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Pokémon Shattered Crests Book 1: Lines Broken

Chapter 31: Controlled Inhibition

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 31
Controlled Inhibition

Humphry set a mug down as he let out a faintly steamy exhale of contentment. He looked over at a large office desk where Vergium Town’s Commissioner, Zebzena, was busying herself with an assortment of letters. “Whoever you get to make your brews, mind lending sometime?”

“Perhaps I could arrange something,” Zebzena said with a cheeky grin, though she kept her focus on her work.

Humphry took another tasty sip, licking his chops as he set the empty mug down and wiped his mouth with his arm. “Anything actually interesting in that pile?”

“Nope. I rarely get anything that doesn’t get sent downstairs from a simple glance.” She flicked another letter onto the pile indicated as Filing Office.

Humphry watched her work, her eyes were filled with unease, a stark contrast to the teasing between colleagues they had earlier.

“I don’t like this.” She finally made eye contact with him, confessing, “If they’re bold enough to attack your town, they’ll be bold enough to attack here.”

“I agree.” He stood up and turned towards the window, the warmth of the sun filling his nerves with a pleasing relaxation that struck at his current stress. “And I’m grateful for you helping us. I want to get us help too, but I’m convinced they had outside help for this mission.” He turned towards her, matching her expression with his own unease. “It’s too coincidental and the fact it could be traced to a ranger file means someone may be listening on their behalf. Waiting for reinforcements doesn’t make sense for them to do, especially when they were winning the fight earlier. Right now, Vragon is safest if we don’t take unnecessary risks. It’ll make it harder for them to find him.”

Zebzena took one of the letters and started tapping it on her desk as she rested her head on her left hand. “I get that much, but I still don’t like leaving ourselves wide open like this. Not calling back up feels like we’re asking to be overrun.”

“I agree and I’m sorry that we’re putting you and Vergium Town through this.”

She shook her head. “It’d be wrong of me to turn you guys away. Besides, I have no interest in letting those punks have their way.”

Humphry nodded. “If it helps, only Undo knows about where we went back home and he’s on managing duty at the center of the ranger guild.” He smiled briefly as he walked over to her bookshelf, dragging his finger across the titles. “Plus…I doubt even if we asked for help now we’ll get much if any.” He returned his stare to the books, it growing into a gloomy gaze as he read the assortment of titles. “Even if time wasn’t an issue I imagine they wouldn’t do anything against the Red Eyes, even if they were presented with irrefutable evidence of the attack they caused.”

“That sounds too cynical for you,” Zebzena commented, leaning back to cross her legs.

“Maybe it is.” Humphry started rubbing his eyes. “But right now I don’t think the guilds are ready to make a stand against the Red Eyes. We need more time to bring the others around. To show them this isn’t a battle they have to fight alone.”

“I agree.” Zebzena stood up and walked around her desk. “Are you sure you want to do it this way? I appreciate your concern for Vergium Town, but maybe you should take some time to rest first.”

“We’re pressed for time.” He looked at her as she looked out the window, his eyes narrowing as he was reminded how his town’s peace was robbed. I wonder how everyone else is doing back home. I wonder how…you’re doing, Doris. He shook his head as he turned towards the door, not answering her question.

“Humphry?”

“I’m fine…just need to get some air. It’s been a long morning.”

“I see. Here.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t go too far.”

“No, I mean, here.”

“Huh? Oof!” Humphry croaked in surprise as he caught onto a topless, sorting cabinet full of letters.

“Do you mind running this down to filing for me? Just tell them it’s the usual.”

“Will…do,” he answered with a grunt as he heaved it up.

“I got you.” She gently nudged him aside and opened the door, stepping out of the way for him to leave. “And don’t feel like you can’t take some time to relax. We’ve got things covered for you.”

As she shut the door behind him, Humphry stared at the wall blankly, a frown forming on his face as he diverted his gaze to the letters he was carrying. I can rest later. He sighed as he started down the hall. Right now, I need to get things ready. I want to give us as good of a head start as possible.

During his trip down the empty hallway to the upper levels of a busy main lobby, Humphry paused and set the stack of letters on the bar while holding it to make sure it wouldn’t fall. Now where is it? It didn’t take him long to find the filing section, prompting him to start his descent down the stairs.

I sure hope this town can be spared from an attack. But I suppose either way, there’s nothing I can do about it. Zebzena is capable, I’m sure she can maintain a better counter with her resources. He set the letters on the wooden bar, watching a Chimecho near the back levitating various files around. I just wish… His eyes lowered as he sighed. No, I can’t keep dragging down over my failures before. I owe to the dead to minimize those at risk. The only extra person that should have his life on the line for this, should be-

“Hello there, Mr. Hommel.”

He glanced up to see the Chimecho staring at him with a smile full of glee that did little to improve his mood.

“Are these for filing?” She said, observing the stack of letters.

“Yeah…the Commissioner asked me to deliver this down for you. Says it’s the ‘usual’”

“Ah well, I’ll take care of that right away.” Her eyes started glowing pink as the letters started floating out of the container, one by one, like a parade of paper in defiance of gravity.

Humphry nodded and was about to step away until he became fixated on watching the letters be sorted from their levitation dance. He leaned on the bar as his eyes narrowed slightly. I hope I’m making the right choice. I mean, I don’t know what you would do in a situation like this, but I guess I feel so unready for all this. It did just come out of nowhere, this level of escalation over three punks in less than a week. His eyes shut. Dad, I don’t know how you always felt so confidence, even as you’re getting older. For me, it feels the opposite. I fear that age will sap my vigor and strength. I know this situation doesn’t have a perfect solution, but I still get those tremors I’m missing something. That there’s more I could do that could make the difference between life and death.

He smirked softly as he shook his head, finally going for that walk of his. However, right as he opened the doors he spotted Ciecro sitting on the ground near the entrance to a nearby alley, looking bummed. Hrm? What’s he doing there? Immediately, Humphry walked over and instead of getting his attention chose to study the boy.

“Go away.”

Humphry flinched for a second before composing himself. Guess he wasn’t sleeping. He knelt down on a knee, asking, “Ciecro? What’s-”

Ciecro gasped and looked up, immediately getting to his feet. “Sorry, I didn’ know it was yah, sir.”

A relieved chuckle came from the Seismitoad as he stood up as well. “It’s alright.” His smile disappeared as he tilted his head with a curious gaze. “But, why are you sitting here all alone in an alleyway.”

Ciecro’s head lowered, making Humphry groan inside.

So it’s one of those things huh? Humphry scratched the back of his head, saying, “Look, Ciecro, I don’t really like digging in, but given all that’s been going on, I need you to answer me.”

The Charmeleon turned his head to the side. “It…doesn’ matteh anyways.”

“Ciecro.” Humphry walked in front of Ciecro and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder, albeit not the injured one. “Tell me why and what you’re doing at the ranger guild, please.”

Ciecro started rubbing his arm. “I…I was jus’….” He growled a little as he hung his head low and said in a soft tone. “Is Clyde dead?”

Humphry felt his body tense up. “I…” He took his hand away and looked at the wall solemnly. The Monferno’s fate had been on his mind as well, be it another casualty to add to the list or a permanently harmed survivor. Either way, it was a fate that was in his thoughts and prayers too. “I don’t know.”

“Yah don’?” Ciecro repeated with a tint of surprise that the Commissioner wasn’t aware of this information.

“No, I don’t. We are not beaming out any special transmissions.” He looked at Ciecro, seeing the boys desperate and bothered look lower was enough to make him recount those horrible memories of learning of his story. I’m sorry. He took a big inhale and let it all out, forcing his mind and body to relax as he prepared for what he was about to say. “Ciecro.”

“Huh?” The boy looked up at him, as Humphry leaned over and looked at him on an even level.

“Ciecro, want you to stay with a ranger at all times and try to avoid traveling too much around town.”

The Charmeleon raised a brow. “Wha’? Sir?”

“And…I want you to give your arm the rest it needs. If there is another conflict, you are to comply with ranger orders and not engage, no matter what.”

“Bu’ sir-” Ciecro started to protest, but Humphry held up his hand.

“No. I cannot allow another incident like last night to occur.” He stood up and crossed his arms. “These are your orders, Ciecro.” He fought hard against the sympathy that built up inside him at seeing the conflicted expression on the boy’s face as his head lowered. “I understand you w-”

“No, yah don’!”

Humphry’s eyes shot wide at the sudden outburst.

“Yah don’ understand! If I hadn’ gone den maybe somethin’ worse would’ve happened.”

Humphry’s eyes narrowed, reclaiming his authority stance. “You don’t know that.”

“But…I saw everyone fightin’ dem. Dey were strugglin’.”

“Ciecro, this isn’t like you.” He stepped forward prompting the Charmeleon to snarl. “You’re normally very good at understanding the situation and complying with important requests. Your desire to help is admirable, I truly mean that, but you cannot break my orders during such a critical situation.”

“Bu-”

Humphry snorted and stepped forward. “Ciecro.” He towered over the boy, asserting his authority both mentally and physically as he bluntly said, “Even if you were in tip-top shape I wouldn’t want nor let you fight. This isn’t a game and this isn’t a test for you. These are real, evil mons that will kill anyone that stands in their way.”

“I know, bu-”

“If you know then stop arguing with me.” Humphry pressed fingers to his eyes aggravated.

“Dey could kill yah or anyone else! I can’t jus’ sit on dah sidelines.”

“For Arceus’s sake, Ciecro, they murdered mons just last night.” Humphry leered down at the shocked Charmeleon. “I don’t want you to put your life in danger when it doesn’t need to be.”

“I’m not gonna throw my life away!” Ciecro shouted defiantly.

“Yes, you are.” Humphry stepped forward as Ciecro stepped back with a wide-eyed look. “Your shoulder is injured and they’re a handful even for us in groups. You understood when your parents told you to hold back eight years ago, why don’t you understand this now?” Humphry’s gaze lowered a little. That’s a low blow, but I need him to understand-

“Why’re yah bringin’ dat up?” the Charmeleon asked with a side glance and a faint, angry growl.

“You understood their rules were in place to protect you. I know I am not them, but I hope in all our years you know that I say all of this out of my desire to keep you, Jaron, and everyone else safe. I’m sorry, Ciecro, but you need to stop and listen to me.”

Ciecro’s scowled fiercely as he turned towards the wall. “I am listenin’.”

“Then why are you pushing back against so much?”

“Because it’s not fair!” Ciecro slammed his fist against the wall as he leered at Humphry with a fierce, angry glare. “I never wanted tah jus’ leave ‘em. I had no choice, because I was ten.” His head lowered a little. “I couldn’ do anythin’ at all. I could barely help my brothers an’ I even screwed dat up.”

Humphry just listened, using this time to cool his head.

Ciecro looked at his hands as they clenched into fists. “If…things were different. If I was how I am now. I wouldn’ve ran.”

Humphry took a second to think about what to say. He sighed and walked closer to the boy. “Ciecro, no parent worth their salt would sacrifice their child for their own life.”

“So why is dat always dah adult’s choice?” He looked up at Humphry, his fury showing traces of weakness as his eyes started tearing up a little. “Why can’t I make dat choice?”

Softening his expression, Humphry crossed his arms and looked at the wall. “I never would want you to have to make that choice or anyone your age.” He sighed, saying, “The simple fact is, you’re young. You have a lot more years ahead. Your parents understood the value in that.”

“I…I don’ agree.” Ciecro wiped his eyes with his arm as he glared at the wall. “Yah’lls lives aren’ worth less because yah’re older.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Humphry rubbed the back of his head as he sighed. “If these threats weren’t so dangerous I wouldn’t be asking you to stay out of it.” He sighed and looked upwards. “Ciecro, you know that-”

Ciecro’s arms fell to their sides as he said in a low tone, “How would yah feel?”

“Hrm?” Their eyes locked. Humphry’s face softened as he saw the troubled look on Ciecro’s face.

“Tah jus’ be told yah can’t do anythin’.” He started brushing at the tears in his eyes. “It’d fuckin’ suck.” He stared low at the side, sad memories likely in his mind. “I know yah’re jus’ lookin’ out fo’ us. But…I don’ want wha’ happened tah muh parents tah happen tah yah or anybody else. An’ my parents wouldn’ want dat either.”

Humphry could feel his eyes wanting to swell up too. I’m being too harsh. But I don’t know. He’s been off for a while and while I agree with his feelings of wanting to protect, it’s still-…he’s still-… He crossed his arms, to be honest, I agree. It would suck to be unable to do anything about it. He sighed and placed his back against the wall. “You’re right.”

“Sir?”

Humphry’s fists tightened as he stared at the wall opposite the one he rested on. “It does suck. This whole situation. It makes me feel so small despite the consequences being so big.” His arms fell to his sides. “I keep thinking about what I could have changed. Done differently, so that at least some of the casualties would still have their lives.” His eyes shut as he tried to blank his mind as he bore out his honesty while trying to keep his tone stable and calm. “I want to deny that there was only so much I could do. That so much of it was out of my control.”

He felt his body heat up, the anger inside wanting to release itself in a rant, but he held it in. “To be honest, Ciecro.” He tried to remain stoic as he paused. “I’d be lying if I didn’t feel similar feelings deep down to how you feel about your parents. Survivors guilt and all that.” He looked at the boy, who had lowered his gaze to the side, but despite not looking at him Humphry could tell the boy was very invested in what he was saying. “But I can’t forget all that is here right now. All that is still in danger. Ciecro, I hope you understand I’m not trying to cage you up. I don’t bring up your past to shame you, but to give you a glimpse of how I see it. Your parents were proud of you for making the hard, grown-up choice of letting go for their sake and you’ve gotten older Ciecro, not younger.”

He got off the wall and held out a hand to Ciecro. “I’m sorry for stirring up all those painful memories. I just felt…that you’d understand better if I used them as an example.”

Ciecro looked at the hand, hesitant.

He’s upset no doubt. He kept his hand there, saying, “I’m sorry I brought them up, but I wanted to make my orders clear. I want you to trust me like how I trust you. I know you can protect yourself and Jaron should anything happen.”

Ciecro’s eyes softened a little at this last part, darting to the side for a second to process. Wiping at his eyes one last time, Ciecro sniffled as he reached up and took Humphry’s hand. “Please...don’ die.”

“I won’t.” Humphry smiled as they shook and released. “I’m asking more of you than you deserve. Thank you, Ciecro. I’m glad to know someone as brave and strong as you.”

Ciecro leaned against the wall, eyes shutting. While he remained silent, Humphry could almost sense Ciecro didn’t see it that way.

“It takes a lot of courage to let go, you know.”

He still didn’t reply.

A frown formed on Humphry’s face as he tried to think of something to say that would encourage the boy. Just then, a vibration came from his belt, prompting him to take out his com orb. “Hello? Ranger Hommel speaking.”

Ciecro perked up a little as the orb glowed in tune with the person speaking on the other side.

“Forgive the intrusion, sir, but Miss Morteaih wishes to speak with you.”

“Dolly?” The two said, before Humphry asked, “Where is she?”

“In the commissioner’s office.”

“I’m on my way.” He put the orb away, saying, “We’ll talk more about this later. Okay?” He patted Ciecro on the non-injured shoulder, hoping the boy would give him some reaction to gauge his mood.

“Okay…” Ciecro said in a soft tone, walking past the Seismitoad, head downcast and eyes fixated on the ground.

Humphry watched Ciecro until the Charmeleon vanished from sight. Poor boy. He’ll need some time to accept it. I can’t blame him, but I’m sure he knows it’s the right thing to do. I hope I get the chance to speak with him before I leave. Humphry looked at the orb in his hand. I want to give him some closure.



< O >​



“Of course, this would be where he was,” Humphry said with a heavy sigh, staring at the run-down, brick building in front. His eyes looked at the hanging sign, a bit rusted over but not enough to obscure the word cheap rooms plastered under the place’s name. “Even cheap inns don’t look this questionable.”

“Well, this is where I followed him.” Jasmine sighed as she sat next to the door. “I still don’t like this.”

Nodding, he said, “I agree, but if he’s informing you about his plans then it’s important I am here too. Besides,” he looked at the door, eyes narrowing. “I doubt he expected you to come alone.”

“I guess.” She stood up on all fours, though her head remained downcast.

Looking at her, Humphry smiled and said, “Don’t be discouraged. You did the right thing telling Dolly.”

“It’s not that, I’m just…” She paused for a second, pondering for the right words before giving up and saying. “I don’t really have a better way to say this but, with all due respect sir, I think maybe Dolly should have come instead of you.”

Humphry smirked as he rubbed his chin. “Why you wound me.”

“I’m being serious.” She scowled and looked at the door. “I don’t know what’s his issue with you, but he was pretty blunt about thinking you should just do what he tells you. Even his compliment felt belittling. I don’t know, he just doesn’t respect your authority or at least finds it threatening to his objectives is my estimation.”

Humphry stroked his chin, stewing on the words she had said until Jasmine spoke up again with a guilty look on her face.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he assured her, walking up to the door. “Not everybody is easy to work with, and Seliph has been a loner for a long time. It honestly makes perfect sense he’d want to call the shots because he has experience with these ‘Red Eyes’.”

Jasmine raised a brow. “But sir.”

“Don’t get me wrong.” He looked back at her with a determined look in his eyes. “I won’t let him push me around, but I can’t ignore he’s got information and experience with these guys I don’t have. Shutting him down entirely would be irresponsible of me.”

Jasmine smiled softly as she joined him at the door. “I just…want to make sure you know you’re a great commissioner to me. You don’t let your pride get in the way of something like this.”

Humphry croaked in jest. “I appreciate that. Now, we’ve dawdled enough. Let’s go in.”

“Right.”

Jasmine gently shoved open the door and entered, with Humphry following her with a frown on his face and his mind busy in his thoughts.

I wish she hadn’t confronted him on her own, even if she managed to set something like this up. I don’t like the way he talks. It reeks of an ulterior motive. His eyes lowered, staring at the wooden floor they were walking on. Maybe that’s just my dread. I don’t want to lie to him, but I doubt he’ll take my plan well. I may have to ask Jasmine to sit out when it comes to that.

Taking a break from his unpleasant thoughts, Humphry decided to take in the area they walked in. Its cleanliness looked like the work of someone without a work ethic as well as the walls requiring a new coat of paint. Gross. I guess that’s what happens in the less profitable districts, but still. As they were about to turn for the stairs, Humphry saw further down the hall a Raticate and Rapidash talking.

His eyes softened up. The Raticate’s tooth was chipped in a few spots, his whiskers were droopy, and his fur looked unkept in a few places. The Rapidash wasn’t much better with noticeably shaking legs and a dim flame for a mane. Elderly pit perhaps. We are on the outskirts, but still to just spice up the riverside of town and forget about this place because a bunch of old people live here just feels wrong, even on a tight budget. His eyes shut. If my father was still around I’d never want him to just be put in a place like this. I’d never want anyone to be-

“Sir?”

He glanced up at Jasmine, blinking. “Oh, sorry. I’m coming.” She headed on up as he started up the stairs, taking one last glance at the old duo, his mood rising a little as he saw that despite their decrepit bodies, they had glee in their conversation.

He stared forward absentmindedly as he rounded the stairs to the next floor, his smile growing. What was it you would say, father? ‘Contentment is the ultimate peace’. Heh, perhaps it comes with age for some. I’m glad those two at least have each other. I know I’d hate to be alone when nearing my end.

His attention shifted back to the Absol as she stopped, saying, “We’re here.”

Alright. Here it goes. Humphry knocked on the door. No answer. Raising a brow, he knocked again. “Huh?”

“It’s almost time so why isn’t he-?” Jasmine gasped as Humphry slammed his fist on the door. “Woah, don’t break the door down.”

“Sorry.” He leaned up to the door. “Is he asleep?” He flinched back as the doorknob turned with a creak and the door pulled inwards.

“Sorry about that,” Seliph said, poking his head in front of the door. “The lock chain on this can get stu-” He stopped, his eyes meeting Humphry’s. “Ah, Commissioner. I was expecting you.”

Jasmine’s eyes widened as Humphry’s narrowed.

Guess I was right. He gave a respectful nod. “Apologies for not sending some kind of notice.”

“It’s not a problem. Like I said, I was expecting you.”

Not bothering to hide your smugness I see, Humphry thought.

Once Seliph swung the door open, he gestured for Jasmine to enter first, taking a look down both aisles before stepping in and shutting the door behind him.

The room looked about as clean as the hallway. However, the table looked wiped off, showing what little traces of former color it had when it was brand new. On it was a saucer with an orb sitting in the middle, shooting out a projection of an audio line holographic screen.

“Please, have a seat. It shouldn’t take long and the chairs won’t fall apart. They might even last longer than the building.”

Humphry sat down first, his nerves calming down at the chair’s sturdiness, just as Seliph had said.

“So these associates of yours, they’re from the clans, right?” He asked.

“Mhm,” Seliph answered, prompting Humphry to stare at the orange line on the screen, stroking his chin.

“I’d like to as-” He flinched back as the line suddenly shot to life and the orb sounded static audio. What the?

“Hello?” A voice said amid the static sounds. “We coming through?”

“Yes, though you’re coming in with a bit of static,” Seliph answered.

Humphry leaned forward. “It’s probably from all the rainy weather we’ve been having. The humidity in the air is pretty high. That’s probably what’s making the connection so static sounding.”

“Dang, well I hope you can understand me.”

“We can, the static isn’t drowning you out,” Humphry answered, closing his eyes to try and deduce the voice from the static. Hmmm…a little high-pitched for a Norfarion. I hope it’s an adult talking and not some conscripted adolescent on an assignment.

Seliph smirked a little as he answered, “We can hear you fine.”

“Phew, for a minute there- hrm?”

Humphry leaned closer as another voice spoke, one deeper with almost a growl to it.

“We?”

Well now, that’s more what I was expecting. Humphry’s eyes focused on Seliph, who hadn’t changed from his relaxed posture.

“Yes, I have two guests with me. Swift, Garon, this is Commissioner Hommel and one of his students, Jasmine Morteaih.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jasmine said.

“Likewise,” the higher-pitched voice replied with a rather gleeful tone to it that seemed odd to Humphry, though he appreciated how this guy was uplifting the mood in the room.

“Alright, with that out of the way, we need to discuss what’s our-”

“If I may.” Humphry stood up and leaned on the table, waiting for Seliph to clear him.

The Greninja sighed and rolled his wrist, prompting Humphry to speak.

“This is Commissioner Hommel speaking. I’d like to ask you two a few questions if that’s alright?”

“Sure,” The lighter one answered.

“First things first. How many of you are there?”

“Two of us are heading your way. There are two more running support.”

“Support?” Humphry leaned forward, eyes narrowing as if he was studying their movements.

“Yes. They’re running our communications back to the homeland.”

“Why just you two?”

The deeper voice then added, “Me and Swift can make a trip like this in a short amount of time. Nobody else on our team would be able to keep up. So we all decided that us two would provide immediate backup to the local authorities while the others operate based on what we report.”

Hmmmm…I guess that makes sense, but is that the only reason? Deciding to move on, Humphry was about to ask his next question until Jasmine blurted out a question.

“Wait, you’re traveling on foot?”

“Yes?” Swift answered, with the bluntness of someone who didn’t see anything wrong with it.

“Why aren’t you using a transport?”

“Because,” Garon replied, “It’d take a bit of time to negotiate transportation if we could even acquire one at all to go that far inland. You don’t get transport to your towns there for trade, right?”

Humphry sighed heavily. “No, we don’t.”

Jasmine sat back, mulling over the answer.

“It was a good question,” Humphry whispered to her. He then turned back to the screen. “Alright, next question. What do you know about our attackers?”

“Well, there’s a lot to know about the Red Eyes. Some specifics about these attackers would help.”

Humphry scowled. I don’t like the sound of that. “Well, it was a team of three mons. A Gallade with a crest, I don’t know the exact clan, a Gengar, and a Haxorus who had an Averion crest and appears to be their leader. Well-coordinated and potentially reached out for intel.”

Seliph chimed in. “The Haxorus is very strong. Given the situation, warping him out of town was the only option.”

Humphry sighed and sat back down as Swift answered. “That’s still a bit vague, but it’s possible that one or all of them are Enforcers.”

“What’s that?” Jasmine asked.

“You could consider them the military of the Red Eyes.”

“Military?” Humphry raised a brow, leaning on his crossed arms resting on the table. “How big is this cult?”

“Quite big.” Garon sighed, saying, “To call them a ‘cult’ is kind of underselling them. They have plenty of international operations with a stronger force than they’re given credit for. But to get back to your question, Enforcers are sent out on important missions. If this is what we’re dealing with, they will be relentless and cunning. Enforcers are trained to fight well, operate effectively, and cause as few mistakes as possible.”

Humphry leaned back, the nervousness in the back of his mind trying to force its way to the forefront of his thoughts. That would explain their resilience. “Anyways, tell us more about-”

“Ahem,” Seliph interrupted, tapping his webbed fingers on the table. “I hate to interrupt, but I’d like to get to the planning part. Information can wait until we’ve dealt with the threat.”

Humphry scowled. “Now hang on a minute.”

“Please.” Seliph stood up and paced towards a wall, his arms behind his back inquisitively. “I know you want to learn more, but we might not have much time.” He looked back at the two, saying, “It’s important we prepare for their incoming offensive.”

“You say that like they’ll show up tonight.” Humphry got up from his seat and crossed his arms.

Seliph started stroking his chin in thought. “I wouldn’t put it past them. As previously stated, they’re very resilient.”

“I understand that. But we’ve taken good care at masking our presence in this town.”

Seliph gestured to the side. “I get that, but even then they probably assume we went to a town. Not many towns are near Perion Town so they may guess correctly.”

Humphry sighed. I can’t tell if he’s being genuine or just trying to keep me in the dark. Shaking his head, Humphry sat back down and lazily gestured for Seliph to continue.

“Alright, so here’s what I’m thinking.” Seliph took two rolled-up pieces of paper out of a dresser he was near and set them on the table.

Humphry and Jasmine leaned over, watching Seliph roll apart the first one which appeared to be a map of the center of town, indicated by the river cutting through the map in half.

“Currently, Vragon is residing at the inn here, correct?” He pressed his finger at the spot with Humphry confirming with a nod. “Alright, I’d like for Vragon to be moved here.” He dragged his finger to a spot near the northwestern part of town, barely on the map’s edge.

“Why there?” Humphry asked.

“It’s at a location with a lot of space. The Gengar won’t have as much of an advantage without tighter corridors.”

“If you want to move him, why not bring him to the guild?” Humphry inquired, prompting Seliph to sigh.

“Because then we’d be trapping ourselves in.”

“There’s plenty of rangers there-”

“Please let me finish.”

Humphry grumbled and leaned back. I don’t like this. Leaving Vragon out in the open is- His eyes widened as Seliph started unrolling the second map. No way. He’s not going to-

“We’ll have rangers patrolling around and keeping an eye on things. As soon as one is spotted or they attempt a move for the Fraxure, I and Vragon will head to the patch of hills here. It’s close enough that we can make it and far enough that they’ll expend some of their energy in pursuit. Once there, this is where you two come in.”

“What do you want us to do?” Swift asked.

“You two will be waiting near the outskirts here with other rangers around the hill areas. Once they’re in this basin, the ends will get between them and town and we’ll surround them. We’ll focus on pelting them with range moves with fliers to keep the Gengar on the ground. If their group is split up, we can have the fliers focus on those isolated threats and I’ll deal with the Gengar if he’s there.”

“How?” Jasmine asked.

“I have ways,” Seliph said with a grin. “But no matter the combination, we’ll have them outnumbered and outsupplied-”

Unable to contain himself anymore, Humphry stood up and said, “Seliph. I don’t want to use Vragon as bait.”

Seliph rolled his eyes. “I don’t like it either, but given the circum-”

“No, I’m not using a child to lure them to the outskirts for a battle to capture.” Humphry placed a firm hand on the table.

Seliph shook his head. “Listen, I understand your feelings, but the fact of the matter is-”

Humphry’s fist clenched as his own thoughts overrode Seliph’s reply. I want to so badly. How dare you sit there with that arrogant tone with a plan to put a child in harm’s way after they already killed other children. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath through his nostrils. Calm down. Wait till later. He refocused on Seliph, who looked annoyed for some reason, likely guessing Humphry wasn’t listening.

“Look…” Humphry thought for a few seconds about how to say it before sitting down. “I’m cautious of putting Vragon in harm’s way. What do you hope to even learn from finding out their mission’s details?”

“As I said before, I want to know what Vragon is to them.” Seliph drew a circle around the spot. “It’s imperative we know what he is to them since they could very well grow bolder and bolder at every turn we foil them.”

“I just…” Humphry pressed his fingers against his closed eyes. “I don’t get how one little Fraxure boy can be so important that they’d just send more and more.”

“All the more reason to find out,” Garon said from the orb. “Given the circumstances, that information would be invaluable.”

“I don’t like putting this ‘Vragon’ in harm’s way either. But we can prepare to mitigate any risk to his wellbeing,” Swift added, making Humphry’s heart ease up a little that these associates seemed to also be hesitant to this idea.

“Agreed. You two needn’t worry. Just be at the hillsides on the northeast outskirts as soon as possible.”

“Understood.”

“That is all I have plan-wise.” Seliph looked around the room for any questions. Taking the silence as confirmation, he picked up the orb and said, “Safe travels.”

“We’ll get here as soon as we can,” Garon answered as Seliph twisted the com orb off.

A heavy sigh came from the Greninja as he set the orb back down. “Well, that went well.”

Humphry didn’t feel the same. He shut his eyes as he prepared his mental fortitude. “Regarding Vragon.” He looked up at Seliph, saying to the listening Greninja. “I want to be there with him.”

Seliph sighed. “We can travel faster if it’s just me and him. Plus, I need you to stay with my brothers so they don’t try something. They’ll listen to you.”

“I know they will listen to me, but I want you to listen to me too.” He stood up and looked at Seliph, their firm gazes locked in wordless combat. He broke their contest for a second to say to Jasmine.

“Please wait outside.”

“But-”

“Now.”

Jasmine’s head lowered and she meekly left the room as the two resumed their stare battle. Once he heard the door shut, Seliph spoke. “Look, in order to sell it I need to-”

“If you are going to put Vragon at risk then I want to be near him at all times.” Humphry turned and walked over to the wall where a framed mirror was resting. He held his hands behind his back, staring at his reflection. “Furthermore, his stay will only be for tonight.”

“What?” Seliph stepped forward and demanded, “What do you mean?”

Humphry turned around and bluntly answered, “Because I’m leaving with him in the morning.”

Seliph’s eyes widened. “What? Now hold on a sec-”

“No, you listen.” Humphry placed a hand on the dresser nearby and stated, “Tomorrow morning I’m taking Vragon to a safe place to lay low.”

Seliph turned around dragging a hand over his face and saying with snarky sarcasm, “Oh really, you want to hide from them? That’s your plan?”

“Not all of it, but it is what will be done for now.”

“Why is this so hard for you to understand?” Seliph spun around and pointed an aggressive finger at Humphry. “This isn’t something you can just run from. They’re going to track you down until they find you.”

It is possible they may find us before I get things ready.. Despite these thoughts, Humphry breathed a heavy sigh undeterred in his moral stance. He looked back at the mirror, noticing all the cracks in his stern face as he answered, “I know. I just want to buy some time.”

“For what?” Seliph sternly said.

“A meeting of the guilds.” He pressed his hand against the wall as it closed into a fist as he continued. “I want to try and get the guilds to stand up against them. This concerns more than just their attack on Vragon. They’ve run amok in Triacal for too long and nobody cares because everyone feels they’re alone in this. It’s the price we pay for being city-states.” He looked up at the ceiling. “That’s why I want us to band together for this cause. We can stop them if we unite and they wouldn’t dare try an invasion. Everyone just needs to see that.”

Seliph chuckled mockingly, making Humphry face him with a furious glare.

“This isn’t funny.”

“It’s ridiculous.” Seliph crossed his arms. “Aren’t you keeping things normal in this town because you’re worried some corrupt ranger is listening for you to poke your head out of the ground? You really think you can rely on a system with only some rangers that aren’t bought or intimidated?”

“If I cannot garner the support I need, I will send Vragon to the clans for his safety.”

“Ah yes, and then we’ll never know why he was being hunted in the first place.” Seliph shook his head and paced to the side. “There is a far bigger picture going on, Humphry.”

“Maybe so, but I can’t forget the little pictures that are now incomplete because of my failure.” Humphry fought to keep himself stern but choked up a little as he felt the overflowing of emotional honesty in him.

Seliph’s stare moved to the side, not wanting to catch the contagious reaction. “Look…” he crossed his arms and sighed. “Just…for tonight. Do me a favor and go with my plan. In case something happens.” He looked at Humphry with a look of one that was extending an olive branch. “We’re in the dark and I feel your frustrations in this. It pisses me off how easily they’re able to just do whatever they please.”

“I agree.” Humphry walked up to Seliph as their eyes locked once more, this time less hostile. “And…for what it’s worth, I am very sorry for what they did to you and your family back then. It’s one of the reasons I want to avoid further bloodshed.”

Seliph turned around and lazily waved at the door. “I get it, alright. I can’t really stop you.”

“Seliph, I’m not you’re enemy. We need to work together. So…” His eyes lowered to the side as he thought for a second. He took a deep breath and walked towards the door, mulling to himself. As he twisted the knob, he glanced back, almost anticipating Seliph to be giving him an arrogant smile, but the Greninja hadn’t changed his posture at all. I wish you didn’t give me such a distrusting feeling. I want to believe you’re being sincere. He shook his head and twisted the knob. Please meet me halfway. For my sake. He paused as he let go of his grip on the door. What was that you’d say, father? ‘Mons follow examples?’ He chuckled softly in his head as he turned around and called Seliph’s name.

“What?” Seliph replied, looking back at him as Humphry approached.

“I don’t feel comfortable leaving Vragon alone with just you, even with reinforcements nearby. So, how about this?” He smiled as he gestured towards the door. “Instead of me, how about Jasmine accompany you and Vragon?”

Seliph looked at the door, rubbing his chin in silence. A little grunt followed as he answered, “I suppose that will do. She’s fast enough.”

“Good, I shall inform her.” As he headed out of the room, Humphry’s smile faded as he tried to shake out uncomfortable thoughts from his mind. Thoughts that while he was leaving at this very moment, Seliph was smiling. Pleased at Humphry caving to his wishes, even by a slight amount. He gripped the knob firmly, thinking, I hope it’s just me being paranoid.
 
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Chapter 32: Danger from Behind

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 32
Danger from Behind​

Humphry sighed as he took a sip of some warm tea, staring upwards at the sky. His eyes were droopy and bloodshot as he watched the moonlight appear and disappear between the clouds. A shiver filled him as he looked upstream, feeling the chilling breeze blow on his skin.

The cold will keep me awake. It shouldn’t be too long till sunrise. Then we’ll go. He sat down on a platform attached to one of the many waterwheels that lined the flowing river. He took another sip of that warm, tasty beverage before staring aimlessly forward, but with the focus of a sniper.

I wish we could leave now, given all that Red Eyes ‘Enforcer’ talk earlier. Hard to sleep after hearing that. Though, If the Red Eyes are organized enough to have their own military, then why go after just random mons here in Triacal? His hands tightened over the cup as his gaze softened. I wonder if it was an Enforcer that attacked their family eight years ago.

Eventually, the rushing sounds of the river grabbed his attention. As he stared at the water he thought, Jaron’s defensiveness makes a lot more sense now, having actually fought against them. They’re terrifying. He raised a brow as his gaze went upwards. And they were children at the time. He sighed and shook his head. Ciecro…you’re braver than I.

In the water, he imagined seeing a little Charmander sitting on a stool. His head was slightly lowered, his orange eyes looked focused and hostile, and his body was stiff and defensive. Humphry’s gaze softened up. Even back then, I always got the vibe you wanted to fight against them. I shouldn’t be surprised by what you told me just now, but… He looked upstream, his hand tightening harder on the handle as a scowl formed. I don’t want you to feel like you have to fight them all the time, but you keep pushing yourself. I don’t know how I can tell you to stand aside to heal in a way you’ll accept.

He started stroking his chin as he looked at the stones at his feet. I want to trust you, Ciecro, but you’ve been breaking rules lately. Important rules. I…I fear my word isn’t reaching you anymore, at least when it comes to the Red Eyes. A heavy sigh followed as he stared at the river with a solemn look. No, that isn’t it. You’ve heard me, every single time. A scowl formed as his fingers tightened around the cup. You just choose to ignore what I say. I get that you’re young, that you want revenge, but you aren’t stupid Ciecro. Surely, you understand fighting strong mons like them with a wounded shoulder will just get you killed. Or maybe you just don’t care about the risks.

Humphry paused, frustrated at how deep down he questioned if the Charmeleon would honor the promise he made. He placed his free hand on his head and groaned. It shouldn’t bother you that much to just rest.

Humphry took his hand off his head and tightened it into a fist. He slammed it against the waterwheel, whispering under his breath. “You’re being selfish and unfair, Ciecro.”

As he calmed down, he realized his right hand was no longer holding onto the teacup. He glanced down to see it had cracked into pieces, its rich liquid now wasted on the ground below. His frustrated gaze softened as he stared down at it. It’s just a cup. He knelt down and began picking up the pieces, but turned his attention back to the river. Leaning over, he watched the dark water flow below as he thought, How would you get through to him, Dad? He’s young, scared, impulsive, and angry; and I’m afraid he’ll try something while I get Vragon to safety. His eyes narrowed as he looked meekly to the side. Maybe Jaron? I don’t know. I just feel so powerless right now and... He raised his gaze, a small smile forming as a façade. I could use some of that good ol’ fashioned advice you always had. You knew how to tell the truth, but in a way that it didn’t upset anyone. Heh, it’s like making others happy by merely talking was your power. I should know, you raised me. His eyes lowered back to the river, a single tear forming in his eye. I don’t have that power. I wish…I wish I could help him find peace so he won’t make a mistake he’ll regret. He wiped at his face as his wavery stare trembled in movement like the water he focused on. Maybe Seliph is right. Maybe I am out of my element. But I can’t give up. Not on myself, not on the town, not on Ciecro. I…have to find a way to help him through- hrm?

Suddenly, he noticed a faint light in the flowing current. Humphry leaned further, staring at the white light, whose glow became brighter and brighter. He gasped as his nerves shot to life, forcing his body to pull back before he could even think of moving.

“Ack!” He cried out as beams of the white light ripped through the surface of the water, tearing at the sides of his skin and face.

He fell back, his face stinging a little but his vision being completely impaired by a white light with a mystical attribute to it. Suddenly, he felt a force slam into his stomach, forcing him onto his back. “What? Who?” Humphry tried to struggle to get up, blinking as all he saw around him was a hazy white. “Where is everything‽” He shouted but stopped as a strange feeling filled his body, an invasive feeling. Wait…calm down, think. He tried to close his eyes but was surprised to find that something was keeping them open. That Gallade!

Humphry immediately pushed his hands onto the ground he felt and surged Surf to shoot up. The weight on him was gone as was whatever was holding his eyes open. As the Surf water fell down on him, he started rubbing at his eyes.

“Dang, some thanks I get for saving you from falling in,” A slithery voice spoke, tagging on a mocking chuckle at the end.

He blinked. His vision was returning, but still hazy as evidenced by the purplish being he saw in a couple of feet in front. “You?” As Humphry’s focus improved, so did the shadow turn into a Gengar, a smirking Gengar. Humphry’s jaw dropped. How? How did they find us so quickly?

Huh?
He noticed a small red glow, coming from another person’s face. Humphry gasped and immediately covered his eyes with his elbow, the invasive feeling vanishing. “Ack!” He was struck in the chest with a Shadow Ball, sending him into a backward roll and stopping on his stomach.

“Got it?” Vex asked as Siegfried crossed his arms.

“Yes.”

“T-targets?” Humphry looked up, fighting against the pain in his chest to stand up to fight.

“Righto, toady.” Vex chuckled, earning a leer from Siegfried. “There’s been a slight change to plans.”

Ciecro and Jaron. Humphry’s eyes widened. While he could see clearly again, his mind seemed incapable of grasping the scenery before him. Where Vex and Siegfried stood he saw Ciecro and Jaron, fear in their faces. “No! I won’t let you!” With a croak that resounded like a roar, Humphry slammed his fists to the ground, brown light flourishing to light as streams of Mud Shot soared towards the two like angled geysers.

“What?” He stared in disbelief as his move was ripped to pieces, but a horizontal slash of purple energy. His hands quivered as he saw across from him the dragon Trishula, dripping wet from the river, not a trace of Mud Shot on him. A tense, cornered scowl formed on Humphry’s face as he watched Siegfried walk up to the Red Eye’s leader.

“Seems your hunch was right, sir. The targets aren’t at the town’s inn.” Siegfried looked upstream. “The Fraxure is near the outskirts of town and…” he turned around and looked across the river. “The two are at the ranger’s guild. I suggest we go for the brothers since the Fraxure is probably better defended.”

Huh? Humphry paused as Trishula snorted.

“Alright. You two go and slow down anyone seeking to assist. I’ll grab the Norfarions.”

A look of horror crossed Humphry’s face as he rushed for them. “Wai-!”

Vex and Siegfried flung Psycho Cut and Shadow Ball at him, but Humphry was aware enough to evade the first and tank the second. As he removed his arms from his face, he saw the dragon rush for the bridge, while Vex flew into the air carrying Siegfried.

“Humphry! What’s goi-” was all he heard from the rangers coming out of the inn behind him as he rushed after Trishula. Whatever anger he had felt last night was amplified.

“Stay away from them!” He roared, thrusting his arms forwards as blue energy formed on the surface of the stone pavement around him in a circle. Pulling his arms back to his chest and closing his fists, Humphry ushered the glowing water to rise. It solidified at his feet and picked him up as it moved forwards in the form of a wave that grew larger and larger.

“Don’t think so!” The ghost shouted, gaining Humphry’s attention.

The Gallade threw a Psycho Cut at his forming Surf, cutting near the middle causing the wave to collapse on itself. Humphry did a recovery roll and pursued, but stopped but pulled back as a Dragon Pulse struck the bridge in front, sending splintering wood flying as one side of the bridge was blown apart.

Humphry glanced up to see a pink light soaring downwards. “No!” He shouted, shielding his face as the Psycho Cut struck the bridge, sending it down into the river below.

No… His fists tightened as he watched with fury as the Dragon disappeared through the rows of buildings.

“Commissioner Humphry,” one of the rangers exclaimed as they started rushing out of the inn towards him.

“What happened sir?”

“Are they attacking aga-”

“Listen!” Humphry quickly glanced at the rangers awaiting his orders. “Send a message to Zebzenna and Dolly immediately. They’re targeting the Almkin brothers. Anyone that can cross the river comes with me, the rest find another way across. Move!” With that said, he dove off the edge. Hang on boys! I’m coming! He thought as he violently splashed into the dark waters.



< O >​



Ciecro pulled his arm back, closing his right claw into a fist, cutting off the life of the Flamethrower he had shot out less than a second ago. His gaze was fixated on a pole stuck in the middle of the sandy field with a cloth top, currently ignited by his fire.

Scowling, he raised his left claw towards it, grunting softly to himself as his shoulder ached from moving. As he closed his hand into a fist, the flames burning at the top of the fire pole dwindled, going out before a second had passed.

“Nice.”

Ciecro scowled, opening his eyes to see the lingering smoke from the burnt top of the fire pole. “I dunno.”

“You don’t know?” Tork walked over and tapped the top of the pole with his large hand. “I’m no expert on how you fire types do your fire moves, but I have a hunch that you pretty much killed this fire, heh.”

Despite Tork’s goofy, encouraging look, Ciecro kept a serious face as he started rubbing his left shoulder to ease its pain. “I’m jus’ wantin’ tah get betteh at controllin’ it in any scenario.”

“Like what kind of scenario?”

“Well…” Ciecro looked at the pole and answered, “Like…if it was settin’ a buildin’ on fire or somethin’.”

Tork raised a brow. “I mean, okay, but shouldn’t you already be able to do that? The principle doesn’t change just because the object is different. Burning is burning.”

Ciecro’s head lowered slightly. How do I explain it withou’ tippin’ ‘im- He stopped pondering as Tork noticed something.

“Oh, morning Jaron. You’re up early.”

Immediately, Ciecro glanced back, seeing Jaron step onto the sand of the training battlefield with a serious look. God damnit. Turning away from his brother, Ciecro started rubbing his eyes with his claw. I don’ need dis righ’ now.

“What are you doing?”

Ciecro sighed and walked over to the wooden pole. “Jus’ go back tah bed.”

“Are you training agai-?”

“Jus’ stop.” Ciecro glared at his brother, who immediately reciprocated the tense scowl with his own.

“Why are you still doing this? Your shoulder is never going to get better,” Jaron pointed out.

“I know muh own shouldeh betteh den yah do.” Ciecro replied, walking towards Jaron, who walked towards him too.

“You were stabbed, Ciecro, there’s going to be internal-”

“I know.”

“Maybe you don’t care about your wellbeing, but I do.”

“I’m not fragile Jaron.” The two stopped mere inches apart, their fervent gazes locked in a showdown while Tork watched awkwardly.

“It’s not just me. Everyone else would tell you to focus on resting and recovery.”

“I’m not stupid, Jaron. I’m only practicin’ stuff wit’ my flames, not full-blown trainin’.”

“At five-thirty in the morning?” Jaron crossed his arms. “Humphry would tell you to rest and not do any training.”

Ciecro paused as he thought of the Commissioner. “He…” Ciecro shut his eyes and sighed. “He wouldn’ understand.” The memory of the Gallade smiling at him sadistically with his own flames filled his mind. “I have to do this.”

“Why?”

“Jus’ go back tah bed, Jaron.” Ciecro turned around and walked towards the pole. “I don’ wanna talk abou’ it.”

“Fine, then you can just listen.”

Ciecro snapped back, glaring at his brother but was surprised to see Jaron’s head drifting to the side with a solemn, frustrated look in his eyes. Huh?

“I’m…worried about you, Ciecro.”

‘Ere we go. Ciecro rolled his eyes. “I can handle myself Jar-”

“Let me finish.”

Ciecro tensed up in annoyance but remained silent. He watched his brother start rubbing his arm and his tail curling around slightly, pushing the sand about.

“I…I know you’re strong Ciecro. I jus’…can’t help it.” Jaron started hugging himself as he lightly moved the sand with his toes. “I just keep thinking about what could happen, always the worst case scenario. I want to shut it off, I really do. But I can’t. I keep fearing that this situation we all are in isn’t going to work out.” He turned his scowl towards Ciecro, but this time it didn’t give off an air of hostility.

“And…” He crossed his arms and shut his eyes, taking a moment to think before he resumed. “I have similar thoughts about you.”

Ciecro let his arms fall to his sides as he tilted his head curiously. “Like wha’? Gettin’ hurt?”

“Yeah, but mostly something else. Like…you’re pushing yourself so hard that you’ll crumble under the weight of everything and I can’t do anything but…watch.”

Ugh. Eyes narrowing, Ciecro sighed, but out of respect for his brother’s request, he didn’t reply.

“Ciecro, I can’t read your mind, but you’re my brother. When you keep things quiet from me, then I know something is bothering you.”

Ciecro growled.

“I just…I want to be there for you. And, I know you’ve said I wouldn’t understand or it’s something you have to do, but…” Jaron pressed a hand to his head and took a calming breath. “I want to understand what you mean.” He turned and looked up at Ciecro, determination filling his ruby irises. “If…if I knew that much, then I’d feel better about what you’re doing.” His head lowered and his eyes closed. “I just want you to trust me, Ciecro.”

The Charmeleon’s head drifted to the side. “Of course I trust yah.” He rubbed the back of his head, the awkward tension kicking inside his mind. “Bu’…” Words seemed lost to him as he looked back to his listening brother. “Well…”

The silence felt heavy and uncomfortable. Wha’ do I say? It was so much easier to clash with Jaron’s opinion when they were yelling. It was like a battle, both sides choosing attack and defense carefully. But right now, this stillness felt like the surface of a quiet lake that he didn’t want to disturb with his touch.

Ciecro grumbled as he pressed his hand to his forehead. “I don’ know how tah say it Jaron. I-”

“I get it.”

Ciecro turned towards his brother, who was looking to the side downcast.

“I just…wanted to tell you how I felt about it. If you don’t want to tell me, then that’s…fine.” Jaron turned around, sniffling as he started to walk.

A sad look crossed Ciecro’s face as he reached out towards Jaron. He felt the air leave his lungs in a soft gasp, but froze at seeing Jaron stiffen up suddenly. “Jaron?”

The Croconaw started looking around frantically, fear in his eyes.

Not again! He rushed in front of Jaron, forcing his hands on the boy’s shoulders, and asked, “Is it yah’re Wary again?”

“I…I think so. They’re here and…close?”

Ciecro’s eyes widened.

“I don’t understand. Why didn’t I feel them before?” Jaron’s breath started picking up as Tork joined them. “I’m familiar with their presence now, I should have instantly felt something before they got this close!”

“You sense those goons again?” Seeing Ciecro answer with a nod, Tork immediately pulled out his com orb. “This is Captain Tork. Raise the alarm. The younger Almkin boy senses those Red Eyes nearby.”

Jaron grabbed his head, not out of pain but confusion. “How? How did they?”

Ciecro fumbled over his words, trying to come up with an answer to put his brother’s mind at ease. “Maybe cuz yah were asleep?”

“But I’ve been up for minutes and I only felt it right now!” Jaron pulled free of his brother.

“Calm down!” Ciecro ordered as he hopped to his feet and grabbed Jaron by the wrist, forcing him to face the Charmeleon. “Dey’ll handle dis.”

“R-r-right.” Jaron pulled in close, hugging Ciecro quivering. “Don’t go.”

“It’s okay bro.” He gently rubbed Jaron’s back, feeling the tender shivers from the Croconaw. “I won’t.” It didn’t feel good to say, but he promised not to fight and unlike the training one, he couldn’t reason his conscious to concede. His hands tightened around his shivering brother. Damn, he’s really shaken up.

“Alright, we’re supposed to stay here,” Tork said, as the brothers broke apart. “Seems he was spotted heading for the front entrance.”

“‘He’? Just one?”

“Yep, the Haxorus.”

The duo felt a chill in their spines as their heads lowered. Course it’d be ‘im. Ciecro focused on the opening leading out the training arena. “Jaron?”

The Croconaw nodded. “Yeah. I sense him somewhere at the front.” Suddenly, he gasped and his eyes widened as if he’d seen a ghost.

“Wha’ is it?”

“Wh-where did he go?”

“Huh?” Ciecro felt a chill as he saw his brother spin around and look at the back wall of the training area, his eyes widening in terror. Right as looked there was a loud crash, beams of black energy flying through the wall. “Get down!” Ciecro lunged for Jaron, pulling him to his chest as one of the beams slammed into them, knocking them apart and rolling till they hit the observation glass.

Coughing, Ciecro felt his left shoulder flare up and grabbed onto it. “Jaron? Where?” He shook his head as he looked over, horrified at seeing Trishula step through the gaping hole in the crumbling wall.

“What‽” Tork exclaimed, getting to his feet though visibly hurt from the strike like the pair of brothers.

Trishula didn’t even acknowledge it, simply tossing something towards the brothers. “Seems your brother’s earlier courtesy proved to be a useful gift after all.”

Ciecro raised his arms to defend but lowered them upon seeing it wasn’t dangerous. In fact, it was an orb currently powered down to recharge. A Warp Orb! So dat’s how he- His thoughts went silent as Trishula rushed towards them.

“Leave them alone!” Tork shouted, rushing to defend, as Ciecro struggled to get to his feet.

Ciecro let out a cry in pain as he felt a searing dart strike him in the chest, knocking him back onto the glass to fall on his stomach. Despite his mixed-up senses, he could hear the dual sounds of a swift bolt of flame followed by Tork’s pained grunt.

Geh up! His mind ordered his body, but as he tried to push himself up, his chest locked up not helped by his left shoulder surging in pain, almost as much pain as when he was stabbed. All he could do was watch as Jaron opened his maw to fire an Ice Beam that the Haxorus leaped over. Jaron tried to move his aim to strike the mon midair, but Trishula twisted his body enough to avoid it and slammed the backhand of a surged Dragon Claw onto Jaron’s head.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as everything around him slowed down. His body ushered him forwards, shouting Jaron’s name as he watched Jaron hit the ground harshly with a thud. The anger side flared up as Dragon Claw erupted from his claws like a volcano.

Trishula latched his claw onto the back of Jaron’s bruised and bleeding head, a red light glowing bright and dim like a visual heartbeat.

Ciecro roared as he closed the distance, but Trishula flicked his free wrist, sending a Flamethrower bolt at Ciecro, who barely had enough to shield his face. Despite blocking it, the force mixed with his disoriented state sent him back a few steps and onto his back.

Get dah fuck up! He roared, sitting up to charge, but stopped. His eyes widened as he saw Trishula leap away from Tork’s Power-Up Punch. He was fortunate that Tork went for the strike right behind him, due to Trishula only having one arm free.

He jumped to his feet, but not to assist Tork, who was busy trying to land a Power-Up Punch. “Jaron!” Ciecro exclaimed as he stumbled over to his brother and sat him up.

Jaron groaned, his eyes closed tightly as one does when in pain. While there wasn’t any trace of blood, Jaron had a nasty bruise along with a few scrapes on the backside of head. “My head.”

“It’s okay, I’m gettin’ yah outta ‘ere.” He threw his brother’s arm over his shoulder and helped the semi-conscious Croconaw to his feet. Be okay while I’m gone, Tork. As he tried helping Jaron out, Ciecro felt a large mass strike the wall next to them and knock them back into the sand on their sides.

Ciecro rolled onto his stomach, pushing up with a groan as his shoulder ached again. He grabbed it, trying to ease the pain as he looked up to see how Tork was doing, but to his surprise, he only saw Trishula.

“Ugh.”

Ciecro gasped as he looked back at the damaged wall and saw Tork stepping through the wall, bruised and cut in a few places.

“Tork!” Ciecro exclaimed as the Hariyama stepped off the litter of wood splinters and glass.

Suddenly, Tork reached for his ranger belt, which was draped over his shoulder to make it easier for large hands to use.

“What are yah-?” Ciecro gasped as Tork tossed an orb at his kneecaps.

“Use this and go!” Tork ordered.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as he stared into Tork’s serious, wrathful eyes, such a contrast to the kind ranger he had exclusively seen. However, what truly filled Ciecro with fearful dread was the thought that Tork’s fierce glare was the last time he’d see that ranger’s face. He moved to stand up but paused as he looked down at his brother, who was sprawled out on the sand, groaning half-concious.

Damnit. Ciecro shut his eyes, fighting the fearful thoughts and grabbed the orb. “Jus’ hang on, Tork!” Ciecro shouted, looking at the Hariyama. He pulled Jaron to his chest and opened the orb to press, but was distracted as he saw Tork hit the wall.

“What are you waiting for? Go!” Tork shouted, quickly positioning himself between Trishula and them.

Ciecro looked at the orb, his finger right above the button, above their salvation. I…But… He looked back at Tork.

“Ciecro, that’s a damn or- Ack!” Tork was knocked to the side, blood spewing onto the tan sand from a solid cut on Tork’s side.

With the large body moved, Trishula raised his arm. Ciecro’s eyes widened as he pulled Jaron close to him and leaned over, a Flamethrower bolt soaring overhead. He pressed the button, causing it to glow. He gazed forwards to see Tork lunge for the dragon with Power-Up Punch, which was blocked by Trishula’s Dragon Claw.

He stretched out his hand, seeing Tork engage in combat as other rangers rushed into the room. Fixated on Trishula, Ciecro felt rage fill his soul as he mustered synergy into his arm, forming a Flamethrower at the tips of his claw as a sphere. However, he couldn’t fire before his aim was obscured by a blue hue of light.



< O >


“What is your status? Repeat, what is your status?” Humphry yelled into his com orb as he rushed along the emura-lit streets. “Damnit, answer!” He roared, racing down the street. The station should be around the corner. He glanced behind himself, seeing the distance between him and the nearest following ranger. It’ll be fine Humphry, just trust your instincts.

Humphry picked up his pace, using the Emura lamppost to turn while keeping his momentum. The station looked normal for only a few seconds before a loud crash occurred with the front entrance bursting open. Humphry slid to a halt, staring straight until he heard a shout and saw someone flying out of the smoke.

“Hang on!” He hopped towards the mon and swung his arm, sending a small Surf of water slithering towards the ranger like a serpent. As he twisted his wrist, the water coiled up, catching the poor Arcanine ranger and gently setting him down on the ground.

“You alright?” He jogged over, checking for any injuries as the Arcanine coughed.

“Just a bit bruised from that last blast. Ugh.”

“Where’s Zebzena and the others?” He asked, helping the young Arcanine up, but soon got his answer as he saw her backflip out of the smoke, narrowly avoiding a beam of Flamethrower.

“Finally, you’re here.” She said with a pant, glancing back at him as she stood up.

“What happened?” He asked as the Arcanine pulled away from his grip and moved to an aggressive stance.

“He came at us from the front, but suddenly warped away.” She looked back, seeing the Haxorus step out of rubble. “Turns out he was attacking the rear.”

“What about Jaron and Ciecro?” Humphry walked up to her, fearing the worst.

“They’re alright. The backup plan worked.”

“I see.” Humphry walked in front of her, readying to fight the dragon. “If we all pitch in and strike carefully, we can bring him d-”

“Wait, one more thing.”

“What?” He leered at her as he felt the anxiety build up as the Haxorus walked down the stairs, not worried about their planning.

“Before they warped out, he did that red light thing on Jaron. The one you told me about.”

Shit. He glanced at the building, then back at the Haxorus. That complicates things. If he has Wary, he’ll notice a sneak attack. It’s too dangerous for too many to engage. “Zebzena.” He swung his arms forwards to send waves of Surf at Trishula, who sliced at them. “We need to draw him away from public areas. What’s the nearest open spot?”

“The riverside.” He gasped as suddenly as someone flew past him, soaring above the waves and surging Air Slash into wings.

“Move in!” The Braviary ranger shouted, sending Air Slash down upon the dragon. However, Trishula opened his maw and fired up Flamethrower to counter it, the flames soaring onwards and almost striking him had the ranger not darted to the side, squawking in surprise.

“Hold your fire! Me and Zebzenna will handle him. The rest of you work on evacuating citizens and setting up a perimeter.”

“What?” The Arcanine exclaimed with a stern growl. “No way am I-”

“He’s right.” Zebzenna joined Humphry at his side. She raised a com orb to her face, speaking. “All rangers, I want a perimeter of at least one town block and all citizens evacuated from that vicinity. Flying mons may engage but only with moves and remain cautious.” She leaned over and whispered to Humphry as they watched the Dragon repelling the attacks of fliers. “Where did the warp orb send the boys?”

“Back to the hotel area.” Humphry’s eyes narrowed. “Which means he’ll go where we want him.” I just hope Jaron and Ciecro can find a good place to stay safe until then. He looked at her as he stepped in front. “Inform the other group about the situation and tell them to get to the boys immediately. I’ll cover you while you make the call.” As he clenched his fists, brown light formed around them.

“Understood.”

He punched the ground, as Mud Shot erupted from where his fists were and flew towards the Haxorus, who rushed to meet them. I don’t care how strong or what gift you have, you’re going down. And a Hommel doesn’t break his word!
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. lugia
  5. quilava-fobbie
  6. sneasel-kate
  7. heliolisk-fobbie
Heya, it's been... uh... a while since I last dusted off this series, though I did make a point of wanting to review everybody who shot me a review over the past year that's on Thousand Roads at least once during Review Blitz, and you're one of the few authors I hadn't gotten to yet. Might be a bit rusty with this, but will be picking things right up with…

Chapter 6

[ ]

“You ever going to move?” Seliph yawned.

“Don’t rush me,” Tetheron snapped, as he looked back at the checkerboard. Grumbling to himself, the Blaziken slowly grabbed one of the red checker pieces before pausing to study the board once more.

IMO, it probably makes sense to take a paragraph to ease your readers into what's going on in-story ATM, since something about this feels very abrupt and hard to visualize for an opening.

Seliph watched as his Uncle placed the piece back down. With a dull expression, Seliph pointed to a nearby square. “Your piece was here.”

Lol, having to cheat against a kid in checkers.
:hoodLUL:


“Uh…Well, these things happen when you rush me,” Tetheron complained, making Seliph chuckle.

He really has no idea, does he? Seliph rolled onto his stomach and crossed his arms to prop his head up. With a cocky grin, Seliph awaited Tetheron’s next play.

inb4 Tetheron's just playing dumb and then casually humiliates Seliph here. Since getting cocky in any competition is always a bad idea.

Keeping his beak firmly shut, Tetheron shakily lifted the piece again and jumped one of Seliph’s black pieces. He kept his claw on it for about ten seconds of uncertainty, before removing it.

With a narcissistic grin, Seliph looked up and asked, “That your play?”

Tetheron didn’t answer immediately, just looked at the piece. “Y-yes.” Tetheron finally said, trying his best to not sound nervous.

Huh. Maybe I'm wrong and Tetheron's just indecisive or else really, really bad at checkers.

“Okay,” Seliph chirped, as he took a piece near the side of the board and proceeded to jump his way to the end. “King me, please.”

[ ]

“Arceus, damn it! I knew you had something!” Tetheron roared with anger, stamping his foot on the ground, saying, “I knew it!” repeatedly.

Whelp, Tetheron is confirmed for being horrible at checkers. Though it might have been worth putting in a description paragraph to have a lulzier moment of Tetheron getting shocked and fuming there.

This time, Seliph couldn’t contain himself. He started laughing at his uncle’s sore loser behavior.

Making a sarcastic laugh in response, Tetheron crossed his arms and muttered, “This game is rigged.”

While on the one hand this is kinda funny, I can't help but get the sneaking suspicion that this is foreshadowing some sort of negative character trait for Tetheron that will become important in the future. Dunno why.

“Sorry, Uncle Tethe. I’ve just had a lot of practice.”

“With who? God‽” Tetheron stormed off to the kitchen door near the end of living room. “I’m going to help your parents make dinner.”

Huh. So Seliph and his family hail from a monotheistic culture and only care about their patron legendary or whatever... maybe. I suppose this could also be a gloss for 'Arceus'.

“‘Kay,” was all Seliph could get out before the door slammed shut with a loud THUD!

Sighing to himself, Seliph looked at the board once more. Maybe I should go easy next time. Else, no one will want to play with me. After a little chuckle to himself, Seliph proceeded to put the pieces in their case, picked up the board, and headed towards his room.

Oh, so Seliph also casually humiliates Jaron and Ciecro at checkers on a regular basis too, huh?
:copyka:


[ ]

I hope I didn’t make him too mad, but it’s so funny to see him pissed like that. It’s like that one time when mom found us hiding in her- Seliph reached for the door knob, but stopped at hearing some strange sound coming from inside. “Huh?” He pressed his head against the door and listened.

“…Jaron?” Twisting the knob, Seliph opened the door and peeked in. He saw Jaron curled up in the corner, eyes shut and holding his snout while sniffling.

It probably makes sense to have some sort of pause where Seliph catches himself and weighs whether or not he should be more worried about Tetheron's reaction or something like that.

Seliph: "(Oh for crying out loud...) What is it now, Jaron?"
:gardexhausted:


Seliph gasped. He quickly placed the checker set on a stool near the door and jogged over to Jaron’s side. “Jaron, what’s wrong?” He asked, gently putting a hand on Jaron’s side.

The Totodile sat up, sniffling as he rubbed his snout.

“What happened?” Seliph’s eyes narrowed, as he slid over to sit in front of Jaron.

Jaron took one last big sniffle and wiped his snout with his arm. “Stupid nose,” Jaron grumbled.

Oh, Jaron walked into the door or something like that, didn't he? ^^;

Ah, Seliph got up and looked for a cloth, which he spotted on top of one of the stools. Quickly grabbing it, Seliph offered it to his little brother, who accepted it and proceeded to blow his nose. “Better?”

“Better,” Jaron replied, finishing up. However, his mood seemed far from better.

“So, what happened?”

Or maybe not. Though I suppose we'll be getting an answer to this question really fast.

Jaron wiped his eyes with his arm. “Mom asked me to tell Ciecro that dinner was almost ready and we…we had an argument.” Jaron blew into the rag once more as tears started forming again.

Patting Jaron’s head, Seliph said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m sure he’ll get over it.”

Wait, what is this-? -peeks up at scrollup- Oh right. That was a thing last chapter.

Jaron shook his head. “I just wanted to know why he did that to you earlier.

Seliph cocked a brow. “You mean, at training today?”

“Yeah,” Jaron looked to the side. “I asked him about it and he didn’t tell me. He’s being a big jerk and I want to know why. I want Ciecro back to normal.”

IMO, the underlined of the "that" should be communicated more explicitly, whether in Jaron's dialogue or in some description around the part where Seliph cocks a brow since it's a handy mechanism for reminding your readers "oh right, that happened".

Seliph started rubbing Jaron’s shoulder in a calming manner. “I dunno what’s got him acting weird either, but maybe it’s something embarrassing. He’s ten after all.”

[ ]

“It’s not fair. He never kept secrets from me before. But now he kept making excuses and treating me like I’m some dummy, so I yelled at him and-” Jaron stopped.

[ ] Seliph’s eyes narrowed. “Jaron?”

Jaron looked up at Seliph with a horrified look. “I think he ran into the forest.”

IMO, this block would work a bit better taking a bit of time to slow down play up the characters' reactions and nuances thereof a bit more. e.x. Seliph noticing something is off with Jaron and how he cuts himself off (e.x. does he look visibly nervous?) before he narrows his eyes or something like that.

[ ]

“What‽” Seliph stood up. “By himself?”

Jaron hastily nodded.

Seliph pointed to the ground as he started for the door. “Stay here, I’ll find him.”

Ditto here, but moreso to show off the
:treeckosurprised:
reaction from Seliph and maybe a quick reminder of why Ciecro doing this is such a bad idea from Seliph's PoV.

“Screw that! I’m coming too?” Jaron exclaimed, getting up to follow.

Seliph turned around and stated, “No, I can find him faster if I don’t have to keep track of you too. And splitting up to look isn’t good since it’s nighttime. What if you get lost too?”

“B-but,” Jaron began, but stopped; his head lowering.

Image


Even if I'd be genuinely surprised if Jaron didn't wind up shadowing Seliph out to go look for Ciecro.

Suddenly, and idea popped in Seliph’s head. He quickly dashed out the door saying, “Wait right there, I’ll be back in a sec.”

About seven minutes later, Seliph returned, holding something in his right palm.

“What is tha-?” Jaron stopped once he spotted a pair of com orbs in Seliph’s hand “D-did you take that from mom and dad’s room?”

Wait, it took seven minutes to find this from within their dinky little house? I honestly would be surprised if this took more than a couple tops short of Seliph needing to wait for his parents to leave the room, which should be hinted at a bit more explicitly if that's indeed what happened.

“It’s an emergency; I’m sure they’ll understand.” Seliph offered one of the orbs to him. “They should already be set on the right frequency.”

Oh, so they're straight-up technological in nature. Wasn't fully expecting that one but duly noted.

[ ] Hesitantly, Jaron accepted the orb.

Wh-what if mom and dad asked about you?”

“Just tell them the truth. Tell them that I went into the woods to find Ciecro,” Seliph answered, opening a drawer to take out a belt with a singular pouch attached to it. “I’m pretty sure there’s still a little bit of time till dinner's ready so I’ll have a little head start. I hope I can find him before it gets too late.”

Another spot where IMO the description should be expanded a bit to help play up the sense of tension in the air right now.

Jaron looked at the orb in silence, as Seliph put the belt on and placed his com orb into the pouch. “Seliph…”

Seliph glanced at his brother. “Yeah?”

Scowling, Jaron ordered, “You better bring him back, or I’m gonna find you two and drag you back myself!”

Image


Though there aren't that many fics out there that kill off major character this early, so... uh... Seliph's odds at making good on this should be decent, at least?
:joltyshrug~1:


Chuckling at Jaron’s motivation attempt, Seliph walked to the door and gave Jaron a thumbs up. “Heh, I better find him then.”

Jaron gave a firm nod as Seliph opened the door.

“It’ll be fine, just you wait and see.”

With that being said, Seliph dashed to the back door and swung it open. He quickly jogged to their empty sparring ground and looked at the forest in front. Okay, I bet he’s at the spot. Seliph took a second to look at the sky. Dusk…not good. Without any more delay, Seliph hurried into the forest.

Yeesh, Seliph. Why don't you just go ahead and tempt fate harder there?

Please be at the spot. Seliph pleaded as he maneuvered his way through the bushes, trees, and uneven plane. Despite the forest growing darker, he knew the route well enough to reach the clearing before the light was gone.

Ciecro?” Seliph called out, anxiously looked around. His heart filled with dread at the lack of an answer, prompting him to shout once more as loud as he could, “Ciecro!”

Wait, just how much time has passed in this section? Since if it's meant to be a while, you might want to consider hacking this present scene up into two since Seliph's "Please be at the spot" inner thought actually works really well as a scene ending note while you can just hard-cut and jump to the part where Seliph gets to "the spot".

Nothing but silence answered him. Where are you? Seliph’s eyes lowered as he sat down in the middle of the grass. A shiver filled his spine as he pulled his arms in close, finally noticing the cold wind blowing on his body.

No, keep it together.” He gave himself a slap on the cheek and scowled. “Calm down and think.” Seliph stared at the ground in front, rubbing his noggin’. If I was Ciecro, where else would I go if I was sad? But there isn’t any other place I know he’d go, damnit! Seliph slammed his fist on the ground.

IMO, that should be 'where else would I go', since Seliph already went to the place where he thought Ciecro would be while feeling sad and turned up bupkis.

Though let's check in with Seliph right now:

Image


[ ]

“I guess I have no choice.” Opening the pouch, Seliph pulled out the com orb and was about use it till a thought entered his head. He activated the orb, causing a holographic box to appear with some wavy lines that moved along a static plane. “Jaron?”

“S-Seliph? Oh no you’re calling me! Does that mean you haven’t fou-” Jaron’s high-pitched squeals made the audio lines grow tall and thin in the projection.

I think that you're missing some sort of transition before getting to the part where Seliph decides to break out the phone-a-friend orb, since him going from punching the ground to "I guess I have no choice." feels really abrupt for some reason.

Though wait, squeals? Isn't that a wee bit shrill and loud there? Like it might make sense to say something more neutral like "voice", or even "squeaks".

Seliph interrupted with, “Hold on Jaron, I need to ask you something.”

“Huh? Me?” Jaron’s confused voice replied over the orb.

“Yeah, when you talked with Ciecro, did he ever tell you anything odd?”

“What’s that got to do wit-”

“Trust me,” Seliph interrupted, causing Jaron to stop talking.

Seliph: "I mean, yeah, I'm kinda shooting in the dark, but I need something to work with here, Jaron." >_>;

After a few seconds, Jaron sighed and grumbled, “He didn’t tell me anything, just that I was too young for him tell me what was wrong. I’m only two years younger than that stupid head!”

As Jaron went on a rant, Seliph thought carefully. ‘Too young’? Hmm…wait! When he talked back to mom that one night, he wanted to know why the rules were being changed… Seliph looked forwards, eyes lighting up as a detective would at finding an important clue.

He’s mad at all of us. So, if he wanted to be alone, then.

Seliph looked around, his eyes falling onto the large mountain that the forest surrounded. He wouldn’t go that far on his own. So maybe some hiding spot nearby. He wouldn’t just stay in some random spot especially with it getting colder. He’d need to find shelter, maybe a place he knows well enough to reach without much daylight. His eyes suddenly widened as he snapped his fingers. He might be at the escape tunnel near here.

He quickly spoke into the com orb, “I think I know where he is!”

This paragraph here is long and idea-dense enough that it should be broken up into pieces. Maybe it doesn't need to be this many pieces, but still ideally more than what's presently there.

“Huh? Oh! Okay, do you want me to tell Mom and Dad?”

“If they finish making dinner and call for us, yes. Tell them I’m looking for Ciecro at the emergency tunnel near the pond we play at.”

[ ]

“Why would he be there?” Jaron inquired.

“It’s just a hunch. Anyway, contact me when they’re done with dinner and if I haven’t found him, tell them everything.”

“Okay.”

It might make sense to describe the audio lines wavering or something there if the idea is that there's a bit of a pause before Jaron speaks up again. Dunno, might be overthinking it a tad.

Seliph pressed the button, causing the orb’s holo-projection to vanish. Quickly, he stood up and looked around, stretching his arm out to get his bearings on where to go. Okay, that way!Leaping into a fast dash, Seliph pushed past the random bushes and once more made his way through the dark forest.

After a couple of minutes, Seliph found himself at a running creek, running between two uneven parts of ground. One side rose up higher as the other remained relatively the same. Carefully, he stepped into the cold water and made his way to a spot covered with brush. He pushed his way into the bushes, grunting as the branches scraped him a little till he crawled into a small hole and fell into a patch of dirt below.

Seliph: "Ciecro? You there right now?"

Grumbling to himself, Seliph started getting back onto his feet, looking around his immediate vicinity. Huh? He peered closer at what looked like some dirt wall in front, illuminated by a faint light. He spun around to see a long tunnel, stretching into an endless darkness with a small clump of rocks with some small light coming from behind.

Seliph sighed in relief as he crossed his arms. “There you are.” After hearing no reply, Seliph called out again, “Ciecro, come on. I know you’re there.”

Seliph:
Image

"Seriously, what on earth were you thinking, Ciecro? What if someone had spotted you out here?" >_>;

The sound of a grumble came from behind the rocks, as the Charmander stood up from behind the rocks and walked out of his hiding spot. He was covered in dirt and scowling, but his head was fixated on the ground.

Without saying anything, Seliph walked over. He saw Ciecro close his eyes tightly and sighed in his head. He got on a knee and pulled Ciecro in for a hug; the Charmander didn’t make any moves, but did sniffle a little bit.

“I’m glad I found you. You alright?” After a few seconds of silence, Seliph pulled back and looked at Ciecro, who was staring at the wall with a troubled scowl. “Ciecro, what’s going on?

Ciecro said nothing.

Seliph: "I'll... just take that as a 'no'. Can you at least explain why you're so upset right now?" ^^;

Not even a grunt, huh. Something’s definitely up if you’re not gonna even grunt for me. Seliph moved over to the side of the soil wall and leaned against it, keeping his eyes on Ciecro. “If this is about what happened earlier, don’t worry. I’m not mad.”

“…Yah should be,” Ciecro mumbled, his head tilting slightly more downwards.

Seliph: "Look, Ciecro, can't you do this someplace safer like back at the house-?"
:mewtwofacepalm:

Ciecro:
Image


Seliph curled up his knees, keeping them in place with hands hooked around a little below the knee. “Why should I?” He inquired.

There was only silence, prompting Seliph to sigh a little. “Look, Ciecro, I can’t read your mind so just tell me.” “Jus’ leave me alone,” Ciecro said, a small growl added at the end.

Ciecro and Seliph's lines of dialogue work better if they're put into their own paragraphs instead of smushed together like this.

Seliph looked to the right. “I can’t do that.” A tense silence followed for the two. The Frogadier took the time to adjust his seating and lean back onto the wall of soil that thankfully wasn’t damp enough to be more trouble than a simple brush off.

Ciecro crossed his arms, raised his head slightly, and gazed forwards. “Why are yah even ‘ere?”

Seliph: "Because Jaron and I were worried about you and you know these woods aren't safe? Does this really need to be a question right now?"
:eltywtf:


“Me and Jaron were worried about you.” Seliph kept his head still, but move his eyes just enough to notice Ciecro pull his crossed arms tighter. The Charmander’s expression also seemed to grow softer.

Well, I at least got half the rationale right. ^^;

“Yah shouldn’ be.”

Seliph stood up and walked in front of Ciecro. [ ]

“I attacked yah an’ yelled at Jaron.”

IMO, you're missing some sort of description of Ciecro's reaction or body language or something like that to transition back to him speaking again.

[ ]

“Hmph, well I said it was okay,” Seliph protested, looking down at Ciecro with a defiant and frustrated stare. “And Jaron would say the same.”

“It ain’t!” Ciecro shouted, locking eyes with Seliph with a glare. “So…So stop actin’ like it ain’t nothin’!”

You know the drill here. A more minimalistic solution would be to pull the "looking down at Ciecro" part of Seliph's line forward and then expanding it a bit.

Seliph crossed his arms, unfazed. “How about you stop telling us how to feel.” The two kept their fierce scowls firmly locked towards one another.

Eventually, Ciecro’s caved. His fists were clenched tight and he mumbled, loud enough for Seliph to hear, “Yah don’t get it.”

Seliph: "I mean, when you keep beating around the bush this hard about what's going on..." >_>;

“Then tell me, you little doofus.” Seliph exclaimed. Ciecro shot his scowl back, but Seliph ignored it. “Jaron’s been crying ever since you left. I came out here on my own to find you and bring you home. We’re not mad at you, we’re worried. So, stop cowering away from my question and tell me what I don’t get!”

Ciecro eyes widened for a second, although remaing in a scowling formation they remained fixed in a scowl.

Seliph took a deep breath and was about to apologize, when he noticed Ciecro wasn’t looking at him anymore. The Charmander was looking at the wall with a look that seemed very troubled and sad. In fact, it felt like Ciecro might cry at any moment.

Seliph: "(Oh boy, now you've gone and done it, Seliph...) Look, Ciecro, I didn't mean to-"
:uhhh:


“Ciecro…” He walked closer and put his hands on the Charmander’s shoulders. Ciecro remained motionless as Seliph bent over a little so their eyes were level. “What don’t I get?”

Ciecro’s face curled slightly as he moved a hand to rub at his eyes, attempting to stifle any tears or perhaps hide ones already forming. “I-I yelled at Dad,” He said in an uncontrolled, high-pitched tone.

Seliph raised a brow, but didn’t say anything.

Seliph: "Yes, and? I yell at dad all the time and you don't see me breaking down in tears like this."
:eltyunamused:


“An’…an’ I…” Ciecro started sniffling and wiping his eyes.

Watching with a concerned look, Seliph noticed small tears flow from as Ciecro tried to rub them out before the fell from his cheeks. The Frogadier felt a lurching feeling in his eyes, as his own eyes felt only seconds away from starting to water themselves. Nevertheless, he remained quiet as Ciecro stuttered.

“I…I was…ugh!” Ciecro gave up rubbing his eyes and just stamped his foot on the ground. He let out a growl as the fire from his tail shot up for a split-second before settling down when Ciecro did. The Charmander struggled to look Seliph in the eye.

I'm... not really sure why Seliph is tearing up himself right now. Like is he feeling guilt or something at the moment? Since it's not really communicated clearly by the text.

Seliph let go of Ciecro’s shoulders and instead moved them to his brother’s clenched fists. He pulled them up a little between them both and with a little, tearful grin, “Ciecro, whatever is telling you to keep it a secret, tell it to screw off. I’m your brother and I love you, no matter what you’re gonna tell me. Trust me.”

With much effort, Ciecro finally brought his eyes to Seliph’s level.

Seliph let go with one hand and brushed his own eyes for a second. “You got me crying too, heh.”

Ciecro: "I... Uh... I just don't know how to say this..." .-.
Seliph: "Slowly? Nobody's rushing you here. Take your time, Ciecro."

Ciecro formed a melancholy smile from that statement as rubbed his own one more time.

Before Seliph could rejoin their hands, Ciecro pulled his other hand free and latched them around Seliph’s neck. “Huh?” Seliph froze as he felt the trembling touch of Ciecro’s form on his head, neck, and upper torso.

Ciecro sobbed, “I…I was jealous of yah.”

Seliph: "Wait, you got me crying over that? But you're always jealous of me-" >_>;
Ciecro: "No, ya don't understand, Seliph..."

Jealous‽ Seliph remained still, as the word filled his mind. He stared into the darkness in front, as he went through every memory where Ciecro was acting strangely. Thankfully, he wasn’t spaced out for long, thanks to Ciecro’s loud sobbing. Slowly, Seliph pulled Ciecro in to a hug and asked, “Why?”

Ciecro pulled back, brushing some of the tears. “I noticed yah puttin’ somthin’ in yah’re bed dat one night. I didn’ tink abou’ lookin’ dough till lateh, when Uncle Tethe came. Somethin’ seemed off, but no one was sayin’ nothin’, not even at dat meetin’ so I…” Ciecro took a second to wipe some more tears away.

Ah yes, attempting to keep secrets in the family comes back to cause problems. I should've figured.

“Hey, you’re doing good,” Seliph encouraged, rubbing Ciecro’s shoulder as his other hand let go of his brother’s back. “You’re a strong guy; you’ve got this.” He listened intently with a supportive smile and constant shoulder rub.

Finally composing himself, Ciecro’s stared low with a small scowl. However, it was a scowl of determination. With a stuttering pace and what sounded like a lot of effort, Ciecro managed to say, “I…listened in on Mom and Dad.”

Seliph’s face went serious, but he just nodded and kept up his shoulder rub on Ciecro’s right shoulder.

“I heard ‘em talkin’ about somethin’ dey trusted yah wit. Den…Jaron foun’ me an’ almost got us caugh’ an’ I made ‘im promise tah not tell on me. Today, I jus’…”

Ciecro looked up at the dark ceiling above them, Seliph did the same. “I started tinkin’ dat dey trusted yah more since yah were older. I got mad cuz I wanted dem tah trust me too. I…even yelled at dad when he talked tah me today.” Ciecro sniffled one more time before looking at Seliph with a sorrowful look.

So, this is the part where Seliph's secret Freya stuck him with that I'm having trouble recalling the specifics of gets shared with his bros, huh? Since I'm pretty sure that's where this is going.

“I felt bad fo’ yellin’ at ‘im so I just sat outside. Jaron found me an’ asked me questions. I didn’ wanna tell ‘im so I said he was too young tah know an’ dat hurt his feelings. He yelled at me an’ ran back inside.” There was a small pause as Ciecro looked slightly to the right, his breathing slowing down. “I felt like shit so I just ran ‘ere tah hide. I’ve been bad to all y’all so I wanted tah never be found.” He shut his eyes as he lowered his head.

Seliph smiled, moving his shoulder rubbing hand onto Ciecro’s head. With a soft tone, Seliph leaned closer and said, “I forgive you, Ciecro. I just wished you had told me about it sooner.”

Seliph: "And that you didn't make me have to come all the way out here after dusk. Seriously, couldn't you have just cried in a closet like Jaron? It'd have made my life a lot easier." >_>;

Despite being forgiven, Ciecro didn’t smile. Just look to the side with a frown and a pair of self-hating eyes staring at the wall aimlessly.

“Come on, we’re not mad at you.” Seliph let go and stood at full height with an invigorated smile.

Ciecro rubbed his arms together, curling his frown a bit more as his tail flame started flickering a little. “I jus’ made tings hardeh. I wanted tah help but I jus’ hurt y’all.”

Seliph: "I mean, you can start by stopping and going home for dinner before mom and dad notice, just saying..."
:eltywtf:


“I guess so.” Seliph moved to the wall and gestured Ciecro to do the same. Once the two of them were on the wall, Seliph looked up and said with a smile, “But I’m glad you told me this. I bet it was hard to, but I’m very glad you did. It makes me feel better, but.” Seliph lowered his glance to look straight forwards.

Ciecro looked at Seliph curiously. [ ]

“I honestly feel bad too. I feel bad for having to keep you and Jaron in the dark about all that’s going on.” Lazily, Seliph started stirring the soil at his feet.

Ciecro: "I mean... ya could just tell us..." ^^;
Seliph: "I'm... not sure if I'm ready to cross that bridge just yet." .-.

Ciecro tightened himself, scooting a little closer to Seliph so his shoulders touched Seliph’s arm. “Yah were jus’ doin’ what mom an’ dad asked yah tah do.”

“I know, but…” Seliph mumbled but stopped to think up the words to say. “Remember when I was grouchy and you two made me that necklace?”

Ciecro’s cheeks blushed a little as he rubbed the back of his head. “Dat was more yah making it foh us.” He gave Seliph an awkward smile, making the older brother giggle a little.

I actually completely forgot about this moment. Will probably need to skim the earlier chapters for a bit of a refresher on this.

“Yes, but you two had the idea and it really cheered me up. Which kind of makes me feel like a jerk for not being able to tell you about what’s been going on,” Seliph admitted, fumbling his hand into the pouch absentmindedly. Touching the pouch, Seliph suddenly remembered something had a flash of realization that made him shout.

Oh shit!”

“Wha’‽” Ciecro shouted, in surprise.

“Dinner’s done by now, so Jaron- We gotta hurry back!” Seliph grabbed Ciecro’s hand and proceeded to lead him to the opening.

Yeeeeeah, if this winds up causing issues from Gathor and Freya going around trying to find them, I can already tell it's going to mess up Ciecro something good. Since there has been a "shoe about to drop" undertone in this story since the very beginning all this time.

“Wah!” Ciecro exclaimed at the forceful tug. “Wait a second!” Ciecro wretched his hand from Seliph’s firm grip, rubbing his wrist. “Don’ do dat.”

“Sorry, it’s jus-” Seliph began to explain, but Ciecro gestured him to stop with a hand raised.

“We’re in trouble, righ’?”

Seliph rubbed his shoulder and with a weak smile said, “Yeah, kinda.”

Seliph: "Well, more than kinda. More like we're definitely in trouble and it's only going to get worse the longer it takes to get back."
:grohno~2:


Ciecro shook his head before giving Seliph a smile of his own. “Well, I’m glad it’s ain’t jus’ me.”

“Hey!” Seliph playfully exclaimed, grabbing Ciecro’s head, trying to noogy him. The two playfully fought for a minute, till they were panting.

“Okay, okay.” Seliph put his hands in front. “Enough fun, we really have to get back.” Seliph started to turn around, but stopped at seeing Ciecro form a worried frown on his face.

Hey, don’t worry,” Seliph said as he walked over and put his arm around Ciecro’s shoulders, looking at his brother straight in the eye. “I’ve got your back when you talk to mom and dad.”

Your third paragraph in this block feels like it'd work better split up.

Ciecro looked up at him, eyes wide. [ ]

I mean, I’m in trouble too, so what’s one more lecture gonna do?” Seliph said with a shrug.

Famous last words, there.

Wiping his eyes for a second, Ciecro smiled back. “Tanks bro. I’m glad yah came lookin’ fo’ me.”

“I’ve got your back and I know you’ve got mine.” Seliph said as he moved a fist in front of his brother.

Ciecro grunted with a nod as he bumped his fist into Seliph's. [ ]

“Now, let’s hurry before dinner gets cold and mom’s temper gets hot.”

“Yeh!” Ciecro darted forwards, followed closely by Seliph.

Something about the paragraph before Seliph speaks up again feels like it's missing something, such as some sort of explicit acknowledgement of Seliph already moving on or something like that.

Light from a small emera lamp shone from the top of Freya’s desk bring a somber light to the four mons in the room. Freya was leaning her arm over her desk, eyeing the lamp in deep thought. The two children were sitting their respective stools while Gathor was resting his back on the bookshelf, arms crossed and eyes stern.

He looked to his wife, who returned a glance. With his eyes, he looked down at the kids, then back to her.

Wait, are these Seliph and Ciecro? If so, it probably makes sense to just explicitly say so since they do also have Jaron in the house.

Freya sighed as she shifted to face the two kids, who looked up at her at the sound of her moving. [ ]

Ciecro, as much as I’m glad you’re okay and that you told us the truth, I am going to be honest.” Freya paused, forming a fist that she pushed to her mouth. Her eyes shut as the two boys waited in nervous stillness. “I’m disappointed in your behavior in all this.”

Ciecro’s head fell. “I’m sorry mom. I really am.”

It probably makes sense to note Freya's expression or something before she speaks to give more of an idea as to her mood and what Seliph/Ciecro percieve is going on in her head.

Seliph patted his brother on the back, while giving him an encouraging smile.

“I understand wanting to know things and the frustrations that comes from not knowing, but in this house, we understand why we have rules in the first place. They exist for a reason and they’re not something you choose to break whenever you please, they’re serious. Breaking them once could lead to consequences not just for you, but for all of us.”

inb4 they already did. Though made some suggestions for a phrasing tweak for Freya's paragraph there.

Ciecro curled up more, keeping his gaze low and submissive.

Seliph frowned. Getting to his feet, Seliph turned to his mother and respectfully said, “Mom, can I say something?”

Hilariously enough, if you were going to get Xenofiction about it, Ciecro turning his snout up would potentially be submissive behavior he'd have picked up from Gathor, since that's IRL submissive body language among crocodilians.

Freya looked at Gathor, who nodded his approval. “Very well, go on.”

Nervously, Seliph started to rub his arm as he looked over the lamp near Freya. “I know he broke the rules, but things aren’t normal right now. So, is it alright if you go a bit easy on him this time?”

Freya:
:unimpressed:

Seliph: "... Is that a 'maybe' there?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


Freya rest her arm on her desk as Gathor got off the bookshelf. [ ]

“Son,” he said, prompting Seliph and Freya to look at him. Gathor opened his palm and gestured it to the side. “Dat’s dah reason we need tah be stern on dis. It ain’ normal so we can’t have y’all breakin’ dah rules, especially now. Yah understand wha’ I mean?”

Seliph’s eyes lowered. Attacked. He looked up to his father clenched his fists, moving his arms up with resolve.

But he doesn’t know that. I mean, sure we three know, but it’s already tough on us as it is, right mom?” Seliph looked at Freya, who snorted to the side and looked at Gathor.

Wait, did something get cut from Gathor's line or something? Since I don't know where this 'attacked' came from in Seliph's thought process based off the earlier conversation.

“Yes, this is taxing on all of us, but we know what we’re doing.”

“Bu-”

A hand clamped on Seliph’s shoulder gently. He looked up, to see his father shaking his head.

“Le’ yah mother finish, Seliph.” Gathor let go of Seliph’s shoulder and once more leaned back on the bookcase, prompting Seliph to sit back down to Ciecro, with a frown.

Seliph: "But I-"
Gathor: "Again. Le' yah mother finish." >:|

Freya cleared her throat for a second and looked at the two kids. [ ]

Normally, we’d deal out a punishment, however…As you said Seliph, we understand the abnormality of this time we’re in.” She looked at Ciecro specifically. “We won’t deal out a punishment this time, but you’ll need to respect the rules from now on Ciecro.”

Ciecro sighed in relief and looked at Seliph, who was smiling at him. The Charmander gave a small smile back. “Tanks, [ ]”

“No problem.” Seliph gave him a thumbs up. He then looked at their parents and inquired, “So, is it alright if we tell him?”

You either want a period at the end of Ciecro's line or to add more to his sentence there.

Freya raised a brow before letting out an annoyed sigh and rubbing one of her horns. “You’re asking a bit much. But I suppose, since Ciecro already knows about the key and we’re stressing the rules, then I suppose there’s little reason not to tell. However,” Her eyes narrowed as her tone shifted to a very serious one. She moved her claws onto her legs and leaned in closer.

Seliph and Ciecro remained motionless and listened intently.

“Do not tell Jaron about what I’m about to say, unless it is an emergency. He’s only eight and it’s a lot to take in at his age.”

Ciecro: "But I'm only a couple years older den him! So what's the big deal about tellin' Jaron?"
:judgemander~1:

Freya: "Again, I didn't want to tell you this in the first place because I was worried it'd still be too much for you, Ciecro." >_>;

Seliph’s gaze lowered. Yeah, it was a lot for me, after all. Probably is best to avoid telling Jaron if we can.

Image


Since... yeah, you already saw the consequences of keeping secrets once about this in the family...

[ ]

“Although…” Gathor suddenly added. “Dere’s little point in pretendin’ dere’s nothin’ goin’ on. So, if he asks abou’ it. Tell ‘im to ask us, else keep it between yahrselves. Understood?”

The two boys nodded.

Opening her drawer, Freya reached in and took out what looked like a small box. She held it towards the two boys and explained.

The key I gave Seliph goes to this.”

Another spot where IMO some more description should be dropped in, and IMO Freya's line works better detached from the preceding description.

[ ]

“What’s in it?” Ciecro interrupted, his eyes wide with curiosity.

Freya gave him an annoyed looked, making Ciecro get himself back in line. “I’m getting to that.”

She then set the box on the desk and placed a protective claw over it.

This box holds my research notes and an important sample.” She cautiously paused for a second, perhaps out of instinct given the subject matter.

Seliph, once again, felt a chill in his body. The memories of his mother’s scared posture flooding his memory, although he took solace in seeing her more composed and calm this time.

Some spots where IMO you should divide up Freya's paragraph along with a potential place to expand things.

“Before any of you were born, I and your father were part of a certain recon and combat squad called ‘Team Alpha’.”

“Yeah,” Seliph added, “and the mons that visit us were your teammates.” Freya nodded. “Not long after we found out we were going to have you, Seliph, we were called in by Nacsh. I doubt you would remember him, Seliph, since he only visited once, when Ciecro was just an egg.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened at that, perhaps mesmerized at the thought.

Seliph asked, “So who’s Nasch?”

Freya: "I was just getting to that part, really."

“Dah leader of Team Alpha,” Gathor answered. “Anyway, he was dah one dat asked us tah come ‘ere.”

Seliph and Ciecro looked at each other, excitement and anxiety shining in their stares.

Freya patiently waited for them to return their attention to her before elaborating. “Nasch wanted us to take on a researching project for him; the details about it would take time to explain and I’d rather not burden you with the knowledge about it right now. What’s important is that we’re here on a research mission, while also raising you three.”

Image


Not sure if I want to know what this research was about if these two literally have to sequester themselves to this extent.

“So is dat why yah enforce stuff like dah rules and trainin’?” Ciecro asked, prompting Gathor to answer with a nod.

Freya continued. “Yes, and why we’re living in a secluded location with a low profile. It’s always been our aim ever since we got here, especially after having you three kids.”

After a second of thinking, Seliph raised his hand.

“Yes?”

“So, I’m confused. Why have your research here? I mean, why would we need to be in such a secluded location? Why not with Nasch and the other members of your team?”

Seliph: "... And what on earth have you been researching that would require being all the way in these woods?" .-.

Gathor and Freya looked at each other before Freya stood up. Freya tensed up, but kept a professional tone about her posture and expression.

Because there are mons out there that seek to stop our research and have already tried several times on others tasked with this. I won’t go into detail, but we are here to remain hidden.”

Oh, you tease. Though I wonder if meta-wise, it'd have made sense for Freya and Gathor to hint a bit harder as to what their research generally is about and why it needs to stay hidden. Since part of me feels like I can't really get a decent read on the "why" angle here.

Seliph looked at Ciecro and noticed the mix of excitement and fear filling his body. Looking back at Freya and happy with the answer, Seliph hushed so she could continue.

“Now…everything we’ve done recently, the stricter rules, giving you the key to Seliph, and minimizing leaving our house and nearby area is because we’ve received information that these bad mons have been sighted nearby.”

“What?” Ciecro squeaked, as he quickly leaned forwards, almost tipping his chair over. “Dere here‽”

Ciecro + Seliph:
:uhhh:

Gathor: "Now d'ya understand why yer ma and I were trying to not worry ya about this?" >_>;

“Calm down, son,” Gathor commanded. As Ciecro shrank back, Gathor gave him an encouraging smile and added, “We jus’ were told dey’re nearby. We don’ know dat dey know we’re here.”

Sure was a great thing that Ciecro went to one of their secret escape tunnels with the perpetually illuminated tail following him at night, huh?
:copyber:


“Indeed,” Freya added, though she kept a serious look on her face. “However, we can’t treat them being nearby lightly. There still looms the possibility that they were sent to find us. If so, then they would be after this.”

Freya patted the box once more, prompting the two to look at it.

We Right now, we are trying to wait things out. The towns nearby know little about us and the rangers are also on alert. Hopefully, we can wait this out, or better yet, they weren’t sent for us at all. And…”

Freya sighed once more, but this time one that seemed to be a mix of anxiety with relief of bearing these thoughts off her chest.

“Mom?” Ciecro asked, his interest taking a seat for his concern to take precedence.

Ciecro: "Seriously, mom, yer scarin' me here."
:ohnowen:


For the first time in their talk, Freya gave them both a big smile. “We’ll be fine. You both know what to do during an emergency and… I’m sorry for being impatient with you. But I’m proud of you two and for having to put up with all this going on.”

Seliph felt all fuzzy inside, after all a praise from their mother meant she wasn’t kidding. “Thanks, Mom, we’ll keep it up,” he uttered with resilience, causing her to lightly chuckle.

“I’m sure you two will.” After taking one more look at Gathor, Freya stated, “Alright, that’s all. Have a good night you two.”

inb4 one of the 'bad mons' comes and blows up the front of the house in like 3 paragraphs.

Both boys nodded and said, “Night.” And exited their parent’s room, Ciecro making sure to shut the door behind them.

Once in the hallway, Seliph cupped his fingers together and stretched his arms overhead, making an “Hmmmm” noise as he bent backwards slightly. “Glad that’s over with.” Seliph turned around and stopped.

Again, Seliph. Stop going out of your way to tempt fate there.
:fearfullaugh~1:


Ciecro had his hand on the door, his head lowered, and his eyes focused and scowling.

“What’s wrong?” Seliph inquired, walking over to his mulling sibling.

Taking his hand off the door, Ciecro mumbled loud enough to answer, “Dose ‘bad mons’ Mom told us abou’.” Ciecro looked up towards Seliph with a mild scowl. “I wonder who dey are.”

That's what I'd like to know, too. Since have Seliph and the kids even been told enough about what to keep their eyes out for unwelcome intruders up to this point? ^^;

Seliph shrugged. “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.” He smiled and patted Ciecro on the shoulder.

After a few seconds of pondering, Ciecro nodded and smiled back. “Yeah…tanks fo’ havin’ my back dere.”

“Hey, I said I’ve got yah.” Seliph smiled. “And well…we aren’t done yet.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened before sinking down to a minor frown. “Oh…right.

It might have made sense to expand Ciecro's line to point out a "The [X] we were going to do" or whatever, since admittedly, I didn't really follow where he was going with this when I read this.

[ ]

“Don’t be so glum, it’s Jaron.” Seliph started walking down the hallway towards their room. “He’s way less scary than mom.”

“I know dat,” Ciecro replied, a bit annoyed at Seliph’s optimism. “It’s jus’-”

Seliph put his hand on their door as his other gestured outwards. “Just what? You and Jaron fight all the time, right?”

IMO, you could stand to work in a bit of extra description here, especially if you're going to use that method to bring up "Right, Jaron. We can't tell him about what's going on" without having Ciecro explicitly mention that.

Ciecro rubbed the back of his head he joined Seliph by the door. “Yeh, but I made ‘im really mad dis time.” Slowly, Ciecro moved his scratching claw to instead start rubbing his wrist. “I mean, we’ve had ou’ fights before, but dose felt…well…felt like when we roughhouse. We get mad but wouldn’ stay mad always, yah know? But wha’ he said tah me den…”

Seliph’s smile lowered as he and Ciecro stood there in silence, both looking at the floor. Finally, Seliph perked up and with a confident and encouraging smile, put his free hand on Ciecro’s shoulder, causing the Charmander to look up to him. “Well, we’ll never know till you apologize, right?”

Slowly, Ciecro nodded, still looking worried but more invigorated to make things right. “Yeh.”

[ ] With a firm grip, he twisted the knob and slowly opened the door. “Jaron?” Ciecro muttered as he pushed the door. “Jaron, I- Ah!!”

It probably makes sense to more explicitly describe the process of Ciecro making his way back to his and Jaron's room, since that doesn't really come through at the moment.

Ciecro was pushed onto his back by the totodile, who buried his face into Ciecro’s chest and clenched his arms around the Charmander.

I’m sorry!” He repeated, sobbing and squeezing Ciecro with a tight hug.

“Hey! Get off me!” Ciecro shouted, pushing back on Jaron.

“No!” Jaron exclaimed, only squeezing tighter.

The bit in the underline probably works better if it's not phrased in passive voice. e.x. as a throwaway tweak:

Ciecro abruptly toppled back and hit the ground after his totodile brother shot out of the room. He laid there for a moment, as Jaron buried his face into Ciecro’s chest and clenched his arms around the Charmander.

Since it feels a lot less "after the fact" and more like it's actively playing out that way.

Ciecro ceased his protesting, confused. He looked at Jaron, who was shaking with eyes shut. The scowl on the Charmander’s face slowly grew soft as he looked up at Seliph, who gave him a nod with a confident grin.

“Hey, bro.” Ciecro gently pushed on Jaron’s head. “It’s okay. I was wron’.”

Reluctantly conceding to Ciecro’s hand, Jaron let go and sat down on the floor as Ciecro sat up. Jaron rubbed his eyes and said amid sniffles, “I…I’m sorry. I was just…I shouldn’t have said…I don’t want you to run away again!”

Seliph: "Jaron, I'm pretty sure that this isn't even the first time that Ciecro has done something like this..." >_>;
Jaron: "Yeh, an' it was awful den, too!"
:CabotTeary:


Hearing Jaron’s messy apology warmed the Charmander’s heart. Ciecro smiled as he scooted close and hug Jaron’s collar with one arm. “I’m sorry bro. Can yah forgive me?”

“Of course!” Jaron exclaimed, eyeing Ciecro with a weak, angry stare that looked like it would fracture at any second.

“Heh, tanks bro,Ciecro chuckled.

Jaron smiled a little at hearing this, starting to wipe his eyes with his arm.

The "thanks bro" line is presently ambiguous as to who says it, so it probably makes sense to be explicit that it's Ciecro.

Ciecro’s eyes moved back to Seliph, who offered a confused look in return. “Jaron,” Ciecro started, prompting two to look at him. “I have to tell yah somethin’.”

Jaron’s eyes widened as did Seliph’s.

“Hold on a sec-”

Well, so much for keeping things a secret like Gathor and Freya insisted.
:copyka:


“It’s fine bro, I know,” Ciecro answered, looking at Seliph with a serious look. [ ]
“Know what?” Jaron looked from one to the other, starting to worry.

“Jaron…I was mad because dey gave Seliph somethin’. All dat stuff, like dah listenin’ in on mom an’ dad…dat was part of it.”

Jaron leaned in closer, his worried expression shifting to intrigue. “What ‘something’?”

Seliph: "Ciecro, we were literally told not to do this!"
:mewtwofacepalm:

Ciecro: "Oh come on, who's it gonna hurt, huh?"
:judgemander~1:


“Ciecro…” Seliph gave the Charmander a stern look.

Ciecro sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “I-I can’t tell yah.” Seeing Jaron’s head lower, Ciecro stretched his arms out and quickly said, “But it’s because mom and dad told me not tah.”


“Huh?” Confusion filled Jaron’s eyes as he glanced up to Seliph.

“It’s true,” Seliph added with a sigh. “It’s kind of just well…adult stuff.”

Oh huh, so Ciecro's actually going to listen to his parents. I'll admit that I didn't see that one coming there.

Ciecro stood up, giving an affirming nod. “Yeh. I know dis ain’ fair an’ all but…” Rubbing the back of his head, Ciecro took a deep breath and added, “If yah wanna know, ask Mom an’ Dad. Dey’ll tell yah.”

Jaron raised a brow as he looked at the two. “Huh?”

Seliph and Ciecro chuckled at this reaction.

“It’s late after all.” Seliph walked over, helping Jaron to his feet. “Come on, we’ll explain it tomorrow.”

As they gently moved Jaron towards their room, Ciecro following behind, Seliph suddenly stopped.

Wait!”

Last paragraph in this block IMO works better hacked up a bit.

“What?” Ciecro and Jaron said in unison.

Seliph moved the two in front and placed his hands over their shoulders, like a group of players would for an in-game meeting. “How about we go play in our normal spot tomorrow?”

Jaron’s eyes lit up at the idea, but reluctantly added, “But, what if mom and dad have plans?”

[ ]

“Oh…well then I-”

“I’ll go ask ‘em!” Ciecro exclaimed as he broke off, storming towards his parents' room.

IMO, Seliph should get in a bit more description of his "er..." reaction before he starts to speak up again.

“Wait! Ciecro, it’s late!” Seliph stated.

“Dey’re adults so dey gonna be up anyway!” Ciecro shouted back, as he headed to the living room door. He paused as he put his hand on the doorknob, looked back at the two, and smiled.

Seliph didn’t reply, but instead nodded, as Jaron’s eyes beamed with joy.

Ciecro opened the door, his heart pounding fast. Similar to that one night, but entirely different; a nice feeling.

Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. Since based off the next few titles in the threadmark index... yeah, you don't have too many peaceful days left to work with in the immediate future.

Alright, time for the summary, since I had quite a bit to say for this chapter. I see that you seem to like tension-building in this story, since this chapter was basically exploring the fallout of Ciecro's episode in Chapter 5 and showing off finer details about how the different characters in the cast operate and think. Which I suppose I can't really fault since one of my own stories has a slow setup like this precisely to make the part where things change irrevocably hit harder. I do wonder if you had room to tip your hand a bit further to readers as to what this research would be generally about, though.

As for criticisms, as you can see, there were quite a few places where I felt things were a bit lacking in description or else had quibbles about paragraph structure, but that's been a recurring criticism thus far, so I won't dwell on it other than to point out that you should pay it mind. There's also some recurring typos and sections with some more awkward phrasing that might merit taking a second look to try and smooth them out. I also wonder if there could've been more done with Tetheron, since he's currently in the same house as everybody, but... he basically just completely fades out after the checkers game and is never mentioned again. Like at the very least, you'd think that he'd attempt to sit in on telling Ciecro about what's going on only for Gathor and Freya to pull a "Tetheron, let us handle this as a parent-to-child thing" on him.

Though I hope the feedback was helpful @Vray . A bit of a slower ramp-up than I was expecting from this story, but you do seem to be building up to a bigger moment, and based off a peek ahead at the chapter index, it seems like it won't be much longer. ^^
 
Chapter 33: Pinned Down New

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 33
Pinned Down​

Vragon blinked as he lifted his head off the pillow. Hrm? Voices? He pushed himself up, rubbing his eyes. “Seliph? What’s going on?” The lack of an answer prompted him to look across the room. His chair is empty? Immediately, his eyes shifted to the window. No, it’s still locked, so he must be in the next room.

He slid out of the bed and tried to shake off the fatigue in his body. What time is it? It’s still dark out so- A heavy yawn came from his mouth. Just hurry up. He dragged his feet to the door, but as he grabbed the knob he paused. Hmmm…what are they talking about? Letting go, he leaned against the wooden frame, minding his tusks, and listened.

“I don’t think you should just go by yourself.”

“We don’t have a choice, Jasmine. I only have one more Warp Orb and once used it will take a while to recharge. It’s our best backup in the event we can’t defeat their leader.”

Vragon pressed closer against the door, his mouth sealed shut and his breath diminishing to almost complete Hypoxia.

“I get that, but-”

“There isn’t time to argue, Jasmine. Jaron and Ciecro are in danger so let’s get him up and-”

Vragon gasped as he saw the knob move. He tried to move away, but was too slow resulting in the door slamming into his nose. “Ouch!” He grabbed onto it as Seliph looked through the door.

“Oh, you’re awake. Good.”

That hurt you numbskull. Vragon shook his head and blinked as Seliph fully opened the door, the light from the other room almost blinding him.

“Get ready, it’s time to move.” Seliph went back in, followed by the Fraxure, who scowled at the Absol wearing an amused smile on her face.

“Hold on one second.”

Seliph groaned as he spun around. “We don’t have time for this Vragon.”

Undeterred, the Fraxure continued, “What do you mean Jaron and Ciecro are in danger?”

What annoyance was present on Seliph’s face doubled as he shoved a hand onto his face and let it drag itself down.

“Well,” Jasmine walked over to him, explaining, “Seliph got a message that was sent out from Humphry saying that-”

“That the Red Eyes were heading to the ranger station.” Seliph rolled his wrist as he explained, not bothering to hide his irritation. “The plan was to have them at the station to keep them out of the fighting. But seems the Red Eyes figured that out and are targeting them. That’s the details. Now shape up and let’s get moving.”

“Wait,” Vragon blinked, trying to process this new revelation. “I thought I was supposed to be the bait, so why are they-”

“Please stop asking questions.” Seliph opened a drawer and pulled out his travel belt, which he tossed on a nearby table. As he fiddled around in the drawer, he continued, “You and Jasmine need to rendezvous with the rangers at the ambush spot.”

“Wait, but-”

“No buts, Vragon.” Seliph tossed some items onto the table as well and began putting them into the pouches.

“You can’t just expect me to abandon-”

“You aren’t ‘abandoning’, you’re keeping out of the way so we don’t have any more targets in play.” Seliph answered without looking at him.

Vragon’s head lowered as he listened to Seliph putting on the belt. He felt Jasmine pat his shoulder.

“He’s right. Those guys are very strong and are after you too.”

His fists clenched as he felt the frustration build. “So what?”

“Huh?”

Vragon looked at Jasmine and with a stern tone answered, “I’m not the target right now, they are.”

“You’re still a target,” Seliph answered, making Vragon glare at him. “Keeping you away would help the situation-”

“I don’t care that I’m a target. What if you guys need a healer?” He held out his hands towards Seliph. “I can cover support.”

Jasmine walked up, saying, “Yeah, at the cost of yourself.”

“No one asked you!” Vragon snapped, causing Jasmine to flinch back.

“And no one is asking you to come.”

Seliph’s blunt tone felt like a cut as Vragon glared up at him. The Greninja was already inputting the coordinates into the warp orb, barely even acknowledging the conversation let alone Vragon’s wishes.

“But Seliph, I can’t just-”

“Come on, Vray.” Jasmine nudged him to the side. Vragon wanted to shove her back, but the look in her eyes held him back. It wasn’t a look of authority or ignorance like Seliph’s, it was a heavy, somber gaze.

She probably wants to be there too. His expression softened as his shoulders sagged and his head lowered.

“It’s going to be alright. Trust me.”

She gently turned him with her claw and pushed him forward. The march felt like a defeat, a terrible retreat. ‘How many have to be sacrificed’. Vragon’s eyes narrowed. ‘For your sake’. He halted.

“Vray?”

“I’m not running away.” He spun around and with a convicted heart and soul said, “I’m going to help them.”

Seliph shook his head, pausing from inputting on the holo screen to say, “How many times do you need to be-”

“I’m not running! That’s final!”

Jasmine walked next to him and calmly said, “Vray, I understand how you feel, bu-”

“No, you don’t.” He glared at her and then looked at Seliph. “And neither does he. This is never going to stop. I’m never going to be safe, so maybe I should help fight instead of run.”

“Vragon, you need to calm down. I get your-”

“Get the door, Jasmine,” Seliph said, finally taking his gaze from the orb and turning it to Vragon. Even though his focus was now on the Fraxure it did little to make Vragon feel that Seliph was acknowledging his stance at all. All that fire and firmness in the whelp’s voice didn’t seem to faze the one person that it needed to the most.

“Please.” Vragon shut his eyes and lowered his head. “I’ll do anything, just let me-” He gasped as he felt Seliph’s hand touch his head. He looked up to see Seliph give him a soft smile.

“Vragon, your heart is in the right place and I appreciate your desire to help my brothers. However, what you-”

His eyes widened as he felt a jolt throughout his body. His heart’s pulse vibrated in his hearing as his body felt like it had left the ground. In an instant, he had become surrounded by an endless darkness.

“What? Where did-” He spun around in babbling confusion until he saw Seliph walking his way, as seeable as if it was noon on the brightest day. “W-wait, did you just do a soul link?”

“Yes, to give us some time and privacy to talk.” His walk echoed as he closed the distance between them. He looked down at Vragon, bearing that same air of authority as earlier. “Tell me. Do my brothers really mean that much to you?”

Vragon’s fists closed and snarled. “Of course they do! Why wouldn’t they mean a lot to me?”

Seliph held up his hand. “Peace, I wasn’t trying to mock you- oof.”

Vragon shoved Seliph back. “I’ll tell you how much they mean to me!” He press his hand on his chest, clenching on it slightly as if he was trying to reach for his pendant. “I see them as the only family I have. Even if I do have a family, Ciecro, Jaron, and Aunt Dresha are here and real. They’re not just feelings, dreams, or wishes that I have.” He clenched his claw tighter as it slowly lowered to the side. “They’re…a part of me and I’m a part of them.”

Seliph smirked. “I imagine they see you more as a brother compared to me.”

Vragon blinked. “N-n-no, I don’t mean to say-”

Chuckling, Seliph shook his head, earning a confused stare from Vragon. “Sorry, I just wanted to see your reaction. Well, see if I’m right that is.”

“Huh? Right about what?”

“If you’d react like Jaron would.” Seliph crossed his arms, trailing one of his fingers to the side of his lower jaw. “Come to think of it, you really do talk a lot like Jaron.”

“I do not!” Vragon retorted.

“Not linguistically, that’s pretty distinct.” Seliph pointed to Vragon’s chest, the same spot where Vragon had his fist earlier. “I mean like that. Jaron was always the most emotionally expressive compared to me and Ciecro. I can see a lot of that in you.”

Vragon tilted his head back, narrowing his brow skeptically. “And what’s wrong with that?

“Nothing right now, I just hadn’t thought of the similarities before. But I suppose it makes sense, since you and he have been good friends for some time.”

“Yeah…” The Fraxure’s eyes narrowed as his head lowered. ‘Nothing right now?’ When would it be wrong to be like that?

Vragon could only speculate as Seliph then placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “But passion and sincerity only take you so far. What makes you an asset for the plan and not just in the way?”

Did you have to say it that way? Vragon took a deep breath. Just think of an answer. After half a minute, he said, “I can do support. I have range moves, Assurance for follow-ups, an-” He stopped mid-breath as Seliph held his hand up to his face.

“Look, if I’m even going to tease the possibility of bringing their target to them, I’m going to need more than simple ‘support’.” Seliph walked up to him, invading Vragon’s space as he leered down at the Fraxure, with a look that seemed to evaluate his soul. “What assurance do I have you won’t run away because you see some ‘white light’ again?

Vragon’s eyes trailed to the side. “I wasn’t ready for-” His eyes snapped back to Seliph’s stare as the Greninja continued.

“An unintentional coward is still a coward. If you can’t be ready for the unexpected you have no place on the battlefield.” Seliph put his hand on Vragon’s shoulder once more, his gaze softening while keeping its seriousness. “If you run away when we need you most for a plan could get everyone in this hurt, killed, or worse. You’re not an infant, but something as stressful as this is something I don’t think you’re ready for.”

“I know-…I know I’m inexperienced bu-”

“Then give me something to be assured of. Convince me.” Seliph’s eyes narrowed as he retracted his hand. He crossed his arms and said again, “What makes you more of a help than a hindrance to this mission?”

Vragon didn’t know what to say. If he hadn’t already been disarmed in his argument logically, the intensity of Seliph’s statements left him shaken. The worst part was, in the back of his mind, Vragon agreed with him. His head lowered and his claws clenched. “I…I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? That’s your argument?”

“No.” Vragon’s tone shifted to a low, almost threatening one as he looked back up. He took a step towards Seliph, his determined glare confronting Seliph’s icy, cynical one. “My argument is that sooner or later, I’m going to have to confront this. Confront them. I don’t want to admit it, but those guys know something about me, something that gives them enough reason to hunt for me. I can’t…I can’t let Ciecro and Jaron pay the price for whatever the reason is that they want me.”

Seliph raised a brow, as his gaze eased up. “Even if you don’t know why they want you?”

Vragon turned to the side, his eyes softening up. “It’s like you said. It doesn’t matter what my intentions are. Results and the situation are what matter.” He stared off into the vast darkness, imagining it as a far plain on fire, a fire that moved wherever he looked. That obeyed him.

“And it’s not just them.” Vragon looked at his right claw, seeing the flames swirl inside. “Everyone that gets hurt or dies in this…it happens to them because of me.” He faced Seliph once more. “It’s on my hands, whether you agree or not. Whether I understand why or not.”

Vragon blinked, his eyes lowering faintly, his fervor starting to recede the more he dwelled on the words he had said. I…I do believe that but- his thoughts were cut off as Seliph squatted down and started tracing circles in the invisible ground with his finger.

“No one agrees with that.”

Vragon’s scowl returned. “Maybe not. But I’m through with being a coward. If I have to fight, I should learn to do so with people like you here to help me.”

Seliph shook his head. “So you want to treat this as a training exercise? That mindset is exactly what I said you shouldn’t have-”

“Stop putting words in my mouth!” Vragon yelled. A few seconds of silence followed, Vragon felt the anger that was boiling inside him begin to calm down, as if his anger was leaving his soul with every breath he took. However, when he focused on Seliph’s face, seeing how caught off guard he was by the outburst, Vragon began to feel a sense of unease. How could an action feel right and wrong at the same time?

What am I thinking? He placed a claw over his tired face. “No, I don’t mean it as an exercise. I get it, it’s serious.” Vragon took his claw away and pressed it against his chest. “But what if I’m stuck on my own? What if no one can protect me? I’m screwed anyways, right? I need the experience.”

Seliph went back to drawing shapes in the darkness at their feet. “There are better ways to learn than putting yourself and the mission at risk.”

Vragon’s gaze lowered. What do I say? He shut his eyes and clenched his fists. How can I convince him I have to do this?

A few minutes of silence passed before Seliph shrugged. “Vragon, wanting to go just isn’t enough. I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to sta-”

“No,” Vragon replied, his eyes shut in a scowl and his breath heavy. He could feel that feeling from before building inside, that determination. He opened his eyes and looked down at Seliph. “I won’t stay.”

Seliph’s finger stopped. He made no reply, but his eyes looked up slightly, though not enough to clear Vragon’s lower chest line.

“I’ve made my choice. And if you won’t help me, I’ll find my own way without you.” He had never felt so convicted and defiant, it was like he was saying it to the world. It felt strange at first, his patience was near its end. Raising his voice no longer felt rude, it felt justified. Felt like himself. He stared down at Seliph, his posture and gaze unshaken as the Greninja moved a finger to his chin.

Finally, Seliph stood up and immediately turned around. As he started walking away, he said, “If you’re going to be unreasonable then there’s no real point continuing. Besides, it won’t matter if you’re not fast enough.”

Vragon kept staring in stern silence as Seliph’s form started to go hazy, then disappeared entirely. As he felt his body grow heavier, he noticed that his eyes were closed and promptly opened them.

“-need to understand-” Vragon heard Seliph’s voice but ignored it as soon as he recognized it. Immediately his eyes latched onto the orb in Seliph’s hands. He noticed how the arm was stiffened, ready to move at a second’s notice.

Immediately, Vragon lunged for the orb, reaching out. As he did, he spotted out of the corner of his eye some dark light forming. He pivoted off of his feet, twisting his body and pulling the arm with the orb down with him as his free hand pressed the activation button.

“What? Guys-!” Jasmine shouted but was drowned out as cyan blue light surrounded them.

Vragon felt his back hit the ground, his left claw clasping onto the orb tightly, refusing to budge. As the light faded, he looked up to see Seliph staring down at him. The Greninja’s left hand had formed a Night Slash kunai, the ringed end right next to the Fraxure’s right eye.

Seliph, let the move disintegrate and instead offered his hand. “You’re lucky I had just inputted the coordinates, else you’d be in quite the awkward situation.”

Vragon stopped dragging Seliph’s other arm down and instead grabbed the one extended to him. As Seliph pulled him up, Vragon said, “I…I just…figured you already had. Since you gave your hint and all.” In the back of his mind, Vragon was still trying to process what just happened. Did I? I think I did, but maybe I just reacted to his movements before actually realizing it. His mulling was interrupted by Seliph leaning close to his face.

“You’ll do exactly as I say, got it?”

“Y-yes sir.”

“This was entirely your own actions.”

“It was.” Vragon silently gulped. I don’t like lying, but it’s only fair. He’s taking a risk letting me come.

With that established, Seliph pulled back and nodded, a smile forming. “Good. I must say, you reacted faster than I expected. Think on your feet like that, and it’ll save you in fights.”

“Speaking from experience?” Vragon jested, as the Greninja walked around him. It was then he noticed they were in an alleyway, or at least near the entrance of one.

“No more small talk. The inn is around the corner.”

“Right.” Vragon jogged right behind Seliph as they went onto the stone pavement next to the wooden docks of the river and hurried downstream. As they went, Vragon glanced across the river and gasped. “Seliph, look! Near the roofline.”

The two of them stopped as they looked, seeing smoke rising above into the night sky. Vragon felt a rush of fear in his body. “They’ve already done that much, so quickly?” His head lowered. Are these guys even mons? How are they so-

“Vray, come.”

The Fraxure turned to see Seliph jogging from the edge of the dock towards a building. At the front was a Hitmonchan banging on the door. Near him was Ciecro, supporting Jaron’s back as he waited. “Guys!”

Once Vragon arrived, he instantly dropped to Jaron’s side. “What’s wrong with him?” He asked, with a fearful gaze.

“Head injury,” The Hitmonchan answered, resuming his banging on the door. “Open the damn door! We’ve got an injured boy out here!”

“Yep. That’s a bad bruise.”

Vragon looked, seeing Seliph had moved Jaron’s head enough to inspect the head trauma on the back. Moving over to help support Jaron, Vragon asked, “But it’s just a bruise, right? Not a concussion?”

“I don’t know.” Seliph sighed as he looked at Vragon. “Croconaw anatomy has a vulnerable spot on the back of the head.” He gestured his fingers to the spot for emphasis. “Whoever struck Jaron knew right where to hit for incapacitation. I just hope it hasn’t-”

“Shuddup!” Ciecro shouted, standing up, and glaring down at Jaron. “He’ll…be a’ight. So jus’ can it!” Ciecro stomped his way from them, standing at the edge of the docks next to one of the water wheels.

Vragon looked at Seliph, the sympathetic gaze the Greninja had for his brother warmed Vragon’s heart. However, what little smile he had on his face vanished as soon as he looked back down at Jaron.

Without his consent, his mind began thinking of the possible scenarios Seliph was about to speak of. Seeing Jaron so motionless and barely breathing made him furious. Slowly, his gaze drifted to his hands. I…Can I use my gift on him? But if I do, I’ll just be out of commission. That bruise looks bad enough, especially if there’s internal damage. What do I-

“Goddamnit, Reins you fucker! Open up the damn door!” The Hitmonchan shouted, taking a step back from the door. “If you don’t open this in five seconds I’ll-!” He froze in his wind-up, the sound of locks clicking came from the other side.

“Please, calm down. I was on the second floor- oof!” The Floatzel was pulled aside by the Hitmonchan.

“What the fuck were you thinking?”

“What do you mean, ‘what was I thinking’?”

As the two started arguing, Vragon’s focus went to Seliph, who was pulling Jaron’s arm over his shoulder. “Vray, get the other one.”

“Sure.”

“Ciecro! Keep an eye out.” Seliph said as the two lifted Jaron.

“Wait, what did you say?” The Hitmonchan said, prompting the others to listen again to the conversation.

“I didn’t lock it,” The innkeeper huffed and crossed his arms, pointing his snout into the air. “Now can you please stop cursing me out like some ruffi-”

“Quiet!” Seliph shouted leaving Jaron to Vragon as he drew a Night Slash kunai. “They’re here som-”

Vragon saw it at the same time. Up on top of the balcony overlooking the lobby was Vex, smiling at them menacingly as he held a finger in front of his shut mouth. His other hand let go of something glowing an orange light in a cracked cylinder glass.

“Get out now!” Seliph shouted, reaching into a pouch on his belt.

Vragon moved Jaron behind him as the ranger pulled the innkeeper towards the door. The seconds felt like they lasted forever as Vragon saw the Emura fall, its light flashing like a heartbeat that burst into a violent light upon striking the ground

The All Protect Orb shined, constructing a barrier similar to Protect if it was the color yellow. It was soon engulfed in the explosions, the force of which sent everyone sailing from the doorway and onto the stone street scattered.

Vragon groaned, rolling onto his stomach and looking forward. Despite being slightly dazed, he could make out the flames coming from the front of the inn.

“Ugh, everyone alive?” Seliph asked with a heavy cough.

“I think so,” The ranger replied, rubbing his head. “Good call.”

As Vragon pushed himself up on his knees, he was startled by a blood-curdling screaming right next to him, so much so that he fell onto his side. As he rolled to look, his horrified look narrowed to a slightly annoyed expression.

“My inn!” The Floatzel cried, reaching out for the building that was currently burning on the inside of the first floor. He pressed his hands on his face and wept for what Vragon could swear was loud on purpose.

A thought crossed Vragon’s mind and he asked, “Wait, is there anyone else inside?”

The Hitmonchan shook his head. “Nope. All the other rangers went with Humphry. I was ordered to stay behind for the boys.”

“What about guests?” Seliph asked, standing up and browsing the area.

“What guests?” The Hitmonchan smiled as the Floatzel let out another loud, pained cry.

“You!” He roared, standing up to his feet and pointing at the ranger, making that smile go away instantly. “You have the sick, twisted mind to make a joke when I’m experiencing the worst moment of my Li-AHHH!” The Floatzel was cut off as Ciecro tackled him from the side as a Shadow Ball soared right where his head would have been.

The ranger was caught unawares and struck right in the chest. “Ack!” He was hurled towards the docks and would have gone over the edge if Seliph stopped him with a quick shot of his tongue.

“Thanks, ugh,” as the ranger got up, Seliph quickly hopped away, yanking his tongue back and drawing a Night Slash to intercept an incoming Psycho Cut.

“Vragon, get Jaron out of- Ack!”

Vragon watched stunned as a beams of radiant light struck Seliph’s back, hurling him forward at an awkward angle and tumbling onto his side. “Seliph!” He stood up, glancing back to see Vex walking towards them. He wasn’t visible for long for he phased into the ground to avoid a Flamethrower from Ciecro.

“Damnit, where is he?”

Vragon looked around, trying to spot the shadow. “It’s too dark, I can’t see the shadow!” He glanced back, seeing Seliph get to his feet and beyond him the Gallade casually walking in their direction. “No. He’s-”

“Vray, help!”

As soon as Vragon turned, he saw Ciecro tumble past him. When he looked back, forming his Dragon Breath, he froze. Where did he- Vragon’s view became filled with the night sky as Vex uppercut him in the chin from the right.

His entire body was lifted off the ground and he fell with a harsh thud onto his back. Groaning, Vragon rolled to the side. My jaw, owww. He thought. As he picked himself up and rubbed his hurting jaw, he saw Ciecro rush past him trying to engage Vex before he could escape.

This caused Vragon to see the innkeeper standing there, shivering.

Vragon forced himself to hurry forward, though he was still a bit disoriented from getting slugged in the jaw. “Sir.” He reached out to the Floatzel, partially to use him for balance, but his hand missed due to the startled flinching from the innkeeper. Vragon hit the ground again and growled. “Get help.”

“I-ugh-I-Well-I”

For the love of- Vragon leaped to his feet, grabbed him by the shoulders, and snarled in his face. “Get! Help!” He then shoved the poor mon forward, the Floatzel scampering off.

Vragon looked at both Almkins, who were struggling against their opponents: Ciecro with Vex’s ground phases and Seliph with his injury from Vex’s hit with Dazzling Gleam.

We need reinforcements now. Vragon looked down at Jaron and scowled, moving his hands to Jaron’s head. He felt his body quiver, begging him not to. The vivid memory of healing Amyas’s arm played in his mind, making his breath accelerate and forcing him to let go. “Damnit, I-” His head lowered as he looked at his hands. Come on, think.

Suddenly, Vragon felt a hand touch his back, making him squeal.

“Easy, it’s just me, ugh,” the Hitmonchan ranger said, dropping to his knee as Vragon helped steady him. He was holding his chest, which bore a heavy dark mark on it. “Need to rest for a second. I wasn’t expecting that Shadow Ba-”

“Wait.”

“Huh?”

Vragon looked down at Jaron and back at the ranger, a determined scowl forming as he thrust his hands on Jaron’s head. “Mister, I need your help. When I say so, pull me away from Jaron.”

The ranger raised a brow. “Huh, what are you going to-?” The Hitmonchan’s mouth went agape as a yellow light glowed from Vragon’s hands as he held Jaron’s head.

Come on, power through it. Vragon ordered himself, fighting through the pain in his hands that surged throughout his body. His breathing accelerated as his perceptions began to warp and blur. On instinct, Vragon tried pulling away, his body refusing to budge as the process continued. “Now! Help!” He said weakly, his senses so muffled he couldn’t even make out the ranger properly.

The next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground with a body on top of him. His hazy vision was beginning to clear, though pieces of random things in his head appeared in front, though he wasn’t sure if it was just his imagination or something else. He squinted his eyes as he looked up at something jade above him, something that was extending a hand towards him.

“You okay?”

Vragon blinked as he felt a supportive force on his back help him sit up. “Uh…yeah, I’m better now.” Vragon rubbed the side of his head. However, he quickly remembered the purpose of this risk and crawled to Jaron’s side. “Jaron! Jaron, are you alright? Come on, please,” Vragon pleaded, gently shaking the Croconaw’s head. “Wake up, Jaron! We need your-”

“No more healing!” A coarse voice shouted.

“Vray! Look out!” Ciecro exclaimed.

“Huh, Vragon looked forwards, his eyes widened as for a brief second he saw Siegfried lunging for him. He barely had a chance to breathe before he felt the force of the Gallade’s foot ram into his armored chest. The two of them hit the ground, skidding a little on the stone. The disoriented Fraxure could barely process the second before everything stopped. His back arched but couldn’t rise more than a few slight inches. Every fabric of his being was at a standstill. The pain he had felt coursing through him just a few minutes ago felt like an appetizer for the current banquet that left him incapable of thought.



< O >​





Where am I? Jaron thought, feeling a coldness on his stomach and lower jaw. Grumbling, he pushed himself up, rubbing his head, and instantly regretted it. “Ow!” He gasped, blinking as he looked at the ground at his feet. A headache? When did I get- He raised his head, surveying around him or at least as best he could, given how disoriented he felt. I…I think, Oh! Right, I was-huh? Up ahead there was something blurry. Well, the entire world looked blurry, but this was something that looked less blurred compared to it.

What in the-? Jaron rubbed his eyes, blinking. His vision started fixing itself and instantly he felt a surge of confusion, shock, and horror.

Up ahead he saw Siegfried on top of his friend, the elbows extended with a pink glowing light to them, pinning Varon’s claws down through the palms.

The world felt like it had slowed and deafened. He could barely comprehend what he had just seen, let alone the motions of the Gallade moving to defend both sides of himself from Ciecro and the ranger, lunging at him with eyes like ferals wanting to tear him apart.

“Get off of him!” Jaron roared, rushing at Siegfried as he surged Slash into the side of his arm.

Siegfried glanced over his shoulder, spotting Jaron coming. “Vex!”

Jaron was about to slice the Gallade open but was rammed from the side and sent tumbling onto the wooden dock near the road. “Why you!” He thrust his arms forward, trying to keep track of the Gengar as he phased into the ground. Unfortunately, the ghost’s movements were too sporadic and quick to get a properly aimed shot.

Despite this, Jaron kept tailing him, until he saw it divert course to go right for the ranger. “Look out!” Jaron shouted, but there was little the ranger could do as Vex sliced at his back with Shadow Claw.

With one mon holding him down out of the way, Siegfried sliced at Ciecro’s pressuring Dragon Claws, knocking the Charmeleon off balance. Desperately, Ciecro tried to lean into his fall to get a swipe in with Dragon Tail, but Siegfried had anticipated that and instead leaped over him.

Right as he landed, he kicked at Ciecro’s blocking arms, pushing him back but that was just the start. His leg remained lifted in the air and began vibrating with great speed. A Vacuum Wave shot out, wrapping Ciecro up into an orange horizontal tornado, hurling him into one of the water wheels.

“No!” Jaron cried out in horror as he watched the wooden structure collapse onto his brother. He suddenly felt a powerful impact on his side knocking him to the ground, sparks of purple dotting his blurry vision as he felt a stinging sensation on his shoulder. He glanced over to see Vex landing next to Vragon while Siegfried was breaking off to stop Seliph from interrupting.

Jaron rolled onto his stomach and pushed up. He looked at Vragon and upon seeing the Fraxure was sitting up shouted, “Vray! Run!”

However, Vragon didn’t react. He was staring at his bleeding hands, his pupils and topaz irises very small as faint, quivering breaths came from his mouth.

Jaron growled, rushing to his feet intent on keeping Vex away from Vragon. He opened his maw as Crunch formed in his jaw.

Vex aimed a Shadow Ball at him, but Jaron bit on the forming orb trying to break it under the force of his chomp. The orb quickly caved in, blowing up, and sending both him and Vex back.

As Jaron sat up he looked back at where Vex went. Great, he’s gone again! Jaron quickly got to his feet, glancing around for where Vex went. His breathing picked up, not just from the anxiety of being unable to sense the ghost’s location, but also because he could see his allies and family were down.

The only one still able to fight was Seliph, who was struggling to keep up with Siegfried due to his earlier wound.

“Come out coward!” Jaron roared, looking around as the rage built inside him. “Come out so I can bite that ugly face of yours off!”

Despite his threat, Jaron could only feel the chilling sensation of being cornered in his being. Come on, come on! It’s too hard to track him in this lighting, damnit! If he could sweat, he’d be running rivers down his head. Suddenly, he heard a chilling sound behind him, prompting his body to lunge into a roll and twist to fire a Scald back. “What?”

In front of him was a black chain, glowing with dark-type synergy. Jaron flinched back as it yanked back, pulling Vex with it.

“Let go of me you biiiiii-!” Vex exclaimed as he was swung in the air. At the other end of the chain was a dark circle at the feet of a Houndoom, snarling at the ghost. She then slammed her paw down, causing the Embargo chain to follow suit and slam Vex into the ground.

“Ack! Stop it y-!” Was all he could say before he was slammed back on the ground.

“Yes! Give that vandal another!”

Jaron turned to see the Floatzel innkeeper cheering on her, vengeance in his eyes. Suddenly, he felt something touch his shoulder, making him hop back in surprise.

“Easy, you alright?”

“Uh…yeah.” Jaron nodded, seeing a large Klawf in front of him, who he assumed was another mon that came with the innkeeper. He looked over at the waterwheel, breathing a sigh of relief as he saw an Espeon lifting rubble off of Ciecro piece by piece while a Marowak was propping up pieces with his large bone. With Ciecro being helped, Jaron hurried to Vragon’s side. “His hands need treatment.” He looked up at the Klawf, who nodded.

“Right. Let’s get him to the-” His words were cut off as a Shadow Ball struck him square in the face, knocking him up on his rear legs before tumbling over onto the top of his head.

Jaron spun around, but there was no Vex. “What?” He looked to the left, just in time to see Vex fly out towards him. Jaron gasped as he suddenly felt something shove him from behind and for a brief second he saw a look of surprise on Vex’s face before yellow flashes of electricity surged.

Jaron hit the ground on his side, but quickly rolled onto his back seeing Ciecro in the finish position of an uppercut, with Vex sent high in the air. Jaron watched the ghost spiral uncontrolled, yellow sparks sparking from his body as he hit the docks on the other side of the river, groaning.

“Thanks for the save…bro?” Jaron looked at his brother, who had dropped on all fours. His body looked cut up in several places and his body was twitching slightly. “Ciecro?” Jaron said, gasping as his brother looked at him.

The glare in those red sclera eyes startled Jaron, making him crawl back a few steps as Ciecro stood back up. Those feral-like eyes stared back at Jaron with fury, yet the Charmeleon didn’t budge from his spot.

It’s…it’s alright. Jaron said to himself, as he started to calm down. He slowly got up, walking closer to Ciecro, who was growling. “It’s okay, it’s me.” Jaron’s mind searched for the methods that Seliph had tried last time, hoping they’d be more effective with him.

“Easy, I got you.”

Jaron glanced to the side, seeing an Audino using Heal Pulse on Vragon’s hands for some minor treatment. Dread filled Jaron’s soul for a second until he saw Ciecro pounce forwards, lunging for the mon. “Ciecro! Stop!”

But it was too late, Ciecro back-handed her away, as he glared down at Vragon, who looked up at him either terrified or still in shock.

Jaron broke into a sprint, but soon stopped as Ciecro grabbed Vragon by the throat and lifted him up. “No! Don’t!” Jaron tried to pull Vragon away, but Ciecro just swatted him back. Looking back, Jaron could only watch in terrified silence as Ciecro glared at the horrified Vragon, their eyes level with each other.

The Croconaw looked at Ciecro’s free claw, fearing it would ignite into a move. However, it remained still as Ciecro just kept looking at Vragon. “Ciecro, it’s alright. You won’t hurt him, I know you won’t.” Jaron said aloud not just to calm Ciecro but also to keep himself calm. He slowly walked towards his brother. “It’s alright, just stay calm and-”

Perhaps out of frightened instinct, Vragon suddenly latched his claws onto Ciecro’s shoulders, yellow light glowing from their touch.

Ciecro winced but didn’t retaliate. Meanwhile, Vragon’s body was jittering in a disturbing manner as his face lurched back, maw opening up for a roar that never came. The Fraxure’s eyes rolled back into his head, leaving just black orbs as the yellow light surged.

Jaron watched in dumbfounded silence, unable to process what was going on. It wasn’t until the light had stopped and Vragon was dropped to the ground, while Ciecro grabbed his head like he was suffering from a horrible headache.

“Wha’ dah…Vray?” Ciecro’s eyes widened as his breath quivered, looking down at the Fraxure at his feet, bleeding from his mouth and eyes shut. Stuttering sentences left Ciecro’s mouth as he backed away, falling onto his tail as he stared at the sight in disbelief.

Is he… Jaron wanted to run to his friend, he wanted to help, but his body just couldn’t budge. It felt like he was on the other side of a door, a door that he knew once opened would reveal to him a sight he never wanted to see.

Suddenly, Vragon’s body began to move as a shadow-like form appeared at his side, lifting the unconscious boy up in his arms.

Jaron blinked in confusion until he saw a pair of glowing red eyes on the purple object that held Vragon in his arms. He reached out but was too late as the figure flew up. “No!”

The Croconaw was about to try and aim his Scald but was beaten by a pair of cyan Water Shurikens whizzing through the air, slicing Vex on his back.

Green ectoplasm flew out from the cuts as Vex spiraled, yelping from the attack and losing his grip on Vragon.

Jaron raced to his feet, ignoring everything and everyone around him as he saw Vragon fall, plunging into the dark waters of the river. He leaped off the side, ignoring Ciecro calling his name as he felt the chilling rush cover his body. Immediately, he swam up and poked his head out, glancing around frantically for Vragon. I don’t see him. He must be under. Jaron took a deep breath and dove back in

It was cold and the visibility was nonexistent. Shit, where is he? He’s got to be somewhere downstream, but- Huh? He paused, noticing his body was dimly illuminated by some light coming from nearby. He turned and his eyes widened. Dresha! A relieved smile formed on his face as he swam over to the Lanturn’s ball of light. As he got closer, he noticed she was making a glowing cyan bubble growing larger and larger. He looked at the top of the bubble to see Vragon resting on top, being pushed above the water’s ceiling. Jaron swam up and broke the surface, swimming to push on the glowing bubble as Dresha surfaced too.

“What happened?” Dresha asked, casting a worried look towards the unconscious Fraxure.

“They attacked again,” Jaron said between pants, swimming over to check on Vragon.

“Jaron!”

The two of them turned to see Ciecro, and the two civilians that helped Ciecro from under the waterwheel.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got him!” Jaron said with a wave. “He needs a healer!”

The Marowak pointed downstream. “Head downstream a ways till you get to the next stone bridge. There should be a hospital on that street if you head east.”

“Thanks!” Jaron turned his focus to Ciecro, the look in Ciecro’s eyes as he stared at Vragon sending a chill throughout the Croconaw that the cold water could never do. The two mons turned around to rejoin the fray, Ciecro joining them a few seconds later.

Ciecro… Jaron’s eyes lowered before seeing Dresha pushing herself into the bubble, before cutting off supplying synergy to it. As it vanished into cyan particles, Vragon fell from its zenith onto her back, making a soft splash in the river currents.

“Jaron, can you make sure his head stays above the water?” She asked, glancing back at him with her left eye.

“Yes ma’am.” He swam to her side and the two started their journey downstream. As they traveled, Jaron felt his mind flood with all manner of thoughts. However, one particular thought pushed itself to the forefront of his mind, much to his despair. Please don’t be… Jaron didn’t even want to finish, but seeing Vragon’s unconscious face, leaking blood from his mouth, and the way his eyes rolled back earlier just made Jaron want to close his eyes.

“He’ll be alright dear.”

Jaron’s eyes lowered.

Almost as if the silence was enough of an answer, Dresha said, “Have faith in him. He’ll do his part in surviving just like we need to do ours in getting him to a hospital. Trust me, Jaron.”

Renewed by her words, Jaron looked back at Vragon, fighting the thoughts and fears asking him to look away. However, there was one feeling that was eating at him. Anxiousness at Vex, that the ghost could hop out at any moment and attack them. I didn’t see what happened to him after he dropped Vray, but…maybe he’s down. Or better yet, maybe he’s bleeding out on the street somewhere. A scowl formed on his face. Still, I don’t like how dark it is right now. Why couldn’t they light up the canals too? He sighed to himself. I never thought I’d miss my Wary so badly. But if I had it, then maybe none of this would have gotten this ba-

Everything went dark as Jaron dropped beneath the surface, a sharp pain springing alive at the top of head. He grabbed his temple, twirling around in the cold water, which just made the hurting worse. His confusion and disorientation were a struggle to calm down, but a second later, he had stabilized his position in the water. What was-? Jaron looked up, his eyes widening with fear.

“Let him go!” Was the first thing Jaron heard when he poked his head out of the water, followed by the sound of electricity from a yellow Charge Beam. He quickly looked up, seeing a shadowy presence carrying Vragon close to its body zip around the shot.

“Hit me and you hit him, bitch!”

Jaron growled but quickly realized he had no time and dove into the water. He swam as fast as he could to the bottom and pressed his hands against the floor. Just get me close enough. A cyan light formed in the palms of his hands as he felt his arm muscles being drained of their synergy. He unleashed two powerful Scalds to rocket himself upwards, shooting out of the river at a high aiming angle.

Once he had sights on them, he quickly re-adjusted his aim to go in their direction and within seconds grabbed onto the ghost’s foot. “Got you!” He snarled, latching his other hand on.

“Hey! Get off of-” Vex moved to kick Jaron off, but as soon as he looked down at Jaron, the Croconaw squirted a small bit of Scald into Vex’s face.

“Ahhh!” Vex cried in surprise as flinched his arms back to his face, letting go of the Fraxure.

Jaron let go and dove after Vragon, grabbing him and pulling him close. This is gonna hurt. He braced his body for the hard stone ground, however, he instead felt a hit from the side. His momentum went perpendicular as he hit the ground, losing his grip on Vragon and tumbling down with the Fraxure.

“Ugh…” He shook his head, getting off of his stomach. “That could have gone better.”

“Thanks for the feedback. Will consider next time I save you from a free fall, jerk.”

“Huh?” Jaron looked behind him and gasped. “Jasmine? How did you get here so-”

“Shut up and get ready to fight!” Jasmine shouted, twisting her head to send a Psycho Cut straight at Vex, who was soaring in for a slice. The ghost evaded and spiraled into the ground, the shadow traveling in a speedy arc towards the duo.

Jaron quickly aimed his arms down and fired Ice Beam, freezing the ground beneath them.

The shadow altered its path and shot up, as Vex twisted and flung a Shadow Ball towards them. The two responded with Scald and Psycho Cut, canceling it out with a powerful blast.

“Where’s Vray?” Jasmine asked, shielding her face from the smoke of the moves colliding.

Jaron gestured behind himself. “He’s here bu-”

“What the hell were you thi-” Jasmine exclaimed, spinning around but instantly freezing up at seeing Vragon laying there, next to motionless. “You…piece of-!” She surged with a white light and rushed through the remnants of the smoke. She leaped on the nearby wall, the white light fading as her face became covered with a black light that extended into a large jaw of sharp metallic-like teeth.

Vex flew back as she lunged for him, surging Shadow Claws that grabbed at the jaw, trying to keep it from close. His move cracked under the strain, but he managed to hold and with an angry shout, he spun, throwing her into a nearby wall.

However, Jasmine flipped over, landed on her feet, and pushed off, this time surging Psycho Cut in her horn. However, Vex merely flew over and out of her range. She landed back on the ground, looking up at him as he glared down at the group.

“You gonna keep running away coward!” She snapped, scratching at the ground aggressively with her front, right paw. “Or are you going to fight? Because I can tell you’re starting to slow down. I almost had you on the way here till you got lucky and slowed me down, but looks like you couldn’t even use your extra time to get him.”

Purple synergy glowed in Vex’s arms like he was starting to form Shadow Claw, as one of his hands moved to his wound.

“Keep on stalling, idiot. Sooner or later I’m going to hit you hard or your wound is gonna rip open.”

Jaron blinked as he looked at Jasmine. Is she trying to goad him? He wasn’t sure. She looked genuinely pissed. After all, he had gotten on her bad side a few times and never had seen this level of aggression from her. I hope she knows what she’s doing.

The purple lights faded as Vex’s gaze lowered to look at the wound his hand was covering. His eyes looked uncertain amidst the frustration and anger filling them. Then, he looked to his right as he raised it in front of his head as if he was admiring it, yet his expression seemed troubled and indecisive.

“What’s he doing?” Jaron whispered to Jasmine, as they watched Vex’s right hand shiver as it slowly began to drift towards his own face.

“I don’t know. Just hit him while he’s distracted,” Jasmine replied, flinging a Psycho Cut as Jaron fired Ice Beam from his maw.

Vex gasped, snapping out of whatever trance he was in, and quickly dove down, managing to avoid the moves. As he landed, he looked up at them with a furious snarl.

Jaron lowered his aim to strike at the ghost, but his eyes widened as Vex spiraled around his beam. Shit! He clamped his mouth shut and raised his arms with premature Slash’s forming that did little to slow down the heavy force that struck him. He felt his back scrape against the rock as his head. He groaned as he felt his head dangle over the edge, the sound of the rushing water clear in his head despite the minor daze. As he pulled himself up, he quickly shielded his face with Cut, in case there was a follow-up. However, rather than an attack he heard a raspy, venomous shout exclaim, “Don’t move!

Jaron sat up and his eyes widened with horror.

Between him and Jasmine was Vex, pressing the tips of his Shadow Claw against the unconscious Fraxure’s neck. “I just have to sneeze,” he spat, panting with heavy breaths as he held his wound.

“I thought you wanted h-”

“Shut up, bitch!” Vex snarled, glancing back at the Absol. “I’ve had it. If this gets you to comply, fine. I don’t give a fuck! Now move where I can see you!” Jasmine scowled, but with a reluctant lowering of her head, she walked around, keeping her distance as she moved near the edge of the river, and sat down.

Jaron felt his body tremble, his eyes narrowing with nervous anger but froze as he heard a voice.

“What do you want with Vragon?”

Jaron turned his head, looking at Miss Dresha who was next to him.

“Please,” Her voice struggled to emote, not because of emotion but due to her trying to conserve air. Jaron shivered as he looked at her face, seeing the pain strike fear in her eyes as she looked at that monster across from her.

Vex just stared back, wheezing heavily as he adjusted his grip on Vragon so his wound was leaking less. “That’s none of your…damn business.” He answered, panting and occasionally glancing back at Jasmine.

“But are you going to hurt him?” She asked, strain in her eyes. “He needs a hospital or he mi-”

“No hospital,” Vex barked, making her gasp. “We’ll handle treating him.”

“Treating him?” Jaron couldn’t hold it back anymore. He lashed out. “You’re just gonna kill him!”

“If you won’t back up, I will!” Vex growled.

Jaron took deep breaths through his teeth, his eyes bearing a fervent fury that unfortunately was powerless to do much in this situation. “If you, if you hurt him…” Jaron’s fists clenched. “I’ll-”

“You’ll what? Kill me? Yeah, threaten me punk! Go ahead!” Vex moved the Shadow Claw closer, making Jaron flinch. “Yeah, that’s right. Now shut your trap.” He turned his attention to Dresha. “Now you three head that way an-” He was interrupted by a strange sound, some kind of hissing.

He glanced around at the ground, seeing what appeared to be an orb spurting out some kind of pink smoke. “Who’s there!” Vex shouted, glancing behind as an rolling orb slowly came to a halt near his position, shooting out a strange pink-violet smoke.

“Show yourself! I’ll kill the whelp if you don’t!” Vex barked, looking around. “If it’s poison he’ll die too!”

This was it. Jaron rushed for the mist.

“Jaron!” Jasmine shouted as Dresha tried to reach him, but she couldn’t stop him. He rushed into the mist without a plan, just a primal urge to save his friend.

“I swear! I’ll do it! I’ll-dyah!”

Jaron’s heart stopped at hearing Vex’s screech. Vray! He raced onwards, praying that the worst hadn’t happened. His mind was completely lost and his Wary being gone made him feel as blind as ever in this thickening mist. Suddenly, Jaron tripped over something large. “Ooof.” He sat up and glanced back. “Vray!” He lunged for his friend, sitting him up. “Please, please be-”

“He’s alive.”

The Croconaw gasped as he looked in the direction of the voice, his eyes looking up into the thick mist to see what appeared to be two solid, glowing lights of purple. It left him awestruck as he stuttered over his words. “B-b-bu-…”

The eyes moved closer, a silhouette of a large figure appearing before him, taller than even Humphry yet thinner. This figure squatted down and moved what looked like a talon towards the unconscious Fraxure.

Jaron pulled back, bringing Vragon with him as the figure hesitated.

“It’s alright, Jaron, I’m not an enemy.” Suddenly the figure turned his head, the purple eyes looking back upstream. “Get him to a hospital.”

Jaron jolted back as the figure raced away from him to the left. He reached his hand out into the mist, but the figure was gone. He knows my name? Jaron blinked. Maybe he was told? But…the way he said it was so…natural? Is that the right wor-?

“Jaron, come on, we’ve gotta go. Help me get him on my back.”

“Uh…” Jaron took one last glance in the direction the figure went before looking down at Vragon. “R-right.”
 
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Chapter 34: Discipline (Indomitable) New

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 34
Discipline (Indomitable)​

Ciecro panted softly, his arms outstretched, pointed straight at the Gallade who was busy fighting a three on one against the Marowak, Houndoom, and Seliph.

Slowly, Ciecro’s arms lowered as he cursed under his breath. He looks at his claws, dark blue particles of synergy forming, and a precursor to Dragon Claw. I can’t get weakened again, He thought, closing them into fists. Bu’ I only know Flamethrower for rang- He gasped as a beam of rainbow energy fired from behind, heading for Siegfried.

The Gallade pushed off from his lock with the Marowak and cartwheeled out of the way, surging Psycho Cut and twirling, sending several Psycho Cuts towards the two. The Espeon was readying Psybeam to fire back.

“Too many!” Ciecro quickly grabbed her, making the Espeon squeal as he rushed and dove, avoiding the flurry of Psycho Cuts that soared past.

“Uh…Maybe you were right.” The Espeon said, staring at the resulting explosion on the other side of the river.

Ciecro let go of her and stood up, staring back at the fighting going on between Siegfried, Seliph, and the Marowak. Come on, think. Dere’s gotta be a way tah help.

“A little help…please.”

“Huh?” Ciecro turned and his eyes widened. In front was the Audino from earlier, trying to lift the Klawf off his head. He jogged over and looked at the Klawf’s eyes, which were mostly closed followed by some kind of moaning sound from the Klawf. “Wha’s wrong with ‘im?”

“I think he’s either dazed or got a concussion. I think the combination of that Shadow Ball and the heavy fall on his head did something. I can’t inspect him while he’s like this.” The Audino stated, panting as she gently gave up trying to turn him over. “I can’t get him over and if he falls on his head it might make whatever injury he has worse.”

Ciecro glanced back at the three vs. one fighting for a second. Dey’ve got dis fo’ now. He looked at the Espeon, who was eyeing the fight as well for her next shot, “Hey, can yah help?”

“Uh…I can try.” She turned towards the Klawf and closed her eyes. A pink energy covered the Klawf as he started to move upwards. The Espeon’s closed eyes squinted as she buckled down on her front legs. “He’s heavy, ugh.”

“You don’t need to levitate him, just tilt him enough so he can fall over with his head upright,” The Audino directed.

“Dat won’ hurt ‘im?” Ciecro asked with a confused brow raise.

“It shouldn’t. His head has enough things between it and the impact to make it ineffective.”

The Espeon adjusted her strategy and started tilt the Klawf upwards. She had gotten him at about a forty-five-degrees when suddenly she was struck by a Shadow Ball from the side. She hit the building nearby, slumping down on her side.

“No!” Ciecro dove, spinning so he’d be on his back as he slid under. Pushing his arms and legs up, as well as using his tail for support, Ciecro managed to save the Klawf from hitting his head on the ground a second time.

“Help me,” Ciecro said, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Audino hit the ground, next to the Espeon. Damnit, no! He suddenly felt the Klawf feel heavier, pushing down on him as his muscles strained.

“How do you like being crushed, huh?” Vex’s voice taunted him from above.

Snarling, Ciecro felt his legs struggling to stay up. They were only held up by his tail, which alone wasn’t going to be able to last for long not so long as the ghost was pushing down on him. Somebody come, please. He said, taking a few heavy exhales to help with his muscle strain.

“Yeah, bet it feels nice. I’m not supposed to kill you, but- WAAAH!”

Ciecro raised a brow as the weight eased up. He quickly looked at his line of sight, seeing what seemed to be some white light that vanished revealing some Absol feet. Jaz? A second later they sprang up, and the weight became heavier again. “Ugh, Jasmine, get off!” He shouted, doing his best to not give way.

“Huh? Ciecro?” Jasmine hopped off and looked under. “What are you doing under the-”

“Shut dah fuck up an’ help me!”

Jasmine crawled under the shell and pushed, giving Ciecro some leeway to readjust himself. The two then pushed up, shifting the groaning Klawf over till he fell upright. The large crab groaned, his eyes flickering between completely closed and slightly opened.

“Where’d dat ghost go?” Ciecro snarled, glancing around. Suddenly, a barrier formed around them as a Shadow Ball struck the Protect.

“Who in the‽” Vex snapped, looking around for the user of Protect.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as he realized who it was. He glanced over, seeing the Hitmonchan ranger resting against a wall with his gloved hand stretched out.

“There you are,” Vex said, flying in, until he was hit from the side by a Water Pulse and he skidded on the pavement. “Ack!” He held his injured, as he left a trail of ectoplasm from his back. “Fuck…” He looked to see a Wartortle standing on top of the Klawf, his outstretched hands as circles of crystalized mist formed near his fingers. Vex gasped and phased into the ground as an Ice Beam struck the spot where he was.

The Wartortle snickered, hopping down from the Klawf. As he landed, he reached to the side of his head and undid some kind of latch on his helmet. The lower portion, which looked like an air filter for a helmet, loosened and dangled to the side of the black helmet. “You boys alright?” The Wartortle asked as he pulled down a cloth covering his mouth, his deep voice indicating he must be in his late twenties or higher. His eyes were stern and alert under the thin glass vizor. His clothes were a sleeved, light padded overcloak that draped down to the lowest point of his shell with buttons aligned the center, though he had all of them unbuttoned. On the inside were two belts wrapped around his body like an X, both of which held and assortment of items and tools all neatly sorted.

“Uh…yeah.” Ciecro quickly jogged over to the Hitmonchan and helped him stand up. “Tanks for dah save.”

“No…problem, heh.” He looked at the Wartortle who walked over. “About time.”

“We were delayed,” the Wartortle said, taking the other side of the injured ranger. “The Commissioner set up a perimeter in the North and we had to go around it.”

Ciecro’s face went serious as he looked North. Dey must still be fightin’ dat Red Eye. I hope Tork is... His head lowered as he thought of the last moments in the ranger’s station. Suddenly, he jolted as the Wartortle raised his voice.

“Yo, Reagen! Get over here!” The Wartortle shouted as a Swampert hurried from around the Klawf. “We’ve got some wounded that need transference immediately. Get two others and-”

“Wait, just a second sir.” The Swampert gestured back downstreet where the fire was. “We’ve identified the fire. It’s Synergy based.”

“Damnit,” The Wartortle snarled, pressing a hand on his helmet, the stress showing itself on his eyes.

“It’s already gotten into the neighboring building. We need to contain it.”

“In that case, you should just take those two,” the Ranger said, gesturing his head to the unconscious mons as he looked at the Swampert. “They’re in worse shape. And you look strong enough to take them both by yourself.”

The Wartortle nodded. “Good plan. Reagen, take the Espeon and Audino to the hospital.” He looked at Jasmine. “Kid, can you-”

Jasmine’s attention snapped to the right. “Hold that thought!” She hopped and sliced at a Shadow Ball, the remnants bursting around the three males. She landed and readied Psycho Cut in her horn as Vex floated upwards, forming two more.

The ghost looked tired and his wound was still bleeding ectoplasym. He pushed the Shadow Balls together to make a larger one and fired it, but it was destroyed by a combination of Psycho Cut, Ice Beam, and Hydro Pump.

Vex growled, but was caught by surprise at a loud voice shouting to him, “Stop wasting time Vex!”

“Huh?” The ghost glanced back.

“Go after our target. I’ll handle these guys.” Siegfried ordered, kicking the Marowak away as he blocked Seliph’s low strike. He then threw a Psycho Cut with his free hand at the feet of the Houndoom, disrupting her focus.

“By yourself-?”

“Just go!” Siegfried exclaimed, flipping over Seliph and slicing down as the Greninja rolled out of range.

Vex let out a deep sigh and dove into the ground, a barely seeable shadow zipping towards them.

“Get back!” The Wartortle shouted, jogging in front and firing Ice Beam at the ground. Ice formed on the surface, traveling wide and swiftly, forcing Vex to pop back out of the ground.

Jasmine took this chance to throw Psycho Cut and the Swampert also fired Hydro Pump, however, the ghost barrel rolled around their moves and flew phased back into the ground, disappearing over the edge of the dock.

“Jaz! Go after him!”

“Right!” Jasmine sprang to a sprint, leaping on the Klawf’s large claw to push off over the body. As she sprang off the head, her body became enveloped in a white synergy light and she raced down the road in pursuit.

“Dang it, I was going to ask her to help.” The Wartortle looked back at Ciecro and quickly sized him up. “You’ll do.” He took an orb from his belt and handed it to him, it was a mix of violet and pink. “Take this Absorbing Mist Orb. I want you to go into that alleyway there and use it. It’ll help deter the flames if they do spread in that direction. We’ll handle the other sides of the block.” He placed it into Ciecro’s hand and pointed to the Hitmonchan. “Once you’re done, get yourself and him to safety, preferably to a healer-”

“Wait…”

“Huh?” He turned around and saw the Klawf shifting in his spot. His needle like legs began moving around before pushing down to pick up his larger body. “Flames?”

The Wartortle’s eyes under his vizor softened with relief at seeing the Klawf get up. “Take it easy, sir. You were passed out earlier.”

“Passed out? O…Oh right.” His eyes opened wide as he shook his head. “Where is that Gengar? I’m gonna-”

“No.” The Wartortle ordered and then looked at Ciecro and the Hitmonchan. “He was injured, right?”

The ranger nodded. “Yep. He took a direct hit to the center of his head with a Shadow Ball.”

“Understood.” The captain pointed down street. “Sir, if you can walk you should get to the hospital. We’ll handle-”

“Wait.” The Klawf stammered, lowering his head closer to the Wartortle’s smaller body. “I’m alright, really. If you don’t want me to fight, then I can at least help with the fire. I know Sandstorm so maybe that can do something, or help evacuate buildings.”

The captain rubbed his chin, shaking his head. “I appreciate the enthusiasm, bu-”

“With all due respect Captain.” The ranger said with a cough, prompting the Wartortle to focus his narrow gaze at him. “If what your associate said earlier is true, you’ll need all the help you can get. You gave us a job, why not him?”

A heavy sigh followed. “Fair point, ranger.” He faced the Klawf once more. “Alright. I’ll try and find something for you. But first.

He turned towards the two and took out another Absorbing Mist orb. “Let me demonstrate how to use it real quick. Now watch, this is how you open it.” Without looking, he twisted the top and causing it to split apart slightly with a technological slit around the middle showing. “This is the standby state. Just push it together to activate the mist expel. If you need to reposition it, don’t worry. Just like many other orbs a counterclockwise twist will reverse it to the standby state. There should be enough mist for thirty-minutes’ worth of coating. You shouldn’t need to adjust the output at all, we don’t need three blocks of mist cover, just try to pick a good middle ground in the alley and use it there.” He pulled the cloth back over his mouth and nostrils, then pulled the mouth filter of his helmet back into place, latching it with the lock at the sound of a click. He looked back at them through the thing vizor of his helmet. “Got all that?” He asked, his voice muffled by the helmet’s filter mouth guard being locked back into place.

Ciecro nodded. “In dah alleyway to slow dah fire’s progress. Got it.”

“And when you’ve picked the spot, get out.” He said firmly, pressing the orb together causing it to beep. “Let’s move.” He said to the Klawf as he spun around and walked away, dropping the orb behind as it started shooting out violet-pink mist. Ciecro stepped back with the Hitmonchan as the silhouettes of the Wartortle and the Klawf were engulfed in the violet-pink mist.

Ciecro didn’t watch for long, intent on completing his mission and getting out of here. “Come on, lez go.” He helped the Hitmonchan and was almost at the entrance of the alleyway, when a stray Psycho Cut hit the wall, causing the two of them to briefly go off balance. “Woah, easy.”

The Hitmonchan grunted in pain from the force, taking slow breaths as he started to recuperate. “Sorry, I should have thrown up a-”

“No, it’s fine. We’re almost-” Ciecro said but was interrupted as someone hit the wall with a pained grunt, remnants of an orange tornado evaporating as it struck the wall. The Marowak slumped, groaning as his body quivered from all the cuts he had received.

Ciecro looked at the fighting, seeing Seliph and the Houndoom falling back to their position. The Houndoom twisted and roared, sending out Embargo chains, but Siegfried started slicing them apart with Leaf Blade.

“Keep those chains up!” Seliph ordered, letting his Night Slash evaporate as he knelt next to the Marowak to inspect the mon’s wounds.

“I thought I could get a hit on him.” The Marowak answered, wincing as Seliph moved him a little to see the wounds on his back.

Seliph sighed and stood up, holding his wounded side. “Ciecro, I need your help.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened as he looked at the orb in his hands. “But dose firemons need me tah-”

“Ciecro, we’re running out of fighters and you have experience against him and his Spectral Gaze.”

Ciecro momentarily blinked. ‘Spectral Gaze’? Oh, dat must be dat gift’s name. Suddenly, Ciecro felt the ranger shuffle towards the wall. “Hey, wha’re yah-”

“You help him.” The ranger said, placing both of his hands on the wall and taking a few steady breaths before moving one of his hands to Ciecro, holding it out expecting something. “I’ll handle the orb.”

“But yahr-” Ciecro paused as his head lowered. He felt it at that moment, his fists clenching as he scowled. I can’t beat ‘im. Ciecro blinked as he felt the orb wretched from his hands by Seliph who placed it in the ranger’s hands. “Hey!”

“Save it.” Seliph faced him with an icy glare. “Now male up and help us fight.”

Ciecro snarled, his head lowering slightly. He wanted so badly to stand up to his brother, but the shame in the truth that he would be a coward eroded his sternness. Seliph walked past him, not waiting for an answer as he drew a Night Slash sharpened stick and twirled it backhanded. Ciecro joined Seliph at his side, the two brothers watching the Gallade dodge or slice apart the Embargo chains going for him.

“Ciecro, you and me will rush him for quick blows to break his defense. You take lead and knock him off balance. I will follow up. We keep going till he’s got an opening for a critical strike to incapacitate.”

“Incapacitate?”

“Sadly, I’d rather we not kill him yet.” Seliph’s eyes grew narrow and dark. He took a calming sigh and glanced back at Ciecro with a less firm, neutral stare. “Do you understand?”

“Yeh.”

“Then make sure you do.”

Ciecro’s eyes lowered and focused on the Night Slash in Seliph’s hand and then slowly he nodded. Without a word, Ciecro walked in front. Seliph’s words hurt, but he understood why. Now wasn’t the time to let things bother him else more mons might get hurt or die because of his mistakes. He spread his arms out and clenched them into fists, feeling the synergy flow through his fists and traveling into his claws. The energy then formed around his fingers, extending into powerful Dragon Claws, which surged with a flaming aesthetic, but the still temperance of a steel encasing.

Seliph stood behind him and whispered. “Lead right, I’ll go left. We crisscross once to make it easier to avoid eye contact and tease out a range move from him. If he takes the bait, his defenses won’t be as strong when we strike.”

The Charmeleon’s scowl grew as his body tensed up, ready for battle. I’ll break ‘is defenses eit’er way, Ciecro thought, snorting as he leaned low, and his legs planting themselves and ready to burst.

“Now.” Seliph ordered as the true charged forwards.

Ciecro then altered his path to the right while Seliph went left, their attack causing the Houndoom and Siegfried to cease their clash and focus on the boys. As the two closed the distance, Siegfried surged a Leaf Blade in his right elbow and a Psycho Cut in his left.

Good. Ciecro diverted towards the center. Okay, bai’ dah range an’ crisscross.

Seeing them racing to the middle once more, Siegfried thrust his arms forwards, vibrating them to make a Vaccuum Wave fly out. However, the two were close enough that the Vacuum Wave couldn’t expand enough, allowing enough room for Ciecro to slide underneath it. The Charmeleon heard his brother slide under as well, but before they cleared it, he felt a hand touch his back.

Everything went dark as he suddenly felt still. “Huh?” He looked around, finding himself standing in darkness.

“Ciecro!”

He turned to the direction of Seliph’s voice. Ah, so dat’s it. He started running towards the voice.

“Ciecro! Answer!”

“Here!” He shouted, picking up the pace. After about two minutes he finally saw Seliph in his view and the two met up. “So, change of plans? He didn’t see into my min-”

“He saw into mine.”

“What‽” Ciecro said, but Seliph shook his head.

“Relax, it was intended. He’ll think you’re trying to knock him off balance, but instead you’re going to move in from low. That should disrupt his focus long enough for me to get a good blow in. He should be easy to handle with a wound like that.”

“Oh, I see. Baitin’ ‘im” Ciecro’s head lowered for a second to think it over. “Bu’ wha’ if he saw yah’re fake out in yah head?”

“I’ll handle it. Just carry out your end.”

Slowly, Ciecro nodded as he shut his eyes. He felt his body grow heavy, the sound of rushing wind above his head, and the feeling of stones scrapping on his side.

His vision instantly lit up as he cleared the Vacuum Wave and immediately got up and racing in a thin arc towards Siegfried.

Okay, ‘ere goes. He lowered his body and dragged his Dragon Claws on the ground as he neared.

Siegfried faced him and readied Psycho Cut.

The Charmeleon did a short hop, pulling back his arm to go for a heavy hit. As Siegfried raised his defenses, Ciecro pulled back his feint and lowered his body as he landed, thrusting upwards instead. “Gah!” He gasped, as Siegfried suddenly broke his guard and angled his left arm so that his Psycho Cut elbow would redirect Ciecro’s Dragon Claws away from him.

Ciecro stumbled, now in the path of Seliph. He quickly twisted to try and defend himself from Siegfried’s follow up slice, but found himself caught by Seliph’s right arm as the Greninja formed a Night Slash sharp stick to block the hit.

“Thunderpunch!” Seliph roared.

Ciecro planted his legs and pushed off, Seliph also pushing on his back with his right arm as Ciecro let the Dragon Claw dematerialize and instead sent a powerful surge of yellow synergy through his closed fists. He swung at the startled Gallade, who pulled back the pressure from Seliph to cross his Psycho Cuts.

A surging sound filled Ciecro’s head as his Thunderpunch locked with Psycho Cut, the two synergy types battling it out with physical contact. “Gah!” His eyes widened as he suddenly a shiver throughout his body, a familiar shiver.

He looked at his Thunderpunch, the electricity erupted from his claws and zapped its way into the Psycho Cut. The distant memory of when he stared at a feral Weavile as a child came back and enveloped reality. He saw the flames of Flamethrower break through the cold of Icy Wind just as the electricity tore apart the Psycho Cut and shocked Siegfried’s arms. Siegfried broke away, due to a mix of Ciecro’s pushing force and his body’s instinct to escape the pain, causing him to stagger back and Ciecro to have to catch himself on his hands and knees.

Quickly, Ciecro looked back at the Gallade, just in time to see two Water Shurikens slice at the ankles of the Red Eye.

Siegfried gasped and dropped on his knee, his eyes filling with flustered anger as Seliph then shouted at the Houndoom, “Use Embargo! Now!” as he brought a Night Slash down upon Siegfried, who raised his Leaf Blade to block.

The Gallade glanced left and pushed Seliph back. He turned to slice at the chains once more, but he was too late as the chains wrapped around his arms and torso.

“No!” Siegfried roared, trying to break free, but it was too late. His arms were pinned to his sides and the pain in his ankles made his attempts to stand just result in him falling on his side.

Ciecro stared, the battlefield now filled with silence, save for the running of the river just a few feet ahead. His absent-minded staring was cut off by Seliph walking around him.

Siegfried struggled against his restraints, but stopped once Seliph squatted next to the detained Red Eye.

“You’re very good at focusing, except when someone knows what you can do. Then you’re easy to catch off guard.”

The Gallade snarled and turned his stare towards the pavement, a silent glare in his eyes.

“Now that I have your undivided attention, let me break this down for you. Just like I can get you to focus on the wrong plan.” He surged a Night Slash dagger and stabbed the pavement right in front of Siegfried’s face, making the Red Eye, Ciecro, and the Houndoom restraining him feel a shiver in their spines. “I can give you enough pain so that all you can focus on is how much it hurts. Now…” Seliph leaned his head in, his tone low and threatening. “Tell me what the Red Eyes want with that Fraxure boy. What is he to your group?”

As Ciecro got to his feet, he felt his body shiver. Perhaps it was him still feeling the effects of Infuzement or maybe it was the tone from Seliph’s conversation. He looked forwards and then realized what it was. “Seliph.” He said, pointing across the river as the Greninja also looked up.

Across the river, walking down the street to the docks was Trishula. His body was covered with rubble and his claws had a tint of blood on them. His eyes were laser-focused on the group, the gleam in those violent red irises piercing Ciecro’s soul the second their gazes met.

“Who is tha-” The Houdoom began but was interrupted as Siegfried angled his foot towards her and vibrated it, sending a quick Vacuum Wave out. She turned to take the hit, but the move wasn’t intending to harm her much. It propelled Siegfried back towards the edge as he twisted his body to roll off.

Seliph drew a Night Slash dagger and lunged for him.

Ciecro was about to help, but two Incinerate bolts from the other side struck at the dock, forcing Ciecro to shield his face or risk getting splinters in his eyes. When he looked back, he saw Seliph hunched over, his dagger stuck in the wood about three inches from the edge.

“Damnit!” Siegfried snarled, standing up as his dagger disintegrated into particles.

The trio looked across at Trishula, as he raised his hands above his head, clasped his claws together, and brought them down causing an eruption of dark blue, purple, and red synergy around his body.

“Is it still charging?” Ciecro asked, starting to back away along with the other two.

“Yes. We’ll just have to bide our time,” Seliph answered, forming Night Slash kunai.

“We need reinforceme-,” The Houdoom suggested, but gasped as Trishula leaped from the edge.

“Don’t let him cross!” Seliph shouted, throwing his kunai.

Ciecro shout Flamethrower out of his mouth and the Houdoom stomped her front legs, sending Embargo chains out of the dark circle at her feet.

Trishula’s eyes narrowed as the three moves closed in. He twisted his body and head, letting the first Kunai fly past his cheek and grabbing the second as he completed his midair spin. He then surged Dragon Claw with his free hand, blocking the Flamethrower while flinging the kunai at the Houdoom.

She gasped, but before it could strike her, Seliph extended his hand and forced his Night Slash kunai to dematerialize. The distraction worked as the chains failed to properly latch onto his arms, allowing him to cut them apart with a second Dragon Claw.

“Get back!” Seliph shouted, as Trishula landed.

The Houdoom immediately sent out Flamethrower and Ciecro was about to join her, until Seliph shouted.

“No doubt!”

Ciecro then noticed as the flames struck Trishula’s side. There was a dark aura forming at the area of impact. Payback!

“Fall back now!” Seliph ordered.

Ciecro looked at the alleyway entrance, seeing the injured Marowak still resting there. He rushed to get in the path, surging his Thunderpunch.

“Ciecro don’t!” Seliph shouted, but Ciecro crossed his arms and readied as Trishula swung his arms wide, sending blasts of dark synergy outwards that easily cut through the Houdoom’s flamethrower.

Ciecro dug in his legs, as two flew past him before the third struck him. He felt his arms be pushed against his chest as his legs buckled, skidding back on the pavement. Pushing against it was like trying to push against a Wailord. Come on! He begged in his mind, twist his guard in an attempt to redirect. With a loud roar, he pushed on the right with all his might and the move broke through, sending him skidding onto his side.

The Marowak moved as much as he could and fell over, as it punctured the wall a mere foot away from where his head used to be.

Ciecro groaned as he sat up. His eyes widened as an Incinerate was flying right for him, but before it could reach him Seliph did a jumping slash to block, the impact hurling him over Ciecro. Thankfully, Seliph was nimble enough to twist and lands on his legs in a low position, using his free hand to slow down his slide.

The Charmeleon held his arm, which had been scraped a bit from the skidding. “Yah a’ight?”

“Focus.” Seliph snapped, clearly not happy about having to tank that blow, but his face suddenly went to a widened look of horror.

Ciecro shifted his gaze at the direction Seliph was looking. On the right side, near the fog from that Firemon’s orb, lay the Houdoom. She was dazed and trying to get up as Trishula walked over towards her, Dragon Claw at his side.

“No!” Ciecro rushed to his feet. “Leave her alone!”

Trishula raised it as she glanced back, freezing up at the sight of him, but as Trishula brought the move down a barrier formed that saved her from being killed.

Protect? Ciecro stared in stunned silence, until he remember and looked at the alleyway. There was the ranger, leaning against the wall, hand outstretched in the direction of Houdoom. Horror crossed Ciecro’s face as a second later, the Hitmonchan was struck in the chest by an Incinerate, hitting the alleyway wall and falling face first flat on the ground.

“No!” Ciecro tried to rush for the ranger, but Seliph moved his hand in front.

“Don’t, the Marowak will help him.”

Ciecro looked back to see Trishula once more try to slice the Houndoom, but she leaped away. Unfortunately, she didn’t clear the distance of Trishula’s tail as he spun around, slamming her his tail, knocking her into the fog.

With no other opponents to distract him, Trishula turned and walked towards the pair of brothers.

“Wha’ do we do?” Ciecro asked, a knot forming in his chest.

Seliph didn’t reply, just kept his blade raised, and his eyes focused on the enemy.

“Are you that beyond reason that you’d throw yours and your brother’s lives away to protect a mere sample?” Trishula said, his eyes narrowing as he continued to walk over.

Seliph didn’t reply, but just started backing away, Ciecro following him in tandum.

“No answer? Very well then.” Trishula raised his claws above his head and clasped them together to use Dragon Dance.

Seliph formed water Shurikens and was about to throw them when suddenly a voice sounded.

“Get back!”

Ciecro looked towards the river along with Seliph and Trishula. A large, cyan glowing wave was forming, which at the pinnacle stood Humphry with Zebzenna on his head.

“You heard him,” Seliph answered, letting his move disintegrate and rushing back.

Hope sparked in Ciecro’s heart as he raced back too.

Humphry hopped off the top and landed, glancing back as the Surf crashed onto Trishula, flooding that part of the street.

“Wait!” Ciecro look towards the alleyway, but relief filled him as he noticed the two injured mons were floating in the air, a Froslass near them who was using Psychic to lift them up. She was wearing an outfit like the Wartortle’s from earlier.

“Commissioner!” On the roof corner of the building the two injured mons were being set down on stood the Wartortle. He cupped his hands over his mouth and said, “We’ve made some headway on the fire! Are there anymore injured there!”

Zebzenna shook her head as the Wartortle nodded and left the edge. “Alright, so now what?”

“Now, we end this.” Humphry punched his fists together.

“And how do you propose we do that?” Seliph said, walking in front. “We need to buy our time for the warp orb. It’s got about five minutes remain-”

“No. We can’t let that thing keep picking mons off.” Humphry angrily croaked as his eyes glared at the dragon standing up from the Surf, the glowing water flowing down his body. “If we just stall he’s going to return. We’ve got to put that thing down. I have a plan.” He glanced back at the three.

The Seismitoad’s face and shoulders were covered with rubble dust alongside a few cuts and scrapes. The fight from before must have been hard, especially since Zebzenna and Humphry were the only ones here. Ciecro didn’t want to think that they were the only survivors and he had to force that thought aside as Humphry ordered.

“Zebzenna, get Ciecro to the other side and you both use your most powerful moves on him from different parts. Seliph, you use Hydro Pump and be at the top of the triangle.”

“What are you going to do?” Zebzenna inquired as Humphry jogged for the river.

“I’ll approach from above.”

“That’s your plan?” Seliph said in a sarcastic tone.

Humphry glared at him. “Just do it, you twat. If we hit him from all sides, something is going through. He’s not going to slow down unless we get a decisive strike on him” He turned around and started jogging towards the docks, leaving an uneasy Zebzenna and Ciecro, and an unconvinced Seliph.

The three turned around to face the dragon. “I don’t like this plan. Even if we pin him, we’re just tiring ourselves out,” Seliph said, letting his arms hang at his sides.

“At least it’ll stall him. Seliph, take this side and keep him busy.” In the blink of an eye, she stepped up to Ciecro and swept him off his feet, carrying him wide-eyed in surprise in her arms.

“Hey!” Ciecro protested but was ignored as she rushed forwards, forcing him to hold on.

Seliph grumbled and fired Hydro Pump at Trishula, who shielded himself with an enlarged Dragon Claw.

“Hrm?” Seeing the commissioner rushing from the side, the dragon flicked his wrist over and over, sending Incinerate bolts at them.

“Ciecro, cover us!” Zebzenna shouted.

“R-right!” Ciecro fought his embarrassment and focused. He pointed one claw out and fired Flamethrower, engulfing the dragon’s flaming bolts in his larger fire.

Once she arrived at a good spot, she set him down and said, “Keep it up.”

Ciecro nodded and stretched his hands out fully, firing Flamethrower at Trishula, who turned his body to block it with another Dragon Claw.

Zebzenna got behind him and started absorbing light. She pulled her hands to her chest and then lowered them to her side as a ball of light formed. With a shout, she fired Solar Beam at him, but despite the two moves keeping him stationary, Trishula quickly spun around and threw up his guards once more. He opened his maw and fired Flamethrower to meet the Solar Beam. It was now three against one in endurance.

Jus’ keep it up. Yah’ve done dis a million times before. He told himself as he ignored the burning in his arms. Jus’ imagine dis is endurance practi- He gasped as suddenly a flash of light crossed his vision. He looked around, seeing streaks of glowing water begin to form and orbit his body. Aqua Ring? Humphry? He turned his focus beyond the collision of moves and that’s when he saw Humphry’s plan.

In the canal was a spiraling pillar of glowing water, rising high with the Seismitoad on top, twirling his right hand to usher the move. His other hand was outstretched to the others, giving the three Aqua Ring.

He’s not gonna- Ciecro felt a shiver in his spine as the pillar grew larger and larger.

“He’ll be fine.”

He blinked, glancing at Zebzenna.

“He’s done this before,” she stated, grunting a little under the strain of her Solar Beam.

Ciecro nodded and refocused, fighting the burning in his arms. Hopefully, dis helps tire dat mon out at least.

Finally, Humphry’s large Surf was ready. He stopped drawing circles above his head with his right arm and instead moved that arm back. He then raised it up and brought it down, the pillar flowing in his motion like a striking snake as it soared down. The top shifted from under Humphry, forming a spike of water as it traveled down.

Ciecro readied his mind and body to be submerged, his tail quivering at the feeling he was about to experience. But suddenly, he heard Trishula roar and raise his head. The Solar Beam struck him, but not before he formed a Draco Meteor above the pinnacle of his temple.

A brief second of dread filled everyone’s expressions until an ear-splitting explosion resounded, the repulse of water and force rippling through the three. Ciecro couldn’t make up or down as he tumbled in a mixture of water and air, but suddenly he came to an abrupt halt. It didn’t hurt too badly, it was like the wall he had struck moved back a little to compensate the momentum. But as his nerves regained their sense, he realized only his lower back was touching this wall.

“You alright?”

Ciecro spat out water as he felt the air travel down his burning throat. He looked at the voice, seeing the Klawf from earlier, holding him above the Surf water with his larger pincer. “Thanks.”

Nearby, Zebzenna was being helped up by Embargo chains by the Houndoom from earlier. “You alright, commissioner?” She asked as Zebzenna brushed off some of the lingering Surf water. “I’ll be fine if that dragon is finally-” She paused upon looking at the collision point.

Ciecro looked as well and he was equally taken off guard. Trishula was still up but on his knees. He supported himself with one hand while he was taking heavy breathsCiecro’s eyes lit up. He’s wearin’ out?

“Now!” Zebzenna formed Magical Leaf. “Let’s finish this!”

The Klawf set Ciecro down, making the Charmeleon jitter as the ankle high water touched his tail. He roared, forming sharp rocks that orbited his body.

Ugh, stupid tail. Ciecro grumbled, brushing the Surf water off the upper root of his tail and raising the flame end out of the water. This distraction made him miss out on joining the other two in firing moves at the prone dragon.

“Wait don’t!” Seliph shouted.

“He’s using Payback!” Humphry added, but it was too late.

The moves struck Trishula, and a second later, powerful black beams cut through the flurry of water and smoke. The Klawf moved in front but was pelted back, Zebzenna leaped away, but the impact near her was enough to send her tumbling near the synergy fog wall.

Ciecro wasn’t spared either, the repulse from the strikes causing him to tumble towards a building and hit the wall with a hard smack. “Ack!” He sank onto his hands and knees, the bruise on his back stinging sharply. He mustered his vigor to look back, seeing Seliph and Humphry engaging Trishula.

He stood up, holding his ribs hoping nothing was cracked. A second later, he felt a searing pain hit him in the chest, knocking him back to the wall and fall flat on his stomach. Ciecro growled from the pain as he held his chest, where now a singe mark resided. Dat…fucker! He managed to get on his knee despite the struggle.

His breathing stilled as he watched the fight again, fear filling his heart as he noticed Seliph was struggling to keep up. The Greninja was wearing down from his wound and after a few strikes, the dragon pulled off a parry without looking and used this opening to whack Seliph hard on the injury spot with his tail.

Seliph tumbled over to the damp dock, holding his back wound as his eyes shut tightly.

It was just Humphry now, who bore a furious look that was only matched by his brutal punches.

Ciecro tried to stand, but his injury made every motion feel like lifting a mountain. As every second passed, Humphry’s attacks became less and less effective, the dragon’s parries became smoother, his blocks became more efficient, and his counters threw his opponent more off balance.

It didn’t take a future seer to notice the tides of the battle were changing. No… Ciecro struggled to his feet and tried to walk forwards, but this just left him vulnerable to a quick incarnate bolt that flew past Humphry. Ciecro quickly leaned to avoid it, but in the process fell on his side, making his inured ribs hurt even more.

“Ciecro!” Humphry exclaimed, before turning back to defend himself. The Seismitoad started backing up, defending himself with his broad arms as the Dragon furiously cut at him. He put some distance and formed Aqua Ring and then punched the ground to shoot up a Mud Shot geyser at Trishula, but the dragon side stepped it and pointed his fingers to shoot Humphry in the chest with a bolt.

The commissioner let out a pained croak as he stepped a few paces back from the impact, but the Aqua Ring was starting to heal his injury. He punched the ground again for a Mud Shot, but Trishula side stepped that one too.

Ciecro trembled. He could see it in Humphry’s eyes. The anger that was giving way to despair at a losing battle. “No….hang on.” Ciecro fought hard to get up, the world around him losing it’s color as he fixated all his attention on the Commissioner.

Humphry roared, spreading his arms as the water from his earlier Surf flowed around the two, rising up, and then coming down upon Trishula, but the dragon raised his claws and shielded himself with Dragon Claw. His maw then opened, blowing out Icinerate upon Humphry, who shielded his face.

“Ack!” Humphry croacked as the flames engulfed him, the Aqua Ring glowing brighter as Humphry supplied it with more power.

Ciecro stumbled in his rush to get to Humphry’s side, his haste causing him to lose his balance and fall on the hard pavement. He looked forwards as the flames died down with Humphry’s arms sagging and his body marked with char. His Aqua Ring was now just a few droplets orbiting him.

Trishula raised his arms above his head and clasped them, pulling them down as purple synergy danced around his body.

“No, you don’t!” Humphry slammed his fist down, but quickly pulled back as the dragon lunged for him with a forming Dragon Claw. The slice cut through, spewing blood from Humphry’s chest as the Seismitoad tried to rebalance.

However, the dragon continued his assault. He avoided Humphry’s desperate punch and grab the wrist, sticking his Dragon Claw right through it, piercing the blue bump on top of it.

Ciecro’s eyes widened as his ears were filled with the horrified roar of Humphry in pain.

But the dragon wasn’t done. He used the Dragon Claw to run through the arm to maneuver Humphry’s arm up and then raised his foot, pushing down mercilessly on Humphry’s knee. There was a cracking sound, as Humphry’s pained cries stopped and his eyes widened with a look that seemed almost insane.

Trishula pulled the move out and pulled his foot away as the Seismitoad fell forwards in the puddle of his evaporating Surf water.

Ciecro roared, pushing with all his might as he rushed for Trishula. Electricity streamed into his fists as any pain he experienced motivated him forwards.

However, Trishula merely flicked a bolt of Incinerate that struck Ciecro on the shoulder, knocking him down, not even giving the boy the dignity of eye contact.

Ciecro held his shoulder. Get up! He demanded, but he couldn’t beat the pain on sheer determination this time. He rolled on his stomach and looked, the dragon standing over Humphry was raising his claw and forming that dreaded Dragon Claw.

“No stop! Please!” Ciecro begged.

Trishula glanced at him, those cold red irises meeting the desperate orange ones. There was a strange unspoken connection in their locked stare, perhaps due to them being distant cousins from their heritage. However, what little understanding was in the dragon’s eye was fleeting as he focused back on Humphry bringing down the fully formed Dragon Claw upon him.

Time stopped for Ciecro. Memory and reality became linked as Trishula’s form overlapped with the Electivire’s. Those cold, focused red eyes overlapping with the feral depraved glee of the other. But halfway down, the overlap broke as Trishula turned his strike from Humphry’s head to his side as a flash of grey light clanked with his Dragon Claw.

Ciecro’s eyes followed this grey as it spiraled in the air with quick spins and came to a stop a few feet away. It was an Iron Tail, attached to a- Heliolisk? Ciecro blinked as the figure stood up, giving Trishula a confident smirk.

Their eye contact wasn’t for long as Trishula glanced behind and leaped away from a talon aimed at his chest. A large Garchomp stepped between Humphry and Trishula, his white iris eyes stern and focused like Trishula’s were.

“In case you weren’t aware.” The heliolisk said, brushing his shoulder and joining the larger Garchomp. He leaned on the dragon’s upper thigh with his elbow and raised his snout slightly. “Murder is kinda illegal in this town. Didn’t you read the sign coming in?”

Trishula glared, surging Dragon Claw.

“You sure you’ve got this?” the Garchomp asked the less than half his size, Heliolisk.

“Yep, just help the others. They should be downstream. Not too far.”

The Garchomp nodded and broke position, rushing towards the smoke and passing by the downed Zebzenna and Klawf, both of which were picking themselves up.

Ciecro looked back at the Heliolisk, his eyes widening as he saw on the right shoulder a Norfarion Crest, just like his. His eyes drifted to the Heliolisk’s head, seeing a small orange frill on the top that looked like a triangle fin. Swift? He tensed as Swift went low, his tail coating in grey light that shined like metal.

Trishula’s eyes narrowed as Swift changed him. He struck to pin Swift to the ground, but the Heliolisk diverted his path with impressive reflexes, forcing Trishula to shield his inner left thigh that Swift dragged his Iron Tail for. Without glancing back, Trishula tried to thwack Swift with his tail, but Swift leaped over it and flipped around to face Trishula, firing Focus Blast. Trishula spun and stabbed the orange sphere, bursting it and engulfing himself in smoke.

The two continued their battle while Ciecro dragged himself up, trying to get to Humphry’s side. He stumbled but was grabbed by the Klawf’s large pincer again.

“Woah, easy there,” he said with concern.

“Let me go!” Ciecro snarled, trying to get out.

“Calm down,” Zebzenna said, walking past him to check on Humphry.

Ciecro’s eyes quivered in their glare, tears forming as he looked at Humphry’s collapsed body, the motions of breathing being slow and shaky. He was in a lot of pain and it tore at Ciecro’s soul.

“Easy, Humphry, just take it easy.” She said, keeping him up on his side where the punctured arm was. “You’re going to be okay.”

“How is he?” Seliph asked, walking over while holding his side.

“Bad. We need to get him out of here.”

The Klawf walked over, still holding Ciecro in his claw gently. “I can handle that.”

Seliph nodded. “Good.” He looked at the Houndoom that joined up as well. “Can you form some Embargo chains so we can keep Humphry-” He was interrupted by a blast and the Helioslik backflipping out of the smoke and landing in front of them in a low stance.

“Seliph! Infuse me!” He shouted, haste in his eyes.

Immediately, Seliph lunged for the Heliolisk who pressed his palms together and pulled them apart, forming an electrical charge in them that traveled from finger to finger. As the blue light appeared from Seliph’s touch on his head, Swift pointed his fingers outwards as an electrical sphere traveled above the smoke, cackling around like a violent electric storm.

The smoke was cut through my the bolts, revealing Trishula right beneath it, the Parabolic Charge traveling through his body. He tried to step forwards but the intensity was so great it was as if he had become paralyzed inside.

Swift exhaled in the way one does when lifting some heavy. “Okay, that’ll hold him for now.” He closed his eyes and snarled from the stress on his muscles. “Next time, Seliph, mind not putting your hand there?”

Seliph raised a brow. “I didn’t exactly have time to think on that.” He said, keeping his head squarely on top of the Heliolisk’s head.

“I know, I know.” He grumbled something unintelligible before coughing once. “Anyways, planning time. Seliph, how is the orb looking?”

“We’ve got less than a minute, but he stole Jaron’s Wary.”

“Wait, he stole it?” Swift’s eyes widen as he grunted from the strain in his arms. “I see. Guess I wasn’t ever going to get that sneaky hit in then. And from the looks of it.” Swift tensed his arms more, surging more synergy into his move to try and keep Trishula down, but the dragon was slowly rising to his feet despite the beating of electricity that coursed through him. “He’s also very tanky.”

“You can say that again,” Zebzenna said with annoyance. “He took all of our strongest moves.”

“We need to a new plan to stall. Once the orb is ready, we can wait for an opening.”

Ciecro looked back at the dragon. He was still struggling against the electricity, but he was now almost standing up fully on his legs. He’s got Wary an’ can take whateveh we throw at ‘im. How are we supposed tah warp ‘im out if he’ll expect it? Ciecro’s head lowered, but then a thought crossed his mind. “Hey, what if we try blinding him?”

“What do you mean?” Seliph asked, looking at his brother.

“Well, he knows Sandstorm.” Ciecro gestured to the Klawf. “Maybe we can blind him with it? Slow ‘im down?”

“Or cut the eyes so he’s permanently blind,” Zebzenna added, glaring at Trishula. “My Magical Leaf can easily do that if I concentrate, and Arceus knows this guy deserves it.”

“No, that won’t work. Even if we somehow blind him, Wary will make up for it. There’s not telling how long he’ll have Wary so we-”

“Actually, that might work.”

“How?” Seliph asked, looking down at Swift, who was breathing heavily as he powered through the strain.

“Okay, I don’t have time to go through all of this, but basically, Seliph, you use Infuzement on this Klawf guy here an-”

“My name is Terry.”

“Alright, Terry. Seliph, use your gift on Terry.” Swift grunted as he glanced back at the Klawf. “And when he does, concentrate your Sandstorm around the Red Eye. Try to focus more on thickness than expansiveness, we don’t need a huge amount of room.”

“We?” Terry said.

“Just listen.” Swift then glanced at Zebzenna. “You and the Houndoom get the Commissioner out of here and Ciecro, you take the Warp Orb and be ready to throw it where I tell you to.”

He nodded.

“How are you going to-” Seliph began but was cut off early.

“Sorry, not time for questions. Act on break. One, two, three, Break!” With that, Swift stopped his Parabolic Charge and turned to the right, closing his eyes for some reason.

Seliph snarled, but hurried to the Klawf’s side and pressed his hand on the leg, making the large Rock Type shiver and gasp from the surge. “Sandstorm you idiot!”

Terry regained his focus and spread his claws out, two brown rings orbiting his body as dust and dirt flew from them, whipping around Trishula’s position. The dragon shielded his eyes as it picked up, engulfing him in a matter of seconds.

“Good. Keep it up!” Swift gave the two a thumbs up and charged for the Sandstorm.

“Wait, where you are goi-” Seliph exclaimed, but Swift disappeared into the Sandstorm. “Is he crazy?”

Ciecro was equally confused but shook it off to join his brother. “Seliph, give me dah orb.”

Seliph gestured his head towards one of his belt pouches, both his hands on the Klawf likely due to fatigue. “Left of the center, in the back.”

Ciecro nodded and reached into the pouch, pulling out the warp orb. He gazed into it, before glancing back at Humphry. He was being helped down the street by the Firefighting mons, who were finishing up the last remnants of the fire, but something else caught Ciecro’s eye. Where did dah mist go?

Turning his attention back to the Orb, Ciecro’s right hand clenched tightly around it. I won’ fail yah. He then braced his nerves and watched the Sandstorm with a firm scowl. As the seconds dragged on, he wondered if one of the two inside had killed the other, but suddenly the Heliolisk flipped out of the sandstorm on the left.

“Keep it up!” He shouted, rushing around the right to get between the sandstorm and the others.

Just then, Ciecro heard heavy foosteps from the right. He looked to see the Garchomp rushing straight for the Sandstorm. Huh? Why is he ‘ere? Ciecro thought as the Garchomp lunged with a strike in the Sandstorm.

Swift got between them and glanced back. “Okay, me and Garon will get him into position. When I send a Focus Blast upwards, cut off the Sandstorm and get ready to throw Ciecro. Seliph, can you play follow up in case he tries to take out the orb?”

Seliph nodded.

“Great, let’s do this!” With a pepped up smile, Swift charged back into the sandstorm.

“How are they fighting that guy in there?” Terry asked.

“They must have some similar gifts to Jaron to even the playing field,” Seliph commented. “He didn’t use a buff like Foresight.”

Ciecro’s head lowered as he stared at the ground, pondering that. However, a glow caught his attention as he saw the Warp Orb’s light had returned. “Seliph, it’s ready.”

“Good. Just wait.” The Greninja ordered. “I don’t know what he has planned, but he seems confident. Just don’t miss, Ciecro.”

He could feel the stress and weight of the world on his shoulders, but Ciecro just closed his eyes and took slow breaths. Yah can do dis. Yah hafta do dis. Humphry needs yah tah do dis. He repeated in his head over and over, until finally the Focus Blast was shot up.

“Now!” Seliph shouted, taking his hands away and forming a Water Shuriken.

Ciecro kept his eyes locked on the center of the Sandstorm, pulling back his arm in a pre-throw position. A second later, the two Norfarions burst from the Sandstorm on opposite sides. Swift fired Thunderbolt while Garon unleashed Flamethrower. The moves struck inside the Sandstorm, followed by black beams of Payback surging out, ripping apart what remained of the Sandstorm.

The two, however, nimbly dodged and weaved through the beams as they rushed towards Trishula. Seeing this, Trishula quickly surged Dragon Claw and swung to block Garon’s strike while firing Icinerate at Swift, who leaped over. Swift somersaulted into an Iron Tail, forcing Trishula to move his head low out of range and giving Garon the lack of pushback he needed to force Trishula forwards into a stumble.

“Now!” Seliph shouted and Ciecro pressed the button and threw it.

Trishula quickly regained his footing and swung his Dragon Claw to cut the orb, but Seliph countered with Water Shuriken. It was done, all Trishula could do was roar in anger as the orb activated, engulfing him in a pillar of light. A second later he was no more.

Ciecro felt his heart want to leak from his body as his knees buckled beneath him and he stared at the spot.

“Ah yeah!” Swift exclaimed with glee, thrusting a victory fist into the air as he hopped. “Perfectly executed. In your face you stupid drago-!”

“Tone it down, Swift,” Garon stated, walking towards Ciecro. He reached down and helped the Charmeleon to his feet. “Can you walk?”

Ciecro didn’t reply. He was so overwhelmed in the moment he almost didn’t hear Garon. Instead, his gaze looked towards the right, where Humphry had been carried towards.

“Hey, he’ll be okay.”

The Charmeleon looked at the voice, seeing the Heliolisk standing in front of him. He was a good head size taller than this mon, but the minor scrapes and bodily details gave away that this mon was older than him. The Heliolisk’s smile was warm, but bore a strong tint of concern, one that a stranger couldn’t muster.

“I promise.”

Ciecro’s eyes drifted to the crest once more, staring at it in silence as his frown remain unchanged. He didn’t know. He felt a gentle nudge that urged his body forwards, walking without thinking as his mind grappled with all that had just happened. More horrible images to see.
 
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