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TEEN: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Pathways of Aspiration

p-bugle

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Content Advisory: This fan fiction is rated T for teen, and contains realistic violence, minor crude language, and character deaths.

Hello reader, p-bugle here. Just thought I would post my foray into the world of PMD fanfiction. I hope you enjoy it, constructive criticism is always welcome.

Summary

There can be no greater gift given than a second chance. To be able to rewrite the mistakes of ones past and live a life only envisioned in dreams. For a human-turned-Bagon, thrust into the tropical region of Faire with a Raichu companion at his side, this seems like the making of legends. But what happens when the world discovered isn't so different than the one left behind?

Prologue

He was tired.

That much was true. That much always seemed to be true. Harsh wind chilled past the human’s chest and up to his ears. Though he stood on flat sheets of ice, they did little to stem the windchill, nor did the tall, grey structures reflected in the distance. Moonlight shone down the frozen harbor, illuminating a narrow path of ice leading from his platform to the concrete beach of his origins.

What was he doing here?

Every single footstep seemed to bring up the question. Steps dug deeper into the layer of frost over the lake. It was late into the night, and the obligations of sunrise grew ever closer. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a rectangular sheet of steel with a glass front. He didn’t even want to count the red number plastered on the top right corner of the letter-shaped icon.

“Some other day,” he whispered to himself. “I can push that boulder to the top of a hill some other day.”

There were many boulders to push. Places to drive, people to meet, reports to file. All for a purpose, all to maintain what he had, to press on in hope that the future’s boulders would be moderately less heavy.

Except...not anymore.

He reached into his pocket again, providing a brief respite for his hand against the nipping wind. Out came a slip of paper, neatly folded than crumpled into a disheveled pile. The language was flowery in spite of its cut and paste nature, though he didn’t even need to read it to know what it meant.

Termination.

He chuckled to no one in particular.

“Well...at least I won’t have to worry about making coffee in the morning.”

A smile ever so slowly took form on his face, accompanied by crazed laughter. His hands raised, and he spun around in a circle, gazing towards phantoms that surrounded him on the harbor.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” he said, bowing and holding a hand to his heart, “it wasn’t easy getting to this point, but with hard work and dedication, I can assure you that you’ll always find yourself where I am now! Afterall, who could forget the name—”

He stopped. Just what was his name? He knew well enough, but it seemed that the only others who knew, who would keep remembering well after time had caught up to him were with him on the ice.

“My...my name is…”

It wasn’t right. It was the name people knew him as, his family name, but nonetheless entirely inaccurate. His first name, his real one was less trivial, though until now equally difficult to decipher meaning from. He’d lived his entire life wondering what it meant, what grandiose statement it would make about him, and now he knew. Everything he had worked for, everything he had clung to, everything he desired-it all fit his name to a tee.

The stars shined brightly that night. One caught his attention, despite its shine being somewhat dull in comparison to those that surrounded it. It stared back at him, gazing with a mix of orange that coalesced with bright blue and yellow. So close, and yet so far out of reach.

The only thing left for the human, it seemed, was dry ice in every direction. Cold as it may have been, it would soon turn to spring, and the cracks around his tiny platform were ever increasing. If he stayed were he was, more chunks of frost would drift away into the endless harbor until there would be nowhere left to stand. A single path lay behind him, one he had known well, and one that he had lost. The only way forward, it seemed, was the frigid water beyond.

“Damn them,” he muttered, silence following before his mouth tilted open. “Damn myself too.”

He kicked a layer of frost into the water. It wasn’t his fault. It couldn’t have been. So what if people called him bitter? Resentful? He had done everything right. Every decision he made, the product of every hour of time and soul he had sacrificed for his destiny lay before him.

For the last time, he dug into his pockets. Out came a blue DS, with two screens that, while not nearly as powerful as the metallic rectangle, told a story far brighter. Light enveloped both screens with a click. Chiptune music blared, and the title screen appeared, bolded letters above a tranquil forest nearly letting the moisture around his eyes escape.

“Damn…”

How long had it been? Years? Over a decade? There was still dust around the cover, conveying what had become of a much simpler time. A few more clicks, and the visages of a bulbasaur and torchic appeared, waking up on the straw beds of a familiar location. What was the name again? Sharpedo Rock...Sharpedo Cave? It didn’t matter now.

Ooh, yes! The weather’s great today, again. Let’s do good again today…

“It sure is,” he said, chuckling bitterly to himself.

He took another step toward the water, holding the device in his dominant hand.

“Well...you always seemed like you wanted to fly, old friend. I guess now is your chance.”

He chucked it. The device twirled in a steady arc before landing in the water with a satisfying ‘plop’. The sprites on the screen seemed to give him one last look, before fading away.

The bulbasaur had it better in many ways, though worse in others. The chance for adventure, opulence, variety, all those had been given to the sprite through happenstance. God knows how much currency had been amassed in its account through conservation via soft resets. And yet...what the torchic had said, he had heard it many times before, verbatim. Perhaps the bulbasaur wasn’t so different than himself? Left with opportunity, but stuck in a time loop of drudgery and uniformity.

“God, listen to me,” he said, “I...I wasn’t always like this, was I?”

He wasn’t. His gaze drew back to the skyscrapers in the distance. They had seemed so small before, like a mountain that he could climb with enough effort and labor. It was easy enough at the start, walking in with a suit and tie thinking the world was his oyster. But, no matter what the human tried, he always found himself falling back to the bottom. He was young, in body and mind. He had his whole life ahead of him, and…

That was the problem.

An entire life of this. Of waking up everyday to walk through a crowd of people just as unremarkable as himself. Of waiting for his bones to grow weak and the wrinkles below his eyes to become somehow larger than they already were. In spite of everything he had clung to, he was stuck.

On reflex, he reached for his coat, pulling out a thin, metallic flask. It was much lighter than he had hoped, though heavier than he had wished it would be in his early youth. It would have to do. Body and mind were cold, and what coursed down his throat gave the impression of alleviating it. His own warped reflection peered back at him through the container, making his disdainful frown mutual.

“Ya like what you see, buddy?” he asked. “Well, I didn’t want it to be this way either. If anything, this is long overdue. Getting away from the fools, the detractors. If I can’t be on the winning side of the cycle, then what else is there?”

The only answer came in the form of the water before him. He grabbed a chunk of ice, angling it toward the spot were the DS had sunk. It soared through the air before landing three meters past. Shot wide.

“Damn…frickin’ useless aim.”

This couldn’t be his destiny, could it? He looked up, spotting several blinking dots of light in the night sky. There was a certain envy in the way he looked toward the planes soaring through the air. Tropics, mountains, cities far and foreign, as much as it made him carsick, everyone on those aircraft were going somewhere. It didn’t matter where, just that they could wake up with assurances that the next day wouldn’t be the same as the one before. His gaze drew downwards, locked onto the sheet of ice that constituted his entire future. He couldn’t go back, for his own sanity’s sake. There was only one way forward.

For the first time the human could remember in years, he genuinely smiled.

“A little too cold to go skinny dipping, but I think it’ll get the point across well enough.”

The icy sheet behind him still existed, but he did not dare look. In spite of his moping, perhaps he could put this all behind him? Turn back, return the way he came to push the boulder one more day. It would be a humorous story for sure, if his boss would concede to him groveling on the floor for his old position back. He could go back to his old co-workers, to her, and enlighten them all of how in this brief swim he chose to give his own world a second chance.

Maybe...maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought?

“D-Dammit, get a hold of yourself, you’re better than this.”

He sat in silence, wind howling against the flat ground as he looked between divulging pathways. A sigh condensed through the air accompanied by inner lamentations that he would have to make do with what he had. Like it or not, this world was his, and a second chance wasn’t going to pop out of thin air. Ever so slowly, he turned, gazing back towards were he had walked.

At least, he would have, if the decision still belonged to him. The ice cracked.

He fell forward. Water shattered his fatigue, soaking through his clothes and no doubt bricking the phone in his pocket. If he had taken the time to learn to swim, he could have pulled himself above the waterline easily. That hadn’t happened, however. He clawed, flailed, screamed towards the heavens to let him life and try to make some sense of a life wasted. His cries fell on deaf ears. The ice formed a barrier as impenetrable as it was slippery, and It wasn’t long before his limbs grew even more numb then they already were.

Darkness surrounded his vision, and he found that any ability to move his own limbs had been lost. He sunk deeper into the abyss, water filled his mouth and cut off his breaths, helpless to resist.

I...I guess this is it, things won’t ever be the same after today.

History would prove him right. Just as the human blacked out, a peculiar sensation surrounded his entire body, accompanied by a change he had long thought impossible.

The water was warm.

---​

She was a world away.

The night was young, and she was not tired in the least. The sun had completed its evening descent, cutting off any orange light refracting towards the shallow shoal were a Raichu sat. Her eyes were blue, accompanying orange fur and a tail that nearly matched herself in length. For most other of her species it acted as platform, but she put it to better use as a makeshift umbrella, deflecting the scattered rains that perpetuated her tropical surroundings.

The water was cold, at least for her. Ever so slightly under the realm of comfortable as it enveloped her two legs dug into the sand. It did little to bother, however, for she knew why she was there.

She knew all too well. More so, she knew where she had been, and where she had left. Her eyes closed, letting the sudden visages of an entourage of pokemon appear around her in the sandbar. Their paths crossed with hers daily, and yet they still seemed like complete strangers.

This has been a long time coming, wouldn’t you say you deserve it?

It is...a big responsibility, I’ll admit, but it’s simply part of the natural progression of life.

There are pokemon who would kill for an offer like this. You don’t want to seem ungrateful.

“I...I don’t,” she said to no one in particular, “but it had to be done.”

Cobalt-blue eyes drew downward. On reflex, she reached for a canvas pouch at her side, pulling out two items. She unfolded the first: a slip of paper barely legible after being neatly folded then crumpled. With it came the second, having to be angled so its metallic shine was not a hindrance.

A silver badge.

A sigh fell into the sand. With it came one of her paws, reaching to her bag for another badge that matched its design and dimensions. The only difference between the two, was that the one donned on her was dressed in a rusted bronze, dented from years of use. She uncrumpled the paper, whispering its words to herself in a tone that mocked the figure staring back at her in the calm water.

“For exemplary service and devotion, you have been awarded with a title few pokemon achieve. You path ahead may become perilous, but there is no doubt that affluence and idolization will follow as you rise to the occasion.”

“I-I wish that was true,” she mumbled, recrumpling the paper and placing it back into the bag. She stood up, eyes narrowing as rain soaked through her fur and onto the silver badge.

It was only a dagger of the mind, but her familiar surroundings seemed to blend together when she stared off into the water. Balloons, streamers, tacky signs proclaiming catch-all platitudes appeared against non-existent walls. In the middle of all of it, of all the pokemon staring towards her expectantly, was a small box, wrapped in a bow and open to reveal the two objects on her person.

“T-They ambushed me,” she growled, “t-they didn’t ask, they didn’t consider that I would say no, they...they…”

They meant well, that much was true in her mind. She may have conjured up other pokemon around the water, but her irate gaze looked only toward the reflection. And why would any pokemon say no? It was a chance, an opportunity to advance in an organization that would help her leave a legacy, that would explore places far and foreign, that would lead her to ending up like—

Like him…

She stared toward her own legs, happy to feel the lukewarm water surrounding them. In spite of all its glory, and all its danger, she had made a promise to herself. The sand under feet, the cliff behind her back, the sky over her head, she had known it well. She lived knowing it well, and if everything went according to plan, she would likely die knowing it well. Away from hardships, away from pain...and away from pokemon. If she had to run away for it to be so, that was a price she was willing to pay.

The Raichu stepped forward, carefully retying the straps that held her oversized tail against her back. Once she had found a far enough point, she eyed the badge still in her hand. Her look grew dark, weight of the object seemingly becoming heavier by the minute. Light again refracted against the stars, lifting her face up to gaze upon a singular dot in the night sky that seemed to catch her attention.

It shined bright blue, placed in the sky as if ever reaching to be among its higher kin. It was a world away, and yet she couldn’t help but feel a sense of pity towards the dot, emanating a radiance that would forever be dwarfed by the few surrounding it. Her head shook. Tomorrow would come, similar as it was to the days before, and she couldn’t spend every day moping about something so inconsequential. Instead, she returned her gaze towards the badge. It shined brightly, but only fate could keep her from undoing the decision she made today.

She chucked it. Her face wasn’t the only one that frowned back at her through its reflection, but it sunk into the water nonetheless. Howling wind drowned out the resulting ‘plop’. It nearly pushed her forward, and she had to re-adjust her feet to keep her balance, but she remained planted into the sand nonetheless.

It turned cold. Bitter windchill brushed against her fur, and the Raichu figured that she would have to return soon if she were to get enough sleep for tomorrow. Either way, it didn’t matter. Arceus knew that she had enough free time to nap the whole day away, even after returning from the daily grind.

She turned to leave, but one last pokemon seemed to poof into existence before she could. A shudder ran up her spine, one she knew wasn’t from the wind brushing against her tail. Before her in mind was another Raichu. Her tail was much smaller and sharper, and the fur around its body interspersed with singular silver hairs was a much lighter shade of orange. She looked away, unable to avoid the black eyes piercing into her soul.

“I-I...I know that you always said we should do everything to help other pokemon, b-but I don’t want to end up like...like he did, I’m too weak.”

Not in body, but perhaps in spirit. Regardless, the choice was no longer hers. Gurgled cries forced her attention back to the water. It was difficult to tell in the dark conditions, but silhouetted against starlight, was an outline. One hand seemed to be flailing through the air, other holding on for dear life to an old life vest thrown into the water for reasons unknown. Arceus knew what pokemon would be hard-headed enough to battle waves at such a time of day. Her eyes narrowed, able to judge three colors that lined the unknown being’s scales as she dove in to provide assistance.

Blue, grey, and yellow.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 1: A New Life
He wanted to live.

Never had such a statement been as true for the human as it was then. In spite of every cynical thought, every second wasted, and every busy year that rolled by, there was nothing that he hated more than the water flushing down his throat. Trying to inhale brought a further entourage of liquid, widening the black borders of around his already darkened vision. His arms flailed.

His arms…

Even in panic, the human could immediately tell that something felt...off with them. They waved through the lightless water, pushing him upward a pitiful amount as if they had been chopped away, replaced with ones half their size. For this reason, accompanied by a life where learning to tread water lay on the back burner of priorities, he started to sink.

Bubbles shot out of his mouth. His feet doggy paddled to accompany his trashing. Again, grim curiosity cut through panic. How many toes did he have on each foot? Two? Something was weighing him down, some rock-like surface that covered the top portion of his vision and bridged over his back. Underwater screams fell on deaf ears.

Is that it? He thought, gazing through scarcely moonlit water at a speck of blue in the sky. Weren’t content to kill be once, had to rub it in my face?

His answer came two-fold. Something edible shoved itself into his mouth, breaking through terrified shouts and thoughts alike. Of some outside force, he found his two oversized jaws closing. The edible squirmed its way against his tongue and down the throat, texture surprisingly soft. In tandem, an ethereal sensation wrapped itself around the human’s body. It fit the warm water well, pushing against his skin with seemingly no mass of its own as he found himself rising to the surface.

Gurgled hacks and coughs sounded where his head broke through the waterline. Never before had the human been glad of something so quaint? His eyelids opened, intent on surveying what dark magic had taken away the water’s chill and made every single fiber of his being feel indisputably wrong.

Except...he couldn't.

His eyelids were sealed shut. They refused his mind’s commands, and with this resurfaced panic. His arms returned to flailing, top of his stony head nearly sinking back below the waterline until something was shoved into his hands.

When forced into a situation were life became a fickle thing, it took a couple seconds for him to realize that the gesture had an intention of preserving it. He wrapped his arms around the small blocks of wood sewed together with a canvas, just barely able to keep his body afloat despite the rock-like bone across his back weighing him down.

“I apologize for the shock, but for this whole endeavor to work, for me to ever get to see...her again, my identity must be kept a secret. I hope you understand.”

The call was surprisingly close, cutting through the night with a tone synthetic and untraceable.

“W-What? Who are you? Why are you doing this?” he sputtered.

A slight pause. His arms reached out, barely able to hear the faint creaking of wood and oars dipping over waves in the direction of his unknown savior.

“We’ll meet again. Show conviction in the path you follow. Don’t hesitate, and don’t compromise. Few get a chance like this in their lifetimes; I advise you not to waste it.”

Two splashes spewed droplets against his body. Oars creaked through the water, getting ever farther as he grasped in its general direction.

“Wait! You can’t just leave me here! I—”

The psychic sensation again enveloped his body. He clung to the vest for dear life, being given a solid push by the force he could only assume was directing him toward the shoreline. With any luck, it would be close at hand.

Battered and fatigued, the human panted in resignation.

He drifted on, blind as a zubat paddling at a snail's pace. No matter how much progress it seemed he had made, the waves increased in ferocity to match it. A dozen times he was sent hurtling back toward the direction he had come.

Maybe this is my own personal hell. All in all...could be worse. I mean, I’ll be stuck here paddling with T-Rex arms for all eternity, but at least I won’t have to see it.

Otherworldly as it may have been, his salvation was within reach. A coiled bundle of rope plopped against his forehead with a dull tink and landed in the water. He reached out, grabbing with one hand to be tugged against the ocean current.

“H-Hey! Are you alright? It’s not safe to swim when the breakers come out.”

The voice was surprisingly soft for what urgency it conveyed, said as if every word was laden with apology.

“Well,” he sputtered, “as absolutely peachy as this may seem...no, not particularly!”

Somehow, the human’s savior deciphered a cry for help in between the facetious nature. The rope breached him through the waves head first. His face was forced downward once feet met terra firma, coughing and hacking what was left of saltwater from the back of his throat.

Sand.

The human hadn’t felt sand in ages. He raised an arm up to rub the water that had pierced through his eyelids, grunting with a stark reminder that they weren’t actually long enough to do so. Skin was no less jarring. He rubbed his arms and chest, discovering that, while they maintained their flexible nature, the texture on both was entirely wrong. Both were covered with tiny plates, bringing a terrifying conclusion that perhaps his comment about a T-Rex was too accurate.

“Sir, are you ok? I-I don’t mean to pry, but you seem...confused.”

She didn’t know the half of it.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied, “thanks to you. Whoever you are, you have my gratitude.”

He turned to the voice, giving his best attempt at a grin. The human didn’t even want to question the two large fangs on the side of his mouth that flashed in her direction. His smile wore thin as fast as it appeared, tone darkening.

“Now...maybe you can help me with something else. Do you mind if I ask you a question? And, please, be absolutely honest.”

“S-Sure, shoot.”

Three deep breaths from the human sounding against tranquil wind.

“What the hell happened to me?”

A slight pause. With any luck, his rescuer was preparing a three-page speech with the time she was taking to look him over. He heard a soft ‘hmm’ from the person, presumably accompanied by a hand raising to her chin.

“You look...fine to me. I-I mean, a little worse for wear, but nothing more. Do you have something in your eye?”

She was lying, she had to be. And yet...her tone sounded completely genuine. An attempt to open his eyes found them similarly unresponsive. With a deep sign, he held his hand out in offering.

“I’m sorry, where are my manners? Thanks again for saving me. Name’s Dro—no...my name is Chimera, nice to meet you.”

A couple of seconds too many passed as he waited for the handshake to be reciprocated. He pulled it back when silence turned to awkwardness, suddenly wary that it was a strange taboo in whatever environment he had woken up in.

“O-Of course. My name’s Argon, nice to meet you too.”

A little...weird, but who am I to judge?

Neither wanted to admit it, but the thought was mutual. The human clasped his hands together, stealthily giving a tiny pinch to both as a gasp escaped his mouth.

Not a dream...not a dream?! You’re a long way from Kansas now, buddy. That leaves either hell, or…

“Alright,” he said, turning away to hide the shaking that had overtaken his arms, “I suppose I should rephrase. Forgive me for being blunt, but what exactly do I look like?”

This was it. Theories began brewing in the back of the human’s mind, but were quickly shoved away. If he had been abducted by aliens and given genetic mutations, if he had been injected with some horrific drug that altered his senses and sense of being, or if he had just plain lost his mind, he would know. All unlikely explanations, though only slightly more so than the dominant one that had gone unsaid.

“Well...you’re almost my height. W-Weight, color, both seem pretty much normal. Oh, you’re a Bagon, of course, that goes without saying.”

No, it doesn’t. What if this was just...No—

“Blue and yellow scales, big, sturdy forehead that could crush rock. I-I’m not missing anything, am I? I’m sorry, didn’t mean to waste your time, I’m just stating the obvious at this point.”

He knew. From memories long thought forgotten, he knew. The image popped into his head like a poker player dealt pocket aces after having their chips lost to time. He froze.

“That means I’m a—it can’t be.”

It was. From every terrified and euphoric thought that ran through his conscious he knew it was. Second by second, a smile lit up on his face were shock should have been. He turned to the voice, unable to see the perturbed expression donned on the Raichu.

“And you...you’re the—”

“A-Are you sure you’re alright? I mean, I don’t want to assume, but almost drowning might make you a little delirious. Your eyes, can you open them?”

It seemed so inconsequential then. Some game to go back to when days were simple, when everything was hunky dory and he had all the time in the world for such endeavors. And yet, the sand under his foreign feet, the summer wind that brushed against his scales like krabby bubbles, it all seemed to bring a sense of purpose to the madness. Two beings, destined for greatness and united in uncompromising friendship. In all likelihood it couldn't be, but the Bagon’s mind screamed that it was true. There was only one way to find out.

“Never better,” he replied, “and may I ask, who do I—w-whoa!”

He smiled, expression barely dampening when he took his first steps on solid ground. Through combination of the sand and his two feet being significantly smaller than he was used to, the Bagon tripped. Hardened bone that lined his back implanted itself into the ground like a tent stake.

“I’m sorry, the waves must have gotten to my head. As I was saying, what species to I have to thank for my rescue?”

The Bagon held out his hand. As expected, his deception worked, and the voice’s own arm reached out. What truly surprised him, however, was the texture of the appendage.

Fur.

Short fur, granted, but fur nonetheless. The paw that helped him to his feet only confirmed his hopeful suspicions.

“O-Of course, I’m a Raichu.”

The final nail in the coffin. Chimera cackled to the sand, ecstatic that under them lay the last remnants of the human’s past. His face shut after a moment of blissful silence revealed Argon’s perturbed expression, but the damage had been done. The mysterious Bagon was safe, and isolation grew ever more appealing to the Raichu. For a brief moment, she turned, eager to walk back to her dwellings and tuck herself into bed with a decent book when realization hit.

She couldn’t go back. At least, not for a while. The Bagon couldn’t see, but she slapped herself on the forehead, chiding herself on not realizing the two-fold reasoning that she had to stay on the moonlit beach. Somewhere beneath its tropical waters was a silver badge, and after making such a scene, there was no doubt in her mind that returning so soon would make her the target of curious and incredulous glances from well-meaning coworkers. The attention would die down, and she would regain the security of simply being another face in the crowd, but putting a days worth of place between them and herself wouldn’t hurt. She turned back to Chimera, intently analyzing the other reason she couldn’t leave the Bagon to his own devices.

“I-If you don’t mind me asking, are you able to see? I don’t want to just leave you on this beach if you can’t.”

His smile broke in an instant. Whatever strange figure seemed to have been the source of his blindness, it couldn’t have been permanent. Could it?

“Well, I could a couple minutes ago,” he replied, hands beginning to quiver, “but I was in the water and my eyelids...just stopped working, I think I can see fine, but I couldn’t open them even if I tried.”

“W-Would you mind if I take a look?” Argon replied. “I think I might know why, but I need to see closer to be sure.”

He nodded. The Raichu placed a paw to Chimera’s side to steady him. It was a normal gesture, and as such he did his best to hide the gasp that escaped his mouth with harsh reminder that the creature looking at him wasn’t human. On closer inspection, Argon knew the periodic jittering over Chimera’s eyelids well. An obvious case of paralysis, and there was only one source she could recall that only affected the eyes.

“It’s...a blinker seed,” she stated, attempting to form a story that would fit the Bagon’s description, to no avail, “I-I’ve seen one before. There not like most other seeds, need to go through special processes in some of the factories for them to actually be useful. A-And they’re pretty rare...who could have been wealthy, or sneaky enough to get one?”

Factories? Either Chimera’s memory was failing, or the canon that he had known as a child was breaking apart. It didn’t matter, his largest priorities lay in the immediate.

“Alright, is there a way to fix it?” the Bagon stammered. “It’d be pretty nice not being blind for the foreseeable future. O-Oh, and thanks again for your help, I’ll...find a way to pay you back when this is all over.”

“That won’t be necessary,” she hastily replied, “but if you’re going to get your vision back, a heal seed might do the trick? I-I don’t have one on me right now, but we can probably get one at a shop in town.”

The Raichu took his hand. Her gaze lead back toward a colossus of neat, red-tiled houses barely visible over treeline when she froze in her tracks. Chimera looked toward her like she had grown two tails, though her silence wasn’t the reason. For having a time of acquaintance measurable in minutes, the thought occurred that the pokemon before him had been extremely helpful. After offering to provide a solution to his predicament mere moments after saving him from tumultuous waves, she had asked for nothing in return. Was such philanthropy really that common in a world he had yet to fully see? Only time would tell.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“I-I just realized...pretty much all the shops in town are closed at this time of day.”

A near silent sigh fell between both, though feigned smiles quickly returned.

“Well, you’ve already helped me a ton, I can probably deal with this on my own. Although...would you mind if I talk to you later about—”

“A-Actually,” she interjected, “if you’re alright with it, this might work out for both of us.”

Her gaze drew to the floor, paw scratching the back of her neck. Her other paw raised, in a common gesture to shield herself from the perpetually piercing gaze of those she talked to. After a moment, however, it lowered, thought suddenly dawning that, with his blindness, such a stare didn’t exist from the Bagon.

“L-Long story short, it’s probably best that the pokemon in town don’t see me for a day or so. It’s not...serious or anything, but it’d probably be for the best. A-And I don’t mean to insult, but it might be a little dangerous being completely alone and blind here for the whole night. Would—”

Dammit, why does this always happen?

Argon paused, words failing. She knew them, they were on the tip of her tongue, and yet her mind was uncooperative. After all, they were strangers, and it was a pretty weird thing to ask. Embarrassing, even, perhaps just as much as most of her daily interactions with others. She shook her head, somewhere finding the will to push through.

“Would you mind if I...kept you company here on this beach until daybreak? J-Just to be sure that nothing bad happens to you, of course. A little impromptu camping trip.”

It wasn’t her only motive. Deep down, Argon couldn’t deny there was a unique sense of intrigue to the strange pokemon she had just met. She didn’t know the specifics, but just from what the Bagon had said, it seemed he was a wishiwashi out of water. Maybe the storybooks were true? Maybe by some dumb luck in her miserable life she had stumbled upon the h—

No, don’t start thinking like that. You’ve made your choice. After all, you know the real, pathetic reason that you’re doing this.

That much was true. As appealing as it had been for Argon, lazing the day away in isolation after such a show of weakness, it had become bitter. She had everything she could ever need, and yet in her soul the Raichu knew that she lacked the most important. Perhaps this would be good for her?

“Oh...sure,” Chimera replied, “yeah, that would be nice. Wouldn’t want to go blindly stumbling into some trees, would I? Would be dangerous for the trees.”

A hint of a smile appeared on the Raichu’s face.

“Yeah, of course.”

Full moon made its evening journey over a melancholy beach as hours passed. The sand grew cold alongside chilling wind increasing in ferocity. In an effort to counter this, Argon returned from the forest with a short stack of logs and kindling. Once the Raichu had formed a fire ring, she reached into the bag at her side, pulling out a tiny wad of steel wool kept for such on occasion. A few sparks from her cheeks into her paws caused it to glow, leaving only a minor burn as comforting warmth enveloped both.

Even as they sat in silence around the campfire, a part of Chimera’s mind was expecting reality to set in. He would wake up in his bed to the ferocious beeps of a device in his non-existent pocket, grunting with recognizance that another day had dawned, and the stars were as concealed as they were now. However, that never happened. As Argon laid her tail to the side and her back to the sand, looking for that same blue dot that seemed to have disappeared from the night sky, he couldn’t help but chuckle.

“W-What’s so funny?” she asked.

The laughter stopped, replaced by silent contemplation. He was acting weird, and he knew it, but there was little that could wipe the smile of Chimera’s face. It all seemed so petty now, so...meaningless, fretting over being denied his destiny only to have it handed to him on a silver platter, in the form of a certain element.

“Oh, it’s not much, just...do you ever get those moments were you look back on yourself and think ‘I was a damn fool, wasn’t I?’”

Argon was silent. The question was vague and abrupt, and yet she couldn’t deny its familiarity.

“I-I mean, I’ve had some regrets in the past, but nothing to that extreme. There’s always the small things, the stupid things, but I...I like to think I’m happy where I am. Even if I could go back and change something about myself, I don’t think I would. W-Why do you ask?”

Chimera rose from the sand, walking to the shoreline until he felt warm water tickle his feet. If he could see, he knew he’d be staring at his own reflection. For a brief second, the body and life the human had known flashed before him, before being whisked away. He turned back.

“Right before I met you, I was...nothing. I was in a dark place, and I let that take control, rob me of being the per-pokemon I knew I could be. That’s how I ended up in the water. I was foolish, and there was just this feeling of hopelessness, that no matter what I did I’d always end up back where I started.”

Argon’s tone turned somber, she walked next to the Bagon, placing a paw on his ill-defined shoulders. For the first time, Chimera didn’t jump from the sensation.

“But now,” he continued, “I see that it’s a waste, that moping over everything isn’t going to get me anywhere. I feel...I feel like I’m in a new world, and you were the one who let me live it. I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Argon’s eyes widened. They barely knew each other, and such sentimentality was unexpected. Still, a tinge of jealousy overtook her heart, based in the knowledge that the Bagon had done in one day what she couldn’t achieve in a lifetime.

“I-I’m happy I could help. You’re giving me too much credit, honestly. This is all just...happenstance, it would have been the same for any other pokemon. In any case, I’m glad.”

Glad and terrified. Glad that she was able to give the Bagon another day, terrified what that day would bring for herself. Glad that a new world had opened up, terrified that the theory brewing in the back of her subconscious had a tinge of truth to it.

“W-Well, I guess we should get some sleep, don’t want to be groggy for tomorrow.”

He nodded. They walked back to where forest met sand, lying on their sides sheltered by palm trees breezing in the wind. The future would come, but both were content to sleep the day away until that happened.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 2: Fall from Grace
“I appreciate the walk, but is this really....necessary? I’m all for giving these stubby legs some exercise, but it doesn’t exactly make my sight come back any faster.”

For all his moping, a part of Chimera appreciated the gesture. Early morning sunlight shone against the Bagon’s scales, accompanied by swift wind that rustled the grass beneath his feet. In spite of the aching the plagued his four toes, he could still hear the crashing waves becoming ever closer. How long had it been since he left the comforting blandness of climate-controlled housing? When was the last time he had appreciated the allure of natural sunlight and climate in something other than a screensaver? Chimera didn’t want to know.

“I-It’s just...I thought it would be kind of fitting, you know? If you’ve really never been here before, why not make your first real sight one to remember? Do you want to sit down?”

Chimera released the paw that had guided him through cobblestone paths and inclines. With some careful direction from Argon, the Bagon took his seat were the grassy floor ended, letting his legs hang in the air. Such a gesture all but confirmed the cliffside geography where they sat. Memories, unpleasant ones, flashed through the blackness of Chimera’s vision. He clenched his hands tighter around the grass, a part of his old self tentatively hoping they would act as a makeshift anchorpoint should he lose his balance.

“A-Alright, I guess this is as good of time as ever. Here’s the heal seed.”

The Bagon’s hand took some bits of the grass with it as he reached out for his remedy. The seed floated into his grasp, seemingly without a paw holding it. Chimera gasped. Either she was standing over him with the seed tied to a fishing rod, or the electric mouse somehow had powers all too similar to the ones that had saved him from a watery grave. He was hard pressed to find the weirder explanation.

The seed was heavy in his hand. Its texture was surprisingly dense, like a bizarre cross of apple and walnut. He held it up to his mouth, jaws just about to take a bite before stopping.

“Something wrong? I-I didn’t get the wrong seed, did I?”

“No, I don’t think you did,” Chimera replied, “but...we’ve gone through this much trouble, no need to rush the moment now.”

Chimera lifted the seed to his forehead, a quick bash against the hardened surface cracking it in two. After a moment's consideration, he handed one half to Argon, drawing a curious glance from the Raichu.

“Do you mind if I tell you a little story while we’re here?”

A weird request, but Argon figured she did have all the time in the world. If the entire point of bringing the mysterious Bagon here was for making his first impression special, who was she to deny his request?

“Yeah, by all means.”

The Bagon grinned, staring between her and the restorative seeds in their hands.

“It’s about this...fruit. I never got too into those stories back in the day, but I think given the circumstances it’s pretty fitting. Essentially, there were these beings that lived in this perfect society. Or at least, they said it was, I was never too sure. They had everything they needed, but they didn’t think, they didn’t question.”

“Is that where you came from?” Argon asked.

The seed in her paw was likewise starting to feel heavier by the moment. There were few places she knew of that matched the Bagon’s description, and the most likely case was already beneath their feet.

“Not exactly. My life before I got here was pretty dull, but it fit some of those qualities. Anyway, they spent their lives living in quiet complacency until this...Arbok went to the two beings and offered them a bite from that fruit, promising them that it would grant them the gifts of knowledge and curiosity.”

Being denied the former, the latter filled both pokemon in spades. Imagery filled in the blackness of Chimera’s vision, attempting to predict what strange sight the Raichu had brought him over to see. Argon did her best to fill in such gaps that plagued her perception of the Bagon. A single explanation continued whispering into her ear, but she shut it out. It was too childish, too unlikely given the multitude of other ways the pokemon next to her could have been plunged into the tumultuous waves.

“It had a price,” Chimera replied, tone growing dark, “they fell from that paradise into a completely different world. Biting into that fruit invited hardships, pain, insecurity. However, they also gained a new life out of it, one ripe for adventure and brimming with opportunity. I’m not sure if the story is true, but...I like to believe that those two creatures made the right choice regardless. They wouldn’t live forever, but the pain they overcame added meaning to the life they lived, and the destiny they were given.”

An interesting tale, yet one Argon had a difficult time believing. After all, if the legends of her own upbringing were to be believed, the instruments of life that gave pokemon intelligence, willpower, and emotions stemmed from an egg, not a tree. In spite of this, she couldn’t deny the appeal of such a story, even if she had seen firsthand the consequences of living under such a philosophy. Her gaze drew to the halved seed before her, unable to decide if eating it would taste sweet, bitter, or combination of the two.

“And...you’re telling me this because the heal seed will let you see, you’ll gain that ‘knowledge’. You do know the thing cost me maybe five poké to buy?”

They chuckled. The thought occurred to Argon that she could toss her half of the seed into the water below, and Chimera would be none the wiser, but for his sake she kept it close at hand.

“Yeah, I know,” Chimera replied, “but...that’s not the only reason.”

The Bagon breathed deep. This was it. If he were to fulfill his own destiny, the events that followed would have to go his way.

“The thing is, I...I want that type of life. For the first time I sense that things are gonna get better, and I know what I’ll have to do for that to happen. For me to stop being nothing.”

“W-What are you trying to say?” Argon asked, subconsciously shuffling the badge on her bag from his sight. A pointless gesture.

“There must be some sort of guild here, I’m sure of it. I’m going to join it, and...and if you’re willing, I’d want to be on a team with you.”

Argon’s heart dropped. She could walk away right now, she had done enough. It would be easy to leave the Bagon to his devices and avoid any of the risk teaming up with him would entail. Her dwellings were waiting, and after today there wouldn’t be any shame in returning to the daily grind. She dropped the heal seed to the grass, using her now unobstructed arm to balance standing up. Whatever new life Chimera was speaking of, she was happy with the one she had.

For a second, at least. Argon looked toward the blind Bagon, mentally going over the circumstances of his arrival. A sigh left her mouth to be carried by the wind, taking with it any of the plans that had infected her thoughts. She sat back down.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

Three slaps from Argon’s paw to her forehead punctuated the grumbling.

“Are you alright? If you don’t want to that’s completely fi—”

“Y-Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just...you don’t have anywhere you go, do you?”

Chimera chuckled bitterly to himself.

“How did you know? Not a coin to my name, nothing new there. Only way I can go is up.”

His dark laughter spread to Argon. It would be simple enough to dump the Bagon off at one of the tenements around town with some coinage and call it a day. Arceus knew he’d be able to support himself easily enough at one of the factories. However, something felt...off about such reasoning. Strange as he was, Chimera had been more than cordial, likely the only pokemon around town she felt comfortable opening up to. The Raichu couldn’t quite put her paw on it, but in that toothy grin pointed towards her seemed to be the potential to help a pokemon in need, as well as dip her feet into the one thing in life she had avoided. Her gaze lowered. Fortune never had a good track record for favoring the bold, but perhaps just this once it could make an exception?

“Well, the truth is that there is a guild on this region. I’m actually part of it, been part of it for a fairly long time. I’ve been by myself for a while, but...I suppose there’s no harm in letting someone else share the rent. “

A ray of light shined in the Bagon’s eyes.

“You mean—”

“...Y-Yes. Fair warning, my work in the guild isn’t exactly the most adventurous, but I see no problem in forming a team with you. At least, for a little while.”

Chimera turned to Argon, shifting his weight in her direction as he lunged forward. His intention was to give his new-found partner a celebration hug, only he had forgotten were they sat. He slipped. Bagon and Raichu yelped, the former’s, much to his dismay, being higher pitched. For a split second, Chimera felt the wind rushing past his scales and gravity taking hold of his body. A few day ago, the adrenaline running up his spine would have made him cry out for his life. However, where terror should have been, the Bagon found something else.

Euphoria.

Chimera could barely describe it. Dopamine pumped through his body, seemingly out of his own control. A voice in the back of his head asked what would happen when he hit the ground, but he figured he could cross that bridge later.

Much later, in fact. The bizarre thrill faded as soon as it arrived, replaced by the same weightless, pressing sensation that enveloped his entire body. It felt different, however. The sensation flickered at random, as if it was slowly losing its battle to keep the Bagon in place. After a few seconds, it dissipated, unable to stop Chimera from dropping another inch before regaining its hold. Increasingly loud, pained grunts from a familiar source sounded next to where he had slipped.

“I-I’ll let you drop if you want me to, but if you don’t want to walk all the way back up here, take my paw.”

In any other world Chimera would have interpreted that as a threat, but the way Argon had said it suggested both choices had equal validity. As exhilarating as the experience was, the Bagon didn’t feel like cutting off their conversation just yet. He grabbed hold of her paw, retaining his seat on the cliff via some telekinetic assistance.

“Thank you,” Chimera replied, finding himself breathless, “and don’t take this the wrong way, but are you...experienced in this sort of thing? From your tone I couldn’t tell if I was falling from a cliff or a chair.”

Argon grunted in incredulity. The gesture brought out a gasp from Chimera, suddenly realizing his mistake. He was acting weird enough, best to not draw even more suspicious to himself.

“Well, not really,” she replied, “it’s just something I read a while back, that Bagon are hardwired from birth to favor jumping off cliffs. I-I...I guess that’s part of the reason why I brought you here.”

“...oh.”

Chimera may have had T-Rex arms, but he wouldn’t be getting panic attacks from the heights anytime soon. At least, that was what he hoped. The Bagon still wasn’t sure if the seed in his hand would lend way to a shock-induced collapse into unconsciousness. He shook his head. No use beating around the bush anymore, fortune favored the bold.

“I appreciate it then, I suppose. Everything. I promise, you won’t regret this. I’m sure this partnership won’t always be perfect, but after some time, who knows? We both might learn something.”

Partnership was a strong word for her newfound coworker, but a tiny part of Argon was inclined to agree. Chimera’s enthusiastic grin, naive to the dangers of guild life, grew infectious. She glanced back to the sunlight horizon that extended out from the cliff. It wouldn’t be long before the Bagon would finally be able to see it, finally able to appreciate a thing so quint and tranquil just as she had daily. The challenge that lay ahead was convincing him that it was worth having the time in life to experience such moments. When the Raichu turned back, Chimera’s hand was holding out his half of the heal seed, as if to toast.

“To a new day! To memories long forgotten, and new ones about to unfold.”

In spite of butterfrees flapping in her stomach, Argon returned Chimera’s grin. Her eyes lowered to the seed in her own hand, feeling content to analyze the mundane item that the Bagon had given so much purpose.

“C-Come on,” Chimera said with a chuckle, “don’t leave me hanging.”

She would return the gesture soon enough, but there was one last curiosity aching the Raichu’s mind. Three waves took turns raising their voices against the quiet sand before her own.

“T-That story you’re equating,” she asked, tone soft and inquisitive, “we’re both taking a bite, but if you’re the one offering it to me...what does that make you?”

“Me?” he said, glint from his tooth cut off by a tree’s shadow, “I’m just a pokemon trying to make their way in the world, same as you. There’s a lot of decisions I’m gonna be making in the future, and this...this is just one of them.”

A soft crunch echoed through the cliffside, followed tentatively by another. Slowly but surely, the numbness around Chimera’s eyes faded, letting the former-human finally gaze upon the world he had been gifted, and the partner at his side.

“It’s...amazing.”

It was. Waves as smooth as glass spread out for miles in the distance. Sun’s rays refracted down the center of the horizon, reducing the Bagon’s unprepared stare to a squint. Palm trees danced in the wind, between sandy beaches forming a circumference that went on for miles. His head slowly turned, another of many gasps escaping his mouth toward the pokemon at his side.

The Raichu was unlike any he could remember seeing in the past, but that did little to faze. Short, orange and white fur lined her body, outlining puffy ears and yellow cheeks. Her eyes were a cobalt-blue, darker than even the scales across his own arms. Chimera didn’t know what to expect of the pokemon that would be the key to fulfilling his own destiny, but the creature before him certainly fit the bill.

For the first time, the Bagon could see the smile that returned his own toothy grin. The optimism in his face almost let Argon forget the bitter-sweet aftertaste left by the heal seed.

“I-I-uh...this might be a little redundant since you washed up here yesterday, but...welcome to Faire.”

“Faire?” the Bagon asked.

“Yep, the place that I, and I guess you now call home. It’s a lot different once you get more toward the inside, but I can’t fault the view.”

Chimera nodded. His eyes reglued themselves to the coastline, forcing his head down without a conscious thought. Any notion of the fears of his old life returning disintegrated as he stared toward the layer of sand several dozen feet below the cliff’s edge. Exhilaration built up to a level nearly foreign to his entire lifespan. For a brief moment, his eyes shot back to Argon.

“You remember when you caught me from falling off the edge?”

Argon grinned, she could see the Bagon’s feet growing lighter.

“Of course. You look like you’re at ease, done fighting something?”

“I hope so...gravity.”

He jumped. The Bagon’s sprinting start from the cliff’s edge let him linger in the air for a brief moment, before nature’s laws took control. It was an exhilarating experience, but also a clashing one, for just as his feet left the ground Chimera felt another emotion he had thought forgotten returning with vengeance.

Terror.

A tiny voice whispered that such feelings weren’t logical, that the rocky bone over his forehead was built to withstand such falls. For all intents and purposes, It should have been a cakewalk. However, being able to actually see his own danger, another voice, ten times as powerful screamed that it wasn’t right. Half the former-human’s mind forced his vision to the ever accelerating image of the sand below, and the short arms that provided at least a pittance of familiarity from a body that hadn’t been his. He screamed, crying out in terror for a partner with instinctual realization that he wasn’t flying, but falling.

Psychic aura wrapped itself around the Bagon, before breaking apart in a single wave’s crash. Argon, having rushed to the edge of the cliffside with befuddled eyes, was much too far away to save him. Though Chimera hated to admit it, his cries carried with them a stark realization: While his blue scales were a complete replacement of his former self, the mind was a work in progress. The Bagon’s eyes shut, last thing he saw being a large, diamond-shaped shadow rushing under the waterline. Whether Chimera would end up no worse for ware, or he’d void the warranty on his newly gifted body with a snapped neck, was for fate to decide.

Fortunately, fate had another surprise in store for both. As Argon peeked over her flailing partner, theories for the Bagon’s origins being gained and lost by the second, the underwater shadow broke. In its place, was a creature that glided through the air toward Chimera, humongous fins behind two large antenna spread like a kite.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 3: The Grand Tour
It didn’t make sense.

Chimera jumped off that cliff without remorse or regret. The smile on his face as his feet left the grass showed more outward enthusiasm than she could hope to achieve. And yet, the quivering in his hands, the way his eyes shot open from their instinctual stupor, both showed that the strange pokemon was in complete fear for his life. Why? What type of Bagon develops on and off acrophobia? Perhaps the only stranger thing was that his feet never actually hit the ground.

What took its place, was a Mantine. Its long tail streamer flapped in the wind, behind a saddle strapped to its back that caught the Bagon mid-fall. Argon couldn’t say for certain, but it seemed that while a gasp had escaped her mouth, Chimera immediately lunged his over the side of the Mantine. She turned her head, unwilling to let the churning in the Bagon’s stomach spread to her own.

“H-Hey! Where are you—come back! P-Please?!”

The Mantine found little reason to do otherwise. Immediately upon catching the falling pokemon it dove into the sea, a single wave crashing before it resurfaced. Glimmers of water sprinkled onto Argon as the Mantine shot back through the air, Bagon above holding onto the saddle for dear life. Its two fins spread wide, momentum from the maneuver letting it glide through the air. The field of grass behind Argon made a decent enough landing point for the kite pokemon. Blank, quivering stares between Bagon and Raichu amplified the silence. Their only interruption being the water that dripped from the Mantine’s slimy fins to the green below.

“Sorry for the scare, both of you. It’s just that, in this line of business, having a flashy entrance usually makes the tip jar heavier.”

Argon’s breaths slowly returned to a steady tempo, though Chimera’s hands still shook like they were rubber. Her attention immediately drew to a small emblem pinned to the front of the saddle. While varying in design, and presumably utility, it shared the same three letters as her own badge, sporting two wings on either side that pointed to only one source.

“Catalina’s the name,” said the Mantine, head gesturing to a corroborating nametag pinned next to the badge, “some pokemon call me Cat, but...please don’t, it just sounds weird. Anyway, if both of you are willing, I’m here to be your tour guide around Faire for the day.”

Chimera’s head lowered to the grass, a few hacks confirming that his gut had finished spilling its contents. He wiped what was left from his lip, eventually letting it form into a grin towards his partner.

“Argh...well, this has been a Faire and foul day I have not seen, I guess there’s no problem in rectifying that.”

Argon, for her part, remained were she was, holding a tentative posture towards the Mantine.

“I-I don’t remember scheduling a tour, how did you know we were here?”

Catalina’s two humongous fins shrugged.

“Not sure myself, apparently the pokemon at the top wanted to make a better impression to newcomers, just today they told guides like myself to be on the lookout for any pokemon that looked like they just arrived on Faire. You...Raichu, I’ve seen you before, but not the Bagon.”

“Argon, t-that’s my name,” she replied, muttering silent curses directed only toward herself, “his name is Chimera.”

He nodded. The Bagon seemed to have regained control over himself, gesturing inwardly towards Argon in a way that eclipsed his previous terror. Catalina likewise turned so her fin formed a rampway toward the saddle.

“Jolly good show. You coming along, Arago—no wait...Argon! If you’ve been here for a while, I’m sure Chimera wouldn’t mind you being the one to introduce him to the tropical paradise we call home. Between you and me, it’s only gonna be free once; With the rates we charge hourly you’d be smart to climb aboard.”

It was certainly convenient, almost suspiciously so. Just today she had made it her mission to get the Bagon familiar with the region she called home, only to have the methods of doing so plant itself before her. Still, looking toward the Mantine found her certifications were as close to genuine as Argon could tell. Taking the Bagon around Faire any other way would either take days or be egregiously expensive. Cat may have butchered her name, but at very least they were under the same employer, and experience showed that they had a decent history of taking care for pokemon like themselves. She walked up the Mantine, taking great care to hide her cringe from the slippery sensation beneath her feet.

“A-Are you...sure you’re gonna be alright?” she asked Chimera.

“‘Course,” he tersely replied, green coloration on his face only the slightest bit visible, “I think...my mind’s fine with fighting gravity, it’s only when we start losing that it panics.”

She nodded, belaying her suspicions for the moment. No sooner had the Raichu planted her feet did the Mantine beneath them surge itself forward.

“Hold on tight, you two! As long as you do the same with your lunches, this’ll be the fun part.”

Between Bagon and Raichu, the latter of the pair was much more believing. Argon buried her face into the saddle, unwilling to watch the nearly free fall motion of them diving toward the water. Her paws clenched around the grab rail. A glance to her side revealing the smirk Chimera had lost from jumping had returned in excess. The near-weightless sensation of falling reversed once Catalina had gained enough momentum. They rose up into the air, increased perception of gravity knocking the Bagon off-balance as all three took to the skies. For perhaps the first time in the former-human’s life, he could sense that both himself and the pokemon at his side were going somewhere.

Sky was blue and the clouds were few. Argon could scarcely understand how the Bagon rose up against the wind as fearlessly as if he were balancing on a surfboard, but from his example she unburied her head from the floor. Once the Raichu was on her feet, balancing came easily enough. When brief burst of turbulence rocked their organic source of flight, more often than not it was Argon who was still standing.

“We’ll be arriving at Pith Town soon,” Catalina shouted over the wind, “so if either of you ‘mons wanna take a piss, at least try to hold it in. The pokemon below are my clients too.”

Neither responded, eyes glued to the new perspective they had gained of the region both now called home.

“Huh,” Chimera said, mouth trying to decide whether it was twisting into a smile or frown, “guess ‘tropical paradise’ was only half the truth.”

Argon muttered in agreement. The miles of sand and palm trees that had taken up most of their vision on the cliffside seemed like a mound of dirt compared to the bigger picture. After crossing the tan and green circumference of the island, a sense of dreadful familiarity stirred in Chimera. It crashed against newfound excitement, both fueled from the heart of the region now within their sight.

Orderly sections of brick houses and streets stemmed out the more inward they flew. Scarcely a foot of natural green was left, replaced by row upon row of red-tiled roofing that, even from their high vantage point, seemed to go on for miles. Jutting out of the massive city center’s borders were blue fields representing canals and waterways. Specks of white canvas and brown cedar ships made their way across the harbors, most dawning the same three letters Chimera had spotted on the badges of a Raichu and Mantine.

“Y-Yep, pretty much,” Argon exclaimed, “would you believe that they built all this stuff in only twenty years? Used to be all villages and farmland back in the day. It was a whole new world coming to Faire from my old hometown.”

“Well, I guess that’s something else we have in common.”

Chimera could scarcely believe it. While a car was more preferable for getting around than the many carriages rushing through the streets, such a level of construction for a town younger than himself was unprecedented. Just as Argon said, the Bagon couldn’t spot a speck of farmland in sight, nor anywhere to judge were the civilization’s inhabitants had gained materials to build such a town.

It was different, yet eerily familiar to his old life. Accompanying them in the air was a vehicle close to those he had gazed upon just before falling through the ice. Where its engines should have been, three bird pokemon flew in front of the craft, acting as propulsion via tug ropes tied to their harnesses. A glance to its point of origin unveiled a large mass of green in the distance, with many more ant-like ships crossing the gap between that island and the one below.

“Better they get tired than me,” Chimera muttered, grin forming on his face, “seems like everything the light touches is part of Faire’s giant kingdom, but what’s that shadowy island over there?”

While Argon tried to smile at what she could only assume was some in-joke jest, a shudder run up her spine. The clouds did little to help, but behind the mass of green in the distance Chimera could see a mountain, jutting up through the sky in a mass of grey and white.

“T-That one in the distance is Eastern Faire, we’re below the western island. That’s actually were we’ll be doing a lot of our work, on the coast at least. Once you get into the mainland, things get...dangerous.”

The Bagon’s mouth opened, but he thought it best not to say anything. All in good time. Both could make out the more intricate details as Catalina descended to below the clouds. Individual faces of pokemon peaked above the cobblestone road they followed, one that Chimera looked toward with a dumbfounded glare.

“I don’t get it, where are the cracks?”

“What cracks?” Argon replied.

The road was in a state Chimera had long thought impossible. Its initial pristine nature was to be expected, but even after diverging into pre-planned, perpendicular paths through Pith Town it never seemed to falter. Seeing the cracks was easy enough in his old life. A pothole in the road, a bridge with support beams rusted in disrepair, a cardboard sign on the side of the street with its owner wrapped in blankets holding out a change cup. The Bagon lived his whole life knowing that forests would sooner march to his apartment than the world’s suffering disappear, and yet the only crack he saw jutted out of the grey mountain in the distance.

“I...I guess you pokemon really are different from the folks back home.”

A few flaps of air pushed under Catalina’s fins brought their descent to a halt. They were in the thick of it now. Pokemon of every size and species parted through the streets to let Bagon and Raichu depart. Sea-salt carried through the wind, accompanied by the marketplace silver and olfactory sweetness from the surrounding restaurants. A look toward his partner found Argon’s face lowered, giving only tentative glances to the multitude of eyes analyzing the newly arrived pokemon.

“You alright?”

“Y-Yeah, of course,” Argon replied, paw raised to her forehead, “the noise and all just starts to get to you after a while.”

The pair’s feet had barely met cobblestone when a Charmeleon and Dragonair, both equipped with badges proclaiming the same three omnipresent letters approached Catalina. The former whispered something into Cat’s ear, though the grumbling in Chimera and Argon’s stomach redirected their attention to the sandwich in its arms. Copious amounts of cheese in between two pieces of wheat bread made their lips salivate. How long had it been since his last meal? The Bagon could only hope that his new body didn’t bring with it new metabolism.

The filleted basculin grasped around the Dragonair’s tail was only mildly less appetizing. Its skin shined a vibrant pink, but something about it seemed the slightest bit...artificial. Trace bits under the initial coating found its salmon hue coalescing into bits of pale grey. The discoloration was obvious enough to Argon, but the Raichu seemed completely unfazed. With no one to corroborate abnormality, Chimera shrugged; at least it wasn’t people.

“Good news,” Cat said, turning toward the two, “got a telegram straight from the top, chap apparently wanted to add a factory visit to the tour. Don’t know why the two-faced bloke didn’t just come here and tell us in person, but we’ll have to set out now if we don’t want to take most of the day.”

Chimera and Argon nodded. After a quick break for refreshments and the former contending with strange, new biology in the restroom, they were back in the air. The Raichu’s face seemed to perk back up to her usual disposition once surrounding eyes became little more than dots on the grand scale. Her downward glare had shifted to Chimera, his own mind content to lament one of the many features that had transcended worlds.

“Factories…”

Both pokemon went to work on some oranges brought along for the trip. The insides of the citrus fruit were immaculately shaped, with new, rich flavors that tickled the Chimera tongue. Scarcely had the Bagon been given the time nor opportunity for an abundance of fresh fruit in his old life, and as such he grasped for their collecting basket as if it was bottomless. Argon was much more conservative. Her paws went to work neatly dissecting the outer skin, drawing an incredulous look from Chimera when she bit into the tangy layer.

“Not saying it’s a bad thing, but wouldn’t it be better just to throw that stuff away?”

“W-Well, that’d be kind of wasteful, wouldn’t it?” Argon replied. “It’s still food in the end, even if it’s not as colorful.”

To some. In comparison, however, Chimera found it difficult to comprehend appreciating one when the alternative was in abundance. Afterall, the pithy inside of the orange only existed because its outer layer had taken the bumps and bruises of everyday life, and such a bitter taste was one he’d rather not swallow again. He shrugged.

Eventually, the rank and file rows of housing below ended, replaced by a resurgence of green, cropless fields. If Chimera had a brow, it would be furrowed. They were supposed to be an exploration team, yet flying under a civilization with hands so privy to creation, it seemed only the island in the distance had anything left to explore. Eight parallel lines of steel jutted out through the fields, as if tentacles of a brick and mortar devilfish in command. Only when he saw the rows of wooden planks connecting the track’s two beams, did their full purpose click into Chimera’s head.

Black smoke stemming from a locomotive took the place of ink. Row upon row of freight cars followed along the track, each carrying piles of wood, coal, and ore from locations unknown. The only thing that could dwarf an operation of such scale was its destination. Again, they descended below the clouds, landing in front of a humongous amalgamation of buildings and chimneys. A gasp from the Bagon’s partner echoed his own, both pokemon feeling smaller by the second.

“I-It’s a bit much for a guild, wouldn’t you say?” Argon said, chuckling quietly.

“That’s...putting it lightly,” Chimera replied, “is this really it?”

The Raichu nodded slowly. Her paw pointed to three letters emblazoned upon the otherwise utilitarian monolith.

“The West Faire Guild, part of it at least. T-The actual guild house is back in the center of Pith Town. You’d be hard pressed to find anything on Faire without their name on it.”

“Huh...guess some things never change.”

With passengers delivered, Catalina departed. In her place, was a Wigglytuff, sporting a top hat on its head that both could only assume was some sign of importance. Backing up the Wigglytuff with countinances much more militaristic were a Escavalier and Scizor. As before, acronymed badges were pinned predominantly, though in a design differing from both Catalina and Argon. It wouldn’t take much for the guards to kill them should they make a wrong move, hopefully their stares wouldn’t be enough to do the job.

“Oh, don’t mind these sour faces,” gleefully exclaimed the Wigglytuff, “you’re here for the grand tour, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Chimera replied, “If I’m being honest, I’m not exactly...from here, curious to see how this whole operation works.”

The Wigglytuff clapped her hands together, hopping up a smidge. A look between Bagon and Raichu confirmed that Argon’s discomfort wasn’t just from the electrons crawling down her feet.

“Well jeepers, it is just dandy seeing a new face around here! And you too, Ms. Raichu. It’s a tragedy that resource team members go on without actually seeing where the fruits of their labor end up.”

Chimera jumped to attention. His thoughts turned to the worst. Just what exactly did the pokemon at his side even do? From what she had said, most of her work was done in the mass of green to the east. Yet, it was doubtful that the product of exploration lead back to a place like this. His head turned, not a word from his curious expression being needed to convey the question.

“I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself,” the Wigglytuff interjected, “why don’t we go inside so I can show you around? The telegram we got made it very clear that we let the newcomer see everything. Besides, if we dawdle now, there won’t be any mini donuts left in the rest area!”

As much as the his hands began to quiver, the Bagon was inclined to agree. Better to find out themselves than fret over what fate awaited him. At the very least, his grumbling stomach knew something good would come out of it.

The structure was as big as its outside implied. Clanging hammers, drilling screws, and blaring furnaces echoed through the high ceilings. Cursory glances around the plant revealed a Magmar guiding a large chamber of molten steel into a girder frame. A Timburr stood over a maze of walkways overhead, overseeing the process with clipboard in hand. What truly surprised Chimera and Argon was the efficiency of the whole process, unknown to the latter, ominously familiar to the former. Dozens of pokemon were lined up on the other side of the building, each organized across individual lines that zigzagged every which way. On the first set of the conveyor belts operated by rotating Klinklang, a Gothorita held a hand to its temple, telekinetically attaching rubber rims to iron-forged wheels. In the next station, an Ambipom’s two tails were helping connect the wheels into a central frame. Structure was then added to the frame by a team of Magnezone, to be taken to final assembly and inspection from the wandering eyes of a Watchog and Gumshoo.

“Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ the Wigglytuff exclaimed, pointing toward one of the completed carriages, “the way we make’em, pretty much every pokemon here can afford one of these . Oh—you’re in luck, both of you get to see a shift change.”

Right on cue, an ear-piercing bell toll echoed off the factory walls. Both Chimera and Argon had to raise hand and paw to their ears, though the Wigglytuff reacted as though it was no more than an alarm clock. Looking toward its source revealed a Bronzong, idly floating next to a clock placed predominantly on the wall. Its hands pointed to midday, placed on the border of three sections that divided the clock face’s surface like a pie chart. From what the face insinuated, an unspeakable conclusion entered Chimera’s conscious.

“Eight hours...that’s it? How do you support a place like this with an eight hour workday?”

“W-Well, ”Argon replied, fiddling with her paws, “how else would they do it?”

She turned away, under the guise of distraction with an itchy neck.

Argon continued, “That-uh...I don’t know where you’re from, but that’s on the higher end, actually...at least for me.”

It was alien. The work was monotonous, and the environment dull, but looking toward the pokemon manning the line, Chimera could almost see a hint of a smile in some of them.

“How? Where do they get the money for all of th—oh no…”

He turned to Argon, stark realization plastered on his face.

“The guild’s not gonna take away ninety percent of everything we earn, is it?

She shook her head, letting out a small chuckle.

“N-Not that I’m aware of, used to be like that back in the day, but...that was before my time.”

”She’s absolutely right!” the Wigglytuff agreed, giggling. “Resource teams couldn’t exist if the presider was that mean. But, it’s fantastic that you asked.”

They continued walking. Bell chimes still rung in their ears, and as such they had to be careful to avoid the multitude of pokemon rushing to replace the ones that had left. The process seemed practiced to a tee. A Blastoise shooting water into the slack tube of a massive forge was gone for barely a second until it was replaced by a Golduck. The work continued, pokemon coming to the lines as neatly as if they were no more than extensions of the Klinklang that powered them.

A couple more rounds around the facility later, they arrived into a sort of break room. As promised, donuts were dispensed, though as freely as they were handed out, the room gave the impression of a cafeteria more than a restaurant. Glanging around the various pokemon conversing found that their food was just as complimentary.

“Worker loyalty. When I was a wee, little Jigglypuff, the presider drilled that into our heads until it hurt. Treat those below you well, at least the ones that matter, and they’ll keep their punch cards out and their poké handy.”

A conversation caught Chimera’s ear, his eavesdropping revealing the lamentations of a Buizel over where they would spend their paid vacation.

“I’m jealous,” Chimera stated, before a glance at his shoulder reminded of the drab setting, “well...almost. One more thing I’m still curious about though: Where do we fit in all of this?”

“Oh, I can go over that,” Argon interjected, “gotta contribute something to this trip.”

She pointed back toward the plant, aimed toward a serious of long doors lining on of the walls. Train cars peeked through the open shutters from outside. Connected was a long system of smaller tracks, ferrying around the factory filled with the same raw materials from the initial freight cars.

“Y-You know what mystery dungeons are, don’t you?”

If light bulbs existed in this universe, Chimera assumed there would be one over his head.

"Yeah, they're randomly generated places where wild Pokémon will attack you if you get near them."

"Well, yes, there are those...but the important factor is that on every floor items and resources will appear. Our job is to fight our way through dungeons, find stuff like ore, lumbar, and gold, and bring it back to the entrance. Guess this is where it all ends up."

Out of respect for the Raichu, Chimera continued smiling, though he couldn’t hide the split were it turned to a snarl. What did their work make them, if not glorified miners? No exploration. No rescues. No glory. Merely trekking day in and day out through places that would look as similar as they were different. This couldn't be his destiny, could it?

“Huh…”

He sighed, lowering his gaze to the stone floor. It was different. It had to be. As similar as the two worlds seemed, a fair taste in the Bagon’s mouth overtook past foulness. With smiling faces, the tripartite workday, and a partner at his side, he could only hope that lifting the boulder up one more day would be much more feasible. Beggars couldn’t be choosers; as long as it didn’t end up rolling back with him to the bottom, that was all he could ask for.

“I guess...all in good time, then,” he said, raising a melancholic grin toward his partner.

She smiled back, in similar disposition. A glance through gridded windows toward the evening sun found it beginning its decent. Yawns from Argon, though drowned out from the grinding gears of machine and pokemon, spread to Chimera.

“I suppose we should start heading back,” Argon said to Chimera, “we still need to get our team set up, and...there’s a lot of books I got to clear off of my top bunk if you’re gonna use it.”

As much as the Bagon yearned to find out how prosperity existed where it was denied a world away, he agreed. They walked to the exit, getting on board Catalina with a departing wave to the Wigglytuff.

“If you ever meet the presider, tell him I said hi! Arceus knows how many innovations that two-faced enigma invented since he started up the WFG.”

“I-I...I’ll try,” Argon replied.

They set off, eyes glistening towards orange, flickering sunshine as they left from one concrete jungle to the next. As the Mantine flew, their vision wandered to the sole remaining orange left in basket. Neither were willing to touch the fruit; mold above its bruised skin had turned the orange a dull grey.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 4: Buried Past
He’d be here any minute.

Argon scurried from room end to end, though with its small size, that wasn’t saying much. When was the last time the Raichu had to prepare for a visitor, nevermind a roommate? Years? She cursed herself, levitating another Cup O Oran into the overflowing trash can on the other side.

Top and bottom bed sheets folded at least halfway decent? Check. Air freshened to get rid of any garish smells? Many nights spent in the same room had no doubt made her noseblind, but check. Expedition gear and books tossed onto the shelves so they weren’t a disheveled mess? Not completely, but now was the time to prioritize. She glanced over to a picture frame hidden in the corner. Inside was a faded piece of parchment, well-worn yet unsigned with two bold words on top proclaiming ‘guildmaster acceptance’.

Argon sighed. Why did she even keep it anymore? Just some cruel reminder of what she had to sacrifice to avoid predetermined tragedy? Not like it mattered now. If nothing else, the frame would make a great cover for the gaudy crack in the plaster from that time—

Three knocks reverberated against the disheveled door to room twenty-six.

“Crap.”

With any luck, he didn’t hear. The sudden noise caused Argon to jump, large tail on her back knocking against one of the shelves. A book near its edge hit the stone floor with an accompanying thud.

“Door’s open, you can let yourself in.”

Argon reached for the book. Its silver-lined cover was threadbare, coated with a similarly tinted layer of dust left from a world left behind. It would be tempting to simply close the random page its fall had opened. There was a matching imprint on the shelf that such a remnant of the past would fit well on, but a soft creak from the door redirected her attention.

She propped herself against the side of the bunk bed, putting on her best smile. Fortunately, Chimera seemed more focused on the item in his hand: A bronze badge, differing to her own only in its lack of dents. She made a mental note to warn him of the dangers of running his hand over the object, lest they be ejected out of their first mystery dungeon because of the Bagon’s enthusiasm. Despite his absorption, Chimera also seemed the slightest bit distracted, glancing occasionally to something pinned to the back of his freshly issued expedition backpack.

Argon cleared her throat. “S-So, everything go alright getting registered?”

“Pretty much,” Chimera replied, grumbling slightly, “guess some things never change. How many bubbles and signatures do you have to put on the dotted line before the damn thing becomes redundant?”

He rubbed his left hand over his right, soothing a sprained wrist.

“It gets a heck of a lot harder when you don’t even have the same...never mind.”

“Comes with the territory,” Argon replied, chuckling, “I’ve seen it get infinitely worse when you get into the higher positions. I-In fact, you sound like my—”

Argon also found herself pausing. She couldn’t deny that the resemblance was uncanny, but they had only known each other for a day. Was it really necessary going over such details at a time like this? Just from looking at the Bagon, Argon could tell that he was tired. A short while ago, the Raichu had gone to great lengths to keep the past buried; if the fates were kind enough to let her keep it so, she wasn’t about to say no.

“Anyway,” Chimera said, punctuating the statement with an infectious yawn, “we gotta take care of some busy work before we hit the hay, but mind if I show you something first?”

He reached behind the backpack, a brief flicker of light reflecting off the object clenched in his hand.

“I found this when I was taking a little walk back here. ‘Probably doesn’t have anything to do with either of us, it just seemed a little...weird.”

With any luck, he would be right. Chimera had given the impression that he buried his own past, it seemed only fair that she could do the same in the tentative stages of their partnership. Unfortunately, the gods seemed to have disregarded any notion of leniency that day. The Bagon’s hand opened, revealing an object that stunned her heart better than any seed could.

A silver badge, speckled with sand and rusted around the shield-like edges.

Son of a...

“Was a little difficult digging this up,” Chimera replied, holding an admirative grin, “but hey, who was I to refuse? The water’s amazingly clear by the beach; I never realized it until now.”

Sweat coalesced down Argon’s legs. Her paws fidgeted. He didn’t know. He couldn’t. The Bagon was blind as a zubat on that beach, but what if he—

Argon shook her head. It wasn’t the time to make a fool of herself, at least, anymore than she already was. She’d have to bluff it.

“Speaking of which, would you mind if I hang this up somewhere here?”

He eyed the top bunk. There was a spot next to her conglomerate of mystery novels that would work quite well.

“I know you probably can’t just rank up by finding a random badge on the floor, but I always found that it's nice to have these sorts of things hanging. Gives you a sense of what exactly you’re working towards.”

“U-Uh...sure,” she replied, motioning towards the top of the bunk, “by all means.”

Chimera smiled, holding a grin that she could only hope was laden in ignorance. It quickly, however, morphed into a nearly imperceptible scowl as the Bagon took the time to survey the room. Its cramped conditions, utilitarian blandness and sense of having been hastily cleaned were nostalgic in all the wrong ways. As claustrophobic as a closet, and as dreary as a battery without a speck of charge left. Chimera quickly put on the fake smile donned by Argon. There was a glint in his eye as the Bagon surveyed the room, and for a Raichu so used to such an unchanging setting, that was perhaps the greatest source of fear.

“Anyway, we should be registered as a team by tomorrow, but the pencil-pushers at the town hall said that we’d need to take a group photo to rubber stamp the whole thing. Do you know where we could go to get that done?”

“Oh, of course,” Argon replied, “we can do that right here, actually.”

The camera would be easy enough to find. It was more of a briefcase than anything, with only a large lens on one side that betrayed its use as a bedside table. The film...that would be more difficult. It had been years since Argon had used the bulky device for anything more than holding drinks.

“Alright, if I was a film canister, where would I be hiding?”

The answer came conveniently, frighteningly so. A brief analysis of the room ended with bitter chuckles from Argon, stemming from knowledge that the solution to their problems was already in her own paw.

“I-I guess...you can’t keep the past buried, can you?”

She turned over the book in her hand. Specks of dust flew around the room as Argon wiped off the silver-embezzled cover, like dirt springing from a cofagrigus that refused its place under the shifting sediment of time. With the obstruction gone, both could clearly see the faded lettering, proudly proclaiming its contents as an adventure book. Argon couldn’t help but laugh.

“It’s a scrapbook. The title’s a little erroneous, but we should be able to get some leftover film in here. Now we just have to find what page I left it in…”

She opened the first page, drawing a curious glance from Chimera.

“What else is in there?” the Bagon asked. “Relic fragments? Old gifts? Especially unflattering childhood photos?”

“Two out of three isn’t bad,” Argon replied, “I-uh...I wasn’t particularly alluring back in the day. Not much now, even, come to think of it.

He scoffed, flashing a toothy grin at the Raichu.

“Trust me, it can’t be worse than yours truly.”

His intentions seemed playful, but the longer both pokemon considered the comment, the more earnest his expression turned.

“You know...I just realized something. You literally can’t imagine how ugly I was as a child. I’m willing to bet, no matter what you’re thinking of right now, it doesn’t match what I used to look like.”

His lighthearted tone quickly returned, unable to belay further suspicions brewing in the back of Argon’s conscious. With an accompanying chuckle, she returned her attention to the book, happy to take the Bagon for his word.

“Gods, I haven’t looked at this thing in...ages.”

“All the better,” he replied, “nothing like the thrill of discovering something new. You know, if it’s alright with you, maybe we can start filling that thing out later? Someone has to do it, but I know from experience you won’t get anywhere stuck doing busy work.”

The last sentence struck a chord. She had heard it before, hadn’t she? Or at least, something to that extent. Her last non-sequitur was more of a jest than anything, but the more she analyzed Chimera, and everything he had said up this point, the more accurate it seemed. The realization sent a shiver down her feet.

“Y-You know, you kinda remind me of someone.”

“Which part of me?” Chimera asked. “My inability to get up in the morning feeling remotely alive? Doing a better job at drowning than swimming? Or...my charming good looks?”

Again, two out of three wasn’t bad. She waved off the comments with a slight nod, opening to the first page of the scrapbook.

“In all seriousness, how are they doing, anyway, that person you’re talking about?”

Argon couldn’t reply. Her eyes were glued to the first page. Its corners were faded, and the black and white imagery difficult to make out, but the Raichu still forced her eyes shut, unwilling to let moisture condensing around them drop to the page. In the forefront was a Pichu, holding a tentative smile she knew all too well. The real source of sorrow, however, was behind her, in the form of a large Ninetales. Even after the better part of a decade, the fox pokemon’s toothy grin flashed through the camera lens.

“H-He’s… alright.”

---​

“Fortune favors the bold, Argon. Like I said, we all have a legacy to live up to, as kin that’s even more so. You can’t live it without having at least the slightest sense of adventure in your fur.”

An ember from the Ninetale’s maw punctuated the statement, souring leisurely toward a Pichu knee-deep in snow. She was a world away, in a bitter, uncharted forest long thought forgotten by the Raichu lamenting her old life. The attack was weak, intentionally so, and too slow to have any hope of hitting her. She got on all fours and darted to the side, feeling chilling numbness begin to creep up her limbs.

“I-I know that, it’s just...I’m not you, the great guildmaster Sean. I’m not sure I ever will be.”

Arceus knew the Ninetales was experienced, but his movements were sluggish. Partly due to the cold, and partly from the thick cast over his hind leg. It still drew a wince from Argon contemplating how the pokemon before her insisted on training even with such a recent injury. Nonetheless, the obvious bags under Sean’s eyes made it all the more easy to rush up to him with electrified fur.

“Arghh...well, you hit like a guildmaster at least. I expect nothing less of my daughter.”

Sean clamped his jaw down on Argon. Not too hard, but enough to grab hold of the Pichu and toss her against the powdery snow. His tails stood on end, surrounding themselves is a psychic energy. The effect was immediate. Light-headedness filled Argon’s conscious, accompanied by black borders enveloping her sight.

“Remember what we practiced. Hypnosis is a dangerous technique when you’re unprepared, but easy to prevent when you are. Keep your muscles tensed, and the blood flowing to your brain.”

Argon did so. An audible hic left her mouth from the gesture, and after a brief moment the feeling of drowsiness was gone. Sean smiled. As such, he was caught unprepared by a retaliatory jolt of lighting from the Pichu. He smirked back, falling to the snow after loosing his balance against the rigid cast over his leg.

“You take after your mother,” Sean said, shrugging the attack off with a shake of his fur, “it makes me as proud in the long term as it does annoyed in the short. Your electric attacks feel stronger. They’re improving at a shocking rate, have you been practicing?”

“N-Not really,” Argon replied, doing her best to return her father’s smile, “It’s just...I’m pretty sure it’s because you’re tired.”

Sean’s composure drooped. He lifted a paw to his eyes, suddenly aware of the plethora of wrinkles below.

“How did you know?”

“Y-You’re… you’re always tired,” Argon deadpanned.

His mouth opened to object, but only a pitiful ember left. In place of any words, the Ninetales turned his attention to the forest, running his paw over a dilapidated wonder map.

“True enough. It all comes with a purpose though. Should we keep going? I’d prefer to show you the spot I talked about before the sun sets.”

They went on. The snow formed a thick blanket against the pine trees and grass, extending out in an endless, uncivilized abyss. Between the Pichu’s feet having a short girth through the knee-deep powder, and her father lumbering along with a clumsy brace, their pace was about equal.

“Let this be a lesson, Argon,” Sean stated, “don’t make the same mistake I did. Take care of your feet; they’re the only thing separating us from those garish wheelchair carts.”

If their trek through the forest had made the Pichu’s limbs any less numb, she would have agreed. Eventually, the trees parted, and both stopped before the cliff overlooking a colossal mountain range. Grassy gaps in between powdered snow slowly turned to rock the higher they looked. Cold could do little to stop Sean’s mouth from twisting into a grin. He pointed his paw forward, directed towards a single peak that pierced through the clouds. Between its mounds of grey rock, the structure seemed coated in perpetual blizzard. Seemingly on cue at her father’s direction, the sun made its decent behind the mountain, coating the land before them in shades of purple, orange, and red.

“You see that mountain over there? That’s where I plan my next exploration. These are the moments I live for, Argon. The beauty, the discovery, the purpose, all of it comes with the responsibility my position entails. Sure, it’s a large commitment, but I can’t imagine having a different life.”

Argon never doubted the majesty of such a sight, but accompanying it was the reality of the situation. She looked back to her father, nodding in approval as he tentatively placed a paw on her shoulder. Below his fur, the Ninetales was covered in the cuts and bruises of exploration. The cast was obvious enough, but the Pichu had long since spotted the more subtle details. She looked toward his fur, finding the occasional hair turning an undeniable shade of grey. Before she could question it any further, Sean reached into his exploration bag, pulling out a piece of parchment fated to find its way into the Raichu’s apartment.

“I suppose there won’t be a better time than now. As much as it pains me to say it, I’ll be retiring in the better part of a decade. There’s much work to be done in the path to becoming a guildmaster.”

He let out a nostalgic chuckle, a dichotomy to the Pichu’s own expression.

“I won’t sugarcoat it. You’ll be expected to pull a lot of all-nighters in this path, a lot of days spent working towards this higher goal, but the sights...wouldn’t you say that it’s worth it? I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter; I want to give you that gift.”

Shivers went up Argon’s spine, more in part to the binding contract before her than any cold. Her father enjoyed what he did, that much was certain. Normally, the Pichu would want little more than this herself, but infrequent memories surged through her conscious. Both stood still, an unfulfilled legacy suspended between them.

“I-It sounds great.”

She turned away, directing her vision to the prominence of rock and stone piercing through the heavens.

“That exploration you’re talking about, what day are you leaving?”

Sean’s smile broke. His posture drooped, redirecting his gaze to the snowy floor.

“I was hoping to discuss this with you and mother back home, but you deserve to know now. Three days, I’ll be heading to chart that mountain in three days. As for the length of the trip, maybe...two weeks? Possibly more.”

Argon shrugged. Such news wasn’t uncommon, but knowledge of events to come made the blow unusually deep. To her surprise, it was Sean who had to lift a paw to hide a bated tone. If she looked closely, she could see the tears beginning to soak into his fur.


“I...I know that your hatchday is next week. I can’t apologize enough for my upcoming absence, Arceus knows you deserve better. For what it’s worth, It’s a dangerous exploration. Sending in a less experienced explorer would be negligence on my part, and if we wait any longer the mountain will get colder than it already is. The busy season for the guild starts soon, if I’m not there for that then—”

“It’s fine,” Argon interjected, “y-you’ve made so many sacrifices for the family. Who am I to say I can’t accept a couple?”

Unfortunately, it was the Pichu’s turn for body to betray emotions. She wiped her eyes, turning away just short of the Ninetales not noticing. Wind howled against the trees, sending specks of powder against their fur for a long moment. He placed his paw on her shoulder once more. The touch was less affirmative, gentle even, and in it both regained some of their composure.

“I’m so sorry. This wasn’t how I wanted things to be. You’re strong, though, and you have your mother’s empathy.”

Argon nodded, gaze stuck to the floor. After a brief sound of rummaging from the Ninetales, she found a wooden box placed before her. Its sides were polished to a fine finish, showing an industrial yet uniform construction. A small button poked out from the side. The only other outside feature was a thick, copper cylinder jutting out of the middle, with a small, glass hole in the center.

“If it’s any consolation, I picked this up from one of my business trips to Faire. The color pallet’s binary, but It’s truly an amazing piece of technology. You don’t need to be an artist anymore to put life into a page, just film.”

The gesture redirected her attention well enough. Arceus knew how difficult it must have been for her father to lug the bulky device through their entire hike. A tiny click sounded from the strange machine when she pressed the button. Analyzing the lens revealed three golden letters inscribed into its protective tube. They were familiar to a Pichu, even more so to a Raichu.

“G-Geez. How much did all of this cost?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sean replied, “there’s nothing in the world too expensive for my daughter. In fact, once you evolve, I think I remember seeing a vendor a while back who was selling evolutionary stones. At the very least, they’re easier to find now than back in the day.”

Sean turned his attention back to the camera. After shifting his gaze between the device and piece of parchment lying in the snow, he again reached into his exploration bag. Another sheet of paper came out, carefully unrolled from its protective casing as he laid it before himself and Argon. After a brief second of analysis, the Pichu gasped.

It was a painting, inscribed in pastel. Incredibly lifelike for its colorful nature, portraying a vibrant, green field with two pokemon leaning into each other. On the left, was a Pikachu, holding a tranquil grin she knew would greet her when they returned home. On the right was a Vulpix, itself taking up a challenging position punctuated by its smirking expression. Its tails were upright, being playfully pulled by its cuddling companion.

“I-Is that—”

“Your mother and I,” Sean finished, “I commissioned this painting a lifetime ago, back when we were just getting started. My memories are somewhat fleeting nowadays, but that day...I remember that we made a promise. Firstly, we said that we’d do everything in our power to help other pokemon, and secondly, that we’d forge our own legacies. Until there wasn’t anywhere left to explore, any hill left to climb, or boulder left to push, we’d keep pressing.”

The shivering returned. She could see where this was going.

“It was fate, I like to believe. You know the legend about how those who pull one of my kind’s tails will end up with a thousand-year curse?”

The Pichu nodded, unable to stop herself from stealing another glance at the painting. A Pikachu so much like herself was behind her father, tugging its tail without a care in the world. A couple seconds too many of silence passed before Sean’s laughter filled the forest, accompanied by a dismissive wave.

“Utter hodgeposh, I tell you. In fact, I like to believe the reverse was true when I was a Vulpix. When your mother and I formed our team, and we made that painting, that was when I knew we were the key to forging each other’s destinies. I hope someday you’ll find someone of whom you can say the same.”

He bit down on the parchment, holding it out to her.

“Please understand, it’s an incredible opportunity. Your mother and I know you already spend so much time locked away in your own room. I can’t stomach the thought of you being forced to work in some dispassionate flim-flam job. My time as the guildmaster has been the best period of my life; you deserve the same.”

She averted her gaze, looking toward the setting sun. From her father’s phrasing, it was an enticing offer. The work would be difficult, and the hours long, but there would no doubt be a sense of security in following the footsteps of such a concrete plan. And yet, the more she looked toward the Ninetales before her, the louder her mind shouted interjections.

There was so much for the Pichu to discover, and scarcely enough hours in the day to do so. Books to read, instruments to learn, quiet moments to appreciate. Her father was happy enough, but when had he had time for...anything else, really? True, she could scarcely remember the last time she had made small talk with an acquaintance, nor did she want to, but in exchange for a simple life, that was a sacrifice she was willing to make.

“I-I appreciate the offer, but...I just need time to think it over.”

The howling wind was the only response. An imperceivable scowl formed on Sean’s face, but it left with a melancholic sigh. He returned the paper to his exploration bag. A smile forced its way to both, accompanied by a glance to the camera.

“Well then, all in good time. What do you say we see what this device can do? I couldn’t think of a better environment for a test run.”

She nodded. The conglomerate of colors had faded as they made their way to the edge of the cliff. Nonetheless, they placed the box before them, letting a soft click emanate from it after they had taken their positions. Argon could scarcely remember if the smiles on their faces were genuine or forced. What rang clear through her mind, however, was tripping to the snow in her clumsiness, and using her father’s tail as supports to return to her feet. Whatever the future lay, she could only hope that the photo wasn’t a similar presage.

---​

“Argon? You alright? You seem a little out of it.”

The Raichu shut the book, leftover film from the page in her paw. Luckily enough, the moisture around her eyes left as soon as it appeared, letting her turn to the Bagon with at least a moderate sense of decorum.

“Y-Yeah, I’m fine. Just...stuck in the past, that's all.”

“Eh, it happens,” Chimera replied, toothy grin beaming toward the heavens, “what do you say we get this photo done? Destinys a-waitin’, wouldn’t want to let it get hung up by something like this.”

“Yeah, ‘c-course it is,” Argon replied.

She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something seemed...different about her perception of Chimera. Finding him on the beach, showing him around Faire, agreeing to form a team... It had all happened so fast. Standing in front of her soon-to-be partner about to create a portrait a Ninetales had given such binding importance, the realization hit her: Pretty soon, the Bagon would be it. The pokemon before her was the one dragging her back into the life fate had long since decreed unavoidable. A part of the Raichu knew it would do her some good, but that didn’t make the phantom shivers any less prevalent.

What did, however, was a piece of brown wrapping paper, poking leisurely out of the next page . She reopened the scrapbook. Memories against surged up her conscious, based on the plethora of pictures glued next to faded wrapping.

The Pichu was gone. In its place was a Raichu; not too different, but owing its existence to what the thunder-bolt inscribed paper had held. There was little trace left of the thunderstone, only a simple message written in the same chickenstratch handwriting that having to sign dozens of papers a day with only ones mouth gave. She chuckled, ending bitter recollections with a sigh as the words rang clear through her head.

Apologies, for everything. One last splurge before you leave; go make your own fate.


She closed the book. All that was done, and right now, there was a Bagon waiting. As they lined the camera up and took positions for the required photo, Chimera leaned against her. Argon only sighed when she felt him give her tail a short tug to steady himself. The path before her seemed to be narrowing, but after remembering the past, she wasn’t content to let it repeat itself.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 5: The Most Dangerous Game
Chimera never liked getting up. More often than naught, mornings consisted of being shocked out of bed and trying to maintain his balance as he stumbled out the door, taking along whatever amalgamation of items from his pantry that could be called a breakfast. For these reasons and more, the blue lizard tucked soundly under a thick layer of blankets lay racked with fear.

It should still be early, shouldn't it? I still have time, could probably keep my eyes closed for five more minutes. But...that would mean being awoken by whoever they hired as a knocker upper. Uh..why does this have to be so hard?

With seemingly no other option, Chimera waited, cringing internally at the thought of a creature able to exacerbate the exact pitch of his alarm clock that would make his blood boil. What vocalized in its place, however, brought back memories of happier times: various notes strung together to form a soothing tune, one he presumed sweet enough to wake up even a snorlax, followed by a voice emanating from below.

"Rise and shine Chimera, time for a knew day."

The process of rising upward from the pillow came to the Bagon much easier, a peak over the bunk bed rails revealing an orange Raichu with flute in hand, holding a tranquil grin.

"I take it you're not a morning person?" Argon asked.

"Well, if you're asking whether I get up in the morning," Chimera replied with a chuckle, "then I am, if you're asking whether I enjoy it...that's a different story." Despite the view of Argon growing blurrier with every rub of his eyes, he drew a quick gasp as a white mug behind her rose from the desk, seemingly of its own fruition. Slowly, it began to levitate towards him, being bordered by a thin, pink layer of light. Glancing back at Argon to see her eyes closed in concentration, Chimera held out his hand for the cup, the contents shaking ever so lightly before he was able to grab hold.

"I brewed you some tea," said Argon, eyes opening as she sighed in relief, "always thought it helped me wake up in the morning."

Chimera lowered his head to drink, olfactory senses taking in the cup's herby smell as he lamented that the closest thing he drank to tea in his old life contained enough caffeine to keep a Slakoth active.

"So," Argon asked expectantly, "what do you think?"

He shuddered, sweet tooth revolting after being invaded by a decidedly bitter liquid, "This...tastes like crap."

Argon sheepishly turned away, resuming eye contact with the Bagon moments later to see that he had raised the mug to his mouth and was chugging the rest of its contents.

"It's...an acquired taste," he continued, holding his hand to his throat to conceal a gag reflex, "I appreciate you showing me it. In a couple more weeks, who knows? I might like it."

A few brief seconds followed until Argon was unable to contain herself at the display, giggling towards the floor as she motioned the Bagon out of bed.

"You don't have to keep drinking it for my sake Chimera...come on, we should probably get going now."

With no recourse, Chimera jumped out of the bunk bed to follow Argon out of the apartment, briefly noting to himself that this was the most awake he had felt during this hour in years.

---​

Immediately upon exiting, the darkness obscuring Faire from the night before was lost, causing a deep gasp to escape Chimera's mouth. Directly across the apartment complex was a monumentous building, adorned with red brick shingles and limestone walls that left the Bagon unable to decide whether it looked more like a mansion or a fortress. The structure's impressive size cast a long shadow over the tiled courtyard that lead to it's entrance, white marble columns supporting the dozens of intricate windows that adorned the front side. The red and white pallet was broken only by a large, green shield placed on the building's highest point, three golden engraved letters spanning the shield diagonally to spell the acronym WFG.

"I-Uh, I assume that's the guild hall," Chimera inquired, eyes still glued to the building.

"Yeah, pretty extravagant, isn't it?" Argon replied. "Only the higher level teams get housing there, rest of the space is used for administrative stuff or whatnot." With not a care in the world, Argon motioned Chimera to follow her, periodically having to redirect his attention back towards the city streets as they walked.

Before long, the duo were at the marble entrance, Argon about to open the doors before feeling a knife-like arm outstretch from the crowd behind her. She jumped back, Chimera realizing the culprit to be cricket-like creature, curled black feelers on its face embellished by a cocked hat and thick green coat.

"You're the Raichu...uh...Argon was it? My name is Gryllus, Cornet rank of the WFG army division. You can play the flute, correct?"

She gazed back, unable to respond, "Uh...yes—"

No sooner had she responded was a uniform mimicking the Krikitune's shoved into her hands, on top sitting a thin, wooden instrument.

"The military band's flutist just passed out from heat exhaustion, we're marching off in five minutes, and I was informed by the leader of the WFG that you were the only one who could take his place." With this, the Krikitune grabbed hold of Argon's hand, ushering her toward a thin, green line of Pokemon barely visible over a large hill.

Chimera was just about to run after the Krikitune in protest when he heard a voice call out through the crowd, "I'll take care of this. Just...wait for me until I get back!" His flabbergasted expression refusing to go away, Chimera planted himself on the circular brick bench of a courtyard fountain in silence, mulling over if this was a regular occurrence for the Raichu.

As the seconds waiting outside the guild hall faded into minutes, he found that the butterflies scattering tumultuously in his stomach had dwindled into what could only be called boredom. With little else to do, he occupied himself analyzing the various Pokemon moving in and out of the guild in a seemingly unending line. More often than not, a passerby would notice his wandering gaze, only to either return to their indifferent glare, or break eye contact and quicken pace. One Pokemon, however, did not fit this description. Ambling out of the crowd was a large, giraffe-like creature, body split down the middle between black and yellow spots, back side protruding a ball and chain like tail with a roguish smile. A look of panic lit up Chimera's face after seeing the tail return his gaze and the rest of the creature turn around to approach him.

"Hello, old chum!" The Girafarig greeted. "Waiting for something I presume?"

"Uh...for someone," Chimera replied, "might be a little while until they come back."

"Well, I can see why you'd be anxious, most new members of the WFG are when on their first mission."

The Bagon's face twisted into a scowl, "How did you—"

"The badge," the Girafarig interjected, pointing a hoof at the green and yellow shield pinned to Chimera's backpack, "only new recruits wear this badge, and I'd like to believe I'm on good terms with all of the previous members."

"I was just going out for a game of hoops," he continued, "seeing as how you have got a bit of a wait ahead of you, care to join old chum?"

Chimera stared onward, racking his brain for any indication of what 'hoops' was. Eventually, analysis and reasoning provided the answer memory couldn't: laying atop the Girafarig was a cloth bag, open end revealing various sized wooden mallets and solid colored spheres. Tracing the direction the Girafarig was pointing, Chimera spotted a large, open, field endowed with several U-shaped gates plunged downward into the grass.

Oh...croquet...guess somethings never change. I do have nothing better to do, and I should be able to see if Argon comes back from over there...

"Sure," Chimera replied, arm outstretched expectantly for a mallet, "Why not? And your name is?"

"Excellent! Name's Binair, pleasures all mine."

As Chimera and Binair took their positions at the beginning of the double diamond of hoops that made up the game field, a short mallet and blue ball levitated from the Girafarig's pack toward Chimera,

"The blue ball goes first, care to start the game off old chum?" Binair asked.

Chimera squinted at the Girafarig, "I presume that this is a game were going first is advantageous?"

"...In a way..." he replied, "you will just have to find out."

With a sigh, Chimera sat the blue orb next to a colored stick dug into the ground in front of the two starting wickets. It took more than a few seconds to find how his hands could hold onto the mallet in the fashion least awkward, the Bagon sarcastically wishing he had taken up golf in his old life. After a few practice tests of the mallet, he swung, the blue orb tumbling toward the first hoop to barely pass through it.

"Great shot old chum! You've gone through the first wicket, that gives you an extra swing."

Chimera re-positioned himself, cringing as the sun hidden under one of the many palm trees surrounding the field revealed itself. Surveying the rest of the field now seemed almost impossible to the blue lizard, constantly having to shift his vision back down to the blue orb for fear of causing damage to his eyes. His next swing came much less easy, veering to the left and stopping just before the second wicket.

"That's your turn," Binair called out, Chimera noting that atop the Girafarig's head now sat a large pith helmet.

Once Binair was at the starting point, a large mallet at his side levitated towards the red orb now beside the colored stick. With a flick of his mind, the Girafarig sent the end of the mallet towards the orb, directing it in a straight line past the first wicket, sideswiping the blue orb before careening through the second.

"That's three extra swings for me," Binair called out toward the bewildered Bagon.

"How...how does that—"

"One for the first wicket, another for the second, and a third for hitting your ball," Binair interjected, "a pretty good shot if I do say so myself."

Chimera found himself at a loss for words, retreating towards the palm tree's shade to hopefully hide his look of indignation.

The rest of the game passed by quickly for Chimera, sunlight growing ever more oppressive as the Girafarig maintained a steep lead. Just as Chimera felt like he was making progress as his blue sphere drew closer to passing through final hoop, it was knocked towards the other end of the field on Binair's turn, drawing a maddening roar from the blue lizard as he threw his mallet to the grass.

"Frustrated, old chum?" Binair asked, the two white horns on his head growing a vibrant pink as the Chimera's mallet was lifted from the ground towards him.

"I...yes, yes I am, it isn't fair that I have to use these," Chimera replied, holding his stubby blue arms up, "while you can use your goddamn telekinesis on the mallet!"

Binair gave a quick chuckle, "Well, would you rather I hold it with my mouth? I was born with the ability, is it not natural that I use it?"

"Not when it puts you at an inequitable advantage," he shot back. "You might as well just play with other psyche types if they're the only ones with a fair chance."

"A decent point, old chum," said the Girafarig, "however, I believe you fail to consider the world we live in."

He continued, "Take, for instance, if I were to play a game against that fine gentlemen over there."

Chimera glanced where Binair was pointing, spotting a large, orangutan-like, Pokemon with a purple cloak.

"Oranguru are extremely intelligent Pokemon, that one over there would be able to calculate the exact pressure the ball must be hit and the exact angle to achieve the most efficient route. I would have no chance, had I not used the advantages you just described."

"But you're not playing against an Oranguru, you're playing against me," Chimera replied. "Why even bother playing if you know you're going to win? Kind of defeats the whole purpose of a sport."

"To...teach," The Girafarig slowly replied, "teach a lesson, old chum, one that those just joining the guild such as yourself could use. You know the theory of the human universe, do you not? Were one species dominates the world and has made a sport of battling Pokemon such as us?"

Chimera bit his lip, "I'm...familiar with the concept, yes."

"Consider this, why do we not tell of worlds with Girafarigs or Alakazhams as the dominate species? They would certainly be more intelligent, as welling as being able manipulate objects more efficiently than any appendages could."

Before Chimera could think of an answer, he continued, "The answer, old chum, lies in their drive. The humans of that universe were not content to stay where they where and coexist like any Alakazham would. They pushed on, taking whatever suited their fancy, inventing ways control creatures with ten times their own mental or physical power."

"What's your point?" Chimera inquired, "You've said a lot, but we still are just playing croquet."

"My point, old chum, is that the world follows harsher rules than a game of hoops, and you're bound to encounter other Pokemon who are stronger and faster than you on your journey. I've spent a long time studying scientific theories on the human universe, and I've found that if you emulate them, if you keep that same inventiveness and desire for more, you'll end up with the destiny you've always wanted. Consider that, when we play croquet again."

Chimera's mind was lost trying to find a counterargument, finding relief only when his eyes spotted a familiar Raichu approaching from an end of the field. Even from a distance, Chimera could she that marching had left her racked with sweat, Argon's face conveying a simple message: I'm not doing that again.

"Argon!"

Chimera jumped, surprised to see that Binair was the one calling out to her. "Fancy seeing you here, you'll be heading out soon, I presume?"

"Yeah," she replied in between deep breaths, "going on a short mission with my new partner over there, had to help some of the soldiers first, though."

His curiosity peeked, Chimera piped in, "I take it you two know each other?"

"Well, of course," she replied dismissively, "he's my boss."

Chimera's head shot towards the Girafarig, demanding an explanation.

"Guess the game is up," Binair said with a heavy grin, happy to oblige, "before you stands the founder and current presider of the Western Faire Guild."
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 6: The Test
No...not again,

Chimera lay motionless, eyes wide staring unto the Girafarig is his mind shouted accusations toward it's only occupant.

It's all over now. You ruined it, the things you said...badmouthing the one person you should have obeyed over all else. He's no doubt going to kick your ass to the curb now, unless...

Chimera's knees weakened, dropping him to the floor as he forced his gaze from Binair to the grassy ground.

"I am so sorry for all those horrible things I said to you. I-Uh...I lost my temper; it was unprofessional, disorderly, insolent, and plain stupid."

Binair gazed at the Bagon with an incredulous frown, "Chimer—"

"I should have known better," he continued, holding a melancholic tone Argon inwardly pondered as almost sounding rehearsed, "I shouldn't have disrespected what you said, please...it won't happen again."

Binair kept his dispassionate gaze, "Chim—"

"Please! You don't have to do this, I just need another chance. I'll do anything you ask to make this up, I promise I'll develop into a productive member of the guil—"

"Chimera!" Binair yelled, tail forming a scowl to match the one on his face. "The only thing you need to develop is a spine."

Ever so slowly, the Bagon lifted his head from the floor, "What? I don't understand."

"You're still in the guild, old chum," Binair replied, as if the conclusion was obvious, "only the most thick-skinned of Pokemon cannot tolerate debate from their own subordinates. Luckily for you, I am not one of them."

Binair peeked over to Argon, silently watching the entire episode, "He's not always like this, is he?"

Argon hesitated, lifting a paw up to scratch her back as she gazed upon her beseeching partner, "You've b-been a little...emotional since I met you, but no."

"Good," Binair said with a sideways glance towards the Bagon, "then there is room for improvement, and for Arceus's sake, on your feet!"

Chimera rose from his knees, adrenaline exiting his body in the form of relieved sighs, "A-Are you sure, not even gonna...dock my pay or something?"

"Yes," Binair replied with a prolonged sigh, "and I would recommend you stop suggesting ideas for your own punishment."

Faced with this news, Chimera's frozen continuance returned, lasting several seconds before a solitary giggle escaped from the side of the Bagon's mouth. A few seconds more, and the giggle had escalated until he was closing his eyes and cackling towards the ground.

"What's so funny?" Argon asked, "was there something important I missed, or—"

"It's nothing," Chimera puttered out in between prolonged laughter, "it's just, oh Arceus, I'm a fool."

Argon and Binair starred onward at the unhinged Bagon, creating a discomforting silence surrounding the group, only broken only by the sharp cough of the Girafarig as he opened his mouth,

"Well, now that the matter has been resolved, I presume that you two will be leaving for your first mission?"

"Uh..yeah," Argon piped in, "I was going to sign us up for a small resource recovery mission, we should be able to get back before sundown."

A scowl formed on Binair's face as he looked toward the Bagon, "Would you two be adamant for a more...well paying expedition?"

"I-I thought about it," Argon replied, arms crossed and feet beginning to tap as she turned to her partner, "b-but I figured that it would be best to start slow, after all, I'm not sure how capable you are at dungeoneering, Chimera."

"Well, I'm sure he could handle himself, especially when paired with someone as experienced as you, isn't that right?"

"Uh...yeah!" the Bagon replied, turning towards the Raichu to give his best attempt at a heroic stance. "I won't be a burden, you can count on that!"

After giving Chimera's eyes a search of confirmation, Argon turned back towards Binair, "Ok...I guess, what do you have in mind?"

Binair's mouth formed into a grin, Chimera able to confirm that his tail had taken up a similar expression, "An important retrieval exploration. My sources tell of an object of intense power, recently discovered to be hidden in an island just off the coast of Eastern Faire. Sail to this island, fight through the mystery dungeon to retrieve it and bring it back here."

"That'll likely take the entire day, if not more..." Argon whimpered, peeking at Chimera to see that a smile had taken the place of his former grimace, "n-never mind, tell me, how will we tell what this item looks like?"

"Let me just say it has a very distinctive pattern," Binair replied, "you'll know it when you see it."

Before Argon could object, Chimera quickly ran around the Girafarig to hang a hand over her shoulder, "I guess we should head out soon then, we're burning daylight!"

"Indeed, old chum, gather what equipment you need and head toward the docks, tell the captain of the WFS Draeck that I sent you. You'll need the location of course," the horns on Binair's head flashed a vibrant pink as a folded sheet of paper tucked in Argon's bag surfaced.

"—here," the Girafarig spoke, quill levitating out of his pack to meet the paper, "I'll mark it on your map."

Argon grabbed hold of the wonder-map, noticing that a seemingly random point off the eastern island's coast was marked with a small X.

"We should really get going then," she said, shuffling out of the Bagon's grasp, "I'd prefer if we're not trekking through a mystery dungeon after sundown."

With this, Argon turned, Chimera following her lead to walk toward the visible large cluster of vessels out in the distance. After a few steps, however, he stopped, turning his head back towards the Girafarig as he spoke,

"Binair...I'm sorry for the way I acted, few that I've known would so generously hand out this opportunity, thank you."

"No apology needed," Binair replied, his tail's roguish smile again glaring at the Bagon as he walked away, "I always protect my investments, and as I said, I look forward to our next game."

Chimera found himself beaming back at Girafarig's tail as the instruments of their game levitated into Binair's pack, "Yeah, so do I."

---​

As Chimera followed Argon through the Pith Town harbor, he couldn't help but notice that the Raichu seemed unfazed by the excessive shouting between various ships and the olfactory overload of saltwater from the heavy breeze. A look from the Bagon towards the docks revealed vessels of all sizes jutting in between each-other like people in a crowded hallway. Before long, the duo arrived at a vessel fitting Binair's description: in between the dozens of crafts lying dormant in the harbor was a moderately sized ship, sapphire wooden planks making up the body creating a deep contrast against the faintly yellow stained sails hanging across the vessel's three masts. The most immediate draw of the vessel was it's figurehead statue: a large, serpentine dragon-like head, bright yellow eyelids bellow pink eyes creating an almost cartoonist appearance.

"Oi, ye coming aboard or what!"

Argon starred up at the startling yell, spotting it's source to be an imposing bipedal green snake, leaning over from the vessel with a disheveled scowl. On her head was a cocked hat, recognized by the Raichu as the same type worn by the commanding Kricketune.

"Well? Executive Officer Binairs paying a lot of poke to see ye two delivered somewhere, I could always wait here and collect the reward if you're so inclined."

"N-No, that won't be necessary," Argon hastily replied, walking with Chimera across the vessel's rickety gangplank.

"Better not be," the Servine continued, "would probably take five hours or more to to travel to that island he descried, would hate to spend it here doing jack all."

Now standing aboard the Draeke, Chimera followed Argon towards the Servine, instinctively reaching his hand out towards her before pulling it back, a memory of his last attempt at such a gesture still fresh in his mind.

"And your name is?" Chimera asked.

"Wendy," she replied, "Captain Wendy, to be clear."

The Servine turned around from the pair, taking her position at the helm in front of the dozen or so crew members scattered across the vessel as they set sail from the harbor.

"I'd recommend you find somewhere comfortable, we're in for a long trip. Below decks usually a nice spot, but a word to the wise, usually a
bunch of spare parts and tools lying with the cargo, a sharp wave can send one hurling towards ye if you're not careful."

Argon nodded at Wendy's warning, temptation to lower a hat over her eyes and sleep in the warm sun cut off as she recalled one of her original concerns.

"H-Hey, Chimera," Argon spoke, "don't take this the wrong way, but I was wondering if I could...test you on something,"

"Sure, what's the test?" the Bagon replied, "you won't find a better person to help you with doing your taxes, if that's what you want."

"No, it's not that, it's just...there's a fair amount of battling in my line of work. H-Had we been doing most other missions the biggest thing you'd have to worry about would be wild Shellos or Caterpie, but where we're going is a wildcard, I just wanted to see if you could defend yourself."

A bead of sweat began to form on Chimera's forehead, "Uh—Yeah, that's fair. I've got no problem showing you."

Argon gave a motioning wave toward the vessels stern, Chimera gazing past it to see that they were about a kilometer past the harbor.

"I-I guess we should start off with some of your elemental abilities," Argon said, motioning to a loose plank of wood floating behind the Draeck, "I believe your species should be able to breath embers, or some sort of blue fire, I think, could you demonstrate?"

Chimera nodded, exhaling quick, short breaths as he attempted to psyche himself up. He tightened his chest, feeling inside for any unique organ that would provide Argon's stated abilities. With no obvious answer, he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as he opened his mouth in the direction of the driftwood target. The muscles in the back of the Bagon's throat waited expectantly for some substance to exhale, seconds passing as it became increasingly clear to the pair that none would come.

Argon spoke up, "Chimera, are you alrigh—"

"Yes," he interjected, "I'm...fine, just need a few seconds."

He pounded his chest twice, in an attempt to give his lizard-like body more of an inclination to fulfill it's desired purpose, before trying again. Again, the jaw opened towards the floating plank released nothing but hot air.

The pattern continued, scowl on the Bagon's forehead becoming increasingly clear every time his scaly snout would open towards the vibrant hew of the increasingly shrinking harbor in the distance.

On what she assumed was Chimera's dozenth attempt, Argon piped up, "Well, maybe you're more of a physical attacker? I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a headbutt from you, for what it's worth."

Chimera threw his arms to the ground and turned towards the bow, "I should be able to do this! Everything I need is right here, I can control my arms and my legs, I don't see why this should be any different. I don't...maybe you're right, unless—"

"Argon, would you be willing to battle me right now?"

"Battle you?" Argon questioned, "I-It seems a bit early to be sparring, don't you think?"

"I know, I know," Chimera quickly replied, "but I think I know why I can't exhale fire right now. It must be something in the mind, I've found that if I'm put in stressful situations, I'm able to do things I thought I couldn't before. If I'm in danger, my brain will...sort itself out, survival instincts and all that."

Argon starred back with a blank expression, "You're probably one of the more out there Pokemon I've met, but if you think it will help."

She turned back towards the Servine, "Captain Wendy, do you mind if we—"

"As long as ye don't damage the ship or crew, ye should be fine," Wendy replied with a dismissive wave of a vine, attention taken up concentrating on a large map.

With this, Argon and Chimera took their positions, standing at the center of the modestly sized ship about ten feet away from each other.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Argon asked, "I'll...try to take it easy on you."

"I'd appreciate it more if you didn't," Chimera replied firmly, "think of me as someone you have to defeat, like an enemy Pokemon in a dungeon. If my theory is correct, that's the only way this is going to work."

The Bagon gave a short breath, before charging at the Raichu head first, eye's pointed straight towards the vessel's floor.

Argon waited, Chimera's stone forehead nearly on top of her before she jolted to the right, scurrying to the other side of the vessel as he turned around to meet her.

"N-Not a bad attack," Argon commented, "but you should keep your head up before you hit them, it's easy to dodge if you know they can't see you."

Chimera nodded, eyes opening in shock as he noticed faint sparks begin to emanate from the Raichu's cheeks. Immediately, a short burst of electricity launched from Argon's tail, the Bagon just able to dive out of the way behind a large barrel as the wood plank where he was previously standing adsorbed the jolt. Chimera got up and rested his back behind the barrel, a glance to his left revealing a blue turtle tightening a corner rigging looking toward the Bagon with an incredulous stare.

Chimera glared back at the Wartortle dismissively, before hearing a voice from Argon's location,

"Pretty good reflexes, now you'll have to either close the gap or use one of your breath attacks."

The latter option seeming the better one, Chimera peeked his head from the barrel and opened his jaw, slamming his first to the ground when, again, nothing came out.

"Argon, I appreciate your advice, but this will only work if I'm an danger, you can't hold back."

Argon's voice cracked, "But wha—"

"But nothing!" Chimera interjected, "I'm not your partner, I'm your enemy, for my sake please act like it."

Chimera charged, hurling towards the Raichu with fangs bared. Argon had no trouble avoiding the Bagon's bites, every dodge drawing an increasingly feral roar of rage. After another lunge sent Chimera stumbling past Argon a couple feet, he turned towards the ground, mind creating imaginary of a humongous blue and red dragon spitting flames towards the helpless Pokemon below. With a stern scowl, he turned his face back towards Argon, belching a soul shattering scream as he commanded every part of his lizard-like frame into launching blue fire at the Raichu before him.

After a few seconds, he opened his eyes, finding that the only thing that had damaged Argon was his own bad breath.

"Chimera, do you want to sto—"

"HIT ME!" the Bagon roared, "I CAN TAKE IT."

Argon only sighed, sparks in her cheeks being matched by a ball of electricity forming around her left arm. In one swift motion, she darted forward, Chimera not even having time to react before he was sent careening across the vessel by Argon's fist. He hit the Draeke's floor with a thud, sliding across the wooden planks until the back of his head slammed into the below deck hatch, forcing it open.

Wendy's voice reverberated through the entire ship, "Oi, Raichu, what just happened?"

Argon stood with an all too familiar frozen stare, "I...I knocked him out."
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 7: Arsenal
The end to Chimera's slumber was significantly less tranquil. Without warning, the Bagon's nose was met with a decidedly bitter olfactory overload as a foul-smelling gas flushed through his lungs and nose. Breaths were short and sporadic as his eyes forced open to take note of his surroundings.

He was sprawled out on his side, light raindrops audible against wood paneling proving that he was somewhere indoors. His face grew cross-eyed, seeing that a small, glass bottle containing a white powder was being supported against his nose by two vine-like appendages. Realizing that the uncorked container was the source of the irritating sensation, he pulled his face back, right ear being met by a startling voice,

"Oi, lizard-face, welcome to the world of the living."

Chimera leaned his upper body towards the voice, quickly raising a hand to wipe the drool that had accumulated on the left side of his mouth. The Servine's piercing stare providing a stark contrast to the Raichu to her side, eyes pointed towards the floor and paw raised up scratching the back of her neck. A few seconds of silence passed before Argon spoke,

"Chimera, I...we should really stop meeting like this."

The memories of what had just transpired rushed back into the Bagon's conscious. He gave a short chuckle, being quickly interrupted as needles of pain reverberated from his right cheek to the rest of his body. He raised his hand to the pain's source, cheek feeling numb to the touch,

"Yep, I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. Literally."

Argon glanced to the left, levitating a wooden mug filled with a thick, blue concoction into Chimera's hand. The pain from his right cheek seemed to gradually subside with every sip of the syrupy-sweet liquid. Argon waited until the Bagon hid finished chugging the container, before raising her voice in a soft whimper,

"I'm really sorry for what happened."

"Don't be," Chimera quickly replied, "I asked for it, if anything I should be apologizing to you for forcing you to do that. It seemed like an idea that made sense when I thought about it, but in the end I pushed it too far, I'm sorry."

Her eyes gave a few quick blinks as her head lowered, "Are you sure? Alright, if you insist. The moment you hit the ground, I was just...terrified that I might have given you a concussion, glad to see you're ok."

A toothy grin replaced the melancholic frown on Chimera's face, "If it's any consolation, it was a really impressive punch, definitely knocked me off my feet."

A blank stare remained on Argon's face for a moment, broken when her mind recognized the Bagon's attempt at levity and let a chuckle escape from the side of her mouth, "Someday, you have to teach me how to make jokes like that on the spot, really helps to lighten the mood."

"If ye two are done apologizing to each other, I got a ship to run," Wendy interjected, causing the duo's heads to jump up and stare towards the drips of rain wetting the crew-quarters wooden floor as she stepped out into the storm.

The Raichu kept her eyes toward the door until it had closed, letting a moment pass before slowly bringing them to rest on Chimera as the room's illumination retreated to the tiny cracks in the door frame.

"P-Please don't take this personally, but I think there are some questions that should be answered while we're here," she stated, waiting for an approving nod from the Bagon before she continued.

"Ever since we've met, you haven't exactly seemed like a perfectly normal Bagon. Washing up on some random corner of the beach, being terrified of falling, not being able to use attacks that your species innately know. I don't mean to pry, but... is there something you haven't been telling me?"

"Oh...yes, of course," Chimera slowly replied, reducing his voice to a whisper while peaking towards the door, "if anybody deserves to know it's you. A quick question first, do you know what a human is?"

Argon spent a few seconds pondering the question, matching the Bagon's tone, "S-Sort of, I remember Executive Binair talking about them a couple times, apparently they're some sort of species in an alternate dimension," she closed her eyes, holding a paw up to her chin, "A few fictional stories exist about them, years back I read a couple about a human being turned into Pokem—" she froze, eyes shot open staring at the Bagon, "you're not saying what I think you're saying, are you?"

Chimera's silence was the only answer she needed,

"Arceus...what have I gotten myself into?"

"Nothing yet," Chimera hastily replied, "this shouldn't change anything, there's no world ending catastrophe about to occur, at least that I'm aware of. I don't know why I'm here, and to be perfectly honest I don't exactly care, just know that that's the reason I might have acting strangely sometimes, nothing else to worry about."

"One more thing," he added, " you're free to believe or disbelieve my claim, but I'd prefer to keep this a secret between you and me, if you don't mind. I just...feel that things will work out better if few people know."

A contemplative silence grew between the two, interrupted by the infrequent drop of water from the leaky ceiling. Though Argon couldn't see it, Chimera's body was inwardly quivering, faint whispering in the back of the Bagon's mind suggesting that the she was about to either shout or make a break for the door to have him committed to whatever the Pokemon equivalent of an insane asylum was.

"So...what's it like?"

"What's what like?" Chimera replied, subconscious voices vanishing ever so slightly.

"Being part of the human world," Argon continued, "did you remember anything about it?"

Chimera closed his eyes and scowled, silently appreciating that his recent forced rest had been relatively dreamless. A few seconds passed until the Bagon was ready to speak, content that he had found the right words.

"It's wasn't the happiest place, at least for me. Humans have a different...philosophy than what I've seen here, guess it's just in their nature. It's dog-poochyena eat poochyena, the haves and the have-nots. There are similarities, of course, a ship like this wouldn't seem too out-of-place in the human world, at least a long time ago, as well as the less...inviting people who accompany it. If I had to name the biggest difference between the two, I'd say it's in their potential. Here, there's this greater sense of...hope, I think. I have the impression that I can make something out of myself, that if I play my cards right success will be within reach, not so in the past."

He continued, Argon taking note how his voice wavering as he went on, "I know it's a lot to take in, but...I just don't want this to impact us working together, you've already done me a good turn, and I'd hate for any partnership to feel disingenuous because of this. You're more than welcome to call this whole venture off if you think that's the best choice. Hell, I very well might have if our situation's were reversed, and you were a Pokemon-turned human. At the end of the day, it's your choice."

Satisfied with what he'd said, Chimera waited expectantly for Argon's reply, a steep turn of the Draeke sending the narrow door frame's beam of light across her face like the hands of fate.

"You're either a human, completely insane, or the world's best con artist. After what you've said...I'm satisfied to think the former."

"You believe me?"

"You haven't done anything to make me distrust you yet," Argon continued, "and it would explain a lot. I can't imagine living in the world you just described, i-if you're looking for a place in this one, I'm content to try and help you find it."

Chimera closed his eyes, smile created from the Raichu's reply fading as images of blurred faces in clouded scenery popped into his mind,

"Just know that I appreciate you're faith, I'll try to live up to it. Being in the human world...wasn't all that bad, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some good times, didn't make some nice memories. There were people, not that many, but one or two who put up with me who I enjoyed interacting with. I probably wouldn't have met them if not for the going through all of it. But...it wasn't worth it at the end of the day, not by a long shot."

"W-What's the last thing you remember?" Argon asked, paw raised to her chin in curiosity. "It sounds like you didn't come here willingly."

In truth, it was only the second last thing he remembered, but that didn't make the memory any less poignant. The murky faces disappeared from his mind, replaced by feelings of sorrow and darkness that were no more clear. He was in a tall place, brown glass bottles of various sizes sat strew across the carpeted floor. Every emotion that had been in his mind seemed to have been amplified, accompanied by a dizziness that had plagued every thought. Periodic beeps came from the answering machine haphazardly fallen from a table, increasingly accompanied by the pleading voices of his once forgotten friends. He remembered the sharp chill of the wind, the tiny gaze of red and yellow headlights from above against the night sky, thinking about how the gaze would become increasingly larger after his feet had left the—

"I...I'd rather not talk about that, " Chimera replied, jamming his eyes closed as he forced the offending memory away, "let's just say I blacked out and washed up on that beach, it'll be better for both of us. I'm sorry about the secrecy, it's just that...I'd rather make a fresh start with that forgotten."

Argon nodded, conscious suggesting not to press the topic any further. Minutes passed as Chimera's story replayed through her mind, eventually drawing a paw to her mouth as she attempted to hide a few solitary chuckles,

"What's so funny?" Chimera asked, the toothy grin returning to his continuance, "I thought I was the one who laughed at poor times,"

The smile concealed by her paw left with short sigh, "I-It's just...think about it, a human, t-the scientific discovery of the ages, is transformed into a Pokemon and taken into this world. He washes up on the shore, and of all the hundreds of thousands of Pokemon who could have potentially found you, of all the famous explorers or historians who would have been more qualified, it ended up being me, Arceus has a strange way of thinking..."

"Don't sell yourself short," Chimera replied, "there's probably a hell of a lot more worse 'mons who could have found me. And like I said, this shouldn't change a thing."

Argon nodded as she let the reply fully sink in, Chimera instead being the one to speak up,

"I'd hate to be a downer, but I still need to find out why my theory failed, and if we're able to fix it."

At this, the Raichu was forced to pause, vision of the Bagon in front of her loosing focus as her mind pondered. A minute passed before it was shot back into focus, the grin the had formed from having the realization being cut down as its full consequences were considered,

"Chimera, I-I've put some thought into this while you were knocked out, and now that I know you were a human, I think I might the answer, it's...not good though. I'm not sure if this is correct, b-but you might not ever be able to breathe fire if what you say is true, or it'll at least take a very long time." Argon replied, voice getting ever slower as she stared back at the Bagon.

"Why not?" Chimera shot back, voice a mix of urgency and confusion, "You said it yourself, any Bagon should innately know how."

"B-Because...I-I think it's like evolution in a way. When a Pokemon gain's new elemental powers, like I did when I became a Raichu, it might take weeks or even months for you to be able to accurately use any of your new abilities, because your instincts are still adapting with how your body and mind changes. Turning from a human to a Pokemon in the span of a day...you might not have any of those instincts to begin with, nothing to tell your mind how to control any organs it hasn't already used."

Chimera stared back incredulously, before slamming his hand to the ground at no one in particular,

"So that's it then, I'm left with no choice but to charge my enemies head-on? You saw how frail I am, I'll probably get sucker punched into a wall the moment I try to headbutt somebody."

"Not...exactly," Argon replied, answer synonymous with her opening a canvas bag by her side and levitating a disheveled amalgamation of pebbles, spikes, and thorns onto the floor, "I-I brought some of these for you, just in case. I had a fair amount when I first started at the guild, they're used a lot by some of the fighting and normal types."

Chimera eyed the various objects, reminiscence of sitting in the backseat of his parent's car staring at two vertically stacked screens reminding him what they were. His mind and hand settled on a silver spike buried under the pile, a quick toss proved it had a hefty weight to it, and a decent enough balance to be considered throwable. The spike's edges were revealed as jagged and dull as he ran a finger across its edge, sections no doubt chipped off due to tosses from its previous owner landing against hard rock. He gave a short glance to Argon and pointed at the empty wooden mug lying on the ground, head motioning upward. Reading the cue, the mug was surrounded by a pink aura of light as it floated to the other end of the room, moving in a slow circle against the room's wall as if an imaginary person was juggling it. Chimera gave one last glance to the silver spike before rising to his feet, balance shifting as he spun his body in a full circle to gather enough momentum for the throw. Once his outstretched hand was pointing toward the target, he released his grip of the spike, sending it souring across the room in an arc.

He missed.

A heavy grunt was replaced by a long sigh, as Chimera closed his eyes and looked towards the ground,

"It's these useless, stubby arms! How am I supposed to throw anything with these?"

Before Argon could interject, Chimera stomped across the room, giving an audible grunt as he kicked over one of the various wooden crates lying across the floor. The crate was knocked sideways, flimsy top breaking apart as it's contents spilled across the floor. The Bagon was just about to release another yell, most likely audible enough to catch the attention of a particular Servine, when he froze, eyes glued to the various odds and ends strewed across the deck. It was a collection of scrap metal and wooden planks, likely used for emergency repairs to the Draek in the event of a hull breach. Thin metal beams jutted out of the pile, accompanied by tubes about the length of a line of rebar, if he had the tools, the metal and oak could no doubt be forged into something useful...

Without another word, he shifted his gaze up, walking slowly to a set of doors leading into the lower decks despite the bewildered gaze of the Raichu at his side. Although the cabin turned darker as he proceeded down the stairway, a cursory glance around the cargo lining the floor revealed what he was looking for:an unassuming steel oven, connected to a brick chimney leading to the top of the ship, of which several simple iron-forged tools hanged. Next the forge's moderately sized anvil was a short wooden desk, of which a barrel full of woodworking tools sat on the far corner. On the other end of the room was an impressive pile of coiled hemp rope used for ship rigging. If he could take some, treat it with candle wax and keep it under tension...

He ran back up the stairs, again passing Argon as he grabbed a handful of sticks and iron spikes,

"N-Need my help with anything?" Argon asked is he ran by, perplexed expression not leaving her face.

"Oh no, you're fine," Chimera quickly replied, smile not leaving his, "it's just...inspiration strikes. I'd recommend you get some sleep, this might take a while."

Though the Bagon had bolted back through the door, Argon could not help but notice that he had left it open. Curiosity peaked, Argon retrieved her backpack from the door and followed, ready to see just what the human had in store.

---​

Argon was half tempted to grab a quill and start taking notes as she observed Chimera scurry through the lower decks. A thin layer of paper began formed on the floor as the hours passed by, designs for inner mechanics furiously sketched in ink only to be crossed with a large X across the page and cast aside. The soothing echo of the Draeke crashing against the ocean current continued as the designing phase ended, accompanied now by a near constant mix of whetstone scraping against steel, steel flicking against wood, and the piercing sizzle of molten hot metal components being taken from the furnace and submerged in a bucket of water. With little else to do, Argon retrieved a wooden fife from her bag and began to practice as the Bagon worked, starting with simple scales and progressing to slow-paced melodies learned through muscle memory. The gesture was highly appreciated, drawing a cheerful glance from Chimera whenever a splinter or burn from the construction process nearly forced a swear out of his mouth.

Hours more passed, and the Raichu had long since gone into slumber when she was awakened by another swift turn of the Draeke, nearly sending her side towards the ground as she lost her balance. Getting up, Argon eyed Chimera to see him gazing back with a giddy smile, holding the fruits of his labor. In his hand was on object unlike anything she had ever seen, no doubt because, until this point, no Pokemon had ever felt the necessity to see one. The Bagon ran his hand down the contraption of wax sealed string, polished oak wood, and forged steel with an innate sense of wonder, as if he was discovering a passion long-lost to the twists and turns of life. In all honesty, the device did seem a bit...crude to Argon, but the display of its power quickly belayed that suspicion. Chimera reached toward his hip for a short, wooden tube hanging from a freshly sewn canvas belt. From this, he retrieved a spike all too similar to the one used in his previous attempt at throwing, sharpened edge glistening off the dull glow of embers from the forge. Placing the now wood-fletched spike on the contraption in his arms, he pointed it at a familiar wooden mug, lying on top of a crate two dozen feet away. The bolt flew true as the crossbow's extended trigger was pulled, sending it spinning across the room and knocking the mug off of the crate, front tip forming a steep cracks in the grains of wood.

Though it had been unorthodox, Argon found herself returning Chimera's smile as he turned toward her, happy herself that any assumptions of his prowess had been proven false. As Chimera raised a hand to wipe away the sweat the had long since accumulated on his brow, he gave one last appreciative glance to the devise in his hand and the partner at his side,

"This should help."
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 8: Dungeon Crawl Dilemma
The sails were reefed, the anchor was dropped, the sea shanties concluded, and the Bagon and Raich unceremoniously lowered into a rowboat as they commenced the final journey to their destination. Chimera had ended up on the losing end of their game of 'fire, water, grass', giving Argon ample time to check and recheck the coordinates of their wonder map as he rowed. The quizzical expression that had clouded her face ever since the Draeke ground to a halt refused to relent, being evermore supported as they inched closer to their destination. Binair's description had suggested the presence of an island large enough to contain a mystery dungeon, and yet the only isle visible for miles was a rocky platform barely jutting out of the ocean waves, sporting a rough surface area smaller than even her own apartment floor.

"Hey, you alright there?"

She glanced up, seeing that the Bagon was staring toward her with an expectant look,

"What? O-Oh yeah, I'm fine, just...psyching myself up for going through the mystery dungeon Binair talked about."

Chimera's head tilted at the remark, forming a toothy grin as he let go of the oars and stepped up to Argon to pat her shoulder,

"Come on, where is you your enthusiasm?" he loudly proclaimed, bobbing rowboat nearly causing him to lose his balance as he pointed a hand towards the horizon. "Look at us! A Raichu and Bagon, venturing into uncharted territory for fame and fortune, what's not to enjoy?"

Despite his best efforts, Argon's neutral expression was only further entrenched, subconscious bringing up images of a familiar, ghostly Marowak,

"I-I know, it's just...this is the first truly dangerous expedition I've gone on in a pretty long time. I've seen the results of pokemon going against some of the more formidable Pallids, and it usually isn't pretty."

Chimera's smile faded ever so slightly, his brow doubtlessly furrowing if it wasn't as hard as steel, "Pallids? What are those?"

"Oh right, I forgot, you don't know." Argon replied, "Pallids are the pokemon found in mystery dungeons. They're...a monstrous aggression, ones that defy the boundaries of reason. M-Most certainly feral, all the ones that I've seen would sooner die then let you pass through.

She glanced down, tone condensing into a soft murmur, "Most usually aren't a problem, but the ones that can face you on equal or better footing...y-you just have to mentally prepare yourself for facing a brutal enemy in order to not lose yourself in the process."

The Bagon's smile had faded completely as he processed the information, a few seconds passing until he realized that he was wordlessly staring at her and turned away. He sat back down, continuing to row towards the small archipelago as he glanced at the recently manufactured crossbow at his hip, a debate brewing in his mind over whether the next targets it found were more or less tangible than a shattered, wooden mug. The foes they faced, Chimera reasoned, would be alive, but if they were as unnatural as his partner had stated, was it really worth trudging through moral questions against creatures that would be nonexistent whenever this dungeon would reset? His conscious told him no.

No more words were exchanged, pensiveness infecting both as the rowboat hit the uneven ground with a dull thud. Stepping out onto the sharp, wet, rocks brought the pair's attention to a large pit near the center of the island, previously obscured until this point. They peeked down, a gasp filling both their mouths as the hole stretched downward in an unending chasm. The dots connected in Argon's mind, a shiver running down her spine at the thought of having to wash muddy sediment out of her fur. She turned to Chimera, reaching into her bag for a thin rope ladder connected to a small hook, kept on hand when dungeoneering for such an occasion.

"I-I guess this is the mystery dungeon that Executive Binair was referring to, Chimera. I hope you like spelunking."

The Bagon didn't say a word, eyes lost gazing at the unending blackness of the abyss. A small pebble clattered downward from the edge of the fissure, a few seconds passing before a faint plopping sound echoed back. He was used to dark, enclosed, spaces, likely preferred them at this point, but the the concept of going into a cavern was a completely foreign experience. Was it too late to call this off?

He shook his head, turning to Argon with a newfound vigor,

"Of course, couldn't think of a better way to explore. Come on, theres no time to waste."

With this, Argon secured the rope ladder and began to climb down, closing her eyes as the familiar yet otherworldly sensation of entering a mystery dungeon washed over her. Chimera followed suit, a part of his mind pining for the Bagon that existed just minutes ago as they went down the rabbit hole.
---​

Though a small beam of light illuminated from the entrance and refracted against the shallow ripples of the underground pond, going deeper into the dungeon left the pair with little but the soft flicker of a lantern candle to guide their way, accompanied by the occasional crackle of sparks emanating from Argon's cheeks. The minutes passed, the crossbow in Chimera's hands leveled as his eyes darting in every which way as he scanned for any sources of danger. Every time he allowed himself to blink, another image would be conjured into his mind, their towering figures becoming increasingly deadly as the Bagon speculated over what enemy they would be forced to confront. In an effort to fight off the oppressive darkness, he centered his attention onto his partner, surprised to find that she was leading the way with a passive, almost bored gaze towards the unknown.

"Argon, I'm no expert, but...we should have encountered something by now, shouldn't we?"

"P-Probably," the Raichu replied, "I've usually go through dungeons were you can barely get your foot through the entrance without being swarmed by rattatas or the occasional bidoof. I'm not completely sure, but this seems...unnatural."

They pressed on, a weary sound echoing seemingly throughout the entire cavern every time they unrolled the rope ladder to descend deeper. As they rounded a corner, Chimera's ear caught the solitary sound of claw scraping against rock from where they had passed, his head shooting back as he leveled his crossbow at the direction of the noise.

"Uh...come out," Chimera said, voice quivering just enough to prevent him from shouting through the whole floor, "we know you're there, no use in hiding."

He could only sigh between jittering teeth as no response came, drawing one last glance at the location before turning his head back toward Argon to walk,

"M-Must have been a rattata or something," he whispered, just loud enough to be caught by the yellow ears of his raichu companion.

Argon glanced behind her, feet stopping as she took note of his disposition, "It might, might not be though, best to keep a good lookout. R-Remember, deep breaths, if we work together we'll get through this, but letting the dungeon get to you will only make it worse."

Chimera paused as he considered his partners words, eventually drawing a deep sigh that, though soothing to his muscles, left his mind in it's overscrupulous state. The effect was slight, but noticeable, periodic shaking condensing from the Bagon's entire body into only his arms. In an effort to reassure himself, Chimera reached into his backpack for a green and gold badge, careful to not send the mental command to evacuate as he ran his fingers over the small shield. Any attempt on their lives, he reasoned, would be fruitless if they were ensured the opportunity for escape, and in this knowledge Chimera returned to his walking pace, content with giving the occasional glance at any unknown forces shadowing them.

A brief respite appeared from the cavern's near endless corridors as they walked into a small clearing. Argon welcomed the faint sloshing of the caves underground river while sitting down for a brief rest, giving an appreciative glance towards the nearly endless lines of stalactites that lined the cavern ceiling, as well as a particular wall where sediment hanged over each other like a waterfall made entirely of rock, seemingly frozen in time. The Bagon sat down beside her, too preoccupied with soothing the aching sensation in his feet to appreciate the view. Any attempt at rest, however, was interrupted by the faint scraping sound once again bouncing throughout the grotto, hoisting Chimera to his feet as he raised his voice in its apparent direction.

"Whoever you are, we're right here, if you have something to say, say it. If you don't...then I'd appreciate if you could stop wasting our time."

Satisfied with his words, the Bagon stood up to challenge their apparent aggressor, Argon not even able to finish her warning before a silhouette rushed him from the darkness.

Sharp claws pierced Chimera from behind, tackling him to the ground. The lantern and guild badge in his hand were sent crashing to the floor, the faint embers of the latter object rolling against stone before falling into the shallow pond at his side, bathing the battlefield in darkness. As the Bagon fell on his back he could hear his Raichu companion cry out in pain, accompanied by a multitude of low-pitched squeaks and chatters from the same location.

Chimera raised his arms up in a haphazard attempt to block the claws from whatever creature was pinning him to the floor, deep gashes forming from his arms getting torn apart by lacerations. A booming crack echoed throw the cavern as a thunderbolt ran across Chimera's line of sight and was diffused into the stone walls. The subsequent flash provided the Bagon a brief opportunity to gaze at the face of his attacker, drawing a terrified gasp as he gazed into its lifeless eyes.

It was...a charmander, but the appearance was something more akin to a ghost. The eyes Chimera stared into were a pupil-less, pale, white, still more than detailed enough to convey a feral sense of hatred and malice toward its target. The skin of the Charmander was not its natural orange hue, but a sickly white and gray tinge, as if half of its body was cast in permanent shadows. The tail...its end was emanating a colorless fire, drawing only more questions through the Bagon's mind as the brief period of light ended,

How did it sneak up on me? I should have been able to see the light from it's tail, but—

Chimera barely had time to think as he heard his attacker exhale, causing a horrific burning sensation across his arms and face despite what the room's unending blackness would suggest possible. The pain continued even after the embers had ceased, eventually shifting into a continuous numbness around where he had been hit, amplified around the various more exposed cuts and scratches.

Clawed hands pinned his own to the ground, terror filling Chimera's thoughts as he heard the Charmander inhale in preparation for yet another rush of lightless fire. Thinking fast, he closed his eyes and jolted his rocky head at the Charmander, causing it to pull its own head back to avoid the strike before spewing more flames at the Bagon. The pain was much less prevalent, his forehead absorbing much of the blast, leaving little but a black scorch mark to show for it. Chimera darted his eyes to his left, realizing that his crossbow had been knocked out of his hand just barely out of reach, one end against the wet rock that marking the beginning of the pond at his side. Another lighting bolt reverberated against the cavern ceiling, Chimera again directing his attention to the grey flame of his attacker, an idea popping into his mind.

He shifted his weight to the left, drawing on all of his strength to overcome the pressure against his hands as the Bagon and Charmander rolled into the knee high layer of bone chilling water. The grey lizard roared in pain as its tail was submerged, attempting to keep it raised above the waterline as they tumbled. The two grappled until Chimera was on top, now the one pinning the Charmander's claws to the floor. Seeing that he had the advantage, Chimera stomped his feet onto the end of the pale Charmander's tail, forcing it into the water and drawing a sharp sizzling sound from the resulting steam. The shriek of pain returned tenfold, the grey lizard occasionally having to pause to take breaths between relentless screeching. In desperation, it slid its tail past Chimera's feet and forced it up, just able to get the the smoldering end into the open air before it was stomped back down by the Bagon, this time for good. Content where he was, Chimera maintained his position, hands pushing claws to the floor and stone forehead aimed downward to absorb the occasional bite or burst of flames. As the seconds turned to minutes, the Bagon was surprised to see that every attempt to reverse their positions or project fire at his face had grown weaker. Moreover, the defiant cries of his attacker had diminished into a soft whimper, matched by the reduced fizzling of its submerged tail.

A final flash of lightning blared, this time accompanied by the dull thud and subsequent crack of something being tackled and landing against a wall of stone. With this, Chimera was offered one last glance at the Charmander he was holding in place, his own dark, brown eyes staring into those of pure white. Tears of pain had long since formed across the Charmander's eyes, streaming from both sides of its face into the murky water. The ferocity that had been initially portrayed when they had begun their skirmish was gone, being replaced by a fearful quiver as its countenance stared onward in what Chimera could only describe as a fluctuation of terror and acceptance. As the cavern returned to its pitch-black setting, a faint series of chirps and squeaks came from the Charmander's mouth, one unlike any of the previous feral barks. At this, Chimera paused, raising a nonexistent eyebrow to the grey lizard as he spoke,

"What?"

The call came again, this time with a greater sense of urgency, the grey lizard barely able to belt out the end before its voice trembled into nothingness. Faced with what he could only assume was some primitive attempt at communication, Chimera weighed his options, thoughts from both ears whispering into his conscious.

Let him go, with the amount of time you've submerged his life source, he's no longer a threat.

You don't know that! What if it's tail simply measures it's vitality, and this is just a trick to get you to lower your guard?

You don't owe this lizard a thing, it attacked you first, you're under no obligation to relent now.

This is cruel and you know it, cruel and unnecessary. What if your friends saw you like this?

Unnecessary? It's survival, what if you let it go and it attacks you or Argon again in the future, this time with friends?

He's begging for his life! Where is your humanity?

Humanity didn't get to where it was by relenting when it had the chance to win, remember that...

Chimera was silent, darkness hiding his scowling expression. Before he could decide, his train of thought was broken by the sound of something glass-like shattering, the room being bathed in an unnatural illumination. The Bagon shifted his gaze from the Charmander to observe the room, spotting the broken components of a blue orb on the floor next to his companion. All around her were the unconscious bodies of a horde of small pokemon, from rattatas to yungoose to zubats, all sporting the same grey coloration as his own attacker, the faint rise and fall of their chests being clearly evident. He drew his gaze from the floor to Argon's face, a chill running down both their spines as they made eye contact. She was frozen, eyes wide and mouth agape as she stared at Chimera, but...she wasn't starring at his eyes, her gape was directed at something else below him, someone else...

He traced her vision, slowly turning his head back towards the creature retrained against the chilling water. It's head was leaned back toward the ceiling, having long since lost the strength to struggle. Its pale-white eyes refused to blink, Argon staring onward in horror as the fizzling of bubbles from its tail puttered out into nothingness. Chimera took one last look at his companion, silently acknowledging that what he did now could forever stain the partnership he had established. He closed his eyes and drew a deep sigh, his hand had been forced.

Slowly but surely, the scaly blue feet drowning the lizard's tail relented.

Immediately, a glimmer seemed to flash in the Charmander's eyes as its tail shot out from the water like a snorkel. Chimera rushed toward the edge of the shore, hastily grasping for his crossbow is he pointed it at the grey lizard, eyes scanning for any suspicious movement. Argon joined him, the duo watching as the Charmander stumbled to its feet, quickly reached a hand to its back to bring its extinguished tail forward. The lizard now seemed to ignore the two, holding the tail toward its mouth as it began to gently blow air into the opening at its end, every breath drawing another obvious cringe of pain. A couple seconds passed, and a minuscule ember began to emanate from the tails end, Chimera subconsciously comparing it to the flicker of light from a wet match or empty lighter. The lizard slowly brought its head to bear at the duo, quivering as drops of cold, murky water ran down from its body back into the pond, but taking no action nonetheless. Chimera gave a sideways glance to the Raichu at his side, seeing that her baffled expression had refused to relent as she stared towards the pale Charmander, her mouth giving off a faint whisper,

"T-They're...they're not supposed to be like this."

"Be like what?" Chimera replied, matching her quiet tone, not yet sure if the language barrier was one way.

"Pallids, t-they're supposed to be naturally aggressive. I've been doing this for years and I have never encountered one that won't attack you outright, never mind one that...begs for its life.

The grey Charmander looked towards Argon, cocking its head in a neutral expression. Chimera hovered a hand over the crossbow's trigger, scanning the lizard's breath patterns for any indication that it would make use of its recovering passed, gasping as his peripheral vision spotted Argon taking an apprehensive step forward, paw outstretched towards the lizard holding a spiky, red berry.

"Uh...h-here, this should help you, i-if you want it."

It was the lizard's turn to stare onward incredulously, Argon lifting a paw to her temple as the berry was levitated from her hand, landing gently into its outstretched claws. It stood still, alternating it's gaze between the Raichu a couple feet before him and the berry in its hands, stuck in what Chimera could only assume was its own inner debate. Eventually, it raised the berry to its mouth, licking it with the edge of its tongue before taking a nibble. The effect was immediate, the grey cinder on its tail raising upward into a continuous blaze, Chimera's body resuming its tremble as his hand drew ever closer to the pulling the trigger. The grey lizard plunged the entire berry into its mouth and began to chew, face seemingly growing in vitality in conjunction with it's tail. With one last gulp of the remaining contents, it turned its attention back to Argon.

A moment passed as the Charmander and Raichu stared at one another, the occasional droplet falling from stalactites into the stagnate water at their feet as they tried to gauge the other's intentions. Argon took a defensive stance, sparks readying from her cheeks as her mind considered the possibility that she had just made a horrible mistake. The thought, however, was quickly diminished when then the grey lizard's mouth rose into an appreciative grin, one that she was happy to reciprocate, if only to hide the thoughts bouncing through her conscious considering the repercussions of such an action.

Without another word, the grey Charmander turned its back toward the duo and began walking back toward the way they had came, Chimera lowering his crossbow as he noticed that it's hand seemed to be clenched tightly around a small object. He shook his head, deciding not to give it another thought as it rounded one of the rocky corners. With the only occupants of the cavern opening now being limited to a bagon, raichu, and an amalgamation of tiny pokemon lying unconscious on the floor, Chimera turned toward his partner, both silently agreeing that, at the moment, no more words needed to be exchanged about the recent happenings. With this, Argon closed her eyes, sighing one last time to orientate her thoughts before stepping towards a tunnel leading deeper into the dungeon,

"W-We should keep going Chimera, we c-can't...can't let this distract us from the mission."
---​

Chimera couldn't decide whether he was more relieved or disheartened that the remaining pokemon they encountered seemed to match Argon's initial description. Despite the relentless ferocity of their opponents, most were of relatively small power and constitution, the duo able to end most fights seemingly before they began. Argon took the lead, the Bagon more than happy to provide assistance from a safe distance, cringing internally as the more feeble of the grey creatures were dispatched by a single electrified punch from her fist, or the occasional jolt of thunder from her tail. For the somewhat stronger or more resistant creatures, however, teamwork was required. A rogue gible was able to charge Argon, tackling her to the floor as it opened its jaw before a bolt soured through its mouth, piercing its skin and becoming lodged in the back of its throat. A small dewgong revealed itself from under an underground riverbed, just about to shoot a beam of ice at Chimera when Argon dipped her tail into the water, causing the grey seal to freeze from paralysis. The pattern continued, an unspoken surprise filling both Bagon and Raichu that, in exception to the initial fray, both were progressing through the dungeon without a scratch.

Eventually, the constant stream of Pallids again faded, and only chilling silence greeted the two as they walked. The dungeon being devoid of any life threatening forces, Chimera was content to let his mind wander as he stared forward at the oversized tail of his partner,

Just what is it that Binair wants us to find? Why was he unwilling to give even a vague description? Moreover, why send us? There must be more qualified teams to retrieve an item as powerful as he states. Is this...just some convoluted test to enter the guild?

All good questions, and all that would remain unanswered when a large migraine invaded Chimera's mind, forcing him to shut his eyes and drop toward the ground. It was as if a constant force was pressing against his mind, going deeper and deeper as it dug into the Bagon's long term memory. After a few seconds, however, the force exhibited no more pain, strolling across his subconscious like a reader examining a line of books on a shelf, before reaching for one that seemed the most interesting. As the strange sensation ended, Chimera opened his eyes, able to get one last look at Argon before an unknown pokemon popped into existence behind her, setting a hand on her shoulder before both disappeared in the blink of an eye. The Bagon didn't even have time to shout, swiftly turning his head to see that the pokemon was now behind him. Two closed eyes in the middle of three large, red gems stared into his soul as his whole vision was turned to white.

---
Authors note: Props to honrupi and her comic PMD Explorers of Souls for giving me the idea for the Pallids.
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 9: Phantom Reunion
It took a couple of seconds for Argon to adjust as her eyes, having long since adapted to the dark conditions of the cave, were invaded by a flash of white mid-step through her and Chimera's underground exploration. As she brought both paws up to rub the blurriness out and shake the faint ringing in her ears, she heard someone call out towards her, one instantly recognizable since the first day she had crawled into the world to meet the same overwhelming brightness and soothing voices.

"Hey Mausi, it's great to see you again."

A brief curiosity entered the Raichu's mind as she considered the unknown voice's words,

Mausi? I haven't heard someone call me a pet name like that since—

Argon opened her cobalt-blue eyes, letting out a gasp of equal parts dread and bewilderment as she stared towards the pokemon before her.

It was another raichu, one whose brown feet and sharp, lightning bolt shaped tail touching the earth just as she did. Around the other Raichu's black eyes were several noticeable fine lines and wrinkles, partly concealed by light orange fur that surrounded her entire body, of which a few hairs around her nose had turned a faint shade of grey. She stared towards Argon with a tranquil smile, the same recognizable smile that once greeted her everyday she would leave the house for another day of school. At the sight, only one word escaped Argon's mouth,

"M-Mom?"

The Raichu nodded, a gasp coming from her alolan counterpart born half by the discovery, and half from the reoccurring memory of what had transpired before. Argon broke her mother's gaze, eyes darting every which way as she surveyed her new surroundings. The room that abruptly became her present setting was a steep counterpart to the claustrophobic hallways of before, sporting smooth, rocky, walls that gave the appearance of being either artificial made or in some other way unnatural. And yet...there was something familiar about this space, a couple seconds passing in Argon's mind before the realization hit her that, though the room was otherwise empty, both its dimensions and color seemed awfully familiar, if not verbatim to her childhood home. It would have been a soothing sight, if not for the absence of a certain pokemon.

Argon's brought her eyes to bear on the raichu, head shooting back as her breaths began to quicken,

"Where is Chimera?"

"Oh, the Bagon?" her mother replied, tone retaining its euphonic smoothness, "he is in good health, I just...thought that we should have some time to catch up, I'll be happy to take you to him afterwords if you so wish."

Argon's inhalations returning to a steady tempo as she considered what was said. Her head raised up again at the raichu, blue eyes on the verge of disbelieving what she saw. Every detail since the last time they had met was present, from the long, curly, twists at the end of her ears to the consistent height that once seemed towering in comparison to her pikachu body, everything was there.

It's her, it must be her. But how?

She opened her mouth, a rapid amalgam of questions just about to leave her tongue before her lips again closed. With a heavy sigh, Argon gave a sign of acknowledgement at her mothers comment, a couple seconds passing before the alolan raichu raised her voice, mind contempt to see if conversation would give the desired answers,

"Alright then, I...I trust you."

The Raichu gave another solemn nod, smile having not left her face. Looking down at a minor angle to maintain eye contact with her mother brought a brief chuckle from Argon's lips, stemming from the fact that, until this moment, her neck would have to be perpetually craned up whenever they conversed.

"Y-You haven't changed much, four years and you look just like before."

"I can't say the same for you," her mother replied, "are you enjoying your new evolution? I still remember the look on your face when you unwrapped that thunderstone before you left."

Argon's smile froze to shock as she raised a paw up to shield herself from her mother's gaze, the other paws reaching to undo a set of straps keeping the bulky tail pressed against her body in place. The tail slid under her feet as she closed her eyes to concentrate, the gradual yet familiar tingling sensation of overcharging electrons returning as soon as the appendage, now emanating a pink aura, broke contact with the ground.

"I-uh...of course," Argon replied, mind split between struggling through the bouts of tension now invading her mind and trying to come up with a decent vindication, "couldn't be happier. Y-You know, I get so used to floating everywhere that I sometimes like to walk when exploring, helps put me at ease."

A worse lie could have been told, as with many it had a grain of truth to it. Argon exhaled in relief as her mother's expression remained unchanged, seeming ready to accept the proposition.

With any luck, the alolan raichu thought, Mom won't ask about anything else, or at very least not—

"I knew I'd find you here, Mausi" Argon's mother stated, grin forming on her face, "going through a mystery dungeon as perilous as this one. You always promised that you'd become a famous explorer someday, and I have no doubt that you've kept it to heart, just know that I'm proud of you."

The sharp feeling of dread now coursing over Argon's body amplified by the stress of levitation overcame her mental concentration, a sudden dip of her tail as the rosy light dissipated causing her to lose her balance and tumble to the floor. She hastily shuffled back to her feet, now seemingly unable to look at her own mother in the eye. Thinking fast, Argon raised her voice, a faint hope in the back of her mind saying that a change of topic would make the raichu forget the recent display,

"S-So...how's Dad doing?"

A couple seconds too many passed as Argon waited for a response. Despite her minds best attempt to deem her unworthy of gazing directly at the raichu before her, peripheral vision revealed that her mother had shut her eyes and was holding a brown paw up to pinch the end of her nose, the same face, the alolan raichu recollected, that she would make whenever she was asked a particularly difficult trivia question or in the rare instances that she would witness her mother be forced to make up a lie in front of her.

"Is he alri—"

"Yes, he's fine," her mother interjected "you know him, always moving around. He took it fairly well when you rejected a managerial position at the guild before you left, but he's since been trying to bury himself in his job. I'll snap him out of it, you need not worry."

The reply left a gnawing feeling in the back of Argon's mind, one that, despite her best efforts, worked its way to the forefront,

But...Dads been retired for years. He was always so excited about it to when I got to see him, how can he bury himself in his job if—

She shook her head, pushing the offending thought away as her mind shifted directions. A mild grin formed on her face as she closed her eyes, one born from remembrances of seeing the first glimmer of a thunderbolt pattern while tearing away the paper wrapping of her families parting gift.

"Well, I-uh, I hope he's doing well. He was always good to me, both of you were. Arceus knows there wasn't anything I could ask for that you and Dad couldn't provide, I just...wished he could have been around the house a little more."

"So do I," Argon's mother replied, smile fading ever so slightly, "but it was a necessary sacrifice, one we all had to make, I hope you can understand."

"Besides," she finished, "you never asked for much, nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence."

Argon gave an apprehensive nod, reply interrupted as she felt a chill run down her spine synonymous with all her fur beginning to stand on end. While the room the raichus occupied appeared to be otherwise empty, her mind seemed unwilling to relent from scanning every square inch in search of danger. The only other time, Argon pondered, that she was this focused and unable to relax was after hearing the scraping of claws that divulged the charmander previously shadowing them. A voice in the back of Argon's conscious screamed that there was some unknown force watching her, one that seemed ever more oppressive with every change of expression or stance, but her eyes validated none of these claims. She shook her head, letting out deep breaths as she decided to, at the moment, trust the latter.

"In fact," the maternal raichu stated, "we are very proud of all you've accomplished, but remember your father's offer does still stand. We'd love for you to come back from Faire and live with us, at least for a couple of years. And before you ask, money wouldn't be a problem, I'm sure you of all pokemon know that."

Argon's previously darting head snapped back to her mother, the feeling of eeriness being temporarily interrupted as she considered the proposal,

"I-uh...don't take this the wrong way, but I'm surprised you'd offer me something like that. When I first told you I wanted to be an explorer, you and Dad seemed pretty happy that I'd get the chance to live on my own."

"Pokemon change," she hastily replied, "I been missing you very much, Mausi, we all have."

The alolan raichu was silent as she considered the offer, not sure if the tingling that coursed through her body before being diffused through her tail into the floor was nostalgia or simply an excess of electrons.

"I-It would certainly be nice, living with you guys again. Being able to talk to with you and Dad whenever something is on my mind, having help with all the, uh...cleaning, and—"

She chuckled, the remnants of a once forgotten syrupy sweet sensation coursing through her tongue,

"—dear Arceus, those pancakes you make are the best things I've ever tasted. I would really enjoy it, but..."

Argon sighed, the electric, tingling, sensation ending as sentimentalism was cut down by resolution,

"I can't, you see I've-uh... I've found someone—"

"Found someone?" her mother interjected. "You mean the Bagon? I must say then that I've misinterpreted your relationship with him."

A shade of pink flushed on Argon's cheeks, before being replaced by a deadpan stare.

"T-That's not what I meant and you know it. Anyway...I've found someone who is looking for their place in the world. We've already agreed to work in a team together, and it wouldn't be right to just abandon him like that. Besides...he's certainly interesting company, and I think if given more time, we could become friends."

"He could come with us," Argon's mother proposed, a few seconds passing before the alolan raichu again spoke.

"I-I'm not sure he'd like that. Ever since I showed him around the guild, h-he's seemed really adamant on making a life here, I wouldn't want to deny him that. I appreciate the offer, but I'll have to say no, please send Dad my best regards if you can."

The raichu gave a solemn nod, the brief period of silence being all Argon's mind needed for the feeling of paranoia to return.

"But anyway, how are you here? I-I was only told the location of this dungeon hours ago, how did you know that I'd be here?"

The moment the words left the Argon's mouth, she couldn't help but notice a swift change in her mother's continuance. Any notion of levity in her mother's face disappeared, being replaced by a stern glare that seemed to peer into her very being. A sudden chill ran down Argon's spine as the raichu stepped up toward her to speak, voice lowering an octave into one that, while still recognizable as coming from her mother, was said in a tone unlike any she had previously used,

"The circumstances of my being are...unimportant. What truly matters is the message that I send."

The brown-footed raichu took another step forward, raising her paw in a manner that suggested she was to place it on Argon's shoulder. The action, however, only resulted in an incredulous look from the alolan raichu when her mother hastily stopped to pull the hand back to her side, as if their interactions were a play and merely touching Argon would be some unretractable breach of character. There was little time to ponder the moment before she continued,

"You have come here for a reason, to seek an item of great power, is that correct?"

Argon nodded, an inquisitively sarcastic part of her brain commenting that perhaps she wasn't the only raichu in the room with psychic powers.

"I know that your journey here hasn't been easy, but I must implore you to abandon your quest. For the betterment of all, what lies here must remain unsettled."

Argon remained silent, inwardly pondering what could be so important as to require a message as direct and personal is this one. The more she stared at the maternal raichu before her, the more surreal the circumstances seemed. The same raichu that, just four years ago, had refused to set foot on a ship of any size for fear of puking her guts out was below an island hundreds of miles away from any hint of civilization. The same raichu that was always a glutton for hugs and affection now seemed unwilling to even touch her. The same raichu that had, such a long time ago, warned her to not become overly concerned with the big things in life was now warning her of world shaking happenings. A theory began to develop in Argon's mind, one that drew an ever harder to shaking feeling in the back of her neck the more sense it seemed to make.

"Ok," Argon replied, blue eyes staring toward the raichu becoming narrower as her mouth twisted into a frown, "I'll get Chimera and we'll go, b-but first, I need you to answer a simple questions for me."

Her mother nodded, meeting the scowl with a look of indifference, "Sure, anything for my daughter."

"When I first hatched, you gave me the name 'Argon', years later you told me why, what was your reasoning?"

As the alolan raichu said this, she closed her eyes, mind fabricating a memory that would serve for an explanation. Right on cue, the pressing sensation that once precluded a flash of light gazed into her subconscious, before disappearing as quickly as it had come.

"Of course I know that," the raichu stated, eyes gazing upward in nostalgia, "what type of mother would I be if I didn't? In the weeks before you were hatched, your father had worked on organizing the installation of an experimental source of illumination around the guild. They were clear spheres of glass that could brighten an entire room without any of the smoke or potential for flames that came with lanterns. It never went through, of course, the guild found that it was more efficient to simply use reusable luminous orbs, but when I heard about the innovation from your father, we decided to name you after the gas inside of the glass spheres that allowed them to function, argon. When I first looked into your eyes, I knew it would be a testament to the little pichu that would bring light into our world."

Argon gazed at the creature before her in horror. While what she said had been accurate to her previous recollections, those recollections were of a memory falsely imagined. None of what the brown-footed raichu said was factual, even the concept of the glass spheres was based on an idle conversation between her and Chimera on the Draeke over the technology of the human world.

"N-No, that's not even remotely true. Mom and Dad gave me that name because it was simple and easy to pronounce, they said they wanted me to always be first when they called pokemon in alphabetical order. You...you should have known that."

As she said this, Argon reached a hand outward towards the raichu, her horrified expression only being confirmed when it passed straight through its body as easily as a hand interrupting a stray beam of light. Before she could even gasp, the false raichu imitating her mother disappeared from existence, followed immediately by the clean corners and walls of her former settings morphing into nothingness. A loud voice telepathically burst into her conscious, one that held an exasperated tone only somewhat reminiscent of its former owner.

"Pokemon such as I make plans, and Arceus laughs...I suppose I should have expected this."
 
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namohysip

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[Copied over from elsewhere]

Far beneath the ground of some long forgotten patch of land, a lone Bagon trudged through a system of tunnels.
This opening sentence is a bit wordy on the first half. In fact, I think it would be better if you actually flipped the clauses here, so we instantly have someone to focus on, and then you can expand out into the context of the scene. For example, “A lone Bagon trudged through a system of tunnels far underground, well below some long forgotten patch of land.” That way, we instantly know who to focus on, and then his location in the tunnels, and then the location of the tunnels in the world.


__


Hey, Bugle! I decided it was high time I take a look at what you’ve got going on. I’m probably going to do an in-depth review of your prologue and first chapter, and then from there, I’ll read along and give more general commentary along the way. That is, of course, unless I see something that stands out particularly strongly while reading. Now then! On to the rest of the paragraph…


Both his body and the short cloth cape that hung over him where soaking wet,
The first sentence here is particularly vague about the cloth. What color was it, for example? Everything else about this opening paragraph is pretty solid. I like how it’s going, we’ve got cold, we’ve got mud, we’ve got the struggle to press forward. Strong tone right off.

The side of the the blue lizard's mouth tilted up into a grin, this had to be it.
Surprisingly, I think this is an instance where you can actually turn this comma into a semicolon, because these are two full sentences connected together. Also, double-the typo.

"...This is stupid..." The Bagon whispered. "This wasn't how it was supposed to be."
I mean, yeah. I know these two characters thanks to previous interactions with you, and I’m genuinely surprised at how this prologue—I imagine being set long after the first chapter—is starting off! Now, I’m generally not a big fan of prologues that begin in the middle of the story before jumping back to the beginning for chapter 1, but that’s just a personal taste thing.


__


So, prologue complete. And to be honest, I’m conflicted about what I just read. Here’s the inherent problem with prologues like these: You basically intentionally spoiled what will happen to these two at some point in the story, and it sounds, based on how much was going on and how much was cryptically said, that this could very well be midgame or even lategame content. It tarnishes the relationship that I’m going to see develop between these two characters because of that cynical thought of what it’s going to become.


The savvy side of my also suggests that there’s going to be more to it. Perhaps immediately before or immediately after, something will happen to give a reversal to what had just been depicted in the prologue, or there’s going to be more significance to enhance what we had seen. But it, right now, is just going to be this thorn in the side of my mind while I read up until I get back to where the prologue left off. It makes me… impatient. Yes, that’s the word. Impatient.


Okay. Rant about prologue choice over. Let’s read the actual first chapter.

Kling Klang Kafe

Let’s hope they don’t abbreviate this.


__


I’m noticing that your grammar for your dialogue tags is a bit odd. You capitalize the word after the comma where the dialogue ends. It’s supposed to be, “Words are spoken,” he said, and not, “Works are spoken,” He said—well, unless it’s a deity and you’re using a reverent capitalization, but you know what I mean.


__


And there he is, our little Bagon. The thought of the prologue still clouds my mind, but it’s interesting to see how they all started off. One thing’s for sure, though, our partner is incredibly nervous at the beginning. That just makes me even more disappointed that I already know she gets bolder at some point in the story, rather than gradually discovering this over time.


Anyway, I notice that Argon has a lot of internal conversations with herself in this chapter. It’s an interesting narrative style, and I kinda like it. Is she literally talking with another voice in her head, or is that just her debating with herself, in a sense, like a little mental conversation? It’s a little ambiguous, but I figure that’ll become clearer down the line. It’s a nice characteristic that I didn’t quite see before, at least not in this way, in a while.


Anyway, that’s all I have going for the first two chapters. It seems that you write very short, bite-sized chapters, and I like those! Though it might take me a little bit of time to catch up and give more thoughts on big parts of the story. Thanks for the read!
 

p-bugle

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Chapter 10: An Old Flame Quenched
The petrified shriek cut off by a flash of light returned from Chimera's mouth with vengeance, overpowering any chance of detecting the faint ringing in his ears. The brief glance he was allowed of whatever strange creature was lurking around the hallways of its underwater dungeon played on repeat as the light faded. The shut eyes, the bright red gem on its forehead, the shade of yellow that ran around its face to its brain shaped head, all told of a pokemon seen many years ago through two LCD screens. And yet...despite his best attempts, both the name and circumstances where he had seen this pokemon remained stuck on the tip of his tongue, just out of reach.

The Bagon's eyes shot open, not even taking time to survey his surroundings before he shouted to his companion,

"Argon! W-We have to go, there's something her—"

She was gone. The raichu once only a few feet before him was nowhere to be seen. In her place, was a pokemon entirely foreign to his new life. Its two legs levitated a couple inches above the floor, stature only a tad smaller than himself displaying a snowy-white body that gave an almost celestial appearance, interrupted only by several blue and red triangular rings. Adding to the pokemon's angelic impression were the short, bird-like wings sprouting from its back, their motionless nature a seeming contradiction to the fact that it was floating midair.

"Before you ask, Drover, she's alright, I'll take you to her soon. Are you though? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Even a stun seed couldn't have paralyzed Chimera as effectively as the Togetic's question. Once again, buried memories were brought to the forefront, a part of the Bagon's conscious attempting to resist as if the pokemon before him was some sort of cruel grave robber.

"W-Why...why did you call me that? Who are you?"

"Well, it's your name, for starters," the Togetic replied, a knowing smirk on her face, "I may not exactly look the part, but you should be able to at least recognize my voice."

It was true, the beaming, energetic, voice was indeed a dead ringer for someone he had known, someone he had last heard through the garbled speaker of an answering machine. The more Chimera stared at the Togetic, the more abundantly clear it became that the creature before him was mimicking verbatim the way she would tap her fingers and hold an arm to her side whenever she was waiting for an answer, as well as the innocent smile she could, somehow, still put on even after the worst days of work. All pointed to an answer that made the most, and at the same time the least, sense.

"It...It can't be you, Evelyn?"

"Right you are, Drover," the Togetic replied, taking a step back as her motionless wings began to carry her around the room, "In the flesh, well...sort of."

Chimera was lost in thought as he watched the human-turned Togetic gracefully bounce against the walls, gravity itself seemingly unwilling to effect her. A curious glance from the Happiness Pokemon snapped him back to attention, color leaving the Bagon's face as he forced his gaze to the floor.

"H-How are your here? How are you a...pokemon?"

Evelyn's grin lowered a tad at the question, being quickly interrupted by a giggle as the Togetic hovered back toward Chimera,

"I'll save that answer for later, you have my word on that. In the meantime, how've you been doing, Drover? I'll admit, it's a little refreshing seeing you without bags under your eyes and a coffee-stained suit, I sure hope you've been taking care of yourself."

"I-uh...yeah, I've been doing fine," Chimera replied. "The exploration, the companionship, the freedom, whatever this world is, its got everything I could ever ask for—"

Despite Chimera's best attempts to stay focused, he couldn't help but pause at Evelyn's comment of wearing a suit. Analyzing both the scaly blue plates that lined his body, and the white feathers that donned hers, the realization came that, as a result of their former humanity, both were meeting in a form previously unseen to the other. A couple more seconds brought another realization to the Bagon, one that made his feet light as adrenaline coursed through his body: The last time they had met, both of them were wearing cloths.

"—well...almost everything."

Chimera's head recoiled ever so slightly as he mentally slapped himself, swatting the offending thoughts away while options for new topics scrolled through his mind,

"So, how's work been going? I'd imagine the fort's still being held after I...left."

"Most likely," Evelyn replied, "you've only been gone for about a day, give or take."

The answer brought a chuckle from the side of Chimera's jaw, accompanied by a faint snort, "Damn shame, knowing you're here now, the place can crash and burn for all I care."

Though Chimera waited expectantly for Evelyn to join in the laughter, she only stared back quizzically, every second intensifying the newfound feelings of dread as he waited for the Togetic's response.

"You know Drover...I really do wish you could have been a little more upbeat, would have certainly made working with you easier for everybody."

"W-What? Why should I have?" Chimera replied, shifting his head away from Evelyn. "There wasn't ever much to be happy about."

As Bagon and Togetic broke eye contact, the room's surroundings began to catch Chimera's eye, ever more questions popping up as bits and pieces were dragged out of long term memory. On the walls was the same drab, white, drywall that once occupied the majority of his peripheral vision on the average day. The ground below his two-toed, scaly feet was the same rough carpet, an amalgamation of colors so grey that one could vomit on it and barely notice the resulting stain. The last time, Chimera recollected, that he had been in a room in any way similar to this one was during a particularity terrible nightmare. The imagery of the same room now being inhabiting by creatures as alien as a blue lizard and bipedal, levitating bird seemed to the former human an almost otherworldly experience.

"Do you..." the Bagon continued, "do you remember that stupid corporate holiday party we all had to go to, where they had all the retiring employees gave big speeches about leaving?"

Evelyn nodded, "Yeah, it was pretty fun, a lot of people got pretty emotional about it."

"Don't ask me how, it's easy to talk about companionship and how much the company means to you when it's not the middle of the workday and you've just been given a new list of work assignments. Hearing them gush about it... it honesty made me sick to my stomach. Everyone was so quick to forget the toil, the long hours, the deadlines, the boss breathing down your neck, but I never did."

"But they didn't forget, Drover," the Togetic replied, breaking through the Bagon's spiel, "They worked through it, they balanced their time, they did their best to remain positive and formed connections when they had the chance."

She sighed, giving Chimera a solemn look, "And I guess that's whats always been the problem."

"What do you mean?" he cried out. "You've been through as much as I, how is it alright for them to expect you to put on a plastic smile as they boast about how great everything is? It's bad enough they yell at us and threaten to give marching orders if you don't do a job exactly right, I don't want people to think I enjoy it."

"I'm not saying that, it's just...sitting in the corner of the room next to a potted plant waiting to go home is just repeating a vicious cycle. Going through life with that negative mindset, accompanied by a workload as heavy as yours, it...it turns people cruel."

Chimera narrowed his eyes, staring intensely at the Togetic, "Go on, I can tell you have something else to say, I can take it."

Despite his goading, the Bagon couldn't help but notice that Evelyn was holding a remorseful frown, in the same vein as a judge pronouncing a prison sentence. After more than a few seconds, she spoke,

"Do you remember the last time we talked to each other?"

"Of course," Chimera replied, "I think it was barely a day ago, but if I'm being honest it's kind of a blur. I had just been...laid off, and you called me when I got back to my apartment, and—"

He paused, countenance becoming ever bleaker as the full meaning of Evelyn's words became clear,

"a-and I had been drinking, a lot. I was stressed out about having to find a new job, the rent was due in three ways, and—"

Again, he wavered, blinking his eyes occasionally as they began to water.

"you were just trying to be there for me, like you always were. I realized it was you and, dear god, I remember now...the things I said. You didn't deserve it, not in the slightest."

Chimera fell to his knees, eyes closed and head to the floor,

"I'm sorry Evelyn, I...I should have remembered the moment I knew it was you, I should have apologized sooner. I've been a terrible friend, just took me until now to realize it."

The room was silent, being only broken by the occasional whimper that escaped from the Bagon's jaw. As he lowered a hand to the floor to steady himself, a voice in the back of his mind commented that, although the flooring looked like the familiar office carpet, what he actually felt was something more akin to hard rock. He pushed it aside, feelings of remorse flooding his conscious interrupted when he heard a voice call out from the Togetic.

"I forgive you Drover, it's all water under the bridge now. I just want you to make me a promise, that you'll approach life with more positive mindset, for your own sake."

The Bagon's eyes opened a smidge, head tilting as he stared at the pokemon before him in a mix of disbelief and awe.

"I-uh, of course. I promise you this, Evelyn, I'll make a new man out of myself here. Doing what I did then, being who I was then, I see now how it turned me into someone I hate, and you can bet I'll do my best not to make the same mistakes."

Chimera was happy to return the Togetic's smile as he shot back to his feet. The mutual grin, however, was shattered in an instant when Evelyn turned away, life seemingly drained from her face.

"What's wrong? Was it something I said?"

"No, no, no," the Togetic replied, "well...sort of yes and no. The truth is that my time here is...limited. My purpose for being here is to give a warning, that if you keep going down this dungeon and retrieve the item you seek, you'll relinquish any chance you have of returning to the human world."

"I know you may not think so," she continued, "but there is still a place for you there. There are people who care about you, there's a life worth living, one that you'd be giving up if you were to continue."

The Bagon was silent, feet growing weak as he considered the statement's full implications. A sideways glance at Evelyn confirmed that the Togetic seemed patient enough to wait for his reply, an open invitation to return to his age-old habit of pacing. As Chimera approached one of the room's corners, he placed a hand on the smooth drywall, peculiar sensation returning to his conscious when he instead felt the jagged, wet, edges of hardened rock. Just as the Bagon's hands and eyes were in conflict, so were his thoughts. One voice in his mind argued for the life promised by Evelyn, a featureless, yet admittedly stable life of relative security. The other voice was more ragged, proclaiming that an uneven life of ups and downs, of promised glory and necessary hardships would be for the best. Chimera closed his eyes, darkened vision providing no reassurances of which one to trust.

"How would I go back? What's so important here that would prevent me from doing so?"

He turned around to face her, observing as the Togetic broke eye contact and put her hands to her side, almost is if she were attempting to conceal them in now nonexistent pockets.

"The details that I was given were...foggy, you'll just have to trust me on this."

"Of course, of course I trust you," Chimera replied, taking a small step backward, "it's just...I'd be giving up too much by going back, I hope you can understand."

"Think about it," the Bagon continued, Togetic waiting silently for him to finish, "I have a job, one were I get to stretch my feet and travel to new places. Have you seen the view from a sailboat as it leaves port? It's absolutely gorgeous."

He went on, voice becoming quicker in the process,

"I have a boss, one who actually likes me, one that's willing to forgive you and treat you as something more than a rusty cog in the machine. How often did Clarence ask you to play croquet with him?

Faced with no answer, Chimera continued, voice returning to its normal pace as he considered his words,

"And I have a...a partner. Someone who trusts me and is willing to help me out of the goodness of their own heart. There's nothing I'd be giving up by staying here, nothing except—"

He shook his head, averting his gaze from the pokemon levitating before him,

"I'm sorry. I don't want to sound overly cynical, hell it's probably too late for that at this point, but I've made my decision. I'm going to be someone people will remember, someone who's going to make a difference."

"You might be one here," Evelyn replied, "but what about back home? I just...if you don't go back, you...you won't even get a grave, nevermind a legacy."

As Evelyn said this, she reached behind her for a piece of paper, one that seemed to the Bagon not on her person since they had begun talking. The figure plastered onto the poster in black and white ink put Chimera beside himself, a second passing before he realized that it's visage was indeed his own, in a body since departed. Above the humans face were several bold letters in bright red displaying a single word: missing. Also missing below the picture's dreary continence was the lower half of the poster, section where the Bagon's name should have been torn diagonally across in what he could only assume was wind damage. The poster itself was soaked in entirety, bleeding ink giving the paper a bleak appearance, only the word 'Droverson' being barely legible against darkened smudges.

"How many years will it be until people back home try to think of your name and draw a blank, until the human I knew dies his second death? You can still go back and make a life for yourself, I can help you with that, but if you press on, you'll be forgoing everyone's memory of you in the blink of an eye, myself included."

The voices in the Bagon's mind returned to their continuous debate, questions and answers entering as quickly as they disappeared over which body deserved to be condemned to the dilapidated poster. If, Chimera figured, the hopeful smile that once greeted him everyday could be preserved regardless, there would be no need for discussion, but something about Evelyn's reply signaled that it would not be,

"What do you mean yourself?"

As soon as he said this, the Togetic's continuance shifted, once piercing scowl disintegrating into resignation,

"Like I said...my time here is limited. Pretty soon, I'll have to return, and my memory of our time here will be erased. I know this sounds selfish but—"

Evelyn began to glow, bright yellow orbs now emanating off of her body making the Togetic more transparent by the second. She looked up at Chimera, solemn expressions conveying mutual acknowledgement of what had to happen next.

"—I don't want to say goodbye."

Despite a desire flooding through the Bagon's mind to rush toward the pokemon before him, to hug her close and let tears fall to the floor as he wish her farewell, Chimera remained still, eyes dry as a bone. An equally powerful force in his subconscious was pulling him back, one fueled by the knowledge that neither the carpet at their feet nor the walls at their sides were what they appeared to be. Whether fueled by hope or cynicism, a voice in Chimera's head was proposing that the same held true for the Togetic, that she was but another one of the illusions that lined the room. The thought would have died off quickly, drowned in a flood of emotions, but a single memory forced it to hold fast, one that instantly gave identity to the pokemon that separated the Bagon from his partner. There was only one pokemon Chimera now could recall that had the powers of illusions, that had matched his brief glance of the creature that teleported him here, and that had gone to such great lengths to prevent the pixelated sprite of a bulbasaur and torchic from reaching their goal.

He turned away, putting on his best poker face to hide the epiphany from shut eyes no doubt watching the Bagon from somewhere in the room. Only when Chimera looked back toward the false Togetic did tears drip from his eyes, fueled by the knowledge that, despite the fact that the Evelyn before him was still radiating yellow light, the human he had known was gone, a price paid for a world born anew. With this knowledge, an idea formed, one that created as much guilt in the Bagon's conscious as it did relief. If, he figured, this being of knowledge was willing to use sentimentality to manipulate him, what harm would come in playing along, it least few minutes more?

"Tell you what, I'll get Argon, we'll leave, and we won't come back, you have my word on that. B-But before you go, could you—jeez, this sounds stupid, but...remember at the party when they began playing music and you—"

"Asked you for a dance?" the Togetic finished. "Yeah, shame you had to leave so early."

"Well, that's the thing, would you mind if we...uh, finished it, for old times sake?"

Her eyes lit up, taking hold of the Bagon's hands with those that, while looked the part of a Togetic, felt the slightest bit off,

"Never thought I'd hear that out of you, guess you really are changing,"

Chimera wanted to believe that it was all true, that his co-worker's smile could persist across altered body and world as she took his hands and the lights around the falsified office dimmed to let melancholic melodies play. That if his two left feet turned and went back the way they came, he'd be able to hear the voice that the pokemon before him was imitating for the foreseeable future. However, despite his best attempt and desire to fight it, the knowledge remained that the pokemon holding his stubby arms and dancing the waltz was not Evelyn, nor was it even a Togetic. As the music ground to a slow halt, a simple resolution crossed through the Bagon's mind: what's done is done, what's lost will never come back. Moisture formed around Chimera's eyes as he leaned in toward the false Togetic to speak, not enough to form tears, but enough to recognize that what he said next sealed his fate,

"I'll admit, Uxie, you nearly got me, it was certainly subtler than a Groudon."

The two pokemon holding hands would have shared a deadpan stare after the Togetic disintegrated, if not for the fact that the legendary now in her place donned eyes indefinitely shut. In an instant, it broke from Chimera's hands, levitating backwards into the air as the office walls whiffed from existance. A hasty glance to his right allowed Chimera vision of the faint orange outline of his partner, positioned on the opposite end of the expansive room holding an expression only slightly more confused than his own. Taking its place at the center of the underground cavern, the knowledge pokemon sighed, sending out a telepathic message to Bagon and Raichu alike,

"Pokemon such as I make plans, and Arceus laughs...I suppose I should have expected this."
 
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p-bugle

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Chapter 11: A Time for Negotiation
The room itself was awe inspiring. Above the stone floors and shallow rock walls that surrounded the three pokemon was a chamber entirely roofless. Where stone should have been in the dome shaped cavity, only dark blue seawater existed. Despite all sense to the contrary, the seawater that let occasional beams of light filter onto the floor did not submit to the laws of gravity and crash onto the occupants below. Instead, it lay suspended in animation, forming an air-filled cupola against the sea floor. A green and blue radiance coerced downward, providing a faint illumination that stemmed from the epicenter of the ceiling. The object multiple stories above the room's occupants that this luminosity stemmed from was a familiar one, if only for the ten green pentagons of light that jutted out of its source like the arrows of a compass rose.

Despite Argon's face being locked in a mix of awe and terror gazing upon the creator of their recent phantoms, Chimera couldn't help but crack a faint smile as he rushed to join her in the center of the room, half from the assurance that she was safe, and half from fact that the last challenge to their glory had decided to reveal itself. Another message beamed into their minds, returning the duos attention from their surroundings. This one was much more forceful than the last, though the hint of exasperation remained,

"Deception has failed, so I will make this perfectly clear to you two. Turn around, never come back, and forget your memories of this place, lest I be forced to take them all with me as a parting gift."

Argon was the first to speak, thoughts still not entirely snapped out the fact that a creature, once only the product of words printed on fictional novels read in the dead of night, was levitating before her, as real as could be,

"Y-Your...your Uxie! The pokemon of knowledge, the pokemon that legends say allowed us to improve our lives, I-I can't believe it!"

''I am." it replied, telepathic voice a consistently wearisome monotone. "I am also the guardian of this time gear, and unless you've come here looking for the world's must powerful geo-pebble I believe we have a conflict of interests."

Despite Argon's best attempts to respond, every second under the legendary pokemon's piercing gaze left her feeling smaller and smaller, slack jawed mouth failing to respond. Instead, she turned her head to the Bagon, an unspoken look between the two confirming that both had been victim to the knowledge pokemon's illusions.

"Chimera, we-uh...we should probably go. I've read what happens when time gears are disrupted, and it's not pretty. I know we have a mission, but it can't be worth this."

Despite Argon's insistent look, The Bagon only crossed his arms, head alternating between her and Uxie as he put on his best poker face,

"We're prepared to walk away, I'll say that much, but reliable explorers always accomplish their mission, and I believe there's more to Uxie here than meets the eye."

Chimera stepped toward the knowledge pokemon, positioning his arms to conceal the fact that they were shaking under its oppressive glare,

"After what you just put both of us through, the least you could do is answer some questions. You could have teleported us out of the dungeon any time you wanted, you still can, but you choose not to. Why bother with the smoke and mirrors?"

A small yet exponentially growing migraine worked its way into Chimera's mind as he locked eyes with the legendary. The pain, however, faded quickly, release synonymous with a heavy sigh from Uxie that, so far, consisted the whole of its oral communication.

"If you must know, after you had fought through the mystery dungeon Pallids, I knew teleporting or knocking you out would simply lead to further suspicion of this cavern. You are right, I could wipe your memories now, but the effects are too...permanent to be morally used on anybody other than the most irredeemably evil pokemon which, judging from what I've seen of your memories, both of you aren't. I thought that if I could take the form of someone you each trusted, I could convince both of you that this wasn't a goal worth pursuing. But...I failed, I suspect Argon has already figured out that my analysis of your memories wasn't perfect, and thus we've come to this."

Without another word, the crimson jewel on Uxie's head began to glow, accompanied by formations of several purple orbs surrounding the duo, poised to strike.

"I'll say this only once more, I don't desire your deaths, but if you continue to trespass, I will do what must be done."

Chimera's bravado disintegrated as the psycic orbs drew closer and closer to Argon and himsely. If, he reasoned, a single electrified punch from the raichu at his side was enough to send him into forced slumber, the effects from a legendary pokemon would doubtless be more...permanent. A glance at Argon confirmed that, though her posture was passive, electrons sparked from her cheeks, tail ready to defend herself in the event of conflict. The Bagon wasn't as prepared, concluding that, even if he could level his crossbow at the knowledge pokemon and fire, the psychic shards surrounding them would be able to pierce through his scaly body ten times over.

"Wait!" Argon cried out, hands raised to the air. "It doesn't have to come to this, we can leave! We didn't come here with the intention of taking a time gear, you must know that."

Quick as a ninjask, Chimera joined in, lowering the weapon slung on his hip to the floor. Though Uxie seemed unimpressed by the gesture, he continued moving out of the crossbow's reach, content that, where it would fail, the metaphorical pen would succeed.

"She's right. We can leave, but before we do, we want to make you a deal, a...proposal."

The Raichu and Bagon seemed to glare at each other out of the corners of their eyes, an argument over how to handle the situation being conveyed entirely through scowls and eye movement. In that split second, Argon was the one to back down, solemn expression showing readiness for whatever consequences Chimera's pushing would bring. As they looked back toward Uxie, the pressing sensation in their conscious returned, the knowledge pokemon making no more attempts to be subtle.

"You say this because you understand you don't stand a chance in battle, because you know you're outmatched."

"Of course," Chimera replied, nonchalant tone masking the occasional voice crack, "but regardless, I'm sure we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement. First of all, what is it you want?"

Uxie's shut eyes only looked on, judging the Bagon with as much respect as a poker player who had long since seen their opponents hand,

"I doubt you could offer anything that is of more importance than this time gear, my entire purpose rests on defending it from those who would use it for malicious intentions."

"B-But aren't you the pokemon of knowledge?" Argon interjected, briefly interrupting the staredown between brown and closed eyes. "There's stories I read that say you were the one who first gave pokemon the ability to solve problems. I know that protecting the time gears is important, but you must have had some other purpose?"

Uxie's head swerved to meet the Raichu, a nearly imperceptible smile appearing on the legendary's face as the psycic orbs surrounding all three wavered,

"What you say is the truth, but not the whole of it. I didn't simply create knowledge, I collected it, observed the solutions pokemon would find for the problems that plagued them."

The liquid dome ceiling seemed to flicker against stray beams of outside light, smile leaving Uxie's face as sunset orange light faded into nothingness to signal the beginning of dusk.

"But...those days are gone, ended millennia ago when I devoted my life to resting here."

All around the duo, the threatening purple orbs disappeared in entirety, majority of the maliciousness seeming to have disappeared from the legendary's face. In its place, was an expression conveying what both pokemom could only describe as something akin to nostalgia.

"In truth, it was enjoyable when I was able to glimpse at your memories, see what advances I have missed since my voluntary confinement. I could never imagine that something such as a sphere of controllable light would be invented in my absence."

That very same sphere seemed to flash above Chimera's head, the Bagon swerving to mouth a near silent 'thank you' to Argon. As the Raichu returned the smile, she noticed that he was no longer concealing his hands, their periodic shaking having been interrupted by whatever revelation he had experienced. The reason for this was simple: thanks to her, Chimera now had some chips to throw on the table.

"Yep, they are pretty amazing, and they're a human invention."

He turned to face Argon, smirk on her face confirming to the Bagon that she would play along,

"How many humans would you be able to find on this world?"

"You're the sole one," she replied, "I can tell you from experience, you won't find any pokemon with as much knowledge of the human world as he has."

"Exactly. About this deal, you let us repossess the time gear and put it under protection of the most influential guild in the region, and in return, I will let you analyze every bit of knowledge about the human world that I know. History, scientific discoveries, the design for that weapon on the floor, all of it will be yours. Normally I wouldn't make such a lopsided agreement, but given the circumstances, I'll allow it."

"And if you no longer need to protect this gear," Argon added, "you'll be free to explore this world and learn what knowledge it has to offer."

Uxie only frowned, the same frown, Chimera thought, that people would make when they were considering, or pretending to consider an offer.

"And what if I simply decide to take those memories from the human right now?"

"Then we escape," the Bagon replied, "and you'll lose a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Chimera could see that Argon had laid a paw on the green and gold badge pinned to her exploration bag, and, in order to punctuate the statement, he drew his own hand back to do the same. The stubby blue arm, however, only felt the smooth edges of a canvas backpack, guild badge pinned to it at day's beginning gone. Panic filled his heart, face still staring at Uxie despite the legendary now not needing to read his mind to discern the obvious alarm.

Luckily for Chimera, Uxie wasn't the only one, barely a second passing before he found a blue orb levitating in front of his face, a pink aura emanating from its circumference. Before the Bagon could even question how his guild badge had been lost, he took hold of the orb, mentally giving the command to escape and setting it on the floor, feet poised to shatter the orb in an instant. His neutral expression quickly returned, again giving a thankful nod to the Raichu at his side.

"I don't know why the guild would need a time gear," Argon said, "b-but I've been a part of it for a fair amount of time, and I can't imagine them using it for any bad purposes. A-And besides, they definitely know about the time gear's importance, we have thousands of pokemon in the military branch of the WFG who'd be able to protect the time gear from thieves and bandits, which would certainly free you up to explore. I know I don't have as much to offer, but you could also go over my mind, for what it's worth, i-it probably give you a bit of a head start on learning what this world has to offer."

Both Chimera and Argon could only watch as Uxie shifted her glare between the two, seconds seeming to pass by like hours as the pressing sensation in their conscious returned. With every moment, another curiosity would pop into the duos mind of what the legendary pokemon's scowl implied. Would the injurious purple orbs reform and pierce their minds before either could give the mental command to evacuate? Or perhaps, would it unveil some secret technique to force them into slumber, reading their minds before extracting their memories as punishment for trespassing?

"I am not going to do that," Uxie said, telepathic communication accompanied by a soft chuckle, "I just find it humorous, generations upon generations spent guarding this time gear, and what rips it out of my hands isn't some malignant beast, but a bagon and a raichu, each running from what they've left behind, fate is a fickle thing."

"You mean you agree?" Chimera asked, shirking back when a glance at Argon revealed that his expression was the most incredulous.

"Yes, I now realize I have guarded this time gear for...too long. Every pokemon needs a chance to fulfill their deepest instincts, and I am no exception, I just hope that my siblings will understand. If nothing else, I trust in this pursuit of knowledge that I will return a wiser pokemon."

Uxie eyed the two, red gemstones emitting a dull glow,

"The process of analyzing all the information from both of your minds will take hours, are you prepared?"

Chimera and Argon glared at each other, a couple of seconds passing before they each gave a solemn nods to each other and the legendary pokemon.

The signal given, both could only stare forward with blank expression as hallucinations filled their vision. The sensation of having their minds read was nowhere as immediate as previous attempts, psychic pressing that once bordered on the lines of pain now being reduced to a dull throb in the back of their necks. A bitter chuckle escaped from Chimera's mouth as more time passed, the Bagon surmising that reliving his entire life, or at least the scenes that Uxie was analyzing over the course of several hours was a dreadfully boring experience. In one moment, he would be in the body of his younger self, wearily skimming over the contents of a mathematics textbook. In another, he was watching a documentary of important inventions across humanity's history, grasping occasionally for a bowl of popcorn. Another still, of himself on a rare visit to a museum, scoffing at the various pieces of modern art on display. Argon's experience was similar, also watching as memories picked to surmise the knowledge of the pokemon world flashed before her, each one disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Eventually, the reoccurring visions ended, Uxie lowering itself to the floor and drawing an empathetic look from the Raichu as it raising a hand to its temple.

"I...that was...a fair amount to take in, it fills my heart with dread and joy knowing that only more is coming. And I suppose that it's time for me to respect my end of the bargain."

Without another telepathic word, Uxie levitated to the ceiling's epicenter, grasping a hand on the blue gear, but keeping it in place nonetheless.

"From your memories, I can only judge that you two will not use this for malicious intentions, please do not make me regret this."

"Wait!" Chimera shouted. "Before you give us the time gear, I-I...I just need some closure, will I really never be able to go back?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not, just know that my claim to you before was nothing more than a lie born of convenience. If there is a method for you to return, I do not know it, at least at the moment."

The Bagon could only lower his head from the ceiling, lost in thought. A faint sound of footsteps against rock floor sounded behind him, followed by a paw being apprehensively placed on his shoulder,

"Chimera, I-I promised to help you find a place in this world, but...if you don't think you have one, that I suppose we could try to find a way for you to go back to the human world."

The two exchanged smiles, the Bagon's quickly returning to a neutral expression as he brought his eyes back to the ceiling.

"I appreciate your consideration, I really do, but what's done is done, all that matters now is that time gear."

"A quick piece of commentary for each of you," Uxie interjected, "from what I've seen of your memories."

Shut eyes were brought to bear on the Raichu,

"Argon, your desire to please is admirable, but you must also be willing to stand by your own ideals and decisions. There are times in life where one must plant their foot down and fight for what they believe in, and I fear that if you choose to run away and avoid the problem, there will be those who suffer as a result."

Before Argon could reply, Uxie's gaze shifted to the Bagon, time gear ever closer to being released,

"Chimera, the pathway that you follow is what you make of it. You may be this region's greatest ally, or its most dreaded enemy, just know that if you continue on your present course, you shall be lesser and greater than your former self."

With this, the time gear was pulled from the ceiling, causing the ten pentagon of light jutting from its circumference to disintegrate. The duo could only watch on with horror when Uxie as well as the blue gear in its hand disappeared from existence, and the liquid dome structure forming the cavern's ceiling collapsed. Immediately, water once frozen in time succumbed to the urges of gravity and crashed downward. Just before the tidal wave of water could submerge both pokemon entirely, each felt a hand placed upon their shoulder, causing a familiar flash of light to envelope their visions.

---
A sharp chill enveloped the Bagon and Raichu's senses, both feeling splashes of water sprinkle onto them accompanied by bursts of salty wind. Mutual terrified screams ended as quickly as the began when each took note of their surroundings. Below their feet was the same rocky isle that had been their entrance into the secluded mystery dungeon. Barely visible against the dark ocean horizon was a light blue vessel, figurehead in the visage of a drampa instantly recognizable as being from the Draeke. Between their shared bewildered gazes was an item unceremoniously placed between the two, faint radiance of light from the gear an acknowledgement of the fruits of their labor.​

Chimera could barely keep himself from chuckling as he lifted the time gear into the air towards Argon,

"We did it!" he shouted. "We actually did it!"

Argon was happy to join in the festivities, but a part of the Raichu couldn't help but look toward the moonlit horizon, wondering what their journey home would bring,

"Yeah," she replied, somber smile on her face as she took one last look at the time gear, "we really did."

---
Authors note: Hello readers! I'll be taking a one week hiatus from writing to make way for finals, but I'll be sure to get back to posting chapters after that. I hope you've been enjoying the story so far, here's to happy holidays in the oncoming weeks.
 
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Ereshkigal

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Introduction

Hello! I'm your Secret Santa, and I'm here to review your story! Please ignore the holes in your chair; I forgot to take my shell off before sitting in it. And please excuse your tree being on fire; the eggnog was a wee bit stronger than I thought it would be.

Also, you had some plumber guy show up wanting to clean your pipes, so I told him his princess is in another castle and slammed the door in his face. I hope you don't mind.

Now, on with the review!

Overview

To start with, I didn't play the Mystery Dungeon games and cannot properly critique how this fits within their general type of plot. So, there are some limits to what I can say that are imposed by that familiarity.

One thing about your story, and which works in its favor, is that it's fairly straightforward as to what to expect from it. This is a Mystery Dungeon story with a human as a pokemon, and it really doesn't shy away from all that entails. The level of detail is kept just enough to give a person an idea of what to imagine, but at the same time kept limited enough to not overburden the story.

In general, I think the story fits the chosen rating well, and have no complaints about it.

Characterization

Possibly because of the short length of the chapters, the characters are not as fully developed as they could be. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing; the shorter length lends itself more to longer chapters.

The one thing I find interesting is the amount of detail given to Chimera. He is a human at heart, and it shows; humans are tool users, and his tendency to respond to his limitations by creating tools is very much realistic for humans. You can also see the beginnings of his later moralistic mercenary attitude from the prologue in how he approaches the initial quest, as well as some degree of background as to how he became this way.

Argon isn't as characterized as deeply, but this is not a detraction; on the contrary, it matches her more less self-assured, more shy attitude early on. Along with a certain amount of naivete from her end. In this manner, she is naturally going to be less deeply characterized because she hasn't had as much room to grow as a person as Chimera has. Of the two, I think she will grow the farthest.

As such, I must praise what characterization is there. It shows a lot of careful attention to detail and consideration.

Setting

Take what I say here with a grain of salt, mostly because I am not familiar with the Mystery Dungeon games. I can only speak as an outsider, and thus any criticisms I make are necessarily of much greater weakness due to a lack of knowing the subject matter. As such if you choose to ignore any negative criticism from this section, it would not be inappropriate.

While some areas have enough detail, like the cave in the last few chapters, many others could use more. There is a lack of detail about the world itself that makes much of it hard to visualize for someone who is not familiar with the setting already. This can limit readers from gaining a foothold in imagining the story, and thus limit their capacity to enjoy the work. More description of many places would help a lot.

But, in other areas, the description is more than enough; the aforementioned cave, for example. Those areas are good, and it's easy to imagine the scenes as one reads.

Conclusion

Overall, the story is good. It has some room for improvement, and some of that improvement is only possible through adding more chapters. There are a few minor areas I didn't cover in word choice, but which ultimately don't matter as far as the story itself and are thus not mentioned. The setting could definitely use some work, but I am uncertain how much of that is lack in story and how much is my own unfamiliarity with the Mystery Dungeon games; it's entirely possible I am in the wrong on this.

But, at the end of the day? Keep it up. I'll drop by to read it more often after this.

Admittedly, this is not as long as I first imagined, but after awhile I realized I would be mostly repeating myself across the chapters and thus a more general review was necessary.
 

p-bugle

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Chapter 12: Fork in the Road
Though each battle against the foul ocean currents brought another rise and dip of the Draeke, Argon was lucky enough to feel none of it, being supported by a cotton hammock that ran from one end of the crew quarters to the next. Despite this, she found herself subconsciously replicating the twists and turns signaled by each creak of the well-worn ship. Bitter voices commented that perhaps the tables had turned between her and the Chimera, the latter barely visible against moonlight filtered though cracks in the walls, snoring filling the room as heavily as a slow stream of drool poured into the Bagon's hammock.

With a heavy sigh, Argon rolled onto her side, eyes finding focus on a blue radiance seeping through the canvas outline of Chimera's exploration bag. How her co-worker had managed to so quickly lose his guild badge, she would never know, but a quick visit to the Pith Town main hall once they returned would remedy that easily. She couldn't help but chuckle as her gaze briefly shifted to the strange weapon built by the former human, both stock and string dripping water onto the floor after Chimera was finally able to spot it floating above the underwater cupola once housing a time gear.

Again, Argon forced her eyes closed, mind not willing to comply with recommendations for rest and clarity. A part of her wanted to crack a smile mulling over the lengthy day's contents, but whether from weariness or suspicion, any grin she could form toward the makeshift nightlight was impossible to maintain. Neither shut eyes nor turned head could prevent the imagery of blue light from piercing through her eyelids, the Raichu herself not sure whether it was a making of her minds creation or some adverse effect of the mythological gear. She groaned, not a second passing before time gear now encased in a pink aura levitated toward her hands. One of the many uses, she thought, of a power that provided as much convenience as it did laziness. The gear itself seemed untouched by the effects of time, generations upon generations encased below the sea having done nothing to dull its metallic shine. A chill ran down her spine when cobalt blue eyes met each other across the gear's reflective surface, focus alternating between the gear itself and the visage it was portraying.

Their mission had been successful, there was no doubt about that. With item in hand, both team members accounted for, and no serious injuries to either of them, such a complete victory would no doubt draw advancement and compensation from the guild. And yet...Argon still found herself unable to smile. She glanced around the room, taking note of the creaky wooden walls that buckled against ocean winds, as well as the ragged hammock supporting her, seemingly the cause of several sore spots across his back. Both of these were a high contrast to the familiar stone walls and plushy mattresses where she usually resided, two luxuries that would no doubt be severely limited should they be pressed into undertaking further missions of this magnitude. She shook her head, stepping out of the hammock in a manor that would not disturb the sleep of her co-worker, perhaps a bit of fresh air would clear her mind? A thought occurred to Argon as she stood up that she was still holding the blue gear told to contain immense power, and with an exasperated shrug she grabbed for Chimera's bag, hastily shoving it inside to hide the obvious blue glow from any suspecting crew members.

Without another word, Argon followed the stray beam of moonlight through the door. A skeleton crew was manning the deck of the Draeke, their weary faces paying head to the neither the Raichu nor the bag in her hand as she walked toward the stern. Clouds over a moon half concealed with darkness seemed to part once Argon leaned against the back railing of the Draeke, staring into the nearly endless expanse of ocean punctuated by a sharp breeze that ran across her fur. Content with her solitude, she again reached both paws to take hold of the gear, dark blue ocean water visible through the center hole. A voice played through Argon's mind with recognizance of the gear's familiar shape and pattern, her last memory of it being decades ago, through the eyes of a curious pichu gazing toward a threadbare paper cover,

Before you go to bed, Mausi, I was wondering if I could read you this story, my mother read it to me when I was your age. It's called "Heroes of Time."

Oh...ok, what's it about? she heard herself reply, cringing internally at recollection of her former voice's high pitch.

It's the story of a pokemon who becomes friends with this...creature, called a human, who's transformed into a pokemon—

S-Sounds kind of weird...

Yes Mausi, it is to a certain extent, but it's a good story nonetheless. Essentially, by forming an exploration team and collecting these items called "time gears", they're able to go on an adventure that results in them saving the world from a dark future.

Argon drew a deep breath at the memory's conclusion, internally wishing that she had stayed awake long enough to hear the end of the children's story. Despite her best efforts to avoid it, despite four long years of lying in her room with nothing but a book in her hand and a tranquil smile on her face. Despite every infrequent memory of her father coming to their families expansive home and nearly collapsing from physical and mental exhaustion, there she was. Both moonscape semicircle in the sky and cedar plank vessel beneath her feet seemed to move at a constant ticking pace. Each promised that its journey's completion in the coming hours would take away the comforting darkness, bringing with it a life of oppressive heat that seemed as unavoidable as time itself. Afternoons on her cliff side listening to a barely audible chime of bells mix with the rustle of grass, nights used learning the inner tonalities of playing new songs on a fife, years spent with the assurance that the overbearing decisions of life would rest on other's shoulders, all would be at risk once they reached port.

Unless...

Her paws wavered, abyss of water ever more visible through the inner pentagon. Just what, thought Argon, would the consequences be if she were to let go of the gear? She was alone, what few crew members running the graveyard shift not even knowing of their mission. If, hypothetically speaking of course, she were to report to Executive Binair that Uxie had relinquished its end of the deal and reclaimed its rightful property, what would happen? What prior experience she had with the Girafarig brought the conclusion that their failure would not be cause for dismissal or even demotion. Chimera would be disappointed, to say the least, but perhaps the Bagon could be convinced of the benefits of a career of resource collection? With mention of her co-worker came another memory, painful cringe forming on the Raichu's face with echoing recollection of the Pallid Charmander. Its cries were unlike any of the feral pidgey and zubats usually encountered on a daily basis, and the back of Argon's neck quivered with the thought that future missions could very well force them against similar foes. Would she, as today, not bear the brunt of it, or would she be forced to adopt the methods of survival used by Chimera, going to sleep every night with similar cries stuck in her conscious?

Argon gave one last scowl towards her own blue eyes in the gear's reflection before forcing them shut, inner resolution repeating that the ticking hands of fate could only be disrupted with its removal. Without another thought, her grip released, and the time gear went tumbling towards the ocean abyss.

You know, you're being very selfish.

Seconds passed, and when it became clear that no soft splash accompanied the gear's fall, her eyes again opened in shock. Seemingly on reflex at her mind's cry, Argon's telepathic powers had activated, stopping the time gear mere inches above the tumultuous waterline.

No I'm not! she inwardly shot back. 1...I know how much this means to him, but I have too much here to risk it being lost.

And what exactly do you have to lose? her mind's mocking tone continued. Sitting on your tail everyday by yourself? Going back to your crappy apartment from your 6000 poke a day job? Keeping up some convoluted lie to Mom and Dad despite you having every opportunity to make it true? You still haven't written to them, how many more promises are you going to break?

Despite a persistent temptation to release the pressure in her mind and let the metallic gear wall into the water with a satisfying plop, Argon found herself unwilling.

I've known him for what, two days? I've let him share my apartment, I've agreed to form a team with him, it's not selfish to at least have something in return!

And this is the way to do it? came the instant reply. By going behind his back and throwing away what he's spent his blood, sweat, and tears working toward? Every pokemon on Faire knows how helpless you are, don't let them add two-faced to the list.

What other choice do I have! He won't back down if I try talking to him, he'll keep pressing and pressing, just like he did with Uxie, and...I won't say no.

Well, either grow a spine or accept it. You've made your choice, and whether you like it or not you have agreements to uphold. It won't kill you to have a little variety either, Dialga isn't going to come down and destroy your world if you give the time gear to Executive Binair. All you can do now is talk to him and draw a line in the sand, you know you'll never forgive yourself if you destroy that Bagon's dreams.

Argon's mind went silent, eyes now merely watching as increasingly tumultuous waves ran against the gear's surface, splashing water that could quiet possibly rust what once rested in unending monotony. With no more objections on either side, the shaky pink aura surrounded the time gear stabilized, bringing it back into the Raichu's paws. Such an action, however, could not stem the new feeling that she was being watched, that every single pokemon in Faire, visible or not, was shooting her a spiteful and malicious glare. A quick glance around the deck suggested that nothing could be further from the truth, but the endless sensation of feeling smaller and smaller remained.

He trusted you, he stood by your side despite all your flaws, the human chose you! How could you even consider doing this? How terrible of a friend can you be?

A few seconds passed before the reply came, the Raichu not sure herself which side it was on,

Just get some rest, you're not thinking straight. You can worry about this in the morning.

Argon found herself giving a slight nod to no one in particular, and with time gear again stuffed inside of the backpack she departed toward the crew cabin, moonlight fading against the newly reformed clouds. And as the Raichu silently scrambled back into the hammock to let conscious fade into nothingness, she could of sworn she heard a faint flickering noise, one that gave no illumination to reveal its source.
---
"Hey Argon, are you sure you're alright? You look like...well you look like me at this time of day, if I'm being perfectly honest."

The Raichu merely chuckled at Chimera's comment, both pokemon's droopy eyes attempting to avoid the harsh morning sun as they passively scanned the port surrounding the docking ship. The journey up to this point had been a relatively quiet one, with Argon anxiously tapping her feet trying to find the right words to use for the inevitable meeting, while Chimera spent the early morning hours attempting to dry off the moisture that had seeped through his weapon.

"O-Oh yeah, I'm fine, I just...have a lot on my mind."

Before long, the ship ground to a halt, pokemon one by one evacuating out of the gangplank of the Draeke. Perhaps, thought Argon, their debate could be delayed, at least for the day? Any thought of this was quickly cut off when the visage of a familiar Girafarig came into view, both faces staring anxiously for their arrival from the Draeke. Though her teeth clattered with every step, Argon followed Chimera off of the ship, backpack containing time gear firmly in hand.

"Great to see you, old chum, I trust your mission was a success?"

"Yes Sir," Chimera quickly replied, "it was a more...tumultuous process than we had hoped, but we have the item. Argon, would you mind handing it over?"

Argon stared quizzically at the Bagon's outstretched hand, altering her gaze between the backpack in her paws and the expectant look from Binair,

"W-Well, before I do, I was wondering if you could answer something. I never thought time gears actually existed before this point, why send us to collect one? W-Why collect them at all, in fact?"

"The explanation is simple," Binair quickly replied, tail giving her a barely perceptible scowl, "but before I tell you, would you mind if we converse in somewhere with less prying ears? I'm sure you can understand, I wouldn't want any old pokemon on the streets knowing of this information."

The two nodded, even more questions being silently asked as they followed the Girafarig toward an isolated outdoor cafe, faint crashing of waves still audible against the harbor-side view. The busy hours of the quint establishment seemed to have waned as pokemon left port, and the only witness to the trio's conversation was an unassuming sneasel, one that left quickly after taking their orders.

"Anyway, as I was saying, time gears hold too much importance to the world to be kept in the hands of so-called lake guardians. If it was not the WFG who first obtained the object in your hands, it would have been an outlaw, or worse, some ignorant explorer who would use it as a paperweight, I hope you can understand. The reason we sent you two, old chum, is that Argon is probably the only pokemon in the guild I could trust to navigate through that mystery dungeon who is not already on an expedition mission. Also, I wanted to see if Chimera had truly learned the lessons from our croquet game."

"And thus," he continued, voice in a hushed tone, "that brings us to the fruits of your labor. Chimera, you are aware that your team is presently bronze rank, correct?"

The Bagon nodded, though Argon sank lower with his newfound perturbed expression.

"And you must know then that Argon has been that rank for the past four years? I would trust no less than a gold rank team to complete the mission, and as such, I am prepared to offer both of you such rank, with only two conditions. One: that you simply hand over the time gear. Two: that you are willing to undertake missions of similar length and magnitude. A fair offer, is it not?"

Simultaneous with this statement, Binair's two horns emanated a familiar pink light, letting an ornate cane fastened to the Girafarig's side float out. Such cane was directed opposite the ocean-side view, serving as a makeshift pointer toward a momentous red-tiled building, gold-plated initials on its top clear for all to see.

"I always reward those who show exceptional conduct, and I can guarantee to you, old chum, if you accept this offer you'll be living there in no time at all."

Chimera was ecstatic, smile beaming from ear to ear as he once again held his arm out expectantly for the bag in Argon's paws. However, the Raichu's continuance remained stuck in a humorless look. Any notion of asking questions had seemingly vanished from the two's minds, dread and exhilaration staring each other in the eye with the notion that their paths would soon be decided.

"I-uh...t-this is a really big decision to make, don't you think we should talk about it first?"

"What's to decide?" Chimera quickly replied. "This is amazing! We're not going to get a chance like this again, we have to take it."

Despite her co-worker's objections, Argon turned toward Binair, clutching the time gear closer,

"I-I just think we need some time to talk about this, would you mind if we come to you later?"

"Not at all, Argon. You'll find me at the guild hall when you both are ready, I trust you will make the correct decision," Binair said, roguish tail flashing a grin towards Chimera as he departed.

With the Girafarig out of earshot, the two pokemon returned their attention to each other,

"Why?" Chimera asked, tone of the question more genuine than rhetorical. "What do we have to lose by accepting Binair's offer? We've worked so hard for this, we can't throw it away now!"

Argon jumped back at the Bagon's sudden change in tone, but quickly regained her ground. She had the entirety of her life to ponder this question, and after a few seconds the Raichu believed she had found the right words.

"Because...i-it's a difficult life when you advance in rank. M-Most of the teams I've seen spend ninety percent of their time traveling for missions and ten percent actually in that guild hall Binair showed you. The last gold rank team I remember seeing came back with one of their members having two broken legs. Remember when you were attacked by that Pallid? I don't want...I don't want that to be a regular occurrence for either of us."

"I did what I had to do," Chimera quickly replied, once passive eyes now squinting at Argon.

"I-I know that, but I don't want us to have to spend everyday fighting pokemon that could strangle us to death, it changes pokemon's mindset, and it...it could make them cruel."

A primal sense of fear seeped into the back of Argon's head as she locked eyes with Chimera. The Bagon's breath was fuming, glare having every so slowly transitioned into one unseen even since they had first met. He looked at the Raichu before him not as one would see a loyal companion, or even a random pokemon. Instead, his visage gave the impression of someone staring toward an obstacle, toward a set of cloths that, though initially promising, were revealed as completely ill-fitting, or toward a pair of hiking shoes that would need to have pebbles repeatedly plucked out if the end of the trail were to be earned.

"Well then," he asked, "what's the alternative? Say no, spend our days watching the clouds roll by till we're buried in unmarked graves? I've already done that, and I can assure you that it's not pretty."

"You've...you've misconstrued my position. I-I've seen what happens when a pokemon becomes so absorbed in their work that they neglect themselves and the people around them, and it's also not pretty."

Chimera took a step forward at Argon's response, Raichu herself staying firmly in place.

"Well then, I have a question for you. Do you wake up everyday knowing that you're the happiest that you can be? That there's nothing, absolutely nothing more that you could want? Are you content with your life, Argon, or are you miserable with it?"

At the question, Argon was forced to pause, clutching the time gear closer to her chest. A temptation existed in her heart to shout a spiteful 'yes' to force the Bagon shut, but her mind was too lost in thought to offer anything more than a simple grunt.

"I...no, t-there are things I wish I could have done differently, promises I wish could have kept, but I can't say that accepting Binair's offer is going to give either of us a better life."

"You don't know that," Chimera said.

"And neither do you!" came the response, an indignant glance from both around the empty cafe confirming that they weren't making a scene.

"Well, I can certainly say that it will for me. And if you're content to just let this opportunity fly by, I can guarantee that you'll regret it later."

Whispers in the Bagon's mind worked their way to the forefront with the temporary silence. Perhaps, he thought, perhaps he had been a fool to believe that the first pokemon he'd meet would be the assistant toward his future. Perhaps it was true that some partnerships were unable to survive going down the same path. After all, with Binair's offer, Chimera would no longer need to be dependent on the Raichu before him for food and shelter, nor would he be restricted by her seeming phobia of success. The thoughts were a weight on his conscious, and with a deep breath Chimera prepared to vocalize the writing on the wall.

"Maybe...maybe this whole team idea isn't going to work out, maybe we should just—"

"Excuse me?"

A voice pierced through the conflicted pokemon, causing both to jump up with recognizance of the sneasel waiter,

"Two greppa berry teas and one frappe. Will there be anything else?"

Stream of conscious having been interrupted by the intrusion, Chimera waved the Sneasel away, suddenly noticing that neither Argon nor himself had actually taken the opportunity to sit down on the many wooden chairs situated beneath straw umbrellas. After a couple blinks the Bagon quickly rectified this, Argon joining him around the small table holding their drinks in a silence that was simultaneously awkward and contemplative.

With the bitter liquid running down his throat, and adrenaline fading from having the chance to rest, new thoughts began to whisper into the Bagon's mind, having identical voice but a more soothing tone. Perhaps it was he who was it fault. After all, it was the Raichu now staring at her cup in melancholic acceptance who had extended a hand to him when no one else would. Who had offered to help him find his place on a completely foreign world instead of running for the hills. Who had defended him against a horde of feral pokemon and provided him means of escaping the treacherous dungeon when his own method failed. With the torch burning in his eyes being slowly but surely drowned, a stark realization dawned on Chimera: she had chosen him, despite having every reason to pick a more qualified pokemon to form a team with. Argon had done a thousand times more to enable his future than to prevent it, and if there was any person or pokemon in either world worth listening to, it was her.

"I...I'm sorry. This is stupid, we've both been targeting straw mans ever since we've started talking. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to accept this offer, but...I respect you too much to not offer a compromise."

Argon's head lifted, shock being replaced by a quaint smile with the sudden statement,

"A-Alright then, what are you proposing?"

Silence returned to the cafe as Chimera lifted one of his stubby arms to his chin in contemplation, arguing with himself over what he was willing to relinquish.

"Lets say...you let me give Binair the time gear and let us get that promotion. In return, I promise to you that in any of the future missions we do together, we'll be close to home, and there won't be anything too dangerous."

Argon's grin as she raised a glass toward Chimera was all the answer he needed. Though what had transpired between the two was more hostile than what she wanted, the result was the best she could hope for. Inner anxieties seemed to fade away with assurances that Chimera wasn't shackling her toward the fate she dreaded. A large cloud drew a comforting shade over the two as their cups clinked, drinking from tea that, while plentiful at the moment, was assured to run dry in the future.
 

namohysip

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Chapter 2-3

So, we’ve got some interesting following chapters. Chapter 2 in particular is where we get to Chimera (odd name for a human) and his painfully long amount of time to realize that he’s a Bagon. Seriously, how does he not realize how tiny his arms are? Or, well, everything else about him. Surely he’d’ve noticed his snout or something when he fell over. Well, anyway, that nitpick aside, this was a nice intro to him, but what had me particularly intrigued was the mention of modern technology, or at least industrial-level technology. A plant? Pollution and waste? This is a really different take on the Mystery Dungeon genre, and I can already tell that the atmosphere is going to be unique—at least, if you capitalize on that.


One thing that was a little strange, though, was Chimera suddenly talking about his helplessness about making a name for himself. It seemed sudden, and I’m not really sure why Argon didn’t immediately react that what he was saying was out of the blue. Because it was. Instead, his initial reaction is to help out—without any remark at how sudden it seemed, at least from what I could tell. More importantly, the suddenness felt like it had almost no foreshadowing or buildup. I feel like you may have wasted a card here early on. The conversation felt like it would have had a lot more weight if you saved it for midgame. As of now, I (and Argon) have zero investment in the guy…


Chapter 3 is when things got another unique twist. Chimera is still in the human world! He’s flipping between realities. That’s actually really interesting, and I’m wondering where this is going to take him. He must be looking like a total narcoleptic. Surprisingly, I’ve never seen this done before (of the fics I’ve read so far) so this is another unique twist that I hope gets capitalized on down the road.


Chapters 4-6

So, Chapter 4 was a bit on the slow side. It was a short chapter, so I’d argue this is one of those transitional chapters between two arcs. A little awkward, but at the same time, I’d argue it was indeed necessary. However, one concern I had about chapter 4 was how much Chimera was leaning on the “something has to happen soon, right?” card that, for some weird reason, a lot of slow-paced PMD fics tend to do when they have a human protagonist. That’s not really accomplishing anything. If I’m reading something, I’m expecting something to happen already. The protagonist saying, “When is something going to happen?!” isn’t really hinting anything to the reader. It’s more just teasing them. So perhaps leaning on that trope was done a bit too often here.


Thankfully, by the time we reach chapter 5 and 6, some progress is made again, and this time it’s mostly getting to the guild, and then… filler? At least, that’s what I thought it was at first. While reading through the chapter, I could only think to myself, “Why are these words being wasted on this game? What’s the point? Nothing is happening.” But then you drop the bomb at the end of the chapter (which I suppose could have gone a little too long, but that’s just a nitpick) and all is forgiven. The founder! There were hints of it, but I honestly didn’t see it until Argon said he was her boss. So kudos to that. I thought it was a clever way of introducing him as a mentor without me realizing it. We also got a hint at Chimera’s attitude (And while I’m not sure it was said explicitly, I like the little allusion that this is the first time Chimera is dealing with a forgiving boss, so to speak.)


It seems that Chimera is having some trouble getting his attacks going. I mean, he did just wake up. And while you don’t have any game mechanics explicitly laid out here, if we’re going by standard fare, he’s probably just Level 5 or so, hah! So that explains why he’d’ve lost so easily, among other things. But I get the feeling this is going to be a common trend for him as we go along and he tries to catch up to Argon and her natural abilities.
 

p-bugle

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Chapter 13: An Inconceivable Scenario
"Chimera, behind you!"

No sooner had these words left Argon's mouth when a pale white pikepek burst out from one of the many tall palm trees making up the forest canopy, perching itself upon the Bagon's rocky forehead and repeatedly pecking at his face and eyes. Finding that his arms were simple too short to pry the ambushing pallid away, Chimera dropped to his knees, bashing his head against one of the many large rocks lying on the narrow dirt trail. The Pikipek fled and was struck down in the blink of an eye by an electrified blur speeding across the Bagon's line of sight. Chimera patted Argon on the side of her arm as she recovered from her charging posture, celebration being cut off when a patrat and beedrill poked their heads out of the brush, grey outlines a stark contrast to the lush green layer of palm leaves making up the mystery dungeon's perimeter. The intrusions were dispatched without thought by crossbow bolt and thundershock respectively, leaving the duo to continue their daily mission.

Chimera dusted himself off as they walked, taking extra care to confirm that the shiny, gold-bordered badges recently pinned to their exploration bags were accounted for. Though the process of getting Binair to concur with the agreed upon terms had been a strenuous one, their voyage to Eastern Faire's mystery dungeon no. 27, better known as Exeggutor Jungle, had been surprisingly short trip. Passive forward gaze, once limited to Argon, spread to Chimera as he hacked away at the obstructing leaves with sharpened thorn crudely tied to a stick.

"Nasty little buggers...what pokemon did you say we'd be facing here again?" Chimera asked.

"Mostly bug and flying types, m-maybe a couple normals here and there. Sentrets, duodo, I-I've even seen some ditto around he—well, speak of the giratina..."

The brush cleared into a shallow riverbed. On each side on the randomly jutting river were nearly endless lines of trees. Each of the trees curved toward the center of the river, narrow trunks diverging into a sea of roots above the waterline, as if begging for sustenance in spite of the physics defying nature of the dungeon. Standing in the shallow river was single pallid, feral scowl betraying the fact that its visage was a dead ringer to the Bagon at Argon's side. Immediately, the pallid Bagon opened its jaw to let out a short burst of fire toward the Alolan Raichu. The attack caught Argon off guard, hasty dodge to the left forcing her to dip bits of singed fur into the waterline.

"You sonova...if I can't breath fire, this sad sack of tauros crab shouldn't have the privilege!"

"I-It seems that the feral dittos do a better job of copying pokemon's instincts than you do," Argon replied with a chuckle.

Argon dipped her tail into the waterline, attempting to recreate the trick that had worked in the previous dungeon. The pale Bagon, however, scrambled onto a large rock jutting out of the middle of the tropical river, attack having little effect. Noticing that its maneuverability had been severely limited, Chimera took another shot with his weapon from the treeline, bolt breaking into pieces when it collided with the rocky forehead of the Bagon. There was no time for the Pallid to release another draconic burst when the orange blur reappeared, tackling the Bagon from its high ground and pinning it against one of the riverside trees.

Argon drew her head back as the Bagon struggled, noticing that her partner was rushing over as fast as his tiny legs would carry him. With both paws occupied holding the Bagon in place, Argon closed her eyes, letting a small yellow seed levitate out of her exploration bag into Chimera's hands.

"H-Here, use this."

"What is it?"

"A stun seed. Q-Quick, we don't have much time!"

The pallid Bagon growled a malicious snarl at Argon. It would have blasted the Raichu with another burst of flames after opening its mouth, had a seed not been lodged into its throat, and two hands forced its lower jaw to chomp down. Immediately, all the muscles in the grey Bagon seemed to freeze in place, every part of its body shaking uncontrollably, but motionless in its standing position nonetheless.

"Well," Argon said, backing away from the paralyzed creature to let out a relieved sigh, "I-I guess we won't have to worry about him anymore."

Chimera nodded. He was just about to continue down the winding path alongside Argon when he turned back, lost in thought. While the journey had been short, the actual process of dungeoneering gave to the Bagon an impression of being somewhat tedious. Their foes, while relentless, had been more frail than even those before their recent encounter with Uxie. A part of Chimera questioned if this was the reason his partner insisted on going to this specific dungeon, having noticed that the Raichu seemed particularly familiar with this setting. Nonetheless, the pallid Bagon before Chimera sporting a feral imitation of his own visage was helpless, more of a prop against the riverside treeline than anything. And with this, thought Chimera, came some potential to relieve the monotony.

"Wait!" he shouted, forcing Argon to turn toward the two bagons with a concerned look. "Argon, I'm the real Chimera! You have to believe me, that bagons... nothing more than my evil clone."

It took a couple seconds for Argon to comprehend Chimera's playful intentions. Her incredulous stare quickly gave way to light giggling as she raised a paw up to cover her smile, intending to play along. Chimera did a similar movement with his hands, awkwardly positioning the paralyzed Bagon's hand to point towards himself as he attempted to throw his voice.

"What? No, he's the evil clone! You have to believe me Argon, think of all that we've gone through."

The grey Bagon wasn't able to resist the crude mockery, mouth being locked open mid-snarl. Eventually, Argon was able to control her snickering at the unexpected display, doing her best to portray a commanding posture toward the blue and grey pokemons.

"A-Alright...if one of you truly is the pure-hearted Chimera, you'll have to prove it by doing something only they could do."

"Of course," Chimera quickly replied, echoing the phrase to make it seem as though his supposed doppelganger agreed.

A moment passed as Argon considered what action would bring the most comedic potential. When a mischievous grin suddenly formed on her face, Chimera knew she had decided.

"Only the most pure-hearted of bagon can breathe fire. I-If you want to prove that you're not Chimera's evil clone, you'll have to do that."

She pointed towards the blue Bagon,

"You first."

Chimera shot back at the request, betrayed look only broken when he saw the Raichu mouth the words 'play along'. His head hastily shifted between Argon, the paralyzed Bagon, and himself. After a few seconds contemplation, Chimera forced his head downwards to chuckle towards the floor, laughter slowly deepening in tone into something much more villainous.

"This was all a trick, I deceived you. I, in fact, am the evil clone of Chimera. I am all the negative emotions that cloud his mind, his hate, his anger, his deceitfulness, and you will bow before me!"

"And as you should know," he continued, again covering his mouth to throw his voice, "good always triumphs over evil."

Immediately, the blue bagon pointed the weapon slung at his hip downward, releasing a bolt that landed just past his own foot into the riverside sandbar. He collapsed to the ground, shouting cries of pain only partly convincing toward the spectating Raichu.

"Ahh! Heathen, using my own weapon against me, I guess you win this round Chimera, but I'll be back!"

Argon out her a hefty cackle as she helped the blue Bagon to his feet, a glance back at the Pallid confirming that it was still paralyzed.

"Y-You know," she said, turning her back to continue down the mystery dungeon's winding paths, "I think you played that part all too well."

"What can I say? I love a good roleplay."

And as they walked, Chimera could have sworn he heard a giggle, though a glance back at Argon found only a serious expression.

---

The two continued down the winding river, fighting off the seemingly endless stream of pallids as the went. Chimera was just about to ask Argon when they could stop to relieve the aching sensation again plaguing his feet when he saw the Raichu's eyes perked up. They had reached the river's end, and Argon instantly rushed toward the loose collection of dirt marking the shoreline. She reached into her exploration bag, revealing a wide yet shallow metal pan just beginning to rust around the edges.​

"I suppose that dirt is the aforementioned 'resources'."

"O-Of course," Argon replied, scooping some of the mixed sediment into the pan and gently shaking, "this stuff is pay-dirt, it may not be as much as the teams who travel further inland get, b-but if we keep doing this, we'll have more than enough poke for the roof over our heads and the food in our stomach."

After some more sifting, Argon revealed to Chimera the fruits of their efforts: between the clumps of dirt inside of the pan were minuscule bits of pure gold, each speck seemingly flickering off of the river sunlight. Chimera gasped at the reveal, eyes seemingly glued to the unassuming pan,

"That's...amazing! I suppose we're rich now," he said with a chuckle.

"Not exactly.S-See, I'm not sure if you know, but this stuff is pretty common around Faire. Most of it is used for trading and decorations, but it was either this or chopping down trees and mining ore inside of mystery dungeons to use in construction, so I guess I got lucky in that regard."

Chimera glanced behind him, maneuvering the exploration backpack so that he was able to analyze his recently awarded badge. While the majority the shield's gold coloration seemed to simply be paint, a further analysis of the change in metal revealed a thin layer of gold forming the badge's circumference.

"So...you just go to this same mystery dungeon everyday?"

"Only when somebody hasn't already taken it from the missions list first." she replied. "Going here, taking this to the guild,i-it's a pretty smooth process, all things considered. Then the dungeon randomizes the next day, and we head out to find this spot again. Life's all about balance, and this...it helps me keep it."

Her head lifted, tension in her neck being relieved after a few seconds of analysis,

"On the bright side, i-it seems that all the pallids are gone, no harm in being sure though."

"I'll go and check," Chimera offered, letting out a deep sigh, "I've got nothing better to do."

"Do you want my help? I-I could always get back to doing this after we've made sure that the perimeter is secure."

The Bagon pulled his weapon closer to his chest,

"No, I think I've got this."

The minutes passed, and before long Chimera had ascertained that they had indeed cleared the area of feral adversaries. With eyesight of his companion long since broken within the dense jungle brush, the Bagon took a short opportunity to rest. However, the moment Chimera sat down, the visage of Argon again returned.

"Oh...you're back. I thought you were busy with the pay-dirt, do you need my help with anything?"

The Raichu gave a short nod. What truly amazed Chimera was that his companion had not walked over to his location as she normally did, but was slowly levitating toward him atop her oversized tail. She did so unhindered, despite a sudden reoccurring memory into Chimera's mind of the visual concentration she had exhibited when levitating even a thermos of tea back in their room.

"Alright then, what is it you want?"

The Raichu pointed downward, towards the golden badge pinned to Chimera's exploration bag,

"The badge? I...I mean no offence, but what do you need it for?"

She only pointed towards the badge again, this time with more urgency. Chimera was forced to pause at this. The pokemon before him was a dead-ringer for Argon, sure, but a cynical part of the Bagon's mind, first born in the undersea cavern, refused to relent. His hand lowered toward the badge, not for the purposes of giving, but protecting. His patrol up to this point had been a silent one, not another footstep being heard ever since he had first stepped out. Unless his partner was as stealthy as she was quick, and had suddenly lost the ability to talk, Chimera's suspicious remained. After all, what was the harm in checking?

"Uh...sure, no problem. Could you come here for a second so I can give it to you?"

The Raichu floated toward Chimera. As soon as it was within grabbing distance, however, he shot his hand out towards its chest, suspicious being only confirmed when it passed straight through, stopping at a short tuft of hair unlike anything he had previously seen on his partner.

"You're pretty good," called out the Raichu, voice while feminine, unquestionably more childlike than his partner, "how'd you catch on so quick?"

"Trust me, I've encountered far too many pokemon who weren't who they said they were to be fooled that easily," Chimera replied, toothy grin smiling back at the false Raichu.

"Well then...I guess I'll have to do this the hard way."

In an instant, the false Raichu vanished, not a second passing before a red and black blur took its place and shot across his eyesight. Chimera raised his arm to protectively hold up the badge, breathing a sigh of relief when it was still in his hand after the unknown creature's maneuver. Unfortunately, such an action left the crossbow slung at his side completely exposed, and when he turned around to face his new threat, the weapon had been ripped from his person.

The red and black creature was nowhere to be found. Holding the crossbow before Chimera was another Bagon, having figure identical to his own with blue and yellow scales to boot. It stared toward Chimera was a cocky grin all too familiar, holding weapon in one hand and escape orb in the other. Silence again filled the jungle as identical bagons looked toward each other, one protectively holding the guild badge, the other doing likewise with the stolen weapon. The only other perceivable difference between himself and the other Bagon were their new attire. Draped over the other Bagon's ill-defined shoulders was a regal, pure white cape, a high contrast to the dreary, angular black one that had suddenly manifested over his own shoulders. A short poke at the dark adornment found that Chimera's hand passed through it as easily as it did the false Raichu.

"Well, my evil twin" called out the white-cloaked Bagon, voice the same childlike, high pitched call despite its best attempts at sounding dramatic,"I believe we have reached an impasse. If you won't return that gold rank guild badge to its rightful owner, you shall suffer the consequences!"

Chimera paused, incredulous look frozen on his face at the absurdity of the situation. He considered yelling into the forest to catch the attention of his partner, but decided against it after glancing at the escape orb firmly held in the new Bagon's hands. While not as valuable to Chimera as the guild badge, the weapon had taken a large amount of effort to construct, and it would be a shame to see it stolen by an unknown assailant. Eventually, the ridiculousness of the predicament overtook its definite seriousness in Chimera's mind, and a resoluteness manifested to see where the impromptu skit would go. After all, a promise had been made with his partner, and the missions they went on in the foreseeable future would no doubt blend together into an unvaried blur. When the day was young, and fresh sunlight poured onto the two bagons like a theater spotlight, who couldn't resist a chance to be the villain of their own story?

"I...believe we have." he said, again putting on his best mischievous expression, "but before we settle this, may I ask, what is your name?"

"My name's Chimera of course," replied the white-cloaked bagon, "and I'm here to put a stop to your evil dee—"

"No, I'm not talking about that. Your actual name, I'd rather have the pleasure of knowing who I have the privilege of being stolen from."

The white-cloaked Bagon seemed to flicker at the statement, revealing a millisecond view of the red and black fox's terrified expression.

"Oh don't try to deny it. You're obviously trying to steal this form me. For what reason, I don't know, but...I'll make you an offer. I can only assume we both have nothing better to do, if you'll tell me why you're trying to steal this badge, I'll keep playing along."

The Bagon illusion reformed, blank expression no doubt concealing a pensive silence.

"You have my word I won't tell another soul."

Chimera waited anxiously for the escape orb in the Bagon's hand to shatter, and the thief to escape with his cherished weapon. However, this did not happen. Instead, the thief again spoke, previous boisterous nature being replaced by a voice much more vulnerable.

"It's...Cerise, the Dread Bandit Cerise for your information. The WFG is having a members only celebration in about a month, and with that badge, I'm gonna pull off the heist of a lifetime! I knew I'd need a gold level badge to access the more exclusive areas, and what better team to take it from than one that's just been promoted?"

Chimera waited patiently for Cerise to finish. The news of a supposed heist during such a celebration was in obvious conflict to his team's and the guild as a whole's interest, and with this came the conclusion that the thief had to be stopped. However, Chimera found himself unwilling to attack the Zorua, half in the knowledge that closing the distance between them would likely provoke a retaliatory shot from his own weapon, and half from the knowledge that, while Cerise had been a great inconvenience, her intentions and methods were completely nonviolent. If Chimera was to be the better 'mon, he figured that he'd have to surpass the Zorua in some other way. He scanned his memory, concealing a chuckle when he found one that would simultaneously incapacitate the Zorua and continue their roleplay.

"Well then, Chimera, I propose a battle of wits, in order to truly see who's more deserving of this badge. Though to do it, I'll need to procure some items from my companion."

The black cloak around Chimera vanished as he departed the way he came, stopping midstep when his counterpart seemed to tighten its grip around the escape orb.

"Hey, I'm not going to run away. So long as you have that crossbow, you can trust me. I'd figure that there would be honor among thieves."

With a heavy sigh, the illusion waved him away. Chimera himself was surprised at Cerise's sense of trust, but quickly pushed the thought away. With his walk back toward the river's end came the sight of his true companion, exploration bag at her side doubtless filled with the fruits of their effort.

"O-Oh, you're back. Are you ok? You were gone a bit longer than I imagined, and I thought I heard some noise back from where you went."

"Yeah I'm fine," Chimera replied, "just...talking to myself. Anyway, I got a bit of a situation that I got to handle, and I just need some items from your bag."

Argon couldn't help but tilt her head at Chimera's vague tone, but she offered the amalgamation of item's nonetheless,

"Are you sure you're alright? I-I'm about finished over here, I could come with you."

"No," he quickly replied, "this is something I got to handle alone. Although...if I'm not back in five minutes, could you come over? And please, bring some heal seeds."

The Bagon was definitely up to something, and it was obvious that the crossbow kept almost religiously at his side was nowhere to be seen, but Argon nodded nonetheless. Chimera had been a glutton for his own punishment, Argon figured, and he'd probably be able to deal with the consequences. If not? There always was the extra oran berries she had packed.

"A-Alright, if you insist. I trust you."

Waiting patiently in the forest clearing for Chimera was himself, meticulously running its hand over the escape orb. Chimera walked up toward the white-cloaked Bagon and, without another word, set two yellow seeds between them, identical in size, smell, and texture.

"As I was saying," he said, holding one of the seeds in the air before setting it in front of Cerise, "a battle of wits. Where is the stun seed? You will choose between that seed and this one. When you have decided, you will swallow the seed of your choosing, and I will do the same with the other, then we will see who is right, and who ends up paralyzed."

The cocksure expression put on by the white-cloaked Bagon broke apart at the proposal. It was all too like looking in a mirror for Chimera, except that, while his own face was neutral, his reflection was looking at him like he was crazy. The confident illusion returned to Cerise in an instant, and Chimera once again saw his toothy grin being mimicked. The white-cloaked Bagon stood up, brandishing its cape in a heroic fashion.

"Well doppelganger, your proposal is indeed...unorthodox. But as I said, good always triumphs over evil, and I wholeheartedly accept your proposal. Never again will your evils plague the region of Faire, and after you are paralyzed I will pluck that badge from your hand and take my leave from this dungeon!"

"Oh, and Cerise," Chimera quickly added, "in the event that you are paralyzed, I'm willing to make you an offer. I'll put in a good word for you once you are locked up, and do my best to make sure that you are left with a light sentence. In return, I'll be able to ask you someday for a single favor. I don't know what it is yet, but some time in the future I will decide, sound fair?"

"That's only assuming that I choose incorrectly," Cerise slowly replied, before quickly returning to character.

"True enough," Chimera said, lowering his voice to a dark tone, "you'll just have to take your pick."

A solid minute passed as the white-cloaked Bagon shifted its head between the seed adjacent to itself and the one to Chimera.

"Well, in your infinite wickedness, you would no doubt set the stun seed next to yourself, judging on my distrust of you to make me choose the seed closest to youself."

The white-cloaked Bagon reached for the seed, before stopping mid-grab,

"But...your cruel nature would also have you judge that I knew this, and you would put the stun seed closest to the real Chimera."

"Take your time," Chimera called out. He turned his head away as Cerise continued monologuing, under the guise of being distracted by movement from the treeline. His poker face returned as he turned back, unable to judge whether a movie script could accurately determine Cerise's actions.

"I...think I have decided. Shall we eat, my evil clone? I know for a fact that I have bested you in this battle of wits, for you stood no match against me. You have given away everything, and you do not even know it!"

A voice in Chimera's mind subconsciously joked that the supposed insult was actually a compliment, and with not a seconds hesitation Chimera held the seed up to his mouth, waiting for the white-cloaked Bagon to do the same. A second voice commented that Cerise could merely create another illusion of eating her chosen seed, but something about the Zorua's behavior told Chimera that this wouldn't happen. The white-cloaked Bagon mimicked his action, slowly raising the seed to its mouth while observing that he did the same. Eventually, two soft crunches echoed throughout the entirety of the mystery dungeon, followed by a brief period of silence.

"Well then, what happens now?"

"Now Cerise...we wait."

The cloaks atop both bagons disappeared in a flash, accompanied by one of the pokemon being replaced by a quivering motionless Zorua. Chimera would have let out a hearty laugh at the result, if not for knowing that the exact same fate would greet him. Both Chimera and Cerise lay paralyzed on the forest floor, smug grin on one being met by a look of panic from the other. The minutes passed, and a familiar Raichu walked through the treeline, letting out a sigh half of shock and half of exasperation when the scene was fully visible. Argon rushed over to her paralyzed companion, a million questions no doubt running through her mind as she forced a heal seed into the Bagon's mouth. A thankful smile greeted Argon as soon as Chimera had full control of his joints. He turned over to the paralyzed Zorua, giving one last comment before raising his guild badge to teleport her to the dungeon's entrance.

"A word to the wise Cerise, never take risks on something you can't afford to lose."

"What happened," Argon asked, "a-are you alright, who was she?"

"Just a petty thief, no more no less, one that tried to steal my guild badge. I'll..explain the rest of it on the way back."

"Huh, a thief" Argon commented, paw raised to her chin, "I can't say I've seen one of those in a while. W-We can take her back to the guild, they'll take care of her after that."

She looked upward, smile forming with the fact that light seemed to radiate through the jungle canopy as heavily as when they had arrived.

"I suppose we've done our job then, are you ready to go?"

"Of course." Chimera replied, giving one last grin toward Argon before the two were bathed in a flash of light. "Oh, and also...you wouldn't happen to know about a certain get together at the guild happening in about a month, would you?"
 

p-bugle

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Chapter 14: The Party
"I'm still a little confused. The celebration is today, why don't you want to go?"

As if to punctuate the statement, a flat-blunted crossbow bolt soared through the air towards Argon. The projectile would have caused a nasty bruise, had the distance between her and Chimera not allowed the Raichu to preemptively levitate one of the many pieces of driftwood cast onto the sandy coast, absorbing the blow. A sense of normalcy seemed to have developed in both pokemon since the last month. Resource missions came as quickly as the went, the temperature grew moderately less oppressive as calendars shifted to the poorly named cool season, and Chimera was able to wake up without instinctively lunging to turn off the incessant beeping of a metal rectangle now nonexistent to his new life. In the periods where they were separated during their copious amounts of free time, Chimera occupied himself between occasional games of croquet with Binair and satiating the nearly irresistible urge to jump off the familiar cliff overlooking their present location. Argon found herself content to sight-see where her partner would jump, and left the occasional oran berry for when he fulfilled his species's instinctual desires. Still, every exploration by day and every finished bedside story by night found her partner equally unable or unwilling to replicate his species offensive techniques. The soothing bells chimed ferociously as ever when Raichu took Bagon along for an afternoon picnic, one that had quickly devolved from Chimera's insistence into an impromptu sparing session.

"I-I...I'm just not a fan of parties, ok? The noise, the crowded spaces, the constant demand for small talk, it's just not something I enjoy."

With the Bagon scrambling to reload his weapon, Argon dropping to all fours and charged, easily outrunning his attempts to keep a safe distance between them. In recognition of Chimera's alteration of his weapons for the spar, Argon herself held back when tackling his backside, only using a half of her electric abilities. Despite this, she was still surprised with how quickly the Bagon was able to get to his feet after being sent skidding across the sand. He dusted himself off, not a hint of malice in his expression despite the recent attack,

"I've learned that events like these are what you make of them. I can definitely understand the urge to not go, I...had my reasons for being sort of a hermit around them in the past. But they can definitely be worth it, it's better to go and decide for yourself than let go of the opportunity."

A brief silence ensued as they gave each other a moment to think over what was said. Gray clouds finished their formation, letting light rain drops drizzle onto both. Argon remained unshaken, having long adapted to exploring a familiar rainforest dungeon. Chimera was also relatively unfazed, if only because of the crudely fashioned rain cape that ran over the back half of his body, its color identical to the clouds above. Finding the right material for the apparel had been difficult, but well worth it in the face of the on and off showers that greeted them.

"I know that, I-It's just...I'm not good with other pokemon, I know that much. When I try to talk to someone I don't know, they'll be times where my brain just...freezes up, and I'll try to say something, but it won't let me."

Argon raised her paw, warning that their battle would continue. With his weapon unloaded and his enemy right in front of him, Chimera was the one to charge, making extra sure to watch for the Raichu's movement before lowering his rocky forehead. In the brief second it took for Argon to snap herself back to attention between her mind's conflicting suggestions, she was sideswiped by the attack, sending her careening to the sand. Chimera jolted to the floor over top his partner, about to hurl his forehead toward hers before stopping. Instead, he reached into the short pouch at his side, pulling out another crossbow bolt and holding the blunted end to her neck, as if about to stab. With his short arms, Argon had no trouble shooting her own paw to his throat on reflex. Brief sparks emanated from her cheeks as silence again overtook the beach, and rain drops pitter-pattered onto Bagon and Raichu alike.

"W-Well...you're definitely improving," said Argon, releasing her grip on the Bagon's throat.

"I'd say that's probably only because you're distracted," Chimera replied, likewise retracting the bolt.

Realizing their somewhat awkward predicament, Chimera moved away to let both pokemon stand up. An orange radiance spread over the calm waves as dusk appeared.

"Anyway, I can't say I relate to your situation, but I do know that avoiding it will only exasperate the problem. You do want to be able to go out and meet new pokemon, don't you?"

She turned away, raising a paw up to shield her eyes even as raindrops pelted her fur.

No you don't. This'll end poorly, you'll make an embarrassment out of yourself again, just like you did at the cafe...

Shut up.

They'll laugh at you, they'll all laugh at you.

Shut. Up.

They won't forget, they never did. You're out of your depth, and the only thing you can do now is run.

No, I can't...I won't, not today.

She turned back, shaking her head to remove the excess of water that had soaked through her fur,

"I...yes, yes I do. Y-You're right...I've been running away from this for too long. I actually made a promise before you washed up on this shoreline, that I was going to do my best to do just that, to meet new pokemon, but I could never find the willpower to actually go through with it beyond some pathetic small talk. T-Then I run away, my mind starts insulting itself, and...it's stressful to say the least. If I'm going to get myself out of that state, I suppose this is the first step."

Chimera was stunned. It seemed, even when his partner was able to stroll through a pallid-infested dungeon like one of her many evening walks, she still had her own demons to overcome. The Bagon's smile lit up from ear to ear as he retrieved two oran berries from his own bag, offering one to her,

"Well then, I'm glad to hear you say that. I can't say it'll work out for the best, but I can promise I'll be there to help. At the very least, it'll probably be less difficult if you have someone you know at your side. So...shall we get ready then?"

"Y-Yeah, we should probably get going now, if we're going to make it."

They departed, bites into oran berries signalling a feeling of rejuvenation that both suspected wasn't simply from the cured wounds.

---

They could hear the party long before they saw it. Even as the duo procured the proper attire at their humble apartment, jovial shouting accompanied by music more akin to belonging in a tavern wafted through the window. It was a short walk to the guild hall, one that led both past several houses silhouetted against the moonlight in varying states of completion, a testament to the seeming endless construction that had taken place around Pith Town even before Chimera's arrival.​

Only when they had both set foot on the expansive courtyard could the controlled chaos be fully seen. A septet of musicians around the center fountain, proudly labeled as the 'seven treasures' attempted to play over the rowdy cheers and screams surrounding them, with moderate success. Chimera seemed especially distracted by the Togetic leading the group with recorder in hand, but the Bagon's disappointed continuance turned away before his peculiar mutterings of the name 'Evelyn' could be questioned. All throughout the courtyard were pokemon of every size and stature, a good portion without any identification to even relate them to the guild, conversing over each other and dancing to their heart's content. An entrepreneurial Ivysaur hastily ran up to the two, offering the fermented berry juice contained inside an especially large bottle in exchange for a sum of poke, but was quickly distracted as another group called to its attention, coinage in hand. The once clean floor seemed littered with fallen decorations and the discarded remains of bottles that had run dry.

Argon lifted a paw to her neck, scratching to alleviate the uncomfortable itchiness of the ornate, blue bow donned for the occasion. Much to her apprehension, in the time it had taken her to wash and comb her fur, Chimera had discarded neither the crossbow at his side, nor the worn, gray rain cape over his back.

"Well, it's certainly...festive. Honestly, now that we're actually here, I-I'm not sure if I'm over dressed or you're under dressed."

"Hey," he said with a chuckle,"at least it will make me easy to identify if I pass out. I don't intend on getting shit-faced, but...I also don't have a history for the highest tolerance, and I suspect this new body won't make it any better."

She sighed,

"Just don't do anything too embarrassing, and we should be fine.I-If you can believe it, I've seen pokemon put on special dye over their fur or scales to look like they were shiny, at least I don't think anything like that'll go on here. Also, we shouldn't have to worry about that thief you talked about, should we?"

"Eh...probably not," he replied, cheerful music growing fainter as they skirted the party's edge,"if Pith Town security is anything to be accounted for at least. And by the way, I know you had some reservations about coming here, if you don't feel comfortable, just say the word and we'll leave."

"Y-Yeah, I should be fine, I'll find you if that happens. If you want to head out and do your own thing, don't stop on my behalf."

With the crowd mostly out of their way, Chimera glanced over at the large, grassy field surrounded by palm trees, recognizable as the same familiar field he had his first conversation with Binair. It had been converted into a sort of outdoor game arena, with chairs and round tables being hastily assembled to let cards, dice, and chips be placed upon them. The modest group of pokemon around the arena appeared to be somewhat wealthier than those celebrating in the courtyard. Many of the more militaristic pokemon were donned in ornate tricorns and green coats, while those less so conversed in feathered or topped hats. The duo was surprised to not spot Binair in such a location, though their question was quickly answered when two intricate silverware cups levitated before them.

"Well old chum, fancy seeing you here, care for some punch? And Argon too! I can't express how happy I am that you decided to come."

They turned around to see the familiar Girafarig, dark green bow fashioned around his neck,

"Good to see you too Sir," Chimera replied, taking hold of the glass, "we're glad to be here."

Argon also took hold of the cup, but inconspicuously held it to her partner after sniffing the alcoholic contents,

"A-And if you don't mind me asking...this seems like a bigger celebration than just the guild."

"I suppose that was bound to happen," Binair replied, "these things always are a messy endeavor, but a fair amount of the teams were insistent, and who am I to deny some harmless bread and circus? Whether at the guild or the assembly plants outside town, I'm sure every pokemon here has done their fair share, let them have their fun."

A chatot, recognizable to both as the same one they would take their missions from everyday, walked up behind Binair with quill and clipboard in hand. A malevolent glare from the Girafarig's tail froze the Chatot in its tracks, and with the nonverbal cue it scurried back into the hall.

"You can never really get away from work, can you?" Binair said with a sigh. "And it's 'Binair', not 'Sir" old chum, I'd prefer to keep things as informal as possible during events like these. Speaking of which, Argon, would you mind if I take Chimera aside for a little game? I want to see just how lucky this Bagon really is."

After a moment's considerations, Argon nodded. A look shared between the two as Chimera left with Binair toward the field confirmed that their previous agreement still stood, and with this in mind she turned back toward the courtyard. After a few minutes wandering the chaotic scene, Argon was forced to keep her head to the floor to alleviate dizziness, and was thus caught unaware when a different voice again sounded from behind,

"Excuse me Madam, are you enjoying the party?"

The Raichu's head tilted with recognizance of the speaker's identity. Standing before Argon was a charmander, not unlike many she had seen that were either members of the guild or simply residents of Pith Town, except for its unusual attire. Over the Charmander's eyes were a pair of black, opaque goggles. A sort of metallic cone covered where the Charmander's flame would have been, only flickers of smoke noticeable out of the decorative garb. In her brief acquaintance with fire types with exposed flames, Argon could recall that such a chimney-like accessory was sometimes sold to parents of the newly hatched, in order to alleviate concern of accidental fires while they were being taught to control their flame. The sight of it on a Charmander who looked nearly as old as she was, however, peaked the Raichu's interest.

"I-It's...It's alright, a little too tumultuous for my taste, but I could get used to it."

"If it is too much," the Charmander asked, "may I suggest we head inside to the higher ranking quarters of the party? I have heard it is much more orderly there."

She glanced toward the guild hall, taking note of the Rhydon and Watchog inspecting the guild badges of those who entered. Such a location was bound to be less crowded than the conglomerate of pokemon assembled outside, and Argon found herself curious of the Charmander looking toward her with a quaint smile. She was hard pressed to remember the last instance a pokemon had taken the time to approach her during one of these cerebration, and if the goal of coming here was to be more social, who was she to deny his offer?

"Y-Yeah," she replied, "I suppose it couldn't hurt. By the way, I'm Argon, what's you name?"

"My name...call me Eoin."

The change in atmosphere as both pokemon entered the guild hall and went upstairs to the assembly area was nothing less than jarring. Eoin seemed reluctant to unveil his badge when they were inspected, but whether from Argon's assurance that the Charmander was with her, or the guard's own lack of attentiveness late into the night, they passed through without issue. The drowning noise of outside was quickly alleviated through a mix of soundproof walls and ballroom music. Its orchestral source was significantly larger than the outside septet, and Argon couldn't help but notice that leading the group was the same Kriketune that had conscripted her into a summertime march. Ornate carvings and paintings as well as a large clock lined the concave roof, illuminated by luminous orbs and moonlight from the many large windows on one side of the massive room. Any furniture that recently donned the marble floors had been removed, and in its place were around two dozen pokemon, all dressed in various levels of elaborate fashion and spinning in pairs to the leisurely music.

"Care for a dance, Madam?"

When she turned back from analyzing the room, Eoin was on one knee, hand raised up to her in a sign of offering. The gesture brought a befuddled look from Argon, if for the fact that the Charmander had not only walked straight up to her, but lead her here with seeming knowledge of what was taking place. Beneath its opaque goggles, Eoin's smile placated the Raichu as much as it unnerved her. Something about the grin drew in a definite sense of familiarity to Argon, though its source seemed to make even less sense the more she thought about it. She rubbed her eyes, looking between goggles, tail cover, and Eoin himself, were charmander scales always that shade of orange? Regardless, he was waiting, and with butterfrees in her chest she lowered her own paw to his. Answers would come, she thought, the highest priority now was ensuring that the stranger's courtesy was reciprocated, and that she didn't look like a fool in front of the many onlookers.

"I-I appreciate the hospitality Eoin," she said, locking right hand with his left and placing her other paw at his side, "and I can certainly say this type of thing doesn't usually happen to me. If you don't mind me asking, this is kind of a weird question, but...do I know you from somewhere?"

A part in the back of Argon's mind knew exactly where she had seen the strange Charmander, and the solemn grin that followed further hampered her disbelief. A couple misaligned steps with Eoin proved that the Charmander was nearly as inexperienced as she with ballroom dancing, but with downtempoed music playing, and 1, 2, 3's no doubt being counted in the back of their minds, they were able to come to a rhythm that allowed both room to think.

"You do in fact, I suppose there is no need to keep up the facade with you. I have...changed a lot since the last time we met, but as long as you are willing to keep this a secret, I see no trouble in revealing it."

The Charmander glanced over his shoulder, checking to make sure that neither the other dancers nor onlookers were watching before raising a hand to his black tinted goggles. In the brief moment they were removed, Argon's blue eyes stared into a pupilless, pallid white, still drawing a gasp from the Raichu with her inconceivable theory being confirmed.

"Y-You're the—"

"Pallid that attacked your friend in Uxie's cave?" he finished, keeping his voice to a whisper. "Yes, and I cannot begin to apologize for my actions. I know this does not excuse them, but I was a different pokemon back then, with a different way of thinking. And before I forget, I would like to return this to you both."

He reached for a short bag at his side, before holding an object to her. In the Charmander's hand was a shield-like green and gold badge, dented and with a faint line of rust forming around the edges, no doubt from being knocked from her partner's grip into chilling water. Argon was only moderately less surprised at the offering and, noticing that they had stopped, quickly levitated the badge to her own traveling pouch, in order to not arouse too much suspicious from onlookers as they joined hands to continue their short, counterclockwise circle across the marble floor. Whatever dark inquiries Argon had been able to suppress after first seeing the pallid Charmander smile at her with the remains of a tamato berry in its hand returned unrelentingly. Her opinion of the beings she had encountered for the last four years across mystery dungeons had always been of them being nuisances at best, and ferocious monsters at worst. Memories of pallids consisted of feral barks, of unrelenting aggressiveness, of wounds that had to be healed at the day's end. The Raichu would of preferred to not confront any at all, if not for the fact that their existence was the soul reason she was still in a job. And yet...here she was, holding hands and dancing with a being who once fit the worst of her conceptions.

"I-I...I have a lot of questions," she said, also confining her voice to a soft murmur. "How did you even get out of the mystery dungeon? Pallids aren't supposed to be able to do that. How...how are you even speaking? I-I mean no offence, but I've never seen a pallid that was sapient enough to do anything other than attack, until you of course. And why are you here, why come to me of all pokemon?"

"You have already seen the answer to your first question. As for the second, I will explain that and the rest in good time. The third...well, there are many reasons."

The music picked up in tempo. Such a change was unexpected, but by then both were in tune enough with each other's footsteps to keep pace. They passed another pair in their movement across the marble floor; a beedrill and bayleef, with the two vines of the latter gently wrapped around the former's stingers. A part of Argon was thankful that the stranger who had walked up to her had the same number of appendages as she did, for the process of matching her opposite's movements would be indefinitely harder if she had to be in sync with either four or no legs. She turned back to Eoin, returning the eye contact that the dance required.

"I cannot express enough how thankful I am for the impact you have had on my existence. It may have been another being who gifted me the ability to rise above my former self, but you were the one who showed me the potential to do just that. Your kindness in offering a way to heal my fire instead of putting it out proved to me that I could do more than just fight and steal in my brief existence. I...I suppose I brought you here so I could do justice to meeting such a pokemon."

Butterfrees flapped incessantly in Argon's stomach, though the slight tinge of pink seeping through Eoin's cheeks proved he was almost as nervous as she was. Whether from knowing of the now familiar Charmander's origins, or simply from the room's languid atmosphere, Argon found her mind much more organized when speaking to Eoin than what felt like ages ago to the Charmeleon at the cafe.

"W-Well, I can't thank you enough for the sentiment, Eoin. I never thought I could mean that much to a pokemon. It must have taken a lot of effort getting to where you are now, you really did all this just for my sake?"

"In truth, I...I also came here to discuss something else with you," replied Eoin, a hint of melancholy in his face, "but that can wait. The night is young, and I'd rather not burden you with those details at a time like this."

Argon nodded, letting a tranquil silence fill the narrow space between them as contentment overcame curiosity. The orchestral music again slowly picked up pace, and both pokemon were more than a little surprised when she took the lead. A paw lifted to let Eoin twirl around the Raichu's arm was reciprocated in kind, before the distance between them again closed.

"You dance well," said Eoin, shifting posture to let Argon dip and her head look toward the ceiling.

"I-It's nothing special," she replied, "I had a lot of hobbies when I was a pikachu, would pick up something for a few months before loosing interest. Dancing was one of them, I practiced enough that I learned the basics, although...I was always alone when I did."

"It suits you, you have a lot more experience using your feet than most members of your species, I presume. I can relate to your predicament, I have had to learn a lot in the past month, never got much of a chance to talk to another pokemon when I did."

Argon's head lowered at the compliment, not sure whether the feeling in her chest was pride or shame. She hastily returned his smile, chiding herself for letting the carefree atmosphere be diminished. As if my mutual agreement, neither pokemon spoke another word as their bodies moved in sync, even when the small-talk of once numerous dancers were replaced by audible yawns from the orchestra. If any noise from outside pierced through the guild hall windows Argon didn't hear it, nor did she want to. Their increasing solitude as the hours passed and music faded into nothingness brought peace of mind where awkwardness should have spawned, and Argon found that imagery of a familiar cliff side appeared into her conscious whenever a blink interrupted her vision of the Charmander's opaque goggles. The Krikitune was the last to exit, leaving only moonlight to filter onto the two occupants when the luminous orbs on the walls faded to black. With their solitude, and judging that no other pokemon would be able to judge his identity in the dark conditions, Eoin lifted a hand to reveal his white eyes. Argon smiled at the gesture, and would have danced with the pallid Charmander until daybreak, if not for silence being interrupted by a soft creak from the assembly area door being opened, and the visage of a familiar Bagon peaking into the unfolding scene, drink in hand,

"Hey—hick—Argon, are you ready to go? It's pretty late and—"

Chimera stopped, being met by a beaming smile from his partner. In that smile was a thousand words of unspoken gratitude from the Raichu, no doubt for helping overcome her apprehensiveness as she lifted her paw to again let the Charmander twirl. The Bagon happily returned the smile, though was shook by a soft bell that rang from the ceiling, signalling the start of a new day. The bell chime occurred in tandem with Chimera catching view of Eoin's exposed face when the Charmander returned to Argon's side, forcing all three pokemon to freeze. Time stood still as brown and white eyes stared at each other for the second time, both trying to decide whether the emotions in their hearts were bewilderment, curiosity, unadulterated rage, or a combination of all three. Only one sentence escaped the Bagon's mind as he pieced things together, one that perfectly summed up the thoughts of all three.

"Well...this is awkward."
 

namohysip

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Chapters 7-10

What a ride! And I mean that literally. I listened to all four of these chapters in succession on a particularly congested ride home in extreme traffic. But I don’t regret it! This review is going to be more along the broad side, though I’ll bring up some specific moments that stood out to me, starting with chapter 7.


This felt like a bit of an interlude chapter, with Chimera finally getting some of his weaknesses out in the open, in addition to, well, confessing to Argon what’s going on with him. Being human and not being able to use Pokémon techniques because of lackluster instincts is interesting, though I’m curious how that’ll go down the line. It’s implied that Chimera is very humanlike, but will soon gain Pokémon traits, but at the same time, most of the Pokémon I’ve seen are largely humanlike as well—aside from the ferals, at least. When Chimera gains some sort of Pokémon instinct—perhaps when he suddenly feels an urge to throw himself off cliffs to fly? Who knows—will he also gain some abilities to attack? I sure hope so. That crossbow is going to be suuuper useless if he evolves into his awkward middle stage.


Anyway, it’s at this chapter that I also want to point out something that I noticed throughout the work so far, but I’ve finally been able to pinpoint what my problem with it was. Chimera’s characterization is a little awkward, but only when he has his outbursts. They’re sudden, and disproportionate. Out of frustration, he quickly kicks over a whole crate with surprising strength. Back in chapter 2, he’s suddenly whimpering and pouring his heart out to a complete stranger. And later on, in chapter 10, he breaks down crying at the tip of a hat. They’re all very sudden outbursts that I feel don’t have proper buildup.


At first, I attributed this to awkward scene management, but I’m starting to suspect this is actually part of Chimera’s character. Is it? If so, that’s an interesting flaw to implement. But that introduces another problem: Nobody has acknowledged it directly. For how unstable Chimera is behaving, I feel like Argon should be pointing this out more, or at least trying to placate him about it, comment on it more often, show concern, something to give a nod to the reader that Chimera is behaving with rapid emotional outbursts, and the author knows it.


That being said, if it isn’t part of Chimera’s character, I’d recommend toning that down, or otherwise having a more subtle and gradual buildup toward it. I think the closest you’ve ever gotten to this was the scene with the Gloomander (Yes, that’s what I’m calling it) and Argon being taken aback by how chimera was behaving, and how the Gloomander was, too. Which, by the way, is an encounter that I look forward to seeing a bit of an explanation down the line than a mere inspiration from another work.


Let’s get to my personal highlight of this session, though. Chapter 9 and 10 take the same scene in two ways, and I’m genuinely surprised at how differently I feel about each one. First things first, chapter 9 was actually a little weak. I knew straight off that it was an illusion. It made zero sense for Argon’s mother to be there after how strange it was, and I was actually a little irritated at how it was going because Argon seemed so stupid to not realize it on the first few paragraphs. (By the way, I thought it was a Zoroark, but being Uxie was a clever nod!)


In general, I feel like chapter 9 was a bit contrived for how long it lasted and how strange it all seemed. Surreal was a word used a lot, and yeah, it was. And Argon should’ve picked up on that a lot sooner! But I guess if she did, we wouldn’t have much of this scene going on. A bit tricky there.


Now, that aside… chapter 10—which did the same exact thing, but for Chimera—was handled much better. The illusion was believable, Chimera’s thought process was much easier to follow (aside from the random emotional outburst mentioned above) and generally, I didn’t have to suspend my disbelief very much to think that Chimera would buy it. And that brings me to my next point…


Why is this chapter 10? This should be chapter 9. It had all the mystery and all the wonder if chapter 9 except less obvious. That, combined with the (possible, but disappointedly fake) twist that ANOTHER human is in the Pokémon world, specifically to try to bring Chimera back?! You would’ve had me! If only I didn’t already know it was an illusion, you know? But I still have hope that you’ll be toying with this down the line. You don’t have such a tantalizing twist in the reader’s face without playing with it a little more down the line.


Anyway, I just thought that the revelations here being done through an exchange of an “old friend,” combined with everything else, was clever. And it seems that I was wrong about Chimera “still” being in the real world, if those memories were anything to go by. It sounds almost like Chimera’s flashbacks were just repressed memories… or was it? That’s actually a lingering question I have. Is Chimera still alive in the human world? Is he flipping between realities? Or were those just repressed memories returning to him? It seems heavily implied that Chimera isekai’d himself into the Pokémon world by some way or another, so my original theory that he’s actively flipping from one to the other seems jossed.


That aside, the actual twists and turns here have me much more interested in what’s coming next. That green object in Gloomander’s hands, the powerful object that Uxie is guarding (Time Gear?) and even Chimera’s human past and how that may play toward his future… yeah. You have a lot going on here. I was right to give this fic a nomination for its potential over on serebii, despite some of its awkward prose.


Hopefully next time I review, I’ll be all caught up! Or at least nearly.
 

p-bugle

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Chapter 15: A Matter of Honor
Chimera thought he had seen everything.

The room was dark, and the edges of his vision blurred slightly from the drink in his hand, but even he could not forget the gloomy eyes staring at him from across the ballroom. The Charmander's pupils seemed to narrow into a feral continuance, terror and malice fluctuated between them just as rapidly as when they had first met. Painful memories of horrific burning sensations played on repeat in both pokemon's mind, each cringing with recollection of the bitter wounds caused by the other. With an apologetic frown, Eoin released himself from Argon's hold and turned to meet him, defiant stance betraying the fact that he had instinctual re-donned the opaque goggles, and reached a quivering hand to pull his already concealed grey flame from the Bagon's vision.

"It's you," Chimera stated blankly, quietly placing his other hand on the weapon at his side while searching Argon's eyes for confirmation of the Charmander's intentions, "the pallid from the cave...the feral that—"

"Do not call be that!" Eoin cried out, voice echoing through the empty ballroom. "I insist. My name is Eoin, and dare I say I am just as, if not more civilized than you."

He stomped over to Chimera, tail cover barely able to hide the Charmander's now fuming flame. The sudden change in atmosphere shocked Argon to attention, and in an instant she rushed forward, positioning herself between the two pokemon.

"I-I suppose now's a good time for introductions. Eoin, meet Chimera, we've been in a team together ever since we went on that first mission, and he's one of the main reasons I was able to actually come here. Chimera, meet Eoin, he's much more...sapient than I'm sure either you or I remember, and he's been more than cordial to me so far. I...I know you two haven't gotten off on the best start, but I think it'd be best if you tried to give each other a chance. If Eoin wanted to attack either of us, he'd of already had plenty of opportunity."

A pensive yet tense silence ensued as both pokemon considered her words, glaring at each other with arms crossed in a posture she could only describe as eerily similar. Each seemed to be scanning Argon's face in a nonverbal plead for support, but for the moment only found neutrality in the Raichu's expression. In an effort to further defuse the situation, Argon reached to her side for the recently reclaimed guild badge, levitating it towards Chimera's hands. A hint of nostalgia flashed in the Bagon's eyes as he ran his hand over the familiar object, but quickly returned to a scowl after remembering the reason for its absence.

"Here, Eoin wanted to return this to you."

"Thank you," Chimera spat towards the Pallid, "better late than never. Though Eoin, it would have been a heck of a lot more useful if I had this when Uxie was threatening to forcefully probe my memory. I could of died because I didn't have this badge...or worse."

"You seem fine," he replied, matching the Bagon's hint of sarcasm, "I can assure you, you were in no danger, I knew Uxie well enough to know there was no way he...she...Uxie would have actually gone through with it. The sole reason I stand before you, and I was not destroyed the next day when the mystery dungeon reset is due to that object. Its possession defined my life, its absence barely inconvenienced yours. Though I should not be surprised, you showed in Uxie's Cave that you gladly place your petty mission over the well being of others."

Argon stepped back from the ensuring argument, glancing over her shoulder to confirm that the assembly area's soundproof walls had prevented any pokemon being awoken to notice its three moonlit silhouettes. It was now clear to her that the Pallid was only able to escape the dungeon due to the teleportive abilities of the guild badge, through any of the moral questions that plagued her mind with such a conclusion were put on hold until whatever conflict could be resolved.

"You have no way of knowing Uxie wouldn't of done that!" Chimera shot back, Raichu flinching at her partner's exclamation. "The way I remember it, you attacked me first. You don't get to act so high and mighty when you very well could have killed me."

"I...yes, I attacked you first," Eoin admitted, "but I never had the intention of killing like most of my kin, I doubt you can say the same."

Both pokemon looked toward Argon, pleading expressions again being met by pensive silence. Eoin's cry as his tail was drowned echoed through her conscious just as clearly as it did thirty days ago, but came in tandem with recollection of her partner's own painful shriek after being knocked to the floor. Many a resource mission had been undertaken by Chimera and herself since his arrival, and in that time, she could recall no similar incident had occurred. Part of this, she concluded, was likely due to the differing nature of their missions, but the Bagon also seemed to have taken her words to heart. Of course, the trouble he had since they first met with keeping a cool head had not disappeared, but at the moment, it was difficult to distinguish the flame in his eyes with the one on Eoin's tail,

"That's a lie and you know it," Chimera replied, "if you just wanted the badge, you would of stolen it when I fell down and ran off. But no, you kept attacking well after you had the chance to run."

"And you tortured me long after I was no longer a threat!" Eoin countered, cringing to the floor in painful recollection before pointing to Argon. "Your bloodthirsty nature would have killed me if it was not for her."

He went on, no doubt glaring daggers at Chimera under the opaque goggles,

"I was not the same pokemon then, I have left that part of me behind. What I did was on pure instinct, nothing more. There is a difference, you...you made a conscious decision to keep attacking, despite possessing a sapience I did not have at the time. That Bagon, is what truly defines a barbaric and uncivilized mind."

Argon seemed perturbed by the spiteful accusation. A part of her had always chalked the incident up to survival instinct, the unfortunate consequence most teams had to contend with when first faced with enemies that were truly life threatening. After all, Chimera gave the impression of having little experience fighting in his former life, and it very well could have been her that was attacked from the shadows. However, an attempt to raise her voice in evenhanded sentiment was interrupted when a glance to her partner showed him to be more or less unfazed. He lowered his head to the floor, staring into the Pallid's eyes as much as its goggles would allow, before raising it in a dark chuckle,

"Everyone has their demons Eoin, no matter how hard they try to hide it. You can suppress them, it's admirable even, but you'll never be able to get away from them fully."

Chimera's wicked laughter as he brandished his grey cape at the Pallid seemed familiar, although she questioned if the Bagon was past the point of simply putting on an act,

"Tell me this Eoin, if you really are a different pokemon, then why are you angry at me? If you aren't accountable for your actions because the Charmander I faced under Uxie's cave was nothing more than any of the other pallids, then why am I accountable for what I did against it?"

The question put the Charmander on the defensive. Despite his attempt to hide the grey torch on his tail from Chimera, Argon could see the fuming flames as clear as day.

"I...I do not—"

"You hate me, don't you Eoin? I caused you a lot of pain, I very well might deserve it. But the only way you can show that hate is justified is by admitting that under those goggles are the same eyes that attacked me."

"That," Eoin replied, voice ever so slowly twisting into a nasally snarl, "that does not matter, I have read countless novels on political philosophy, I have studied every major event of Faire's history, that is what makes me more civilized. I am not like you, I am above that bitterness and hate."

Eoin and Chimera were about a dozen feet away, with Argon in between them. The situation was escalating, and running to alert security before the worst could happen was enticing, but history showed that the two pokemon were more likely to come to blows without someone being there to witness. She stood her ground, a paw raised to each gently.

"There are some instincts you can lose Eoin," Chimera stated, "I know that for a fact. But the need to live, the gene that causes you to be cruel in your lowest moment isn't one of them. I can't fight the need to survive anymore than I can fight the voice in my head telling me to jump off cliffs. And I'm willing to bet if our situations were reversed you couldn't either. You'd need a lifetime to try, not one month."

"The way I see it," Argon interjected, "i-it would be best to put this all behind us. You each have decent points, but there's got to be a better way of resolving this. I've seen enough arguments to know you aren't going to change each other's minds by doing this. You can't change the past, but you can change how you act with each other now."

It was difficult to judge either pokemon's reaction, but after a moment passed Chimera took a step forward, until he was directly in front of Eoin. Argon watched anxiously as this happened, ready to intervene if the Bagon decided to hurl his stony forehead at the Pallid or reach the arm held up against his weapon for a sharp variation of its ammunition. Instead, Chimera held his other arm holding a cup to Eoin, gesturing the strong, freshly filled drink to him in a sign of offering,

"She's right. If you really stand by what you think, than I see no more reason for us to butt heads with each other, Arceus knows I'd win at that. There's a decent bar a couple rooms over, what do you say we go there and you could enlighten us as to how you turned into the pokemon you are now?"

Eoin for his part was taken aback by the offer. For a moment, his grey flame retreated below its metallic confines, and the Charmander reached out as slowly as if the object in the Bagon's hand were a tamato berry. The second was fleeting, for he froze in place before the transaction could be finished, muttering audibly to himself in a jumble of snarls and vernacular. The Pallid stepped back as colorless flames again peaked from its tail, removing his hand so Chimera could fully see its source,

"No. I apologize, but that is...insufficient. If I am going to prove to you both that I am not what I was, then we must settle this 'mon to 'mon. I demand satisfaction."

Dread accompanied by adrenaline flushed through Argon's body. She again stepped in between the two, tranquil smile that first looked toward Eoin long since removed. Her reaction only added to Chimera's confusion, though he knew well enough to keep the weapon at his side close at hand,

"You mean...a battle?"

"Eoin!" Argon interjected, sparks preemptively emanating from her cheeks, "I-If you're doing what I think you're doing, that's not going to solve anything. You told me while we danced that you couldn't apologize enough for what you did, if Chimeras willing to do the same, you're only going to get pokemon hurt...or worse."

"I...I am not asking for blood," Eoin hastily replied as he held his hands up, "only something to put our minds at rest over this and settle whatever honor has been tarnished. I have learned a fair amount of history in my brief time here, and I believe that what started as barbarity is best settled by civilized behavior. To put it bluntly, I challenge you to a duel, Bagon, right here, right now."

It was Argon's turn to look toward her partner to gauge for support, and just as before, nonverbal beseechment found only a pensive stare. Recollections of Chimera being slammed against a plank wall by her own hand flashed. She could see a glint in her partners eye, the same glint that had been lost to stagnation after their first mission, and had only reappeared when the Bagon was testing fate against the harsh sands below her cliff-side resting spot. If Eoin had picked most any other pokemon, their answer would have been obvious, obvious and sane. Unfortunately, the consequence of Chimera risking what could be lost so often resulted in her rushing forward with oran berries and bandages in hand, something in particularly short supply currently.

"Alright Eoin...what are the rules?"

"Nothing too complicated," replied the Pallid, matching the Bagon's toothy grin, "we stand thirty paces apart, and take turns attempting to launch an attack at the other. Of course, no attacks whose element would be of particular advantage against the opponent. When one yields, the victor is decided. If you wish, I shall grant you the privilege of going first. I can assure you Argon, this will not be fatal, the only thing that could die is Chimera's pride."

"This is...really stupid," Argon continued, "you both know that right? I-I don't know what you two are trying to prove with this, but I'm pretty sure there are easier and less painful ways to do it. I can't say I know too much about dueling, but if it's to settle honor, you're supposed to do it with a level head, which I doubt either of you have right now. I...I just don't want any of us to get hurt."

Despite her best efforts, the Raichu could only turn to the floor and sigh after saying this, not even having to look toward her partner to know what his response would be. By the very nature of the game, refusing would no doubt be interpreted by both as an admittance of wrongdoing, something she knew the Bagon was far too hardheaded to accept.

"Alright Eoin, lets settle this. I understand your concern Argon, but I'm willing to take the risks so long as he is. I'll accept the consequences."

Had Chimera's opponent been any other, she would of been content to let consequence find the Bagon, but these circumstances were different. The pokemon before her were already bitter from the other's blows, and Argon suspected that more would only result in the divide being lengthened. Was the Pallid's goal, as he claimed, conflict resolution, or was the challenge simply an excuse to inflict harm on a supposed enemy? She looked into his eyes, finding only dark goggles that flickered with reflection of the flame at his side. With this however, came a bout of inspiration, formulating a plan in the Raichu's mind that, if it worked, would gain the former benefits of the duel without the necessity of the latter.

It started off as a glance. A wink. A shuffle with her legs he knew wasn't natural. In the midst of combat during their now many dungeon explorations, Chimera had grown to understand the importance of reading the subtle gestures and eye movements used to subconsciously coordinate strategy, and this was no exception. The Bagon wasn't as adept as some pokemon he knew, but enough to recognize her intentions when imploring eyes toward the weapon at his side were accompanied by one of her paws soaring past the other.

"Make sure your heart's in it, I-I guess," she stated, "I suppose the whole point of you doing this is to prove you're civilized, and there's probably nothing more bloodthirsty than attacking a defenseless pokemon."

Both nodded, though Chimera's nod as he and Eoin walked to opposite ends of the ballroom conveyed more than simple agreement. It was a nod of trust, rather than complete understanding, of putting faith into the plans of ones partner just as she had done with him.

"I grant you the courtesy of going first, Chimera," Eoin stated, pulling off his goggles so the Bagon could be better seen in the dark conditions, "use it well."

Chimera intended to. Ever so slowly, he reached for his crossbow, running hand between bladed and blunted bolts before settling on the former. Moonlight reflected off of the deadly projectile's sharpened edge as he sighted his weapon for Eoin's distance. The Pallid's defiant stance remained, but Argon could see the flinch in his eyes as Chimera lowered the weapon to wipe off a speck of dust on the grain, before retraining it on his target. Bagon and Raichu exchanged final glances, in what she hoped was a reaffirmation of their plan.

A click followed by the signature 'floosh' of the weapon being fired broke the silence. Argon could see Eoin's eyes closes as this happened, breaths hastening to borderline hyperventilation as he waited for the inevitable pain of his scaly body being pierced. One second passed, followed by another, and another still. Each passed like hours for the Pallid, all filled with the expectancy of the room's silence again being broken by his own painful cry. What took its place, however, was a faint clatter, followed by a relieved sigh from their impromptu Raichu second. His eyes opened, and grey pupils looked onward with the same confusion, bewilderment, and rage as when they had were first introduced. About five feet in front of Eoin was the bolt, faint mark visible from when it had met the floor and skidded harmlessly toward him. Chimera hadn't moved, though the crossbow once angled upward before Eoin had closed his eyes was pointed parallel to the flat marble.

"Your move Eoin," said Chimera, again flashing his grey cape at the Charmander, "this is the true test. I'm willing to forgive you for what happened in the cave, just as long as you're willing to do the same. On the other hand, you have your reasons to dislike me, I suppose now is your chance to act on those feelings. "

Eoin appeared frozen in time. The Bagon's grin was enough to show that the miss had been intentional, and with this came a dilemma entirely unexpected by the Charmander. Grey flames again flickered out of their metallic cover, unable to decide whether they intended to imitate a candle flame or bunsen burner. The Pallid fell to his knees, pupils narrowing to their feral continuance as snarls and words carried over each other. By deloping, Chimera had handed himself to whatever cruel vengeance Eoin's mind could muster, giving way to colorless flames that could finally strike true against his defenseless opponent. And this, Eoin concluded as he looked toward the Raichu witness, was why he couldn't.

And why I must.

Attacking that Bagon would be the cruelest breach of etiquette.

It would be the greatest fulfillment of nature.

It is the antithesis of everything he tried to accomplish.

It is the purpose of his creation.


The Pallid shot back to his feet, letting out a booming roar accompanied by a sharp inhale before sending a stream of colorless flames souring toward Chimera. Just as before, the opponent closed his eyes, and just as before, piercing silence followed. Heat licked the edges of the Bagon's scales, sending a shot of adrenaline through his spine, but nothing more. Eoin's fuming breaths ground to a slow but consistent tempo as he redonned his concealing goggles. He looked between the two, gazing at the pokemon who had nearly ended his life and the pokemon who had saved it, smiling at both with equal intensity,

"I believe whatever conflict between us has been resolved. I cannot say I don't feel anger toward you Chimera, but it is pointless to continue when one can belay their cruel desires. I...think it would be best if we were to start over, all of us. I have yet to conveyed my full reasoning for why I came here."

"Well then," Chimera said, cup set to the floor being levitated to his hand by his smiling partner, "what do you say tomorrow we get some drinks and you can catch us up on...everything that we missed?"

The glass was again held to Eoin, now being accepted without hesitation,

"Nothing would make me happier."
 
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