashed, a fierce swirl of flames that almost seemed like serpents trying to bite each other, one being large and straight while the other weaved around to nip at the sides. However, their stalemate was short-lived as the flames of the Haxorus began pushing back the Charmeleon’s. Ciecro’s muscles tightened like he was pushing something very heavy, his fierce anger from before slowly falling prey to a lack of confidence in his ability to win this flame duel.

How is he so strong? Ciecro planted his feet and fired more, hoping to tip it back but all it did was slow his losing side down. I can’t keep dis up, he snarled as he ceased the clash and dove as fast he could out of the way, the Flamethrower passing him by and striking the wall.

Glancing back, he saw the Red Eye rushing towards him, however, he suddenly planted his foot and leaned forwards, swinging to slam an incoming Flame Wheel with his tail. Clyde tumbled out of the flames and stopped on his stomach.

Ciecro saw Trishula charge once more, this time rushing to meet him, surging his own Dragon Claw. They both swung and clashed. Ack! Ciecro groaned as he felt his shoulder hurt from its wound again. Not now! Ciecro pulled back, the pain and strength of his enemy forcing him to play defense. Jus’ need an openin’ Ciecro thought, but he didn’t know how long he could last till one showed itself. His shoulder pain grew until it finally made one of his blocks have a rocky base, allowing Trishula to knock him off balance.

Shit! The Haxorus did a follow up swipe, while Ciecro did his best to put his Dragon Claw between his body and his enemy’s move. He saved himself as the move pushed him back off balance, only for him to see in horror as the dragon leaned into the momentum and smacked him with his girthy tail, sending Ciecro spiraling across the room and landing next to Clyde.

He coughed, as he rolled on his side, the pain in his shoulder now shared with an ache in his stomach and chest. Fuck. As his vision refocused, he saw Clyde was on his feet, fists raised.

“Get your tail in gear, Ciecro,” Clyde snarled, followed by a cough. “We’re not gonna win if we just charge him wildly.”

I know, ugh, Ciecro thought as he panted, rolling on his stomach to get to his feet. Not like I wanted tah ge’ hit.

By now the Haxorus was charging them again.

“Flames now!” Clyde ordered, thrusting his arms forward to unleash Flamethrower.

Ciecro quickly did his own, neglecting to get up from his knee so he could meet the request.

The Haxorus rushed to the side.

Clyde glanced at Ciecro. “Go help the ranger. I’ll keep him at bay!”

“Bu’ wha’ abou’ wha’ yah sai-”

“Do it asshole!” Clyde roared, putting more power behind his flames as the dragon was forced to defend himself due to the limited area to flee to.

With a minor snarl under his breath, Ciecro rushed over to the Scizor, who was leaning on the pole. “‘Ere, lean on me.” Ciecro grabbed the stranger by the side as the Scizor let go of the pole.

“Ugh…thanks.” He looked at Ciecro and instantly his gratitude went away. “Wait, you’re- I thought I told you boys to-” Their conversation was interrupted by Clyde’s flames being cut in half. The Monferno hopped back, backhand springing away from the slice, but the dragon flicked his free wrist to send a sputtering drone of a Flamethrower to strike the spot, knocking Clyde onto his back.

“Attack from the right,” the ranger whispered as he pulled himself free from Ciecro’s grip. His wings went light green and beat rapidly, a noise filling the room and green shockwave ripples hitting the Haxorus, who shielded himself with his arms from the onslaught.

Taking the opportunity, Ciecro rushed to the right and surged Thunder Punch in his right and Dragon Claw in his left. He charged the dragon from the side, leading with the claw to meet with the inevitable Dragon Claw from the mon.

As their moves clanked, Ciecro’s being the one that was knocked away, the Charmeleon used the momentum and lowered himself to drive the Thunderpunch for the dragon’s gut, but was forced to hop back as the dragon’s defending arm went to impale him.

The Bug Buzz’s force pushed the dragon back a little, exposing his back to Clyde who zipped forwards with Mach Punch to land another blow. However, the dragon swung his tail to parry the move and knock Clyde off balance.

“Clyde!” Ciecro shouted caught off guard Monferno looked up at the dragon, who brought his Dragon Claw down upon Clyde. However, the Monferno suddenly had a small pink hue around him and was yanked back by something invisible, saving him from the mighty Dragon Claw.

Clyde rolled on the ground and looked back. “What the-?”

“Can I hear a thank you?”

Ciecro looked over to see the smirking Braixen lowering her wand as the Bellibolt fired a Thundershock at the Red Eye, who countered by raising his Dragon Claw to block it.

The reenergized smile on Ciecro’s face vanished upon realizing something. “Clara! Where’s Jaron?”

Unfortunately, she was distracted by the Haxorus firing Flamethrower from his mouth at her and the Bellibolt. The two fired Psybeam and Thundershock, but their moves struggled against the stronger Incinerate.

Ciecro spotted the Scizor and Clyde get on the opposite sides and unleashed Bug Buzz and Flamethrower, to which the Haxorus spread his arms and fired Incinerates to counter each.

How can he be dat stron’? Is dis dah kinda enemies mom an’ dad fought? His eyes lowered, but he quickly shook his head. Focus nitwit! Hastily, he made his way to the two, thrusting his arms forwards to join them in pushing against the winning Incinerate.

“Where’s Jaron?” He shouted over the noise of their combined moves.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Wha’‽” Ciecro snapped, pushing his move out harder and leering at her.

“He was with us one second and then he just ran off. We tried to catch up with him, but we-”

He’d heard enough. “Can it! Jus’ keep pushin’ agains’ it!” Ciecro roared, stepping from the line of fire to rush around the Incinerate.

“Get back here! We need your-” The Braixen shouted, but had to refocus on firing back at the Incinerate, the duo now losing the battle again.

I know wha’ I’m doin’ bitch. Ciecro snarled in his mind as he shifted his anger towards his target. He surged Dragon Claw and closed in.

The Haxorus turned his head, attempting to make Ciecro the new target, but the Charmeleon kept rushing forwards. The dragon moved his right arm to aim for Ciecro, but the Charmeleon slid under the Incinerate and rushed straight for him now that he had his chance.

With a mighty roar, he stabbed for the Haxorus, keeping an eye out for the Haxorus’s tail. The dragon instead stopped firing Incinerate with his right and instead parried Ciecro’s stab with a smack on the move itself.

The Charmeleon backed off so Clyde’s Flamethrower could hit, thrusting his arms forwards to fire his own. The Haxorus roared as the flames engulfed him.

“Now!” Ciecro shouted, the duo fired Psybeam and Thundershock upon the swirl of flames. The last defending Flamethrower vanished as the Scizor fired Bug Buzz into the mass collision of moves.

Ciecro narrowed his eyes, trying to get a glimpse of their foe inside. Come on, be dead. His eyes widened and he gasped. He stopped firing and stepped back, a mix of surprise and fear across his face.

“Ciecro, what are you-” Clyde began but stopped as what Ciecro had seen became visible to them all.

Inside the various moves were black pockets of synergetic light that were growing in number as each second passed.

“What is he doing?” Clara asked, not relenting in her attack.

“Is he using Draco Meteor?” The Scizor exclaimed, flapping his wings faster to send out a stronger bug buzz. “How many ways does he know how to use that damn move.”

No, It’s black not dahk blue. It’s a dahk type move. Ciecro stepped back, ready to move around as he studied the move. “Oh no,” Ciecro turned around and ran as fast as he could. “It’s Payback!”

“Payback?” Everyone said as the Haxorus’s figure inside stood up amid the moves striking his body and swung his arms to the side with a mighty roar. Various beams of black synergy shot from his body, piercing the moves barraging him, knocking everyone off their feet and into the walls on the ends of the room. The walls ached from the strikes of the black beams as the ground cracked beneath the Haxorus.

A heavy breath from the Haxorus followed as he relaxed his muscles, glancing around the room at all his downed, bloodied opponents. His eyes turned to focus on Ciecro, who was struggling to get up.

Damnit, Ciecro coughed, holding his stomach until he felt his body suddenly lurch forwards uncontrollably like he was about to vomit. Wha’? He tightened his grip around himself as he felt the warmth in his body build up, so much so that even the blood he was bleeding felt hot. His vision was becoming hazy.

Wha’s happenin’ to me? He looked up at the Haxorus, a curious look in the dragon’s eyes. I… Ciecro could hear his heartbeat, beating in passion and viciousness. He slowly started getting to his feet, his vision, focus, and being all on the enemy. I’ll…kill… He could feel his mood shift to anticipation, a lust for rending this vile creature apart.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed movement. It was Clyde, struggling to pull himself up with a crate. The sight of the Monferno instantly pulled up the memory of towering of the bloodied mon’s face, ready to throw more punches into the downed boy. This created an opposing, fearful voice in Ciecro, one that immediately fought against this primal desire.

Blinking, Ciecro suddenly fell forwards once more, but this time it was intentional. W-w-wait. He started shivering uncontrollably. I-I can’t. I might hurt dah others. He repeated it in his mind, fighting the feelings building in, the arguments to let go so that he could stop this foe. I said I can’t! He cried in his mind, grabbing his head. I’m not ready! Dad, how do I get Death Wrath to stop!

A crashing sound broke him from his stalemate. He looked up at the Haxorus, who had turned in the direction of the noise, and raised his arm as an orange light made contact with him. The Haxorus was dropped to a knee, but surged Dragon Claw and swiped as a figure kicked off, back flipping, and landing nearby with acrobatic grace.

Ciecro’s eyes widened at seeing the Hitmonlee ranger, standing up and ready for battle. Dat means. Sure enough, the sound of water filled the room as a door on the opposite side was burst open by a formation of water that swirled into a wave to engulf the Haxorus.

The dragon thrust his arms forwards and swung them apart, cutting a hole for him through the Surf as the water disintegrated into blue orbs of light to avoid harming anyone else.

“You’re not getting away,” Humphry said, splashing in the vanishing shallows of his Surf as he entered, a look in his eyes Ciecro had never seen before. A look of pure, unfiltered anger.

The Haxorus lowered his arms, meeting Humphry’s emotion-filled stare with a blank one.

The Seismitoad raised his fists as the Haxorus browsed around.

Everyone was getting back on their feet, a circle forming around him.

“You’re outnumbered. Surrender now,” Humphry ordered as his scowl tightened. “Because that’s the only way you’ll live.”

A smile formed on Ciecro’s face as he took up position at the back. Despite the danger, Humphry was here and he was mad. He surged Dragon Claw and looked at Humphry for a cue, only for his smile to go as he remembered it wasn’t Gathor he was looking at, but Humphry.

“Death Wrath.”

Ciecro gasped, seeing the Haxorus facing him with a quizzical stare.

“That’s your gift, is it not?” The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “Why did you fight against it?

Ciecro shut his mouth tight. He instead readied his defense, his Dragon Claws gleaming as a response.

The Haxorus’s eyes narrowed. “You’re a strange Norfarion. But perhaps there is reason. You who are young in a place where none of your kind wander.”

He suddenly spun around and blocked a Mud Shot with a Flamethrower.

“I’m your opponent, you piece of garbage!” Humphry shouted, taking his fist up.

“Tck,” The Haxorus lowered his arm. “My opponent is beyond you and your line.”

“Whatever,” Humphry nodded. “Kids, stay out of the fight unless I need you for support. That’s an order.” Humphry pulled his arms back, blue light swirling underneath him. He flung them forward as he propelled the water like a wave, picking himself up along with it.

The Haxorus fired Incinerate at it, harsh steam erupting.

As Humphry went over, the Hitmonlee closed in, throwing kicks that the Haxorus started parrying. However, the Haxorus was pushed back as Humphry landed with a firm punch to the ground, sending out Mud Shot.

The two rangers and the dragon engaged in a heated clash, the coordination of the two struggling against the skill and power of the Haxorus.

Ciecro was awe-struck by the battle, he didn’t notice Clyde rushing up to him. “Hey, idiot.”

The Charmeleon blinked as Clyde grabbed his arm and yanked him for one of the boxes.

“We’re supposed to stay out of the way.”

Ciecro felt annoyance building, but let it out with a sigh. “Righ’.” They both looked out from their cover at the fight going on.

“What was that?”

“Hm?” Ciecro looked at Clyde, who gave him a serious stare, but not one out of anger or disgust.

“What that freak called, ‘Death Wrath’?”

“Oh, uh…” Ciecro looked back at the fight. “Now ain’ dah time.”

“Is that why you went mental on me three months ago?”

Ciecro tightened his mouth shut, his eyes lowering. “I don’ wanna… No, it wasn’.” Ciecro heard Clyde sigh and go silent. Damnit, why did he ‘ave tah ask me dat, Ciecro thought as a scowl formed on his face.

Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a yellow flash. Huh? Ciecro’s eyes widened as he saw the Bellibolt using Charge. “Wha’s he doin’?” Ciecro whispered to Clyde, who looked and his face went grave.

“Don-!” Clyde started, but it was too late. The Bellibolt fired a Thundershock at the Haxorus and Humphry. It surged upon the two, Humphry looking confused instead of harmed.

The Haxorus, on the other hand, flinched a little, but used this chance to spin and tail slam Humphry aside.

“Humphry!” Ciecro shouted, but looked back at the Haxorus to see him flick his wrist to send a quick Flamethrower bolt whizzing at the Bellibolt, striking him directly in the stomach. The boy pulled back, holding his stomach as he stumbled back a few steps, but managed to turn to the side as he was struck with another.

“Clyde!” Ciecro said, and Clyde nodded. The two of them climbed out of cover as the Haxorus turned to swipe away the Hitmonlee’s attempts at a sneaky Mega Kick.

Ciecro surged Dragon Claw and rushed in, his move clanking with the Haxorus’s knocking Ciecro onto his back but the Haxorus off balance.

Clyde stopped to shield Ciecro while he was prone as the Braixen took the offensive and fired Psybeam at the Haxorus while the Bellibolt was holding his burn wounds.

The Dragon blocked it with Dragon Claw but was pummeled by Bug Buzz from behind.

The Hitmonlee rushed in again with Mega Kick, forcing the Haxorus to block his other side with Dragon Claw.

“Go for the kill!” He shouted as Clyde helped Ciecro to his feet.

The two saw the prone Haxorus, bearing the brunt of the Bug Buzz and were about to rush in till they heard the dragon roar, “Enough!”

He lowered his head, a sphere forming at the tip of it, swirling with dark blue and orange energy.

“No, you don’t!” Clyde shouted as he rushed forwards, surging Mach Punch. He rushed in but was caught off guard as the Haxorus stepped forwards, attempting to ram the orb into him.

“Clyde!” Ciecro exclaimed, diving low and sweeping Clyde’s legs with his tail, just narrowly sparing him from the orb as the Haxorus raised his head, sending it upwards.

Ciecro looked up, the sphere flying up, breaking through the roof, and bursting above. “Run!” Ciecro pulled himself from under Clyde and grabbed the Monferno, trying to pull him away from the center, as the Haxorus looked up.

The sound of an explosion above resounded, followed by a crashing noise that grew ever louder.

Ciecro tried to get to where Humphry was getting up, but alas, he felt the floor give way as the ceiling caved in. The flames sputtering around shifted to pure darkness as he felt a blunt force strike him in the head.
Chapter 28: Friction (Weary)


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 28
Friction (Weary)

Jaron’s heart beat swiftly as he ran down the hallway. He spun to the side, grabbed the doorframe to yank himself in without losing momentum, and collided with the stair railing. “Vray!” He shouted, glancing down to try and get a glimpse of his friend. Although he didn’t see the Fraxure he heard the sound of a door being busted open.

He started racing down the stairs. I have to hurry! I can feel that ghost guy nearby.

His journey took him down to the second floor and wandering down the hallways, searching desperately through each door with a glance as he passed by. Where are you? He said in his mind, too afraid to shout it in case the Gengar would hear.

“Huh?” He came to an abrupt halt and stepped back to look through one door, eyes widening as a relieved smile formed on his face. “There you are.” Jogging over, Jaron slowed as his happy feelings shifted at what he saw.

Vragon had his hands pressed against the wall, eyes staring towards the meeting of the wall with the floor. They bore the tiniest pupils he had ever seen in the Fraxure’s eyes, shivering with a fear that made Jaron’s body faintly shake at seeing it. The heavy pants were the kind one had after a long run and the atmosphere of the room felt caged.

“Vray?” Jaron said, but the Fraxure didn’t answer, simply staying in that position attempting to calm down, at least that’s what Jaron assumed.

The Croconaw gulped and walked to the side, moving so Vragon could see him. “Vray?” Being up close, Jaron noticed Vragon’s right arm was twitching more than the left one.

Glancing back at the door, Jaron took a deep breath. “Vray, we need to get you out of here.” The lack of a response prompted Jaron to ask again while placing a hand on Vragon’s shoulder to try and help soothe the Fraxure. “It’s gonna be-Ah!” He fell back as Vragon swiped at him with his bare claws. “Woah, woah, Vray, calm down!” Jaron exclaimed, pushing his arms forwards as Vragon leered down at him like a cornered feral. “It’s me.” He pressed his hands against his chest.

Vragon blinked and then grabbed his head, beginning to groan. “Ugh, Jaron?” His eyes shot wide as he looked at the Croconaw. “Oh no, Jaron, I didn’t mean-”

“I’m fine.” Jaron gave Vragon an encouraging grin as he got up. “What happened?”

“I-” They both looked at the door as a crashing sound filled the hallways.

“On second thought, tell me later.” Jaron grabbed Vragon by the wrist and pulled him out of the room, glancing down the hallway at whatever was going on. There were remnants of purple light as two figures zipped into a room, too fast to make them out clearly. “Shit, we need to go.”

“Hey!” Vragon protested as Jaron pulled him along.

“No time, we’ve got to get out and regroup with the others.”


“Ciecro and others that came to help.” Jaron stopped suddenly, glancing back. Wait, where did they go? His thoughts were interrupted as Vragon asked.

“What about Ergon?”

“Huh?” Jaron blinked, confusion covering his expression as he faced Vragon. “Who?”

“Ergon. The mon that helped me earlier.”

“Wait, you had help?”

“Yeah, he’s-” An explosion happened down the hall, gaining their stares.

Jaron scowled as he looked at Vragon and then back down the hallway. I’ll see later. Right now, he yanked Vragon again and hurried for the stairs. Getting you to safety is the priority.

“Wait, Jaron!”

“No, you’re what they’re after so we need to get you out of here.” Jaron snapped, not bothering to look back as he led Vragon. His harsh rebuttal shut down any further protesting from Vragon as the two hurried on down the stairwell and into the hallway that led to the front lobby.

Unfortunately, as they neared the front lobby, Jaron stopped and looked up. Not him again! Jaron snarled as his Wary grew more intense. A few seconds later a familiar purple blob came from the ceiling, eyeing the two with a tired and frustrated stare.

“Just get out of the way!” Jaron snarled, surging his Slash as the Gengar surged Shadow Claw.

“Oh, you think you’re annoyed right now?” The Gengar snapped, looking from Jaron to Vragon.

“Spare me.” Jaron opened his maw and fired Ice Beam, the ghost phasing into the floor. However, Jaron had angled it so that the Ice Beam only covered the floor. “Hang on!” Jaron pulled Vragon and rushed forwards, hopping onto the ice and using his arm to help steady Vragon as they slid down the frozen path.

The ghost came out of the wall and chased after them. Jaron yanked Vragon behind him and fired Scald as the Gengar fired Shadow Ball, the moves colliding into a repulse that sped Vragon and Jaron up. When the ice ended they both went tumbling into the wide floor of the lobby.

Jaron quickly got up and fired Ice Beam at the passage to seal it up, but the ghost broke through before it was complete. The Croconaw rushed to defend Vragon from the ghost’s rush, meeting Shadow Claw with a large chomp of Crunch.

“What the? Let go!” The Gengar snarled, trying to wretch his Shadow Claw hand out of the Croconaw’s mouth, but the grip of Jaron’s Crunch was too great. “Fine then!” The Gengar surged Shadow Claw into his right and went for the plunge, but Jaron, with a muffled snarl, blocked it with his left, surging Slash into an arm guard with sharp, wrist-facing hooks.

Vex gasped as Jaron moved his right arm, blue synergy swirling in for Scald. However, nothing came out, just a minor sputter.

Come on! Jaron snarled, his scowl lessening as the Gengar gave him a dark smirk.

“Oh, I see. Someone hasn’t mastered that synergy skill yet.”

Jaron’s breathing picked up as the Gengar’s eyes shifted into pink and blue circles that went outwards in his eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you will someday.”

The Croconaw shut his eyes, giving a muffled gasp as the Gengar started pulling again and ceased attacking from the left. Jaron looked again, only to see the Gengar smack on with the back of his Shadow Claw, sending Jaron tumbling into a roll.

“Ouch.” Jaron shook his head and looked up, seeing Vragon trying to blast him with Dragon Breath, but it being shut down by the Gengar flying around it and ramming into him, sending the Fraxure into the wall. “Vray!” Jaron gasped and rolled into the front of the hallway to evade. As he got up and raised his arms for a follow-up, he stopped in horror, seeing the Gengar pull his arms together as light began enveloping them.

“Lights out, or should I say, lights on!” As he was about to spread his arms, something flew in front of him, a barrier of white light separating him and the searing pink beams of Dazzling Gleam.

“Are you injured?” A Mismagius inquired, looking back at him.

“No.” Jaron started getting to his feet, suddenly gasping. “He’s not there!”

“Huh?” The Mismagius looked back to see the Gengar was gone. A second later something surged from the floor, slamming her into her own Protect from below.

“That’s for last time.” Vex surged Shadow Claw to go for the kill, but the Mismagius stopped using protect. Both ghosts went flying through the disintegrating shield. The Mismagius tried to fire a point-blank Shadow Ball, but Vex countered by tossing her at a wall. As the dazed Mismagius tried to recooperate, Vex pointed his hand at her, a Shadow Ball forming at the tips of his fingers. “And this is for Siggy.”

“No!” Jaron opened his maw to fire, hoping he would be fast enough. He felt the breath leave his body as something whizzed past his head, a Water Shuriken that sliced the Gengar on the side, sending green fluid dripping onto the floor.

“Agh!” Vex grabbed his cheek, looking back at Jaron before his eyes widened. “Not you again!”

Jaron turned to look behind but was shoved out of the way before he could. “Hey!” He exclaimed, looking back to see a Greninja lunge at the ghost with a rising slash of a Night Slash blade. The ghost flew out of range and darted around the room, as the Greninja flung Night Slash kunai.

“Get him out!”

Jaron didn’t move, staring at the figure in frozen silence. He tried to mumble out words, but no sound came out. You’re…you’re- Jaron suddenly felt his arm grabbed.

“Come on,” Vragon exclaimed, pulling Jaron to his feet for the door.

“Bu-” Jaron glanced back, seeing the Greninja and Mismagius battling against the Gengar fiercely.

As they exited the lobby, there was a loud explosion, followed by shaking that caused the two to fall on their faces.

Jaron rolled on his back and looked up, terror filling him as he saw parts of the building come down. “Vray!” He dove over his confused friend as slabs fell nearby, thankfully far enough to not harm them.

The Croconaw looked around, his nerves calming down slightly. “You alright?” He asked, getting off of Vragon who spat out some dirt.

“Yes,” Vragon grumbled, spitting out some of the dirt and looking up. “What happe-”

Their looks froze in fear as something broke out of a window above them. The two saw a brief flash of dark blue before having to shield their faces from the falling glass. Suddenly, there was a loud crackle of synergy and a repulse that propelled both boys onto their backs.

“Ugh,” Jaron sat up and saw the Haxorus from before standing up, his legs engulfed in a dark blue hue of Dragon Claw that dissipated as he turned towards them. “How did-” Jaron opened his mouth to fire Ice Beam, but a flick of the dragon’s wrist sent a quick flying Incinerate that struck him on the shoulder, knocking him back onto his side.

“Jaron!” Vragon rushed over to him, helping him sit up.

Jaron snarled, holding his shoulder, which now had a black burn mark over the scales. Jaron’s anger shifted to fear as he detected their opponent coming. “Vray, run-” Before they could, a white flash zipped around and struck the Haxorus from the side.

The Haxorus was knocked slightly off balance, looking to the right as Jasmine came out of Quick Attack and sent a Psycho Cut his way. He leaped back, barely avoiding it as it struck the side of the fence.

“Get to cover you two!” Jasmine shouted, the boys scrambling for a set of boxes as a barrage of moves could be heard. However, their rush was cut short as another quick Incinerate struck the ground nearby, prompting both to stop their rushing.

The Haxorus’s eyes narrowed as he walked towards them, suddenly swinging his arm as a white blur tried slamming into him. Jasmine went sailing over him and tumbled to the ground.

“Ack!” She got up, shaking her head in surprise and disorientation. “That didn’t work.”

“Jaz look out!” Jaron shouted as she zipped to the side to avoid another Incinerate aiming for her.

An orange sphere flew in to intercept it. The Haxorus scoffed, turning to face his new foe.

Dolly surged Dizzy Punch. “Take positions around him. Wait for my signal.” The mons behind her began to disperse.

“You boys alright?”

Jaron jumped as a Heracross joined their spot. “Come on, we need to get you guys to safety.” He helped Vragon up and reached out for Jaron, who was reluctant to grab on. “Wait are you waiting for?”

Looking back at the building, Jaron’s earlier stupor started to wear off. “N-no.”

“What?” Vragon asked, as confused as the Heracross was.

“Ciecro is in there. I’ve got to help him out.”

“Boy, the building just had an explos-”

“It’s not coming down you dolt!” Jaron shouted, pointing up at it. “It only happened near the upper portions and would have caved in already if-”

His words were interrupted by a Shadow Ball coming out of the door, heading for the dragon who swiped it away with a smack of his arm.

The Mismagius gained altitude as she fired more, while the Greninja rushed outward to throw Night Slash kunai. The Haxorus hopped away from both and responded with his Incinerates, which clanked on the Mismagius’s shield.

Seliph. Jaron sealed his jaw shut. His body almost felt ethereal. His hand slowly moved up, as if reaching out to touch him, but Jaron pulled it back. No, I… He looked back at the building. Ciecro’s in trouble. Don’t bother with anything else.

“Now!” He heard Dolly shout as she charged with four others, some other mons firing range moves ahead of them to soften up the Haxorus’s defenses.

The Heracross grabbed Jaron by the side and pulled him. “Come on, kid, we need to, Owww!”

Jaron bit the arm and pulled away, rushing for the entrance.

“Jaron! Come back!” Vragon shouted, wrestling out of the grip too.

“Wait, kids!” The Heracross tried to follow but was cut off by a stray move striking nearby.

Jaron about stumbled his way in, the sounds of moves whizzing through the air behind almost urging his body to rise swiftly out of fear of getting hit. He’s gotta be above. Find the stairs! Jaron rushed forwards but was suddenly tackled to the ground. “Get off me!” He turned and gasped, seeing not Vragon above him but Seliph.

His blue eyes looked cold, almost annoyed as they stared down at Jaron. “What do you think you’re doing?” He asked, harshness in his tone as he took his knee off Jaron.

“What are you doing?” Jaron snapped back, his normal sass elevated by his temper. “I’m trying to find Ciecro.”’

Seliph’s eyes widened. “He’s here?”

“Yes, you stupid dummy,” Jaron stood up, snarling at his older brother. “He and some others came here with me.”

The Greninja facepalmed. “Of course, he would,” he mumbled under his breath, the way he said it making Jaron’s blood boil.

“Ergon?” Vragon asked, walking up to the duo. “What’s-”

Jaron grumbled. “His name isn’t Ergon. He’s Seliph.”

Vragon’s jaw dropped, till Jaron lightly tapped him on the snout. “Be surprised later. My brother could be seriously hurt.”

“Oh, right.”

Jaron shut his eyes for a second. “I don’t sense the ghost nearby. So we shouldn’t need to be careful.”

“Alright.” The Greninja gestured forwards. “Lead the way.”

“Gladly,” Jaron answered, giving Seliph a leer as he jogged forwards, the other two following closely behind. As they made their way down the halls and up the stairs, Jaron tried processing all these sudden things. Maybe…I shouldn’t have been so harsh. But, just, the moment. I dunno, this is all so badly timed. He rounded the final steps and went through the door, glancing both ways. I mean, it still feels a little unreal that he’s here. He responded to me saying his name so he’s got to be-

“Which way?” The Greninja inquired, impatiently.

“Oh…I went this way so let’s go that way.” Jaron took the lead again, followed by an alert Seliph and a still confused Vragon.

Jaron could feel his arms shaking as he placed them on the wall to look around. Just stop. You need to focus. But how could he focus? First an attack by a seemingly invincible mon, second his brother could be in jeopardy, and lastly, his brother gone for eight years was now right behind him. Jaron wanted to scream. I need to focus. Ciecro may need me right now. Jaron forced the uncomfortable memory of not taking the shot when he needed to, hoping it would help motivate him to action. Saving Ciecro deserved all his attention.

He led them around the corner, glancing about as they hurried onwards.

“Where are we going?” Vragon asked.

“I remember sensing there were some adversaries near the middle portion of the building. That might be where Ciecro and the rest ended up.”

“Perhaps. I know the rangers probably entered this building by now,” Seliph added as they rounded the corner.

The three entered a large central room. Its floor was littered with rubble and newly formed holes in its floor. The metal rods holding up scaffolding remained sturdy.

Jaron gulped as he glanced upwards at the various pockets of fire above. Please be alright.

“Alright, let’s hurry up and look around. Watch out for any debris from above.”

“Right,” the two boys said as the trio split up to search different piles.

Jaron felt his nerves shiver up again, the thoughts creeping back after his focus had shut them down. No, he’d be…He’s gotta be okay. Jaron shoved the fear aside and rushed to the nearest rubble pile. He flinched at hearing a noise inside. “Vray, someone is in here! Help me!” The Fraxure joined him and after about a minute of frantic digging, they helped pull out a very injured Scizor.

“Sir?” Jaron asked, the mon rolling onto his back and groaning.

Jaron spotted Vragon reaching his hand out and snarled. “Don’t you even think about it.”

Vragon leered but relented, as the mon started opening his eyes.


“See he’s fine.” Jaron stood up. “I’m going to check over here.”

“I’ll go there,” Vragon stated, standing up and jogging over to the pile. His tone was blank and low, something that made Jaron feel instant regret as the Croconaw knelt at the next pile.

I’m sorry, Vray, but it’s just too dangerous right now. As he started pushing on a massive slab, the thoughts returned. I don’t care if it seems to be the same thing. Vragon is in trouble, so it’s not same. With a heavy grunt, Jaron pushed the slab over. And it’s not like I hate Seliph for it. He’s here now so that’s something. I just wish he’d- He reached down and started lifting another one. Didn’t leave us here alone saying if we left we’d be... It came crashing off, leaving Jaron huffing a little. I don’t care to say it. It was stupid of him to say it anyways. Jaron glanced over at Seliph, who was still hard at work on another pile.

“Need help?”

Jaron nodded, reaching for the next rubble slab, this time joined by the Scizor’s large pincers clamping down on it.

“One, two, three, heave!”

Jaron grit his jaw as they lifted it up, flipping it over on the other side. Gasping, Jaron threw himself on the pile of rubble, tossing it around to the Scizor’s surprise.

“Hey! Careful, you almost hit me.”

The boy didn’t care, his eyes and focus were fixated on small flickers of orange light below. As he shuffled more aside, he saw the light’s origin was from some kind of fire. Come Ciecro, please. Jaron begged as he dug deeper, seeing the fire as proof his brother was alive.

The stunned Scizor soon started helping as they removed more bits, revealing the flickers of a tail flame. However, Jaron was dismayed, stopping his progress at seeing the orange fur the flame was burning on.

Clyde… A scowl formed as he kept working on the rubble until they pulled the Monferno out. “How is he?”

A cough from the Monferno was enough to answer that question. “Ugh, what in-” Clyde held his side, groaning. “What is…” his weary eyes looked at the two staring down at him. “Who are?”

I don’t have time for this. Jaron picked up Clyde by the shoulders and brought him up to a sitting position. “Support him.”

“Uh…okay.” The Scizor got behind as Jaron took the front.

“Clyde, wake up.” Jaron lightly shook the Monferno, who was starting to show more signs of awareness. “Where’s my brother? He was with you when I last saw him.”

“Ugh, huh? Jaron?”

The Croconaw snarled, “Focus Clyde.”

Clyde looked around, the way he was looking seemed to indicate he was having blurry vision. He groaned as he held his head. “What happen-”

“For the love of Arceus, Clyde, answer the damn question!” Jaron latched his arms onto Clyde’s shoulders, making the Monferno flinch. “You awake now, punk?”

Clyde started fighting Jaron’s grip. “Let go of me,” he replied in a disoriented tone. Suddenly, a dark blade of synergy appeared in front of the two, causing Jaron and Clyde to pull back.

“Are you awake now?”

Jaron looked up to see Seliph looking down at Clyde, the Night Slash katana in his hands having the sharp end turned towards Clyde.

“W-who are you? Get that away from-” It moved closer instead, prompting the Monferno to pull back.

“Hey!” The Scizor protested.

“Answer his question,” Seliph said in a low, uncaring tone.

Jaron got up, looking at his brother in surprise. “Don’- Don’t hurt him.”

Seliph looked at Jaron. “Don’t think so little of-”

“I don’t know what to think right now,” Jaron uttered a heavy sigh. “Look, there’s a lot I want to say but-”

He was cut off by Seliph letting his move disintegrate. He instead grabbed Clyde and lifted him up.

“Dyaaa!” Clyde screamed, making Jaron and the Scizor flinch.

“Alrighty, awake? Good.” Seliph set Clyde down near some rubble. “Now answer.”

“I uh…” Clyde’s head lowered. “I don’t know. The last thing I remember was the place coming down on top of us.”

Jaron wasn’t sure whether to be relieved by that fact or bothered.

“He’s got to be in one of these-”

“Oh God.”

Everyone looked to see Vragon back away from something, sitting down, and holding his mouth shut.

“Vray? What did you find?” Jaron jogged over, immediately regretting looking as he turned away.

“What?” Clyde said, walking over with a few stumbles along the way. “Clyde, wait.” Jaron cut him off, but Clyde pushed him aside. Clyde’s face went white, a stark change that shook Jaron to the core.

Clyde wretched himself on the large rubble slab, pushing it. “Help me!”

Jaron and Vragon shared a look, both afraid of what they would discover, especially since there was a small pool of blood at the base of a white-furred hand. Alas, the two mustered their courage and held their breaths, taking position on the slab and pushing up. Clyde shifted to pulling at the arm, hoping he could drag the trapped person on. “Come on, Clara. Just a little,”

He fell backward as a snapping sound filled the room.

Jaron let go and looked back, seeing Clyde staring down at the arm lying there, his eyes filled with disbelief.

Jaron wanted to say something but couldn’t, choosing instead to silently gaze at the side. Clyde… He looked at the other side of the pile, where the Seliph and Scizor were checking.

“Fuck!” The Scizor pulled back, putting pincers over his face while Seliph let out a heavy sigh.

“It’s not Ciecro, thank Arceus.” Seliph knelt. “Poor kid.”

Clyde’s expression went white.

For the first time ever, Jaron felt sorry for Clyde truly. He wanted to say something but neglected to. However, he snapped to attention as Clyde rose.

“That…son of a bitch!” Clyde raced for the exit, but the Scizor grabbed him before he could get far. “Let me go! I’ll kill that piece of-”

“Settle down! I order you to calm down!”

Jaron watched, seeing the anger on Clyde’s face filled Jaron with rage himself, even if he neglected to show it on his face.


He looked to see Seliph stepping up from another pile. “Keep looking. He’s got to be around here somewhere if he didn’t fall to the lower floor.”

The Croconaw scowled at that last part but chose to ignore it and began searching again.

“I’m sure he’s alright.”

Jaron didn’t respond to Vragon as the Fraxure started helping him work on another pile of rubble. As they did, the Fraxure started mumbling, “So…that Ergon guy. He’s Seliph.”


“…Do you want to talk abou-”

“Just dig,” Jaron said firmly.


“I said I don’t want to talk-”

“No, over here.” Vragon got up and climbed over the rubble, looking at the other side.

Jaron stood up to look as well. There was a spot in the rubble where a hole had already been made, traces of tampering visible too.

“Did you two find something?” The Scizor asked, joining them.

“Maybe, what about Clyde?” Vragon asked as the Scizor glanced back at the Monferno curled up in the corner.

There was an awkward silence, not changed even with Seliph joining them.

“Anyways, about this pile,” Vragon gestured to the hole. “I think someone climbed out of this end.

“Well, that hole is too small to be Humphry or Mallaidh,” the Scizor commented, prompting Jaron’s eyes to widen and a small smile to form.

“Then it’s got to be Ciecro!” Jaron’s happiness died down as he browsed the room. “But, why would he just leave? That’s not something he’d do.”

The Scizor rubbed his metal cheek with his pincer. “Well…maybe it’s related to that Death Wrath thing.”

Jaron and Seliph looked at the mon, who froze at being put on the spot.

“Go on,” Jaron asked, barely able to contain himself.

“Just well…I saw during the fight Ciecro sort of have a … moment? I don’t know how to describe it. Just that the Haxorus guy called it Death Wrath.”

Seliph stroked his chin. “If he was under Death Wrath he could very well get out of this rubble.”

“But then where would he go?”

The Greninja looked at the hole in the wall they entered from. “If he hasn’t learned to better control it, he’d be like a feral. Latching onto the strongest synergy source and attempt to dominate it.”

Oh no. Jaron looked at the hole and rushed for it, only to be grabbed by the arm by Seliph. “What are you-? Ciecro’s in trouble!”

“You stay here and help find the missing rang-”

“No!” Jaron wrenched his arm from Seliph. “He’s my brother too”

“Jaron this is no time to argue. I understand you’re excited and overwhelmed but-”

“Oh shove it!” Jaron snapped. “I’m not some stupid kid that you can just order to stay put. I’m older now. I can fight too.”

Seliph’s eyes narrowed as Jaron pressed a claw to his chest.

“Like I said, he’s my brother too. I’m coming whether you like it or not.”

Seliph rolled his eyes as a heavy sigh followed. “Fine, but once we get him, I want you to stay out of the thick of things with Ciecro. Now stay close.”

Jaron let out a deep breath, a bit shaky after taking such a stand, and followed.

“What about me?” Vragon asked, prompting Jaron to look back.

“You should stay here. That ghost got cut up enough that I’m confident he’d have fallen back” Seliph said.


“Humphry and Mallaidh are still missing. Plus, you should help keep an eye on him.” Jaron’s head nudged towards Clyde in the corner.

Vragon sighed. “Alright.”

With that settled, the pair of brothers rushed for the stairs. Jaron followed behind Seliph, his mind now having the chance to let his questions and thoughts run wild. After a while, Jaron finally decided to ask one of the questions. “Seliph…what’s going on?”

The Greninja didn’t answer as they left the staircase.

“Why didn’t you try and conta-”

“Jaron.” Seliph stopped in the hallway, giving Jaron a firm stare. “Now, is a really bad time.”

The Croconaw could see the frustration in his older brother’s gaze, making him feel small like when he was eight. “Fine…later then.”

No reply followed, making Jaron bothered as they rushed down the hallway. I wasn’t suggesting, Seliph.

As they exited the building they were met with a colorful display of moves flying around, as the fight against the Haxorus had moved to the street. The fence was practically knocked down as some mons were behind structures to catch their breath or healing the injuries of others.

Up ahead, Jaron saw the fight going on. The Haxorus swiped away three melee mons while firing Incinerate at a group of flying mons incoming at him.

“Keep your distance!” Dolly shouted, flinging a Focus Blast at the Dragon who angled his body to avoid it.

Dismay filled his soul at seeing the Haxorus still have the upper hand despite all the mons opposing him. “I don’t see Ciecro.”

Seliph looked equally confused. “Strange, he had a head start. Why wouldn’t-” Both froze at the sound of panting behind them.

They both turned around, Jaron gasping and rushing for the entrance. “Ciecro!” He exclaimed as the Charmeleon collapsed on all fours, an unconscious Hitmonlee rolling off of him as Ciecro panted heavily.

As Jaron tried to rush to his brother, he was pulled back by Seliph. “Remember, Death Wrath.”

“But…” Jaron looked up. “You mean he wouldn’t recognize me?”

“I don’t know. But I’m not taking any chances.” Seliph stepped aside, pulling Jaron along as they stared at the Charmeleon. Jaron felt the growls in his head, how primalistic they sounded, and how much they intimidated him in a way similar to his Wary activating.

“Stay back,” Seliph said, letting go of Jaron and slowly walking over to Ciecro. The Charmeleon snarled, twitching slightly as Seliph held his hands out.

“Easy. Be calm.” He whispered calmly, the tone Seliph took being the most familiar to Jaron.

Ciecro looked at Seliph, his eyes pure red light with small black pupils in the middle that were barely visible. It made Jaron quiver at the sight as Seliph knelt in front, placing his hands on Ciecro’s shoulders.

“Good, now just try and calm down. Rest.” Seliph rubbed Ciecro’s shoulders. “I know you want to fight, but you aren’t in posi-” Seliph gasped as Ciecro started to stand up.

Ciecro’s eyes were looking past Seliph, looking straight for the Haxorus. A vicious roar followed as Ciecro started to step forwards, Seliph immediately pushing him back.

“No, you-” Seliph began but hopped back as Ciecro swiped at him with his claw. “You need to cal-” Seliph evaded another blow, the Charmeleon letting his arms sag. “Easy, easy does it.”

Ciecro looked back at the Haxorus fight, seeing the mons being pushed back with Dolly taking the aggressive charge.

“Ciecro,” Seliph leaned in saying, “Mom and Dad wouldn’t want you to pick this fight.”

Jaron’s eyes widened as he felt his blood boil at hearing this. Don’t you dare speak for them! He stepped forwards, wanting so badly to retort it, but relented to the conclusion it wouldn’t help calm Ciecro down..

Ciecro looked up at Seliph, his fierce gaze softening slightly, indicating there was some thought behind those primal eyes.

“Yes. You understand. What’s important is getting you and Jaron out of harm’s way. This situation will be dealt with.”

Ciecro’s head lowered, shaking to and fro. Suddenly, there was a loud crackle as Seliph’s eyes went from softened understanding to wide with surprise.

“No!” Jaron shouted as he watched Ciecro slam a Thunder Punch right into Seliph’s gut, the electricity erupting all over him, only ceasing once the punch was taken away from Seliph’s stomach. The Greninja collapsed forwards, holding his stomach as Ciecro stared down at him for a second before rushing after the Haxorus.

Jaron rushed to Seliph’s side.

“Just,” Seliph coughed. “Just keep Ciecro out of harm’s way.”

The Croconaw nodded and rushed on after his brother.

Up ahead, Dolly was fighting the Haxorus, with a few mons offering range support whenever they could. Her Dizzy Punches were a solid defense against his onslaught, so much so she could even go for an offensive jab now and then. However, her steady focus was disrupted by seeing Ciecro charging.

“Stay back Cie-” She gasped at seeing his eyes. She shifted to try and get between the dragon type and Ciecro, but Ciecro hopped onto her back and used her to spring off of. Ciecro twirled over the dragon, swiping with Dragon Claw while the Haxorus deflected it with his tusk.

Once landing, Ciecro rushed in with a flurry of swipes, all blocked by the Haxorus.

“Dolly!” Jaron shouted, joining her side with Slash surging.

“Jaron, stay back,” she ordered, about to rush in.

“Wait!” Jaron grabbed her by the arm, saying, “You shouldn’t join.”

“Why not?”

“Ciecro might….” Jaron paused as his stare lowered. “Might hurt you.”

Dolly’s face shifted to surprise before her eyes shut, followed by a heavy sigh. “Alright.” She called out to the other mons nearby, “Focus on the fires and protecting civilians. Rangers, set up a perimeter.”

Everyone scurried off to obey her orders, yet were all captivated by Ciecro fighting the Haxorus. The dragon’s skill eventually started to catch up to Ciecro’s early blitz, pushing the Charmeleon on the defensive.

“He needs our help,” Jaron said as Dolly agreed with a nod. Whistling, Dolly pointed forwards. “Jaz, cut through the middle to separate them.” She moved her arms to the side as Jasmine pranced forwards into a Quick Attack, forming a Focus Blast between her large palms. “Jaron, when I send this, aim for the Haxorus with Ice Beam.”

Sure enough, Jasmine’s white blur zipped between the two, causing both to step back. Dolly fired, blasting the two away, as Jaron fired Ice Beam at where the Haxorus would land.

Alas, the dragon quickly sent an Incinerate to collide with his move, allowing enough time for him to rush forwards and avoid it.

Ciecro also charged forwards, the two swinging their Dragon Claws and roaring.

Seeing this, Jaron rushed forwards to help, but the clashing of the moves sent a harsh dark blue flash that made him stop. Jaron watched in stunned awe as the two Dragon Claws tore at each other on a synergetic level as if they were trying to merge into the other.

Ciecro went for a swipe with his other one, but the dragon caught it.

“Perhaps I misjudged you.” The Haxorus said as a red glow erupted from the dragon’s claw holding Ciecro’s wrist tightly.

Ciecro let out a pained cry and broke off his other claw to try and strike the arm, only for the Haxorus to deflect it with Dragon Claw before shoving his claw on Ciecro’s face and pinning him to the ground.

“Ciecro!” Jaron rushed forwards, but the Haxorus sent Incinerate from his mouth that would have engulfed him had Jasmine not rammed him on the side with Quick Attack. The two rolled onto the side, looking to see the Haxorus stand up over Ciecro, red energy filling his body.

“Get off of him!” Dolly shouted, rushing forwards for a strike at what she assumed was the Haxorus in a prone state. However, the dragon spun, whacking her on the side with his tail and causing her to slide down.

“Hrm?” He looked to see someone rushing for him.

“Die!” Clyde screamed, shoving forwards a sharp metal rod from the fence that had been chipped away during the battle.

“Clyde, get back here!” The Scizor chasing him shouted as Clyde stabbed with the metal rod.

The Haxorus parried it and spun around, slamming Clyde away with his tail as Dragon Breath struck the dragon from the side.

“Get Clyde!” Vragon shouted at the Scizor. Upon seeing the Haxorus look at him, Vragon squeaked and cowered back, only for Dolly to step in front.

“Vray you shouldn’t be here,” She grumbled, tossing another Focus Blast at the dragon.

“I’m sorry, Clyde got away an- What happened to Ciecro!”

Vragon joined Jaron at Ciecro’s side, helping the Croconaw support him.

“Rangers, give us some cover fire!” Dolly shouted, as the Mothim and Mismagius rangers flew up and hurled moves from above while the others fired from below.

“Come on, wake up!” Jaron shouted above the noise, shaking his brother while Dolly took over supporting him.

After what felt like an eternity, Ciecro started grumbling and his eyes started to open. “Huh? Dya!”

Jaron hugged Ciecro tightly, making the Charmeleon push him away. “Ge’ off me!”

“Sorry, I just-Ah!” Jaron screamed as Ciecro dove on top of him. The sounds of moves whizzing around filled his mind accompanied by Dolly, Jasmine, and Vragon crying out in pain.

Once Ciecro got off of him, the two looked back, seeing Vragon and Jasmine struggling to get up after having been knocked back a decent distance.

Gasping, Jaron looked back, seeing Dolly and Undo as the only ones still on their feet as the Haxorus charged for them again.

The Camerupt Ranger slammed his hooves to send a rippling into the ground at the Haxorus, who easily leaped over, right into Dolly’s Focus Blast. Alas, it was swiped away by a backhanded Dragon Claw and the Haxorus landed in front of her. She swung Dizzy Punch and he swung Dragon Claw, the force of their collision uprooting some of the dirt.

Dolly snarled in desperation, trying to hold him back.

“Dolly!” Ciecro shouted, getting up to help, but before he could the dragon broke off.

Clyde swung the metal rod around, trying to cut the dragon’s stomach as he leaped back.

“Clyde stop!” Dolly shouted, trying to grab him, but the Monferno was too fast.

He went for a plunge, throwing all his weight into a speedy skewer. Jaron and Ciecro watched in stunned silence as the pole was parried and Clyde lurched back, the dark blue energy of Dragon Claw extending through his back. Blood poured onto the ground as the Monferno sagged like a sack of vegetables.

“No!” Ciecro roared, rushing for the Haxorus only to have Clyde be flung on top of him.

Jaron came to Ciecro’s aid. The Charmeleon’s spat and wiped at his blood-covered face.

“Dat piece of-”

Jaron glanced back at Dolly and Undo trying to force the Haxorus back with Focus Blast and Earthquake. You… Something snapped in Jaron’s head, his fear was gone. He rushed from his brother and stopped next to Dolly, firing Ice Beam at the dragon.

The Haxorus, who was in a mid-hop evade from the others, could only block with his arms as the beam struck his body and knocked him back. He slid on the ground, stopping on a defensive knee as his body shivered from the newfound cold.

Yeah, bet it feels cold, Jaron said in his head. His moxie went away as he saw Draco Meteor forming at the tip of his head.

“Don’t let it launch!” Dolly shouted, thrusting her arms forwards, but before she or anyone else could fire, the Haxorus was swamped by a massive wave.

What in- Humphry! Jaron looked left, seeing the Seismitoad walking towards the receding Surf and the Haxorus, who getting up from the water.

He was covered with dirt and cuts. Humphry roared and slammed the ground, sending Mud Shot at the Haxorus, who defended himself but was pinned against the wall.

“You evil creature! Stabbing Mecks in the back wasn’t enough for you?” Humphry glared as the Haxorus stood back up, covered in the brown glowing mud. Humphry swung his arms, sending another Surf wave at him. “You had to kill kids too!”

The Haxorus fired Incinerate, breaking up the wave as it crashed around him.

“Well, I’m done.” Humphry slammed his hands together and pulled them apart, revealing an ice crystal object in his hands. “Everybody stay back! I’m killing this evil thing myself!”

Despite their eagerness to assist, none of the rangers questioned Humphry’s words, instead staying in their earlier semi-circle perimeter.

Humphry flung the crystal into the air. It shattered and caused a swirl of glowing cyan clouds to appear that started raining cold, hard ice down inside the semi-circle set up by the rangers. Crossing his arms, Humphry had streams of water orbit his body before merging into himself, giving off a glowing blue aura.

Hail and Aqua Ring. Jaron commented as he looked at the Haxorus, who remained stoic despite the pelting of the Hail.

Humphry’s fists clenched. “I said it before, I’m your opponent! Now fight me!” Humphry rushed forwards, as did the Haxorus.

Ciecro tried to rush in, but Dolly held him back.

Everyone there watched in anxious silence as the two battle-ready mons neared each other.

Jaron’s eyes widened as there was a blue flash. A Water Shuriken cut between the two, causing both mons to halt their charge.

The Haxorus suddenly looked down, his eyes going wide for the first time since Jaron had seen him. The dragon’s form vaporized as a blue pillar of light beamed upwards, cutting through the Hail clouds and disappearing into the cloudy sky.

Humphry stared dumbfounded, as the Greninja stood up nearby. “You!” Humphry shouted, stomping towards Seliph. “Why did you-!”

“We weren’t winning that fight.” Seliph motioned his arms around, “Look around you. You want to risk your town for this?”

Humphry grabbed Seliph’s arm tightly. “Then what do you propose we do about it now that they can regroup?”

Seliph replied, “We do the same.” Seliph pulled his arm out of Humphry’s grasp, rubbing it as he elaborated, “We get Vragon and my brothers to Vergium Town. I have some associates that are-”

“Wait,” Jaron jogged over, much to Seliph’s annoyance and Humphry’s concern. “What if they come back to tow-”

“Those guys are exactly why we need to get out of here. They’re here for Vragon and you two are also a potential aim for them. This town can’t defend against them and will burn.” Seliph leered at Jaron and then at Humphry. “I’m sure you know about what I said eight years ago, don’t you?”

Humphry’s stare stiffened.

“Then you understand my statement back then was not exaggerated.”

The Seismitoad looked back at the repurposed building, the traces of fire on the outer side being washed away by moves from the emergency response mons. “What was that thing?”

“I’ll talk about it later. For now, we need to focus on staying ahead of those mons.” Seliph glanced at Jaron. “You should go get ready.”

“Fuck that!” Jaron snapped, glancing around. “You want me to just leave while everyone is-”

“Jaron, please.” Humphry put a hand on the boy’s shoulders. “He’s right. For yours, Ciecro’s, and Vra-”

Jaron swiped it off. “What about Aunt Dresha‽ What about Dolly and Jasmine‽ What about everybody here‽ I-”

“I understand your concern, but-”

“No, you don’t!” Jaron pointed at Seliph, whose eyes narrowed at seeing that. “Why are you listening to him anyways?”

“We’re going to Vergium to ensure we can safely decide what to do.” Humphry scowled, clearly trying to hold back his anger. “We aren’t just blindly sending you away.”

“Clyde!” The three turned to see a small crowd forming over where Clyde was. Amid the mons, Jaron could see an Infernape collapsed at his side while Uximo was busy doing something with his psychic powers.

The anger in Jaron’s heart eased as his head lowered. This is…too much. Jaron felt Humphry’s grip on his shoulder soften, starting to rub him gently.

“Jaron, I know it’s a-”

The Croconaw pulled away, rushing over to a small alleyway and pressing against the wall. He just stared forwards, trying to hold in his tears, though a few escaped. He heard footsteps for a second before Humphry’s voice spoke again.

“No, give him some time. He’ll be alright.”

Sniffling, Jaron’s eyes looked up. The sky had ceased its rain, though it looked like it would usher in more any second now. Narrowing his eyes, Jaron slid down to sit, resting his head on the solid brick and shutting his eyes.

He heard footsteps nearby, prompting him to say with a snarl, “Go away.”

“Make me.”

Jaron’s muscles eased up as he recognized Ciecro’s voice. “Sorry…I didn’t know it-”

“I know.”

Shriveling up, Jaron pulled his arms around his torso as he heard his brother sit down next to him. I...For a second, I thought you… Jaron couldn’t finish that thought, choosing instead to lean on Ciecro as his brother wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close.

The tears burst through, though he made no sound. All was quiet, all was calm, all he could feel was the warmth of Ciecro next to him. It was enough.

He didn’t know how much time past, but he felt his brother shift a little.

“I’m sorry boys,” Dolly’s voice said. “I’m sorry this has to be so sudden, but we need to go.”

“Go where?” Ciecro asked, standing up.

“We’re going to raft to Vergium. We can make it before morning if we hurry. If it helps make you feel better, we’ll try and get Dresha to come with us.” A little chuckle followed, which bothered Jaron at first until Dolly added, “Not that we will be able to tell her no.”

The Croconaw opened his eyes and looked up at Dolly. Her eyes met his, those brown irises trying to be strong despite clearly grappling with all that had happened.

“Are you…coming too?” Jaron asked, brushing his snout.

She nodded. “And Jasmine.”

The Croconaw’s head fell as a heavy sigh followed. The silence that followed felt all too familiar to Jaron. It was like he was staring at his home again, that torn-up kitchen when he was a child. All he loved and cherished just gone in an instant.

However, his grim view was disrupted as he saw a claw reach out to him. He looked up at Ciecro’s orange eyes, still retaining their burning passion as they looked down at him with care despite being shaken. “Lez go.”

Jaron took a deep breath through his nostrils, reached out, and grabbed Ciecro’s hand tightly.
Chapter 29: No Rest for the Wicked


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 29
No Rest for the Wicked

A heavy yawn came from a Foatzel as he browsed the empty lounge of the inn with weary eyes. Why do I need to be here on shift if nobody is going to show up? He flipped through a registration book, reading the two names in the stacks of squares with room numbers on them. He sighed and leaned back, staring upwards lazily. Why do we need such a late shift again? Honestly, he should sit down and see how nobody comes in here. Then maybe he’d not be such a stickler for me wanting to go home early on this random, non-busy night.

He slumped over the desk, but immediately jolted straight as the door slammed open. “Dya! I-I mean, hello ther-”

“Not now Bale,” A Hariyama said roughly as he walked up, slamming his heavy hand on the desk. “I need your safest room.”


“Yes, preferably somewhere in the middle of the building.”

“Uhm..” The Floatzel looked at the list of rooms. “Middle as in height or ground floo-”

“Stop kidding around, Bale.”

“Now see here.” The Floatzel stood up, glaring up at the towering figure. “Just because you’re a ranger doesn’t mean you get to shout at me-”

“It’s an emergency.”

As he opened his mouth to reply, a Seismitoad joined the ranger at the side. His face looked weary, his arms sagging, and his body was dirty with a few wounds. “Oh my,” the clerk gasped as he tried to look past the large ranger to see if anyone else was coming in, only to be impeded by the Hariyama extending a hand to get his attention.

“Please, just give them your safest rooms. The guild will pay their tab, we just need a place for them to rest that’s near mid-town.”

“R-r-right.” The Floatzel looked down and began looking for a proper selection.

As they waited, Humphry sighed and looked up at his fellow ranger. “Thanks for this, Tork.”

“No problem. Given the circumstances, I don’t really feel like you’re safe yet.”

Humphry sighed. “Yeah…”

In the corner of the lounge, Seliph was leaning on a wall, watching Humphry and Tork at the front. His eyes drifted around, seeing the others that had made their way in and were resting. A couple of the local rangers were guarding the Fraxure, who looked exhausted both mentally and physically. Hmm…this might be my best chance.

A smile formed on his face as he walked over. “How are you feeling?”

The Fraxure looked up at him for a second and then his gaze lowered. “Alright.”

Seliph took time to browse the body language and expression. No way you’re ‘alright’. He crossed his arms and looked to the side as the rangers guarding Vragon all eyed him sternly. I doubt Humphry is going to give me much time with him. I can’t exactly blame him, but I need to get a better idea of what I’m dealing with. Seliph stepped forwards, but was cut off by a ranger extending an arm.

“That’s close enough.”

Seliph sighed. “I just want to talk with him.”


The Greninja let out an aggravated sigh upon hearing Humphry’s order.

“It’s been a long trip and I want him to rest.”

Seliph glanced back, saying, “Fine, but let me at least check how he is? I’d feel better knowing the extent of his injuries myself.”

Humphry’s eyes narrowed as Seliph looked at Vragon.

“Is that alright?”

Vragon shrugged his shoulders. “I guess.”

Dismissive. A lot on his mind I presume. Seliph took a deep breath. Best prepare myself. No telling what I’ll see in there. He got down on a knee, as the guards moved aside, yet keeping their eyes locked firmly on him.

“Mind if I see your arm?”

Vragon held it out to him as he clenched it gently and looked it over. A few cuts, but nothing that could beat scale skin. Nodding, he looked up at Vragon saying, “Now, close your eyes. I want to check your heartbeat.”

Vragon complied as the rangers all tensed up as Seliph pressed his hand on the Fraxure’s hard chest. Okay, here we go. Seliph shut his eyes. His body began to feel light as the hardness of the Fraxure’s scales vanished instantly. The atmosphere became broad and free, almost airless entirely. Vragon. He repeated the name in his head, keeping the Fraxure as the centerpiece of his thoughts.

No time had passed before he opened his eyes, seeing nothing but pitch darkness. Please be nearby. I don’t want to have to- He gasped as he the Fraxure lying in the darkness, his body was visible like he was in a well-lit room despite the void around them, but he was lying on his side like he was unconscious. Seliph hurried over and help sit him up, the Fraxure starting to wake up.

“Where?” He gasped, shoving Seliph away as he fell back and looked around in horror. “What did-”

“Easy, easy, it’s just a soul link.” Seliph made slow motions as he stood up.

“Oh…why did you do that?” The Fraxure’s attitude changed from fearful surprise to frustration.

“I wanted to talk to you.” Seliph looked around at the darkness. “I just wanted it to be in private.”

“Why? Humphry said to wait.” Vragon inquired, his tone slightly altered by a snarl.

Seliph sighed. “Because I need to know what I’m dealing with and this is serious.” He walked up to the Fraxure and stared down at him with a soft gaze. “They don’t just target mons with a fighter like that randomly. Something about you is important to them. And I get Humphry means well, but we may not have a lot of time. I’m sorry.”

Vragon crossed his arms and looked to the side, upset but less hostile than before. “I don’t know.”

“Anything you can tell m-”

“I don’t have my memories, okay!” Vragon shouted as he brushed past Seliph rubbing his head. “I don’t remember a thing before a few weeks after I was found. Sorry, I can’t help you.” He glared back at Seliph, who was visibly surprised by the aggression.

“Uhm…well that’s alright.”

Vragon’s scowl turned down.

Clearly, he doesn’t agree. Seliph rubbed his chin as a small smile formed. “You don’t seem so surprised.”

“Huh?” Vragon looked up as Seliph gestured around.

“Surprised at a Soul Link. So you’ve done one before?”

Vragon sighed. “Yes. I have.” He looked off into the darkness, Seliph joining him. “I did it with Jaron and Ciecro. They said Soul Links could help us find any memories, but we didn’t really find anything. Just some door with blue light coming from underneath.”


“Yeah. That’s about it.” Vragon’s arms sagged as he shut his eyes. “I’m sorry to disappoint.”

Good, good. Seliph got on his knee and tilted his head with a look of sympathy. “What do you mean?”


Hmmm...let’s see. Seliph put his hands on Vragon’s shoulders, startling the boy at first but he calmed down as Seliph spoke. “Hey, don’t feel too bad. These aren’t just some average mons. No one blames you for being in over your head.”

“But they’re here for me…”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean anyone is upset at you for that. Besides,” Seliph stood up and crossed his arms. “Since I’m here, that adds another target.”

Vragon raised a brow before his eyes went wide. “Oh right, they were after you too, weren’t they?”

“Mhm.” I wonder how much my brothers told him. Best save that question for later. Sighing, Seliph walked onwards as Vragon followed. “So, tell me, these soul links you did with my brothers, they looked like this, right?”

“To them, yeah.”

“‘To them’?”

“Well, we weren’t in the same location. I’d always get sent to some place enacting a memory of theirs.”

“Ah right, that’s normally how Soul Links work.”

“What do you mean ‘normally’? Are we in some abnormal state?” Vragon asked as he suddenly stopped with a concerned frown.

“Soul Links are when we are brought down to our soul’s level of perception. Normally, when two mons enact the physical touch trigger, they sort of swap souls. Since the memory and emotional aspects are the most potent parts of our soul and mind linkage that is where most soul links end up by default.”

“Why don’t they just go to their own mind though? Why is normally the other person’s?” Vragon crossed his arms and tilted his head.

“That defeats the purpose of a Soul Link.” The two looked upwards. “Soul Links are about connecting to other beings on the most immersive level one can. Even psychics have to do some heavy lifting to reach that level of interaction.” Their gazes met once more. “It’s amazing. At the time we’re talking right now, no time is passing. No awareness of the outside. It’s just you, me, our minds, and souls.”

The Fraxure’s eyes lit up a little as the Greninja continued.

“It’s one of the things that makes us clansmons special.”

A smile formed on Vragon’s face. “So, back to what you were saying. Why are we here together?”

“Ah yes, well. Soul Links are like any common skill, prone to being improved upon and adjusted. You see, if you focus very hard on the other person, it can sometimes lead you to enter alongside them, or even pinpointing where you want to go if you focus enough. Ergo, we’re here together in what I presume is your mind.”

“My mind?” Vragon looked around. “I guess it fits since it’s so empty here.” A frown formed, but it didn’t stay for long as Seliph shook his head and placed an encouraging hand on Vragon’s shoulder.

“Oh no, the mind is a very expansive thing when compared to the soul. To reach other areas, you pretty much have to be led there or go there from the get-go.”


Affirming this with a nod, Seliph walked a few paces away and faced Vragon. “So, I’m curious. How much do you know about what you are?”


“As a clansmon. What are the things that make us special?” Seliph started stroking his chin, as his body felt lighter with excitement.

“Well…first is the Soul Link. Second is gifts, but I don’t know what my gift is.”

“That’s fine. Keep going.”

“I guess our shoulder brands count too.” Vragon turned to show his Averion one. “I think that’s it.”

“Actually, there is one more thing.”

“There is?”

Seeing Vragon’s enthusiasm and surprise made Seliph feel warm inside like he was explaining it to an easily impressed pupil. “Yes. I’m sure you know of our ancestors, the Arbiters?”

“Yeah, Jaron and Ciecro told me theirs was Blaine.” Vragon looked at his crest. “And that they were mons adopted by Arceus as his children.”

“Correct and imbued with power to serve as the middle ways of Legendary and Mon. Soul Links, Gifts, even our Crests all come from them and remain as strong as ever because of them. They held incredible power and as their descendants we get that Potential factor.”

“‘Potential factor’?”

“Yes. Our potential to grow is higher than your average mon in pretty much everything, even our health is affected by this.”

“Woah.” Vragon looked at himself. “So, if I train hard enough, I could be very strong, live longer, and more?”

“Maybe. I confess, I don’t really know the most efficient ways to.”

“I imagine the clans would know how, right?”

Seliph nodded. “Probably.”

Vragon walked over. “Do you…ever want to go to the clans’ lands?”

Seliph chuckled. “I’m a bit busy currently. Maybe one day, but right now. No.”


Alright. Let’s see. “Right, I’m sorry to ask you this, but I do want to know something.”


Seliph got on a knee and looked him straight in the eye. “Back on the roof, you sort of froze. You also rushed away from our hiding spot. Why?”

“O-o-oh.” Vragon started rubbing his shoulders, as guilt covered his face. “I’m sorry about that. I don’t…I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s alright.” Seliph smiled. “I’m just concerned.”

“Why?” Vragon asked sincerity in his eyes.

“Because I know what it’s like to be hunted by them. And if they’re after you, then I want to know as much as I can so I can help you out.” Seliph sighed heavily. “I’m sure Jaron and Ciecro told you about my history, so you can probably tell why I’m invested.” Seliph held his breath as his body tensed.

Lowering his eyes, Vragon tightened up with a troubled expression. “I’m…I’m sorry.”

Good boy. Seliph patted him on the shoulder. “It’s fine. That was a long time ago. But for now, anything you can tell me will help.” There has to be something. Mons don’t just freeze up like that for no reason. There’s got to be some kind of trauma that activated.

“I’m not sure. Just…”

Just…? Seliph leaned in, anxious for the answer.

“I remember seeing a white light.”

“A ‘white light’? Explain.”

“I don’t know, it was just a white light. I saw it in those two moments and it just…scared me. It was very weird.”

Hrm? Seliph watched Vragon start rubbing his head along with shivering slightly. Is that out of impulse? Strong if that is true.

“I started having a headache, and everything seemed to blur, when I came to it was because of you. The second time I…” Vragon sniffled as his body sagged. “I almost attacked Jaron the second time.”

“I see.” Fight? He doesn’t strike me as a fighter or would react to danger that way. He was running away for a good portion. Maybe he felt cornered in that moment?

“I’m sorry, that’s all I know.”

“Hey, it’s more than enough. Thank you.”

A small smile formed on the Fraxure’s face. “T-t-thanks. I’m glad you talked with me.”

“No problem. If it’s alright.” Seliph looked at the void in front. “But I think you should get some rest.”

“Right.” Vragon’s head lowered, his smile shrinking but still staying there.

Without a word, Seliph watched Vragon grow hazy as he looked down at his body, it hazing up as well. Foot in the door. His vision went black as his body grew heavy again. His breathing felt physical, his touch felt intense, and the atmosphere felt warm and somewhat stuffy.

“Alright, how are you feeling now?” He opened his eyes, seeing Vragon looking at him a bit startled at the whiplash. Seliph winked and Vragon got the message.

“Okay, I guess.” He yawned as he shook his head. “I’m just tired.”

“Alright.” Seliph stood up and walked over to his seat, gasping as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He saw Humphry looking back at him displeased.

“I’d like to talk with you.”

“Sure,” Seliph said, not hiding the annoyance in his tone as the two walked out through a side door.

The gloominess was a sharp contrast to the warm lobby inside as was the chilliness of the air. The slanted roof above them sent what sounded like a river of droplets down which didn’t help the tension either mon was feeling.

“Did you Soul Link with him?”

Seliph rolled his eyes. “You know, you could treat me better given I saved his life.”

“I appreciate your participation, but I won’t be stepped over. If you want to do something with Vragon, you need to clear it with me, understand.”

Scowling defiantly at the Seismitoad, Seliph crossed his arms and said, “Why? Because my brothers said a lot of mean things about me?”

“No, because there’s already been blood spilled because of this.”

“All the more reason to trust someone with experience then.” Seliph crossed his arms and looked at the rain. He tensed up as Humphry remained silent, hoping that the ire from the Seismitoad was subsiding.

“What was that thing?”

“The Haxorus.” Seliph turned and looked Humphry straight in the eye, admitting, “I don’t know. He’s stronger than any Red Eye I’ve come across. Perhaps a deeper member of their organization.”

“How deep?”

“As I said, I don’t know.” Seliph started stroking his chin. “I can guess only that them sending this behemoth of a mon means that your Vragon is an important target to them. All the more reason for us to handle this efficiently.”

Humphry sighed and looked at the rain to the left while Seliph looked straight from the door.

“Blaming me for what happened won’t help anything.”

Seliph braced himself as he heard Humphry turn around and in a low tone say, “How dare you.”

“Am I wrong?” Seliph glared at Humphry as he stated, “Given the situation, pride is going to be the end of this. And I won’t have my brothers dragged down because of this.”

“So you’re saying you care about them now, huh?” Humphry raised a brow on his scowling face as Seliph met it with a snubbing crossed arms and a raised head to the Greninja’s right side.

“It’s why I came here. I didn’t know who they were after, just that they were looking around this region. I wanted to check on them.” Seliph then opened his left eye, staring at Humphry with as much fervor as he could. “And if you won’t accept the truth on that, that’s your problem.”

He could see Humphry clearly wanting to challenge him, but the larger mon refrained, too disciplined to fall into it.

“I’m sorry if I gave you that impression.” Humphry’s eyes closed as his face went soft, weary, and sad. “I lost an officer. Two children were killed, maybe more died in that attack. All because I wasn’t prepared for that Haxorus.”

Seliph watched the commissioner’s muscles tighten, his fist clenching harder that it made Seliph’s own nerves twist in response.

“Commissioner.” Seliph walked to the edge of the roof, the dripping water falling mere inches from his face. “I’m not the enemy. I hope you understand that.”

“I do.”

Seliph shoved his hands into his pockets as his head lowered. “I have some things I need to do. Some of it involves learning more about Vragon. He’s clearly important to all this and learning why that is, is vital to learning what we’re dealing with. I’m sorry for first impressions, but I need you to give me this leniency. I’m doing this to protect him.”

Seliph shut his eyes and held his breath. Come on.

“We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.”

The Greninja glanced back as he heard the door squeak open.

“For now we should rest. Your brothers are going to be in the basement of this inn tonight.”

“I have some things to do first. I’ll find my own lodgings for tonight.” Seliph stepped out into the rain but stopped at hearing the commissioner’s voice.

“Are you sure?”

The Greninja paused. For a moment, it felt like that voice was speaking deeply to him. He knew the commissioner wasn’t and this was just his projection, but he couldn’t help but struggle to muster the reply. Finally, he said, “Y-yes. I’m sure.” And walked into the rain.

He walked to a nearby ally and rested his back against the wall, taking a few heavy breaths. Alright, that’s a decent start. No time to waste. He looked down the alleyway. I need to survey the town and see for any reasonable locations for dealing with that Haxorus. If the commissioner doesn’t cave for me tomorrow then I should handle my own research.

His eyes narrowed as he started down the damp path, not reacting to the raindrops even as they struck and slid down his face. A determined scowl formed on his face, a fire in his eyes far more lethal a gaze than what he had shown to the old commissioner. I can’t wait for that creature to be brought down and learn what secrets he knows. A dark smile formed as he rolled the vial between his fingers in his pocket. Then, I’ll be one step closer to figuring you out and ridding this world of you.

< O >​

The warm light of the emura felt relaxing on the scales of the Haxorus, yet he felt cold inside. He stared at a red crystal in his claws with a firm scowl, as if it was the source of all his heat vanishing.


He blinked, glancing around before his eyes fell upon the Gallade in front, who was a little taken aback by the dragon’s sudden action.

“Uhm…sorry for startling you.”

Just in my head. He isn’t here. Trishula wiped the surprise off his face, focusing on the Gallade, who shifted his attention to another part of their camp, specifically at the lying corpse of a Clawitzer.

“Did you have to do it, sir?”

“Your condition was well enough that his services were no longer needed. He was just unnecessary baggage now.”

“Still…” The Gallade’s head lowered, with a sigh. “So when are you going to report?”

“Once your associate returns.” Trishula’s scowl grew. “Now, I wish to be left in my thoughts until then.” Trishula could tell the Gallade didn’t like being shut down but didn’t concern himself despite noticing the odd mannerisms Siegfried had that showed how annoyed he was getting. Once we have the boy then you can be rid of me.

Looking towards the center of camp, he saw a stick standing up from the ground. Tied to it was a rectangular device about the size of his claw, which had an orb inserted at the top. This orb was busy beaming some transparent light upwards, stopping at about ten feet into the sky before dispersing into a hazy, invisible light that came over the camp like a dome. I shouldn’t have been so careless. He sighed in his mind as he looked back at the emura lamp. I would have…we would have the boy now if I had practiced better caution. His claw tightened over the crystal as he felt anger build up inside. I want to get this over with so I can-

“Hrm?” He looked up, gazing outside the dome where the hills rose above. A black figure flew over the pinnacle of one, his image a bit hazy and wavery as he headed this way. The Dragon stood up, watching this figure fly through an invisible wall that reacted to touch in the way a lake ripples for a stone.

“Sorry it took me so long,” Vex said as he landed on the ground shivering a little at the warmth inside. “I had to be extra- Ah!” He jumped at seeing the dead Clawitzer nearby. “Oh…” The Gengar’s startled gaze calmed to a cold frown.

“Report,” Trishula commanded as he sat down by the emura light.

Vex slowly walked over, rubbing the back of his head a little nervous. “So, seems they were pretty quick to it. I couldn’t find any of them. Even the Commissioner is gone.”

“They can’t have gotten far on foot. It’s only been a few hours,” Siegfried stated, joining the two at the light. “So what’s the plan? Pursue?”

“We don’t know where they would go.” Vex crossed his arms annoyed. “From what info we have. There are at least two towns within reasonable proximity. Vergium Town up river and Salfas Town across the plains.”

“Which is closer?” Siegfried inquired.

“Salfas.” Vex looked at Trishula. “It’s Salfas Town.”

The dragon stood up. “It’s too early to act right now. We need to do some reconnaissance first, I don’t want us picking the wrong direction.”

“But if we give them too much time-”

“We can spare a day,” Trishula said, though he agreed far more with Siegfried position in spirit. A heavy scowl formed as he got up and walked over to one of their travel bags. He searched around in it before pulling out a red crystal and silently headed for the perimeter of the cloak dome.

“Wait, so what, we just recon for any intel and get more provisions?”

“Yes. That is the mission for both of you tomorrow.” Trishula glanced back. “Do you protest?”

The two looked at each other before shaking their heads.

If you aren’t brave enough to speak your mind, then don’t speak at all. Trishula grumbled in his head as he sat down near the edge, staring at the hills in front. He rested his arms in the hole made by his legs, staring at a red crystal in his claws. I doubt they’ll try and find us. We have revealed our power to them so they will be on the defensive.

He eased his grip on the crystal as he sighed. Though his power wasn’t revealed to me. I don’t understand. It was just a boy, not what I was led to believe. He closed his eyes as he raised the crystal to chest level. Perhaps another test or perhaps it was a ploy to fool me. The red crystal started to glow, levitating up from his claw and slowly spinning. My master has a lot of questions to answer.

Trishula shut his eyes and immediately felt himself no longer sitting. In fact, he couldn’t feel much of anything. Even his body was far lighter in nature. When he next opened his eyes, he was in a vast, hazy darkness. It was cold in here, the dichotomy of how his body reacted to being here troubled him.

I hate this place. He turned as he heard a voice, his eyes widening with surprise.

“I was beginning to think something had happened.”

“Daemon?” Before Trishula was a Dusknoir, who was looking at him with his singular blue eye with a thin red iris as its circumference. His arms were behind his back and he was slightly turned to the right, which made Trishula soften his stern gaze.

“I…” Trishula paused as he looked up, formulating his thoughts. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

The Dusknoir’s eye lowered, making Trishula feel a slight amount of comfort build up inside, albeit a foreign feeling of comfort. “I know. It’s been a long time. But even if it was from…him,” Daemon looked back at him floating a little closer but stopped as Trishula flinched back a little. “Sorry…” his head lowered as he continued. “I wanted to do this. So I accepted his request to be your contact and coordinator for this mission.”

Trishula’s eyes narrowed. “So my master asked you personally then?”

“He did ask me, but over communications. I don’t know where he is currently.” A sigh of relief came from Daemon as his arms relaxed.

A discomforted scowl formed on Trishula’s face. Why Daemon? What kind of game is my master playing at? He shook his head and pivoted with, “Anyways, I have much to report.”

Daemon nodded as the sound of a sigh escaped him. “Verily. I am listening intently.” The Dusknoir straightened his posture, going back to that all too familiar ‘business posturing’ the Dusknoir was known for.

“Their defenses were weak, but unfortunately I was caught off guard and warped outside of town. When I returned the boy was gone, along with my associates finding no direct leads.” Trishula’s eyes lowered as a frustrated scowl formed. “My associates had attacked the town prematurely, thus alerting the forces there.”

Daemon shut his eye and rubbed it. “So their inexperience ruined the assault.”

“Not exactly.” The two shared their looks again as Trishula explained. “Their defenses were manageable. The issue was the quick action done by a third party.”

“A ‘third party’?”

“Yes. Seliph Almkin.”

“Really now?” The Dusknoir started stroking his chin. “That’s rather random but interesting. You’re sure your trip to the location was discreet?”

“Positive. It’s possible he acquired some knowledge about our means here.” Trishula crossed his arms and sighed. “Somebody dropped the ball.”

“No, I don’t think it’s that simple.”

Trishula raised a brow as Daemon rolled his wrist to the side. “I made sure when talking with our non-Red Eye associates that I never once mentioned the purposes of your missions nor the precise location. The most they would have known was merely the region of our mission, which if I have my geography correct spans from Mt. Travail in the East to the forests near Mt. Bristle in the West. That’s quite a lot of distance even if North and South weren’t included factors.”

The dragon crossed his arms as his narrow scowl bore a hint of curiosity. “So then how do you explain his arrival?”

“I’m not sure. His activity has been rather spontaneous with no sightings for some months, though that may be due to the few operatives we have in Triacal being bus-.”

“Wait.” Trishula held out a finger as he started pondering. That Charmeleon… “Daemon, who were his relatives?”

“Uhm…the Almkins. Their family is mainly in Norfair, but Seliph was raised in Triacal as they worked on a mission. The family he was raised with was his father, mother, and his uncle was present at the conflict to recapture the formu-”

“I meant their species.”

“Oh, Feraligatr, Charizard, and Blaziken. Is that enough or do I need to be more specific?”

Trishula grunted as he turned to the side, making the Dusknoir tilt his head. “Heh, all this time.”


Trishula clenched his claws. “During the attack, I fought against two Norfarions.”

“Two Norfarions? In Perion Town?”

“Yes. They were children and of the same species as the father and mother.”

Daemon’s eye widened before looking at the side with a pondering gaze. “I see. So the motivation would be to check on these supposed siblings of his if he knew we were operating in this region.”

Trishula nodded. “There’s other information that might support this. The Charmeleon in particular has the gift Death Wrath. I saw it in action myself and was even able to Parasite it.

“Well that certainly helps since the father did indeed have that gift, but it isn’t conclusive evidence alone. Although, how does the saying go? Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.

‘Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.’ Trishula snorted softly. I forgot how much you enjoyed weaving the olden language into your speech. The dragon looked at the darkness, drawing images of the boys from before with his imagination on the black canvas. “I’m sure of it. It’s simple and makes sense for all aspects of this scenario based on what we knew.”

“Astute as always, Trishula.”

The dragon turned his gaze away, fighting the urge to smile even if it was a faint one. He could feel the area around him solidify, like the walls of a cage as he recanted several examples of that exact sentence said to him by a much younger Daemon. “Then the report is incomplete.”

“Yes, which is a shame.” Daemon sighed as he started rubbing his head as if he had acquired a migraine. “I imagine when Plageues finds out he will be absolutely overjoyed.”

Trishula raised a brow and looked at Plageues, opening his mouth to speak but stopping himself. He quickly barreled back to his distant expression, breathing a sigh of relief in his mind as Daemon kept talking like he didn’t notice.

“I can hear him now. ‘Now I get to have three playmates to try and hunt me down? How positively delightful, a perfect plot twist that keeps the form ever so refresh-’”

“Please refrain from your personal reminiscing.” Trishula shut his eyes, feeling the guilt in his heart being shoved in by practicality.

“S-sorry, Trishula. I was just…You’re right.”

He felt his body relax a little, but he still felt just as bad. It was rare for him to feel remorseful, but he couldn’t help it. A poison he acquired long ago.

“I will say, I’m disappointed Rosa didn’t pick up on the siblings. She read Seliph’s mind and at his age, he shouldn’t have the best mental defenses or experience.”

Despite his appreciation for Daemon moving on to a new subject, Trishula wasn’t exactly wanting to banter on about random names. “Sure.”

“I mean it. I’ve been teaching her for some time now and her abilities show talent, but I do not know. Maybe she’s just not refined enough and is too oriented on brute force.” The ghost chuckled as he moved his arms behind his back again. “Sorry, I don’t mean to bring up my frustrations with my pupil.”

‘Frustrations with my pupil’… Trishula’s eyes softened up as he glanced at the ghost. “Daemon.”

“Hrm?” Daemon looked up at him, his eye reacting to Trishula’s softer gaze and immediately complementing it with a sympathetic look of his own.

Stop being foolish. He’d eat you alive if he saw you right now. Trishula pulled back and for the second time looked away, albeit this time more solemnly. “Nothing.”

“Of course…”

Trishula watched the ghost look to the side and struggle to hold in his disappointment. Don’t let it bother you, he assured himself as he faced the Dusknoir with a serious look. “Back to business, if Seliph does have siblings then they could be useful assets to acquiring his sample of our formula, presuming he still has it.”

Daemon looked up at him, almost surprised. “Are you sure you want to take on that additional task?”

Trishula paused, fumbling around with some words before saying, “I understand that for our faction, having as few samples out in the wild isn't ideal, even if we’re confident they won’t be able to solve its intricacies. While Seliph is a relatively minuscule contributor to this, it would still be good to remove even a small thorn from our side, no?”

Daemon’s eye widened slightly, in a way that one would when giving a faint smile. “Yes, I suppose it would. It may also help you get to the target.”

Trishula couldn’t help but smile faintly at seeing Daemon’s reaction. You were so impressionable back then. It faded a second later as both of them straightened to formal posture. “Anyways, capturing them would make good leverage for Seliph.”

“Indeed, and I do believe he still has the sample. But even if he doesn’t that removes one potential hurdle for capturing the boy.”

Trishula’s eyes narrowed. “You mean if the clans decide to act.”

“I don’t know if they are aware of the situation going on here. I know they tried to investigate the incident eight years ago, but were met with denial from Bantal Town. Imposing too heavily on a City State would make their deals with Triacal fall through, even if Norfair is incredibly displeased about the results. Triacal is very picky on what threatens its status as independent city-states.”

Politics. Trishula rolled his eyes. “Do you think they have operatives here?”

“Oh most definitely. But if they’re investigating the incident eight years ago, this attacks recently, or something else I don’t know.” Daemon propped his head with his arm. “I doubt there are many around.” His eye closed in frustration. “Something we sadly have to do as well else the Collective will get on our case if we cause them trouble.”

Trishula sighed and shook his head. “I hate politics.”

“A messy topic that sometimes requires respecting the most worthless things in order to get what we want without paying an arm.” The two shared a nod before Daemon continued, “I shall be sure to add the siblings to your objectives report. Anything else you need me to do?”

Trishula raised his claw and listed, “First, I want you to have our associates in the guilds to listen in on any traffic regarding the targets. Second, I want detailed geography of the Travail Region for potential leads. Lastly, I want you to inform any of our operatives on this side of the place to be on standby for support.”

“Even Plageues?”

Trishula tightened his mouth as his eyes lowered. “N-no…” He felt his body tighten to a hurting point as he shut his eyes. Don’t let it grow. You need your focus, lest your doubts will ruin your path. His fist tightened. But I’m already doubting. That boy. Why was he so…defenseless? He could feel the anger build inside him, only snuffed to the side by Daemon’s voice.

“Trishula. Are you-”

The dragon turned away. “Those are my requests. Please put them in.” He slowed his breathing as he tried to shove the image of Daemon out of his mind. His hearing picked up on the subtle shifts and disappointed breaths from the ghost, but he chose to ignore them. “That is all I have to report. Please carry out the duties.”

“Alright…it was…good to speak to you again.”

Trishula squinted harder as he felt his chest heat up. It felt like he was pushing against a boulder going downhill, the desire. It was so potent in how much he wanted this. Remember your goal. Remember what the end of the path leads. He opened his claw, curling his fingers as if he was ready to slice.

After a few minutes of silence, Trishula looked behind him, sighing with relief at seeing the ghost had gone. Despite this, he didn’t feel good. Sitting down, he stared at the darkness beneath him, a sad look on his face. I see now why he chose you. He shut his eyes and felt his body fade out of the Soul Link. I just…hate that he’s using you to test me.
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Chapter 30: The Honest Difference


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 30
The Honest Difference​

Fiery. That’s how Jaron’s lungs felt as he raced forward. “Ciecro! Wait!” He exclaimed, trying to keep up as his brother darted around a tight corner.

“Come on! He went dis way!”

“No, I mean wait for the others!” Jaron shouted, stumbling around the corner, desperately trying to keep his head up despite his mind urging him to rest. Jaron’s running was decent, but Ciecro was better built for it, and it became more apparent as with each turn the brothers took the older started to lose the younger. “Ciecro!” Jaron shouted, his lungs crying out for air causing gaps in his speech. “I can’t…keep up!”

The flames of Ciecro’s get were excited and cackling, swaying from side to side as Ciecro rushed onwards, disregarding or unaware of Jaron’s fatigue. Soon enough, Jaron had to stop, supporting himself against the wall as he took heavy breaths.

If Jaron could sweat, he would have made a puddle at his feet. He pressed his arm up against it and leaned forward, pushing his forehead up to it as his breathing began to slow and his lungs began to cool.

His Wary warned him of the danger, but suddenly it shot him awake like a drug, making him spin around with his back against the wall. “What?” He glanced around, confused at why he felt it so near, and yet nothing was around.

No sooner had he had these troubles from his Wary that he heard a pained cry coming from down the alleyway he had been chasing his brother. “Ciecro! No!” He pushed off and ran as fast as he could, pushing himself from his body’s protest at its interrupted rest.

As he left the alley he found himself in the center of a town with a fountain decorating the middle. He didn’t recognize it, but what he did recognize was an orange object lying in the water of the fountain. Jaron gasped in horror as he rushed over, seeing his brother face first in its crystal waters, not moving.

“Hang on!” Jaron grabbed his brother to pull him out, but suddenly he felt a blow to his side. Before he could so much as move his head, he felt himself pushed down into the water with a hard grip on his throat, cutting off the air flow before he could get any air in his lungs. His Wary only aided his confusion as he flailed about in the water of the fountain, choking and clawing at the attacker holding him. The arms were dark colored and scaly, with the figure above hard to make out besides one noticeable detail. Two red dots of burning intensity that, despite the water’s unrest, could be discerned.

He started to lose consciousness, making his flailing attempts now pulls of maddened terror. He couldn’t even think of sentences in his head just slicing at the arms pinning him, or kicking at whatever body was above, and yanking around. However, nothing could break the iron grip that kept him choking and pinned.

In one last attempt to get a chance to breathe, Jaron flung himself left with all his might. His eyes shot open as he no longer felt submerged. His blurry vision was in motion as he felt his body collide with a hard, cold floor.

“Ouch.” He rubbed his head as his vision started to settle, revealing his environment to be some basement storage room with its only lighting being a nearby window close to the ceiling.

A dream? He frantically browsed the room, seeing a patch of red on top of a box. “Ciecro!”

“Dyaaa!” The Charmeleon jolted forward, only to slide off the box he was sleeping on, and hit his head on the stone floor with a discomforting thump. “Owww!” He sat up, holding his head with a pained snarl. “Wha’ dah hell?” He snapped at Jaron, who was too stunned to answer.

“Why’d yah yell like dat?” Ciecro demanded, using the box to steady himself as he stood up.


Grumbling, Ciecro rested his elbows on the box as he used his claws to massage his hurting head. “Don’ tell me it was cuz of some stupid dream.”

The Croconaw scowled to the side. Maybe it’d be dumb to you. One frustrated huff later, Jaron got up to leave. “Just go back to sleep,” he told his brother as he grabbed onto the wooden ladder leading out.

“Would gladly, ugh.” Ciecro rubbed his neck as he groaned. “Bu’ I think I’ve got a crick in my neck now.”

Jaron rolled his eyes as he put his foot on the bar and was about to start climbing when he heard his brother again.

“Hrm? Where yah goin’?”

Jaron paused, Ciecro’s softer tone, even if it was just casual, making the Croconaw second guess storming out. He’s always been grouchy in the morning and did hit his head after all. “For a swim.” Jaron sighed in his mind as he took his foot off the wooden bar. I know he’s frustrating, but I did make him hit his-

“Guess no sense in sleepin’. S’pose I’ll just work on trainin’ som-”

Jaron’s claw tightened on the ladder, digging into the wood as his expression shifted to pure anger. “Give it a rest.”


“You heard me.” Jaron spun around. “You passed the exam, you got your shoulder run through, and we barely survived being attacked twice. What’s it going to take for you to just stop for once?”

Ciecro walked over, leering down at Jaron with a scowl of his own, but it bore traces of confusion. “Wha’?” Ciecro snarled and Jaron snarled back. “I need tah be prepared tah figh’ dose guys so I gotta keep trainin’.”

“Oh sure, sure.” Jaron crossed his arms and raised his snout slightly. “Why don’t you go off on your own and put yourself in harm's way needlessly again to help out.”

“Hey!” Ciecro leaned in closer, the loudness in his voice making Jaron flinch back although he didn’t avert his angry glare. “If we hadn’ gotten involved, Vragon might’ve been hurt.”

Jaron’s head lowered. Maybe, but…you were almost. The Croconaw tried desperately to fight against Ciecro’s points in his mind. He couldn’t accept them anymore, it was just leading down some kind of path, a path like that dream. “No, he wouldn’t have.”

“How do yah know dat?”

“How do you know he would have been? He had rangers and apparently Seliph there too.” Jaron stepped away from the ladder to get into Ciecro’s face, their snouts almost colliding. “You ever considered that maybe us getting involved is just getting in their way? That just rushing into battle like you do is just making it worse?” Jaron paused, his angry stare slightly caving at seeing Ciecro’s responding scowl shift to something far more intense.

His eyes were wider, the orange irises like embers of a fire. The Charmeleon’s right arm started shaking slightly.

Before Jaron could say anything he was brushed to the side as Ciecro started climbing up the ladder.

“Wai’ Cie-”

“Jus’ shuddup!” Ciecro snapped, not even looking at his brother as he punched open the trap door and climbed out, leaving Jaron down in the cellar with his mixed anger, bitterness, and sadness.

Why do I even bother? Jaron shook his head as he grabbed the ladder. He never listens. He never slows down. He never cares. He paused his ascent, his head tilting down a little as his angry stare went softer. I need a swim.

Once he made his way out of the inn, he was greeted by the cool air of a cloud-covered morning. The town looked close to colorless in a melancholy way, though perhaps it was just Jaron’s mood projecting on his vision. He walked up to the dock and looked down at the river that flowed through town like a main street. The creaking and groaning of the water wheels was the only company Jaron had on this specific dock.

He carefully dipped his foot into the water, shivering a little as he felt the chill. Well, it’ll wake me up, I guess. Taking a second to stare at the water as he prepared himself for the cold feel, he fixated on his reflection, slightly distorted by the ripples. His eyes narrowed. Why can’t he understand? He always expects me to understand but he never bothers to-


Jaron gasped as he spun to the side, unfortunately too close to the edge to get a stable footing, and fell into the river. His nerves shot awake as his body shivered from the cold dip. He flailed in confusion for a second before regaining his bearings and looking around. The river water was surprisingly visible, despite its constant flow and the lack of a cloudless sky, probably due to the stone linings on both the sides and riverbed, somewhat akin to a canal.

He was startled as he saw something swim up to him but relaxed at identifying this mon as Aunt Dresha. What’s she doing up so early? She swam up, looking concerned, but he gave a grin to indicate he was fine. He poked his head out of the water, getting a nice fresh breath of air.

A second later, her head poked out as well.

“I’m sorry, Jaron, I didn’t mean to startle you and-”

He chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. “It’s fine. Helped me get the cold shock and whatnot over with.” He swam up to her as he looked downstream, seeing if his accident garnered any attention. “What are you doing out in the river so early?” He inquired, secretly relieved that most mons seemed to be going back to their respective jobs or business at realizing he wasn’t in danger.

“Oh, I always try and do a swim every morning and I also like talking with people in town. I don’t get to do it that much in Perion, but the river here is very good for being sociable.”

“I bet, heh.” Jaron checked to see if anything was coming from upstream and realizing it was clear he swam around Dresha, saying, “Well, I won’t hinder you from whatever your-”

“Oh no, it’s no hindering at all dear,” she swam up to him. “To be honest, I’m glad to have you as company.”

Jaron let his head sink a little into the water as if he were trying to blend in with its gloomy blue. Her cheery nature was warm, but Jaron didn’t want to ruin it. “No, it’s alright. I-…” If I tell her I want to be alone she’ll instantly know something is wrong.

However, her smile shifting to a more neutral expression pretty much confirmed she had guessed that very idea.

Shit. He let his smile go as he waited for her inevitable, prying question.

“Jaron? Is everything alright?”

He wanted so badly to roll his eyes, but refrained out of respect as he simply answered, “Yes.” Turning to the side to look at the buildings, Jaron started tensing up as Dresha swam up to him.

“Are you sure dear? After last night, I would have hoped you’d still be in bed resting.”

“Look, I just woke up and didn’t feel like going back to sleep. I can’t help that.” His frustrations were becoming harder and harder to mask as he turned to swim downstream, though waited for her response.

“I’m sorry if it was a rough night, dear.”

He felt her fin rub his shoulder gently, making his gaze lower in a mix of guilt but also gratitude. It was always nice to have her affection, even in times like this. Reminded him of the times his own mother would give him such warm contact and while Aunt Dresha certainly couldn’t replicate Freya, she didn’t fail in making him smile on the inside. But now the Croconaw was torn between wanting to wallow in his anger in solitude and being in the company of Dresha.

His eyes shut. “Why wouldn’t it be?” He confided, allowing his bitterness to seep through his tongue, although doing his best to not direct it at her.

“I’m so sorry, Jaron. I wish that-”

“You don’t need to apologize.” He faced her. He locked gazes with her for a second before shyly looking to the side. “It’s not your fault. It’s those bastards’ fault.” There was a brief silence before Jaron’s eyes shot wide. “Oh, I-I mean it’s those bad guy’s fault, heh.” A nervous smile formed but went away as he saw her understanding face.

“It’s alright dear. You’ve every right to be genuine.”

Oh God, shit really is bad. He joked in his head, trying to retain some semblance of pleasure from her sentence, but he couldn’t. Everything was wrong for him and he was tired of it. “T-thanks…” He turned around, not wanting to face her as he decided to be ‘genuine’. “But to be honest, I just want things to go back to normal. But I’m starting to doubt it will.”

“Oh, Jaron…” She swam around him, looking at him with compassion.

He at first wanted to look away but accepted she wanted to see his face and continued. “This…it’s too similar to what happened before.” His eyes shut. “I know it’s not as bad but…it’s just.” A small sniffle came as he rubbed his eyes. “It being those same freaks again, Seliph being here randomly, And Ciecro being just…Ugh.”

“It’s okay dear, you can tell this old fish your mind.” She swam up to him, nuzzling him on the side with her scalish, blue body.

Jaron felt his claws clench into fists, slightly embarrassed by her affection out in the fish’s street of town, but at the same time he welcomed it. “I’m worried something bad is going to happen.”

She pulled back.

“I’m worried and I hate being worried. I just…” His eyes shut once more as if to hide himself. “I wish I could handle this better.”

“No one is upset at you dear. And Commissioner Hommel is doing everything he can to make sure we stop them.”

His eyes slightly opened. “I know. I just don’t think Ciecro knows.” He mumbled to himself.

“You don’t think Ciecro knows?”

Jaron froze. Oh shit, why did I fucking say that? He face palmed and let himself sink beneath the river. A frustrated scowl formed as he looked down at the stone. I should have just swam on my own. Now I’ve gone and clued her in. Like she needs to know we’ve been fighting right now-

His thoughts were put on hold as he saw her swim down to him, their faces only a foot away from each other. She gestured her head up as Jaron’s eyes narrowed to the side. Fine. He mumbled in his head as he swam up and broke the surface of the water a bit harsher than before.

Dresha came up half a second later and immediately asked, “So what do you mean by you think-”

“I mean this.” Jaron swam over to the wooden portion of the docks, his claws clamping on it like he wanted to snap it. A scowl formed, a scowl similar to his tone in the basement as he stared at the wood. “This morning Ciecro wanted to go do some training again.”


“Yes. And I’m just done with it.” Jaron let go of the post but kept a fervent stare at it. “Last night he snuck out to do some training despite the situation and we wound up getting wrapped up in the fighting. He still had that hurt shoulder, which was stabbed through mind you, and he could have died last night. And yet he just keeps doing the same thing, ignoring my concerns like some brick wall.”

Jaron smacked the post. “I’m sick of his stubborn, uncaring attitude. All he ever thinks about is training to get stronger for, I dunno, protecting the town or whatnot. Why can’t he get it through his thick skull he isn’t anywhere close to that level and maybe he should just sit it out. It’s like he doesn’t even notice how-” Jaron sighed as he rested his forehead against the post. “Sorry, I got carried away.”

“It’s okay dear.”

He looked over at her, a small smile forming at hearing her validation.

Her gaze, however, shifted to a nearby waterwheel, prompting Jaron to look at it too as it slowly turned from the flowing stream.

“Though, Ciecro sneaking out is odd.”

“Yeah…” Jaron glanced back at her.

“I’m glad you boys weren’t hurt, but him disobeying Commissioner Hommel is strange. He’s normally very obedient about things like that, especially with regard to the commissioner. I wonder what he was thinking.”

Jaron sighed and rolled his eyes. “He wasn’t thinking.” The Croconaw crossed his arms and looked at the waterwheel. “He was being a stubborn idiot.”


“It’s true.” His frustrated gaze locked with her calm, sympathetic one. “The guy is obsessed with training. It’s all train, train, train, for what exactly? He doesn’t tell me outside of just ‘Uhhh, gotta geh strongeh tah figh’ dah threats’. Pssh, sure.”

“Why do you doubt that’s the reason?” She asked.

“Easy, because it’s no different from his exam. Back then, the reason was so he could pass. He’s not changed since then, only changed the excuses he’s making.”

“But Jaron, those two reasons are understandable.”

“Maybe so, but…I know there’s something deeper about it. Ciecro just doesn’t want to tell me and that pretty much confirms it.” Jaron sighed. “I wish he wouldn’t keep secrets from me. It’s driving me crazy and maybe even him too.” He crossed his arms as he thought back to when they were kids. “I feel like he’s treating me like how our parents treated us back then. Keeping us in the dark about the whole situation or their own concerns. To be honest, I relate a lot to how Ciecro was back then and how frustrated it made him. But in hindsight, I understand why they didn’t want to tell us. Just seeing that liquid she was studying made me feel…strange inside.”


“I never told you this, but me and Ciecro did get a peek at it one time. And…it’s sort of why I don’t feel like these guys are just common thugs.” Jaron looked up at the sky. “When I looked into it, I saw safety. I wanted to look into it forever. I felt almost invisible looking into it. No Fear. No Wary. Nothing. It was…like I was in my parents’ arms, but I knew it wasn’t them. Ugh, it’s hard to describe, but that’s the general gist of it.”


“Yep. It’s why I don’t want to get involved. My parents were fighters, and yet they were worried about these creeps. I don’t want to know what they’d do to…” Jaron’s eyes lowered as he halted that line of thought. “But in any case, I understand now why Mom and Dad kept us out. They wanted to spare us all this dark stuff away while still preparing us in case something happened. Ciecro…doesn’t know any more about this situation than I do. I feel like he wants to rush in recklessly because of some desire to pay them back, which I get. But, if he gets hurt or worse…”

Jaron’s head fell as he sniffled. “And nothing I say gets him to stop. I’ve pointed it all out to him, but he just doesn’t listen.” Looking at her with desperation in his gaze, Jaron asked, “He listens to you. What would you do?”

Dresha, who had been listening to this with a very serious look, finally softened up and looked upwards. “Well, I’ve only ever had one conversation like that with your brother.”


“Yes. It was when he wanted to go after Seliph.”

Jaron’s eyes widened. “Wait, when was this?”

“The next day. You were still in the hospital at the time.”

The Croconaw’s jaw fastened shut, his body froze, his mind went blank, and his inner ears listened intently to what she was going to next say.

“The poor boy was so upset at what Seliph said to me when he left. To be honest, I think he thought I was lying to him.”


“Overall, he wanted to try and get Seliph to come back. He had no plan. No idea if those bad guys were out there still. No experience too. And I told him that directly.” She looked at Jaron with a neutral gaze, which was almost unsettling for the boy. “And Ciecro told me he didn’t care and that I was a ‘lying hag’. To be honest, I believed he had to find Seliph.”

He was really going to leave me? Jaron’s head lowered. “Did he really say that?”

Her eyes lowered. “He was upset, Jaron, and just a child. It’s why I don’t blame him for being so hostile with me when it happened. You can sympathize with outbursts like that too, no?”

Jaron thought back to what he said to Ciecro, seeing how much it apparently bothered Ciecro. “I guess…No, I know from experience.”

Dresha smiled softly and continued. “What finally dissuaded him, was when I told him that he couldn’t leave you here alone.”


She nodded. “I told him that you needed him. That he shouldn’t give up hope of finding Seliph, but that Seliph was better at taking care of himself than you were. To be plain, I said he couldn’t have it both ways. I told him we would speak with Mr. Hommel the next day. He had survived more than any child his age should be expected to and it was alright for him to rest. I wanted him to know that.” Her eyes lowered followed by a heavy sigh. “Of course, he didn’t take it well. Pretty much yelled at me again before breaking down.”

For the first time this morning, Jaron’s gaze shifted to a sympathetic one. “I mean, you’re not wrong. I probably would have been far worse off if he went away.”

She nodded. “Though, I couldn’t just leave him like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I tried my best to comfort him. I told him just how I felt about it.” She brought a fin to her eye as her emotions from that time started flowing back. “I told him how when my late husband passed that I felt so…alone. That I wondered if there was something I could have done or not have been that would have added on more years.”

You…you really felt like that? Jaron felt his heart tighten up as she continued.

“I was upset at everything, Jaron. I told Ciecro that’s why I wanted him to stay. Because I saw so much of my anger in him. So much of my late husband’s warmth in him, even we hadn’t known each other very long. Even if our reasons were vastly different. I felt it wrong to not help him after all my life had led up to. Yes, I was a stranger, Jaron, but some things transcend social boundaries. I know I could never replace the mother you boys had, so I asked him if he would let me care for him and his brother, until he sees fit to leave.” Her eyes shut for a second as she said, “And he agreed.”

Jaron’s head lowered.

“We can’t make people see our reasoning or agree with it, Jaron. But you must never forget that Ciecro values you so much, even more than me.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I’m not bothered by that fact, Jaron.” She smiled. “I’m glad you have a brother that loves you so dearly. And even if it feels like he doesn’t care right now, I imagine it’s not because he’s stopped caring. I think if you want to help him see things another way, perhaps you need to remind him of what he means to you.”

“But he knows what he means to me. Are you saying he’s forgotten?”

“I don’t know what’s bothering your brother, Jaron. I just know that right now, he needs you just as much as you need him. Anyone can tell him what he’s doing wrong, only you can tell him what you truly think.”

The Croconaw’s eyes lowered. “How do I do that? What do I say?”

“I don’t know Jaron. Some of these things just need to be done in the moment. But I know you’ll do fine.”

Jaron sighed. “Thanks for your confidence in me.”

“It’s well placed dear.” She gave him a little peck on the cheek, making him instantly pull back and rub the spot.

“Did you really need to do that out here?” He snarled as she giggled.

“I give my nephews affection wherever I see fit. I thought you’d already know that by now.” Her almost smug smile was contagious.

“Sure, sure.” He shook his head, feeling better already.

“Since you’re here, do you want to swim around with me for a bit? So you can get your morning swim in.”

Jaron smiled. “Always.”

Aunt Dresha swam past Jaron and he followed her. She’s right. I know Ciecro can be a pain, but he’s always been that way. I can’t forget that deep down he does care. I don’t know what I’m going to say to him or how to say it without pissing him off, but I’ll figure something out. He shoved his face into the water, looking at the stone pathway at the riverbed as he swerved his body to keep up with Dresha. I didn’t know he almost went after Seliph. Seems like a far cry from how he is now. But…I guess I can understand. I want Seliph back too, but he just…He doesn’t seem to be the same. A troubled look formed on Jaron’s face. I pretty much accepted he cut us off, so why come back now? I…I might need some time first, just to be sure.

< O >​

“Uhm, sir?”

Snorting awake, Seliph jolted up and looked around frantically. “Oh sorry, uhm. Yes?” He hastily inquired, rubbing his eyes.

looking at the librarian Celfable, who looked either concerned or unsettled.

“Here is…the drink you ord-” A Clefable set a mug on the table. “It’s fresh so quite ho-”

“Ah, thank you!” In the blink of an eye, Seliph snatched it and began gulping it down right in front of the dumbfounded librarian. One heated exhale of satisfaction later, Seliph slammed the mug down like one would at a bar, saying. “Another please.”

It took her a second to process what she had just witnessed. “B-b-but sir, you’ve already had sev-”

Seliph placed a coin on the table. “I would like to order another one. I have work to get done and would like to be awake when doing it.”

She sighed and took his coin. “Alright.” The Clefable walked away mumbling under her breath and shaking her head.

His nerves felt jittery, wanting to bounce all over the walls. His gullet felt warm and comfy. Okay, back to my task. He looked back down at the book and pressed his finger at where he had left off, skimming through a few sentences before shaking his head annoyed. Ugh, not what I need either. Maybe this library doesn’t have what I’m looking for after all. He stood up and walked over to the main desk, setting the book a bit harshly on the desk, due to his active nerves rather than any malice or frustration.

The Parasect clerk faced him, his eyes, being the white voids, were making Seliph feel a bit unsettled but also unsure if he had properly gotten the mon’s attention until the bug spoke. “Ah, is that the book you would like to-”

Seliph held up his hand. “No, I’m not checking this book out. I just have a question.”


The Parasect clerk looked over at the Clefable, who was grinding some seeds into powder as some water nearby was heating up a small metal casing with a red Emura in its center. She looked back and shrugged, resuming her task.

“Ahem, what kind of catalog question, sir?”

Seliph rested his arms on the desk, saying, “Do you have any specific works about the Clans?”

“Errr?” The Parasect said perplexed, his void white eyes staring blankly at Seliph in a creepy, albeit unintentional manner.

“He means, books about Clansmons,” the Clefable clarified, setting the cup on the desk, which Seliph immediately snatched up.

“Oh! Of course, sir! My apologies.” The Parasect pulled something from under desk, set a large writing book on top, and began turning its pages while browsing the entries.

Ugh, can’t they afford databases? Seliph rolled his eyes as he rested his back on the desk, staring down at the wooden floor as he waited.

“Would you like a list of them, sir?”

“Yes, please.” He began rubbing his chin. I have what I need for the trap, but not knowing why they’re after the Fraxure is just bothering me. I wish I had better research so I could check if he had his memory tampered with since I think it’s possible to use a soul link to investigate that. Maybe they have something here I could use. He slammed his fist into his palm and spun around, startling the Parasect.

“I’m sorry, but can you also add to the list books on the topic of mental manipulation?”

The two stared back with dumbfounded looks as Seliph groaned.

“Any books or papers about the mind portion of mons.”

“Uhh…I can check sir, I’ll just have to start at the be-”

“That’s fine.” Seliph slammed another coin on the desk. “Another one please.”

“Sir, please,” The Clefable scooted back his coin, with a concerned look. “Having too much is unhealthy. If you’re feeling that tired sir, you should go get some rest. Perhaps you can do more of your research lat-”

The Greninja’s eyes narrowed. “Look, I’m buying a drink. Are you going to make me a cup or not?”

“Eight is very excessive. This is a library, not a bar.” She crossed her arms and scowled at him. “I’m sorry, but if you want another Blast Seed Brew, you’re going to-”

“Got it.” He got off the bar and started walking out, leaving the Clefable in surprise. “I’ll be back for the list.” The Greninja grumbled as he headed for the door, putting his hand on it but paused as he looked at a group of nearby tables where mons were reading or chatting. He raised a brow as he focused on one of the tables, but soon opened the door and left with a dark grin on his face.

Once out, he immediately took a right where he spotted the nearest café. As he started walking, he suddenly diverted course and went down an alleyway, pressing his back against the wall immediately. Let’s see if you’re gullible.

Stepping deeper into the alleyway, Seliph got down on all fours and hopped up. He formed a Night Slash stick that shot out both sides and stuck into the wall. He did this a few times until he was able to hop onto the roof and look down.

Hmmmm… The alleyway was still empty. Then is that mon following- Raising a brow he jogged to the other side of the building, but to his surprise, there was no one there too. Hrm? His eyes shot wide as he darted over to the front side, looking right at the café he was going to.

A white furred mon entered the café, vanishing as the door shut behind this stranger. Seliph raised a brow and smiled. Huh, so you aren’t gullible. Sucks for you I have stalking experience.

He made his way down and started across the street for the café. He brushed himself a little as he entered, the bustling breakfast time forcing him to be a bit more aware to save himself and anyone else from an unfortunate collision.

“Need something, sir?”

He looked at the bartender and shook his head. “Not yet, thank you.” He resumed browsing the café. Come on, where- Ah there you are. With a broad grin, Seliph strode on over to a booth and sat down opposite another mon obscured by a paper menu.

“I supposed I must be out in the rural fields to be dealing with all this paper instead of holocasters.”

“Get lost, bub,” A voice replied the attempt at sounding deeper was pretty obvious.

“I could say the same, but then I would still be curious why you’re spying on me.” He put a finger to the top of the menu and pulled it down gently, revealing Jasmine leering at him.

“I was reading that.”

“Sure you were.” Seliph leaned back, spreading his arms out in a lax position, making Jasmine’s eyes dart to the side with annoyance. “So, gonna answer my question?”

“What’s there to answer?” She replied coldly. “You’re being paranoid. I always do some reading before I get some breakfast.”

“Sounds a bit normal of a routine, given all that’s going on I’d imagine you wouldn’t do that.” He leaned forward.

“Old habits die hard.” She leaned forward too, his knowing grin matching her soft scowl.

Seliph chuckled as he looked out the window. “So you’re telling me that going out in the rain post-midnight is normal for you?” Seliph’s eyes darted to look at her as he finished, taking in as much of her reaction as he could.

Sure enough, her face twitched slightly with her eyes widening for a second before she looked back at the bar.

Gotcha. Seliph rolled his neck. “Am I wrong?”

She sighed, refusing to answer.

Raising a finger, Seliph said, “First rule of bluffing. Always have a strong resting face.”

“I’m not bluffing,” she snapped, her head lowering a little afterward as a wordless acknowledgment of her guilt.

“Of course not.” Seliph shrugged. “By all reason, you are right.”

“Huh?” She looked at him with a cautiously raised brow.

Seliph leaned back, rolling his wrist. “I didn’t see you that night. I just said that to see if you’d recognize it, which you did.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s hardly proof.”

“Proof is for a court of whatever law is in style.” He shrugged. “Some things are just easy to tell.”

“That’s a rather dangerous way of thinking about things.”

Seliph smiled in the wake of her hostility, only interrupted by a waiter coming over.

“Uhm…are you two ready?”

“He’s not wit-” Jasmine began but Seliph cut her off.

“I’ll take a Blast Seed Brew. No additions.” He held out a hand to her, indicating it was her turn to order.

It took her a second, but she finally sighed and uttered, “Just some Oran Juice.” The waiter nodded and left, prompting Jasmine to speak up again. “So first you catch me spying on you and now you’re buying my drink?”

“Why not? I respect your tact. But also, I’m curious what I did to get your ever-gazing eyes fixated on my person.” Her lack of response prompted him to speak his mind. “It’s because of Humphry, isn’t it?”

Instantly, her silence was broken. “If you think he ordered me to do that, think again.”

“Oh no, no, no, you misunderstand.” She waited for the clarification. “I meant that Humphry doesn’t trust me so you don’t.”

“I…well…those are your words, not mine.”

Seliph raised a brow, a bit surprised at how flustered Humphry’s mention made her. “If you think I’m saying that’s wrong, I’m not. I’m sure Humphry has done much to earn your trust.”

“He’s the Commissioner and has taken a sworn duty to protect the town.” She retorted, almost offended at his method of talking about Mr. Hommel.

“Many rangers don’t let something like sworn duty get in the way of personal goals.” Seliph leaned on the window as Jasmine countered.

“Yes, but you’d be surprised to know Humphry isn’t one of them.”

“You sound certain.”

“I know a corr-” She paused, her built-up anger vanishing in a flash with flustered surprise.

Huh? Seliph faced her, but she had already shifted to a defensive, head-lowered scowl.

“I…I just know he’s not like that. His guild is a good place.”

History or something else? He leaned back. “You’re training to become a ranger, right?”

“Yes…what about it?”

“Nothing about it.” He sighed as he once more turned his attention to the window. “Look, don’t take it the wrong way. I don’t blame anyone here for not knowing much about the Red Eyes or knowing the perfect counter to everything.”

“Sounds like you are. It sounded like you were upset that he didn’t just do everything you wanted him to.”

“I have no personal attachment to your commissioner.” Seliph looked upwards. “He seems like an upstanding citizen and I’d be lying to say I wasn’t grateful for his existence. But as I said, these guys are something of an anomaly when it comes to criminals. I’ve got the best experience and knowledge about them. I think that isn’t something to be ignored.”

“He’s not ignoring you.”

“I know and in any other circumstance, I’d be more lenient.” Seliph huffed as he saw the work going on at the bar. “But time isn’t on our side. These guys are willing to kill as you saw last night.”

The two went silent, even as their drinks arrived. Seliph immediately started sipping his hot brew while Jasmine stared at hers, eventually saying, “What do you mean earlier when you said you were grateful for his existence?”

He let out a little chuckle and looked at her straight in the eye. “You mean to tell me you can figure out where I was and how to keep a covert eye on me, but don’t know why I’d appreciate your commissioner?”

About a minute later, Jasmine let out a heavy “Hmph.” Looking away, she said, “So you’re telling me that you do care about them?”

Her words almost made him frown, but he refrained, keeping the change to just a neutral face. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well…” Her head lowered as her face bore some manner of guilt, probably from how sharp her statement came off. “I mean, why didn’t you at least send them some letters?”

Seliph raised a brow. “Why letters?”

“You know what I mean,” She answered, tensing up like a heavy boulder. “Why didn’t you try contacting them in some way?”

Seliph started on a long sip of his drink as he thought, Hmmm, let’s see how sturdy that wall is. Would be worth it if this situation is dragged out. As he set the mug down, he kept his eyes on the swirling liquid inside. “I wanted to, but it’s not easy.” He leaned back, continuing. “If I sent anything truly heartfelt or sincere then they would have been brought into this.”

She didn’t look convinced, however, Seliph could see her expression was softer than before.

She must be very good friends with them. Perhaps… He paused, thinking carefully about how he wanted to go about this. “I don’t know if you or the Commissioner know this, but maybe you’d be interested to know something.”

“Huh?” She looked flabbergasted as Seliph chuckled.

“My brothers weren’t discovered in the attack.”

“Huh?” Jasmine tilted her head, confused.

He nodded. “I’m very confident in that. Anybody that did seem them was killed.” He sipped more of his drink, finishing it up in a few gulps. And I’m certainly glad no invasive psychics were able to find that out either. “That’s why I didn’t want to send anything. Because they had something I didn’t. Identity protection.”

Her head lowered, processing this information.

“Does that answer your question?”

“It kind of does, but…” she sighed and shook her head. “Look, I’m not saying you don’t care, but…”

He waited patiently for her to finish that thought, but she never did.

“Sorry, nevermind.”

He looked at the window as a minor scowl formed on his face, almost without thinking about it. Maybe you’re more like my brothers than I thought. His eyes narrowed fiercer as he finished that thought. However, he quickly shifted back to a neutral expression as he looked back at Jasmine. “Is that another reason why you don’t trust me? Because my brothers are upset with my lack of contact?”

“Well…I’d be lying if I didn’t say I could sympathize.”

“In more than just imagination?” Seliph squinted as he focused on her body and its tells. She looked uncomfortable hearing that but didn’t reply. Backpedal a little, Seliph. You don’t want to overdo it. He rolled his neck, saying with a cheery smile, “But perhaps that’s also because you’re a good friend to them.”

She looked at him in surprise. “Huh?”

“I can tell. You just give off a strong, caring vibe. I’m glad my brothers have a friend.” He started drawing circles on the table. Let’s see, if I want her to trust me better I need to come off as vulnerable. So, let’s go with something believable. He put on a rather weary smile as he spoke, “You know, I sometimes was troubled that they were alone in that town. I know they had Dresha, but I was concerned they’d never have someone their age. So, seeing you here brings warm feelings to my heart.”

He refrained from looking at her reaction, confident he pitched it sincerely enough to land the impact.


Perfect. His eyes widened as he suddenly felt a vibration coming from his belt. He raised a brow as he starting deducing what it was without looking. Back right pocket. Wait! He stood up and tossed two coins on the table.


“Sorry, but I imagine that list is done by now. I have some business to do anyways.” He gave her a pleasant bow and said, “It was nice talking to you, miss?”

“Jasmine…Jasmine Morteaih.”

He nodded and headed out at a race-walking pace. Instead of going back into the library, he went down the alleyway next to it followed by a few turns. Once out of sight, he pulled out a rusted, damaged badge. In the center was the Norfarion Crest insignia over a faintly flashing orb welded to the metal. Sometimes I’m amazed this still works. He tapped it and it beamed up a holographic orange screen with various options. He tapped a button that was flashing and it went into a loading spiral. His eyes narrowed. Why are they contacting me now? I thought it’d take them at least three more days to get here. Though. He looked back down at the badge. Maybe it’s not just the Red Eyes I shouldn’t underestimate.

The screen shifted to a blank line that suddenly erupted with peaks and dips matching the audio static it started playing. “Hello?” A voice spoke from the badge, the orange lines easing up to match the voice.

Seliph’s eyes slid to the right, fixated on the alleyway corner as he answered, “Yeah, it’s me.”

“Seliph? Oh, thank Arceus we got you at a good time.”

He felt uneasy about this stranger’s relief at hearing his voice. “What is it?”

“Oh, we wanted to give you a heads-up. We’re nearing Perion Town. It’s just a couple of miles away.”

How did they manage that? He started stroking his chin. “Are you going by the river?”

Another voice answered, this one was a deeper, growling-like voice. “Yes. It ends at a pocket lake directly next to the town, correct?”

“Yes, that’s correct.” He reached into another pouch and pulled out a piece of paper. On it, he had a bunch of scribbled notes as well as the layout of an outer sector of Vergium Town. “There’s something you two should know. We’re at Vergium Town now.”

“What?” The first, higher pitched voice exclaimed as the second one chimed in, it having a much deeper almost growling voice.

“Did something happen?”

“Another attack, but we’re fine now. Listen, since you’re so close-”

The chipper voice spoke first. “Hey, that’s actually closer than Perion. We should be able to get there by nightfall if we book it.”

“Where in Perion Town are-” The deeper voice began, but was cut off by Seliph.

“No. You’re not coming into town just yet.” He sighed as he heard the surprised reactions on the other side. “I need you two on standby.”

“What? Why? If they attack again-”

“Their attack is going to be unavoidable. For now, I need you two to help with support. I have a plan.”

“A plan? For what?” The deeper one asked, Seliph almost sensing the quizzical look coming from the audio hologram.

“I’ll fill you in on the details, but right now I have to get back to some research and setting things up. Contact me tonight around eleven tonight and we’ll talk about it.”

“But…” Silence followed before it was broken by the sound of a sigh. “Alright. We’ll wait outside of town.”

“Thank you.” Seliph pressed the button and the hologram disappeared. With a grin on his face, he looked to the right. “You’re welcome to attend too if you don’t mind being out in the open this time. You know where I’m staying.” He turned and started walking down the alleyway, as Jasmine came from around the corner, an uncertain scowl on her face.

Seliph shoved his hands into his pockets, a narrow smirk on his face. Let’s see how curious you really are, Jasmine. I hope you’re there. You could be very helpful in keeping them in check.
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