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TEEN: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light

Discussion in 'Writers Workshop' started by Ambyssin, Feb 11, 2018.

  1. Threadmarks: Intro & Chapter 1

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Blog Posts:
    Feb 4, 2018
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    this fic is rated T and features some realistic violence (no gore), crude/sexual humor, minor coarse language, character deaths, alcohol consumption, direct references to depression, and allusions to suicide (akin to the Explorers games and Munna in Gates to Infinity). Also, this fic has unmarked spoilers for Sun/Moon, Ultra Sun/Moon, and the entire Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. If you haven't played any of these and intend to do so blind, please don't read any further.


    Welcome to the world of Pokémon! Where it's all fun and games... until your life's the one on the line.
    Stop me if you've heard this one before. You wake up somewhere you don't recognize, only to find you've been turned into a Pokémon! Before you know it, you're off on a globe-trotting adventure. Sound familiar? Of course it does! Which is exactly why Shane is ecstatic when he awakens as a Vulpix. Even if he doesn't understand why his fur is white, and he breaths ice instead of fire. To him, it's unimportant. His memories are intact! That should make this all a breeze, right? Well, he certainly thinks he's hot stuff, until he discovers an otherworldly force turning Pokémon into vicious alien creatures. Can he put his preconceptions aside, and work with his partners to preserve the balance between day and night?

    Hello, and welcome to the first (and, at this point) only chapter fic I've ever made. If you didn't decide to tab out after reading the synopsis, then I hope you enjoy it. ^^
    What is this, exactly?
    As the title states, it's a PMD story. One that is centered around Generation VII, and some of the mechanics it brought to the franchise (Z-Power, Ride/Totem Pokémon, all things Ultra Space, etc.). I originally outlined this in December 2016 as a Choose Your Own Adventure story that I was going to post on a very small forum. It shut down a month later, and I ended up digging the outline out when USUM were announced and converting it into a chapter fic. I started posting it in early August, 2017. And now I'm bringing it here.

    Chapters and Updates
    I'm not going to drop the whole story at once. That's nuts. I'm going back for a fresh round of revisions, so don't expect more than one chapter a week. I'm more of a reviewer, anyway. That said, I will note the date the chapter was originally posted, because there are some holiday specials in this story.

    Chapters are lumped into episodes. Think of one episode as being like a story chapter in a canon PMD game. Early episodes will be shorter (2-4 chapters) while later episodes will average 5+ chapters. There will also be five special episodes throughout the course of the story.

    Do I need to know the PMD games to read this?
    It may enhance your enjoyment of the story, but it's not required. If you ever think something's vague or unclear, let me know. Odds are, I just need to change something. :)
    Episode 1: A Chance Encounter
    Chapter 1 (this post)
    Chapter 2

    Episode 2: Minor Growing Pains
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4

    Episode 3: One Step Forward
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6

    Episode 4: Two Steps Back
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9

    Special Episode 1: Braviary
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Bonus: An Electrifying Spirit

    Episode 5: The Renegade Explorer
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15

    Special Episode 2: Team Captivate
    Chapter 16
    Bonus: Halloween Special 2017
    Chapter 17
    Chapter 18
    Chapter 19
    Bonus: Family Picnic

    Episode 6: Striking Midnight
    Chapter 20
    Chapter 21
    Chapter 22
    Bonus: Stargazing
    Chapter 23
    Chapter 24

    Episode 7: The Great Divide
    Chapter 25
    Bonus: Christmas Special 2017
    Chapter 26

    This first chapter was originally two parts (a prologue and Chapter 1), posted on August 2nd and August 4th, 2017


    What is the essence of one's being?
    What magic ingredient fills us with life?
    And sets us apart from plants and bacteria?

    There is no one single part.
    Rather, living beings contain four essential elements.
    Individually, they are important.
    But together, they form the backbone of our existence.

    'What? No, no, no, no! Ugh, this can't be right! Seriously, game? You’re giving me Bulbasaur? I wanted Riolu! I put in all the right answers to the stupid quiz. I'm sure of it!'

    A Nintendo DS dropped onto the dented part of a rusty metal desk that had clearly seen better days.

    'Well, this is just great. Brilliant use of your free time, Shane. Now, you get to start over from square one tomorrow.'

    Shane shut off the DS and closed it up. He pressed a hand to his forehead and ran it through his greasy brown hair. His gaze fell to his computer screen. 'What a worthless guide. It got me the wrong starter.' He shook his head. 'No, I'm sure the guide's fine. I probably screwed it up... somehow. Because that's just my luck.' Shane looked at his watch, noting the time and the date: 2:15 PM on December 5, 2015.

    He sighed. 'And on that wonderful note, it’s time for work.'

    Shane headed for the bedroom door, pausing to inspect himself in his mirror. He rubbed his hands on his head in a halfhearted attempt at smoothing out his bedhead. But he gave up after a few seconds and proceeded out of the room. He made for the front door, pausing to look out a window. 'Looks like I'm gonna need my raincoat,' he thought, and grabbed it off the floor. He shook the dust and dirt off of it, and swung it on over his back.

    Satisfied, he slid on his pair of worn, mud-caked work boots. He went out the front door and locked it behind him. He hiked his hood up and started walking out toward the dreary, rainy streets.

    'One of these days I've got to get off this evening shift. All the fun stuff happens while I'm getting hammered at work.' He fumbled for his car keys and unlocked the door of his small car. 'I'll bet the RP thread's going to get updated with a new event, and my characters will get left behind, as usual. Which means I'll have to scramble and catch up with all the missed posts.' He swung the driver's side door open and climbed in.

    'Let's just get this over with.'


    The first element is the Mind.
    A sum of our thoughts, knowledge, and memories.
    The Mind is both our arbiter and our navigator.
    Making decisions large and small.
    And guiding us through the treacherous quest we call life.

    Next is the Body.
    Our physical form.
    The Body grants us control, through movement and sensation.
    It exerts force on the world around us.
    Giving us strength to overcome any obstacle in our path.

    'Of course the rain would get worse just as my shift is ending,' Shane thought. 'What a total joke! But, that's my luck for you. The worst luck on the planet.'

    He sat down in his car, turning on the ignition. A wall of heat buffeted his damp cheeks. He drove toward the exit of the empty parking garage, passing a row of stone pillars in the process. A sheet of rain poured down on the other side of the garage's exit. Shane reached over and grabbed his glasses from the passenger's seat. He slipped them on and squinted into the night.

    'It's still too blurry,' he thought. Shane considered giving up and spending the night in the break room. His back knotted up in protest. He gently pushed the pedal and the car lurched forward. The moment it left the safety of the parking garage, rain pounded on its exterior.

    'Ugh. How annoying. Let’s turn on some music,' Shane thought, switching on the car's radio. But all that he heard was the pounding of water on metal . Shane's grip on the steering wheel tightened. He leaned forward, hunching over the wheel. Shane slowly made a right and drove down the street. He saw a spot of red suspended in midair. A sure sign of the upcoming traffic light. He eased the car to a stop and quickly looked back and forth through the foggy intersection. No headlights came into view. So, Shane began to make a right turn onto the main road.

    But then a blaring horn sounded. Shane had just enough time to glance to his left before an intense crushing force slammed him against the middle arm rest. Metal and plastic shards jabbed his rib cage, knocking the wind out of him. Shane's seatbelt immediately locked up. His body lurched against it, the seatbelt protecting him from being launched across the inside of the car. At the same time, the airbags activated from the door and steering wheel, sandwiching Shane in his seat. The taste of iron filled up his mouth and the scent of motor oil assaulted his nostrils.

    Pain surged across his body. Shane could only let out a weak cough before his vision went completely white.


    The third element is the Spirit.
    That mystical force lurking deep inside us all.
    Spirit emerges in times of hope, reflection, triumph, and defeat.
    Helping us to get the most out of a joyous occasion,
    Or navigate the troubled waters of stress and crisis.

    "Aggggggggggggggh! Somebody help me! It... feels like I'm… being ripped apart!"

    Shane forced his eyes open. He quickly wished that he hadn't. A purple vortex surrounded him. Bright lights flashed around him, overwhelming his senses and forcing him to shut his eyes. Shockwaves rippled through his body. He could feel his skin crawling, like it wanted to rip itself right off of him and float away.

    "P-Please… someone… anyone… HELP!" he shouted. "I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die!"

    A lion's roar drowned out his cries. Shane fought through the pain to open his eyes. All he could see was a brilliant yellow fireball, surrounded by luminescent blue wings. They glowed with such intensity that they blunted out everything else in the vortex and burned Shane's eyes.

    "I've got you now. There's no escape! Did you really think you could pull off this little stunt without me finding out about it? How ridiculous! I can feel my light seeping off of you. It wants to return to me!" The fireball appeared to shrink in size and a second roar sounded. This one had a sense of desperation to it. Shane saw two black bars grab hold of the fireball. "As much as I want you gone, I need you for something far more important." From the middle of the glowing blue wings, a pair of red eyes looked up from the fireball, staring directly at Shane.

    "Is… is someone out there?" Shane shouted. "I'm hurt. I need help! Whoever you are... do something!"

    The red eyes flashed and the fireball suddenly started growing closer. Shane shut his eyes and tried to move his body. But he lost all feeling in his arms and legs.

    "You need help, huh? It's a good thin you've got me here, then. Take it easy. No need to worry. I have just the thing for you, my human friend."

    Pressure hit Shane's eyelids, and they were yanked open. An orange inferno raged in front of him. Solar flares tickled his feet. A tingle rushed up his back. The fireball erupted into a wall of rainbow light. Shane screamed in agony as the light swallowed him up whole, limbs and clothes dissolving into swirls of black smoke. His vision faded and his mind went completely blank.


    The final element is Balance.
    Mind, Body, and Spirit cycle through constant patterns of give-and-take.
    These three elements depend on one another.
    If Balance between them falls apart,
    Our being suffers and our life is imperiled.

    A Vulpix's body seized up, feeling water brushing his snow-white fur. His eyes opened, immediately wideneding in panic at the sight of deep, dark blue surrounding him. Vulpix flailed his limbs about desperately, but made no progress moving upward. Instead, he continued sinking further into the ocean, the light from the surface growing progressively dimmer. Vulpix's soaked fur weighed him down. He soon grew tired and made the fatal mistake of opening his mouth. A stream of air bubbles rushed out and Vulpix took in a mouthful of water. Realizing his mistake, Vulpix thrashed about with renewed vigor, slamming his eyes and mouth shut for good measure.

    But Vulpix's flailing quickly burned through his energy. The last of his willpower faded. Vulpix's muzzle slowly opened. Water flooded into his nostrils and mouth. Black spots popped up all around Vulpix's vision until he saw nothing but darkness. A few stray air bubbles trickled out from his mouth. His body went completely still.

    Vulpix's body suddenly curled into a white ball. An unseen force grabbed hold of Vulpix and sealed him inside a bright, fluorescent green bubble. The bubble shot up through the water and burst through the surface, hovering into the air. It remained suspended in midair for several seconds, streams of moonlight reflecting off it and striking the water. The bubble took off soaring across the night sky. It sped along the surface of the water until it came to an abrupt stop at the edge of a beach. Ripples raced around the bubble, eventually poking a small hole in its base. Vulpix slid out of the protective forcefield, dropping onto the beach with a soft thump.

    The bubble burst, showering bright green light across Vulpix's body. When the light faded, a small anklet sat around his left foreleg. Vulpix tensed and coughed up a mouthful of seawater. The coughing fit continued for a few minutes, until his body slowly relaxed. Vulpix's chest gently rose and fell while the tide lapped up against his silky white tails.


    Episode 1: A Chance Encounter

    Chapter 1: Stranger on the Shores


    ~Aeon Town~

    'Today's the day, Riolu. You're gonna do it. You're not gonna chicken out. You'll march right up that hill, walk through the front door, and...'

    Riolu paused in the midst of marching back and forth across the outskirts of a colorful town. 'Oh, who am I kidding? I can't do this!' She grabbed hold of the rainbow scarf around her neck and pulled it over her head. 'I'm just wasting my time. I may as well go back to Sylveon's house.' She looked out at the buildings dotted around the town's square, taking in the myriad of assorted colors and designs. Eventually, her gaze came to rest on the small stone fountain in the center of town. She smiled at the sight of the stone Gorebyss spiraling out of the fountain, spitting water in all directions.

    But the smile faded. She let out a sigh, and her gaze fell to the ground. Riolu wiggled her toes, expecting the gesture to suddenly bring forth an epiphany that would snap her out of her current indecisiveness. And when it didn't, she kicked a small pebble and watched it roll into town. In the process, her gaze came to rest on the largest building in Aeon Town. It sat atop a hill, at the end of a large dirt path that wound its way up from the town square. The domed roof sparkled under the sun's rays, giving off a hypnotic glow of purple and gold. Riolu continued to stare, feeling her earlier concerns melt away.

    'C'mon, Riolu. It's the guild! Your whole family's had to take that first step at some point. And now it's your turn,' she thought, trying to psych herself up. 'You can do this! All you have to do is stop thinking, and start walking. Come on, now. One foot in front of the other. March!'

    Riolu stomped down the path into town. 'I've got the scarf and everything. Dad said it always gave him good luck. I'll bet it can do the same for me.' As she walked, Riolu clasped the scarf and held it up to her face to look at its frayed edges. One end had a sun stitched into it, while the other end had a crescent moon. The fabric glistened with a rainbow hue. 'It's time for some of that good luck to pass ont–'


    Riolu failed to account for the scarf's length. She stepped on part of it and found herself falling toward the ground. Her face struck first, and her momentum sent her tumbling down the hill. She rolled into the town, nearly bowling over a frightened Furfrou couple. "Hey, watch where you're going!" the male Furfrou shouted, shaking his head disapprovingly. "Seriously, the nerve of some Pokémon. Trying to learn Rollout in the middle of the street."

    "I don't think Riolu can learn Rollout, dear," his mate pointed out.

    "... hmph. Doesn't make it any less rude."

    Riolu continued forward. She finally came to rest in a collapsed heap in the middle of town square. She tried to sit up, but her whole world was spinning.

    'Ooog, this was a mistake,' Riolu groaned. 'I should just go home before I make an even bigger fool of myself.'

    "Tessa! Yay, I made it in time!"

    A cheerful voice jolted Riolu– or, rather, Tessa to attention. She scrambled to her feet, resisting the urge to throw up, and grabbed the scarf to stop it from dragging on the ground.

    "Eevee?" Tessa gasped as the brown, fox-like Pokémon sprinted up to her. "I... I thought I told you to stop calling me Tessa. It's Riolu now." Eevee slowed his pace and frowned at Tessa. "Never mind. Did you run all the way here from Sunrise Village?"

    Eevee trotted to a stop beside Tessa and dropped the bag in his mouth. "Yup, yup. Mommy said you were gonna try to join the guild again. I wanted to give you a good luck present." He looked down guiltily. "But you had already left." He immediately perked back up. "So, I ran over here as fast I could!"

    "That's so sweet of you. But I really don't think I'm going to–"

    "Look, it's an oran berry," Eevee chirped, producing the fruit for Tessa to see. "I picked it out myself." He beamed and wagged his tail.

    'Awwwwww! Now I can't turn down something like that,' Tessa thought. She leaned down and placed the berry in her satchel. "Thanks a ton, Eevee," she said, tussling her friend's mane. "But you better hurry home. I don't want Sylveon to get worried."

    "Okay!" Eevee nodded. "Maybe if I run fast enough… I'll finally learn Quick Attack!" He turned around and scampered up the hill without so much as a goodbye.

    'Man… if only I had Eevee's enthusiasm. Joining the guild would be a breeze,' Tessa sighed. She adjusted her satchel and started up the hill to the guild's base. As she approached, her paced slowed and her gaze fell toward the ground.

    'Oh no… it's happening again. I'm freezing up. Just like last time. And the fifty other times before that!' she realized. Tessa glanced up at the building. A shiver racked her body. She backed away, her feet moving without any orders from her brain. She was in the process of turning around when she bumped into something fuzzy.

    "Oof! Hey, watch where you're walking."

    Tessa's aura feelers shot into the air. "Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry, I–" She cut herself off. Rather than looking the Growlithe she had bumped into in the eye, she focused on the anklet around his foreleg. A silver badge was pinned to it. The sight of the overlapping sun and crescent moon made Tessa's aura feelers start to throb. "You're... you're with the guild," she whispered.

    "Sure am! I'm Growlithe. Say, aren't you Lucario's daughter?" he responded. Tessa stiffened. Growlithe gave her a concerned look. "Lucario and Incineroar talked about you all the time! They called you something really strange. What was it, again? Oh, yeah. I remember! It's Tess-uh, right? "

    Hearing the name Incineroar made Tessa jump. She landed on the edge of her scarf and proceeded to hop backwards a couple of times, trying to keep herself from falling to the ground.

    "Are you okay?" Growlithe asked. "You seem kinda jumpy." He paused for a moment, and then his tail started to wag. "Oh, wait, I think I know what's wrong here. You've got first-time jitters because you're coming to join the guild, right? I totally get it. When I joined, I was so nervous, I coughed up a fireball and burnt a hole in one of the rugs. Boy, was I embarrassed." He let out a hearty laugh. "By the way, I haven't seen Lucario around the Observatory lately. Any idea where she went?"

    "Uh… um…" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf and looked down. "I... I think there's been some sort of mistake."

    Growlithe frowned. "Oh, really? But that's Incineroar's scarf, isn't it?"

    Tessa's grip tightened on the scarf. "That's... uh...

    "Well, he never said it was one of a kind, I guess. Maybe this is just a funny coincidence. In which case, my bad! It's been fun talking, but I should really get going." He moved ahead of Tessa, only to pause. "Wait." He shook his head. "How could I be so inconsiderate? The family you're from shouldn't matter. You're going to the Observatory, right? Whatever you're heading there for, it'll be much easier if you show up with an apprentice like me."

    Tessa's eyes went wide.

    "N-No!" she blurted out. "I... uh... must've made a wrong turn somewhere. Sorry!" She gave Growlith a small bow and sprinted down the hill. Tessa tucked her head in and tightly gripped her satchel.

    'I knew it… I couldn't do it. Growlithe even offered to guide me in and I just froze up. I'm no better than a frightened Joltik! Why do I have to be such a screw up?' she thought, making for the outskirts of town. 'He just had to bring up Mom and Dad, didn't he? This was a disaster!' She squeezed her eyes shut and quickened her pace, not bothering to look back as she left Aeon Town behind.


    ~Azure Cape~

    Tessa continued running until the dirt road gave way to sandy bluffs. A mid-morning sea breeze bristled her fur, sending a shiver down her spine. She jogged to a stop and let herself sink down to her knees. Dropping her bag into the sand, she threw her paws up onto her face and let out a groan. Tessa flopped onto her stomach, burying her face in the warm sand.

    'And just like that I'm back here... again,' she thought. 'How many times have I done this, now?' She scooped up a handful of sand and gently poured it onto the back of her head. 'Am I really that pathetic? Did I really rely on Mom and Dad that much?' A sinking feeling filled up her gut. Tessa couldn't stop a whimper from escaping her mouth. 'If only Mom or Dad were here. None of this would be happening. I'd have joined the guild. And I'd actually have a group of friends. But... no. Instead I'm here... alone. Just like last week. And if I try again tomorrow, I'm just going to end up back here. But I bet I'll try, anyway.' She let out a bitter, muffled laugh. 'Because I really am that pathetic. Guess I answered my own question.'

    Tessa continued laying in the sand, letting her mind go completely blank. Eventually, her boiling back bothered her enough that she forced herself back up to her feet and grabbed her satchel. Tessa started walking up toward the shoreline, staring down at the impressions her feet made in the wet sand. 'Why did I think today was going to be any different? Because I wore the scarf?' She ran a paw through its silky fabric. 'If anything, this thing made it worse! Usually I can at least make it up to the top of the hill before I panic and start thinking about Mom and Dad. But I didn't even get halfway up the hill today!'

    Tessa gave a frustrated growl and kicked up a patch of sand. She watched it splash into the water, but the sight did little to make her feel any better. Tessa stopped along the shoreline. She balled her paws up into fists and braced them against her thighs. Clenching her teeth, Tessa took in a sharp breath and forced her eyes shut.

    "... hyaaah!"

    She swung her paws forward, digits springing open. Tessa stood frozen like a statue. After a minute passed, she lowered her arms, letting out a loud groan. Tessa continued this routine, until the heat wore her down. She wiped her brow with an arm. 'And, surprise, surprise, no progress. At this rate, I won't even learn Force Palm.'

    Tessa scooped her satchel up and turned to leave the beach, when her nostrils twitched. She rubbed the bridge of her snout. 'Ugggh... gross! What smells like wet fur?' She turned around to inspect her back. 'It's not me. Someone out for a morning swim?' She shrugged. 'Bah, what does it matter? If some idiot wants to get swept out to sea, it's none of my business. I should really just go.'

    A swathe of white caught the corner of her eye. Tessa pivoted to her left and spotted a rock jutting out from the ground. A ball of white sat at the base of the rock. 'That's way too big to be a salt deposit. But it's just past the edge of the tide. So, what's the deal, here?' Her curiosity aroused, Tessa crept toward the rock. It didn't take her long to realize that she had stumbled on something far more important than a sea salt pile. 'Wait a second... four legs. Six tails. Bright white fur? That's a Vulpix!'

    Tessa broke into a jog, hurriedly closing the distance between her and Vulpix. As she ran up to him, the stench of wet fur overwhelmed her. 'Jeez. He really stinks.' She waved her paw in front of her snout. 'Does this mean he washed ashore?' Tessa looked out to the water. 'Oh, gods. What if he's hurt? What if... he's dead?' Tessa looked down and gave a relieved sigh when she saw Vulpix's chest slowly rise. 'Okay, at least he's not dead. But I can't just leave him out here like this. What if a wild Pokémon swoops in while he's sleeping? Or what if the tide comes in too far and sweeps him back out to sea?'

    That was all the convincing Tessa needed. She reached out and nudged Vulpix with a paw. "Um... wake up, please. You... uh... you really shouldn't sleep here. I don't think it's safe."

    Vulpix stirred. Tessa withdrew her paw with a startled squeak. She fell off balance, and her rear hit the sand. Slowly, Vulpix's eyes fluttered open and he uncurled his body.

    "Unnnnghhh. Who was using my head to play a bongo set?" Vulpix groaned. Tessa's ears twitched, displeased at the sound of Vulpix's nasally voice. "What... happened?" He looked around in confusion. "And what am I doing on the beach? It's not summer. And I definitely can't afford a vacation anywhere tropical."

    "Um, are you okay, mister?" Tessa stammered, getting back to her feet. "I found you sleeping out here, and–"

    Vulpix's eyes widened. "Hey… you're a Riolu," he gasped. "And you just talked!" Vulpix's ears perked up. "Oh, wow." He looked about. His tails wagged independently of one another. "Okay, I think I get it. This must be a dream. But… it feels so real." He brushed his head against the sand, feeling the coarse grains on his fur. "And that can only mean... that this is a lucid dream." He looked around the beach. "Wow." He gave a whistle. "Pretty impressive work here, brain. Now don't you dare wake me up." He craned his neck toward the sky. "I want to experience my own adventure in a world of Pokémon. And I can't do that if you bungle things up like you usually do."

    Tessa raised her brow. "Um, sir. You're not dreaming. I think you might've hit your head," Tessa muttered. "You sound like you're rambling."

    "I suppose the first thing I should do is figure out what Pokémon I turned into," Vulpix chirped, completely ignoring Tessa's comment. "I guess I can rule out a Riolu. Which, honestly, is quite disappointing. And I expect better of my own mind." He looked at Tessa, whose eyes widened. "But I suppose having one as a partner is just as good. Now I'll just– OOF!"

    Vulpix started to stand up, but collapsed onto his belly. He picked his head up and again tried getting to his feet. But the sand gave out underneath his legs, and he again dropped to his stomach, limbs splayed out in all directions. "Okay. So... it looks like I'm a quadruped. And... I've got white fur," he grunted. "That... doesn't ring any bells. I'll bet that means I'm super important!"

    Tessa watched the scene unfold with a worried look on her face. 'What is wrong with this guy?' she wondered. 'He's totally delirious. And… did he just say I'm his partner?' She bit her lower lip. 'Please don't tell me there's some sort of crazy Pokémon code of honor that says if you rescue a Vulpix in need, they become your servant. I don't think I can deal with that!'

    "Hey, Riolu?" Vulpix called, waving a forepaw at her. "Mind lending me a hand? Kind of having trouble standing, here."

    Tessa rubbed her shoulder and looked away. "Uh... I'm not really sure that's such a good idea. What's the problem, anyway?"

    "Didn't you hear me? I can't figure out how to get my legs to work," Vulpix said.

    Tessa frowned. "Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?"

    To her surprise, Vulpix looked up toward the sky again. "Oh-ho. So my partner's got a lip on her, huh? I approve, brain. But, uh, you think you could give me a little bit of control here?"

    Tessa started to shuffle backwards. 'I don't like where this is going. I think it's time I made my exit...'

    "Finally!" Vulpix had gotten to his feet and let out a triumphant shout. He stumbled forward, nearly losing all of his progress in the process. But he managed to make his way toward the water's edge. Tessa crouched down, ready to break into a run if something went wrong.


    Vulpix let out another shout. And all the nervous energy Tessa had built up made her jump and let out a frightened yip. "Eep! What's wrong? What is it?" she asked, whirling around to face Vulpix.

    "Seriously?" Vulpix glared down at the water. "I'm a Vulpix? This isn't cool. This is awful! I look all frilly and girly," he groaned, swinging his hips around and looking dejectedly at his tails. "And what's with the white fur? Am I albino or something? I know I'm a pretty pasty guy. But I can't believe this. Even in my own lucid dream, I have the worst luck in the galaxy! Why couldn't I just be an albino Growlithe instead?"

    He slapped the water with a forepaw, only to jump back as some droplets struck his snout. Tessa took another step away from him, shaking her head. 'This has to be some sort of trick. He's probably acting crazy to get me to lower my guard.' She instinctively clutched her satchel tighter. 'Well, if this outlaw thinks he's stealing my stuff, he has another thing coming!'

    She couldn't bring herself to turn away from Vulpix. 'But... what if he isn't faking? Can I really just ditch him like this? He seems... well, lost would be putting it nicely, I suppose.' Tessa looked down. 'Ugh, I know I'm gonna regret this.' She jogged up toward the water's edge. "Um, excuse me. But, why are you shouting about being a Vulpix? Is… is that a problem?"

    Vulpix chuckled and shook his head. "Ah, Riolu, Riolu, Riolu." He put a forepaw on Tessa's shoulder.

    "Please don't touch me!" Tessa cried and shoved Vulpix's paw off. She shrank back defensively.

    "Relax, girlie," Vulpix scoffed. "Everything's okay. Y'see… I'm not actually a Vulpix. I'm a human!" He puffed his chest out proudly. "Name's Shane. I'm dr–" He paused. "Uh, I mean, some sort of mysterious force must have dragged me into this world so I can save it from a terrifying evil!"

    Tessa's jaw slackened. "A human? But you look like a perfectly normal Vulpix to me."

    The newly-named Shane laughed. "Oh, don't be so modest, Riolu. Unless you're modest-natured, of course, which will make you one heck of a Lucario when you evolve. But we have no way of finding that out, ha ha. Look, I know the white fur's probably strange, but that just means I'm special. If you stick with me, we can take the world by storm."

    Tessa crossed her arms. "Okay, I don't know how badly you hit your head while you were swimming, but you're clearly off your rocker. I've only ever known Vulpix to have white fur. It's strange to see one so far from the Invern Mountains, though. Was there some sort of avalanche that brought you all the way out here? That would explain why you seem so... loopy."

    Shane's muzzle stiffened. "Wait… Vulpix live in the mountains? Like snow-covered mountains?" Tessa nodded. "Huh… well there was that one Ninetales in the Air Continent. But I guess my brain's taking some 'creative liberties' with this dream," Shane muttered under his breath. He turned back to Tessa. "See? That's gotta prove I'm human. How else could you explain why I wouldn't know what a Vulpix looks like?"

    Tessa fidgeted with her satchel. "Well, I've heard of humans. But, y'know, only in those stories about the times the world was in crisis. And none of those ever centered on Horizon."

    "Horizon?" Shane parroted.

    "That's, um, the name of the continent we're on," Tessa replied. 'How could he not know that?'

    "Oh, cool name. Sounds appropriate," Shane said. "We'll have plenty of time to talk the lay of the land once we settle into… uh…" His voice trailed off and he looked around. "Say, what kind of groups does this Horizon place have, anyway? Rescue teams? Explorers? Expedition Society?"

    "We have a guild," Tessa answered.

    "Perfect!" Shane jumped beside Tessa. "Then what are we standing around here flapping our lips for? Let's get moving!"

    "What?" Tessa stepped back. "Are you crazy? You can't go waltzing into the guild just because you feel like it. You... um... you need a reason to go there."

    "I have a very good reason. As do you," Shane insisted, giving her a confident smirk. "We're gonna enter this guild together. Meaning, you and I are gonna form an exploration team!"

    'He wants to form a team... with me?' Tessa gasped. Her heart fluttered for a moment. 'This is some sort of trick. No stranger would be that nice to a loser like me' She took a deep breath and shook her head.

    "Sorry, no can do," she said. "I just met you. And all you've done is... yell loudly and... uh... say crazy things like you're a human."

    "But I am a human," Shane said. "And that's important around here. Why wouldn't you want to save the world with me?"

    Tessa clutched her satchel. "Everything's fine. It's been that way since Dark Matter was destroyed and it'll stay that way. For all I know, you're a thief out for my bag."

    "I'm not a thief. And maybe the world's fine now but I guarantee it won't be for long," Shane declared. "C'mon, just come with me and…"

    "Enough! I am not letting you steal my stuff!" Tessa shouted…


    … and beaned Shane over the head with her satchel. His legs quivered. He rocked back and forth a few times before collapsing onto his side.

    Tessa dropped her bag to the ground, her arms shaking uncontrollably. "Oh no… oh no, no, no, no, no, no." She knelt down and shook Shane. 'You've gotta be kidding me, here! This guy spooked me, and I reacted. I couldn't have hit him that hard, could I?' she wondered. 'This is just great! I can't leave him here like this. What if he wakes up and reports me to Officer Magnezone? I'll get in trouble for sure!'

    Tessa strained to heft Shane up. Her legs trembled from trying to sling him over her shoulder. 'Okay, he's much heavier than he looks.' She tried to take a step forward, but her legs buckled. 'Ugh. Come on, Riolu. Dig deep. Just get him over to Sylveon's and then he'll be her problem.'

    She slowly shuffled off toward the dirt road.


    ~Sunrise Village, Sylveon's House~

    Tessa trudged toward the lone, pink, circular home sitting a ways off from the circular array of buildings. She couldn't lift her head up to see the windows and chimney designed to resemble Sylveon's eyes and bow, respectively. But she was able to brace Shane against one of the house's pillars styled after Sylveon's feeler-like ribbons. She slowly twisted the door handle and threw the door open. Tessa threw Shane to the ground.

    "Sylveon... I'm home," Tessa wheezed. "And I, uh, kind of need your help."

    Across the room, Sylveon dropped the mixing bowl held in her ribbons and jogged over to the front door. "My goodness!" she gasped. "What happened here?"

    "It's... a long story," Tessa groaned. She staggered over to a nearby chair and collapsed onto it. "I found him in Azure Cape. He looked and smelled like he'd been in the sea. But he woke up and started saying all this weird stuff and, uh, then he passed out again. Do you think you could help him? I'm worried he's hurt."

    Sylveon looked down at Shane. "Well, I think I may have something that could help him out." She gently scooped Shane up in her ribbons and carried him off toward one of the house's bedrooms. Tessa let out a groan and settled back in the chair. She had eyes shut for a minute, when footsteps caught her attention and made her sit up in the chair.

    "Hey Tessa, do you think the sea is magic?"

    Tessa looked over at Eevee, who had jumped up to put his forepaws on the chair. "What makes you say that?"

    "Well, you said it spat out Vulpix. And made him talk crazy," Eevee said. "Unless you were telling a big, fat lie."

    "No. I really did find him passed out on the beach," Tessa sighed.

    The door to her room opened and Sylveon stepped out. "Well, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Vulpix. The poor thing was exhausted, that's all," she reported. "He must have riled himself up on the beach and fainted from fatigue."

    "Is Vulpix gonna be okay?" Tessa asked.

    "With bedrest and some food, he should be up and about come tomorrow," Sylveon answered. "Did you end up carrying him all the way here?" Tessa nodded. "Goodness," Sylveon gasped, "You must be tired. Or maybe you were jumpy after going to the guild?"

    Tessa looked down guiltily. "Uh… about that. Y'see, I–"

    Sylveon frowned. "You didn't go, did you?"

    Eevee's ears drooped. "Did… did I pick the wrong berry?"

    "What? No, Eevee, of course not," Tessa insisted. "I just..." She glanced up at Sylveon. "... couldn't follow through. I started thinking about Mom and Dad again and…" Her voice trailed off. Tessa got to her feet and approached Sylveon. "You're Mom's friend. Did she drop by while I was out or send a postcard or a letter in the mail? Please, Sylveon, you have to know something."

    "I'm sorry, Tessa." Sylveon nudged Tessa's chin with a ribbon. "Nothing's changed since last week. I'm still just as in the dark as you are. Besides, she and I haven't really spoken since, well..." She fell silent and Tessa hung her head. "If anything, the guild is more likely to know where she is than I am."

    Tessa's shoulders slumped. "I understand," she sighed. "Um, is Vulpix awake now?"

    "Yes. But don't talk to him too long. I want him to rest," Sylveon replied.

    Tessa opened the door and entered her room. There, she found Shane lying on her straw bed, looking out a window. "H-Hi there," she whispered. "Sorry about, y'know, back at the beach."

    "You mean for socking me in the head with that bag of yours?" Shane grumbled. "Not a great first impression, if I'm honest."

    "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Tessa blurted out. "I panicked for a moment and thought you were an outlaw who wanted to steal my stuff."

    "But I told you I'm a human," Shane stated.

    "That's very hard to believe," Tessa said. "I've heard that outlaws know some crafty tricks."

    Shane stiffened. "Wait. I lost consciousness after you hit me."

    "How many times do I have to apologize for th–?"

    "Quiet a sec," Shane said, drawing an annoyed look from Tessa. "If this was a dream, it should've ended when you knocked me out, but I'm still here. And I'm still a weird, white-furred Vulpix."

    "All Vulpixes have white fur here," Tessa reminded him.

    Shane's eyes sparkled and his tails thumped excitedly. "Don't you realize what this means? I'm really in the world of Pokémon!" He jumped to his feet. "I'm gonna be a hero!"

    His legs suddenly shook and he flopped back on his belly. "Careful, careful," Tessa scolded, running up to Shane's side. "You're suffering from fatigue. You need to rest."

    "I can tell," Shane groaned.

    "Here." Tessa produced Eevee's oran berry from her satchel. "Eat this to keep your strength up."

    Shane sniffed the berry and gobbled it up. 'Wow! Normally, I can't stand fruits and veggies. But this thing's so sweet,' he thought. "Thank you," he said to Tessa, "that really hit the spot."

    Tessa sat on the floor next to the bed. "So, you're really a human, then?"

    "Yup!" Shane proclaimed. "But, it's strange." His brow furrowed. "In the games… humans always lost their memories when they came to the Pokémon world. But I still remember everything perfectly. Apart from how I got here, I suppose."

    "Games?" Tessa parroted.

    "Ah, right," Shane chuckled. "They never had to have a conversation like this in the games, I suppose." He pivoted on the bed to face Tessa. "See, in my world, Pokémon are fictional characters." Tessa gave him a blank look. "Y'know, made up? Don't really exist?"

    Tessa frowned. "Okay, I'm starting to doubt your story again."

    "I'm serious," Shane said. "Before I woke up here, I was a male human. I had a family with two little sisters who bugged the heck out of me. I lived with them until I moved out. Then, I stayed on my own in this shabby little house in the projects of a human city and worked a job in a human hospital. I went to bed one night and, next thing I know, I wake up to see you talking to me."

    "Well, if you just got here, what's with the jewelry?" Tessa asked, pointing to Shane's foreleg.

    "Huh?" Shane looked down at the anklet clinging to his thigh. "I've never seen this thing before." He pressed his other forepaw against it, only to find that the anklet wouldn't move. "Urrrnnngggh… I think it's stuck. You got any grease or butter here?"

    "We do, but Sylveon only keeps enough around for her cooking."

    "Never mind," Shane sighed. He sank back down in the bed. "So, does this mean we're going to go the guild tomorrow?"

    'He still wants to go? Even after I hit him?' Tessa gasped. 'No. Don't get your hopes up, Tessa. You'll end up disappointed... or worse!'

    Her fur stood on end. "Why me? I already told you I don't fully trust you," she said.

    "Isn't it obvious? I'm a human. If I'm here, then this world is in trouble," Shane insisted. "The only way we're gonna find out is by joining with the guild so we can explore and, well, stumble onto whatever problem the world's about to face."

    "That's a bit of a stretch, don't you think?" Tessa countered.

    "Didn't you tell me you'd heard stories of humans before?" Shane asked. "Well, what were they about? They couldn't have been mundane, otherwise your parents wouldn't bother telling you them." He didn't notice the look of horror that flashed across Tessa's face when he said the word "parents."

    Tessa tried to compose herself to give an answer. "Well…" She rubbed her shoulder. "My parents did say that some bad stuff has happened in their lifetimes. And that humans supposedly played a role in making that stuff go away. The Pokémon that were involved... they're all pretty famous now. Saving Temporal Tower from collapse... blowing up a planet-sized meteor... stopping embodiments of all negativity... that's the stuff of legends, yeah. But those heroes are all the way on the other side of the world. They don't care about the Horizon Continent. So, I try not to focus on it. Besides, nothing's gone wrong since I hatched out of my egg."

    Shane tensed up. 'Wait. Those sound just like the games!' he realized. "I think I get what you're talking about."

    "Are you serious? The only way you'd know what I'm talking about is if you were from this world. But you're claiming you're from the human world. So, which is it, huh?" Tessa scoffed.

    Shane laughed nervously. "I'm from the human world. I was there... and now I'm here, with this mysterious anklet, no less. Considering my situation, I don't have a problem believing those stories." He tapped a forepaw against his chin. "You know... I saw a gleam in your eyes when you described the stories to me. I thought you said you didn't care much about them."

    'Nnnngh... what am I supposed to say to that? That I've spent years of my life praying I could be as famous as Team Go-Getters and Team Poképals?' Tessa worried. 'He'll just use that as an excuse to make me go to the guild... where I'll fail miserably!'

    "Wait, I just thought of something that could help here," Shane said. "Tell me... do you know what a human looks like?"

    Tessa stiffened. "No. Everyone knows that the humans that show up... they're always…" She looked up at Shane. "… turned into Pokémon... like you're claiming to be."

    "Exactly!" Shane proclaimed.

    'This... this can't be real,' Tessa thought, her heart racing. 'Did I really find a human, just like my heroes? No... this has to be a mistake. There's no way this could happen to a screw-up like me.'

    "I… I'm sorry." Tessa clutched her head and shook it. "This is just so much to take in."

    "… ha! That's how I should be feeling, not you," Shane laughed.

    Tessa frowned. "You're not helping."

    Shane sighed. "Y'know, the guild's my best shot at figuring out how to return to the human world," he said. "But, if I just go by myself, they'll never believe I'm a human."

    'Certainly not with that attitude of yours. The human heroes were all soft-spoken and kind,' Tessa thought. "What do you want me to do about that?"

    "Take me there. We'll form an exploration team and find a way for me to go home." Shane rolled onto his back and stretched out his limbs. "And if it just so happens we discover a terrifying evil plot and foil it, then that'll just be an added benefit."

    Tessa's aura feelers throbbed. 'He's serious. The way he's talking, he really thinks we could be legendary heroes. But there's no way that could happen. I can't even walk up to the guild's front door. We'd be a terrible team.' She fidgeted with her scarf. "I… I'm sorry. I don't want to do something like that," she muttered.

    "Are you serious?" Shane looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "You could be a hero! You'd be just like the Pokémon in your stories. Imagine… Riolu, the legendary explorer."

    Tessa pulled her scarf over her eyes. 'Ohh... that's been my dream since I was a pup. Why does he have to sound so confident about this?' Her brow furrowed. 'Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit? He could be what I need to get out of this rut. I mean... he seems to like me. That's more than I can say for any of the other Pokémon my age here... aside from Eevee. I can't go to the guild alone, but if I have Vulpix...'

    Tessa's thoughts trailed off and she suddenly tensed. Images flashed through her mind.

    A lithe Lucario standing in a doorway, looking back in her direction. "Go stay with Sylveon until I return. I promise... I won't be long."

    A streak of white flashing across her vision. The tip of a black scythe hovering in front of her.

    "No… I can't…" Tessa stumbled to her feet. "I can't take you to the guild. Not now. Not ever."

    Tessa scrambled for the door. "Hey, wait, where are you going?" Shane called.

    "Somewhere else! We've already spoken too long. You need to rest."

    The door slammed shut before Shane could further protest.

    Shane rolled onto his stomach. 'Well, that was a bust. She must not be my partner, then.' He yawned and stretched out across Tessa's bed. "As soon as I'm rested up, I'll hit the road and look for the right Pokémon. Maybe there's another, cheerier Riolu wandering around, and she's just a red herring."


    Tessa's eyes opened. She looked around the room, trying to make out the furniture in the dark. She put a paw up to her face, and clasped one of her aura feelers. It trembled in her grip. Tessa's heart started pounding. She sat up and stared at the front door. 'Is… someone outside?' Tessa slid to her feet and tiptoed toward the front door. The closer she got, the more her aura feelers throbbed.

    'Oh, why can't you guys just work like you're supposed to?'
    she lamented. 'I wouldn't have to go outside if I could actually read auras like I'm supposed to.'

    She slowly opened up the door and a creaking noise echoed through the room. Tessa flinched and quickly slipped outside. The moment she shut the door, her aura feelers stood up on end. Her ears twitched and she pivoted to her left. She could see a shadowy blur off in the distance, but it was too dark for her to make out what she was looking at.

    "I think the test was a bust, Umbry. This definitely isn't the Mist Continent. Heck, I don't think I've ever been here before."

    Tessa heard the bushes rustling and pressed herself up against one of the house's pillars. She held her breath and gently poked her head out to confirm the blurry figure was still standing there. 'What do I do? Should I go inside and tell Sylveon? Or wait to see if they leave?'

    Before she could give her situation any further thought, a male voice said, "You're right, Espy. Looks like our Ultra Entercard screwed up again. And this was the worst miss we've had so far! It's gonna take days of tweaking to deal with this."

    "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" the first voice – Espy, if Tessa had to guess – asked. "Do you really want to risk using another Ultra Entercard? What if it drops us into a volcano, huh?"

    "I'd rather take my chances if it means actually getting to go home and avoid sleeping in some bushes by a hick town and a forest dungeon," Umbry growled. "We're supposed to be keeping a low profile, remember? That goes completely out the window if we stay here. Everyone in the village will wake up and see us."

    "I'm not an idiot, Umbry," Espy scoffed. "Besides, it's too late to go unnoticed. We're not alone."

    Tessa's heart leaped into her throat. 'No, that's impossible! She couldn't have seen me... I've been hidden the entire time.' She got onto her paws and knees and tried to crawl back toward the front door. But she looked over in the direction she'd been staring and found a pair of bright blue eyes looking right at her.

    Underneath Espy's eyes, a winged heart twinkled in the moonlight. Espy darted forward without so much as a word. Tessa scrambled to her feet, trying to throw the door to the house open. But Espy managed to close the distance between them astonishingly fast. Tessa tried to shout for help, but a pink forepaw covered up her snout. Next think she knew, she was pinned on her back. Tessa looked up at her assailant, eyes freezing on the black crystals covering Espy's chest and shoulders.

    "Ssssshhhhhh," Espy whispered, pressing her forepaw harder against Tessa's snout. Her forked tail snapped to her side, revealing black, metallic spokes where the tips of her tail should've been. "Well, aren't you a curious little eavesdropper. It looks like this accidental trip won't be a complete bust after all. Umbry and I can always use a new... playmate."

    She leaned forward, showing off the star-shaped diamond embedded in her forehead. Tiny metal veins fanned out from the diamond, digging into Espy's scalp. The sight made Tessa's skin crawl. Espy's diamond startled to crackle with red and black energy.

    Tessa tried to struggle out from Espy's grip, but she was too strong. 'This can't be happening! I'm too young to die!'

    Her entire world went bright red. But, to her complete surprise, she didn't feel anything. The red light faded as quickly as it appeared, leaving her staring at Espy's shocked expression.

    "Impossible," she whispered. "You shouldn't be lying there like that. I just infected you. Your fur's supposed to burn. There should be Pheromosa parts tearing through your flesh! What's going on here?"

    "Espy, what is wrong with you? What part of keeping a low profile didn't you understand? Get over here... now!" Umbry ordered. Tessa could just make out another figure out of the corner of her eyes. But all she could see was a pair of fierce red eyes, accentuated by glowing red rings on what she guessed were Umbry's tail, legs, and ears.

    "Just a second, Umbry. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something important here?" Espy hissed.

    The winged heart sigil on Umbry's forehead flashed and Espy tensed up. "I don't care. We're not here to infect anyone. You've already screwed things up for us big time. Let's get going before you manage to give me an even bigger headache."

    "But Umbry, don't you see? She withstood infection," Espy exclaimed, again pressing down on Tessa's face. Tessa teared up at this. "We have to take her with us. She's exactly what I've been looking for. She's the perfect new playmate for us." Umbry stomped over to their location and bit down on one of Espy's crystal-coated, triangular ears.

    "Ow... OWW!" she shouted, releasing her grip on Tessa, who remained lying on the ground, frozen in fear. "What are you doing, you moron? We need to take her with us."

    "No, we don't. I told you to stay with me, but you just wouldn't listen," Umbry snarled. He released his grip on Espy, who stumbled next to him. "Wipe her memories of us so we can leave. And this time, no infections, no talking about finding new playmates, and, most importantly, no jumping strangers!"

    Espy rolled her eyes. She pointed them at Tessa and they flashed pink. Tessa went rigid and then immediately relaxed.

    "There, happy?" Espy huffed. Umbry lowered his head and shoved her toward the nearby forest. Espy squeaked in protest, but Umbry shoved her forward again. This continued until they had both disappeared into the trees.

    Tessa slowly sat up, getting over her stupor. She blinked a few times. Her mind raced for some reason, but she couldn't tell why. 'What the–? When did I get out here?' She opened her mouth, expecting to say something. But instead, Tessa's world went completely black. She was unconscious seconds before she fell back into the dirt, snout pointed up toward the starry sky.


    Tessa had no idea how long she was out for. Only that it was still nighttime when she reawakened. After blinking a few times to clear her vision, her head started throbbing. 'What happened to me? I remember going to sleep, but now I'm outside,' she thought.

    As she got to her feet, she sensed that something was wrong. A chill ran across her neck. She brought her paws up to her neck and felt around. Panic overtook her as her paws brushed against fur. Tessa looked down at the ground.

    'Where's my scarf?'
    she wondered. 'Where did it go? Where did it go?!' She whirled around and continued scanning the ground. 'I still had it on my neck when I went to sleep. Don't tell me someone dragged me out here and stole it!' She looked back to the house. 'Wait, what if it was that Vulpix? What if I was right? He could've–'

    "Kweh heh heh! What a stroke of luck, eh, Jangmo-o? And here we was thinking we'd be going home empty-handed."

    Tessa looked to her left. There, she spotted a pair of Pokémon walking along the dirt road. A set of gleaming white claws held up a rainbow scarf. It glistened under the moonlight. Tessa balled her paws up into fists and charged toward her scarf. "HEY! Stop... thieves! Gimme back my scarf!" she shouted. The two Pokémon turned around in surprise.

    "Suh... Sneasel, what are we gonna do? She wasn't supposed to wake up and see us!" Jangmo-o gasped. "How are we supposed to make our brilliant getaway now? She's gonna try and stop us!"

    Sneasel slapped his accomplice upside the head. "Jangmo-o, you ditz! You ain't supposed to tell the broad we're escaping. That'll ruin the whole point of, well, escaping!"

    Jangmo-o rubbed the back of his head. "S-Sorry, boss."

    Tessa barked angrily and lunged at the thieves. They both jumped out of the way. Sneasel yanked Tessa's scarf back just in time to avoid her reach. He slung it over his arm. "Nice going there, Jangmo-o. Your big mouth cost us a big head start!" Sneasel scoffed.

    "But ain't you just wasting more time by yelling at me?" Jangmo-o retorted.

    Sneasel's eyes widened. "You're right. What are we standing around for? Time to deploy our super speedy getaway special. Ready? Go!" Tessa jumped back to her feet and tried to swipe at her attackers, but Jangmo-o and Sneasel had already broken into a run.

    Sneasel turned to look back at Tessa. "Kweh heh heh! Nice try girlie, but ain't no Pokémon around here can outrun us!" he shouted. "We'll take great care of your scarf, though!"

    "Heh... yeah! Thanks for the present, toots," Jangmo-o cackled.

    'No... not my scarf...' Tessa whimpered. 'Not Dad's scarf. That was all I had left of him. And now it's gone!' She dropped to her knees. 'This is all Vulpix's fault. If I didn't run into him, I'd be sleeping in my bed and nothing bad would've happened!' She smacked the ground with her paw. 'I got suckered by him. Because I'm an idiot! A weak... pathetic idiot who can't even stand up for herself!' Tears welled up in her eyes.

    "Hey, what are you just laying around for? Aren't you gonna go after them?"

    Tessa turned around and spotted Shane trotting over to her. She quickly rubbed her eyes dry with her paw.

    "Vulpix? What are you doing out here?" Tessa hiccupped. "You're supposed to be resting."

    "I heard you shouting. And I already told you, it's Shane," he replied. "Wait, were you crying? Because of those two jerks? Come on! They didn't look so tough. I bet we can take them!"

    Tessa went slack-jawed. "Wh-what? Are you crazy? We can't just go after them. It's the middle of the night!"

    "So? If that scarf's really so important that it'd make you start crying, then we have to get it back," Shane said. "Are you just going to sit there or are we going to give chase?"

    Tessa blinked tears from her eyes. "We?"

    Shane extended a forepaw. "Yeah. I do owe you for letting me crash in your room."

    Tessa's eyes darted around as she tired to process Shane's offer. Wasn't she just cursing him out a moment ago? Could she really work with him on the fly? "But there's no way we'll catch them. They both blend into the night so well," she whimpered. "We should just wake up Sylveon and call up Officer Magnezone. He'll know what to do."

    "Yeah, right," Shane scoffed. "If we do that, I guarantee you that your scarf's as good as gone." He started to walk ahead of her. "Losing that scarf clearly shook you up, so it's gotta be important to you. Don't let it go without a fight."

    Shane helped Tessa to her feet. "Right." She nodded, wiping snot from her nose. "I can't let them take my scarf. It means... a lot to me. We have to go after them."

    "That's the spirit!" Shane chirped. "Just tell me which way we need to go."

    "They were heading toward Azure Cape… I think. Maybe if we hurry we can catch them while they're still there?" Tessa said.

    "Only one way to find out," Shane declared, and then took off running.


    I know this probably seems familiar. And that's intentional! I promise, the further we go, the crazier things are going to get. But, if you didn't like it, that's okay! I know this kind of story isn't for everyone. And if you do stick around, I hope you have fun. :)
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018 at 12:53 AM
  2. kintsugi

    kintsugi they call me Clark Kint

    Blog Posts:
    May 9, 2013
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    a random prenote

    From pretty early on I figured we were in for a wild ride, and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. Thank you for this.


    I like it so far. Having your protagonist keep his memory is a fresh enough twist on PMD that I’m sold on his character. Tessa’s adorable, your society is pretty realistic from what you’ve fleshed out, and you’ve even made an espeon a bad guy!! There’s hints of a larger plot, but the threads you’ve dropped in this first chapter are super interesting already.


    This is a really, really random thing, but: I think you use “then” a little too often in your tenser scenes. When Shane-Vulpix is drowning it comes up pretty much once every other sentence/three times in three paragraphs (specifically in the “Then, [action]”), which I think is a hair too formulaic/cake-baking-instructiony for what is otherwise a tightly-paced scene.

    I’m having a little trouble imagining this—if Shane’s having issues balancing on his legs, then waving a forepaw is probably not gonna happen.

    I don’t think this is strictly true—dreams often do shift, but they don’t have to, especially if they’re lucid like Shane thinks.

    This would be a logical counter-argument, but it’s a bit harder to believe given that humans make up stories about fictional things all the time, and that storytelling about things that aren’t real is pretty much a basis of culture. Like those weirdos who write fake stories about pokémon on the internet all the time.

    One thing that threw me a bit was how you interchanged the species name with the character's name. Tessa is referred to as both "Tessa" and "Riolu", while Shane is "Shane" (as both human-Shane and not-human-Shane), "a Vulpix", and "Vulpix." Traditionally I don't think epithets and proper nouns mix, and in this case you've got pretty much a 50/50 split on usage, so I don't know if these even count as epithets at all.


    In this case you do a really good job of introducing Tessa’s backstory, but her recovery here feels pretty rushed—I think with big revelations like this, you might want to either pace them out for longer to give them more focus, or don’t drop them entirely. It’s a bit of a 180 when she goes from talking to her missing parents directly in her head to casually saying “okay, done moping”.

    But otherwise I thought the characters here are lovely! I wouldn’t really be sold on some of the other tonal shifts (Shane’s “I nearly drowned and am now a fictional animal” / “I’M CLEARLY THE CHOSEN ONE”), but the way you convey personalities through dialogue is so convincing.
    10/10 balance of seriousness and humor here.

    Seriously I could read dialogue like this all day.

    This too. I never really got sold on the idea of “people getting sucked into videogames while knowing all the mechanics” because it seems so unrealistic, but Shane’s abject glee here is so nonsensically logical that I’m buying it so hard right now. Also, it’s hilarious. Good stuff.


    I’m not too well-versed in PMD fic, but this was a great read. Looking forward to more + I'll definitely be sticking around.
    Ambyssin likes this.
  3. Flaze

    Flaze Don't Look Away

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    Sep 17, 2008
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    So first thing I have to say is, this chapter felt pretty long to me. The fact you combined the prologue and chapter 1 influenced that, but chapter 1 itself had a pretty slow flow to it which made a lot of the moments in the chapter drag a bit.

    For example the scene at the start with Tessa, while helping us get a look into her personality, drags a lot because she kind of ends up bouncing back and forth between the same states. We're introduced to her trying to get to the guild, she decides to go, turns back, slips up, meets Eevee, turns to go again then turns back again. I think you can cut the part where she slips up and collides with the Furfrou to meet Eevee, it's not much but in retrospect I feel like it doesn't really add anything. It shows us Tessa's clumsiness but the rest of the chapter kind of does that already. Similarly I think you remind us about Tessa's deal with her parents a little too much. It's not bad to remind these things to the readers but it can feel a bit overdone when it's multiple times in the same chapter.

    Aside from that, I think the chapter does a good job of establishing the story, you seem to be hinting at more than just a straight forward adventure like what Shane is expecting, in fact, the weird cackling voice that apparently took him to the Pokemon world sounds malicious enough to make me wonder if Shane is actually there to do the opposite than what he thinks. You play around with some of the PMD cliches, mostly by trying to play with the meta humor of it, but it's not too much so it doesn't become overwhelming.

    I do think that you can end chapter 1 when Tessa runs out on Shane after the two talk in Sylveon's house and keep the last part of the chapter as the start of chapter 2, it just feels a little odd to have those last two scenes as the tail end of chapter 1, it feels like you did it just to give us a cliffhanger but they work well as a starting point for chapter too as well.

    As for characters....jury's out on Shane yet. While I like the fact that he's kind of an arrogant prick that imposes himself on others too much (poor Tessa) I'll wait to see what the story makes of him, it seems like he'll have a hard time figuring out how to live as a Vulpix so that is something to look forward to, I just hope we can learn a bit more about her. That being said he did say one thing I liked:


    Tessa on the other hand I really like and also love the fact that it seems she'll get to share the spotlight with Shane, plus I'm a sucker for underdog stories no matter what or when.
    Ambyssin likes this.
  4. Ghostsoul

    Ghostsoul "You can order me around and I'll disappoint you!"

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    May 25, 2015
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    I feel like you need less description in the early parts? The description here is heavy and appears to be describing several irrelevant details. I think there is probably a better way and a better place to portray this to the audience. If indeed the characters house layout is important to the plot or his character backstory.

    Again, you seem to be telling a lot to the audience at once? I personally feel as if his thoughts should be portrayed more subtly somehow? Then again, this could be because I don't tend to read 3rd person stories much, it still feels rather forward.

    Because of his semi-childish manner of speaking, it's rather hard to tell how old Shane is. He's supposed to be 17-19 or so I'm guessing? He still has class and such? His perspective seems to be a little younger than that.

    Side note: These little interlude paragraphs are very original and give a sense of mysticism to the story, I like them.

    I can immediately tell that this villain is leaning to the side of 'cliche'. Even in a retelling, you can change lines of dialogue to better fit the medium of prose writing and the genre you have chosen to write in.

    I feel like this short section could do with some more sensual description. In general, many of the areas of the fic could do with some expansion in terms of describing the five senses.

    Now, this is a very good description. Especially the mention of the water.

    I like how swift and immediate the character introduction and set up is here.

    It might just be my own bias, but part of me feels this story would benefit from being written in first person. You'll be able to portray character thoughts in a more flowing and natural manner if you did.

    You can really see the games themselves coming through here.
    Some good description here too.

    It might be an interesting plot point if there was :p

    Stupid. But in terms of turning into another creature entirely, completely realistic.

    I'm guessing you are making up your own dungeons and scenery for this fic rather than just borrowing from the games? Nice to see.

    I feel like we are going through too many locations here for just one chapter + a prologue. I would personally try and break up location changes somewhat.

    Again, in comparison to many PMD stories where the partner simply believes the protagonist, this is more realistic (and the detail about the outlaws adds some more worldbuilding to the setting).

    I find it interesting how the 'games' themselves will be a plot point? Will the fact they are all just in a 'game' like pieces of data and coding come back in any way?

    Will we get any flashback chapters to Shane's former life? or will we simply receive it through his own memories?

    I feel like you are introducing a lot of plot points in a short space of time, even more so later on with the introduction of the 'thief' or 'outlaw' type Pokemon. I still think simply cutting up the chapters might leave you better off.

    I guess it's a pet peeve of mine but, I don't think you need this here (plus it's cheesy).

    I feel like this fic has a lot of potential in terms of how many plot points you have with the number of characters. I would give each of them some time to develop though and make sure you don't rush through each one. I'm also interested in how the setting will be explored since you appear to mostly be making your own based on the game. There has been some development with the characters, but I guess with Shane and Tessa there are still many directions they can go in too. I guess I can't say anything for certain about themes and such until a few more chapters come out though!
    Ambyssin likes this.
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    Hoo-boy, I was not expecting this many comments to reply to. Seriously, y'all made me smile. Just as a general response to all three of you, I'd like to offer a huuuuuge mea culpa with regards to the length of this first bit. I did revisions where I had posted this, instead of in Word. So, I didn't run it through a word count. Yes, it's absolutely ridiculous and I will start checking with the word counter to avoid this in the future.

    With that said, I guess I should ask for opinions. The chapters I've posted elsewhere range about 6-7k words. Is that too much for everyone? I wouldn't want to overwhelm anyone, so I could just split the chapters I've put up in half for Bulbagarden, if that's what people would prefer. Any thoughts are appreciated. ;~;

    If you think this is wild, just you wait! XD

    I really am continuously surprised to learn that this isn't something a lot of people do. I swear I thought it was used pretty frequently. And I do love me some Espeons, so naturally one's going to get high billing in this. I'm only super-duper biased, I swear.

    Ah, good eye. That didn't even occur to me. I cleaned that up a bit.

    Changed it to just a vaguer "having trouble standing up."

    I... probably should've looked up stuff about lucid dreams. I think I had Inception in mind when I wrote that part. *cue intense trombones blaring in the distance*

    That's probably a fair point. The point was more to lead into the "can you even tell me what a human looks like if they're just made up?" point.

    Sorry for the confusion. As it was, Shane and Tessa were referred to as Vulpix and Riolu, respectively, until we heard their names stated. Then the narration started using Shane and Tessa. They are calling each other by their species names, though. And, believe it or not, that's an important plot point. But it'd be spoilers if I told you why.

    Thanks for point that out. That was supposed to be something different, and I forgot to change it. Fixed!

    Thanks. Shane was originally just a cheesy dork, but I got some feedback that people liked the arrogant side of him, so I did add a bit in there.

    Right. Part of the whole point of this story is that expectations vs. reality is a major theme. So, this stuff will come up again... a lot.

    Glad you're enjoying it so far. Thank you for the review! ^^

    I agree. I made a few snips in an effort to trim the fat a bit.

    I think part of it was because I had accidentally forgotten to change something in the part at the beach. Which has now been changed. @[email protected]

    You got me there. Part of the motivation for me was that I thought it'd be fun to take a hard look at some of typical strokes these kinds of stories take. But I swear, this isn't just going to be a conga line of "Hey, remember this part from the Explorers games? Psych! It's the opposite here."

    They're in for quite the ride, I promise you! ^^

    And in this case, it would be pair of literal underdogs!
    ... I'll show myself out. :p No, but seriously, thanks for giving it a read. ^^

    I think you're right. One of the early reviews I'd gotten on a different site said they felt like there wasn't enough there. Must've swung too far in the opposite direction. Tidied up the parts you brought up a bit.

    19, in the human scenes, anyway. Age is relative in Pokémon, but his childish manners will get addressed later.

    Thank you! If I do my job right, they're sort of touching on some themes the story will explore.

    I don't if I should feel proud that I got you to think this is a retelling or not. :p In all seriousness, though, this is an original story. I realize that this villain is... very cheesy sounding. But there's a narrative reason for that (which would be massive spoilers). I was, in a sense, trying to emulate Aku from Samurai Jack, though I can see how that wouldn't translate well into text. XP

    I think I see what you mean and I did try to spice some of that stuff up (especially the introductory areas, which you thought were a bit flat).

    I'm a bit too far along with drafting to suddenly change course. I think the issue here is that, originally, I got chewed out for having Shane and Tessa "talk to themselves the whole time." I.e. "Amby, no one talks to themselves like that. It's not realistic." So, I turned them into thoughts. There won't be too many scenes where it's just one character all by their lonesome, so hopefully this shouldn't be much of a problem. But I'll keep it in mind going forward.

    Should I add it to the "Fic Sins Counter," then? Mine's probably at 1000, already. XD

    Shane clearly has his priorities straight.

    The Horizon Continent, and all its locations, were made up for this. There are some inspirations in different areas, but I'll point them out when they're relevant.

    Yeah, that was something I got criticism for with the early chapters. I'll try to see what I can do, but there are quite a few transition scenes early on. They will go away though, and chapters will start dropping to maybe 1-3 different scenes in total.

    Glad to hear it. One of my big goals in writing this was to try and take the player/partner direction in a very different direction. I'll leave it to you guys to determine how successful I am in the long run.

    Fiction vs. reality is definitely a theme here.

    A combination. They'll mostly be Shane's (skewed) perspective, with flashbacks coming in as the story progresses.

    Nah, that's fair. I'll just end it with a division if I have any closing author's notes.

    Right-o. Thanks for giving it a look and reviewing. ^^
  6. Misfit Angel

    Misfit Angel Vengeful Ferret

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    Sep 3, 2013
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    I haven't read this yet myself, but it's not too much for me! I'd say that's above average around here, but only slightly so.
    Ambyssin and kintsugi like this.
  7. Ghostsoul

    Ghostsoul "You can order me around and I'll disappoint you!"

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    May 25, 2015
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    Chapter length entirely depends on what's in the chapter. 6k-7k is generally alright in most cases. In terms of what you are giving us here, I think they could benefit from being split up, purely because of what you want the chapters to do and the pace you want to keep. Chapters can be any length in theory but should depend on the story that is being told.

    I'm not sure if I would call it a straight retelling, but I can tell it's highly inspired by the games so it's going to hit some similar plot points to it, albeit in new ways (Which, really, most retellings should do).
    Ambyssin likes this.
  8. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire. Deputy Head Administrator

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    Jun 11, 2010
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    If he only had enough free time to look up a guide on the internet and do the quiz, he'd have taken years and years to finish the actual game. XD

    Lol, Shane's monologue is certainly amusing. You do a good job with making it feel not only natural, but also you weave his interests and personality in very nicely at the same time.

    Mm, there's just enough exposition/action in between sections here. The introduction does everything that, well, an introduction should. Not sure if the mind/body/spirit bits are real quotes or not, but they strike me as such and really fit to set the tone of what happens with Shane dying unexpectedly and having his whole world turn upside down, so to speak.

    That said, using a death as a gateway to the Pokemon world is an interesting one. I wonder if Shane will remember that part of his human life in the future and how his transformation will be explained if so...

    I lol'd. Gonna second kintsugi in that your dialogue is pretty great.

    Also curious as to why Tessa's abandoning her nickname in favor of her species name. I mean, what happens if there's multiple Riolu in the story? Are all of their names just going to be Riolu? Sounds awkward.

    Tessa's circular thought patterns are realistic for someone with low self-esteem and a lot of performance anxiety, and on top of that, the monologue is well written, so kudos there. ^^

    Pretty sure you don't have to worry about that, Shane... ;) You're trapped here, for better or for worse.

    Yeah, this is refreshing. A lot of the time I see 'mons jumping to believe the "humans turned 'mon" and offer to be their best friend right off the bat. I mean, I know Tessa technically saves Shane's life, but that's just a decent thing to do whether he comes off as creepy initially or not. I'm sure she'll learn to trust him slowly, but for now, I'm enjoying their tension-filled interactions.

    I think that's about all I got. I guess I could see the blanket stealing scene and what follows in a separate chapter now that I'm caught up, but it's not the biggest deal. It tells me exactly what to expect in chapter 2. I'll be interested to see how Shane and Tessa fare!
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  9. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    I'm gonna go with, "he overslept that day," as my cop out. :p

    I did want to give a bit of background to him. I thought it'd help when he woke up and started talking to Tessa, which is where the slight bait and switch with the opening of the Explorers games comes into play.

    Happy to hear it. I didn't really base that monologue off of anything real, I was just sort of flying by the seat of my pants, there. The point was to establish an indirect theme for the story. So, like, for example, Shane's having a bit of a mind-body disconnect right now. And the idea of "thinking like a human, but taking action like a Pokémon," might come up again in the future.

    Thanks! Admittedly, I prefer dialogue far more than narration (it probably shows). It's just more fun for me to write... if that makes any sense. @[email protected]

    There are a few reasons that'll get dropped throughout the story about this, one of which is serious spoilers so I don't want to say anything. I'm essentially following the source material, here, in that Pokémon are addressed by species name and that, as far as major/recurring characters are concerned, it'll probably be one per species (which I wanted to do anyway for the sake of diversity). But, chapter 3 will definitely have Shane prying into that subject.

    Yay, you caught that. With the revisions to the chapter, I really was trying to establish a bit of a pattern. Negative self-talk, circular thinking, generally feeling useless, and lethargy/laying in the sand to mope, which are all signs pointing to something I may have mentioned in the content warnings.

    I still don't think he considers that a bad thing, but we'll see about changing that.

    Thanks! ^^
    One of the big goals throughout the story is to really take a different angle to the player/partner relationship. Hopefully everyone enjoys my take on it.

    And that should be coming later today. It's also, like, 50% shorter than this chapter and with not nearly as many scene jumps.
    diamondpearl876 likes this.
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 2

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    This chapter was originally uploaded on August 10th, 2017. The title is a play on Cape Canaveral, because yes, this fic's totally having anime dub levels of cheesy titles. Enjoy!


    Chapter 2: Cape Conundrum

    ~Azure Cape~

    Shane quickly discovered that his bravado came with a fatal flaw: running. Namely, he was bad at it. When he finally managed to stop stumbling every few feet, he found himself wincing with every step he took. Pebbles lodged themselves between his digits, and the coarse ground scratched his new paw pads. He gritted his teeth and kept at it, though, trying to keep up with Tessa. But it wasn't long before his lungs started burning. Sweat pooled in his tuft of hair. It collapsed, plastering slimy fur against his eyes. He had to shut them to drive away the stinging sensation.

    "Okay… running on four legs is not as easy… as those dogs on TV make it," he panted.

    "Then why did you suggest going after these guys?" Tessa growled from up ahead of him.

    "I'm not the one who lives here," Shane said. "You should've told me... how far it was..."

    Tessa shook her head. 'This was a huge mistake. But, we've already come out all this way. It'd be pointless to turn back.' She spotted twinkling lights ahead of her. "We're approaching the beach."

    "Great. I could do with a midnight dip at this point," Shane quipped.

    "Are you even taking this seriously? This whole thing was your idea," Tessa groaned. "I do want my scarf back."

    "I know," Shane acknowledged, "I just didn't factor in the run distance. Aha ha… ha…"

    They jogged down the hill in tandem. The grass and dirt gave way to a sandy beach that sparkled in the moonlight. The cool sand soothed Shane's sore paws. He sighed contently. Tessa slowed up and looked around.

    "I don't see them anywhere," she reported.

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Puh-lease. Like they would really just stand in the middle of a wide-open beach. They may not have sounded like the sharpest tacks in the toolkit, but no introductory boss could be that stupid. Maybe they went somewhere else?"

    "That doesn't make sense. The Cape's the only place in this direction besides Aeon Town," Tessa said. "Maybe they found somewhere to hide?"

    "Like that giant wall of trees over there?" Shane said, jerking his head back.

    Tessa's eyes widened. "No way! That's part of the boundary of Dewdrop Woods," she said. "They, um, wouldn't try to breach a Mystery Dungeon and hide there just to seal a scarf, would they? They'd get jumped by wild Pokémon for sure."

    "What are you asking me for? I don't know a thing about this place, other then it's wet and sandy," Shane scoffed. "Feels nice after that run, though. We ought to come here again sometime."

    Tessa slumped over. "Then, it's hopeless, isn't it?"

    "Hey, cut it out with that quitter talk, Riolu! We're not giving up yet," Shane said, slapping her on the back. Tessa whirled on him with an angry look, but Shane ignored her. "Look at me. I died on the first Goomba in World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. the first time I ever played it. And did I break the game cartridge in a rage? No. I mean, I was playing an emulator, so there wasn't a cartridge to break and I definitely wasn't about to smash Dad's computer. But, the point is, I kept at it and, a few months later, I was able to beat the game!"

    Tessa gave him a confused look. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I thought we were here to get my scarf back. Are you telling me you think it's going to take months?"

    Shane rolled his eyes. "No. I'm saying that, even if they're not out in the open, those two still sounded like a pair of knuckleheads," Shane said. "No way they're bright enough to have a solid escape route planned out. Especially if they just scooped up your scarf on a whim."

    "You seem remarkably confident for someone who doesn't even know where he's going," Tessa sighed. She was about to say something else when her aura feelers twitched. "Wait a tic." She scanned the beachfront. "I think someone's out there."

    "Why, cause your little face baubles told you?" Shane scoffed. "Man, sure must be nice having magic aura-sensing powers at your beck and call." His snout wrinkled. "All glory to the aura wielder. Making every other Pokémon look bad since the mid-2000's."

    He huffed and looked away, pouting. 'Was it really too much to ask for me to be a Riolu? I never get what I want.'

    "I can't really control it, you know," Tessa mumbled, rubbing one of the feelers.

    "Seriously?" Shane cocked an eyebrow. "Oh god, are you, like, actually a little kid?"

    "What? No," Tessa said, looking a bit insulted at that.

    "Then what's the problem? Are you sick or disabled?" He rolled his eyes. 'Figures something like this would happen. I get to be around a real Riolu and she can't even use any aura. Good grief. There's bad luck and then there's my luck.'

    "I just... I don't have anyone to teach me how to use aura, okay?" Tessa said. "If my feelers twitch like this, I can pick up some traces of another Pokémon's presence. But it's only for the briefest of moments and…" Her brow furrowed. "Oh, why am I wasting time explaining this to you anyway? Let's just keep going."

    "To where?"

    "Over by that rock formation." Tessa pointed a paw forward. She and Shane cautiously approached the area. As they did, Tessa's aura feelers twitched again. "I think we're getting close."

    "Well, we sure won't hear anything if you keep flapping those gums."

    Tessa reached out and clamped Shane's snout. His eyes went wide. "Quiet! They're talking," she said.

    "Kweh heh heh heh! Like taking candy off a hatchling," Sneasel's voice carried from behind the rocks.

    Jangmo-o whistled. "It's so sparkly. Like it's made out of gems."


    "You dope. They don't make clothing out of gems," Sneasel barked. "How would a 'mon wear something like that? It'd be wicked uncomfortable."

    "Maybe for you."

    "Well, some of us don't have scales," Sneasel pointed out. "Especially not ones shaped like wussy li'l hearts. Ain't that right, heart-face?"

    "Oh yeah? Well... well... I'd rather have a scaly face than a feather popping out of my head," Jangmo-o countered. "It looks all girly."

    "Then catch!"

    "Augh!" Jangmo-o hollered. "What'd ya do that for? I don't want this thing."

    "There. Now you're the girly one," Sneasel laughed. "Go on, twirl around for me with that frilly scarf. Kweh heh heh!"

    "Nnnrrrrggghhhhh." Tessa gnashed her teeth together. She released her grip on Shane's mouth and jumped across the rock formation. "Gimme my scarf back!" she shouted.

    Sneasel and Jangmo-o jumped to attention. "What the–?" Sneasel narrowed his eyes at Tessa. "Hey, ain't that the broad we swiped this scarf from?"

    "Either that, or she has a twin sister," Jangmo-o replied. "She's got the same extra fur tufts over her ears."

    Sneasel rubbed his claws together. "Kweh heh heh heh! You actually tailed us out here? That's cute. Real cute. But you're a fool if you think you can take us alone," he taunted.

    'Well, I guess that's my cue,' Shane thought. "Who said anything about Riolu being alone?" he bellowed, trotting out from his hiding spot and puffing out his chest. "Well?" He looked at Tessa with a smirk. "How was that? Pretty heroic entrance, eh? Anyway." He cleared his throat. "Surrender… you fiends! Return the scarf at once."

    Sneasel and Jangmo-o exchanged looks, only to break down laughing. Shane's expression faltered. "Hey! What's the big idea? You should be, I dunno, quaking in fear or something. Don't you have any idea who you're messing with?"

    Tessa's shoulders slouched. 'I don't like where this is going.'

    "Kweh heh heh heh! We should be afraid? Of what, you, Snowy? Don't make me laugh," Sneasel dismissed.

    "But, you laughed before you said that, dude," Jangmo-o pointed out.

    Sneasel whirled on his counterpart, a vein bulging out of his forehead. "How's a guy supposed to talk tough if his partner's not backing him up, huh?"

    Jangmo-o stiffened. "Err… uh… well…" He narrowed his eyes at Shane and Tessa. "We stole this scarf fair and square. Back off or we'll have to get nasty!"

    "Oh yeah?" Shane jumped at the two of them. "Well, take this!"

    He opened his mouth, only to cough up a puff of air. His eyes widened. "Hey, what's the big idea? Where's my attack?" he gasped.

    "It's right here!" Sneasel shouted, slamming into Shane with a sudden burst of speed. Shane fell into the sand with a holler.

    "Your turn, puppy-girl. This is for ruining our patented super speedy getaway special!" Jangmo-o cried. He charged at a trembling Tessa.

    'No, no, no, no. This is not how this was supposed to go down!' She raised up her arms in a vain attempt at shielding. 'Oh pleeeeeeease let this work.'

    Jangmo-o tackled Tessa, but she maintained her balance. Her arms glowed red and she swung both fists at her attacker. She socked Jangmo-o right in the snout. He stumbled back in a daze. "Owie! Owie!" His eyes teared up. "Sneasel! She countered me right in the schnozzle. That's not faaaaair. Tell her to fight fair!"

    "That's a bit rich coming from you, don't you think?" Tessa growled. 'Thank the gods, it actually worked.'

    "Oh yeah? Well… well… if you're gonna be like that, then I've got no qualms about doing… this!" Jangmo-o scooped up some sand in his claws and hurled it at Tessa. She threw up her paws, but her reaction time was too slow. Coarse granules scratched Tessa's eyes, turning her vision blurry. Tessa stumbled back, trying to brush the sand out of her eyes. Jangmo-o charged forward and tackled her to the ground.

    "C'mon, Riolu! That was weak. Put your back into it," Shane barked from beside her.

    "Why don't you worry about yourself, Snowy? Kweh heh heh!" Sneasel cackled. He darted forward, seemingly disappearing before Shane's eyes. Next thing he knew, Sneasel reappeared beside him, knocking him back into the sand.

    "Auugggh! Pleeechff… gwwwaaaaf!" Shane coughed up sand. He ran his tongue across the insides of his cheeks, and nearly gagged. "Dang it! Why can't I make an attack? Where's the fire?" He jumped to his feet and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. "Come on, stupid, girly Vulpix body. Flame on! Torch 'em! Get all fired up! Fire in the hole!" He clenched a forepaw. "Why isn't any of this working? Ugh, this is why I wanted to be a Riolu!"

    "Kweh heh heh! Your friend Snowy's a few berries short of a bush, toots," Sneasel cackled, rubbing his claws together. "All the better for easy pickings."

    Shane shot Tessa a panicked look. "Riolu. Why can't I use Ember? I'm a Vulpix, right?"

    "I'm… a bit busy… OOF!" Tessa and Jangmo-o collided with one another mid-charge. They bounced back in opposite directions.

    Sneasel doubled over in laughter. "A Vulpix using Ember? What rocks are rattling around in your brain, Snowy? You're half a world off in your thinking." He disappeared into the shadows again, and then struck Shane from behind. Shane whimpered as he skidded across the sand. Dusty streaks formed across his pristine, white coat.

    "Get a load of this clown, Jangmo-o. He really thinks he's like them orange Vulpixes across the ocean. What a riot!" Sneasel taunted.

    "You idiot," Tessa shouted from ahead of him, "Why would you even suggest trying to fight these guys if you don't even know how to use your own moves?"

    "Well, I… I thought I could just use Ember. It's the low-level fire-type move. That's how it works when a Pokémon starts out battling, right?" Shane groaned, trying to lumber to his feet.

    Tessa ducked a lunging Jangmo-o and whirled on Shane. "Fire-type? Have you completely lost your mind? You're an ice-type, you ditz! How could you not have known that? Look at your fur color!"

    "Wait, what?" Shane's jaw dropped. "Is that your idea of witty battling banter? It needs serious work!"

    Tessa glared at him. "For the love of... does it look like I'm joking to you?"

    Shane's eyes widened. "No way! An ice-type Vulpix? What sort of messed up universe is this, huh?"

    "The one that's gonna be your end, Snowy! Kweh heh heh heh!"

    Shane yipped in fright and tunneled into the sand. Sneasel emerged from the shadows, but sailed right over him. Shane popped his brown, sand-covered head up.

    'An ice-type? Then I should know an ice-type move, right?' he figured. 'Okay, Shane, make or break time. You've just gotta think cold. Ice cubes. Popsicles. The freezer aisle at the old grocery store with those god-awful pizzas. My bedroom during the winter because running the heat's too expensive. Aha!'

    A chill ran across Shane's fur and numbness spread down his limbs. He opened his mouth and a flurry of snowflakes rushed out. Sneasel flinched and threw his claws over his face. "Holy Karp! I am an ice-type," Shane gasped. "Are you kidding me? This is terrible! Ice is, like, the most garbage-tier of all the types. I'd have even taken poison over this. What, did I piss this world's Arceus off or something? I definitely didn't ask to have my Pokémon life set to 'hard mode!'"

    "Finally realized the obvious, did we?" Sneasel wiped frost from his brow. "Well, it ain't gonna make no difference. I can withstand Powder Snows all night. Kweh heh heh!"

    A lightbulb went off in Shane's head. "Riolu!" he shouted, sprinting away from Sneasel.

    "Not… nnngh… now!" Tessa grunted, trading blows with Jangmo-o once again. A short gust of snowy air raced past her shoulder and struck Jangmo-o. He gave a cry of pain as frost covered up his right flank.

    "We're switching targets," Shane instructed.

    "Right, because your other ideas have worked out great so far," Tessa protested.

    Shane grabbed Tessa's shoulders with his forepaws and spun her around. Sneasel charged the duo down, brandishing his claws. "Go for it, champ. I believe in you," Shane said, shoving Tessa forward. He spun around to face the dazed Jangmo-o.

    "Nuh-not c-c-c-c-cool," Jangmo-o said, tiny fangs chattering in his mouth.

    "Oh, wait! Time out!" Shane held up a forepaw. "That's a perfect setup for my first heroic one-liner. Ahem…" He straightened himself up. "On the contrary, you ugly little Cranidos wannabe. It's very cool!" he proclaimed. He gave Jangmo-o a cheeky grin. "Eh? Eh? What'd you think? Pretty good, huh?" Jangmo-o looked at Shane in disbelief. "Bah, everyone's a critic," Shane grumbled, and then released another flurry of snowflakes.

    Jangmo-o was ready this time and jumped back. When he did, his body started glowing red. "Oh no you don't. You can't run from me. I've got type advantage on my side, villainous scum!" Shane declared. He dashed forward, spewing more snow. Jangmo-o dug in his legs and absorbed the blow. The scale on his forehead lit up bright white in the night.

    "Huh?" Shane's snout stiffened.

    "Vulpix, get outta there!" Shane heard Tessa cry from behind him. She and Sneasel had just bounced back after smacking into one another. "He's Biding. If he redirects that attack on you, it's gonna hurt."

    "Eh?" Shane turned around and his eyes widened as a glowing Jangmo-o charged him down. "Ahh! No… stay back… stay BACK!" He gave a loud, girlish shriek. Jangmo-o halted mid-charge. An invisible force grabbed hold of him and flung him back into one of the nearby rocks.

    "Gnaaaaaargh!" Jangmo-o cried. His stored energy evaporated around him.

    "Alright!" Shane cheered. "What the heck did I just do? Did I learn Hyper Voice in my first battle? Man, I am totally awesome! I'm gonna be the best human savior this world's ever seen."

    No sooner did he finish that sentence then Sneasel popped out of the shadows and slammed into him from behind. Shane faceplanted into the sand. "So, Snowy thinks he's a big-shot because he Roared my partner at the right time, huh?" Sneasel scoffed. "Well that's nothing but a dirty lie. Kweh heh heh!"

    "Sorry, Vulpix!" Tessa called. She flash-stepped forward, using the burst of speed to charge into Sneasel. The two tumbled across the sand.

    "It's… pllletttth… Shane," Shane grumbled, spitting out more sand.

    "Sneasel, it ain't fair!" Jangmo-o whined. "They ain't supposed to use tactics against us. I don't see no guild badges on 'em. We've been bamboozled!"

    Sneasel and Tessa staggered to their feet. "Huh. So, that's your game huh? Kweh heh heh! Not bad, girlie."

    Tessa narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"

    "You pretend to be all innocent and weak. Then you tail a couple of decent-looking targets and knock 'em about," Sneasel replied. "That's pretty low… even by our standards. How long you been on the outlaw board for, huh?"

    "I am not a thug," Tessa declared. Sneasel darted from his spot, disappearing into the shadows. He reemerged and struck Tessa in the chest. But as she stumbled back, she swung her right arm around. Red light flared up around her fist. She smacked Sneasel in the gut.

    "Aaaaagh!" Sneasel spun about from the force of the blow. He stumbled about for a few steps before collapsing onto his belly.

    "Sneasel!" Jangmo-o's eyes widened. Shane jumped in his path.

    "There. Now, surrender that scarf or I'll turn you into a lizardsicle," Shane declared.

    Jangmo-o unwrapped the scarf. "Fine. You want it so bad? Here…" He used his jaw to hurl it forward. "Take it!"

    The scarf blinded Shane. He let out a surprised gasp and stumbled back. Jangmo-o bore down and charged at him. Tessa saw the scene happening and immediately tried to run forward. But Jangmo-o was much closer to Shane. Just as he pulled the scarf off his eyes, Jangmo-o slammed into him.


    His hardened forehead scale tore the scarf in half as he and Shane fell to the ground.


    Tessa staggered to a stop. Jangmo-o looked down and saw the torn halves. "Sweet! Now we can get twice as much for these," he cackled. But as he lunged to scoop up the halves, Tessa sped forward and shoulder-tackled him. Jangmo-o smacked the sand with a resounding thump and went limp. Tessa tossed sand on Jangmo-o's face for good measure, and then got to her feet. She trudged over to her torn scarf. Shane sat beside the halves, looking particularly pleased with himself.

    "Well, the going got a bit rough there at the start, but the side of good prevailed in the end. Isn't that right, Riolu?"

    Tessa kneeled down and gingerly scooped up the two strips of cloth. She rested them on her knee and dusted them off. "My... my scarf..." she whimpered. "Dad's scarf. It's ruined."

    "Riolu? Hello? Anyone home?" Shane started waving a forepaw in front of her face. "Shouldn't we, uh, find someone to arrest those guys?"

    "Uuuuuuurrrrrgh… y-you… got lucky, Snowy."

    Shane whirled around to see Sneasel up on one knee.

    "Kweh… heh… you and girlie over there… better hope… you don't see us… again," Sneasel panted. He managed to scoop up Jangmo-o and rest him on his shoulder. "Next time… no kiddie gloves…"

    "Ah yes, the old 'we were taking it easy on you,' cop out," Shane said. "What's the matter? Not 'mon enough to admit you got beaten by a white Vulpix?" He turned around and switched his tails about at Sneasel. "It's okay… I'd be embarrassed if I were you, too."

    "Ooog… Sneasel," Jangmo-o coughed, sliding off his shoulder, "We won't get no rematch if we stick around here. We've gotta execute plan R!"

    Shane raised an eyebrow. "And that is?"

    "Run away!" they shouted in unison and scurried along the beach, stumbling the whole way.

    Shane kicked the sand. "Crud, we've got to go after them!"

    "… forget it, Vulpix."

    Shane turned around to see Tessa back on her feet, cradling the halves of her scarf. "Look at us. We're all banged up and dead tired," she said. Shane looked over the tan streaks staining his pelt. Blood rushed into his face. "We're not gonna catch them," Tessa continued.

    'Ugh! If I was a Riolu like her, this wouldn't look so stupid. Heck, if I was a normal Vulpix, it wouldn't look that bad,' Shane groaned. 'But, she's got a point. My legs and chest feel heavy enough already.'

    "What about your scarf?" Shane asked.

    "Don't you mean 'scarves?'" Tessa separated them, letting them dangle uselessly in her arms. Jangmo-o had cleaved the scarf cleanly in half. The two halves were equally-sized, with each one having frayed threads on the end that had gotten cut.

    "Oh..." Shane whispered, lowering his head. "Crap... I really mucked that up, didn't I?"

    Tessa slung the half ending with the moon pattern around her neck. "Well… it fits much better now. No more tripping over it. I guess that's a consolation… or something." Her ears folded against her head.

    Shane perked back up, failing to read the disappointment in Tessa's voice "It sure is! Now you've got two of them. See, something good came out of this after all." He smiled at her.

    "I guess so," Tessa mumbled. She noticed Shane continuing to look right at her. "Uh… can I help you?"

    "Well, y'know, you've got that other scarf half there," Shane said, pawing at the ground. "I thought, I dunno, that maybe I could have it?"

    Tessa clasped the other half of the scarf against her chest. "And why would I do something like that? We're not friends."

    Shane's muzzle stiffened. "Aww, c'mon. We battled together pretty well. I'm telling you, we could make a great team."

    'There it is again,' Tessa thought. 'I know my heroes all started off fighting small-time thugs, but this just has to be a coincidence. Besides, we nearly choked big time. And... and...'

    Tessa frowned. "We hardly worked well, at all. You leaped into action without even knowing if you could use any moves... and you had the gall to scold me when you weren't doing anything to help!"

    "Well, yeah, I suppose you're right. But once I found my rhythm I–"

    "You tried to use Ember and called yourself a fire-type," Tessa reminded him. "You didn't even realize I was facing a dragon-type at first, did you?"

    "In my defense, in the world I'm from we don't have things like that Jangmo-o guy," Shane said. "Besides, he didn't use any dragon-type attacks. No harm, no foul. And I already told you before, Vulpixes are fire-types in my world. They have orange fur and–"

    "But this isn't your world," Tessa said. "The fire-type Vulpixes are only in the continents an ocean away from us. And since you clearly don't know as much as you claim to about this continent, whatever makes you think that I would want to go exploring with someone like you? Your breed of recklessness could get an unsuspecting Pokémon killed!"

    She bit her lip. 'Please... please just say something that will reassure me. I want this to work, but I know better than to get my hopes up over this.'

    "Okay, I get you're hesitant. But I can give you a great reason to adventure with me," Shane chuckled. "I'm a human in a world of Pokémon. There are legends about what folks like me can do. That makes me important and you, as the Pokémon who found me first, equally important… by extension, of course."

    'Is it really true, though?' Tessa wondered. 'Are you like the rest of them? Would... would that really make me special, too?' Her lips pursed. "You're assuming things, Vulpix."

    "It's Shane."

    "… whatever." Tessa flicked a paw. "You don't even know why you're here, right?"

    "Well, no, but I assume I–"

    Tessa quickly pounced on that statement. "Aha, see. You 'assume.' That means you don't know. So, who's to say you didn't just get brought here by accident? For all we know… no, for all anyone knows, there could be dozens of humans-turned-Pokémon running around here that don't have legends about them. All because they were dragged here by accident." She jabbed a digit into Shane's sternum and he tensed up.

    Shane sucked in a weak gasp of air. His chest tightened and he clutched it with a forepaw. 'Accident?' he repeated. His jaw locked up. Sharp, pointed, invisible edges dug into his hide. Shane violently lurched his body forward, forcing Tessa to step back. His tails curled up against his rear and his muscles spasmed. He mouthed the word "accident."

    "V... Vulpix?" Tessa gasped. 'What did I do to him?'

    Shane swayed back and forth. Tessa stepped toward him, expecting him to pass out again. To her surprise, he blinked a few times and shook his head. "Nnngh... wh... what happened?"

    Tessa managed to stuff her animosity toward Shane back in the deeper recesses of her mind. 'What was that? It didn't look like something he could just fake.' Her brow furrowed. "Mind explaining yourself, there?"

    "Huh?" Shane looked about in confusion. "What do you mean? Weren't you in the middle of accusing me of assuming stuff? Which, by the way, I'm totally not doing."

    Tessa's snout stiffened. 'This is some sort of mind game, right? He totally had a breakdown the moment I said I thought his arrival was an accident. Did he black out or something? Well, I guess this as good a chance as any to figure something important out.'

    She frowned as Shane rubbed his head with a foreleg. "Let me ask you something, Vulpix. Why me, huh? Why do I have to be your partner?"

    Shane froze, looking like a deer caught in a car's headlights. "Uh, well..." he stammered, pawing nervously at the ground. "I just... I dunno... I like you."

    "How can you say that when we've only been together one afternoon?" Tessa asked.

    "I don't know how to explain it. You give off a good vibe," Shane said, giving her a big smile.

    'He... he can't really thing that, can he? Nobody would say something like that to me except for Eevee. Did he tell Vulpix to say that?' Tessa shuffled about nervously. "That's still not good enough," she said.

    Shane bowed his head, sighing loudly. "Look, I just really like Riolus, okay. I think they're awesome." He gave her a pleading look. "You have no idea how long I've dreamed about something like this."

    Tessa crossed her arms and raised a skeptical brow. "I thought Pokémon weren't real where you were from."

    "I could still dream about it," Shane whispered. He looked back up at Tessa. "Isn't there anything I could do to convince you I'm worth your time?"

    "Apologize to me."

    "Huh?" Shane tilted his head. "What for?"

    "For rushing into battle... and getting my scarf ripped," Tessa said.

    Shane frowned. "But–" He cut himself off, wincing at the serious look in Tessa's eyes. "Okay. I'm sorry I rushed into battle. And I'm sorrier I got your scarf torn up. I'll try not to bungle things up again."

    'Something tells me that's as good as I'm gonna get,' Tessa thought. She cleared her throat. "Okay, I can accept that."

    "Ah, finally coming around, are we?" Shane asked, chuckling.

    Tessa narrowed her eyes. "Don't push it, okay. I gave you a place to stay and you helped me get my scarf back... sorta. That makes us even."

    "I guess that's fair," Shane replied. An awkward silence came over them. "So, uh, does this mean you'll come with me to the guild?" Shane batted his eyelids at Tessa.

    She shuffled backward. "I... I don't think I can."

    Her mother again leaped to the front of her mind. Lucario stood in the doorway, firmly clutching a badge in her paw. "There's something I need to do, Tessa," she said. "It's guild business, so I can't tell you about it. Go stay with Sylveon until I return. I promise… I won't be long."

    The image quickly faded, only for a new one to replace it in her mind: an Absol glaring at her with as much intensity as he could muster, pointing the tip of his scythe forward.

    "Don't you ever let me catch you setting foot in that guild. If you do, I won't hesitate to strike you down!"

    Tessa jolted to attention and rapidly shook her head. "I'm sorry!" she blurted out. "I can't… I can't do that. If… if you want to go there," she said with a gulp, "you'll just have to find someone else."

    "But you just said you'd be okay working with me," Shane reminded her. "And, well, I'm in a strange land. With no friends or family. And no idea what to do. The guild's my best option if I'm going to figure out what to do about my current situation."

    "I'm sorry, Vulpix, but I can't help you," Tessa insisted. "Please drop this subject."

    "… no!" Shane responded, causing Tessa to tense up.

    "W-Why not?" she growled.

    "Look, Riolu." Shane's gaze fell to the beach and he pawed at the sand. "You don't like me. I get it. But we can make this work somehow. We battled together pretty well, didn't we?"

    He extended a green, sand-coated paw toward Tessa. She clutched the scarf around her neck. 'I really do want to, but I can't,' she thought. 'Every time I get close to the guild, I…' The same image of an Absol barking at her flashed through her mind.

    Tessa straightened up her stance. 'Enough is enough. Fate may have given me the opportunity I've been praying for. To be popular! To be famous! So, I can't turn tail and run. Every pair of heroes formed a duo of some sort. And now it's my turn. Besides, Sylveon told me it's the best way to figure out where Mom went. I don't care what Gallian says… if I go with Vulpix, everyone will hopefully pay attention to him and leave me alone.'

    Tessa took a deep breath. 'Even if I think Vulpix is far from perfect, I should stick with him. Then I can be famous, just like he said. People will actually pay attention to me. I won't be a loser anymore. Everyone will want to be friends with me... just like I've dreamed of.'

    Tessa took another deep breath and closed her eyes. She then extended the other half of her scarf forward. "Don't read too deep into this, okay?" she said. "I'm just giving you this so it'll look like we coordinated a bit before going to the guild. So, here. Take it."

    Tessa opened her eyes and thought she saw Shane's eyes sparkle. He snatched the scarf up in his mouth and slung it around his neck. "Alright! This is gonna be great!" He stuck out a forepaw toward Tessa. "Uh? You gonna fist-bump me or not?"

    "No," Tessa replied. "And there are conditions attached to this. First off, I reserve the right to back out of this if I think it's a bad idea. Understand?"

    "Pfffbttt, you'll have nothing to worry about there," Shane assured. Tessa glared at him. "Okay, okay, I agree. Whatever."

    Tessa nodded. "Good. And, for the other condition, we're not going right away."

    Shane blinked in confusion. "What? Why?"

    "Because we need to do some training first," Tessa said. "I want to be absolutely sure you can use your moves when you need to so we don't have a repeat of this performance. Y'know, in case there's some sort of entrance exam or something."

    "P'shaaaw, you're overthinking this. They'll be happy to have us."

    Tessa crossed her arms. "That's my other condition. Either put up with it or the deal's off."

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Fine, if you insist." He sauntered up beside Tessa. "Come tomorrow, when I dazzle you with my attacks, you'll realize we're just wasting time."


    ~Sunrise Village, Sylveon's House~

    "There you two are!" Sylveon grabbed hold of Shane and Tessa with her ribbons and dragged them in through the doorway. "Where did you run off to at this time of night? Do you have any idea how worried I was?"

    Tessa looked down guiltily. "It's my fault, Sylveon," she admitted. "I thought I heard someone shouting outside. And then a pair of thugs tried to steal my scarf. I woke Vulpix up and we chased them to Azure Cape. Things… got a bit out of control from there."

    "I can see that," Sylveon said. "Your scarf got cut in half. And you two are positively filthy. Are you sure you're okay?"

    "I'm a little banged up, but it's not that bad," Shane said. "We managed to walk all the way home from the beach without any trouble." He took a step forward, intending to emphasize his point. However, his legs gave out, and he flopped onto his belly. "Oooooooog," he groaned.

    "You're far from okay, Vulpix," Sylveon declared. "I want you heading right to bed and you are not getting up until I say it's okay. Do I make myself clear?"

    "Crystal, ma'am," Shane muttered. Next thing he knew, Sylveon's feelers had wrapped up his torso. Sylveon carried him off toward Tessa's room. Tessa waited until the door closed, and then lumbered toward the couch.


    She froze, and then turned around. "Hi, Eevee," she whispered. "I didn't wake you, did I?"

    "Did something happen? You're all dirty," Eevee squeaked.

    "Oh it's, uh, nothing important." She tried to give Eevee a reassuring smile. "Run back to bed."

    "Okay," Eevee said. "Good night, Tessa."

    Tessa let out a yawn. "Good night, Eevee." She watched her friend retreat into his room. Then she lay down on the couch and stared up at the ceiling.

    'Mom,' she thought. 'I'm gonna do it. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna fail. Just like with your aura training. But if I don't... then I'm finally going to be someone that you can be proud of... wherever you are.' She rolled onto her side, burying her face into a cushion.

    'I just hope this isn't a huge mistake...'

    End of Episode 1


    I did say the early episodes would be short. ^^
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  11. Flaze

    Flaze Don't Look Away

    Blog Posts:
    Sep 17, 2008
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    So, Shane basically sucks at Super Mario Bros. somehow.

    That should be "The one that's gonna" if anything.

    I actually really liked the length of this one, maybe not much happened in regards to the story since it was just the fight against Sneasel and Jangmo-o, but it was long enough to make for a fun read without being too long or exhausting to read like at some points of chapter one. It also had a nice flow that makes it easy to read through, particularly with the dialogue.

    First of all, and this acts more as a warning for everyone, this story clearly isn't trying to be super serious or edgy or existential or anything (at least not now) and that's completely fine, you manage to capture the sense of the PMD games and add enough self-awareness to make it stand out. It's a fun kid-friendly adventure and that's not something you should take as an insult, contrary to what most people think it's pretty hard to write a story that everyone, especially kids can enjoy. It's true that you still lack a lot when it comes to the description of the setting or the character's emotions, especially with how you emphasize looking into character's mindsets, which I advised you against overusing. Like you can do it from time to time but you can rely on the description to show us these feelings, like having Tessa clench her scarf and think back to how she felt when she couldn't enter the guild before.

    Action-wise and I gotta judge action since you had a battle, I can't exactly say anything yet. It was a serviceable fight with a description that was easy enough for me to imagine without feeling overwhelming, but it didn't really thrill me either. I mean, it was mostly funny trying to see how Shane figured out what he could do and in general the fight had a more comedic feel thanks to their banter with Sneasel and Jangmo-o.

    Character-wise I got a bit more feel for shame this time. So far he doesn't actually seem like a self-insert, in fact he seems to be a parody if such characters with how whiny he can get when he doesn't get what he wants and the fact he thinks he can just get everything without effort. It's a bit weird to remember that he was an adult back when he was human, but I guess this goes into showing how immature he really was even if he acted like he wasn't. I'm actually curious as to what he'll do once things start getting tough on him and if he finds out that he's not meant for anything big...though we know he is, so there's little weigh tot this. I think it would add a lot more if we didn't get the whole thing with the evil voice in the prologue, at least if you want to make Shane questioning whether he has a purpose or not a recurring thread.

    Also I like his banter with Tessa, it's funny but it also makes me feel pretty sad for her with how arrogant and selfish Shane is, not to mention inconsiderate.

    Otherwise, it was a fun chapter. Like I said, it doesn't do much for moving the story but it at least brough the characters closer and gave us some hints as to how their dynamics will develop.
    Ambyssin likes this.
  12. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    Yup! Hold onto that thought, because something similar will get brought up again. :p

    Right. Generally speaking, if a chapter's getting to 8k words I look to stop it, and possibly move some scenes around or into a new chapter. Sticking the prologue into Chapter 1 probably bloated things up a bit.

    Yeah. I'm aware of that. Full disclosure: when I originally outlined it, I had meant for it to be a comedy. And then I kept making revisions to my story outline and that gradually faded. I know it seems very lighthearted now, but that's really just A) me trying to be faithful to the source material (PMD games start as very lighthearted affairs until certain points, and then they get dark quickly), and B) this is my first story and I didn't just want to be dark or edgy for the sake of being edgy. So, yes, these early episodes will be on the softer side. Things will probably start shifting in tone in Episodes 4 and 5, and then take a bit of a nosedive after that.

    Sorry about that. The original versions of these chapters were too vague, according to feedback that I got. I guess I was just overly-worried about having too much exposition. I'll try to see if I can strike a better balance with these next chapters.

    It was really just meant to be an introductory "tackle battle," so to speak. The longer the story goes on, the further I'll be moving from "X used Y move."

    Yeah, no desire to do anything self-insert related. Yes, he's supposed to be acting rather childish, but I don't want to say why because that might spoil some stuff later.

    If I do my job right, then hopefully you'll like what I've got in store for him. The fact that you're sort of rooting for reality to "hit him hard," certainly helps. As to the very loud voice, you'll need to give that one some time, because I assure you it may wind up having a very different meaning down the road.

    Good, then that means I did my job right. They're really going to need time to work through things. Their relationship will be a pretty big focal point for the story. Thanks again for the review. ^^
  13. kintsugi

    kintsugi they call me Clark Kint

    Blog Posts:
    May 9, 2013
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    Hahaha, I love this introduction. It's a nice callback to the "I can't use my legs" from the previous chapter, but it's also a hidden detail with the human-turned-pokemon thing.
    That being said, I think that if you're going to open this can of worms, you might have to go a little deeper. I wonder if the issue wouldn't be the cardio/physical strain (since presumably his body is just any other quadruped body, so those muscle groups would still exist/be active), but the fact that he's not able to coordinate his legs properly.

    Interestingly, I have now added "do foxes sweat" to my search history. The answer appears to be that, while they have sweat glands, they don't sweat for cooling purposes (it's for scenting/marking territory). Like dogs, they mostly deal with excess heat by panting.
    And I mean, yeah, they can't breathe ice either, so this is kind of a moot point, but it's a cool thing for realism purposes. Would an ice-type even have to use sweating to get rid of body heat? The Moon Pokedex actually says "In hot weather, this Pokémon makes ice shards with its six tails and sprays them around to cool itself off." -- so while Shane can't do this because he's so inept at his ice-type attacks/is trying to breathe fire, it doesn't make sense that his body would have sweat glands at all/any Alolan-Vulpix would evolve the glands to sweat alongside the spraying ice shards version.


    "Breech" is for pants used in the colonial era; I think you meant "breach".
    This is actually something I want to see addressed, heh. If I lived in a society where there were wild Humans in the forest who were mostly similar to us except for being Wild, and it was okay to beat the crap out of them... I dunno, there's a ton of worldbuilding stuff here.
    I like the way you use dialogue to keep things light. This is probably my favorite example of it -- it's so easy to go into hammy speeches about not giving up, but this keeps things grounded. This reminds us that they're just running on a beach chasing after a scarf (albeit an important one); it's important to this exact moment but we aren't going to need an epic choir backing or anything.

    I like the direction that you took the end of this battle in. They pull the "let's switch opponents to win" trick, and it does work for a bit, but then Sneasel decides to ignore the "you can only fight one person at the same time" rule. The scarf gets symbolically cut in half, two pieces for two explorers, but lol Tessa points out that she literally has no reason to give him a family heirloom, they don't fight well together, he isn't special. If anything, I kind of wish you'd explored that idea more, although I do look forward to seeing where you're going to take this character dynamic in the future.
    Ambyssin likes this.
  14. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    Thanks. I thought it would make a nice juxtaposition to Shane trying to build up Tessa's confidence from the end of the last chapster.

    The intent was really more of a slight gag to show there's a few different problems, coordination being one. But the other being that he's now running on a trail with no sneakers to protect his sensitive feet. A bit of life-to-fic with that, because I used to do trail running back in high school and even with sneakers I may have torn my quadriceps during a 9k.

    I'm calling cartoon physics here. But, even if I wasn't going by that, it still wouldn't work for him... for reasons that'll come up much later.

    I did. Thanks! XP

    The dungeons will start to get addressed in the next chapter. Needless to say they're... not really going to work like the ones in the games do.

    This was supposed to be a relatively low-key affair, so I'm happy to hear it. We'll get the choir going in about 30 chapters or so.

    If I can do my job right, the heroes will progress in strength (and teamwork). As to the idea of Shane not being special, it's really going to be a subject that's drip fed in a piecemeal fashion. The point of that (in combination with Shane saying he went to bed and woke up a Vulpix) was to show that Shane can remember everything except his last day as a human. He's not consciously aware of the fatal accident that led him here. Whether or not he actually finds out, well, that's coming later. Thanks for reviewing! ^^
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 3

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

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    Feb 4, 2018
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    Time to kick off Episode 2. This chapter was originally posted on August 17th, 2017. Enjoy!


    ~Aeon Town~

    Shane sat underneath the awning of a small building. Its exterior was stylized to look like the face of a Kecleon, with the awning serving as an extension of its green and yellow forehead. The sweet smell of berries and other fruits tickled his nostrils, and he soon found himself gulping down saliva.

    "There… I think that's enough supplies."

    Tessa walked out of the town's Kecleon Shop, patting her comically inflated satchel with a paw. Shane raised a skeptical eyebrow. To him, it appeared that Tessa was about to topple over from the weight of her bag. "How much stuff did you buy, anyway?" he asked.

    "Well, given that we're not official guild members yet, I only had access to a limited variety of items," she explained. "So, I got us a handful of apples, four oran berries, a pair of elixirs to keep our energy up, and some geo pebbles."

    Shane blinked rapidly, trying to process her list. "That… seems like overkill," he confessed. "You seriously bought a bunch of dead-weight rocks?"

    "Why not? I've heard they can sock an enemy pretty well if you toss 'em right," Tessa said.

    "What do you think this guild is going to have us do, summit Horizon's tallest mountain? We're gonna be fine," Shane insisted. "If anything, that overstuffed pack of yours will just slow us down."

    "It doesn't hurt to properly prepare," Tessa insisted. "One could get hungry while exploring, for instance."

    "I'm well aware of that, thank you. I have a stomach. And it's definitely working," Shane harrumphed. "Now let's stop lollygagging and get to the guild already. It's time to meet some fresh, friendly faces!" Shane turned and looked about the town. "Uh… let's see." He tapped his chin. "If we came from the left, then we should probably go to the right…"

    "The guild's on top of the hill overlooking the town square," Tessa explained, guiding him forward.

    As Shane approached the central fountain, he noticed a few Pokémon mingling about in front of one of the few two-story buildings in the area. It stuck out from the houses near it, as its sides had two rounded, blue sections protruding from the first floor. The majority of the building was purple, save for a pair of windows on the second floor. One of which was only half as tall the other.

    Shane's curiosity got the better of him and he asked, "What's with this place?"

    "Oh, that's Crabrawler's Café. It's the main spot for Pokémon to gather and hang out," Tessa explained. "It's really popular with explorers. My mom got me a berry sorbet from there once. It was heavenly."

    "Berry… sorbet?" Despite his personal lack of experience with Pokémon berries, Shane's mouth watered. "Quick!" He jumped in front of the Riolu. "Let's mash up one of those oran berries. I'll use some Powder Snow and we can make homemade sorbet!"

    "Absolutely not. I spent good money on those berries," Tessa said, swinging her satchel back behind her. "You're the one so gung-ho about going to the guild. So, are we going or not?"

    "Oh, relax, I was just having a little fun," Shane dismissed. "You need to lighten up a bit. How are you gonna make a good impression on the guild if you walk in all grumpy?"

    Tessa scowled. "I am not grumpy."

    "Really? Cause that expression could make an Ursaring blush." Shane chuckled and trotted on ahead. He quickly made his way along the dirt path leading up the hill. However, when he turned back, he noticed Tessa progressing much slower. "See, told you that bag would weigh you down," he taunted. "At this rate, it'll be afternoon before we get inside." He ran down to Tessa. As he approached, he noticed Tessa clutching her scarf protectively. "Hey, something the matter?"

    "I… I…" Tessa gulped. "It's just… nerves." Shane suddenly gripped Tessa's shoulders with his forepaws and jostled her back and forth. "Agh!" Tessa barked, shoving Shane back. "And just what was that all about?"

    "Just loosening you up," Shane explained. "There. Now can we get a move on?"

    "Don't touch me without my permission!" Tessa squeaked. Shane hopped back in surprise. Tessa brushed off her shoulders and adjusted her scarf. "And, for the record, no, that didn't help one bit."

    Shane sighed and shook his head. "Well, that's just because I don't have hands. Or magic aura-y powers. Otherwise, I could've done a much better job." He turned and jogged back up the hill. "Maybe we'll luck out and find a Manaphy who could Heart Swap us."

    "I did not just hear you say that!" Tessa barked.

    "Hey, for what it's worth, I think you'd make a great Vulpix. You're already a regular ice queen," Shane quipped. He ran the rest of the way up the hill, laughing.

    Tessa took a deep breath and stared at the ground. 'C'mon, Riolu. Remember... this is be a somebody. This is for fame and admiration!' She marched straight forward, stopping when she felt the fluff of one of Shane's tails against her side. Tessa opened her eyes and found Shane examining the building.

    It was circular, with a foundation of golden stones. Purple tapestries hung off the side of it. Each one had stitched in it a white emblem displaying a crescent moon that overlapped the sun. That same icon was etched into the stone platform positioned right in front of the door. Above the door, a purple triangle stuck straight up into the air, casting a shadow over the grassy knoll the building sat atop.

    "Huh. It kinda looks like a sundial," Shane realized.

    "What? That's no Sandile. Besides, most of the structure's underground anyway. Built into the hill, I think."

    "No, no, I said 'sundial.' They're a, y'know, way to keep track of time?" Shane explained. Tessa gave him a blank look. "Forget it. Must be a human world thing." He tilted his head to the side. "What's with the telescope? Is this place some kind of planetarium or what?"

    "Um…" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf. "If I remember correctly, I think this place is actually called the Aeon Observatory."

    "That so?" Shane raised an eyebrow. "Y'know, for someone who claimed to absolutely, positively want nothing to do with this place you sure do know a lot about it."

    Tessa rolled her eyes. "Don't jump to conclusions. My parents' house is in Aeon Town. I'd have to be pretty clueless not to know about this place. It kind of sticks out against everything else here."

    "Fair enough," Shane said. "Now, how do we get inside?"

    "Well, oh intrepid explorer, I'm not an expert like you, but I suggest we stand on that pedestal in front of the entrance," Tessa replied, pointing to the stone platform in question. Shane glanced at it but had to look away from the light reflecting off its glass surface. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision and walked up to the platform.

    "Didn't need the snark in that answer, but I'll take it," Shane said. His tails wagged slowly as he jumped onto the pedestal. The sun and moon carving suddenly lit up, causing Shane to shield his eyes. "Hey, don't just sit there, Riolu," he called. "Climb on up!"

    "Uh… yeah. Right…" Tessa stammered. She stumbled up beside him, throwing her arms up as bright light filled her vision.

    "Registered, non-guild Pokémon and unregistered Pokémon detected. Stand by for identification!" a shrill voice shouted.

    Shane looked around the pedestal as the glowing circles swirled around them. They soon fizzled out, retreating into the carving.

    "The Pokémon are… Riolu and Vulpix!" the voice announced. "Please state your business!"

    "We're here to join the guild!" Shane bellowed, puffing out his chest.

    "Not so loud, please," Tessa whimpered, glancing nervously around the hill.

    "Understood!" the voice replied. "Please proceed inside!"

    The stone slab in front of the duo spiraled open, revealing the fringes of a bright purple carpet. "Hey, they're already rolling out the welcome mat for us. Awesome!" Shane cheered. He gave Tessa an encouraging shove off the pedestal and booked it inside.

    "Oof! Hey, watch where you're walking," Tessa growled. She checked the contents of her satchel and followed him inside.


    Episode 2: Minor Growing Pains

    Chapter 3: Laying Some Foundations


    ~Aeon Observatory~

    Tessa immediately bumped into Shane on the other side of the doorway. He sat on the carpet, taking in the guild's entryway. "It's… beautiful." He let out a whistle. "Look at that starry sky they painted on the ceiling. I think that's a Luvdisc constellation on the right. Oh... oh! And that's definitely a Solrock over there. And a Lunatone in the corner! This is really pretty. I like all the purple and gold."

    "I guess it's pretty nice," Tessa said with a shrug. She spotted Growlithe sitting in front of a large wooden board, studying it intently. He noticed her and smiled.

    "Hey, you're that Riolu I bumped into a few days ago," he barked, his tail wagging excitedly. "You're back. And you brought a friend! Hello, Riolu's friend!"

    Tessa crossed her arms and turned away from Shane. "We're not friends."

    Shane's ears twitched, but he ignored Tessa. He glanced over at Growlithe. "Oh, so the Vulpixes are backwards here, but the Growlithes made off just fine," he scoffed. "Honestly, how can anyone back in the human world like Vulpix more than Growlithe? It's not even a contest."

    Growlithe tilted his head. "I beg your pardon?"

    Tessa stepped forward and cupped a paw over Shane's mouth. "Err, don't listen to him. He's, uh, new around these parts."

    "Well, I'll be."

    Tessa and Shane jumped to attention at the sound of a new voice. They both noticed a staircase in the corner. A Braviary emerged from it and walked toward the duo. "I was wondering when I'd see ya finally set foot in here," Braviary said. "Ya certainly kept us waiting, huh, Tessa?"

    Shane's eyes sparkled. "A Braviary? Okay, this guild's officially cool in my books," he declared, totally glossing over Braviary's statement.

    "Ha ha. I like the attitude, pardner. But if'n yer expecting flattery to get ya a free pass to apprenticeship, you've saddled up to the wrong place."

    "Of course, sir. Wouldn't think of it," Shane said, giving a nervous laugh. But his expression quickly shifted. "Hey… waaaaaaaait a second." He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Braviary, "I've, uh, 'heard' an accent like that before. You wouldn't happen to know any suspicious-looking Nuzleafs, would you?"

    Braviary scratched his head. "Can't say that I do. Ain't no Nuzleafs living around Horizon, last I knew of."

    Tessa turned to Shane with a look of horror. "What are you doing?" she whispered. "Don't talk to Braviary like that. He's the Guildmaster's assistant!"

    "Sorry." Shane looked down. "It's just that, uh, my instincts tell me not to trust any Pokémon with a kooky accent that acts nice to us. It's a recipe for disaster and double-crossing."

    "I thought you said Pokémon didn't exist where you were from," Tessa hissed.

    "Something the matter, you two?" Braviary asked. "Don't wanna keep the Guildmaster waiting, y'know. So, if'n y'all would head in that direction." He gestured back to the stairs. "I'll be right on down after I have a short chat with Growlithe over yonder."

    Shane and Tessa turned and descended to the guild's main level. They found multiple hallways stretching out in different directions from a central room. Like the entrance, the new room had a starry sky motif on the ceiling. It was dark purple, with clusters of yellow and light blue littering it. Unlike the mural in the entrance, this sky faded into orange, and then finally to a sunny blue along the walls. In between each of the hallways, small pegs stuck out from the walls. Luminous orbs sat atop them, evenly distributing spherical light patches throughout the room to make up for the lack of any windows. The floor had a purple carpet in the center, with the same logo stitched into as the tapestries outside. Different versions of those tapestries also hung from the walls, next to the luminous orbs.

    Shane broke the duo's silence. "Hey, uh, am I crazy or did Braviary call you Tessa?"

    Tessa's eyes widened and she quickly looked away from Shane. "… he did."

    "So, is that your real name, then?"

    "No. It's... um... my mom told me it's just some old Lucario custom that dates back to ancient times. You're not allowed to call me that," Tessa ordered. "Ever."

    Shane raised a confused eyebrow. "Why not? I happen to think it's a very pretty name. Suits you nicely!"

    "If you want me to go through with this you will not call me Tessa. Understand?" she growled.

    "Whoa, whoa, take it easy," Shane coaxed. "No need to get so cross. It's just a name. Besides, you really just want me to call you Riolu?"

    "Yes. That's what I'm supposed to be called. What else would you call me, huh?"

    "Well, don't you think that could be awkward?" Shane pointed out. "Like, what if we run into other Riolus? How am I supposed to know who's who? Heck, how do any of you even talk to each other when you're in groups? That seems like a pretty big oversight, if you ask me."

    Tessa gritted her teeth. "Look, I get you're not from around here and stuff. But maybe you could just be silent and observe a bit and then start pestering folks with questions? It just so happens that the overwhelming majority of Pokémon simply call each other by their species name unless they're bullies, really good friends, or madly in love with each other. It's not a big deal."

    "And nobody gets confused?"

    "If you're in a group of Pokémon of the same species you just make eye contact with the one you want to talk to," Tessa said. "Did your 'brilliant human mind' not think that one up?"

    "It did," Shane said. "But there are other situations. What if, say, you tried to report the Sneasel that robbed you to the guild. You can't just say, 'The culprit was Sneasel, officer.' Because there are probably plenty of Sneasels around here." Shane smirked, feeling pretty confident with his deduction.

    Much to his surprise however, Tessa only glared at him. "You just love racing to conclusions, don't you? The fact of the matter is, no two Pokémon of the same species look completely alike."

    Shane's jaw slackened. "Say what now?"

    "We all have differences between one another. Sometimes they're big differences and sometimes they're small. We can use those differences to address each other," Tessa continued. "My mom, for example, is very thin compared to other Lucarios and has single fang sticking out of her mouth. I have extra tufts of fur on top of my ears compared to other Riolu." She grabbed her ears and bent them over. "Plus, my aura feelers are small for someone my age."

    Shane laughed. "Ha! That's a good one. I've stared at Riolus on my computer screen for hours and the only way they look different is if an artist decides to take creative liberties with their fanart."

    Tessa's glare fiercened. "Are you saying I'm lying?"

    "Uh… I guess not," Shane muttered. "But if you're telling the truth, then that just proves my point from when we first met: we're destined to be a world-saving team, you and I! Because I, uh, read up on some of your local human legends and it sounded like many of the Pokémon that worked with the humans were called something different than their species name." He flashed Tessa a broad grin.

    Tessa's heart skipped a beat. 'Huh. I hadn't even considered that and I've memorized the stories cover-to-cover.' She shook her head. 'No, wait, we shouldn't be having this conversation... someone might hear us and think we're crazy!'

    A vein bulged out of Tessa's forehead. "Will you drop that whole world-saving business already?" she hissed. "Pokémon are gonna look at us funny if you keep that up."

    Luckily for Shane, Braviary appeared from the staircase, abruptly ending the conversation before things escalated. Braviary focused on an open corner of the large room, where the stone walls gave way to a metal door. "Hopefully the Guildmaster ain't busy," Braviary mused. He approached the door and knocked on it with a wing. The metal door slid open and Braviary gestured inside.

    Shane and Tessa walked through the door and entered a cold, gray room. It lacked any sort of decorations, save for a tapestry dangling from the far wall. It had a similar image stitched in it as the pedestal outside: a purple crescent moon overlapping a golden sun.

    "Wow… talk about a sterile room," Shane muttered. "It's almost like the metal's been thrown up on top of… whatever used to be here."

    "Quiet," Tessa said, elbowing Shane's ribs. "You're gonna get us in trouble."

    "Guildmaster, I've got some new recruits," Braviary announced.

    Shane jumped as he noticed part of the gray on the far end of the room shift. He watched four metallic limbs extend, hefting a massive, disc-shaped body up off the floor. 'The Guildmaster… is a Metagross?' Shane gasped. 'Wicked awesome! I don't see what Tessa doesn't like about this place. It just keeps getting better and better to me.'

    Metagross slowly pivoted to face forward. Fact: the recruits are Riolu and a human.

    Shane jumped at the Guildmaster's robotic voice. "Cripes!" His tails stiffened. "Wait… you know I'm a human?"

    "Ha ha! That's our Guildmaster, for ya," Braviary laughed. "Always calculating things faster than you can even say 'em. How do ya think we keep things running so efficiently here? But, uh, not to disrespect ya or nothing, Guildmaster." He looked at Shane. "It's just, uh, that don't look like no human to me."

    Acknowledged. Fact: this Vulpix has memories of things alien to this world. Fact: he seeks to join the guild to find out why he is in our world, Metagross explained.

    "Eh? I never said anything abo– oh, I get it. You read my mind."

    Fact: conversations detract from my ability to analyze and calculate in peace. Conclusion: read minds to deter idle chatter, Metagross explained.

    'Wow, someone must be a real hit at parties, then,' Shane thought. 'Wait… he didn't hear that, did he?'

    Metagross' eyes narrowed in a fashion that suggested yes, he very well did hear that.

    "So, what do you think, Guildmaster?" Braviary asked. "Should I register these folks, or–?"

    Order: administer test. Reason: to ascertain the duo's capabilities, Metagross replied. His eyes flashed blue. Instructions transferred.

    Braviary blinked rapidly and he rubbed his head with a wing. "Err, right. Still ain't used to them mind games of yours, pardner." He turned back to Shane and Tessa. "Alright, you two, follow me back out." The trio headed toward the office's door.


    Tessa froze as Metagross's robotic voice echoed in her head. She cautiously looked back at him.

    Warning: continued dwelling on your family will impair your path to success in this guild.

    Tessa flinched at this. "… thank you, Guildmaster. I'll, um, try to keep that in mind." She clasped her hands against her chest and shuffled out of the room, keeping her head bowed low. Out in the assembly area, she spotted the tips of Shane's tails disappearing up the stairs and quickly sprinted after him. She made it back up to the entrance and stopped next to Shane. Tessa hunched over, trying to catch her breath.

    "Alright, eyes and ears on me, you two," Braviary ordered, pacing back and forth by the front door. Shane and Tessa stood at attention. "A big part of working fer the guild is helping us maintain an adequate stock of resources," Braviary explained. "Can't have folks going hungry, fer example."

    "Our big test is… a food run?" Shane rolled his eyes. "Heh." He glanced at Tessa. "And you were worried."

    "Son, we don't take kindly to folks who interrupt 'round these parts," Braviary said. Shane stiffened and looked away, biting his lower lip. "Now then, our resident cook, Steenee, had gone to Dewdrop Woods to get food yesterday. But she ended up losing one of the guild's looplets in the process. Them things are mighty valuable. So, the Guildmaster wants y'all to find it."

    "Uh, question?" Shane raised a forepaw. "Who's to say another Pokémon didn't already snatch it up? That'd make a journey there pretty pointless, wouldn't you say? Besides, don't Mystery Dungeons always change their appearance? That looplet could be anywhere by now."

    Braviary's brow furrowed. "Now look here, feller, I hope ya ain't trying to be cute. Fer one, looplets are plum useless if'n you ain't the exploring type. And second, everyone knows Mystery Dungeons out here don't work like them kooky ones they got overseas." He shook his head. "Are you sure you know what yer doing here, pardner?"

    "Ignore him, Braviary," Tessa said. "You heard the Guildmaster. He's human. He doesn't know any better!"

    Shane gave her a confused look. "Huh. I reckon I hadn't considered that," Braviary muttered. "Ah well. Guess you'll just have to learn about Horizon dungeons the old-fashioned way. By brute force, ha ha!" He reached in his satchel and pulled out a piece of paper and a glowing blue orb. "This here is directions to where Steenee went. And this is an Escape Orb. Use it when yer done or if'n y'all end up in over your heads. You, uh, do know about these things, yes?"

    Tessa stared at it in confusion. "They magically teleport us out of the dungeon, right?" Shane asked.

    "Heh, guess you do know a bit after all, hoss," Braviary chuckled. "Yeah, it'll warp you to the forest's edge lickety split."

    Tessa's eyes widened. "But wouldn't that be painful?" she gulped.

    "Nah. These here orbs are enchanted by psychic-types. Just, y'know, don't eat a ton before you use it fer the first time," Braviary explained. Tessa pocketed the orb and tightly gripped the direction sheet. "Well, if'n y'all got no questions, yer dismissed. Guildmaster expects a result one way or another by sundown."

    Shane's eyes widened. "Then we'd better get a move on. C'mon, Riolu!" He turned and dashed for the door.

    "Hey, wait!" Tessa lumbered after him. "You don't even know where you're going, you ditz!"


    ~Dewdrop Woods~

    The entrance to Dewdrop Woods lay just on the outskirts of Aeon Town. The massive wall of trees – Shane remembered it from pursuing the would-be scarf thieves – had an opening in it that let inside the forest. As soon as they stepped through the entrance, the forest swallowed them up. Massive trees hung over their heads. Their thick, leafy branches blocked out most of the bright sunshine they had enjoyed on their walk over. Only tiny beams of light could weave their ways through openings in the treeline. The rest of the forest was as shady as any beach umbrella Shane had ever sat under in his days as a human. Interspersed between the trees were patches of thick bushes. Some held thorns. Other produced flowers that assaulted Shane's nose with a bevy of soothing aromas.

    Shane and Tessa proceeded down a path that winded its way through the foliage. Rich, earthy soil crunched underneath their paws with every step, releasing a fragrance that reminded Shane of the parks he had gone and played in as a kid. Every so often, he and Tessa found themselves tripping over a hidden root. But, other than that, the trek was quite uneventful. Shane took note of the multitude of swollen roots protruding from the trees. Each time he got near one, he crouched low, expecting a wild Pokémon to pop out. But when nothing happened, his confusion grew.

    "Okay, this is really bugging me now," Shane finally spoke up after they had trekked pretty far into the forest. "Why is there this nice pathway through the middle of a Mystery Dungeon? Where are the wild Pokémon jumping us at every turn? And why do you have directions around this place if it's supposed to change its appearance every time someone goes in and out of it?" Tessa continued starting at the direction sheet. "Hey, aren't you going to answer me?"

    She sighed. "You really don't know, huh?"

    "No, I don't. And I'd appreciate an answer. Unless you don't know either," Shane said.

    "Sorry. You said you'd done some reading and you seemed like you knew what you were talking about with Mystery Dungeons," Tessa said, scratching the back of her head. "I guess you only know about the ones overseas."

    "Yeah. Okay. I admit it. Now, what's the deal with dungeons in Horizon?" Shane asked.

    "Simple. Rather than being labyrinths made up of floors, our dungeons are giant landmasses," Tessa explained. "Like this big forest, for example. The dungeons are separated from civilized towns by natural boundaries."

    "So, like that giant wall of really thick, really dark trees we walked through at the start?" Shane wondered.

    Tessa nodded. "Exactly. As for the other stuff, since the dungeons are stationary landmasses, they're not always changing their layouts," Tessa continued. "The Land Spirits decide when to change them. When I was a pup, my parents told me they can terraform the whole continent using their signature move: Nature's Madness."

    Shane stopped walking, blinking rapidly as he tried to process Tessa's explanation. "Wait, what? Nature's Madness? Land Spirits? You mean, like the Regi Trio?"

    "What? No. The Tapus! How could you not know who they are?" Tessa gasped. "It's their responsibility to keep Horizon's landscape safe. If it wasn't for them reshaping our dungeons, the chaotic energies of ley lines would build up to such a massive degree that the whole continent would break in half and sink into the ocean." As she said that, she fidgeted with her paws and eventually finished by thrusting her arms apart, like she was trying to imitate an explosion.

    Shane's ears stood straight up. "Seriously?"

    "Seriously." Tessa resumed walking forward, prompting Shane to jog after her. "And when they change the dungeons' landscapes, they try to make safe paths for explorers and other civilized Pokémon to navigate through. That way, we're not disturbing any wild Pokémon's territory. They don't attack us. We try not to bother them. Honestly, it's a good arrangement. And it's worked for us so far. We stayed clear of most of the problems that the other continents experienced."

    "Uh... okay," Shane mumbled. "I mean, I recognized 'ley lines,' but everything else in that explanation just kind of went over my head. What's the point of having a guild if the dungeons aren't constantly changing, anyway? Seems like waste of manpower to me." He paused. "Or, I guess, 'monpower." He chuckled at his own lame pun.

    Tessa rubbed the bridge of her snout. "Look, we don't have time to stand around debating the semantics of Horizon dungeons. You were the one who wanted to do this. If it bothers you that badly, then take it up with the Guildmaster when we're done here." Tessa carefully sidestepped an enlarged tree root. Shane stole a glance up at the tree line, which towered over his head. One of the branches looked ready to break off and fall down on the bush sitting beside the tree.

    "Whatever. Still, it's strange. How do you figure the guild's able to get any food from a place like this?" he asked.

    "No idea. I've never been here before, remember?" Tessa replied, going back to looking at the directions. "Okay, looks like we're coming up to a crossroads. We need to take the left path."

    "Um, are you sure about that?" Shane trotted forward, glancing down two pathways sectioned off by rows of trees and bushes. "Because I swear I see light from the other path. I think there's a clearing in that direction."

    "Who's the one with the directions here?" Tessa reminded him, waving the parchment around. "We're going left."

    "Look, just hear me out for a moment. If we know which direction to go, why not investigate the other path?" Shane proposed. "The clearing's real close. Maybe there will be some treasure there?"

    "No. We don't need to take unnecessary risks, Vulpix. We're on a timetable here," Tessa pointed out.

    "It's minimal risk for a potentially big reward. How impressed would the Guildmaster be if we showed up with the looplet and actual treasure?" Shane said. "I'll bet we'll get fast-tracked to a higher-level status for our team!"

    "It's not worth it. Especially when we're not familiar with this ar–"

    "Too late!" Shane called from up on the right path. "I'm already heading for the clearing!"

    Tessa clenched her free paw into a fist and ran off after him. 'I could just leave him behind,' she figured, 'But that's bound to cause more trouble than following him.'

    Shane's form had already disappeared into the bright clearing. "Well, do you see anything?" Tessa asked.

    "Just a pond and a couple of nests!" Shane yelled back. "Guess I was mistak– Hey, where did you guys come from?" Tessa tensed up and she quickly increased her speed. "Hey! Ow! Ow! No pecking! I'm not here to cause trouble!" Shane yelped.

    'Ugh, you idiot!' Tessa hissed. She emerged into the clearing, squinting from the sudden influx of light. When her eyes adjusted, she saw Shane running in a panic from a quartet of angrily squawking, black and white birds with sharp, gray beaks.

    "Gaaah! I didn't know this was your private roosting grounds. I'm sorry! We're just passing through, I swear!" he yipped. "Whoa!" His forepaw hit a root and he fell forward. Shane tumbled across the ground and fell into the pond on the other side of the clearing with a small splash. The birds hovered by the water's edge, exchanging confused looks.

    Tessa rummaged through her satchel and produced a pawful of geo pebbles. 'Way to scare the Pikipeks, dude. And that idiot said we wouldn't need these.' Tessa chucked the the pebbles forward, watching them fan out from the tiny cluster they started in. Her trajectory was on the mark and the Pikipeks found themselves peppered by her projectiles.

    She ducked back behind a tree. The Pikipeks all looked about in confusion. Suddenly, a plume of pond water doused them as Shane emerged from the pond and released a cloud of snowy air. It instantly froze their already-soaked bodies. The Pikipeks plummeted to the ground and landed on top of each other, forming a veritable stack of frozen Pikipeks. Tessa emerged from her hiding spot while Shane tried to shake out his wet fur.

    "S-See?" he said through chattering teeth. "N-No p-p-problems a-at a-a-all!"

    "The only reason you didn't end up in trouble was because I stepped in with my – what did you call them again? – oh yeah, 'dead-weight rocks,'" Tessa said, crossing her arms and smirking. "Who's the unprepared one now?"

    Shane's legs quivered. "Unless you've got a towel in there, I'm still saying you."

    "Oh please, you're fine. You're an ice-type, you'll live," Tessa scoffed.


    "… but all that running around is a problem. For your stomach," Tessa sighed. She pulled one of the apples from her bag. "Here, you need this."

    Shane accepted the apple and munched away at it. "… it's a little bitter," he reported.

    Tessa rolled her eyes. "You're welcome. Now let's get back to where we should be going. Unless you fancy another swim?"

    "Hey now. Maybe I'm secretly trying to learn Aqua Tail?" Shane proposed with a goofy grin. Tessa didn't even respond. She turned and walked back toward the fork in the path. "What? Come on!" Shane jogged after her, small ice shards dropping off his snowy tails. "That was funny. Can't I at least get a chuckle?"

    "No!" Tessa barked. "Because this was nothing more than you wasting time. We're lucky you only riled up some Pikipek. It could've been a lot worse! Bewear live in these woods, you know!"

    "I told you, we have nothing to worry about," Shane scoffed. "Like the Guildmaster would send us off to some terrifying labyrinth." He flicked his forepaw. "And that last sentence of yours was grammatically incorrect. 'Beware live in these woods?' Ooooh… very scary! What should I beware of, exactly? Giant tree leaves?"

    'Come on, Vulpix, throw me a bone. You're the stranger to this land,' Tessa groaned. "Ugh, you're not listening to me," she growled. "Sometimes things aren't as clear-cut as you think they are."

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Nice piece of wisdom there. You get that off the back of a fortune cookie? I prefer something along the lines of, 'don't dwell on the what-ifs.'"

    "Fine then. Once we're officially in the guild, if you want to do a bunch of crazy missions on your own, no one's stopping you."

    "That would defeat the point of us being a team," Shane pointed out.

    "If we're supposed to be a team then at least try to understand where I'm coming from," Tessa snapped. "I know you think this is exciting… but there's real danger out here. And I want to avoid it as best I can."

    Shane ignored her. "Hey." His eyes narrowed. "I think I saw something sparkle in the distance. Are there any other directions on your list?"

    Tessa scowled. "Were you even listening to me?"

    "I'm serious, Riolu." Shane proceeded forward, crouching low to the ground. "I think we might've found it. Do your directions mention anything about veering off further to the left?"

    Tessa sighed and checked the sheet. "Yes," she replied. "Apparently this path currently leads to four different areas with fruit growing in them. We want the leftmost one."

    "Excellent!" Shane chirped, padding forward confidently. The duo continued on the path, with Tessa taking the time to eat an apple. As she finished, she saw something sparkle up ahead. She noticed the path splitting off in four directions. Shane turned into the leftmost one and she followed him. The path led to a small incline, which descended into a dusty, dirt-filled pit. A single sparkling tree grew out of the center. While it wasn't as large as the trees surrounding the pit, it stood out, since it sat in the center of a ring of sunlight that made its golden leaves glisten.

    "Whoa!" Shane gasped. "Check out the apples in that tree. They're huge. Like, as big as our faces!"

    "Yeah," Tessa whispered. "How is that tree not collapsing?" She looked down and noticed Shane had already reached the base of the tree.

    "Hey, I found the sparkly thing," he announced. "But it's a chest. I'm pretty sure looplets don't look like this."

    "Yeah, you're right." Tessa jogged down toward the chest.

    "I guess the directions were mistaken?" Shane thought aloud. "Still, as long as we're here, we might as well help ourselves to whatever goodies are inside." He rubbed his forepaws together eagerly.

    "Hang on, Vulpix. That might not be such a good id–"

    "HOLD IT!"

    The two canines jumped and whirled around. They spotted a mongoose with bright yellow hair sitting on one of the tree's branches. "I know I didn't just catch youse two tryin' to make off wit' our treasure."

    Shane raised an eyebrow. "What the heck are you supposed to be? A Furret wearing an ugly wig?"

    "Vulpix! Yungoos are very sensitive about their hair," Tessa scolded. But the damage was already done. Yungoos flung the apple by his side at Shane, who hollered as the fruit splattered against his face and doused him in applesauce.

    "Gaaaaah!" He stumbled back. "Hey, that stings!"

    "Yeah, it should," Yungoos snickered. "Like da sting of some lout tryin' to run off wit' ya goods!" He looked down at the ground. "Now, Trapinch!"

    The soil started to shift under Tessa's feet. She squeaked in surprise and jumped away from the tree. The treasure box sank beneath the dirt. Tessa scanned the ground. "Nnngh, c'mon you stupid aura feelers. Sense something!" She flicked one of the baubles on her head.

    The spot where the box previously sat had given way to a small, round, orange head with beady black eyes. "Treasure box is secured, Yungoos," Trapinch announced.

    "Excellent." Yungoos rubbed his forepaws together. "Now, we show dese two losers what happens to Pokémon who try to steal from us."

    "No… no… wait. Please wait." Tessa threw up her paws. "This is all a big misunderstanding. We're not after any treasure. We're just trying to find something our friend left here while she was gathering food yesterday."

    "… ha! Likely story," Yungoos dismissed. "Does it look like dere's anyt'ing valuable around here dat ain't edible?"

    "Um… no. But, that's only because we just got here," Tessa insisted. "Give my partner and me a second to check in some of these bushes and, um, maybe we'll find something."

    Tessa heard Shane spit mushed apple from his mouth. "Oh, we are so not backing down!" he hissed, rubbing sticky residue from his eyes. "Not after that ugly Furret threw an apple at me. Why do you 'mons get off on making white-furred folk messy, anyway? Get a hobby!"

    "Vulpix, wait. We can talk this out with th–"

    Shane spat a snowball up toward the tree. Yungoos dug his claws into the branch and spun around it. He dropped down to the ground, dodging the stream of snowflakes. "Okay, dat tears it! Da two of youse ain't walking outta here wit'out a heaping mess of bruises!" He snapped at the air with his large fangs.

    "Vulpix, seriously?" Tessa barked. She turned back to Yungoos. "Please… please excuse my idiot of a partner over here. He got attacked by some Pikipeks earlier and I think it made him delirio–"

    Beside her, Shane lunged for Trapinch. But Trapinch disappeared into his hole and Shane ended up headbutting the apple tree. "Ow!" He stumbled backward. "No fair, going underground like that." His eyes darted about the ground. "You can't hide forever! Come out and take your Powder Snow like a man… err… bug-worm thingy. You get the idea!"

    Yungoos turned and glared at Tessa, who promptly facepalmed.

    'Oh, for heaven's sake… I sure hope the other heroes stumbled in their first days, too.'


    I swear this fic won't be following a constant pattern of alternating plot/interactions and battles between chapters. These are just easy breaking points for the earlier chapters.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 4

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Blog Posts:
    Feb 4, 2018
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    This chapter was originally posted on August 23rd, 2017. Enjoy!


    Chapter 4: The Guilded Age

    Yungoos lowered his head and charged Tessa down. The sight reminded her of the battle with Sneasel and Jangmo-o. She opted to use the exact same strategy. Tessa braced her arms against her body. Yungoos struck her in the thighs, shoving her back slightly. But Tessa swung a glowing fist around and socked Yungoos in the jaw.

    "Gack!" Yungoos shouted. Tessa's counter upended him, leaving him sprawled on his back. Tessa stole a glance at Shane, who had jumped onto a tree root to dodge Trapinch leaping out from the ground. Satisfied, she returned her attention to Yungoos.

    "Not bad," he complimented. "Dat smarted quite a bit. But now dat I know what I'm dealing with…"

    Yungoos turned around and kicked the ground with his legs. Tessa gasped as dirt buffeted her face. She stumbled back, rubbing her eyes and blinking them rapidly. Yungoos' eye gleamed and he charged Tessa again. Tessa couldn't see him through her watery vision. He body-slammed her right to the ground, then sprang up to run down Shane.

    "C'mon, Riolu!" Shane barked, his Powder Snow trail missing Trapinch again. "I've got to focus on Trapinch. My attacks are more effective on him!"

    "Too bad, so sad," Yungoos taunted. "Now, Trapinch!"

    As Tessa tried to right herself, the ground shifted beneath her. Trapinch shot up into her back, knocking her even further away from Shane. "Nnnngggh…" Tessa groaned. She pivoted her head to see Trapinch running forward. He vanished into thin air.

    Tessa recognized the technique from her previous battle and jumped back. Trapinch's shadowy form just barely missed her. Tessa opened her mouth and bit into Trapinch. Black shadows danced across Trapinch's body. "Ouchies!" he squealed and flailed his limbs about. Tessa fell to the ground on top of him, pinning him down.

    "Can't tunnel away now, can you?" Tessa declared, restraining the ground-type.

    "Yungoos! I could use some help here," Trapinch shouted. Yungoos kicked a stream of dirt into Shane's face. Shane gasped and the blast of snow he was focusing on went awry. Tessa's eyes widened and she rolled off Trapinch. Slush grazed the corner of her right shoulder, sending a chill down her arm.

    "Vulpix, you dolt! You almost hit me," Tessa hissed. "Watch where you're aim– AUGH!" Trapinch cut off her complaint by successfully running into her from the shadows. This widened the distance between Tessa and Shane yet again.

    "It's not my fault," Shane growled. "You were supposed to stay on Yungoos. This match-up's unfavorable. We need to switch targets!" He quickly shot a snowball to give himself cover for a charge toward Trapinch. However, the sand clouding his vision made the attack sail clear of Yungoos yet again. Yungoos ran after Shane and struck him from behind. Shane fell to the ground and the wind rushed out of him.

    "Heh… trying to weasel out of t'ings, eh? Dere's a Pursuit for your troubles," Yungoos snickered. "Y'know, you and Riolu dere ain't much of a team, are ya?"

    "I… can… handle things myself!" Shane grunted. Next thing Yungoos knew, he had a face full of Shane's frigid tails.

    "Nyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaargh!" he gasped and dropped to the ground, struggling to catch his breath. "What is your problem? Youse don't just shove your tails in someone's face like dat! Dat ain't natural," he spat.

    Shane buffeted Yungoos with a point-blank stream of slushy snow, freezing him to the ground. "Heh… how's that for a creative use of Tail Whip?" Shane boasted. "Hey, Tessa, check it out! I've put this guy on ice. See, nothing to worry abo–"

    "Stop bragging and get over here!" Tessa barked. She lunged toward Trapinch with a burst of speed. But her Quick Attack went wide as Trapinch burrowed underground once again. "I need Trapinch distracted so I can heal. I'm not doing too hot."

    "That's because you hesitate too much," Shane scoffed. "See? Leaping into battle can have its advantages." He trotted over to her location, scanning the ground. Tessa grabbed an oran berry out of her bag. When she did, Shane spotted movement on the ground behind her. "Duck!" he shouted.

    Tessa shoved the berry in her mouth and dropped to her belly. Shane rifled off a snowball, striking Trapinch while he emerged to spear Tessa from behind. Trapinch squealed in pain and retreated underground. "Oh no, not this time!" Shane grunted. "I've got me an idea." He sprinted over to the hole left by Trapinch. He then took a deep breath in and exhaled as much snow as he could manage straight into the hole. The soil around him froze over.

    "Like that's really going to do anything," Tessa sneered. "How slow do you think a Trapinch moves underground?"

    One second later, Shane found himself sprawled out on his belly. Trapinch dug into him from behind and jumped off his torso to lunge at Tessa. Her eyes widened, but she held her ground, preparing to counter him if necessary. Yet, to her surprise, Trapinch's momentum carried him beyond her reach. Instead, Trapinch landed and then bit into the ice around Yungoos' legs. "Nice moves dere, bud," Yungoos said.

    "You doing okay?" Trapinch asked.

    "Better dan dose schmucks, dat's for sure," Yungoos chuckled. "Quick, while they're still split up."

    "Got it." Trapinch nodded and dug back into the ground. Yungoos darted in Shane's direction. Shane prepared to keep Yungoos at bay, but Yungoos proved faster on the draw and splattered more dirt across Shane's face. His head pivoted away and he shot snowy air in Tessa's direction. She had her back turned to him, so the slushy spiral struck her, soaking her fur.

    She staggered forward, enabling Trapinch to slam into her thighs from underground. This made her collapse onto her back. "Vulpix!" Tessa howled. "What did I just tell you before? Mind your surroundings!" She awkwardly rolled to her feet and accelerated into Trapinch. This put enough distance between the two of them for Tessa to scarf down part of an apple and pull out a few of her pebbles.

    "It wasn't my fault," Shane sputtered, spitting out bits of sand. "This guy's playing dirty… literally."

    "It ain't dirty, it's strategic," Yungoos boasted. "Da two of youse ain't in sync at all. Your teamwork's laughable."

    "Well, we haven't worked together all that long," Shane panted. "But all I've got to do is freeze you again and make it a two-on-one scenario."

    "Yeah, fat chance I'm letting dat happen again!" Yungoos bellowed. He lowered his head and charged at Shane. If Shane wanted to dodge, it would only put more distance between him and Tessa.

    'But she's pretty fast,' he figured. Shane scampered back until Yungoos stumbled to a stop. "Tessa!" he shouted. "We need to regroup!"

    "Don't call me that! And don't you tell me what to do. It's your bad decision making that's put us in this spot," Tessa growled, hurling the rocks at Trapinch. He avoided them by darting into the shadows. Tessa bolted forward and collided with his shadow-encased body. Both Pokémon bounced back, but Trapinch manage to tunnel underground.

    "I'm serious here. They're trying to keep us apart on purpose," Shane declared. "You've got to believe m– EEP!" He ducked a plume of dirt from Yungoos and coated the ground with Powder Snow. Yungoos started slipping and sliding about.

    "If we battle next to each other, we're bound to hit each other," Tessa countered.

    "Look, just trust me on this one. We can't coordinate this far away!" Shane begged.

    "Then do to Yungoos what you did to Jangmo-o back on the cape. Roar him away so I can approach safely!" Tessa ordered.

    Shane blinked in surprise. "Wait… that was Roar? I just thought I, uh, hit him with some kinda psychic attack…"

    Tessa scowled. "You mean you didn't even know you could use Roar? What was the point of training these last few days? I told you to practice all of your moves!"

    "I… I practiced Powder Snow plenty," Shane muttered.

    "Are you sure about that? Because you could've fool–"

    Trapinch emerged from the ground, cutting off Tessa. She jumped back to dodge him. Likewise, Yungoos charged at Shane once again. This time Shane held his ground. He took in a deep breath and let out a shrill, watchdog-like bark. Yungoos gasped in surprise before tumbling across the forest dirt and skidding to a halt by the tree.

    "There. I got him," Shane wheezed.

    "Great! Now move your frosty butt over here," Tessa barked, grappling with Trapinch. Shane turned and spat on the ground. Then he ran over to Tessa

    'But, I can't just use Powder Snow. I'll hit Tessa too,' he realized. 'C'mon, there's gotta be something I can do. Concentrate… concentrate...'

    A spark ignited in Shane's mind. He narrowed his eyes fiercely at Trapinch. Before Trapinch could react, a pink glow encapsulated his body and hoisted him into the air. Trapinch yelped as the glow erupted into a burst of pink light, flinging him across the forest. Yungoos' eyes widened. He dove for cover behind a large root. His partner struck the front of the root and slid down to the ground.

    "Ha ha, yes!" Shane whooped, hopping about excitedly. "Guess who just learned a new move to save the day? This guy, that's who!" He puffed his chest out proudly. "Oh, the Pokémon anime would be so proud of me right now." He flashed Tessa a confident grin. She stared at him with a look of disbelief.

    "That… what even was that?" she gasped. "It looked like Psychic, but…"

    "Hmm." Shane tapped a forepaw to his chin, "I know some normal Vulpixes can hatch knowing Extrasensory. Maybe these bizarre, ice-type ones can too? In which case, that only makes me more awesome than I could have imagined! I'll bet the humans in your stories didn't get any egg moves this great. Assuming they even got some in the first place."

    'Is this how it's going to work for us? Is Vulpix going to obscenely strong, but in return act like a total brat? I can't see us actually succeeding like that.' Tessa grit her teeth. "Will you quit patting yourself on the back until after we've saved our own hides?"

    Yungoos scrambled out from his tree root hiding spot. "Youse t'ink yer clever keeping an attack like dat under wraps?" he barked. "Den dat just means I gotta take ya out first!" He sprang out from his hiding spot, only for Tessa to bolt from her location and body-check Yungoos. The force of the collision hurtled Yungoos into a nearby tree root. He struck it and slid onto his stomach, a dazed look in his eyes. Tessa approached him, fists raised to strike.

    Yungoos immediately raised up his forepaws. "I yield! I yield! Enough… enough… youse two passed da test."

    Tessa's stance slouched. "Wait… this was a test?"

    A cocky grin flashed across Shane's muzzle. "Ha haaaaa! See, what did I tell you, Riolu?" He confidently swaggered up to Tessa. "Nothing. To. Worry. About," he declared, jabbing her back with his forepaw for each and every word.

    Tessa's expression fell. "I… I don't understand. Weren't we supposed to fetch a looplet for the guild?"

    "Yeah, dat was a ruse. Sorry 'bout dat," Yungoos announced. He quickly scurried behind the tree root and reappeared carrying the treasure box from earlier. Yungoos opened the box and pulled out two anklets a pair of badges. Each one had a silver version of the overlapping sun and moon insignia Shane and Tessa saw at the guild. But this time it was boarded by a pair of fiery-orange wings. "My partner and I are wit' da guild," Yungoos exclaimed. "Dese are our badges."

    "Wait… but we came right to Dewdrop Woods from Aeon Town," Tessa exclaimed. "How could you possibly have gotten here to set this up for us?"

    "We've been here since dis mornin'," Yungoos reported. "Guildmaster came up to us and was all like, 'Beep boop… a vision told me we're gettin' new recruits. So I'm gonna have youse test 'em in da woods.' And, well, can't exactly say no to da Guildmaster." Yungoos slid an anklet onto his right foreleg and fastened his badge onto it.

    "Though, we've got to give you credit, Riolu. Trying to talk your way out of a potential conflict is always preferable to battling," Trapinch said. Shane's proud expression vanished in a heartbeat.

    "It... it is?" he said.

    Trapinch nodded. "I mean, it wouldn't have worked in this case, because we were ordered to goad you into a fight if you tried to resolve things peacefully. Still, it was the right mindset. It should serve you well, going forward."

    Shane pouted. "That's your opinion," he muttered under his breath.

    "Great, so dat's all settled. By da way, if it ain't obvious, your so-called looplet? It ain't here."

    "Seriously? Then what are we supposed to show back up to the guild with?" Shane asked.

    "Well," Trapinch weakly muttered, having regained consciousness. "The Guildmaster's not a particular guy…" Trapinch dug into the treasure box. He managed to heft out an extraordinarily large apple. It was as big as the ones up in the tree. But this one sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. "… you won't get a rise out of him. But if you show this to Braviary, you'll pass. I guarantee it."

    "That is one gnarly apple," Shane observed.

    "Perfect Apple, actually," Trapinch corrected. "They're a personal favorite of Braviary's." Tessa and Shane both raised eyebrows at this. "Don't look so confused. Everyone who has to take the entrance exam comes here to battle a couple of guild apprentices. The Perfect Apple is the symbol of your victory."

    "Even if it was a lucky coinci–"

    "Now, now, Yungoos. They beat us fair and square," Trapinch scolded.

    "Right. But I still meant what I said. Youse two better hone your teamwork, if youse gonna contribute to da guild," Yungoos declared.

    "Heh." Shane rubbed the tip of his snout. "I think we'll be just fine." He stepped forward and rolled the Perfect Apple over to Tessa. "So, what's say we use that Escape Orb and make our way back?"

    Tessa picked up the Perfect Apple and inspected it. "Yeah, I guess that's the next step."


    ~Aeon Observatory~

    "Well, shoot. That's a mighty fine Perfect Apple y'all managed to dig up." Braviary gripped the oversized fruit in his talons and rolled it beside him. "And it's fresh and everything. Eeyup. I reckon you two pass with flying colors! I'd expect nothing less of ya, Riolu."

    Shane smiled broadly while Tessa rubbed her left shoulder and looked away.

    "Aww, y'all ain't sore about me lying to ya about the test, are ya?" Braviary asked. "I promise that's the only lie I'll make about any assignment y'all take in the guild."

    "It's fine, Braviary," Shane insisted. "Riolu's just not in a celebratory mood, I suppose." He shot his partner a look that screamed, "Get with the program."

    "Now, let's go see the Guildmaster and finalize y'all's registration," Braviary declared. "Then we can get on with the introductory stuff. Y'all finished quickly, which is great. Gives ya plenty of time to settle in." Braviary guided them back into Metagross' chambers. Metagross levitated parchment and an ink pad over toward them.

    Order: generate name for your exploration team. Order: sign pawprints on guild contract, Metagross stated. He set the page and ink pad down in front of them.

    "Ah, right, the all-important team naming," Shane acknowledged, turning to Tessa. "You better not suggest something cheesy like Team Poképals. That's stupid. We need to be more creative than that."

    "I wasn't about to suggest anything like that," Tessa growled. She turned away, biting her lip. 'Oof... so much for trying to take after my heroes.'

    "Okay, at least we agree on that part," Shane chirped. "Now, we've got to think of something cool. To show everyone that we don't mess around. Maybe something like Team Frostbite? Cause I can use ice attacks and you can bite stuff?"

    Tessa's eyes narrowed. "Absolutely not. I will not have our team name revolve around a lame mishmash of words."

    "Fine then." Shane flicked a forepaw. "How about Team K9? Cause we're both dogs, in a manner of speaking?" Tessa gave that idea a thumbs down. Shane frowned. "Well, if you don't like those, then maybe we need a name that exudes power? How about Team Iron Fist or Team Shellcracker or Team Vortex?"

    Tessa fiddled with her scarf. "I'd prefer something that sounds more… positive. We're not trying to intimidate others. Guild explorers are supposed to help Pokémon."

    "I'm aware of that, you know," Shane grumbled. "And you're not being all that helpful. You could at least try offering a suggestion."

    Tessa looked up at him. "What about Team Radiance?" Shane raised a skeptical eyebrow. "It sounds uplifting," Tessa continued. "Y'know, something like, 'Through darkest night and brightest day, Team Radiance always finds a way.'"

    Shane blinked in surprise. "That's… great! I really like it!" His tails wagged excitedly. "Yeah, Team Radiance. It's bright. It's bubbly. And it goes well with the whole 'sky motif' this guild seems to have going for it." He glanced at the tapestry on the far wall.

    Accepted. Sign contract to finalize registration, Metagross instructed.

    Shane dipped his left forepaw into the ink pad and stamped it on the bottom of the parchment.

    "Now hang on, Vulpix. Don't you think you should at least read this over fir–?"

    Shane grabbed Tessa's paw, dipped it into the ink, and stamped it down next to his pawprint. She gave him a look of utter disbelief. "You… you… you…" She stuttered.

    Generic congratulatory statement. Fact: you are official novice members of the Horizon Exploration Guild, Metagross announced. His eyes flared blue and a box levitated down toward Braviary. Fact: this box contains your starter's kit. Braviary will explain its contents. Order: be prepared to take up your first assignment tomorrow morning. Statement of farewell. Metagross turned and stomped back toward the far end of his room. Braviary steered the newly-dubbed Team Radiance out of Metagross' office. He set the box down and opened it up.

    "Right, let's get a few things squared away first," Braviary announced. "Yer supplies. They're a bit limited since y'all are novices. But if'n y'all graduate to apprentice or veteran rank, we'll have more to offer you. In the meantime, here are the basics." He produced two badges similar to the ones they saw Yungoos and Trapinch had. They each accepted a badge and pinned it to their half of the rainbow scarf.

    "Yer badges. They're bronze because yer rookies," Braviary explained. "Silver badges denote apprentices. Gold badges are guild veterans. Gray badges are fer staff members of the guild. And, well..." He lifted a wing to showcase a platinum badge. "... the Guildmaster and I have our own special ones. Now, them badges will get you access to exploration items from the Kecleon Shop, as well as a storage space at Dhelmise Depot. It also gets you discounts at a buncha places in Aeon Town," Braviary continued. "Graduate to a higher rank and y'all will get better discounts. Sound good?"

    Shane and Tessa nodded in unison. Braviary next pulled out a map. "Standard issue Wonder Map. Nothing special to say here." He handed it over to Tessa, then pulled out what looked like a smaller version of her satchel. He spun it around one of his wings. "This here's an explorer's pouch. Much better than yer run-of-the-mill bag. No matter what you stuff in it, it don't change size."

    Tessa accepted the pouch and examined it. The fabric felt a lot more durable than her current bag. "Wait, how does that work? Is it TARDIS technology?" Shane asked, sniffing at the pouch.

    "What-is? That some sorta human world thingamajig?" Braviary asked, scratching his head. "We ain't exactly got a lot of stories about humans. Aside from the handful of world-saving ones."

    Shane laughed nervously. "Y'know what? Forget I said anything. It's probably just filled with Palkia's shed scales or something."

    Actually, an acquaintance helped me generate the energy needed to produce those.

    Team Radiance jumped at an unfamiliar robotic voice. Unlike Metagross, this one sounded female. They turned to their lefts and spotted a metallic, humanoid creature comprised of multiple spheres walking toward them. Its head was an oversized gear with metal, rabbit-like ears. Shane's eyes lit up. "Coooooool! A steampunk robot." He jumped beside the creature, ogling it. "All we need is to find you a Victorian dress, a monocle, and maybe stick a few exhaust pipes on your head and shoulders and–"

    "Vulpix!" Tessa barked, her face bright red with embarrassment. She stepped forward and dragged him back. "You can't just accost strangers like that."

    That is okay. Most new members are intrigued by my appearance. I find their reactions seventeen percent amusifying, the robot exclaimed. I am Magearna. I am the guild's equipment and technical specialist.

    "Eeyup. Mags here helps us make the things we use out in the field," Braviary reiterated. "She's also our resident expert on looplets and emeras. If'n ya ever got a question about 'em, she's yer 'mon." He turned to Magearna. "This here's Team Radiance: Vulpix and Riolu."

    On the subject of looplets, Braviary, I must ask something of Vulpix, Magearna exclaimed. She walked toward Shane and grabbed his left foreleg. Such curiositude! It appears you already have a looplet. But… hmm… this is not one of the standard looplet designs.

    "Wait, that's what this is?" Shane looked down at the band on his foreleg.

    "Now that's funny." Braviary scratched his head. "If'n yer a human who just showed up here, how'd ya get yer mits on a looplet?"

    "I don't know. Riolu said I already had it on my foreleg when I woke up on the beach," Shane announced.

    Wait. There is further shockification, Magearna announced. There is some sort of gemstone in this looplet. My sensors read emera-like qualities. However, this is like no emera I have detectified in recent years. It appears embedded into this looplet. She held Shane's foreleg up toward Braviary. See for yourself.

    "Huh, yer right. This Looplet's done got all four notches open." Braviary rubbed his beak. "But this glowing stone in the middle looks just like an emera."

    Begging cycle initiated, Magearna announced. I must requesticate that you allow me to examine this looplet in closer detail. I am sure I have seen this somewhere before, but I need to check my record banks. Perhaps it houses some sort of secret?

    "Well, I'd really love to, but I can't get the darn thing off. It's stuck to my leg." Shane demonstrated by attempting to push the Looplet off with his right forepaw, to no avail.

    Disappointment levels have surged to thirty-five percent, Magearna sighed. Well, if you discoverize anything new about your looplet, do come see me. My curiosity sensors are definitely firing on all cylinders. She gave Team Radiance a curt bow and retreated down the northwestern hallway.

    'So, Vulpix ended up here and somehow got hold of a looplet?' Tessa gasped, her heart fluttering. 'Ohh... I don't want to get excited for nothing, but it's looking more and more like I may have been blessed with a ticket to a happier life. If only he wasn't so... crass.'

    Braviary shrugged. "Err, I suppose I should give y'all yer starting looplets, then. Or, rather…" He pulled a small band out of the box. "… give Tessa one. Seeing as Vulpix's already got one." He tossed the looplet to Tessa.

    "Please call me Riolu," Tessa whispered while she slipped on the Looplet.

    "If'n you say so. And to go with the looplets, here are a pair of emeras." He tossed Tessa a pair of glowing, teardrop-shaped stones. "A paralysis guard and a sleep guard. Now, y'all don't need to use 'em right away. But if'n you choose to, they've only got enough energy to last one day of exploration. Most folk activate 'em at dawn and they fizzle out at dusk."

    "Where can we get more of them?" Shane wondered.

    "Town shops is y'all's best bet," Braviary replied. "Otherwise, Magearna can make you some if'n you find her enough stardust."

    "Stardust?" Shane parroted. "Like from comet trails?"

    Braviary shrugs. "Beats me. No one's sure why stardust falls into Mystery Dungeons. It just does. But that's enough rambling. I've got one last thing for ya."

    He pulled out a circular device that had a tiny antenna sticking off of it. 'Huh… kinda looks like a Klefki,' Shane thought.

    "This here's a…" Braviary frowned. "Oh, now what did Magearna call this doohickey again? Ah, right, a Gear-Com." He handed it over to Tessa. "It's some sort of magic communication thingamajig. It's synched up to Magearna and Guildmaster Metagross, so you can reach one of 'em if'n ya need to. I ain't too sure on the range, but we've tested 'em all around Horizon and they work just fine."

    Tessa finished placing the items in her new pouch. To her surprise, it remained surprisingly light. She easily slung it on like a backpack. "Okay, time to get on with the tour," Braviary announced. "Now, this here is the main assembly area. Every morning novices and apprentices gather fer announcements and assignments. Fer the record, if'n y'all make it to veteran status, y'all get a lot more freedom to do as you wish. Don't even have to live here if'n ya don't want to."

    "Then I guess we'll just have to rise up through the ranks, eh?" Shane said, grinning at Tessa.

    "Let's take it one step at a time, Vulpix," Tessa cautioned.

    "It's Shane, partner," Shane chuckled, ignoring her.

    Braviary waved a wing in between them. "Y'all can daydream on yer own time. Yer on guild time now, so eyes and ears on me. Now then, this way." He slowly flew across the assembly area. A small pond sat in the southeast corner of the large, circular room.

    "Oh no! No, no, no, no!" Shane shuffled backward. "I am not going for another swim. My fur is dry and I am happy." The pond water rippled and out popped a pink and yellow triggerfish.

    "Well, helllllooooooooo, dahlings!"

    "GYA!" Shane stumbled back, colliding with Tessa in the process. She shoved Shane off her. Braviary shot a wing out to keep Shane from tumbling into the pond. He quickly caught his breath. 'Dear lord. Those lips… and those teeth. Cripes and I thought that Yungoos guy had an ugly mug. Apparently he was just trying to live up to this… fish… thing…'

    "Bruxish, say hello to Team Radiance, our newest recruits. This here's Vulpix and this is Tes– ah, I mean Riolu," Braviary introduced.

    Bruxish's eyes widened. "Of coooooooooourse! Lucario's daughter. Oh, you've got your mother's eyes, dahling. I always knew you'd find your way here."

    "Um, so, Bruxish, is it?" Shane asked, cautiously approaching the pond. Again, the statement about Tessa's mom flew over his head. "What, uh… are you here for?" Shane jumped back in surprise as Bruxish levitated high out of the pond. 'Waah! That scary fish is psychic? Oh, this keeps getting weirder and weirder."

    "Well, I aaaaaaaaam an apprentice. I specialize in water area navigation," Bruxish explained. "But, of course, not everyone wants to explore places like that. So, most of the time, I help with move and ability maintenance."

    "Eeyup. If'n you got the coin, Bruxish here can help you learn some special moves," Braviary explained.

    "And if you're really willing to pay up, I can even swap your ability, dahling," Bruxish continued. "Very helpful in a piiiiiiinch, wouldn't you say?"

    'Uh, I don't even know what my ability is, so I'm not sure that'll help much,' Shane thought, but held his tongue. Tessa remained silent.

    "Okay, let's get a move on." Braviary shuffled Team Radiance forward. He guided them along a small hallway leading to the south part of the building. Both Shane and Tessa slowed their pace toward the end. They hovered at the edge of a small, circular room. There was a closed door embedded in the far wall, blending in seamlessly with the wall except for a faint outline. A desk sat beside it, as did a large machine containing a glowing globe floating above a stone pedestal.

    But Shane's and Tessa's gazes stayed locked on the two Pokémon lying on cushions beside the globe. They both recognized Growlithe. But neither knew what to make of Growlithe's partner. It lay still, staring down at the ground through its large, stone helmet. The talons on its forelegs gripped the edge of its cushion tightly, while its canine, scale-covered hind legs rested against the wall. A fish's tail lazily drifted back and forth between its hips. The gemstones lining its tail glinted in the pale light from the globe.

    "What… what is that?" Shane gasped. "Is it even alive? Is that supposed to be an enchanted statue? Because it's a real eyesore."

    Tessa turned and gave him a look. "Could you be any ruder?" she hissed in a whisper.

    "Oh, come on. Don't give me that. Even by weirdo Pokémon standards, that thing's creepy. Just listen to it breathing. All raspy and wheezy... like it's been smoking a pack a day for its entire life."

    "Yes, it's weird. But if it's part of the guild, we need to be respectful toward it… whatever it is," Tessa said. 'Or else it looks like it'll tear us to shreds!' she gulped.

    "Howdy, Null." Braviary saluted the helmeted creature with a wing. "Any activity lately?"

    The strange Pokémon shook its head about, letting out a loud, raspy groan. Shane's fur stood on end and his tails shot into the air. 'That's not normal… that's not normal! Keep me away from that freak.'

    "Nothing to report, sir. Aside from those two newcomers, we've had a quiet day," Growlithe said. He spotted Shane and Tessa. "Oh, hey, it's the newcomers." He waved at them. "Hiya, I know we already met. But let me officially say welcome. I'm Growlithe!" he barked excitedly. "I'm glad you're both here. We need more pups around this place, if you ask me. Any fire-related troubles, you come see me. There's nothing I'm not willing to burn." His tail thumped again the cushion. "Normally, I'm not on sentry duty. I'm just filling in for Trapinch today."

    "Sentry duty?" Shane looked around the room in confusion. "You mean, you guys do that here?"

    Braviary nodded. "That there pedestal you saw outside the entrance? It senses any Pokémon's presence. When it does…" He turned toward the globe-like structure. "… our Pokénector detects what kind of Pokémon they are. If'n they're from one of the continent's towns or villages, we know. But if'n they're from out in the wild or one of the other continents, well that's when you alert me or the Guildmaster."

    Shane stared inquisitively at the globe. "So, is this like the Pokémon Nexus, then?"

    "Ha! Yer pardner's got a good head on his shoulders, Riolu," Braviary chuckled. "If only he didn't have the lip."

    "Well, how else would I talk?" Shane quipped. Tessa facepalmed.

    "That ain't funny, son. But yer right. Magearna made this after studying the Pokémon Nexus over at the Water Continent's Expedition Society," Braviary explained. "Unfortunately, it ain't quite as impressive as their doohickey is. Their science guy is mighty protective over it, from what I hear. That, and we need to keep the Pokénector up to date by sending guild members to the different areas 'round Horizon."

    "Horizon… that's the name of this continent, right?" Shane asked.

    "Yeah," Tessa finally spoke up. She pulled out her Wonder Map and opened it up, showcasing the continent.

    "Huh, kind of looks like a donut with a chip in the middle of it," Shane observed. "What's the island in the center?"

    "Rainbow Island," Braviary answered. "That there place is off-limits, no matter how good of an explorer you get to be. It's a sacred spot."

    "Is that so?"

    "Yeah. Ho-Oh used it as a roosting spot in ancient times," Growlithe reported. "Isn't that awesome? The amazing immortal Legendary bird that spits rainbow fire once treated this place like a second home."

    'Guess I know who the dominating Legendary is around these parts,' Shane thought, chuckling. "What about you, big guy?" He turned toward the helmeted Pokémon. "Anything to say?"

    It was at that point that Null looked up. His beady gray eyes zeroed in on Shane. His fur bristled, allowing Shane to see the thick coating of scales lying underneath. Null suddenly shot to his feet and a let out a furious roar. He looked at Shane, snarling, and dug his talons into his cushion. Stuffing spilled out onto the floor.

    "Whoa, Null, take it easy!" Growlithe gasped, jumping to his feet. "Are you having those headaches of yours again?" In response to this, Null snarled. He turned to his side and slammed his head against the wall, leaving a noticeable crack. He took in deep, raspy breaths, and then bashed his head against the exact same spot in the wall, widening the crack.

    Shane whimpered and shuffled back toward the hallway, tails shooting between his legs. 'What's going on here? Why was that freakish thing looking at me like it wanted to kill me?' he wondered. Braviary turned and hastily guided them away from the sentry station. "Okay… what's up with the big dude in the helmet?" Shane asked, his voice ripe with worry.

    "What, y'mean Null? Oh, don't pay him too much mind," Braviary dismissed. "We found him unconscious at Glyphic Falls several months back. No idea how he wound up there. Heck, he didn't have no memories of anything, I reckon. Poor feller don't even know what kind of Pokémon he is. We took him in and he's been with us since. Never leaves the sentry station, though, except to go to his room and sleep. I don't blame him. He can't eat or drink, after all. And we can't seem to get the helmet off him, no matter what we try. I reckon it's making him act kinda... kooky. But he says it's stuck on him."

    Shane's body stiffened. 'Wait. This Null guy washes up in some waterfall with no memory?' His eyes widened. 'No… no way. He couldn't be like me… could he?' He quickly shook his head. 'No! It's not true. Tessa's wrong. I'm not here by accident. Null's situation is just… a coincidence. That's all.

    "Something bugging you, Vulpix?" Tessa asked.

    "I, uh, just realized how hungry I was!" He laughed nervously and rubbed his underbelly.

    "Well, the longer y'all jibber-jabber, the more you delay yer dinner," Braviary chuckled. "C'mon and follow me." Braviary led them next to the western wing of the floor. A series of arched doorways lined the hall. "So, if'n you haven't guessed, novices and apprentices room over here. Showers are down at the end of the hall. Don't y'all let me catch any word of any funny business in there, understand?" Shane and Tessa nodded in unison. "If'n ya reach veteran status, y'all will get offered better lodgings one floor down."

    Braviary turned into the first room on the right. Tessa and Shane walked into it. Unlike the assembly area, it had a purely nighttime motif. The walls and ceiling were a mix of dark blue and violet, with tiny swirls of white to represent stars. Luminous orbs hung on either side of the doorway. But the room also had a circular window at its far end, bathing the room in orange sunlight and offering a view of the forest far below the Observatory.

    Shane approached the two sky-blue pillows in the center of the room's purple carpet. "Huh… and here I was expecting a straw bed," Shane said. "Fancy."

    "You better drop that sass, hoss, or I'll give you a pile of sand to sleep on instead," Braviary harrumphed.

    "Sorry, sir," Shane gulped. Tessa walked toward one of the cushions and set the item pouch on it. Satisfied, she followed her teammate back out to the assembly area. They proceeded down the northwest passage that Magearna had gone into earlier.

    The hallway led to a spacious room filled with three metal desks. Each one was littered with various diagrams and maps. Shane spotted the base of the Observatory's large telescope sitting on the other end of the room. Magearna sat working at a sheet of parchment with a compass. Atop her desk sat a small, rotund, gray and white hedgehog. She had brown and yellow triangular marks along her back, along with a tiny, bolt-shaped tail.

    "Jeez, Pikachu, you've sure put on weight," Shane gasped. "And got old."

    The rodent looked right at Shane. "Pikachu? Pikachu?!"


    Shane ended up sprawled out on his side. The rodent's triangular markings had extended straight and she dug them into Shane's hide. "Do. Not. Call. Me. A. Pikachu!" she hollered.

    "Ow! Ow! Ow! Sorry! Sorry! It won't happen again!" Shane sobbed, his eyes comically watering.

    "Easy there, Togedemaru." Braviary ruffled his wings, shooing her off of Shane. Tessa kneeled down to help Shane stand up.

    "Way to put your paw in your mouth… partner," Tessa deadpanned. "Are you trying to get everyone to hate us here?"

    "So many… weird Pokémon… I've never heard of," Shane mumbled. "And look at the Pidgeys… flying around…" He spun in a circle, "Wheeeeeee!"

    "Well, on the bright side, this is a perfect segue for our next destination," Braviary mused. Tessa used her shoulder to support Shane as they went into the northern corridor.

    This wing ended in what was clearly a nursing station. Half a dozen beds lay evenly spread out across the room, with curtained dividers separating them. A desk and a cabinet sat in the one corner of the room not occupied by a bed. "Comfey, I've got a patient for ya. Togedemaru broadsided him," Braviary announced.

    A small, light-green circle floated out from behind a curtain, carrying a trail of flowers. "Ooooooh… look at the pretty flowers…" Shane giggled. He then waved a forepaw in front of his face. "Go away, Pidgeys! I wanna look at the flowers."

    "Oh my," Comfey squeaked. "He does seem rather dazed, doesn't he?" She drifted down and strung the flowers around Shane's neck. Comfey released a series of bright, flower-shaped lights. Shane blinked a few times, appearing to come to his senses. "There… all better!" Comfey announced, fluttering back into the air.

    "I've… never felt something like that," Shane whispered.

    "It's my specialty: Floral Healing," Comfey said. "I'm the resident medic for the guild. It's a pleasure to meet you. And Tessa, you've gotten so big! It's wonderful to see you here."

    Tessa clutched her scarf and looked down. "It… It's Riolu," she whispered.


    "Aha ha… ha… I don't suppose the dining area's the next stop, is it?" Shane laughed nervously.

    Braviary smirked. "It just might be, rookie." He led them out of the infirmary and down the eastern hallway, into the dining area.

    Shane expected a long table to stretch across the room. Instead, a series of small, circular tables littered the room, with windows sitting between some of them to offer up views of the forest behind Aeon Town. Braviary introduced Team Radiance to Steenee and Tessa managed to clamp Shane's mouth shut before he could make a comment about Steenee resembling a walking piece of fruit. Steenee offered Shane and Tessa a quick meal, which they used to replenish their strength. After that, they both returned to their room.

    "Ahhhh… that really hit the spot!" Shane said, stretching out his legs and flopping onto his cushion. "Boy, what an eventful day. But we made it. We're in the guild!" he exclaimed. "And with all these amazing Pokémon, too. Well, okay, maybe there are a few odd ducks in the bunch. Like that weirdo, Null. But I still think this is gonna be awesome!"

    Tessa sat on the edge of her cushion, looking out their window at the setting sun. 'I can't believe I'm here. After months of chickening out. And,' she looked at Shane, 'it's all because of him.'

    A familiar line echoed through her head: "Don't you ever let me catch you setting foot in that guild. If you do, I won't hesitate to strike you down!"

    Tessa flinched. 'No… this is my chance at making a name for myself. Even if Vulpix won't listen to me, if I can put up with him, then I'll be celebrated hero. No more lonely, miserable days at Azure Cape or Sylveon's house.'

    "Earth to Tessa."

    She stiffened. "Don't call me that. It's Riolu," she muttered.

    Shane scratched his ear. "Right. Did you hear my question?"


    "Why do some of the Pokémon in the guild seem to know you?" Shane asked.

    Tessa's fur bristled. She took a deep breath and said, "Because the rest of my family are guild members."

    "Really? And you just thought to keep that hidden from me?" Shane gasped. "No wonder you're so quick on your feet! I can't believe you didn't want to come here. This is totally your element!" He gave Tessa a smile. "When do I get to meet your family, then?"

    "You don't," Tessa replied tersely.

    "… oh."

    "Neither of my parents are here right now. They, uh, went to visit the Grass Continent," Tessa said, fidgeting with the edge of her pillow. "They probably won't be back for months."

    "Well then, guess we'll just have to adventure hard for them," Shane proclaimed. He yawned and curled up into a ball. "I know the sun's not even down yet, but I'm pretty beat. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. What about you?" Tessa tucked her knees into her chin and resumed looking out at sky. "Too excited to speak, huh? Well, I won't keep you up then," Shane chuckled. "G'night, partner."

    'For months, I'd been praying something would happen to lift my spirits. It seems my prayers have been answered. Only,' Tessa stole a glance at Shane, 'it's not quite what I was expecting.' She looked back out the window. 'Please, gods, let things work out for me. Alone, I'm just a failure, but Vulpix can change that. I don't want to be called a loser anymore. I want to be successful. That'll make me happy... I'm sure of it.'

    End of Episode 2


    This is probably what an average chapter length will be like going forward.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 5

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Blog Posts:
    Feb 4, 2018
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    This chapter was originally posted on August 29th, 2017.


    A beam of light crept across Shane's body. He brushed his forepaws against his face and groaned. Shane curled up into a tighter ball, attempting to will away the light. But the beam lingered over him. Eventually, Shane gave an annoyed huff and poked his head up. "What?" he growled. "What's the prob–?"

    He cut himself off and blinked in surprise. "Uh… this isn't my room," he said, getting to his feet. "How did I get back on the beach?" Shane looked around, surveying the sand in front of him. The beach gave way to luminescent, orange water that seemed to extend off beyond the horizon.

    Shane looked up and noticed the sky perfectly matched the water's orange glow. "Okay, kinda creeped out here," he said. "This is definitely not the same beach I washed up on. So, what gives?"


    "Gah!" Shane fell to his belly, covering his ears with his forepaws.

    "Do you have any idea how long I've waited for you to wake up?"

    Shane looked around, but didn't see any signs of another Pokémon. "Two words, whatever you are: volume control. I'm right here. I can hear you perfectly fine," he scoffed, slapping the side of his head.

    "Foooooooool!" the disembodied voice bellowed, sending Shane to the ground once again. "I do not have time for smart remarks. I cannot maintain our dream link for long, human."

    "I'm dreaming?" Shane tilted his head. "That'd explain the crazy water, I guess." His brow furrowed. "Wait, did you just call me a human?"

    "Of course I did. I summoned you here, after all."

    Shane raised an eyebrow. "Wait, by 'here,' do you mean this dream or the Pokémon world as a whole? This is kind of an important detail."

    "What do you think, human?"

    "Uh, I'm gonna go with 'Pokémon world as a whole,'" Shane replied, preparing to cover his ears again if the voice got angry.

    "Yes… correct! You see, human, I am in need of your help."

    A broad smile crept onto Shane's muzzle. "Go ooooooon…"

    "There is something out there… draining me of my powers! Something… that wants to upset the balance of nature. But I do not know what it is."

    "Hmm…" Shane scratched his chin. "That's pretty vague, but just as I'd expect of a weird voice inside my head." He looked out toward the ocean. "Isn't there any kind of clue you can offer me? A cryptic riddle? A vision of the future? Heck, I'll take an interpretive dance. Anything's better than flying blind, here."

    "Did you not hear me, you foolish fool? I said I don't know! Why do you think I brought you into this world? To figure everything out before it's too late for me!"

    Shane's grin broadened. "So, what you're saying is, you need me to save the world? Ha ha, yes! Wait'll the guild hears about this. Tessa can take her stupid 'you're here by accident' nonsense and shove it!" He started dancing around the beach, singing, "I'm gonna be a he-ro! I'm gonna be a he-ro!"


    Shane fell flat onto his face.

    "You cannot tell anyone about this! I've put myself in enough danger already just by bringing you here. Go forth… and find whatever is threatening the balance of nature!"

    "Uh-huh, sure. I'll get right on that," Shane promised. "And what are you going to do? Sit around and bother me with cryptic dreams like this again in the future?"

    "This is all I can do if I wish to conserve my power. You'd better figure something out, because I will contact you again."

    Shane nodded. "Sounds good to me. Now, uh, think you can wake me up so I can get started with this whole investigating business?"

    "Fine. As you wish. Farewell for now, human."

    For a brief instant, Shane saw a sun-shaped silhouette appear in the water. Then, the silhouette let out a bright flash, completely blinding him.


    Episode 3: One Step Forward

    Chapter 5: Pearls of Wisdom


    "Vulpix, wake up!" Tessa said, shoving her slumbering partner's hide. "C'mon, it's already dawn. You're gonna make us late for our first morning assembly."

    "Gzzkkrr… snnnrrrkk… mmmfffffrr…" Shane snorted and stretched a forepaw forward. "Five more minutes… Mom," he groaned.

    "Okay, we do not have time for this," Tessa grumbled. She grabbed hold of Shane's cushion and yanked it toward her. Shane rolled off it, landing splayed out on his back. His eyes shot open.

    "Hey, what was that for?" he growled.

    "You overslept, you dolt," Tessa scolded. "Let's get going or Braviary will yell at us for sure."

    Shane rolled to his feet and threw on his scarf. He jogged into the hallway, with Tessa following after him. They proceeded toward the main assembly area, where they found the guild members they had met yesterday. Braviary stood in front of the door to Metagross' office. Team Radiance shuffled up beside Yungoos and Growlithe. "Psst, did we miss anything?" Shane asked.

    "Nah, youse rookies are fine," Yungoos replied. "I think Braviary's waiting ta see if da Guildmaster's showing up."

    Shane nodded. He turned toward Braviary, but then something sparkled in the corner of his eye. Shane craned his head to the right. "Uh…" He raised an eyebrow. "Anyone else see a Milotic, Serperior, and Dragonair huddled in the corner? What are they doing?"

    Tessa turned and spotted the three serpentine Pokémon in question. "You mean Team Captivate?" Growlithe spoke up. "They're one of the veteran teams. Must be taking a request from the Guildmaster if they actually showed up to a morning meeting." Tessa eyed the veterans skeptically. Milotic spotted Tessa and her eyes widened. She held up her rainbow tail to shield her face, but Tessa could see Milotic whispering excitedly to her teammates. Tessa hiked her scarf up over her muzzle and turned back to face Shane.

    "Alrighty, folks," Braviary said with a clear of his throat. "Don't look like the Guildmaster will be gracing us this morning. So, without further ado, here are today's announcements." Braviary looked at Team Radiance. "Now, I know most of y'all met 'em yesterday, but we got us a couple of new recruits. That there…" He pointed a wing at them. "… is Team Radiance. If'n ya haven't greeted 'em, say hi to Vulpix and Te–" He paused again. "I mean, Riolu."

    "Why don't you want anyone calling you Tessa, again?" Shane asked.

    Tessa looked down at the ground. "I already told you, it's none of your business. Now drop it." She noticed the trio of Team Captivate exchanging whispers again. She repositioned herself between Shane and Yungoos, although Shane didn't seem to care.

    "Now then," Braviary continued, "I'm sure a few of ya have heard that Sunset Shoals had some of its caverns flooded. Well, the team that went to investigate reported back to me yesterday. They said the local Pokémon are claiming the tide's steadily grown stronger over the past few weeks."

    Shane raised an eyebrow. 'Huh… could that be related to the whole 'messing with the balance of nature' thing I heard about in my dream?'

    "Ain't entirely sure why that would be. But what is important is making sure the folks in nearby Circadian Coast are safe from any flooding. To that effect, Team Captivate over there will be delivering some supplies on the guild's behalf." Braviary nodded at the serpent trio. Milotic winked and blew a kiss toward him. "Lastly, Magearna asks that y'all refrain from using yer Gear-Coms if'n you do any assignments today. She'll be performing some maintenance on her receiver," Braviary announced. "That'll about do things for us this morning. Now, get out there and show Horizon what we're made of!"

    "Hooo-rah!" the apprentices shouted in unison.

    "What, no motto? Lame," Shane mused.

    As the group dispersed, cream-colored scales filled Tessa's field of vision. She looked up into Milotic's soft expression. Shane just sat beside her, a mystified look in his eyes. "Hiya… Milotic…" Tessa whispered.

    "Tessa, sweetie!" Milotic wrapped Tessa up in her body. She craned her neck down and nuzzled Tessa's forehead. Tessa flinched from the contact and fought to dodge Milotic's gaze. "Oh, sorry." Milotic released her. "It's just Riolu now, right? Like it should be?"

    "Yeah," Tessa whispered.

    "Well, it's great to see you again. It's been ages!" Milotic chirped. "I can't believe you're finally in the guild. Oh, I'll bet your mom and brother are so proud!"

    Tessa winced and looked away. "Milotic," Dragonair whispered. "You're being inconsiderate. Can you not see the distress on her face?" She slithered forward. "Sorry about her, Riolu. You know how she gets sometimes."

    "It's… it's okay, Dragonair," Tessa stammered. "Mom's still… away."

    Milotic's eyes widened. "Ohmygosh, I'm so sorry, Riri! I had no idea. I'll drop the subject right away." She turned to her teammates. "C'mon, ladies. We've got some supplies to deliver!" They all lifted their tails and tapped the tips together. Then they slithered off toward the stairs. Braviary fluttered over to Team Radiance the moment Team Captivate had departed the area. Shane still had a starry-eyed look about him, so Braviary flapped a wing in his face.

    "Paaaafffttth! Pfffftt! I'm awake… I'm awake!" Shane hollered. He blinked rapidly. "Where's the fire?"

    "Quite spacing out, hoss," Braviary scolded. "It's time fer y'all to get working. I'm here to show you the job board. So, follow me." Braviary escorted Team Radiance up to the main entrance. Shane spotted two bulletin boards on either side of the room. One of them clearly had sketches of Pokémon on it, but Shane couldn't make out any specifics. "We collect jobs from all over," Braviary explained. "Pokémon interested in our help can post jobs here themselves or send requests to us via couriers."

    'Wonder how a postal system even works in a place like this,' Shane thought. 'Must be some secretive legion of flying-types.'

    "Now then, I want y'all to get used to accepting assignments from this job board. So, I'm gonna pick out yer first one. Sound good?"

    "No objections here," Shane chirped.

    "Yeah, that's fine," Tessa agreed.

    Braviary unclipped one of the pages from the board and inspected it. "Perfect. Y'all can take this to start." He passed the page over to Tessa.

    "Please help me, Horizon Guild," she read aloud. "I have this string of pearls that I wanted to exchange at the Kecleon Shop. I could really use some extra funds, and I was just so fortunate to discover these pearls. But when I was on my way to Aeon Town, I lost them. I believe they're somewhere along the Clayback River. Signed, Lunatone." She looked up at Braviary. "The Clayback River? That's a bit of a trek, isn't it?"

    "Now don't you worry about something like that," Braviary laughed. "Y'all are part of the guild now. We've got ways of navigating the continent lickety split. If'n you head over to Aeon Port, you'll find the transportation you need."

    "Is it a Lapras?" Shane asked.

    "Ha, yer a riot, son! Ya really expect one Lapras to service the guild? Nah, we've got something much faster," Braviary exclaimed. "But I'll let y'all figure that one out for yourselves. Do whatever preparations y'all need. Then head on out to the port. I'm-a log this job into yer file in the meantime." He turned and glided over to the stairs, leaving Team Radiance over by the entrance.

    "So, uh, we've got our first job!" Shane cheered. "You've got our pouch, right?" Tessa nodded. "Then let's make for the docks!"

    "Don't you think we should get some supplies first?" Tessa exclaimed.

    "What do we need? We're just going to investigate a river," Shane scoffed. "Besides, how could you still have money after the stuff you bought yesterday?"

    "That was money I had saved for, uh, a special occasion?"

    "Are you asking me or telling me? Look, we're burning daylight standing around here. We've got some pearls to find. So, let's get going!" He trotted out of the front door. Tessa groaned and followed behind him. She quickened her pace in order to get in front of Shane and properly lead up down one of the larger streets.

    After a few minutes of walking, the buildings of Aeon Town gave way to a small hill that ran down to a set of wooden docks evenly spaced out in the water. Shane whistled. "Huh… they actually have more than one dock here. I'm surprised."

    Tessa adjusted her pouch. "Well, Aeon Town is one of the bigger communities in Horizon, if I'm not mistaken. It's only natural we'd have to be ready for a bit of traffic."

    "So, is this port connected to the water that surrounds Rainbow Island, then?" Shane asked.

    "Yeah, the Midnight Sea," Tessa acknowledged. "I'm surprised you actually remembered."

    "Hey, anything related to Ho-Oh is bound to stay in my brain," Shane declared. "And, seriously, it's called the Midnight Sea? That's totally not ominous or anything!"

    "It's named that way because if ye be dumb enough to try swimming underwater, ye'll find it's as dark as the night sky!"

    Shane's fur bristled. "Did you hear that?" He looked around rapidly. "That sounded like a pirate! Quick, find us some eyepatches so we can blend in."

    "That's just our ride, oh wise explorer," Tessa deadpanned, pointing toward the edge of the dock. 'What the heck is a pirate, anyway?' she wondered. Shane followed her line of sight and spotted a jagged blue dorsal fin and a pair of beady red eyes separated by a yellow star marking.

    "Oh, sweet! We get to ride a Sharpedo?" Shane gasped. "That's awesome!"

    Sharpedo surfaced. "Aye. I be the cap'n of Horizon's Sharpedo Sailors. Yer the new guild members, right?"

    "Sure are," Shane chirped, his earlier trepidation having vanished. He jogged up to Sharpedo. "I'm Shane, and this is my partner, Riolu."

    Sharpedo examined Tessa as she joined up with Shane. "Yer eyes be familiar, lass," he acknowledged. "Yeh wouldn't happen to be–?"

    "Yes, yes, my parents and brother are all in the guild. Can we just get going now? We need to get to the Clayback River," Tessa cut in.

    "Of course." Sharpedo swiveled around, exposing a pair of plastic seats that attached to his dorsal fin. "Climb aboard." Tessa jumped into one of the seats. Shane had a bit more trouble steadying himself thanks to his lack of any arms. "Alright, we be setting course for Clayback River!"


    ~Clayback River~

    "Okay, I'm sensing an immense bias toward light-furred Pokémon in this continent!"

    Tessa paused in the middle of climbing up a rock. She glanced down to see Shane along the dark red riverbank, brushing his forepaws against the very same rock she clung to. "What's the problem, exactly?" she sighed.

    "Look at me!" He lifted up his forepaws, showing the wet, brown dirt caking them. "I'm tired of getting my fur all grimy. First, it's sand. Then, it's dirt. And now, it's silt!"

    Tessa smirked. "What happened to not wanting anyone to think you were girly?"

    "I can't help it!" Shane proclaimed. He stumbled back from the rock. As he did, his tails brushed through the riverbank. Clay and silt caked them, making Shane cringe. "It's this stupid Vulpix body and mind of mine. There's a part of my brain that's insistent I keep this pelt nice and shiny. And if it ever gets messed up my fur bristles, my stomach twists in knots, and I feel like I've got this awful itch I can't scratch."

    "Aww, you poor, poor thing," Tessa teased. "Guess exploring's not for you if you can't handle a getting down and dirty."

    Shane's left eye twitched. "I… that's…" He stomped a forepaw on the ground. "I can totally handle it! Watch!" He scooped up a pawful of clay and smeared it across his chest. "See? Perfectly…" He looked down at his clay-covered chest. Shane's muzzle twitched. Seconds later, he smacked his forehead with his paw. "Aggh! What am I doing?" he groaned, only to stare at his grimy paw with wide eyes. "CRUD! I just made it worse!" he howled.

    "You know, you're really not helping things," Tessa scoffed. "Find some higher ground so we can get a better look around the river, will ya?" Shane looked away dejectedly and started trying to spot a vantage point of his own. Tessa resumed her climb up the rock. She hefted herself up to stand on the top of the rock and survey the area.

    Two banks of clay ran in parallel. Both had steep, rocky inclines separating them from the surrounding plains. The brown, dirt-filled river coursed in front of her, providing a considerable gap if Team Radiance hoped to reach the other bank. Tessa soon spotted a few outcroppings of rock that seemed close enough together to jump across.

    "This river's current looks pretty strong!" Shane shouted. Tessa looked down and noticed Shane had dipped a paw in the river. "I can feel it racing against my paw," he said. "This is running out to the ocean?"

    "I'm not sure," Tessa called back. "Do you see anything sparkling in the water?"

    "No. This is way too murky. Probably from all the silt and clay in the basin," Shane reported. "But don't you think Lunatone would have known if he dropped his pearls into the river?"

    "I guess he would've requested a water-type's help, yeah," Tessa acknowledged. "But the river continues out to the north. And it looks like it gets wider over there."

    She slid back down the rock to regroup with her teammate. "What do you propose we do then? We've got to search the other side of the river too or we're bound to miss it," Shane said.

    "I know. I spotted a set of rocks that jut out into the river up ahead," Tessa announced. "One of us should try to jump the gap and reach the other ba–"

    "Oh! Dibs! Dibs!" Shane jumped about excitedly and then sprinted forward.

    "Hey… wait! We should talk this over before we split up," Tessa protested, but Shane was already halfway toward the outcropping she saw. She ran after him, only to notice Shane spraying the part of the river between the rocks with a jet of snow. To her surprise, a thin layer of ice formed atop the river.

    "What are you doing? You're just gonna tire yourself out," Tessa warned.

    "It's a failsafe. If I can't make the jump, I won't end up in the drink," Shane stated, puffing his chest out.

    "Ice doesn't work that way, dummy," Tessa growled. "A thin layer's not good enough. You need to consider your weight and the fact that you'd have momentum from falling!"

    "Bah, physics was never one of my strong subjects. I'll be fine. It's just something to make you not complain. Guess it didn't work," Shane said, laughing. "Okay, 'Operation: Miles Prower' is go! Three… two… one… CHARGE!" Shane sprinted across the first outcropping.

    Tessa shut her eyes and look away. 'Please don't screw this up and crack your skull in half…'


    She poked an eye open to see Shane trotting confidently down the rock along the other side. "What did I tell you?" he called back to Tessa. "Nothing to it!"

    'Thank goodness,' she sighed, but she wasn't about to give Shane any satisfaction. "Don't celebrate until we've found the pearls. See if you can get up the dirt embankment over there and get a look around."

    "I was already about to do that. Sheesh, no need to order me around," Shane scoffed, trotting over toward the hill. The dirt pile rose up high enough to reach the fields of green grass overlooking the river basin. As he approached it, Shane noticed something glimmer in the corner of his eye. "Hang on, I think there's something in this dirt pile," he announced.

    "Don't just stand there, then. Dig it up," Tessa called. Shane braced his forepaws against the dirt and started digging away.

    "Ugh… blecch!" Shane sputtered. "I can't believe dogs actually enjoy doing this back home."

    "It's cause your technique's sloppy!" Tessa scolded. "Stop throwing the dirt to the side like a wuss and push it toward your belly."

    "I'm… doing… fine!" Shane insisted. After a couple of minutes, his paws struck something hard. He looked down and noticed a sparkling silver bit of metal staring back at him. "Oh-ho! What have we here? Come to Shane, shiny." He stuck his paws into the dirt and gave a hearty tug. Tessa watched him unearth a string of mud-caked, silver beads. Shane tumbled back, clasping the beads as he landed on his back.

    "Hey, those look like they could be our missing pearls," Tessa said. "Think you can manage to get back across with them in tow?" She bit her lip. 'Ugh, we did not think this through! I have the pouch and I have hands. Why did I let him jump across? Did I really think I'd be the one to find them?'

    "Uh…" Shane looked at the pearls. "I think I can manage if I sling these pearls across my scarf. They're not that heavy."

    "Kweh heh heh heh! Thanks for taking the trouble to dig those out for us, Snowy. Now we don't need to get our claws dirty!"

    Tessa's heart leaped into her throat. 'No way… that's Sneasel's voice! What's he doing here?' As if to respond, Sneasel and Jangmo-o both emerged from the other side of the dirt hill, grinning wickedly.

    "I thought your voices sounded familiar," Jangmo-o said with a laugh. "See, told you it'd be a good idea to lay low behind the hill."

    Sneasel whirled on Jangmo-o. "What are you talking about? That was my idea!"

    "Yeah? Well, I still provided moral support," Jangmo-o declared.

    Shane narrowed his eyes at the duo. "What are you creeps doing here?"

    "Kweh heh heh heh! Ain't it obvious? Combing for treasure, of course!" Sneasel declared.

    "Yeah. Ain't nobody better at scooping up treasure than Team Fang," Jangmo-o added, only to receive a smack upside the head from Sneasel.

    "You idiot. Why would you tell them our team name?"

    "Uh, to strike fear into their hearts?" Jangmo-o squeaked.

    "Yeah, but now they can try to report us!" Sneasel hissed. "Whatever, doesn't matter. Let's nab the pearls and toss Snowy into the dirty river where he belongs."

    Tessa's eyes widened. "Vulpix, you've gotta jump back over here. Quickly! Don't try to take them both on at once."

    "Why not? I've beaten 'em before!" Shane huffed.

    "Don't be stupid! I've got all our supplies."

    Shane's ears and tails drooped. "Uh… right." He turned and started running toward the rock.

    "Oh no you don't!" Sneasel bellowed. He opened his mouth and launched a blast of frigid air toward Shane. The sand froze up in front of him. Shane's paws failed to gain proper traction and he skidded forward. He spun around and wiped out on the edge of the rock. In the process, the pearls tumbled from his neck, rolling toward the edge of the river.

    "No!" Shane shouted. Tessa gritted her teeth at the sight.

    'Okay, no point staying around here anymore,' she figured. Tessa took a deep breath and dashed across the rocks on her side of the river. She leaped over the water, letting out a grunt as her feet impacted the rock on the other side. Shane looked up and saw Tessa run by him. He rolled over and shot a blast of slushy snow ahead of himself. This forced Jangmo-o to skid to a halt. Sneasel, on the other hand, ran right through the attack, brushing snowflakes out of his eyes.

    "Nice try, Snowy, but you're not going to stop me!" Sneasel yelled. Seconds later, Tessa slammed into his side, knocking him away from the pearls.

    Shane immediately scrambled to his feet and leaped to his partner's side. "You grab the pearls and get back to the other side of the river. I'll hold them off!"

    "Are you nuts? I just said you can't handle two-on-one!"

    "Yeah, but I'm the one with the ranged attacks and you have the bag," Shane pointed out. He spun around and belted a high-pitched shriek at Jangmo-o, pushing the dragon back. "Give me an Oran Berry to tuck into my scarf and go!"

    Tessa's muzzle went agape. 'Wait. He actually thought this through? Could it be Vulpix is actually listening to me?' She plopped an oran berry against his neck and ran off. Shane turned and lay down a stream of snow to cover Tessa's scramble up onto the rock.

    Sneasel again leaped directly into the line of fire, catching Shane by surprise. His eyes widened and he tried bucking up on his hind legs to impede Sneasel's progress. But Sneasel successfully jumped over Shane. He whirled around and, in desperation, spewed wet, slippery snow onto the rock. The snowflakes lined its rough surface, creating a layer of slush. Sneasel had no way to avoid landing on the slick part of the rock. Though his claws offered decent traction under normal circumstances, uneven, slippery rocks were another story entirely.

    Unfortunately, Tessa was still on the rock. And her paws offered no traction. Shane realized his mistake the moment he watched Sneasel land awkwardly, slip, and fall into the river. At the exact same time, Tessa prepared to lunge for the opposing rock embankment. But her foot slid out from under her and her momentum sent her off the edge of the rock.

    Shane rolled to his feet and narrowed his eyes at Tessa. He felt the same spark of psychic energy he had drawn on in Dewdrop Woods. Concentrating, Shane fired a pink circle forward. Seconds before Tessa would have impacted the river, the attack exploded around her, flinging her back across the river. She landed on the opposite bank, leaving a Riolu-shaped crater in the mud.

    "Eeep! Sneasel!" Jangmo-o gasped. He broke off from trying to attack Shane while the latter's back was turned and ran downstream. His partner surfaced, flailing his arms about.

    "Don't worry… about… me! Get the… pearls!" Sneasel sputtered. Shane let out a growl and unleashed the biggest burst of snow he could muster. Jangmo-o hollered and jumped forward, trying to get away from the attack. However, this proved a foolish decision, because the only thing in front of him was the river.


    "Jangmo-o, you iddddiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooot!" Sneasel hollered as the harsh current swept him and his cohort away.

    "Phew. Made it out of that jam," Shane sighed. "See, Riolu, I told you I could handle…" His voice trailed off as he recalled the state he had last seen his partner in. Ears drooping, he muttered a weak, "Oh boy."

    Shane dashed along the rock embankment and lunged back toward the other side of the river. He scampered down to Tessa's position, only for a ball of clay to strike him in the face. He staggered back in surprise. "Hey! What the–?"

    "That was your cover? Freezing the rock?" Tessa snarled.

    "Sneasel got around me, so I had to improvise. It worked, didn't it?" Shane groaned, trying to rub silt from his eyes.

    "I nearly fell in that river! And I am not what you would call a strong swimmer," Tessa shouted, trying to suppress a shiver.

    "But you didn't fall. I had everything under control."

    "You hit me with Extrasensory right next to a very large and very sharp rock!" Tessa barked.

    "Only because I wasn't close enough to use Roar effectively… aha ha…" Shane said with a nervous laugh. "So, I took a gamble. Big whoop. I succeeded. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. You should be thanking me for ending up in the drink."

    "If your trajectory was even the slightest bit different I would have hit that rock. Then I'd probably have passed out and drowned!" Tessa hissed, her eyes watering. "And that attack really hurt!"

    Shane nudged the oran berry in his possession over to Tessa. "But you didn't hit the rock. And I thought I told you yesterday that I don't dwell on what-ifs."


    Shane whirled about and collapsed onto his belly. His right cheek now had a brown, palm-shaped imprint in it. "I thought you had taken what I told you yesterday to heart!" Tessa said, sniffling. "But, in the span of an evening, you somehow got even more reckless."

    Shane pursed his muzzle. "Okay… my bad. But you really didn't expect me to just stand there and let Sneasel attack you, did you? We would've lost the pearls for sure." He walked up to Tessa. "You, uh, did hang onto the pearls, didn't you?"

    Tessa glared at him but ultimately pulled the pearls out of her pouch. "Alright! A job well done," Shane proclaimed. He then looked at Tessa's mud-covered form, and then glanced at the mud and silt on his pelt. "Well, for the most part, I guess. There's nothing left to do now but head back to the guild, right?"

    Tessa silently pocketed the pearls and stormed off upstream.


    ~Aeon Observatory~

    "Oh, thank you! Thank you both very much!" Lunatone spun about in excitement while he levitated the pearls up beside him. "I had a momentary lapse in concentration with these things and flung them away. I'm so happy you were able to find them."

    Shane stood tall and beamed. "It was no trouble at all, sir."

    "Are you sure? You two look pretty grimy. Where did the pearls end up anyway?"

    "In a bank of clay. No worries, I dug it out just fine," Shane exclaimed.

    "But we did encounter a pair of thugs," Tessa stated, directing the comment to Braviary.

    "Is that so?" He raised an eyebrow. "Who were they?"

    "A Sneasel with a scar across his head-feather and a Jangmo-o with an oversized forehead scale. They called themselves Team Fang," Tessa explained. "They tried to attack us to steal the pearls."

    Braviary fluttered over to the board on the opposite side of the entrance room. "Hrrrm… ain't on our outlaw board. Could've been a misunderstanding. But I'll be sure to pass it along to Officer Magnezone next time I see him."

    "In any event, please let me offer you this pair of wands for your troubles," Lunatone declared. He levitated the rod-like instruments over beside Shane, who looked skeptically at them.

    "Am I gonna turn into a Braixen if I touch one of these?" he wondered.

    "I don't think it works that way, hoss," Braviary chuckled. Lunatone levitated his pearls onto the top of his crescent-shaped body and departed the guild. Braviary flew back over to Team Radiance. "Good work out there, you two. Although, I'm not too keen on y'all tracking mud in here like this," he said. "Next time, I'm-a have to write y'all up on a hygiene violation. But seeing as this was yer first assignment, I'll let it slide." He reached underneath his wing and produced a small pouch. "This here's your compensation. Fifteen percent of Lunatone's coin reward."

    "Fifteen percent?! We're getting gipped! That's highway robbery," Shane whined. Braviary started to open his beak but Shane held up a forepaw. "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Guild's gotta make money somehow."

    Braviary scowled. "One of these days yer gonna mouth off to the wrong feller and end up tied to a branch by them fussy little tails of yers. But, yer right. If'n yer looking to make more, take more assignments. Also, ya get a better commission once y'all are apprentices." He stole a glance out the window. "I see plenty of daylight left, so y'all should consider taking on another job request or two."

    Tessa's shoulders slumped. "Do we have to?"

    "I suppose not, but it sure wouldn't look good fer rookies to be slacking on their first day," Braviary mused. He bid them farewell with a wave and descended into the guild.

    "Hey, here's one asking for help gathering honey from Dewdrop Woods! We can totally do it," Shane chirped, waving a piece of parchment around. "I mean, we're already filthy, so might as well."

    Tessa squeezed her eyes shut. 'It's gonna be a long afternoon.'


    That same evening, a damp Shane walked into his room, a towel draped over his backside. "Ah, I feel so much better!" Shane said, shaking his torso and flecking water across the room. "I'm surprised my tails got unstuck that easily," he marveled, pivoting to wag his tails in unison. "Comfey's special soap worked like a charm!"

    Tessa muttered inaudibly and turned her back to Shane. "You say something?" he asked.

    "… no. You must have water in your ears," Tessa grumbled. 'How can he be so upbeat? Today was awful. This was even worse than the time Eevee's friends made fun of me for being a bad battler.'

    "Oh, okay then," Shane said. "You're, uh, not still sore about getting sprayed by that tree sap, are you? Because I had no idea it could do anything but drip out of trees." Tessa tucked her knees in to cover up her face. "Aha ha… but it was kinda fun, wasn't it?" he added. Shane got no response. "Um… Tessa?"

    "Don't call me that!"

    Shane's tails stood up straight. "Are… are you feeling okay, Riolu?"

    Tessa pulled her scarf up to cover her head.

    "C'mon, you can tell me what's wrong," Shane insisted. "I'm your partner, after all."

    Tessa whirled around on him. "Are you? Because you sure have a funny way of showing it!"

    Shane's eyes widened. "Hey now. What's that supposed to mean?"

    Tessa tried to suppress a shiver. "I need to you to promise me that you've got my back. Like really got my back."

    "That's silly! Of course I do."

    "No, I want you to promise me and mean it," Tessa said. "Having my back means working with me. Not doing whatever you want to do and hoping that I adapt. The reason the heroes of the past did so well is because they worked together. We're nowhere even close to them... and that's upsetting."

    "This… this is about the river, isn't it?" Shane whispered.

    "Yes! Yes, it's about the river!" Tessa barked. "It's easy for you to brush off… but for a moment there, I was horrified. I was falling down toward a very fast, very dark river with absolutely no way to save myself! And then suddenly this strong, painful force grabs onto me…" She picked up her pillow. "… and tosses me…" She hurled the pillow, striking Shane's face. "… across the river!"

    Shane stood there, his eyes darting about the room. Tessa could see him visibly struggling to figure out something to say. "So please, Vulpix," Tessa whispered, fidgeting with her scarf, "please… just promise me you've got my back. Otherwise, I don't think I can make this work."

    Silence followed. Tessa scrunched her eyes shut. 'Come on, Vulpix. Say something. Show me that I'm worrying for nothing. Show me that we're not doomed to fail... just like I failed at aura training and making friends in Sunrise Village. I need this... so, so badly. If this falls through... if I miss this one chance at making my biggest dream come true...'

    Tessa flinched as Shane's forepaw tapped her shoulder. She shrank back from him. "Of course, I've got your back. You're my partner," Shane exclaimed. Tessa's muscles relaxed slightly. But then a grin appeared on Shane's face and he added, "After all, you're gonna help me rid the world of evil. Even if you don't know it yet." He gave her a knowing wink.

    Tessa frowned and sat back down.

    '… that's not what I wanted to hear.'
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  18. Persephone

    Persephone The Vulture Queen

    Blog Posts:
    Apr 12, 2014
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    So I was gonna go into my hypercritical mode but someone told me you've been writing for all of six months so I'm going to preface this by saying:

    ...seriously? This is a first fic? My first fic involved hroriffic mispllings, awful dialogue and a bunch of unneccessary murder. And it was a straight retelling (technically a nuzlocke, but it was a bad nuzlocke run where I only really used two 'mons).

    So with regards to everything else I say, I want to preface this by saying this is better than a lot of people third or fourth tries. Yeah.

    I like Riolu quite a bit. Don't quite understand her but she's a secondary character five chapters in so that's perfectly acceptable. She's independent and absolutely willing to shatter the protagonist's plot armor and not go along with things just because that's how they have to be. Even if she ultimately does go along with things, because that's how they have to be. The insistent naming thing is a nice little quirk/trait for distinguishing her from the plethora of other PMD Riolu. I'm going to come back to both averting tropes hard at the surface while still playing them straight later on, since I think it's one of the things you're not doing terribly well overall. But here? Here it works.

    Magearna has memetacular dialogue and I loved almost every line of it. Honestly one of the cutest and funniest parts of the story to date.

    I loved Shane's vulpix mind rebelling against him on the subject of cleanliness. It is absolutely important that a vulpix stay clean. Otherwise what's even the point of being beautiful.

    Minor note: I have no idea how a vulpix fist pumps as that requires 1) forming a fist and 2) pumping it, neither of which foxes are particularly well-equipped to do.

    So, here's where I have to get critical for a second. Sorry :(

    To start with, written comedy is hard. A lot of this style of comedy in film or animation can work on quick transitions, the charisma of the actors and multiple comedians spending hours upon hours making jokes. And everything moves along before you can really grasp that the protagonist would be an unlikeable jerk in real life. And, increasingly, comedies are making the protagonist's main conflict be realizing that he's a horrible person and trying to change a little bit.

    The point is, Unlikeable Self-Important Protagonist Comedy doesn't adapt to literature very well because scenes are drawn out and there's no real charisma to cover up any jokes that fall flat. And comedy is hard to write. Professionals sometimes misfire after spending hours upon hours drafting ideas and consulting other professionals about it.

    The result is that I don't really like Shane. Last chapter helped a little, giving him some more quirks beyond "is gonna be super meta about everything." But honestly at some point he either needs to start getting really punished for things in a way with actual consequences (something he hasn't faced yet), or start mellowing out on his own. Riolu blowing up on him from time to time or stern warnings from Braviary would work better if they were ever followed through on for more than a quarter chapter.

    And I get that we're in an introductory arc. I know. But people often decide whether or not they'll continue reading a story around this point in. Is it fair? Maybe not. But it's something I think needs addressed.

    I get that every character is meant to have a very distinct, stereotypical voice because it's a comedy trope. And to be honest--

    --actually it usually works for you. A lot more than I was expecting. Metagross and Magearna are wonderful. Braviary has grown on me. Yungoos probably would talk like that. But Lunala/Solgaleo was... I get that their quirk is being kind of unhinged for a god, but I felt like having their bellowing hamminess against Shane's "every line a joke" style didn't work. It just brought me out of the narrative and resulted in a lot of eye rolls.

    Now I want to talk about defying tropes while also playing them straight. It's a hard balance, and one that parody has to run with. Because the thing about parodies is that all but the very best of them have to work as a straight example of the genera they're mocking. And the best way to do that is to have the audience realize the ridiculousness of things organically, rather than shoving it in their faces. For example, I think you're doing that quite well with most character voices. Yes, PMD NPCs are absolutely bonkers and most Pokemon NPCs are comedically stereotypical (if unintentionally so). That's great. You don't need to come out and say "hey, what's with all these weird accents" because the reader just gets that you're taking a trope the games have, ramping it up to the point of absurdity and then acting in-universe like this is perfectly normal. And it's great, mostly.

    Same goes, albeit less so, for Riolu. Yes, they're only partners because they met in the exact same way that PMD protagonists and partners do. But she fights it, hard, like someone would in real life. And the emotional tones of a random stalker are played right. Things ultimately work out, because they have to. But it feels like there's struggle and in the process you mock the "two people instantly click" dynamic.

    Compare this to the endless string of one-liners, most of which are forgettable. I'll go with the pay joke, because it's fresh in my mind and I remember it. A better way to mock the pay cut system would be to just take it up to eleven and play it straight. Instead of Shane mouthing off about a 65% reduction... it turns out the guild takes 99.3% of the cut. And the rest of the chapter is playing that for shock and having Riolu and Shane talk about what the guild could possibly be doing with that money. You never just quip about it, but you make people laugh at the absurdity of the games anyway. Or maybe it's a smaller percent cut (say, 50) but Braviary insists on not just taking one of the two wands... but breaking both in half because those are the rules. And then they have to argue about it like they aren't in a game, but just dealing with a dense and absurd system.

    I feel like that's the best way to manage good parody that still produces emotional attachment to the story, even while it makes you laugh. Because jokes are hard to write and it's a lot easier to exaggerate the tropes of the mocked genera.

    To your credit, you're already doing some of this quite well. Especially for a first story.

    And I will still always read this, if only for the Alolan Vulpix <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Blog Posts:
    Feb 4, 2018
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    In all fairness, I have to write a lot of memos and reports at work. Part of my revisions were focusing on making the early chapters not sound too stiff/clinical, which was a very common thing getting pointed out to me. Especially with sentence structure and frequently using very indirect, odd word choice.

    She's an interesting case and I hope to start to supply a bit of info to back that up.

    Maybe this is a bad thing to admit, but my intention was to try and avoid a lot of the Riolu/Lucario stereotypes if I could. I may like the species, but I know how over-represented they are everywhere. So, I really wnated to try and do some different stuff.

    Thanks. I took some inspiration from Stuffwell, the exposition fairy from Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. And I say that, since Magearna's a fairy-type, and could be a literal exposition fairy if the need arises. :p

    He will embrace his fabulous side someday, but not today.

    Pay no attention to the man editing that out behind the curtain! :V

    That's a fair point. I think I may have dragged the introductory stuff out a bit too long and, in spite of my changes, it seems like I didn't change enough. I am setting him up to take the fall harder than hard. But I will fully admit that I had started writing this as a comedy, only to wind up shifting gears and taking things in a darker direction. That really doesn't properly start until Chapter 13 and, while I definitely axed a number of jokes/gags from the original version to this one, it's clearly not enough. I think the problem is that since these first chapters were written before I changed the story's direction, I'm honestly not sure how to make them fit without mucking up things that were very well-received in later chapters...

    No, I get it. See, it's my first story for a reason? I don't quite think I had the pacing down at this point, and I can't ask anyone to "bear with me, because I swear it's gonna get better." I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to read or who gets to this point and stops because they're sick of it. Again, I know I dropped the ball there. :(

    Point taken. In the future, I'm not going to write such ridiculously large ham characters again. It works okay for other mediums, but there you have visuals to help. I was using an existing cartoon character as the basis, and it clearly didn't translate properly to text. So, huge mistake on my part. But there's a reason said character's acting the way they are, and saying so would be massive spoilers.

    I think I get what you're saying. I'm actually not sure how many more moments like that there are, as I think by this point I started to taper off on those items except for the occasional line here and there. But, if I encounter a similar situation, I'll see what I can do to try and change it. My apologies, once again.

    There's a slight, 100% possibility I might be immensely biased. :V

    Thanks for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it. Good luck with your continued thesis work! ^^
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 6

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Blog Posts:
    Feb 4, 2018
    Likes Received:
    This chapter was originally posted on September 2nd, 2017. This chapter has a silly extra at the very end. It's a piece of flavor text about the character that's fought here. It's a silly blurb I wrote for fun, so don't take it too seriously. Anyway, enjoy the chapter!


    Chapter 6: An Outlandish Outlaw

    ~Aeon Observatory~

    Braviary whistled. "Y'all got quite a few jobs done. Not bad fer yer second day. Color me impressed."

    Shane beamed at the praise while Tessa preoccupied herself with pocketing the team's earnings. "Does this mean we're ready to move up to apprentice rank yet?" Shane asked.

    "Now what kind of shoddy establishment do ya think we're running here, rookie? Y'all still got a lot more to learn about the ins and outs of guild life. Don't be getting big fer yer britches, ya hear?"

    Shane's ears drooped. "Dang. Well, can't blame a fox for trying."

    "We've still got an hour before supper, so y'all feel free to occupy yerselves with something else." Braviary exclaimed. "I hear Crabrawler's Café done be offering a two-fer-one special on berry juice."

    "Ooooh, that sounds refreshing!" Shane chirped. "What do you say, Riolu?" Tessa shrugged and made for the exit. Shane's ears perked up and he trotted off after his partner.

    'Okay, I'll admit things went better today,' Tessa thought. 'Though the jobs were pretty basic, so I shouldn't get my hopes up that Vulpix is really taking last night's conversation to heart.'

    They wound their way down the hill into Aeon Town's central plaza. Crabrawler's Café stood right on the outside of the town square, facing the fountain. The duo hovered in the doorway, looking around the room for a spot to sit. The walls and floor were lined with smooth, dark brown wood. Luminous orbs were perched in the walls, giving a warm, orange tint to the room. Booths lined the walls, with various sized tables and benches to serve the many shapes and sizes of Pokémon. The more centrally-located tables were surrounded by bar stools. And the bar itself had a long, thin table spread around it. Standing behind it was a crab-like Pokémon that greatly resembled the building's exterior. He had a mostly purple body, with yellow antennae and blue pincers resembling boxing gloves. Additionally, his right eye was half-shut. He held a rag in one claw, using it to polish the counter top.

    "Guess that must be Crabrawler. Anyway, I see a table for us over there," Shane exclaimed, pointed a forepaw to his left. An empty table sat over in the corner of the room by a glowing, multicolored jukebox. An outline of Shaymin lay etched into the front of the machine, surrounded by various music notes and floral patterns. Sparkling, rainbow crystals sat inside the glass dome at the top of the machine. Shane trotted over to the table and sat down by it, while Tessa turned and made for the bar area.

    Crabrawler looked up and spotted Tessa walking up to the counter. "Afternoon, m'lady. What are you fixing for?"

    "Can I get two mago berry juices, please?" Tessa asked, placing a few coins and her explorer's badge on the counter top.

    "Certainly." Crabrawler glanced at the badge and then took all but one of Tessa's coins. She looked down in confusion. "Your discount still applies even if I'm running a special," he explained, prompting Tessa to pocket the coin. Crabrawler brushed two empty glasses toward her and started adding the contents for the drinks into a mixer. "So, I take it you're a new face around the guild, eh?"

    "Yes, sir. My partner and I just joined a couple of days ago," Tessa explained.

    "Ah, jolly good. And how are you finding things over there?"

    "It's, uh, certainly something," she whispered.

    Crabrawler inserted a large stone rod into the mixer and started mashing it. "I say, that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Exploring proving tougher than you thought?"

    Tessa stole a glance at her partner. Shane sat at a table, gazing hypnotically at the jukebox. "You could say that. My team's having some… growing pains," she finally replied.

    Crabrawler started shaking the mixer up. "Speaking from experience, some Pokémon get taken in by the excitement of exploring and don't really consider any of the repercussions. They think they can be like the folks who stopped the Bittercold and Dark Matter."

    Tessa winced, then fidgeted with her scarf. "But... um... they didn't really cause that many problems in Horizon, right? I didn't really think people here cared all that much about that stuff."

    "Well, as far as I know, people don't speak all that openly about it. Besides, it's not really my place to judge. I'm just here to help Pokémon take a load off. Whether or not they're explorers or care about Mystery Dungeons doesn't matter," Crabrawler said. He filled up the two glasses with pink juice and pushed them toward Tessa. "Here you are. Two mago berry juices. Anything else?"

    "That'll be all. Thanks," Tessa said. She grabbed the two glasses and turned to bring them to her table.

    "If I may give you one bit of advice, my dear?"

    Tessa froze and glanced over her shoulder at Crabrawler. "Yeah?"

    "Don't let your doubts create a self-fulfilling prophecy," he declared. "You're bound to have some hard days, but as long as your spirit's in the right place, your mind and body will follow suit."

    Tessa blinked in confusion. "Uh, thanks… I guess," she muttered, and resumed walking back to her table. Tessa set the glasses down and took the seat opposite Shane. He remained focused on the jukebox, his head slowly swaying back and forth. "I brought you your drink," Tessa announced, shoving the second glass toward him.

    Shane jumped to attention and spun around in his seat. "Smells good." He licked his lips and pressed the straw to his muzzle. "Say, what's with the jukebox? I didn't think music was a thing around here." Tessa replied with a wordless shrug and drank her berry juice.

    "It's a nice song," Shane hummed. "Very relaxing. And I like the lyrics. 'Solgaleo, provider of daylight… Great Lunala, defender of the night…' I don't really get what it's about, but it's catchy!" he said, getting a few annoyed looks from other patrons when he belted out the lyrics. "Do you know who sings this, Riolu?" Tessa ignored him and took another sip of her drink. "Uh, hello? Earth to Riolu." Shane waved a paw in front of her. "I asked you a question."

    "… Primarina," she replied. "He lives near Sunset Shoals and makes music crystals that are distributed to Sky Jukeboxes around the world."

    Shane blinked in surprise. "That's a dude singing? Dang, he's got some impressive pipes. I was totally fooled!" Tessa spun sideways in her seat and sipped more berry juice. "Um, okay, what's with the silent treatment? You barely said a word to me during any of our jobs today," Shane said.

    Tessa shrugged. "… wasn't really up for conversing."

    "Are you still mad about yesterday? I said I was sorry and I told you I've got your back," Shane insisted. "What more do you want for me? A lock of my fur? One of my tails?"

    'How about an off-switch on that big mouth of yours?' Tessa scoffed, sighing. "Look, I've just… got a lot on my mind right now, okay? It's not like it was that big a problem. We did four jobs today, after all."

    "Yeah, but I don't just want to work in silence."

    "You were doing plenty of talking," Tessa said.

    "It's not fun if you don't have someone to talk with," Shane muttered.

    "All I'm asking for is a little space while I think things over," Tessa insisted. "You just told me you had my back. So, please just lay off the subject for the moment. Besides, how's a guy like you going to 'save the world' if a little silence bothers you so much?"

    Shane's ears drooped. He poked at his straw with his snout and gave a defeated sigh. They finished their drinks and returned to the Observatory. Tessa immediately made her way back to the team's room while Shane remained in the main assembly area until dinner was called. As dinner went on, Shane noticed that Tessa was conspicuously absent.

    He hastily finished his meal and retreated to his room, where he found Tessa laying on her pillow. "Hey, if you don't hurry up, you'll miss dinner," he said. Shane got no response. He walked up to Tessa and soon realized that she was fast asleep. "Oh... guess you must've been pretty tired," he muttered. "I'll, uh, leave you alone then, I suppose."

    Shane walked over to his own pillow and lay down on it. His boredom quickly lulled him off into a deep sleep. He got up the next morning to find that Tessa was already awake and out of the room. Shane left for the central hub and found all the guild members settling in for the morning assembly. He made his way over to Tessa's side and sat down. Surprisingly, Braviary was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Metagross stood outside of his office.

    Fact: Braviary is absent. Order: in his absence, direct all inquires to Magearna, Metagross said. Fact: there are no further announcements. Order: get to work.

    "Hoooo-rah!" the guild apprentices shouted in unison. As the crowd broke apart, Team Radiance noticed Bruxish and Yungoos approaching them.

    "Good moooooooooorning, dahlings! Settling in okay?" Bruxish greeted.

    Shane tensed up. "Well, if I was sleepwalking before, I'm definitely not now," he muttered, casting panicked looks at both Pokémon's large, toothy grins.

    "You need something from us?" Tessa asked.

    "Actually, it's youse who needs somet'ing from us," Yungoos declared. "Braviary's out doing some work. So, he left it to us to show youse two da Outlaw Board."

    Shane grinned. "So, we're catching baddies today, huh? Count me in!"

    "Now, now. Don't go psyching yourself up too much, dahling. We're not going to send you two out unless we're confiiiiiiiiident you can deal with at least oooooooone of the posted names," Bruxish chuckled. "Now, come along." He waved his fins around and led Team Radiance up into the entrance area. The team approached the board opposite the one they had used the previous two days. Sketches of Pokémon were pinned up across the board.

    "So, as youse can see, we put up drawings of wanted Pokémon. Da number of stars underneath is a rating of how dangerous we t'ink dey are. And below dat is da reward Officer Magnezone and his squadron are offering for da outlaw's capture."

    "Wait, I don't remember seeing any jail in Aeon Town," Shane said.

    "Dat's because da jail ain't in da town, rookie," Yungoos said.

    "Yes. After all, it would be mooooooooost dangerous for the good townsfolk if the jail was right here. Imagiiiiiiiine if there was a jailbreak. Oh, it'd be utter chaos, dahling," Bruxish added. "Now, let's see if there's anyone here that fits your ranking." He ran his eyes along the board.

    "Oh, what about that, uh, fruit-looking girl with the long legs?" Shane proposed, pointing to a picture in the corner.

    "Tsareena? Not a chance, newbie. She's outta yer league," Yungoos scoffed. "Besides, Growlithe's been on the hunt for her. He'd get mighty sore if ya scooped in and snagged his capture."

    Bruxish shook her head. "I'm sooooooooorry, dahlings, but these outlaws are too tough for you."

    Shane's lower lip jutted out. "You're kidding! Well then, what are we supposed to do today?"

    "Uh, there's still the Job Board," Tessa reminded him.

    "Well, Magearna should be around shortly to update this board," Bruxish explained. "You could wait a bit. Maybe buy some supplies in the meantime?"

    Shane looked expectantly at Tessa. "Yeah, I guess we can wait a little while," she said with a shrug. "Actually, I want to drop something off at Dhelmise Depot."

    "Great, I'll go with you," Shane chirped.

    "Uh, this isn't really a two-mon job," Tessa mumbled, but Shane was already at her side. She sighed and proceeded out the main entrance. Once again, the duo walked into town. This time, they headed for the street leading down toward the port. Tessa's eyes were fixed on a building that was styled to look like a giant blue anchor.

    "Oh, Team Radiance! What a pleasant surprise," Lunatone called, waving the string of pearls at them. He was floating in front of the Kecleon Shop.

    Shane and Tessa paused and walked over to him. "Hiya, Lunatone. Finally going to trade in those pearls?" Shane asked.

    Lunatone nodded. "Yes, yes. I wanted to trade them in yesterday, but then Kecleon told me I could get way more for these pearls than I thought. He told me he's getting a supply shipment today. So, I decided to wait and see if he got anything new in stock. Oh, if I could get a Psychic TM I'd probably explode with happiness!"

    Shane smiled. "Well, I'll cross my fingers for you, then," he said. "My, uh, nonexistent fingers, anyway."

    "Hey, Lunatone! Drop those pearls, you lousy thief!"

    Lunatone and Team Radiance turned to find a Solrock levitating quickly toward them. It had a noticeably large crack spreading across what constituted its forehead. "A Solrock?" Shane raised an eyebrow. "Is that your brother or something?"

    "No." Lunatone's eyes narrowed. "I've never seen her before in my life."

    "Liar!" Solrock accused. "You swiped those pearls from me. They're mine!"

    "What are you talking about? I found these in Twilight Forest a few weeks ago." Lunatone gave Solrock a suspicious look. "I'll bet you're trying to take them from me."

    "You've got that backwards. I was taking them through the forest, minding my own business, and you blindsided me and made off with my treasure. That's how I ended up with this wonderful little crack in my head," Solrock declared. "Now, fork those pearls over!"

    "Whoa, whoa, hold the phone a second," Shane said, stepping between the floating rocks. "I don't know what your story is, Solrock, but Lunatone here reported the missing pearls to the guild. And we're the team that found them. So, I'm inclined to believe him."

    "Butt out, kiddo. This don't concern you!" Solrock growled. Next thing Shane knew, he was hurtled back across the ground. Tessa's eyes widened and she ran over to her partner.

    "Are you okay?"

    "Nnngggh… head… hurts…" Shane groaned, eyes spinning about in a daze.

    Solrock refocused on Lunatone. "It's not my fault a couple of guild dweebs fell for your obvious ploy. Now, last chance. Gimme those pearls or I'm using force! You messed with the wrong Pokémon, you two-bit con."

    "But… these are mine! I found them myself," Lunatone whimpered.

    "Fine that… have it your way."

    Solrock's eyes flashed blue and the area erupted in a bright light.

    "Uwwwwwaaaaaaaaaah!" Lunatone gave a pained cry.

    "Lunatone!" Shane gasped. He tried to get to his feet but ended up headbutting Tessa in the process.

    "Ow! Watch it, doofus. I'm right in front of you," she groaned, staggering back. The flash of light subsided, revealing Lunatone lying on the ground with a dazed look in his eyes.

    "Oh no." Shane finally got his bearings and ran up to Lunatone. "Are… are you okay? Do you need to heal?"

    "Pearls… gone again…" Lunatone blubbered. "Not… fair…"

    Tessa rubbed her eyes with her paws and looked into the distance. "I think I see her on the outskirts of town!" She pointed forward. "Sunrise Village and Azure Cape are in that direction."

    Shane looked down at Lunatone. "Don't worry, we're gonna get those pearls back for you. C'mon, Riolu!"

    "But she can levitate! How are we supposed to keep up with her?" Tessa asked.

    "Uh… I don't know," Shane conceded, breaking into a run. "I was kind of hoping you'd come up with an idea while we're chasing her!"

    "Seriously?" Tessa groaned as she ran off after her partner.


    ~Azure Cape~
    Solrock floated across the sandy beach, stealing glances backwards. "Unbelievable. Those little runts actually tried to tail me! I'd have thought they'd give up for sure the second I skipped town. They don't look like seasoned explorers." She screeched to a halt. "Wait, what am I doing? It's a Vulpix and a Riolu. I can take them down easily. And then I can loot all their stuff, too! Oh-ho, Solrock, you absolute genius you. This is gonna be a better day than I tho–"

    Something small and green struck Solrock square between the eyes. A series of bright, sparking lights ensnared her. "Auuugh!" she hollered, sputtering toward the ground. As she opened her eyes and tried to right her position, her whole world spun about. "Everything's… a total blur. World's spinning..." she groaned. Solrock lost her grip on the pearls, which fell into the sand. "What… hit me?"

    "Mwee hee hee! Oh, what an absolutely perfect shot. Picture perfect, wouldn't you say, team?" a shrill male voice cut through the air.

    "Golly, you sure got her good, boss," a second, feminine voice praised.

    "Yeah, she's totally dumbstruck," a third, deeper male voice chuckled.

    "Who's out there?" Solrock barked. "Show yourselves!"

    "Mwee hee hee… why we're right here… in front of you!" the first voice cackled. Solrock tried to shake the stars from her vision, but all she could see was a set of blurry circles hovering in front of her.

    "Hoo boy, I bet you didn't expect to steal a set of cursed pearls when you woke up this morning, huh?" the female voice giggled. "Shucks, that would ruin anyone's day, wouldn't it?"

    "Cursed?" Solrock's eyes widened. "Bah! There's… there's no such thing as cursed jewelry!"

    "Is that so?" the deep voice chuckled. "Because we, the Vicious Pearl Spirits of Twilight Forest, beg to differ!"

    Solrock grunted in surprise as the string of pearls smacked against her left side. It didn't hurt, but it left her quite unsettled. "This… this is a trick, isn't it?" Solrock growled. "Someone must've hit me with Confuse Ray or something."

    "Oh golly, we can't do that. We're undead spirits, not Pokémon," the female voice replied. "I'm afraid you're just facing an impending curse. Ain't that a real shame?"

    Solrock started looking about the beach in a panic. The sand melded with the trees in the distance, turning her vision into a canvas of green, tan, and brown. "What do you want with me?" she barked.

    "Why, what any good spirits want, dearie. To C-U-R-S-E you! Mwee hee hee hee!" the first voice laughed.


    "Hold it right there, Solrock! Release those pearls," Shane bellowed, as he and Tessa appeared on the hill overlooking the beach. They ran forward, their hearts pounding in their chests.

    "We've… uh… got you now," Tessa panted. She sat down in the sand. "Well… maybe a quick break… first…"

    Shane hoisted Tessa back to her feet. "C'mon, don't get soft on me now, partner!"

    "Eh? Who's there now?" Solrock barked. She turned and stared at the levitating pearls. "Don't tell me there are more of you awful spirits!"

    "Riolu?" Shane whispered.


    "Is… is that Solrock… talking to the pearls?"

    "… sure looks like it."

    "Is that normal around here?" Shane asked.

    "… no. Maybe your special brand of crazy rubbed off on her?" Tessa sneered. Shane jutted his lower lip out in the biggest pout he could manage. "It was a joke. Sheesh." Tessa shook her head. "I think she might be confused. Her eyes are rolling about in a daze. We should strike now," she instructed.

    "Good idea!" Shane chirped. "You go in low with Bite. I'll go in high with Powder Snow." He craned his neck up and shot a snowball ahead of him. Tessa sprang forward and dived toward one of the shards of rock sticking off Solrock's body. Solrock tensed up from the sudden influx of cold, but wailed in pain as Tessa bit her bottom-most shard.

    The pain snapped Solrock out of her trance. She glared at Team Radiance. "Ah-ha! I knew there were no such things as pearl spirits. It was you two brats, wasn't it? To think you actually tailed me out here. Well, now you're really gonna get it," Solrock declared.

    Tessa quickly ran behind her, but her eyes glowed blue. A plume of sand shot up, showering Tessa and sending her tumbling to the ground. All the while, Solrock kept her eyes focused on Shane. He opened his mouth and arced some slush skyward, but Solrock telekinetically kicked up more sand, blunting his attack.

    "Aww, that's just plain uncool!" Shane groaned. A pair of rocks suddenly hurtled through the dust cloud. The first one struck Shane upside the head and he stumbled back with a loud howl. And the second one hit him in the gut, knocking him onto his back. He rolled about in the sand, groaning in pain.

    "One down," Solrock boasted, turning to face where Tessa had fallen, "And one to g–" She looked around. "Hey, where did that Riolu go?" She swiveled her body about the beach, trying to locate Tessa.

    "Try below you!" Tessa bellowed and leaped up, using some of Solrock's tiny craters to get a grip along her back.

    "Aaaaaugh! Why you fussy little demon furball. I'll pluck every hair from your body! Not even your mother will be able to look at you when I'm through with you." Solrock tried to draw forth the energy to fling Tessa away with a pink blast, but Tessa bit down on Solrock's back first. Solrock gave a pained cry and her levitation failed, dropping her into the sand.

    Tessa leaped off her and swiped the pearls off the ground. But her upper hand didn't last long. The small mound of sand Tessa stood atop parted, dropping her into a makeshift sinkhole and prying the pearls loose. Solrock floated back up, flinging sand off her form with short pulses of telekinesis.

    "You made a big mistake challenging a psychic-type on this kind of terrain, furball," Solrock spat. "Enjoy having sand in the worst possible places!"

    "Oh yeah?"

    Solrock swiveled around in time for a high-pitched wail to push her back across the beach. Tessa's eyes went wide and she dug herself further into the sand to avoid getting beaned in the face. Shane stepped forward, grinning. "You made a big mistake turning your back on me, lady." He turned toward Tessa, tails thumping happily. "See? I told you I got your back!"

    "Vulpix! How many times to I have to tell you to watch where you're aiming? You nearly Roared her right into me," Tessa whined, pulling herself out of the sand.

    Shane's triumphant smile vanished, replaced by fervent blushing. "Aha ha… that was… I, uh, must not have seen you there." He laughed nervously. One beat later, a crushing force struck his back and, next thing he knew, he was the one eating a face full of sand.

    "It's not polite to interrupt others like that, you snot-nosed brat!" Solrock hissed in the distance. "If you know what's good for you, you'll stay down this time." Solrock used telekinesis to gather more sand, balled it into two large, hardened rocks, and tossed them at Tessa. She then hovered forward to close the gap between her and Tessa.

    However, Tessa held her ground, allowing the first rock to strike her. Her paws lit up and she caught the second rock. She spun around and hurled the projectile shotput-style back at Solrock. She wasn't expecting that and had to fire off a single pink wave to blow the rock into sandy smithereens.

    Back on his feet but rather far away, Shane tried to seize on the opening. He narrowed his eyes and sent jagged pink waves rippling along the beach. By the time they reached the unsuspecting Solrock, however, they were severely weakened. They detonated in a small pink flash. While the attack failed to rattle Solrock, it still disoriented her and allowed Tessa to get in close and bite her from below once again.

    "Ha! It worked!" Shane cheered, jumping up and down. "See? Told you I can cover for you!" he belted out. Solrock hissed her frustrations and fired an arrow-shaped pink blast straight down, hammering Tessa into the sand. Shane abruptly stopped jumping for joy and sprinted forward. 'Crud, now I've gotta buy time for her to heal up or she'll be finished!' he thought.

    "Hey, lady!" he barked. "Your face is so ugly it makes a Barbaracle blush. And your voice is so screechy that only a Loudred could love it." Solrock turned to give Shane a death glare. Shane yelped at the sight of several sand-made rocks getting thrown in his direction.

    He put on his best Zigzagoon impression, attempting to weave between the rocks. Shane even used a well-timed, conical blast of snow to harmlessly shatter one of the projectiles. But just as he managed to see Tessa safely down an oran berry, a rock nailed him in his left flank, knocking him to the ground. His vision faded in and out for a second before going completely black.

    "You're one nasty little Vulpix, kiddo, but now you're out of the picture," Solrock cackled. "Which just leaves that demon furball you call a partn– AAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGH!"

    Tessa had successfully jumped onto Solrock's back. She once again bit down onto the rocky surface, scoring a decisive blow. Solrock crashed into the sand and rolled into an unconscious heap right next to the hole she had previously made to trap Tessa, who dropped to her knees, panting heavily. "We… we got her," Tessa muttered. "And the pearls?"

    "Hooo-weeee, why they're doing mighty fine, thanks to you!"

    Tessa's ears and aura feelers jolted upright. Her eyes widened as she watched the pearls levitate into the air. A purple cloud gathered behind them, materializing into a Misdreavus. The pearls sat between the ectoplasmic tendrils that made up Misdreavus' hair. "Oh great, don't tell me you're here to steal the pearls too?" Tessa groaned.

    "Mwee hee hee… as much fun as it would be to see your reaction to that, we've got to draw the line somewhere. Besides, we got our kicks messing with that dumb Solrock."

    Tessa shuffled back on the beach at the sound of a different, shriller voice. The sand beneath Misdreavus darkened. Out of the shadows rose the jagged, gaseous, purple form of a Haunter. Tessa immediately spotted a Looplet around Haunter's right hand, and a gold Horizon explorer's badge clipped to it. "Wait a second." She narrowed her eyes at the two ghosts. "Were you the reason Solrock was acting funny when we got here?"

    "Guilty as charged!" Haunter cackled. "Team Specter, at your service. 'We care when it matters, and scare the baddies 'til they scatter!' Mwee hee hee hee!" He threw his head back to let out a hearty laugh.

    "Vulpix is back on his feet, Haunter!"

    Tessa pivoted to see Shane stumbling toward her. A small, purple-and-white balloon drifted beside him. Tessa had to blink a few times before she realized that she was looking at a Drifloon. "Excellent work, Drifloon. We owe it to our new recruits here after they downed this outlaw for us," Haunter declared.

    Shane's eyes widened. "Solrock's an outlaw?" he gasped. His muzzle stiffened. "In retrospect, I really should've seen that coming. Guess the adrenaline rush was messing with my brain."

    "Yup. One of the nastier outlaws too, if you ask me," Drifloon said. "Tell 'em, Misdreavus."

    "Hoooo-weeee, Solrock's been on a string of thefts lately. Must be taking advantage of all the confusion these weird changes to the tides have brought. She always makes it seem like the things she steals belong to her. And, if Pokémon don't believe her, she uses Flash to escape," Misdreavus explained. "We saw the commotion at the Kecleon Shop, yup yup. Figured she could do with a taste of her own medicine."

    Haunter's mouth widened and his oversized tongue fell out. "So, we gave her the old 'Team Specter Special.' We beaned her with a Totter Orb and played mind games with her to totally freak her out!"

    "But then, golly, you two showed up out of the blue. Shucks, we weren't expecting that to happen," Misdreavus conceded. "We're awfully sorry for any confusion."

    "Why didn't you guys help us out then?" Shane asked.

    "Haunter told us to lay low and see how you two newbies handled things," Drifloon explained. "If you'd both gotten knocked out, we would've jumped in. But you didn't! And only Vulpix got KO'd."

    "Which means you owe me your cut of tomorrow's profits, Drifloon! Mwee hee hee hee!" Haunter cackled.

    "You guys… bet on us battling Solrock?" Shane gasped. "Isn't that, like, against guild regulations or something?"

    "Golly, of course not! We'd never do something against the rules," Misdreavus insisted.

    "Yeah… thanks for taking a dive by the way, kiddo," Haunter chuckled. "I cleaned up thanks to you!"

    Shane pouted. 'Great… rub it in why don't you? I got knocked out in a battle against our first outlaw. I'll bet Haunter cheated or something to make sure I went down. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. Well, when I end up saving the world he's gonna look like a big old fool.'

    "If it's any consolation, I think you guys did a really good job," Drifloon said.

    "Gee… thanks," Tessa grumbled.

    "Hey, we were all newbies once. A little tough love can go a long way," Haunter mused. "And since we're good sports, we'll even let you guys claim the bounty on Solrock."

    Shane's pout quickly faded. Dollar signs flashed in his eyes.


    ~Aeon Observatory~

    Shane nudged his empty plate over to the end of the table. "Ah, another wonderful supper. Thanks, Steenee!" he chirped.

    "You're very welcome," Steenee giggled. "Always nice to see a new face enjoying my cooking." She twirled around and scooped up the empty plate.

    "So, wanna head back to the room, Riolu?" Shane asked. He didn't get a response. "Riolu?" Shane looked over his shoulder, only to discover her seat empty. "Tessa?"

    "If you're wondering about your partner, she finished eating and took off a while ago," Growlithe announced.

    "Oh, you mean Riolu?" Togedemaru said as she entered the room. She had a pair of metal bolts firmly attached to her head. "I just saw her heading down to the veterans' quarters not too long ago. Someone's looking to get in troooouuubbbllllleeeee!"

    "Thanks." Shane trotted toward the exit, only to pause beside Togedemaru. "Uh, what's with the... y'know...?" He pointed up to his forehead.

    "It's an electrical amplification testing apparatus," Togedemaru snorted. "… obviously."

    "Oh, right, of course. How silly of me," Shane deadpanned. He turned and departed the room. "What a dweeb…" he muttered under his breath.

    "Don't think I didn't catch that sarcasm, mister!" Togedemaru shouted after him. "And you're the dweeb from where I'm standing! Calling me a Pikachu. Honestly! You'd have to be blind to make a mistake like that."

    Shane ignored her and soon found himself in the assembly area. He descended the stairs to find a set of dimly-lit corridors. Shane spotted a thin veil of orange light flickering from one of the doorways. 'Wonder whose room that is?' he thought. 'Better not go in there. I don't need to be causing any troub–'

    "… this is the way it was when she left. Honest. No one's gone in here since then. And, well, you've already seen where the Guildmaster's residing."

    'I recognize that heavenly voice from the other day. It's Milotic!' Shane realized.

    "What about Braviary?"

    '… and Tessa's with her.'

    "He got a room to himself once Metagross became Guildmaster," Milotic replied. Shane tiptoed toward the room.

    "And… no one's heard anything from her? What about Team Buzz Buzz?" Tessa asked, her voice filled with desperation.

    "Riri, please. If my team doesn't know, I strongly doubt those second-rate hacks would," Milotic scoffed. "She really doesn't want anyone finding out what she's up to. Maybe the Guildmaster knows something, but he's hardly one to share much of anything with anyone who isn't Braviary. So, good luck getting any info out of him."

    'What are they talking about? It sounds like there's someone away from the guild on an important assignment,' Shane thought. He hovered by the edge of the doorway, pressing the left side of his face against the wall.

    "Uh, okay then," Tessa muttered, "Well... what about… y'know… him?"

    "Gallian? As far as the guild's concerned he never even existed," Milotic exclaimed ominously, "Guildmaster purged his record last week and— hold that thought, Riri."

    Shane raised a curious eyebrow. 'Now who are they talking about?' He had no time to contemplate this further, as Milotic's form slithered out of the room. His tails and fur stuck up as Milotic gave him a disapproving look.

    "It's not very polite to eavesdrop, you know," Milotic scolded. "Even less so in this part of the guild. You're only allowed on this level in the company of someone with veteran or staff status. So, who let you down here?"

    Shane gulped. "Nobody. I… I was just trying to find Tes— I mean, Riolu," he stammered. "I, uh, just got down here, I swear."

    "It's fine, Milotic. Leave him be," Tessa dismissed. Her head poked out of the doorway moments later. "Sorry I ditched you at dinner."

    "You could have at least told me you were coming down here," Shane muttered. "What's in that room, anyway?" He craned his neck to get a better view but Milotic's rainbow tail spiraled up to block him.

    Tessa stepped out beside Milotic. "It's my mom's room. I was just… seeing if she had maybe left something for me on the off chance I made it to the guild, since she's still away."

    '… liar,' Shane thought. 'From the sound of things… she doesn't actually think her parents are in the Grass Continent. But then… does that mean they lied to her?' He wanted to press the issue further, but Milotic's scathing look told him he was in hot enough water already, so he dared not try his luck.

    A smirk appeared on Tessa's muzzle. "You weren't actually worried about me, were you?"

    "I'm, y'know, supposed to have your back… remember?" Shane stammered out his reply.

    Tessa flinched. 'I think this is him trying to do a better job. It's just so hard to tell. I wish I knew exactly what was going on in his head. Sometimes it feels like he doesn't really understand what I'm telling him.'

    "D'aww, that's adorable!" Milotic giggled. "It's almost enough for me to forgive you for coming down here by yourself."

    "Yeah, yeah, I get it. 'Don't do it again, Shane, or you're in big trouble,'" Shane groaned.

    "Hey, you said it. Not me. Now run along you two, or I'll get Braviary down here." Milotic shooed them off with her tail. But as they departed, Shane managed to catch a glimpse of the room Tessa was in. Specifically, the light revealed a tapestry showing what looked like two Pokémon. One was a large, metallic-gray lion with a gigantic mane. And the other was some sort of bat with giant, crescent-shaped wings.

    "Ready to head off to sleep?" Tessa asked as she climbed the stairs.

    "Hold up… one question," Shane said. "What was with those two Pokémon on the wall in your mom's room? The oversized Pyroar and Golbat?"

    Tessa tried to stifle a giggle. "You mean Solgaleo and Lunala? They're spoken of in Horizon legends. It's said they embody the sun and moon themselves… or something like that."

    'Wait, what? I thought this was Ho-Oh's turf. Didn't I see a sun in my dream the other night?' Shane gasped. "Hmm... sooner or later, I think someone needs to bring me up to speed on the local legends."

    Tessa shrugged. "I don't exactly have them committed to memory. You're better off asking someone else in the guild. For now, let's get some rest. I'm still sore from battling Solrock."

    Shane's brow furrowed as he watched Tessa climb up the stairs. "You're sore? I'm sorry, but which one of us got pelted with rocks again?"

    "… let it go, Shane. Everyone gets knocked out in a battle sooner or later."

    Shane hung his head and followed Tessa, grumbling bitterly under his breath.

    End of Episode 3


    Nasty Ball of Sunshine, Solrock
    While not one of the stronger outlaws in Horizon, Solrock's wit makes up for her lack of raw power. She specializes in using her psychic powers to turn the terrain on her enemies, and then make a quick getaway. If an exploration team can coordinate well enough, perhaps they can throw off her routine and defeat her?

    And that concludes the introductory, two-chapter episodes. Things will be expanding from here, starting with the (proper) introduction of the main threat in the next chapter.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
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