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TEEN: The Star and the Prince

Joined
Mar 7, 2021
Messages
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Pronouns
  1. She/Her
Summary: A twist of fate leads a determined pirate to a timid mage born without a voice whose interest happens to align with hers. The two set off on a journey throughout the broken land of Mysteria, learning more about the region's secrets and the real truth behind all that they have known. What they find...is not for the faint of heart. Unless you're a fan of dark humor, of course. Then this might be right up your alley.

Hello, again! It's been ages, but I have returned! So, I've posted a story similar to this in the past, but after going through multiple drafts, multiple revisions, I finally decided on a story that I'm content with. This is a Pokemon-only world, but has similarities with the human world. The pokemon are not anthropomorphic, however, but the world has similar elements to a human world. I hope you enjoy it!

This story is rated T for the following!
-language
-alcohol
-fantasy violence
-murder
-abuse

This story is fairly comedic in nature, but it does have its serious moments. The central tone will not be thrown away, however. Past all the trauma and the bad, this is a lighthearted adventure story about a partnership between two pokemon who couldn't be any more different from one another. With that said, let's get on with it, shall we!

 
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Prologue Take I: Preliminary Introductions
-Prologue-
-Preliminary Introductions-

Esther Charon was not one to sit down and take another's shit.

It was something the buneary had gotten from her mother, an espeon who always held an aura of confidence and authority with her. A necessary trait for the captain of a crew of pirates.

Her mother always kept her head high and took pride in her role as captain. She garnered the respect of every mon on board and was feared all throughout the Stellian Sea. Anyone who took part in the pirating trade would know of her name and her iconic red tricorn hat.

That very same hat just happened to be the same reason why Esther was chasing a cloaked pokemon throughout the train station.

With an eye patch over her right eye and a wooden left leg, Esther was struggling to keep up with the pokemon, who had, moments before, swiped the red tricorn hat off of her head and ran.

"Ye get the hell back here!" She screamed, bouncing after the surprisingly nimble pokemon, pushing aside any innocent bystanders in the way. "That's me hat!"

The cloaked figure glanced back at her and grinned. "That's too bad, little girl. It's mine, now! If you want it…" the pokemon bent down before springing off of the ground and onto the roof of a departing train. He turned around and waved at Esther, who was glaring at him as she continued running after the moving train. "...you're just gonna have to come and get me."

She growled. "Alright, if that's the way ye want to play…" Esther crouched and focused her energy on her legs. "Bounce!"

Shouts of surprise arose from the crowd in the station as Esther leaped into the air…far above the train station itself.

"Ah…fiddlestick." Esther said dryly as she looked at the train station below her. She could see a small black shape on the slowly moving train below. The hooded figure, she assumed, was frozen stiff from her impossible jump. 'I really should have timed this bet-' Gravity finally caught up with her and she screamed as she plummeted down to the train. "SON OF A BISCUIT!"

The figure below felt his eyes widen as he saw the buneary start to descend…right above him. Panicking, he made a mad dash to the front of the train. "Stupid, stupid, STUPID train! Move faster!"

Esther shifted her position mid-air, tensing her legs to catch her fall. She had to be careful not to break her legs…or die.

She rolled onto the roof of the train and yelped as she lost balance briefly and fell over the side. Luckily, she managed to latch onto a windowsill just in time.

"Oh," she grinned at the panicked occupants inside the room she was looking through. "Ahoy there!"

Inside, a large golduck collapsed on the floor. Esther winced. "Er…oops. Best be on me way now…"

Moving her attention back to the task at hand, she climbed onto the roof of the train, feeling the wind start to pick up as the train's speed increased.

"Alright…now where is that lily-livered scallywag…?" She looked around frantically for the hooded figure before she narrowed her eyes to the front of the train. "Aha…trying to escape, now are ye?" She reached at her side and drew her cutlass before charging forward. "YE AREN'T GETTIN' AWAY THAT EASILY!"

Up ahead, the figure took notice of Esther's quick recovery and began to panic. "Damn, this bunny just doesn't give up! I swear, she's acting like I stole a million wards from her or something…" he patted the sack at his side, which held a large bulge. "...wait, is this hat worth a million wards?"

"OI, LANDLUBBER!"

The figure shrieked at the charging buneary, who was rapidly catching up to him, and ran. "What the hell!? Is she seriously gonna try and fight me on this moving train?! I can't fight her!" He paused before something struck him. "Wait a minute, yes I can!"

Esther noticed her opponent suddenly turned to face her, not making a move to escape as she drew nearer. She blinked in surprise before grinning. "Looks like someone just decided to make me job a lil' easier…!"

The figure grinned from underneath his cloak as Esther was now a few feet away from him. Not waiting a second longer, he flipped off his hood to reveal himself as a teddiursa. "I've got you right where I want you, little girl!" He winked and blew a kiss at her. "Good luck dodging my Attract."

Esther skidded to a stop immediately and began twitching. "Your what?" She suddenly felt pink particles wash over her and yelped. "Oh…blimey!"

The teddiursa snickered. "It's not very strong, but my Attract will buy me a few seconds. Maybe next time, little girl!" He jumped off the side of the train and swiftly swung into a train car through an open window, disappearing inside.

"Oh…that was so…sexy…" Esther muttered, giggling to herself. "He certainly seems to be quite the swashbuckler…wait…what did I just say…?"

It suddenly struck her and she screamed. "THAT SON OF A BISCUIT EATER!" The Attract really wasn't that strong, just as the teddiursa had stated. However, just a few seconds seemed to be enough time for him to disappear inside the train, which would make Esther's job at finding him much more difficult without attracting unwanted attention. She gritted her teeth in frustration. "Unluckily for him, I'm not one to back down. Time to take this fight…in the train."



Inside the empty train car, the teddiursa let out a sigh of relief. He shut the window behind him and closed the curtains, hopefully providing another roadblock for the buneary.

He opened the sack at his side and pulled out a red, tricorn hat. "Damn…she sure must have loved this hat, huh?" Examining it closely, he frowned. There didn't seem to be anything special about its appearance. He placed it on his head, then immediately took it off upon feeling a slight scratching against his head. "What the heck? That's so uncomfortable…it kind of feels like…" He looked at the inside and squinted. "...paper…?"

His ears suddenly perked and he gasped. Footsteps. He frantically looked around for a place to hide, before he spotted the luggage compartment above. He narrowed his eyes and parkour style climbed up to the compartment, opened it, then swiftly hid himself inside. He held his breath and listened carefully.

"...interesting you chose to switch cars right after the train leaves the station. Should we not have waited until we arrived closer to our destination?" A smooth and deep voice asked. The teddiursa resisted the urge to groan when he heard the sound of a train car door opening. Whomever this pokemon was, they decided to go into this train car, and it seems they brought quite a bit of company too.

"We could have," a scratchy and deep voice replied, "but in case any trouble arrives, I'd like to be able to foresee it myself. This way we can deal with any…interferences more personally."

"Hmph. You're just looking for an excuse to torture someone, aren't you, Oltony?"

'Oltony? Where have I-?' The teddiursa felt a chill go down his spine as his eyes widened. 'That's right…Oltony is…the infamous mafia boss of the Velvet Suits! Ohhhh, I really chose a bad time to steal some random shit…'

Oltony chuckled in reply. "You caught me, Rosalio. But in all seriousness, I do think it best that we have this discussion here and now. Especially with the Spring Equinox fast approaching…we must make haste."

The teddiursa groaned before quickly covering his mouth. He couldn't help it, especially given that his situation just got worse. It wasn't just Oltony he had to be worried about. 'Rosalio…the infamous Blood Harvester…if he's here, then that can only mean that some big shot in the criminal underworld must have seriously messed up…'

"Agreed. But first things first…" the teddiursa's eyes widened when the luggage compartment door suddenly opened, revealing a smirking roserade in a black business suit. Behind him was a blinking wartortle who was also in a velvet colored suit, a geodude in a velvet suit, a magnemite in a velvet suit, and a pikachu wearing a brown cloak. All looking equally confused. "...we must deal with this one."

"...hi?" The teddiursa grinned nervously. Then without wasting even a second, he lunged at the roserade and tackled him onto the floor. He frantically rushed to the door and threw it open. He dashed down the hallway, struggling to regain his balance after stumbling out of the room. "Nice talking to you, bye!"

The wartortle frowned darkly and turned his attention to the fallen roserade. "Rosalio, are you alright?"

The roserade on the floor glared as the pikachu helped him to his feet. "I'm fine, Oltony. That teddiursa, on the other hand…will not be."

"Do not worry, I will send my most trusted bodyguards after him. He'll be…dealt with." Oltony smirked and nodded at the geodude and magnemite behind him. They were about to leave the room when Rosalio held a hand up.

"Wait. I don't doubt your bodyguards' skill, but I think they'd be much better put to use protecting us. Let me handle this."

"Oh?" Oltony raised an eyebrow and nodded to the magnemite and geodude, who took their place behind the wartortle. "Then how do you propose we track down this conniving little spy? I don't appreciate being spied on without my knowledge, Rosalio. I need to…" his eyes took on a dangerous glint as he said, "...punish him, accordingly."

"Of course, of course, I agree. However, I think my mage would be much better suited to catching that teddiursa. Isn't that right, Amir?" Rosalio smirked at the pikachu, who squirmed under the grass type's gaze before nodding slightly.

Oltony looked Amir over with an expression of contempt. "This…child? He barely looks older than sixteen."

"Yes, but he's more skilled than mages who are our age. Don't be fooled by his meek appearance, either." Rosalio replied smugly.

Oltony narrowed his eyes before sighed. "Alright. I'm trusting you, Rosalio."

"You won't be disappointed," Rosalio smirked before giving Amir a stern look, his smirk not falling. "Isn't that right?"

Amir shivered under the roserade's intense gaze before nodding. Without saying a word, he ran outside after the teddiursa, who was presumably far ahead by now.

"A mage, huh…" Oltony mused. "You resorted to hiring help from the Magic Guild Association, I see. How did you even manage that?"

Rosalio shook his head as he closed the door and ushered the wartortle to take a seat across from him. "Quite a long story, my friend. But if you must know, well…" he chuckled and his eyes took on a dangerous glint. "Let's just say he and I both know something that he wouldn't want getting out. Especially to the MGA."

"Ah…he signed a contract with you, I assume?"

"Correct. It's because of that I now have a mage to use at my leisure." Rosalio leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. "But enough about that…I believe we have some business to attend to?"

"Ah, yes." Oltony said and narrowed his eyes. "Oar's Rest. Everything has already been put into place, I trust?"

"Of course. Everything is all planted where it should be…all that's left is the arrival of our beloved guests to witness our marvelous performance."

"If things go right, that shouldn't be a problem." Oltony sighed. "Of course, I didn't just call you here to briefly reconvene. There is also the matter regarding payment."

"Ah, of course." Rosalio waved him off. "Do not worry about that yet. I am fine with accepting my payment after the job is done. There is only one specific item I want from you anyway and I already know you have it. No sooner will I accept it, no later will I accept it."

"Are you sure?" Oltony narrowed his eyes. "I have already brought a small bit of your payment today with me, I can-"

"After the job is done." Rosalio stated firmly. "Is that understood?"

"...yes, of course." Oltony said, hesitantly.

Rosalio smiled, though it held no warmth to it. "Good. Glad to see that we are…on the same page."



The teddiursa stopped to catch his breath when he entered what looked to be the dining car. The car was filled with chatter and nobody had noticed the distraught state of the additional occupant. He swallowed a lump in his throat and walked towards the back of the dining car, close to the exit, just in case things got messy.

"Dammit, where are those two idiots?" He grumbled. "I'm here running for my life from two criminal powerhouses and they couldn't bother to show their faces to help me out? Not to mention there's still that annoying rabbit to worry about-"

The teddiursa paused in his musings as he slid into a booth in the far corner of the dining car and pulled his hood back over his head. "Now that I think about it…what the hell happened to that buneary girl, anyway? Did she fall off the train or something?"

Right next to him the train car door slid open with a slam and he yelped. Looking over his shoulder, he saw a dripping wet buneary in a white flannel shirt with an eye patch and wooden leg. Her eyes held a dark glare and she was clutching onto the handle of her cutlass so tightly her hands looked as if it were about to pop a vein. She slowly turned her head toward the teddiursa, who at this point backed away until he was pressed up against the window.

The two awkwardly stared at each other, not exchanging a single word. The teddiursa dared not make a movement, afraid that if he did, he would set the livid buneary off.

Esther's eye started to twitch and the teddiursa flinched by reflex. He watched her move sluggishly and held his breath. She held her cutlass up in the air and brought it down on the table, stabbing it through the wood. The teddiursa flinched again at the loud noise.

"...ahoy." Esther finally spoke in a deep, raspy, voice. She cleared her throat then spoke again. "I believe ye have something that belongs to me."

The teddiursa chuckled nervously. "Oh…right. See, here's the thing. I really like that hat, so I don't think I can-" he stopped himself when he saw the look on the buneary's face and remembered his current situation. He chuckled nervously. "Uh, actually…on second thought…"

He rummaged through his sack and pulled out Esther's hat before setting it on the table. He gently nudged it toward her with his foot before backing up against the window again. She picked it up with a glare and set it on her head, adjusting it carefully. He awkwardly fiddled with his cloak. "Heh…sorry about that."

"This is a surprise." She said dryly with a subtle smirk. "To think that ye were so cocky earlier…and now yer cowering against the window…"

"S-shut up!" The teddiursa snapped. "I have other things on my mind right now. I don't have time to worry about trying to fight you!"

"Oh?" Esther raised an eyebrow. "And those things would be…?"

"None of your business." The teddiursa huffed and carefully made his way around the table to get past her. He softly landed on the floor and straightened up. "Now, if you'll excuse me…I must take my…" his eyes scanned the dining car before it fell on a pikachu wearing a cloak walking right towards his direction. 'Wasn't that the same pikachu from the train car earlier…?' He gulped and frantically hid behind a confused Esther. "Ohhh, shit."

Esther raised an eyebrow and followed the teddiursa's gaze to the approaching pikachu. Deciding to play along, she grinned, pulled him back to the train car door, and opened it. He yelped as she pulled him inside the hallway and closed the door. "Alright," she said excitedly. "Why're we hidin' from that timid looking pikachu?"

The teddiursa blinked in confusion. "Uh…are you…helping me…?"

Esther shrugged. "Sure, I guess. Truth be told, I'm really just bored out of me mind and could use a little bit of entertainment." She drew her cutlass and slashed it above the teddiursa's head, who quickly ducked. The sword left a slash mark in the door and Esther nodded approvingly. "So…what's yer name?"

The teddiursa narrowed his eyes before sighing. "Fine…my name is Oakley. What's yours?"

"Nice to meet ye, Oakley," Esther grinned. "As for me name…it's Esther." She adjusted her hat and sheathed her cutlass at her side. "Now, care to spin a tale for this traveling pirate and tell me about yer situation?"

"Uh…sure?" Oakley said slowly. Then he did a double take. "Wait, you're a pirate?"

"What, ye couldn't tell?"

"...fair point." Oakley said dryly. "I guess we're cut from the same cloth, in that case, since I myself am a thief."

"Certainly explains why ye dared to steal me hat." Esther laughed to herself. "As if I'd ever let some landlubber get away with that!"

"Er…right. Anyway," Oakley shook his head and said, "to keep things brief…the train car I hid in when I ran from you had some rather…unsavory pokemon inside. They discovered that I was listening in on their conversation, so I ran out of there as fast as I could. That pikachu is one of them."

"I see…" Esther mused, then her face split into a grin. "Well, that's good enough for me! Come on, let's head to the luggage car. We can use all that luggage to our advantage. Follow me!"

She ran down the hallway without missing a beat, leaving Oakley standing there, dumbfounded. He briefly looked out the window of the train car door into the dining car and yelped when he noticed the pikachu staring right at him.

"W-wait for me!" He said nervously as he bounded after the pirate, not daring to look behind him.



Amir stood with a small frown on his face, not quite sure as to what he should do as he watched the teddiursa disappear from behind the window. Rosalio's orders were clear: to catch the teddiursa. Still, after observing the teddiursa from a distance, he could tell the pokemon wasn't all that skilled. He wasn't even sure if the teddiursa would last in a one on one fight. He wasn't very good at stealth, either, judging from how poorly thought out his hiding place was in the train car. Amir had noticed him within seconds of entering and knowing Rosalio, he might have noticed him even sooner than that.

Rosalio wouldn't believe him in the slightest if he went back and said the teddiursa got away.

He shuddered and crossed his arms, trying to think carefully. 'There is one factor I have not considered…that buneary…but I will have to fight her in order to figure out what her skill level is…'

He took a deep breath and gave a nervous smile to himself. '...please be a better fighter than me, Miss Bunery!'

With that hopeful thought, he determinedly made his way to the train car door and opened it, revealing a dark hallway. 'This leads to the luggage car…are they trying to gain an environmental advantage?'

"Here's hoping they don't throw luggages on you. I can't imagine that'll be fun for you."

Amir yelped at the deep and almost metallic sounding voice and whirled around. Floating in front of him was a large kunai knife, about half the pikachu's height, that had a rope attached to it, draped over its handles like a scarf. Amir relaxed and gave a small smile as he said in sign language, "Cordell, you scared me."

"I can see that." Cordell, the floating kunai knife, said dryly. They followed Amir inside the hallway, who nervously fidgeted with his clothes. "So, what's your plan here, anyway? That teddiursa looked like he would give up the second you corner him. There's no way Rosalio's going to buy you not being able to catch him."

"You saw that buneary, right?"

"The weird looking pirate kid? Yeah, I saw her." Cordell tilted from side to side. "Can't really say how much skill she has, though. Not much to go off of compared to the sloppiness of that teddiursa."

"I can not tell how skilled she is either, but…" Amir gave a determined smile. "I am certain that if we fight she will defeat me!"

"So…you're going in without a plan, is what you're saying."

"That is not what I am saying!" Amir protested. "I just…I am trying hard to think logically here, but…there is not much I can do…"

Cordell sighed as they floated after Amir. "You really need to do something about this Rosalio situation. You can't exactly continue searching for the Arc Amulet pieces with your hands still tied behind your back like this."

Amir's smile faded as he lowered his gaze to stare at the floor. 'Right…'

The duo continued walking in silence for quite a long time, having walked through two train cars already. Eventually, they stopped in front of a door. The door to the last train car.

'Here it is. The luggage car…' He took a deep breath and exhaled before opening the door. He ushered Cordell to float into his hands and he clasped onto their handle tightly. He carefully scanned the inside of the luggage car before stepping inside and shutting the door behind him.

The luggage car was pitch dark, with only a few windows at the very top illuminating the luggage in a glow of orange. The sun was just beginning to set outside, it seemed. However, this meant that Amir would have to be extra careful, given the limited space and limited light. From what he could see, there were piles of luggages, all the way to the top of the train car, all over the place. It was compacted very tightly, making the place seem like a whole new land…made up of luggages.

Despite his situation, Amir could not stop himself from heating up from the way the luggages were organized. 'The luggages…are all uneven…'

He stood there awkwardly as his right eye twitched, not making a single movement. He had to resist the urge to run toward the luggage. 'Come on, Amir. Think logically…this is not important. What is important is figuring out how to save that teddiursa…don't think about the luggages, don't think about the luggages, don't think about-'

A few more seconds of silence passed before Cordell finally decided to speak up. "Uh…kid? You realize a spinda just snuck up behind you, right? He's kind of…tying you up right now?"

Amir blinked then looked to see that a spinda was, in fact, tying him up with rope. The spinda was wearing tattered clothes and had multiple sacks wrapped around his waist. His ears were dropped over the side of his face and his eyes had large, dark bags underneath them. Amir weakly raised his free hand to wave 'hello' at the spinda, causing said pokemon to stop what he was doing for a few seconds to give him a hard stare.

"...what the hell is he doing?" The spinda spoke, in a deep, grumpy sounding voice. "...hey, are you threatening me!?" He raised a fist to strike the pikachu, who flinched and frantically shook his head to placate the dizziness pokemon.

"Oh, for the love of Xerneas, Amir…" Cordell muttered exasperatedly.

"No, I think he's just being friendly!" A joyful voice replied and Amir turned to see a plusle donning similar attire to the spinda walking out from behind the great wall of luggages. She held her hands on her hips and looked Amir up and down. "Huh…you seriously were running from this guy, Oakley? He looks like even you of all people would have no trouble taking him down. And that's saying something."

"Oh, shut up, Chesil!" The teddiursa in question shouted, peeking from behind the luggages. Amir noticed that the buneary pirate was right behind him, bearing a huge grin at the interaction. She locked eyes with Amir and smirked, giving him a shrug. He wasn't sure how to respond, so he just gave her a small wave as well. "He was with Oltony and Rosalio, how the hell was I supposed to react?"

"Aw, you could've figured something out!" Chesil said cheerfully, causing Oakley to groan. "Right, Ares?"

"Doubt it." The spinda, Ares, replied in a dry tone. He tied the last of the knots around Amir and pulled on it tightly, causing the mouse to flinch slightly. "Alright, he's all tied up. Now what? Do we kill him?"

"Hm…good idea!" Chesil cheered and pulled out a dagger from her side. She looked to Amir with a sadistic grin, causing Amir's eyes to widen. "Let's cut his head off!"

"No, let's NOT cut his head off." Cordell snapped in annoyance. "The only one allowed to threaten Amir is me, especially since all you kids are doing is just being annoying!"

There was a moment of quiet as everyone stared at the floating kunai knife.

"Ah…" Ares said suddenly, no emotion behind his voice. "The rope broke…"

Amir awkwardly fidgeted with his clothes as everyone's stares turned to him, the fallen rope, and then back to Cordell.

"...you've got to be kidding me." Oakley smacked his forehead. "Ares, you seriously didn't notice him holding a freaking dagger?"

"Kunai." Cordell corrected with a scoff. "Daggers are beneath me."

"Forget that, how the heck can it speak?" Chesil said as she put a hand on her hip. Then a greedy glint flashed in her eyes. "...I want it."

"...I'll pass, thanks," Cordell said wearily and floated back to Amir, who gently took them by their handle. "Kid, you've got to fight them now."

Amir sharply inhaled before tensing accordingly. Chesil and Ares pointed their daggers toward him with a glare in response, the latter doing so much more sluggishly and half-heartedly. Oakley yelped from behind them and hid behind the luggage while Esther drew her cutlass and cheered. "Fight, fight, fight! Ah, I love a good ol' scuffle. After all, the only thing better than a fight is beer! Hahaha!"

Oakley tossed her a funny look. "Aren't you like…underage?"

"Age is just a number!" Esther said happily, causing Oakley to slowly turn his head away.

"Er…right…"

"But that's enough chattin'!" Esther raised her cutlass to the ceiling. "Go and fight, me hearties!"

Ares and Chesil exchanged looks before the latter grinned. "You heard the lady." She turned to Amir, who nervously gulped. "You're going down, little mouse."

Amir smiled nervously then signed, rather awkwardly with Cordell in his hand, "can we at least talk this out, please?"

Then silence reigned once more as everyone awkwardly exchanged glances.

"What did he say…?" Oakley asked.

Luckily, Ares wouldn't let the silence overtake them any longer. "He's threatening us again! Charge!"

"What?! No, that is NOT what-" Amir frantically tried to sign before Ares slashed at him. He swiftly rolled onto the floor, dodging the attack, and his shoulders slumped. 'Well, now it seems as if I am actually in danger…'

Amir exhaled and bent down on the floor. He traced a pattern in the floor with his finger and pressed his whole hand against the floor, causing the pattern he drew to glow momentarily before disappearing.

"What was that supposed to do?" Chesil asked with a grin as she and Ares double teamed Amir, charging on both sides with their daggers at the ready. "You're just making this easier for us by sitting there!"

Esther, meanwhile, narrowed her eyes into a glare and her grin faltered. "Was that…magic?"

Chesil and Ares jumped at Amir simultaneously, but were startled when the wooden floor suddenly morphed into a stylish wall. The wooden wall had curved carvings of the moon on it, in all its different phases, as well as an inscription surrounding it in what appeared to be an ancient language.

"What the-?!" Chesil's jaw dropped and she skidded to a stop.

Ares's eyes fell into a dull glare. "Oh, so he's a mage. Hooray."

Chesil raised an eyebrow as she took a moment to examine the carvings on the wall. "Well, if that's the case, he sure seems to be a stylish mage."

The spinda turned around and fired a multicolored beam of light at the pikachu, who had run out from behind the wall and started to climb the wall of luggages like an acrobat. "Psybeam." He said dryly then watched as Amir dodged the attack. "Oh, look, he dodged it. Hooray again."

Once Amir had climbed the luggages up to the ceiling, he took a moment to analyze the situation. 'Okay, so they are not as strong as I thought…the teddiursa still seems to not be doing anything…though, he is allied with that spinda and the plusle, it seems…I should be able to take them…' Amir flinched. 'But that is not good. I have to figure out a way to gain a disadvantage…' His eyes fell on the buneary, who was now glaring at him with a contradictory smirk on her face, as she held her cutlass tightly. 'That buneary still has not shown her skills yet…'

"Hey, kid!" Cordell floated next to Amir's face and lightly thwacked his forehead with the bottom of his handle. "Got a plan to deal with these nitwits?"

Amir rubbed his forehead with a small frown. "I am not sure…the spinda and plusle that teddiursa seems to be allied with seem to be able to hold their own in battle…but they are also not very skilled."

"You definitely thought you were in danger earlier, didn't you?"

Amir blushed, but didn't reply. "...that buneary still has not fought yet. There is something about her I cannot put my finger on…"

"You could try to take her hostage." Cordell suggested. "This way she'll be forced to fight you and the other pokemon might back off long enough to get away. That is, if they don't care about her."

Amir looked doubtful before nodding. He exhaled uneasily. "Alright, let us do this. Cordell, you take care of the spinda and plusle. Try to keep them at bay."

"Don't need to tell me twice." Cordell replied, then floated down toward the spinda and plusle, starting a blade fight against the latter two's daggers.

Amir turned his attention to where the buneary stood then gasped when he noticed she was gone. 'What? Where did she go? I thought she was a pirate, not a ninja!' Amir stopped to consider that for a moment. '...wait…is she a pirate ninja?'

"Ahoy, there!"

Amir snapped back to reality from the sudden voice and whirled around to see a grinning Esther crouched right next to him.

"Now, what's yer name, magic man?"

Amir gasped sharply and flipped backward. 'Where did she come from? I barely noticed her…oh no, was I getting distracted again? I got distracted again, did I not? Ohhh…'

"Cat got yer tongue?" Esther grinned and pointed her cutlass at him. Her eyes glinted dangerously. "That was sign language earlier, wasn't it?"

"My name is Amir! And-" Amir blinked, caught off guard, before he leaned forward excitedly, the fight forgotten. "Wait, you can understand me?!"

Esther grinned and awkwardly rubbed the back of her head. "Well, yeah. A little bit, at least."

"How?!" Amir signed excitedly.

"Uh…I was taught some back when I lived with me mother's pirate crew. But enough about that!" She grinned. "Yer a mage, aren't ye?"

Amir's attention turned back to the battle and he tensed, grabbing a kunai from a pouch at his side and holding it at the ready. He nodded in reply, causing Esther to grin wider.

"Excellent!" She charged at him and brought her sword down, which he barely managed to block with his kunai. "Well, it's nice to meet ye, Amir. As for me own name…" she chuckled. "Well, it's Esther. Esther Charon. And I'm afraid I'm going to have to kidnap ye now."

Amir froze then laughed nervously. 'That was…not a very good joke…'

When she flashed a piece of rope at her side, however, Amir grew nervous. 'Okay, so that was most certainly NOT a joke…'

Not wanting his own plan to get ruined, he jumped backwards and hurriedly traced a pattern into the luggage beneath him.

"Don't think I'll let ye use that magic of yers!" Esther roared and sent energy to her ears. "Focus Punch!"

Amir yelped and dodged her attack. He continued to backflip until he lost balance on one of the luggages and fell down. He stumbled to the bottom of the luggage pile and looked up to see the buneary jumping off of the luggages, coming down on him with what looked to be a…

'Is that…Fire…Punch…?' Amir thought, stunned, before the situation caught up with him. 'Oh, that would be really bad if it hit any of the luggages!'

"Let's see ye dodge this one, magic man!"

'She will kill us all! Ohhh…I am just going to have to take the hit, am I not…?'

Esther's punch connected with Amir's arms, which he quickly held up last second as a defense. The punch made him fly backwards into another pile of luggages, causing more luggages to fall on top of him. He pried them off and gasped. 'That hurt…'

"Whoops," Esther grinned as she landed on the floor in a crouch. "I might have used a bad move there."

Amir nodded frantically in confirmation, causing Esther to let out a hearty laugh. "I like ye, Amir! I can't wait for us to be traveling together!"

"We are not traveling together!" Amir protested.

"Ooh, yes we are! I'm here to kidnap ye, remember?"

"I thought you were joking…"

"Nope! Kidnapping ye."

"...can I at least ask why, please?"

"Hmm…let me see…" Esther put her hand on her chin and stared hard at the floor. She stared for so long, Amir's eyes drifted over to the other end of the room, where he could barely make out Cordell clashing with the daggers of Chesil and Ares while Oakley just stood awkwardly to the side. They were still here? "I think not!" Esther charged at Amir with what looked to be an ice punch, energy forming at her ears. "Time for round two, Magic Man!"

The first thought that went through Amir's head was wondering why she kept calling him "Magic Man" when she knew his name. The second thought was him wondering why she was suddenly so insistent on kidnapping him. The third was that he was making this a lot more complicated than necessary trying to dumb down his own skills. His final thought was that he was taking far too long with this fight and Rosalio was definitely going to notice.

'I am screwed.' He thought as he avoided Esther's punch. He quickly had to play on the defensive, however, as she began to strike harder and faster. 'I hope Cordell can at least wrap things up on his end…'



Cordell, not unlike Amir, was not having a great time. "Why. Won't. You. Just. Leave. Already!" The kunai knife began to grow frustrated at how the plusle and spinda duo refused to go the direction he wanted them to.

"We refuse!" Chesil cried and pushed harder on her dagger. "We will never bow to the whims of a mere object!"

"Yeah." Ares said and stopped for a moment to look over his shoulder. "...Oakley, are you seriously not going to do anything?"

Oakley grinned and shuffled behind the luggages. "No thanks," he laughed, a hint of hysteria leaking into his voice. "I'm fine just where I am."

"...Oakley, you are such a-"

"Aha! I got you!" Chesil's sudden cheer caught Ares and Oakley's attention. They turned to see Chesil manage to push back against Cordell just enough to cause him to fly into the wall.

Cordell struggled to pull himself out of the wall, to no success. "...you've got to be kidding me."

"Yes! We did it!" Chesil cheered and held up a paw to Ares. "Yay!"

Ares stared at her hand for a second before sighing and giving her a weak high five. "Yay," he said, unenthusiastically.

"You've got to be kidding me." Cordell repeated numbly.

"Oh, well, that was far easier than expected." Oakley said, letting out a sigh of relief.

"You have GOT to be kidding me!" Cordell said again, his tone bordering on what seemed to be the precipice of insanity.

"What, can't accept defeat, blade thingy?" Chesil grinned.

"Kunai," Cordell corrected with a hint of annoyance. "And I can admit defeat, it's just that this isn't exactly the ideal situation for me to do that."

Ares's frown deepened. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Cordell groaned. "Not important." He grunted as he tried to unstick himself from the wall, to no avail. "Look, can you just help me out here?"

"Uh…no?" Oakley snorted and put his hands on his hips as he leered down at the knife. "You're coming with us, blade guy."

"The name's Cordell, wise guy." Cordell snapped. "And I really don't want to see you acting tough when you were just letting your two associates fight on their own barely a minute ago."

Oakley snorted and puffed out his chest. "Yes, but there's a very good reason for that. See, unlike these two, I don't need the training. I was merely…observing their progress from a safe distance away. I don't want to hinder them from learning by intruding in a fight!" He added that last bit with a bit of a nervous undertone before slapping the backs of both Chesil and Ares. "R-right guys?"

"...sounds legit to me!" Chesil said with a huge smile.

"I hate you." Ares said with a grumble.

"Love ya too, bud!" Oakley said cheerily. "Now, let's just take the knife guy-"

"Kunai," Cordell chimed in.

"-kunai…and get off of this train." Oakley finished.

"Excellent!" Chesil smirked and pulled out a sack from her side. She opened it up and scooped a protesting Cordell inside before tightening the rope holding the sack together. "Alright! It's time for the Three Arm Bandits to move out!"

"Wait, you're just gonna leave that pirate lady behind?" Cordell asked.

"Pfft, yeah." Chesil scoffed. "Who cares?"

"Feel kinda bad," Oakley sighed. "But, ah well. At least we got a floating knife as compensation!"

"Kunai," Cordell corrected absently, though his mind was elsewhere. 'Thank Xerneas…everything seems to be going right for once…'



"Sir, something's wrong."

Oltony raised an eyebrow at the sudden statement made by his magnemite bodyguard. "What do you mean?"

"I can feel it," she said sternly. "There's a change in the air…" Electricity sparked around her and she glanced around with her eye narrowed. "...I can feel a lot of…electric charge gathering. Unnaturally."

"What?" Oltony repeated in alarm. He exchanged a look with Rosalio, who's expression turned serious. "Do you think we're being attacked? By who?"

Rosalio crossed his arms, staring at the floor in concentration. "...I don't know. But…perhaps there may be a chance someone tipped off our meeting to someone in the Stellian Royal Guard."

"...we need to get out of here." Oltony said.

Rosalio closed his eyes. "...agreed. I'll see you in Oar's Rest, Oltony."

Oltony nodded in confirmation and gestured to the geodude and magnemite bodyguards. They hurriedly left the room, leaving Rosalio behind.

The roserade uncrossed his arms and stood up, glaring at the wall. "First things first…" he walked out of the room and slid the door behind him. He didn't go in the same direction as Oltony, however, toward the more crowded cars toward the back of the train. He turned right around and headed straight for the very front of the train with his eyes narrowed. "...I have something to deal with first."
 
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Prologue Take II: We Wrap This Up
-Prologue Take II-
-We Wrap This Up-

Esther's day turned out to be going much better than she had thought it would. Granted, the sun was setting on the horizon and the day was almost over…but still. It had been fairly uneventful and soul suckingly boring for most of her hours and when Oakley had stolen her hat, which was absolutely off limits, she had expected to be in a bad mood for the rest of her night. Even more so when she accidentally fell off the train and tumbled into the river nearby. She had only just barely been able to catch up with the train right after.

What she didn't expect was to be dragged into a train fight, meeting a trio of bandits, and she most certainly didn't expect to stumble across a mage.

Right after she had agreed to assist the hat thief, Oakley, the duo made their way to the luggage car, where two of Oakley's 'associates' were hiding. Apparently, Oakley had gotten separated from the other two members of the Three Arm Bandits in the train station, on account of him getting distracted by Esther's "gorgeously stitched hat".

She had no idea what they were doing on the train, however, and she didn't bother to ask when she and Oakley met up with Chesil and Ares in the luggage car. Originally, she was just going to lay back and watch the chaos unfold for a while, but then she realized that the pikachu, Amir, was none other than a mage.

This couldn't have possibly gotten any better.

"Come on, Magic Man!" She teased the flustered mouse, who was skillfully dodging her punches. "I know ye can do better than that!"

He backflipped down to the ground, sticking a graceful landing. Esther had to admit, she was impressed. He couldn't have been much older than her, yet he seemed to know what he was doing.

'...at least, a little bit.' Esther snickered, thinking back to when he had gotten easily tied up by Ares within a few seconds of entering the luggage car.

Amir quickly scribbled something on the floor before leaping backwards. A large group of spikes shot out from the floor, an attempt to deter Esther from jumping down.

Grinning, Esther jumped straight down.

Amir froze. 'My eyes must be deceiving me. There is no way she is actually jumping down right now.'

"Hahahahaha! What other tricks do ye have, Magic Man?" Esther hollered, flipping mid-air and using her sword as a board to balance on a single spike. Using the momentum gained from the fall, she swing forward and landed on the floor, sporting a grin the entire time.

'Okay, my eyes are most certainly not deceiving me.'

Amir swallowed and backed away nervously. He held up his hands in a poor attempt to placate the crazed pirate. "Can we please come to a…compromise?"

"Aw, c'mon, Amir!" Esther said, her eyes twinkling, actually addressing the pikachu by name. Finally. "Don't tell me that's all ye have! Seems the reputation them mages got ain't nothin' more than flowery words!" Her eyes glinted, then her voice carried a more ominous tone. "Or is there somethin' else goin' on here?"

Amir swallowed, began to sign something, when the train violently shook, causing the luggages to bounce around the train car with the grace of a freshly hatched bird pokemon. Esther glanced over her shoulder with a frown, intently staring toward the back of the luggage car, not a single waver in her stance. Amir warily looked around as the disorganized luggages became ten times more disorganized. Trying to ignore feelings of irritation at the complete mess that had just been made, he tried to find the source of the sudden rumble.

His gaze was drawn toward where the pirate buneary had been looking and his eyes widened. 'What…?'

"Well, well, well," Esther began lightly. "Didn't take our three bandit friends for arsonists."

At the tail end of the luggage car, a large gaping hole had appeared in the wall, causing an orange light to shine over the three bandits, who were standing stiffly in front of the hole. The train tracks split through a wheat field, painting a rather scenic view. At least, had any of the occupants of the luggage car been able to take it in.

"Ugh…yeah, great." Cordell complained from inside the sack at Chesil's side. "What the hell did you psychopaths do?"

"I didn't do anything!" Oakley yelped, then pointed to the Bandits' leader, who had her arm outstretched. "It was her!"

The plusle blinked. "What? What did I do?"

"We needed an escape route," Ares replied dryly. "So you made the door go boom."

Esther let out a raucous laugh. "Seems simple enough to understand, aye? Might as well take yer leave right now, while ye have the chance."

Amir stared dumbly as the whole scene unfolded. By that point, he had completely forgotten what he was doing here. Was he supposed to be chasing the teddiursa? Was he stalling? Was he trying to make sure the crazy pirate lady didn't kidnap him? Did he now have to try and make sure the bandits didn't blow up anything else?

'Wait a minute,' Amir paused. 'The hole is right behind them…'

Without missing a single beat, Amir knelt onto the floor and began tracing a circular pattern on the floor, keeping his gaze intently on the Three Arm Bandits.

Esther noticed the scribbling sound and turned around. "What are ye-"

Amir stopped scribbling and smiled at Esther. The circular pattern on the floor lit up.

Esther's eyes widened as the floor morphed in front of her, transforming into a pillar that shot toward the Three Arm Bandits without warning.

The trio didn't notice before it was too late. They were shoved out of the train, stumbling on the train tracks as the distance between them and the train grew larger and larger, cursing and shouting unpleasantries all the way.

"Curses! That mage one-upped us!"

"Ahhhh, I am so unbearably terrified right now."

"HOW ARE YOU TWO COMPLETELY CALM OVER THIS?! WE'RE GOING TO DIEEEEE-"

Silence.

"Well," Esther finally said, then grinned. "That sure was interesting. Though, I feel I should point out ye lost yer fancy knife."

Amir stared, then slumped over on the floor. 'Oh, I knew I forgot something!'

"Anywayyyy," Esther drawled. She twirled her cutlass and pointed it dramatically at Amir. She winked. "Ready fer another round?"

Amir blinked slowly at Esther before slowly sitting on the back of his heels. "No."

The buneary frowned. "What do ye mean, 'no'?"

Amir didn't respond. Instead, he reached at his side and pulled out eight pouches, four from his right side and four from his left. He laid them out neatly on the floor and opened them, one by one, revealing the sharp kunai knives all organized by size, shape, and design. Each knife in its own individual slot. He slowly got to his feet and walked over to the fallen kunai knife he had dropped earlier on in the fight.

'Huh.' Esther thought dumbly. She watched Amir delicately place the kunai knife back into its slot. He began to sort through the rest of the kunai, rearranging them and muttering under his breath as he did so.

She sheathed her cutlass at her side in its scabbard and walked over to Amir. She squatted down next to him, leaning on her wooden foot and watched in fascination as Amir stared intently at his "project".

"Sooo…if we aren't goin' to fight, then do ye want to introduce yerself?"

Amir paused and turned around in confusion. "I already did that earlier, remember?"

"Oh, I remember." Esther drawled. "I just think it'd be swell to do it in a wee bit more of a…relaxed setting."

There was a moment of silence, the only sounds that filled the buneary's ears being the soft clinking of Amir's knives and the rumbling of the train against the tracks.

Amir gently tied up his pouches once more, one by one, before attaching them back to his sides. Once finished, he turned around, folding his legs underneath his thighs and adjusted his cloak. Esther decided to make herself comfortable as well and leaned against one of the luggages, her hands behind her head and her legs outstretched.

"I have a question for you." Amir signed.

"Aye."

"What exactly do you need a mage like me for?"

Esther cracked a grin. "Figured that much out, have ye?"

"You just seemed awfully interested in me after I had started using my magic. I am not unaccustomed to those wanting to use a mage for…" he winced, then continued, moving his hands a bit more weakly than before. "...their unique prowess."

"That so?" Esther smirked. "Ye got a lot of landlubbers gunnin' after ye?"

"...something like that, yes."

"Well, I could've just asked ye to help me in that case, but then again, where's the fun in that?" She grinned and removed her hat from atop her head. Turning it over, she gently pulled out what looked to be a frayed piece of parchment from the inside. She laid it out gently on the floor, allowing Amir to see the softly drawn diagrams of land and sea intertwined together on the map, along with numerous inscriptions on the sides.

'A map…?' Amir narrowed his eyes, carefully analyzing the parchment. The map showed a large mass of land divided into two sections, the upper half marked "Solia" in large stylistic letters, while the lower half was marked "Stellia". On the left side, a large group of islands were bunched together in a circular pattern, with a large gap of water in between them. In much smaller letters than the other two, it was marked "Lunalia". At the very top right corner of the map, in large letters, was "Mysteria". Below it, a small drawing of a compass and further below that was a large wall of text that stretched to the bottom of the map.

Amir looked over it a little bit longer before tapping on Esther's shoulder to catch her attention. "This map is old."

Esther snorted. "Aye, no kiddin'."

"No, I mean…the map includes Lunalia." Amir signed hesitantly, feeling his stomach twist itself into a knot. "Every map drawn of Mysteria in the past few decades excludes it. Nowadays, it is simply considered a part of Solarian land, ruled by the Solia kingdom."

"Oh?" Esther raised an eyebrow. "And why is that?"

Amir averted his gaze. "You…are not from Mysteria, are you?"

Esther tilted her head from side to side for a moment. "Sort of. I'm from the Isle of Leigh, southeast of Stellia. Ever heard of it?"

"The…forbidden lands?"

"Aye, that's the one!" Esther grinned cheerfully. She tossed her hat in the air and dramatically flipped, catching it with her ear and placing it on her head. She adjusted it and puffed her chest out. "I, Esther Charon, proudly hail from the forbidden god forsaken lands that is The Isle of Leigh! A pirate by trade, I helped out me mother's pirate crew in all their pillaging escapades and exploits!"

Amir blinked and politely set his hands on his lap, to hint at her that he was listening. Completely and utterly confused, but still listening.

"We were known as the Pyrite Flora, a band of pirates feared throughout all the Pearl Seas! Our goal? To conquer the ocean! We had drawn out detailed maps, pillaged intricate charts from army ships, and managed our loot better than any other pirate in existence!" Esther's eye twinkled and she drew her cutlass from its scabbard, dramatically flourishing it to the sky. "That isn't all we did, of course. We hunted treasures too." She winked and gestured to the map. "Ones using maps like this one."

Amir picked up the map of the floor and looked over it once more. His attention was drawn to the inscription at the side. 'This is…Cressel…?'

"A famous treasure it is, one many pirates sought after, hunted for their entire lives, yet their attempts were futile." Esther began twirling her cutlass in circles as she paced back and forth. "Me mother's crew had quite the struggle trying to find a map to this treasure…one even those from Mysteria supposedly struggled trying to find it."

Esther stopped pacing in front of him and pointed her cutlass at him. Amir blinked and stared up at her.

"The Arc Amulet," she whispered. Amir's eyes widened and he tightened his grip on his cloak. "That there map yer holding? The only known clue I've got to find it. Aside from, of course, the fact that I need a mage to help decipher those notes."

Amir shakily inhaled. His eyes darted over the map again, taking in every detail he could, even the small tears in the parchment. He gently set it down on his lap and warily looked up at the exuberant pirate. "If I may ask…why exactly are you looking for the Arc Amulet?"

Esther's grin faltered briefly before she recovered, though her gaze was hard and the jubilant emotion on her face seemed more forced. "Now, now, Amir," she chided. "It ain't exactly fair if I shared all of me secrets without learnin' about ye, first."

Amir suddenly felt like the room had gotten smaller. He got to his feet and took a hesitant step back. "...I need to go."

Esther frowned. "What do ye-"

Without warning, Amir swiftly drew a kunai from his side and scribbled a circle in the ground. He pressed his hand against it, causing an explosion of wood chips to erupt from the floor beneath them. Esther covered her face with her arms and squinted through the smoke. "O-oi!" She called out as Amir fled through the luggage car, leaping over fallen piles of luggage with the grace of an acrobat.

She growled, about to run after the fleeing pikachu, when a piece of paper caught her attention. She bent down and picked up the fallen parchment on the floor and stared at it, dumbfounded. Hurriedly scribbled in the top right corner of the map was the word "sorry".

"Well," she said. She paused and said nothing after, letting silence fill the luggage car once more. She looked behind her at the gaping hole made by the Three Arm Bandits. The sun had completely set, orange streaks in the sky turning to light purple. She let out a heavy sigh and flopped backwards onto the floor. "This was…a day."

A brief pause once more.

"...a GREAT day!" She shouted suddenly, waving her cutlass in the air in front of her. She must've looked like a dying fish to anyone watching. "OHOHOHOHO THIS WAS THE MOST SWASHBUCKLIN' TRAIN RIDE EVER! Not that I've ever been on a train before, of course, but still! AHHH, I SHALL RETURN TO YER WONDERFUL SERVICES, STRATFORD TRAIN STATION! BLESS ME WITH YER WONDERFUL PROWESSES! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"


"Ah, it was a tale of misery and woe for the all powerful being. Reduced to little more than a pathetic guard for three idiots who wouldn't be able to tell the difference between their own appendage and another's. Sorrow came off of him in waves, for no matter how he thought of the situation, it still turned out to be bleak. Bleak, much like his own moral compass. He preferred not to look at the world through a black and white lens like the other residents of this planet. He much preferred the color gray."

"Question!" Chesil's hand shot up.

Cordell sighed with annoyance as he floated in the air in front of the Three Arm Bandits, who trailed behind him, listening to his yarn. "Yes?"

"Do the people on the planet all wear glasses?"

"...what?" Cordell said dumbly.

"Well, you said that they looked at the world through 'lenses', so that must mean that they're wearing glasses, right?"

"What? No!" Cordell cried out. "That was supposed to be a-ugh, you know what, nevermind. Just keep walking."

"I'm trying to understand your story!" Chesil huffed and crossed her arms. "It's not my fault you're babbling nonsense…"

"Need I remind you whose fault it is that we are walking through miles of fieldland to our destination instead of on a train like normal and civilized creatures?"

"We're not normal," Ares said dryly, adjusting the bandana tied around his neck. "We're not civilized either. And last I checked, the one who got us thrown out of the train was that little mage of yours. Kid had no mercy."

"Kid?" Cordell turned around questioningly. "How old are you?"

"Eighteen." Ares replied simply.

"I'm seventeen!" Chesil chimed in.

"Yeah, same," Oakley added. "Uh…me being seventeen, that is."

"Huh," Cordell said. "Still haven't gotten past your emo phase?"

As if it were somehow possible, Ares' permanent frown went even deeper. "My what phase?"

"It's…" Cordell started, then sighed, deciding against it. "Nevermind. You're basically still a kid. Drinking age means nothing when your brain is still all sorts of jacked up. My advice? Don't go to any drinking holes."

"Oh, we already do that." Oakley snorted. "Turns out, the drinking hole is where the real money is. It's a lot easier to rob some rich noble or such if they're so blackout drunk they forget their own name and species."

Cordell let out an exasperated sigh. "Of course you do…"

"Oh, don't worry," Oakley waved him off. "It's not like we try to get drunk or anything. We are lawful citizens who will not drink until we are of legal age!"

"...and yet, you're literally a trio of bandits." Cordell pointed out.

"We are lawful citizens when we want to be," Oakley amended.

"I see." The kunai said doubtfully.

The group continued on their trek on the train tracks, taking in the scenery around them. Acres of green fields were spread out around them. Flowers, wheat, and abundant orchards filled to the brim with various types of fruits. In the distance, hills could be made out in waves.

Chesil let out a tranquil sigh and put her hands behind her head. "Say, fancy knife dude,"

"Kunai," Cordell corrected, irritated.

"Yeah, whatever. Why exactly are you going to Oar's Rest anyway? Are the Velvet Suits planning some huge operation or something?"

"Chesil!" Oakley hissed and clasped his hands over her mouth. "You can't just ask something like that! We'll get killed!"

Chesil raised an eyebrow and shoved him away. "If he wanted to kill us, he would've done that already." She turned to Cordell. "You don't work for Oltony at all, do you?"

"...something like that." Cordell remarked casually.

"...what about that other guy? Oakley mentioned some roserade that was in that car too."

"Oh…" Oakley groaned and slumped forward, putting his face into his hands. "Asking too many questions only leads to demise…"

"...listen to your partner, kid. There are some things you just shouldn't know. Especially when it involves messy business like anything involving the criminal underworld."

The bandit trio exchanged uneasy glances at the statement. An uncomfortable silence settled in the group.

Ares glanced up at the darkened sky. "The sun is starting to set. How long until we arrive at Oar's Rest? Or the next train station?"

"No dammed idea," Cordell supplied helpfully.

"Ooh, I bet one Ward we'll only reach the closest station after dark!" Chesil cheered and brandished a silver coin.

"I'll take that bet…" Oakley groaned.

Ares sighed.

This was going to be a long walk.


At the very front of the train, Rosalio walked, his eyes focused ahead. The very first cabin had been blocked off to the public, due to some construction issues that led to the cabin only having a single seat and having a door without a method of opening it. It was a terrible place for commodities, but it was a wonderful place to go to when one had something to hide. The roserade glanced around before drawing a patterned circle on the door with his hand, lightly pressing against the door as to not disturb the rosy appendage that was a part of him. The circle briefly glowed and he smirked, stepping forward and phasing through the door entirely.

Inside, the cabin was entirely empty, only having just been carpeted. Rosalio knelt down in front of the only seat and opened a small compartment at the side. Electricity emitted from the seat sporadically and he smirked. Tendrils of electricity creeped toward the window before phasing into the walls of the train. "Feisty one, aren't you?" He took out a wooden box, with intricate designs of each lunar phase surrounding it, a "gift" from his mage. He would have preferred a more natural and sun based design, representative of the powerful kingdom of Solia, but who was he to deny an artist their expression?

"Unfortunately, I cannot risk opening this box just yet." He chuckled. "We'd need to do that in a more…privatized setting. Now, hush, before Oltony starts to suspect something else is going on here. Last thing I need is the actual Stellian Royal Guard to show up." He paused, then snickered. "As incompetant as they are."

Striding over to the window, he stroked the box in his hands. The sky had turned purple and only faint traces of an orange glow could be made out over the horizon. "Hehehehehe…"

A sudden rhythmic knocking on the door threw him out of his thoughts. Two knocks, a pause, one knock, a pause, then two knocks again. Rosalio narrowed his eyes and walked over to the door. Pressing his hand against the door, a circle glowed briefly before disappearing. "Come in," he said, smirking as his mage hesitantly phased through the door. "Amir."

The mage bowed respectfully, keeping his gaze intently toward the floor.

"Judging by how you're here empty handed, I'm assuming that teddiursa got away." Rosalio drawled. Amir didn't flinch, though he began fidgeting with his clothes. "Well, no matter. Oltony and his bodyguards are likely hiding in one of the train cars. I'd bet ten Wards the man completely forgot about that." His glare deepened as he stared intently at Amir. "You got lucky."

Amir weakly nodded in acknowledgement, still keeping his gaze toward the floor.

"Hmph. At ease. You'll strain your back if you keep posturing like that." Rosalio snidely commented as he sat down on the train seat, crossing his legs with the wooden box on his lap. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "Sit down or something. I don't want you completely tired out before we get to Oar's Rest. There's more work to be done when we get there."

Amir nodded, though the man still had his eyes closed. He slid against the wall onto the floor, staring outside the small window in the cabin. As blurs of green flew past, he felt himself sink further into the floor. He couldn't sleep, of course, given that he was still under orders to guard Rosalio, but he felt his eyelids grow heavy.

'What a day this was…' He put his face in his hands. 'I hope Cordell is doing alright. Hopefully, he will figure out where to find us once we get to Oar's Rest. Even if…trouble will most certainly be brewing there.'

He pulled his hands away from his face and stared at his palms intensely. He furrowed his brows and hesitantly pulled up his right sleeve, revealing a tightly wrapped arm in bandages. 'I wonder…why was that pirate looking for the Arc Amulet? She seemed oblivious to Lunalia's plight…and she is from the Isle of Leigh. On top of that, her fighting ability…'

Before Amir's thoughts could wander to the train fight, he violently shook himself out of his thoughts and rolled down his sleeve. He crossed his arms and glanced at Rosalio, who had appeared to have fallen asleep. 'No time for thinking over the fight right now…I need to think about how to get out of this deal with Rosalio…'

Eventually, he let out a sigh and turned back to the window. 'Just as long as I do not get distracted by petty things anymore, like earlier in the luggage car.' Unbeknownst to him, his eyebrow began twitching. 'Those luggages…they were…'

'...SO DISORGANIZED! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!'


Once the thought entered his head, it refused to leave him. This…was not a good day. He could only hope his time in Oar's Rest would go smoother.

Unfortunately, Amir was a natural when it came to being a trouble magnet.
 
Chapter 1: Esther Finds a Mage
-Chapter 1-
-Esther Finds A Mage-

Oar’s Rest truly was a sight to behold. The trading town was built below the sides of cliffs, overlooking the sandy shores of the shimmering Pearl Sea. The sun was only just beginning to peek through the horizon, illuminating the town in an orange glow. It was the only time one could go to Oar’s Rest and find it to be tranquil, without the bustling energy that encapsulates its residents throughout the day and into the night. Only a few were out and about during sunrise, most of them being store owners getting ready to open shop.

Then there were those like Esther, who was currently holding a standoff on the sandy beach of Oar’s Rest with a piece of wood. Using her oh-so-impressive and immaculate ingenuity, she crafted a training dummy using stray pieces of wood that washed up on the shore. She then repeatedly slashed at it with her cutlass in a meticulous pattern. ‘One, two, switch. One two, switch. One, two, switch…’

She had rolled up the sleeves of her flannel shirt, which at this point was already drenched with sweat. Her hat lay at the feet of the wooden dummy, surrounded by a trench of sand that Esther had dug herself, to ensure no harm would come upon it.

When the train had finally arrived at the station in Oar’s Rest, she quickly made her way through the crowd to try and find that mage she fought. Try as she might, however, she couldn’t make the head or tail of that mouse anywhere. It was almost as if he had vanished.

‘Either that, or he decided to stick with a lil’ subterfuge fer the time being.’ Esther thought as she continued methodically slashing at the dummy. ‘No surprises there, if he really was workin’ for some big shot in the underworld.’

She hit the dummy one more time, then stopped. She paused for a few seconds, trying to catch her breath, then stabbed her cutlass into the ground. She stretched out her back and sighed with contentment. ‘In any case, I gotta find some way to find that mage.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘I need to find the Arc Amulet as soon as possible.’

Esther stood, grinning for a few moments, absolving that her day would be spent finding the mage she had fought on the train when a thought suddenly struck her. ‘Wait, what if he switched trains?’

She stood still. Very still.

Then, she screamed. “SON OF A BILGE BUCKET!”

Frantically, she sheathed her cutlass and tossed her hat on top of her head before sprinting toward the boardwalk. ‘Great, just GREAT, Esther! Just when ye finally get another chance, ye BLOW IT!’ She dashed through the town of Oar’s Rest, running past confused and startled civilians in a mission to get to the train station as fast as possible. With her luck, he probably already left the town completely!

“AHHH, C’MON CHARON, YE CAN DO IT! CATCH THAT LANDLUBBER BEFORE HE LEAVES LAND! ARRR!!!”

***

Luckily for Esther, Amir had not left land.

He was actually sitting in a bar, at the bar table, like any other normal fifteen-year-old.

Many tossed the pikachu funny looks when he had first come in, though the excitement over a minor walking into a bar died down relatively quickly. Now, only the crawdaunt bartender eyed Amir with a degree of suspicion as he methodically cleaned the shot glasses on the counter with a rag.

Amir, himself, was not ignorant of the stares. He paid no mind to it, however. Rosalio had given Amir orders to remain at The Shaken Hat until he was done with his “little errand”. Amir had his suspicions about what that might have been, but he knew better than to question.

Admittedly, he was now stuck here, with practically nothing to do except try and watch his back. Which normally would not be very hard to do, but The Shaken Hat had quite the reputation for being a very…rowdy place, to say the least. Amir’s presence had only briefly garnered the interest of the drunkards who were regulars here, but that quickly waned when a fight broke out between a pawn shop broker and the owner of a sandwich shop. Something about a bronze sandwich being worth a fortune, from what Amir could gather.

Sighing, his eyes wandered to the rows of glasses behind the counter. He looked over each one, counting them and re-counting them, trying to distract his mind from the noise. As he continued his journey across the counter with his eyes, he began frowning.

‘...the glasses are off center.’ His eye twitched. ‘...and there are more wine glasses than shot glasses. And the shot glasses are stacked unevenly. And the glasses are not clean enough. And some of the glasses are smaller than the other ones. And the stacks of glasses are awkwardly placed. And one shelf is overfilled with glasses while the other is almost empty. And, and, and…’

Amir began bouncing up and down in his seat, anxiety increasing as his mind ran through all the hundred different things that were just simply wrong with the various glassware on the counter and the shelves. Eventually, he couldn’t take the suspense anymore and with a glance around, gracefully leaped over the counter. The bartender hadn’t seemed to have noticed, preoccupied with listening to the rambling of an old man in the far right corner of the bar. ‘Good,’ Amir sighed with relief. ‘This allows me the time I need to do this.’

He glared at the disorganized counter in front of him and exhaled slowly. ‘Prepare to meet your match, counter!’

If the counter could, it would have trembled in fear at the truly frightening might of the pikachu.

***

“Foood!!!” Chesil and Oakley cheered in unison. At the sight of the plates of pancakes set out on the table in front of them, the two scrambled to get their seats. Ares followed, albeit at a much slower pace. He made sure to thank the waiter, who had been frightened by the sight of the two crazed teenagers running to their seats.

Cordell sighed as he trailed behind, floating awkwardly above the table as the three bandits gorged on the food in front of them. “I still can’t believe I’m stuck with you three.”

“Hey, don’t be such a grouch!” Chesil snapped. “We are amazing pokemon to be stuck with!”

“Yeah, exactly!” Oakley turned his nose up. “You should be grateful your mage tossed you out of the train like garbage!”

Cordell narrowed his eyes. “...gee, thanks.”

After a long walk, the group finally managed to find a small inn to take refuge in for the night. The inn had few occupants, most of which seemed to consist of older pokemon. Ares had asked the inn’s owner how far they were from Oar’s Rest and they thankfully seemed to have gotten most of the walking done with, given that the town was only “a few miles away”.

“Oh, you poor, poor, knife-” Chesil began, sighing dramatically.

“Kunai.”

“-thrown aside and cast aside from his so-called “loyal” master…”

“Not my master.”

“Fret not, you innocent carving knife-”

“You’re doing this on purpose now, aren’t you?”

“-For I, the great, the Magnifique, the gorgeous; Chesil Harvester, shall be the one to free you from your chains!”

“...you’re aware I’m just a single kunai, right? If you want a kunai so badly, just get one from an arms dealer or something.”

“Oh, we don’t work with arms dealers,” Ares commented, not looking up from his food, which he had only taken a single bite out of. “Nasty experiences,” he explained.

“...I see,” Cordell said dryly. “Care to explain why that is?”

Oakley burst into laughter and shoveled a pancake into his mouth. “Yeah, no thanks. Maybe we’ll come around if you tell us what’s up with you and that mouse mage.”

“Again with this?” Cordell sighed in exasperation. “You kids are persistent.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Chesil grinned, waving her fork in the air.

Cordell sighed as the group fell back into snarfing down their pancakes. According to Ares, the breakfast had come with the room they rented for the night. He was a little surprised to hear that Ares had paid, but then again, the Three Arm Bandits “had standards”.

Whatever the hell those standards were supposed to be. Cordell had no clue and he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to.

He did want to know one thing about the trio, however.

“You know, I don’t think I ever asked,” Cordell began, catching the attention of the bandit trio. “What exactly are you three planning on doing in Oar’s Rest?”

Chesil stared, continuing to chew her food slowly and methodically. “Sightseeing. Duh.”

“...that’s it?”

“Yuuup.” She replied.

“...that’s it?” Cordell repeated, unsure if he was hearing her properly.

“What, is there some magical rulebook that dictates we’re not allowed to go sightseeing?” Oakley asked with a mock pout. “We deserve to have some fun, too!”

“...you’re aware Oar’s Rest is a trading town, right?”

“Yeah? So?” Oakley challenged.

The kunai felt frustration build. “You can’t seriously expect me to believe that you, a group of bandits, are going to a trading town, filled with all sorts of expensive goods, to sightsee.”

“That is exactly what we are doing,” Chesil said simply.

Cordell sagged in the air, letting the tip of his blade touch the table. “...oh sweet Mother Xerneas. You’re serious.”

The trio blinked at him; not collectively, but individually. Cordell thought it was much creepier than if they had blinked in unison.

“You know what, never mind.” Cordell sputtered out. “Just finish your food.”

The trio of bandits exchanged looks. Chesil grinned and went back to gorging on her food a second later, Oakley behind her. Ares kept his gaze on Cordell for a minute longer, keeping his thoughts about the kunai in his head. He didn’t trust him for even a second and refused to let his guard down around him.

Of course, Cordell felt the same way. The second they arrived in Oar’s Rest, he was going to make like a tree and leaf. He needed to find Amir before the pikachu decided to…become a bartender or some crazy shit like that. 'Arceus, I really hope Amir isn’t going to get involved in anything crazier than he already has…’ He paused internally then groaned, slumping against the table. “Yeah, that’s unlikely…”

***

“Excuse me,” Esther trudged over to the geodude stationmaster, her footsteps uneven. She had arrived at the train station quicker than expected, though it helped that she used Bounce to speed up her “journey”. The station was surprisingly crowded this early in the morning, though she wasn’t entirely surprised. The buzz of chatter and excitement filled the air, presumably about all the goods that could be found in Oar’s Rest. It seems that the trading town was about to have its serene peace interrupted. “Have ye seen a pikachu around here lately?”

The geodude raised an eyebrow as he looked Esther up and down. “Well, I don’t know. I see many pokemon that come through the station every single day. You can’t expect me to remember every single one.”

Esther sighed in frustration. “Dammit…well, thanks anyway, pal.”

The stationmaster squinted as he continued speaking. “Although, I will say…I haven’t seen anyone like you. What are you supposed to be? A paperboy? What’s up with the eye patch?”

Esther’s eye twitched in annoyance. “A paperboy?” She growled deeply, trying to resist the urge to whip out her cutlass, which was sheathed in its scabbard behind her back. “Listen here, ye landlubber! The last thing ye want to do is make a fool outta me, the infamous Esther Charon!”

The geodude stared. “...who?”

“...dammit,” Esther sighed. “Aye, that’s a pretty typical response.”

“Hmm…” the geodude crossed his arms. “You said you were infamous? For what, if I may ask?”

Esther blinked and stared.

The geodude stared back.

Esther continued staring.

The geodude also continued staring. Then he raised his nonexistent eyebrows. “You…gonna answer my question or…?”

“...avast, a flying pogo stick!” Esther pointed behind the geodude dramatically.

The geodude swirled around, taken aback. “Wait, what is that supposed to-hey! Get back here!” He called out to the fleeing buneary. He groaned as she slipped into the crowd and rubbed his head. “Please don’t tell me I just held a conversation with a bandit or something like that…wait, is that a sword on her back? Why is that out in the open? Why is nobody questioning that? Am I going insane, or what???”

Esther snickered as she dashed away from the befuddled geodude. “Talk about a close call. Mama’d be proud of me for that slip!”

She slowed her pace as she reached the front gates of the station. A crowd was slowly starting to trickle into the trading town, the sun had risen far enough to be seen entirely over the horizon. Esther closed her eyes and listened to the various chatter of salesmen, families, nobles, and workers in the air. She loved the cheer in the air. It reminded her of the sea songs she would sing with the Pyrite Flora below deck.

Her personal favorite had been the tale of a crew hinging on the hopes that a “wellerman” would arrive in their most dire moments to bring them supplies and assistance. She memorized the entire song by heart, always pestering the crew to sing it to her to go to sleep.

Without even realizing it, she began humming it to herself as she walked out of the station. The song itself didn’t have origins in Mysteria specifically, having come from another region. ‘Now that I think about it…I never asked where the song came from, eh…?’

She closed her left eye and put her hands behind her head, careful not to accidentally throw off her hat. ‘Guess I’ll just have to save that question for later, then…’ She slowly opened her eye and narrowed it. ‘Now, how to find that mage…?’

Amir had been a lot more…odd, for lack of a better term, compared to other mages she had met. Granted, she hadn’t met very many; given how mages themselves are considered a rare breed, but from the ones she had…Amir was a lot younger than the lot, wasn’t he?

Her thoughts trailed back to when she had shown him the map of Mysteria. ‘…something about the way he reacted was off, now wasn’t it? Is it possible that…he could be lookin’ for the same thing as me?’

Esther pondered this for a while, before shaking those thoughts off. She could ask him any questions she had once she found him, which she really should have been getting back to doing.

She let out a frustrated sigh and crossed her arms. “Forget this. I need a drink.” She glanced around at the buildings as she strolled through town, searching for a pub or bar where she could get a beer.

Of course, she forgot to account for the fact that there was no way she’d be able to get a beer, given both her age and size.
‘Ah, it’s fine!’ She chuckled to herself. From her experience, the crazier the occupants in a bar, the less likely they’ll be strict about drinking laws. ‘I’m sure if I find the rowdiest lookin’ bar, those landlubbers 'ill give me a pass.’

It took quite a bit of searching and asking around-as well as dodging questions about the very conspicuous sword scabbard strapped to her back-but she was eventually able to find a bar that seemed suited to her needs. Hopefully, they wouldn’t ask her any questions about her sword, either. ‘I’m startin’ to think I shoulda just left the scabbard at me side,’ she grunted as she trudged through the alleyway, using the directions a paranoid shop owner had given her. ‘Either that or I should buy meself a vest to cover it up.’

She stopped for a moment to look around. The street was empty, “Accordin’ to that kecleon, the bar was right around here…what was it called again?”

“AHHHH LOOK OUT!!!”

Esther barely had time to look up before a pokemon slammed into her and sent her tumbling into the ground. “Argh, what in the-”

“Urgh…” the pokemon pushed himself up, revealing himself to be a crabrawler. “Dammit, Karl, that was dirty!” He shouted, glaring at a crooked building.

Esther raised an eyebrow. Outside the building stood a krabby, with various other pokemon peeking out from behind the crab and through the windows. “Shut up, Charl! I know what a bronze sandwich looks like when I see it…and yours ain’t one!”

The crabrawler growled. “Well, ya didn’t have to throw me into someone!” He turned to Esther apologetically. “I am so sorry about this, miss…?”

Esther broke into a grin. “Esther.”

“Who cares?” The krabby scoffed. “Honestly, you deserved it for trying to pass off that stupid faux delicacy of yours as worth anything more than ten measly cleffs!”

“CLEFFS???” The crabrawler shouted. “That’s not even one ward!”

“And that’s how much your stupid sandwich is worth,” the krabby scoffed.

Esther looked back and forth between the two, trying to figure out what the subject matter was. She couldn’t quite pinpoint what they were arguing over, but it was entertaining to her nonetheless. Plus, bonus, she was pretty sure that the building the krabby was standing in front of was the very bar that the shop owner from earlier had directed her toward.

“The Shaken Hat, ay?” Esther pondered as she strode past the krabby and into the bar. “Odd name for a bar smack in the center o’ town.”

She walked past the pokemon crowding the windows, who began making bets on who was really on the right in the whole debacle that had been taking place. A few cast her strange looks as she walked by, though their focus was occupied with far more important things at the moment.

As was hers, funnily enough.

She plopped onto a seat and outstretched her arms over the bar counter with a heavy sigh. She closed her eye for a few seconds, taking in the noise of the other bar attendees’ chatter. After a moment, she cracked her eye open and mumbled into the counter. “...what am I even doin’ anyway…?”

“What a coincidence. That’s exactly what I’d like to know.”

Esther glanced up to see an irate-looking crawdaunt leering down at her from atop the table. “...and who’re ye s’posed to be?”

He raised an eyebrow. “...the owner?”

“Ah. Aye, good for ye.” She paused, then sat up, feeling rejuvenated. “Ye serve drinks here, correct?”

The crawdaunt scoffed. “Yes, but don’t even think twice about trying to get any. How old are you, anyway?” He paused, then squinted. “...and is that a cutlass on-”

Esther groaned. “C’mon, ye landlubber! Cut me some slack, here. I’ve been runnin’ around town all day! I’m tired, thirsty, and very much lackin’ in the area of…self-motivation. I need me drink!”

The crawdaunt stared, then repeated. “...how old are you?”

Esther groaned and sank back onto the table.

“I’m waiting.” The crawdaunt said, tapping his foot against the table.

“...sixteen.”

“Ah, sorry, what was that?” He leaned in a bit closer, holding a pincer to his head. “I couldn’t quite catch that. For a second, I thought that…you’re perhaps under eighteen!” He let out a mock gasp. “The horror! A child walking into MY establishment? Why, my reputation would just be tarnished!”

Esther gave a wry smirk. “I didn’t expect to get ye riled up this much just by walkin’ into a bar. Back where I’m from, the bar owners wouldn’t think twice about who entered their pub as long as it wasn’t any of those nasty types. Ye know the ones I’m talkin’ about, don’t ye?”

“Hmph. I’d wager a guess and say you’re from the Isle of Leigh, aren’t you?”

“Aye, that’d be correct, matey!” She winked.

The crawdaunt analyzed Esther for a moment, before letting out a sigh. He scuttled past her. “...I’m not giving you anything with alcohol, but I can get you something else to drink. Will your Isle-hardened stomach tolerate some simple orange juice for a change?”

Esther let out an exasperated sigh. “Aye, that’s fine.”

“Name’s Enkai, by the way,” the crawdaunt remarked as he jumped down the bar table and onto the counter set up behind it. He opened a cupboard and began shuffling through it. “Yours?”

“Ah, that’d be Esther, seadog.”

“Seadog?” The crawdaunt, now dubbed Enkai, muttered under his breath. He let out an amused chuckle. “The kids that hail from those damned isles just get weirder and weirder, I swear.” He pulled out a jug of orange juice and pulled it onto the counter. Setting a glass down in front of the buneary, he poured the juice into it. “So, what brings you to Oar’s Rest? Not anything dangerous, I hope.”

Esther grinned. “Well, ye see-”

She was interrupted by a cheer that erupted from behind her. The crabrawler from earlier walked through the saloon doors triumphantly, with the krabby slumped over his back. He set the krabby on the floor and bowed dramatically. “Thank you, thank you. Glad to see everyone agrees that I’m the one in the right here.”

Esther snickered. Enkai, on the other hand, groaned. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. How many times have I had to tell those idiots-” he glanced at the buneary apologetically. “Alright, give me a minute. I need to make sure nobody’s trying to kill each other.”

“Ye sure that krabby ain’t already dead?” Esther asked, taking a sip of her orange juice. It was sweet and tangy. Freshly squeezed, no doubt.

“Well, he’d better not be…” Enkai grumbled. “I’ll be right back.” He scuttled off the table and toward the group of pokemon. “OI! What’d I tell you morons about trying to kill each other?! If you’re going to fight to the death, do it outside my damned establishment!”

Esther tried not to choke on her drink. The crawdaunt was amusing, that was for sure. Admittedly, she still felt a bit put down that he wasn’t allowing her a little beer. He acted like she was asking for an entire cup when she just wanted a couple of sips worth.

“Heh,” she chuckled to herself. “Me father wouldn’t approve of this either, would he?”

She leaned back on her stool and watched as Enkai attempted to get the krabby and crabrawler to make peace. It was oddly nostalgic for her, seeing the drunk pokemon in the bar unite with each other over something as simple as a brawl. She still had no clue what the two pokemon in question had been at each other’s throats over in the first place, but it was still amusing nonetheless.

She finished off the rest of her drink and turned around on the bar stool to set it down.

Right at that moment, a pikachu stood up from seemingly nowhere behind the bar counter, facing the other direction, and placed a single cup in a cabinet.

Esther squinted her eyes and stared. Hard.

“...and where exactly did ye come from?” she finally spoke, not expecting much of an answer.

The pikachu jumped and whirled around in a panic. He went into a defensive stance, one hand in front of him and the other at his side, ready to draw out…whatever weapon he had sheathed. Esther was willing to bet it was a kunai.

She broke into a huge grin. “Well, well, well, if it ain’t me friend, Amir. I’ve been lookin’ for ye!”

Amir grinned nervously and slowly began to step in the other direction. “Hello, Miss Esther.”

“Oi, drop the ‘miss’. I’m pretty sure we’re the same age.”

“I am pretty sure, as well, but…” His hands slowed to a stop. Then he continued. “I…like to be polite…?”

“Polite?” Esther smirked, then stood up from her stool. “I wouldn’t exactly call yer lil’ vanishing act on the train to be very polite.”

Amir’s eye twitched. “I did tell you I was sorry.”

“Well, that ain’t enough for me!” Esther loudly declared, then hopped onto the bar table, brandishing her cutlass as she did so. She twirled it in her hand before pointing it at Amir. “Yer comin’ with me, Magic Man!”

Amir blinked, then slapped his hand to his face. Why, why, why did he feel the need to rearrange the bar owners’ entire bar counter…?

Oh, right. It was disorganized. Silly him.

He took a deep breath and tried to reason with the crazy pirate. “Can we please talk about this first? I am quite sure you do not need to do anything drastic, such as picking a fight with me in this enclosed space or wrapping me up in that terrifying rope that you seem to have with you ready to kidnap me for…whatever nefarious purposes you have in mind.”

“Hmm,” Esther paused, then grinned. “I dunno, Amir, those two options sound pretty reasonable to me!”

“What in the world is your definition of ‘drastic’, then?!” Amir signed frantically. “And do you not think it would be better to take this fight outside?!”

Esther paused, considering. Was she perhaps taking this a bit too far? Maybe. But the mage’s reactions were hilarious. Not to mention that she felt high in the mood for a fight.

“Nah, then ye’d be able to get away,” Esther said, still contemplating her options.

Her father always told her that she needed to think about things more thoroughly before doing things, after all. What did she need more, a fight or a mage willing to work with her?

Amir nervously glanced around and settled on two pokemon sitting on a table in the corner who looked to be playing an impromptu arm wrestling competition, then his eyes lit up. ‘Betting…’

“How about we make a deal?” He signed.

Esther raised an eyebrow. “A deal?”

“Well, if you want a fight, I can give it to you.” He paused. “However…how about we…shake things up a tad, as well? If I win, you have to do what I ask of you. If you win…”

Esther sheathed her cutlass behind her back-damn, she needed to buy a vest the next time she walked into an establishment like this-and sat back down in her seat. She smirked, finally having caught on. “So, winner takes all, huh?”

Amir winced. “In a word, yes.”

“...well, I’m sold!” Esther laughed. “I gotta say, ye don’t exactly strike me as one to make this type of deal, Amir.”

The pikachu grinned sheepishly. “I get that a lot.”

“I’m a bit curious, though…” Esther pondered, causing Amir to send her a questioning look. “Hmm, oh never mind! Ye just phrased somethin’ a lil’ funny, that’s all!”

Amir stared at her. “I see,” he finally signed, seeming a bit off put.

“I cannot believe I am asking this question again…but what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Esther and Amir turned around simultaneously to see an impatient-looking crawdaunt behind the pirate.

“Me?” Esther’s grin widened. “I ain’t doin’ anythi-”

“Not you,” Enkai grumbled.“You, the pikachu. What are you doing behind my counter?”

Amir flinched, unsure of how to get out of this situation. He glanced at Esther, who had decided to “take a drink” from her empty glass, looking the other way.

“Well? I’m waiting.” Enkai demanded.

“Aw, c’mon, old man. Give ‘im a pass, would ye?” Esther said lightly. “Besides, if ye kick ‘im out, then ye won’t get to witness a badass-lookin’ fight!”

“...a fight.” Enkai’s eyes fell into a dull glare.

“Yup!”

“You’re seriously picking a fight with someone right after I just broke another one up?”

“Yup!”

“You’re not even old enough to hold a sip of wine and you’re picking a fight in a bar?”

“Yup!”

“...in MY bar???” Enkai shouted exasperatedly, catching the attention of the other bargoers. “Listen, I dunno who you crazy kids think you are, but I refuse to allow two minors to get into a fight in-”

“Come on, Nishimura!” A pokemon called out from somewhere in the bar. “Let the lil’ kiddies fight!”

Esther’s grin stretched even wider, causing Amir to glance at her warily. Did she know how to do anything else?

Enkai glanced behind him uncertainly. “Alright, listen here, you-”

“Let them fight!” Another called. Two pokemon cheered and rose their drinks to that.

Enkai’s eyes widened as more pokemon in the bar joined in, clapping along to the chant that one single ‘mon had started in support of the buneary pirate. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…”

“Let them fight! Let them fight! Let them fight!” The chant continued.

Amir put his face in his hands and slumped against the bar table.

“What’s wrong, Amir?” Esther teased. “Scared already?”

The pikachu glared at her from the corner of his eyes.

“Alright, alright, ALRIGHT!” Enkai snapped, causing the chants to quiet down. “Fine! If it’ll get you lot to shut up…” He directed his glare toward Esther. “You have five minutes. Take it outsi-”

“Oh, no you don’t!” The krabby from before leaped off of his chair and snapped his pincers together. “Alright, boys, move the tables around!”

“No, do NOT move the tables around!” Enkai snapped back.

The group looked between each other, hesitant as to what to do at first…then proceeded to move the tables and chairs.

Enkai blinked, taken aback, then groaned.

Esther watched the scene play out in fascination. All the pokemon seemed to unanimously agree that she and Amir should fight. ‘Well, I sure as hell ain’t arguin’!’ She snickered as she watched the bargoers form the tables and chairs into what looked to be akin to an arena in the center of the bar. Glancing behind her, she saw Amir watching as well, though with a more hesitant look on his face.

Once the last of the chairs were put into place, the crabrawler from earlier crawled over to Esther and tapped on her barstool. “Alright, young lady, you have the floor.”

“Thanks a million, ye landlubber!” Esther cheered as she lept off of her chair toward the “arena”.

Amir sighed then trailed after her. Esther took the tail end of the circle, allowing Amir to stop a few feet upon entering. The pokemon closed the makeshift door, entrapping the two teens inside.

Esther began bouncing from one foot to the other, punching the air rapidly to warm up her muscles. Across the room, Amir was doing something in a similar vein, albeit he was merely stretching out his arms and legs at a much slower pace.

“Alright, alright, everybody quiet down!” Enkai ordered, pulling a sandglass onto a table. “I can’t believe I’m doing this…” He directed his gaze onto Amir and Esther. “Alright, you two, quick ground rules. Since these idiots have decided to start another brawl arena in my bar with a bunch of kids, I’ve decided to overlook this one personally. You have five minutes to knock your opponent out, either by actually doing so, or keeping them down on the floor for ten seconds. For you two, however, it’ll be five. Is that understood?”

“Sounds good to me!” Esther exclaimed.

Enkai looked to Amir for confirmation, who nodded. The pikachu then pulled out a kunai from his side and got into a defensive stance. Pulling out her cutlass, Esther did the same. She tightened her hat on her head and slid her wooden foot back against the wooden floor. She met Amir’s eyes.

They narrowed.

So did her own.

Enkai glanced between them and raised the sandglass, ready to flip it. “The time starts…”

Both opponents took a slow breath to steady their breathing.

A beat passed.

Then another.

Then Enkai turned the sandglass over and slammed it on the table.

“NOW!!!”
 
Chapter 2: A Bar Fight, Brought to You By Minors!
-Chapter 2-
-A Bar Fight, Brought to You By Minors!-

It's dark, Rosalio noted as he walked through the sewer tunnel. He tried to avoid the muddy water to the best of his ability, cringing each time he accidentally stepped in the murky waters. Still, he had a job to do. And as much as he hated getting his own hands dirty, he had to do this one on his own, without the judgemental gaze of a child on him.

He chuckled to himself. And, of course, I still haven't figured out how I'll explain this… Perhaps it was an unnecessary move trying to keep it from him this entire time. Ah, well. It's too late now. Not that this isn't an easily rectifiable mistake, anyway. I doubt Amir wants his little secret getting out to the MGA…

Rosalio had quite the hefty amount of experience with blackmail under his belt, but blackmailing a mage was definitely a new addition to his repertoire. The Magic Guild Association was known for being sticklers when it came to background checks on any magic users in Mysteria. A surefire way to prevent criminals like him from manipulating or taking advantage of any of them. How Amir managed to get past their noses, he had no idea. Not even he was able to get past that stupid background check.

Well, if the world thinks you're a criminal, might as well play along with it.

Rosalio slowed his walk when he reached a gate up ahead. A grin made its way onto his face.

Besides…

He pulled out a small knife and began scratching a magic circle in the tunnel wall, right next to the gate.

This type of thing is much more fun than people expect.

He wasn't quite sure at first how he would go about making the circle itself. Creating spells is usually an extraordinarily meticulous task. There were a few basic spells that every mage could learn, similar to how there are some moves out there that every pokemon is able to learn. Unlocking doors and fixing vases, however, only took you so far in combat. Or in any other perilous situation.

Mages often spoke of how the beauty of magic lay in its individualistic nature. It was rare to find any two mage have the same exact style of magic or combat. There were some general similarities, based on one's place of origin or upbringing, but only a mage with a trained eye would be able to notice such a thing.

Luckily for Rosalio, he had exactly that. If it weren't for that trained eye of his…he probably would have never been able to meet Amir.

Alright, finished. He stood back for a moment to look over his handiwork. Inside the circle were three squares, each in an alternating position. One was diagonal, each corner a small space away from the edges of the circle. Inside that square was another square, which was in a vertical position, the long side parallel to the first square's corner. Inside THAT square was another in the same position as the first. At the very center of the alternating squares was a small, filled in, circle.

It was easy enough that even a child could replicate it after a few tries. Or, at least, that was the hope. Rosalio had to consider another factor when designing the spell itself: the competence of Oltony's own subordinates.

He cringed, thinking about when he saw Oltony's own bodyguards loudly arguing over how to pronounce 'tomato' in the train station. Did they have any idea what "subtlety" meant? Rosalio had half a mind to march over to the nearest bookstore and buy a dictionary just to search up the word, cut it out, and plaster the definition on each of their…well, he would say heads, but that was all they had.

Well, aside from arms and facial features…but who cares about those silly things?

Rosalio made his way through the sewers with purpose, unwavering in his stance. He still recoiled in disgust at the muddy waters, though. Ah, well. A small price to pay for the outcome. Just as long as Oltony does his part of the job, this'll all be worth it…

The sewers were a less than ideal place to do business, but Rosalio could hardly think of a better way to execute their plan. Drawing magic circles above ground would certainly lead to suspicion and scrutiny from the townspeople. For this to go as smoothly as possible, they needed to ensure not an ounce of suspicion was thrown their way.

Hence, this fun little trip into the revolting kingdom of sewage. Rosalio shuddered.

Maybe he really should have taken Amir with him.

***

"NOW!"

As Amir had expected, Esther was the first to react. He tensed as she charged toward him, her cutlass raised, presumably to knock his kunai out of his hands.

I will not let her get one over me that easily, he glared. He deflected each of Esther's strikes swiftly and with precision as she descended upon him. I just need to make sure she does not overpower me before the time runs out.

"Yer quite skilled with that kunai of yers, Amir," Esther commented, briefly stopping her barrage of strikes against Amir to catch her breath. She flashed him a grin. "I might have some trouble with ye."

Amir smiled at her, an amused twinkle in his eyes. Oh, you have no idea.

"I guess it's safe to say…ye aren't as incompetent as I thought." Esther remarked, causing the pikachu to cringe and the surrounding pokemon to burst into raucous laughter.

"We will see about that, Miss Esther." Amir signed. He briefly glanced at the sandglass from the corner of his eyes, feeling the sand trickle down far too slowly. He could hold her off for as long as he needed, but that would grow stale fast. Esther seemed to be one for theatrics and…so did the bargoers here.

The crawdaunt seemed to want the least amount of damage done as possible, so maybe he could try playing this up a bit? His grip on his kunai tightened. How was he supposed to manage that?

"Eyes on me, Amir!" Esther cried out, slashing at him with her cutlass.

Not missing a beat, Amir pulled out another kunai and blocked the attack by crossing both weapons into an 'x' formation. He and Esther stood at a standstill for a moment before he pushed his weight forward and knocked her arms to the side. She was briefly taken off balance and stumbled backward. The extra weight of her wooden left leg prevented her from recovering quickly. Amir took the chance and maneuvered himself around her to stay on her right side.

Esther grit her teeth. "Trying to stay in me blind spot, aye? Well, ye've got another thing comin'!"

She sheathed her cutlass and her paws lit up in a multicolored glow of light. Amir eyed her warily. Was it just him or did she really seem to love punching?

"You better watch out, kid!" A voice hollered. "It looks like she's just about ready to knock you into next Tuesday!"

Amir cringed at the comment and sheathed his kunai back at his sides. That is Dizzy Punch, is it not? He questioned. Maybe…

Quickly tightening the belt he fashioned out of rope around his waist, he got onto all fours and raced around the buneary, who stopped in her tracks, slightly confused.

She raised an eyebrow. "...what is this, a ritual?"

Amir felt his face heat up and internally groaned. He wished Cordell was here now more than ever. At the very least, he would have a quip at the ready. Granted, it was primarily his fault that Cordell was stranded out in who knows where, a good ten or twenty miles away from Oar's Rest with a trio of…bandits.

Seemingly incompetent bandits, but bandits nonetheless.

"...well, if it's a ritual, I'm sure ye won't mind if I decide to…crash it." Esther grinned and chased after Amir.

A contradictory combination of groans and snickers erupted from the crowd watching. This was turning out to be less of a fight and more of a miniature version of a chase. Amusing as it was, it wasn't exactly what one would call entertaining for the course of five whole minutes.

"This is ridiculous," Enkai said bluntly. "Can I just call it quits-"

"NEVER!" The krabby interrupted, shaking his claw at the crawdaunt. "You will NOT call this fight off. You WILL let the children have the full five minutes to eat each other alive. You WILL provide us with entertainment through this glorious bloodbath of youngsters!"

"RAHHHH!" The rest of the bar goers erupted into cheers.

Esther snickered. "Happy to see I have yer support, ye landlubbers!"

Amir looked on the verge of being traumatized.

Enkai groaned and smacked a claw to his face. He sank onto the table. "I swear, if anyone catches wind of this…I'll wring the necks of everyone here."

"Uh…you're aware some of us are respectable members of the crustacean community, right?" The crabrawler pointed out. "And I don't think you can wrap your claws around anything."

"Who said I wasn't just going to snap on those necks?"

"...point taken."

Amir jumped onto the edge of a table and used that momentum to bounce off into a backflip. He narrowed his eyes at Esther, who skidded to a stop underneath him, most likely wondering what the mouse was planning. Still mid-air, he gathered electricity in his hands and formed a makeshift ball of electric charge. With one swift movement, he released the electricity from his palms, prompting it to transform into a web roughly the size of the mini-arena.

Esther's eyes widened in alarm and Amir couldn't help but feel a triumphant smile make its way onto his face. Let us see you try and dodge this one, Miss Esther.

The buneary grit her teeth and backed up against a table. The web sailed harmlessly down onto the floor, almost covering the entirety of the arena floor in electricity. The only spaces where Esther could move was a small ten or so inches away from the surrounding furniture.

A cheer rose up in the crowd.

Amir landed gracefully on the floor, at the center of the arena, his cloak billowing around him. The sparks sailed harmlessly onto him. He was hoping that Esther would have gotten caught in the Electroweb itself, but judging by the limited space she had to move…this wasn't half bad either.

He glanced at the sandglass. Not much time had passed since the two started their fight, but that was fine with him. He wouldn't say he had victory yet, but he had all the right cards in his hand. He just had to play them right…

Esther grinned. "Tryin' to limit me movement, eh?"

"Something like that," Amir replied with a sly smile.

"What're you gonna do now, little girl?" A parasect from behind her asked teasingly. "Looks like you've gotten yourself in a tough spot!"

"Oh, trust me…this is nothing to worry about at all!" She met Amir's smile with her own. "It's not as if I've been completely stopped in me tracks!"

okay, she cannot be thinking what I think she is thinking. Amir eyed her warily.

Esther took a deep breath, seemingly bracing herself for something. The air cooled around her as ice formed around her paws. Amir's attention went to her feet, however, which also seemed to be channeling energy. Well, more so her left foot than her right, but it was still a notable sign of the buenary's Bounce.

Esther sprang off of the floor with a start, flying high into the air. She barely grazed the ceiling, thankfully making sure to not end up with a repeat of the earlier incident at the train station. Gathering momentum, she circled around mid-air and shot down toward her opponent, who looked a mixture between annoyed and freaked out. "Yer not the only one with fancy movements, Amir!"

Okay, she was definitely not thinking what I was thinking she was thinking. THIS IS WAY WORSE-!

Amir had barely a second to act, but made sure to use it wisely.

By side-stepping.

"OW!" Esther shrieked as she landed on the floor, feeling a surge of electricity go up her veins. "That freakin' hurt!"

That is sort of the point here… Amir thought dryly. He felt his cheeks warm up as he realized he was momentarily freaking out for no reason. It wasn't like Esther could change trajectory if she was shooting straight down like an arrow. Although, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that she had done something oddly similar back during their fight on the train. I had formed spikes from the floor, but she just…decided to jump straight into it.

His eyes fell into a deadpan. Does strategy just not exist in her dictionary?

Esther awkwardly hopped from foot to foot before she uneasily stood on her left foot. "Ye know, last I checked, wood ain't exactly the greatest conductor of electricity out there…" She flashed Amir a grin. "Ye thinkin' of takin' this a bit more seriously now?"

"She's going to fight on one foot?" A pokemon asked. Murmurs of confusion went around the room.

"That feels…" Enkai raised an eyebrow. "...counter-productive."

"Nonsense!" Esther argued. "This just spices things up, that's all!"

"You and I have very different definitions of 'spicing things up', then…" Enkai muttered. "Whatever you're planning on doing, better do it now, since you've got like two minutes left."

Amir and Esther stared.

"Blimey!" Esther slapped a paw on her face. "I spent way too much time tradin' blows, ey?"

"Honestly, this fight was slightly disappointing," someone commented. Esther shot them a dirty look, causing them to shrink back. "Just saying…"

"What're ye expectin', a circus act?!" Esther glared at the crowd.

"This isn't the circus?"

"...ye know, I should've figured that this whole thing is because ye landlubbers are all three sheets to the wind."

"Ha! I have no idea what that means!" A sewaddle laughed heartily. "And this bravado is coming from the little girl who wants to fight on one foot!"

"It's a perfectly valid way to fight! Okay, matey?!" Esther snapped defensively. She crossed her arms and huffed. "I'd hardly expect ye to understand the way of the pirate…"

Enkai raised an eyebrow. He looked over his shoulder at Esther's empty glass of orange juice on the counter, feeling paranoia wash over him. "...did I accidentally give her alcohol?"

While this entire conversation was happening, Amir simply stood silently. Even if he could speak, he wasn't exactly sure what to add to the conversation, nor did he have any desire to try. It was nonsensical enough as it is without him adding to the mix. He glanced at the sandglass and narrowed his eyes. I still have over a minute…she seems distracted enough, so I think I can wait thirty more seconds…

"Jokes on ye, I'm always like this!

"...yeah, I'd believe that," Enkai sighed and rubbed his forehead.

"Anyway, let's get down to business!" Esther pointed at Amir. "Come at me, Amir!"

"...I actually think I would prefer to stay where I am," Amir signed.

Esther frowned and her hand lowered. "...what?"

"...yeah, my headache just got worse." Enkai sighed. "Whatever, at least this means these two won't be trading blows like idiots at the moment."

The krabby snorted from next to the bar owner. "Enkai, what makes you think these kids won't take whatever beef they have with each other outside somewhere else? Best they get whatever issues they have out of their system right now, don't you agree?"

Enkai shot the crab a funny look. "...have you not been paying attention to what either of these kids has been saying the past few minutes? They're fighting over a bet."

"...in my defense, only one of them is saying anything."

Esther frowned as she stared intently at Amir. The mouse was stalling for time, but what could she do about it? Fun, as it might have been, fighting through the pain of electricity coursing through her, wasn't exactly ideal for her to win this scuffle. Unless…she tried the same thing.

Wasn't exactly her strong suit, but ah well.

"Hey, Amir," Esther said suddenly. She smirked and lit up one fist in fire, then lit up the other one in ice. "Wanna see a magic trick?"

Amir's eyes widened as she increased the power in both fists before slamming them against each other as she released both attacks. Steam erupted from her fists and filled the arena.

"Wait, I'm confused," a machop commented. "Where was the magic?"

"Buddy, I think you've had a bit too much to drink this morning…"

Amir kept on his guard in the smoke, trying to figure out where Esther had gone. His ears were poised, trying to listen closely for the heavier thumping of Esther's left foot against the floor.

Let's see…there! He whirled around, electroweb forming in his hands, then threw it. He heard the sounds of a thump against the floor, accompanied by a startled yelp. He exhaled slowly, careful not to let his guard down until the steam had cleared.

His eyes widened as he suddenly heard uneven footsteps from behind him. What was-

"ARGH!" Esther hollered as she lunged at Amir, slamming him against the table. She pulled out her cutlass and stabbed it into the table on her right, while she put her left leg on the left side, pinning Amir in place.

"I got ye now!" She grinned triumphantly as Amir struggled to get out of her grip. "Start the counter, boys!"

"You heard the lady!" The crabrawler called out. "Five!"

Amir glared. Alright, if that is the way you want to play it…

"Four!"

He managed to find enough wiggle room to dig his claws into the table leg and draw a pattern into the wood.

"Three!"

And…now! He pressed a finger to the circle, causing it to glow and catch the pirate's attention.

"What are ye-" Her eyes widened as the table morphed and pushed her off the table…and off of Amir. "Son of a-"

Amir glanced at the sandglass. The time was almost up. Perfect! Without hesitation, he charged up an electroweb and threw it at Esther, who had not yet caught her balance. She let out a scream as the web struck her against the floor and electrocuted her.

"Here we go again!" The krabby called out.

"Five!"

"Four!"

Esther struggled against the net, but could not break free. She hissed at the electricity lapping at her skin and glanced at the pikachu, who still held a defensive stance. Her eye trailed over to the floor and saw her cutlass lying on the floor next to the mage's feet. Her eye widened. Me cutlass-

"Three!"

He… She slumped against the floor and felt a rueful grin make its way onto her face. Heh…guess the mage wins…for now.

"Two!"

Amir's shoulders began to relax.

Enkai raised his claw, about to call the match.

Everyone leaned forward in anticipation.

"O-"

Then the saloon doors flew onto the arena.

Small bits of debris flew everywhere, causing the bargoers to cry out and duck under the tables. Amir backed up as the doors slid across the floor of the arena toward him, before it came to a stop. He saw Esther raise her head from off the ground and give him a questioning look. Not sure how to react, he simply returned the look with a shrug.

Silence filled the room as everyone's heads immediately turned to the culprit behind the brutal assassination of the bar doors.

An armored poliwrath stood in the doorway, his arms crossed. The sunlight glinted on the silver armor plates, which caused the pokemon in the room to wince slightly from the reflection. Behind the poliwrath was a crustle, who also donned the same attire as the poliwrath.

Everyone's attention was immediately drawn toward the design on the armor, however. A filled in purple star that had small tildes placed diagonally in between each point. At the top end of the tilde was a filled in red circle.

Amir stepped back and held his breath. Stellian soldiers…

"Well, well, well," the poliwrath finally spoke, his deep voice filled with amusement. "Look what we have here...you seeing this, Cain?"

The crustle snickered. "What, a group of idiots getting drunk before the sun even got to its highest point? Or a bar that's running way behind on an inspection?"

The poliwrath guffawed. "Both, I'd wager!"

Enkai scuttled toward the two snickering soldiers irritably, brushing past the tense crowd in the bar. "Excuse me," he said pointedly. "I believe you two seem to have…a bit of a problem?"

"'A bit of a problem' is putting it mildly, crawdaunt." The poliwrath glared. "We're here on account of reports of this bar, the uh, The Shaken Hat…we've been told that you haven't had a proper safety inspection in months."

Enkai crossed his arms. "Says who? The station guards?" He scoffed. "No offense to them, but they couldn't keep up with their own inspections, let alone with bars this far out in the center of town."

Esther watched the interaction from the floor and craned her neck to get a better look. She felt the sparks die down and grinned when she realized she could move again. Without hesitation, she jumped up and stretched out her arms, then massaged her neck. Yeah, in hindsight, I shoulda' sat up first before tryin' to see what was goin' on…

In the corner of her eye, she noticed Amir slowly backing away and raised an eyebrow. She glanced back at the arguing crawdaunt and soldiers, then made her way to Amir. "And just where do ye think ye'r goin'?"

Amir jumped, then frowned at her. "Nowhere."

"Somehow, I find that hard to believe."

Amir gave her a miserable look. "Why are you trying to gatekeep where I walk?"

"It's fun," she said, with a grin. "Besides, I honor me deals. Ye won that fight, so, I'm indebted to you, remember?"

He didn't reply immediately and his gaze trailed over to the front of the bar, where Enkai was arguing with the two soldiers. Esther looked over her shoulder to follow his gaze, then amended her guess. He wasn't looking at the group as a whole, but rather…their armor. Or, more specifically, the star symbol on it.

She narrowed her eyes. Ah, that's right…Amir's workin' with some shady landlubbers…

"This is stupid!" Enkai threw his claws up. "You can't do this!"

"Oh, yes we can," the poliwrath retorted snootily. "I want everyone here to listen up! Nobody leaves this bar until we complete the inspection!" He paused. "...and we will be asking a few questions to you all as well. Failure to answer will result in a night spent in a jail cell, now, how about that?"

Everyone glanced at each other.

The krabby sighed and plopped himself down on a chair. "Whatever. You heard the man, comrades. Sit down."

Enkai watched with weary eyes as everyone reluctantly took their seats. The cheery atmosphere from before was replaced with a cloud of gloom and irritation that hung over every pokemon there. The consequence of being the only bar open from sunrise to midnight, he supposed. The crawdaunt let out a reluctant sigh and gestured for the soldiers to go ahead with their inspection.

The poliwrath gave a satisfied smirk and made his way to the bar counter first, while the crustle began pulling each bargoer aside to ask them questions.

Along with the other bargoers, Amir and Esther had quickly taken a seat at a nearby table. If Amir didn't look nervous before, he definitely did now.

The poliwrath raised an eyebrow as he glanced at all the pokemon sitting in an awkwardly shaped circle. The floor had a lot of scuff marks on it and some corners of the table were chipped at. "...please tell me this is not how your bar tables are placed regularly."

"Of course not!" Enkai snapped. "My bar is a safe space for the 'mon of Oar's Rest. This morning, it was decided that this placement of the furniture was convenient for purposes of comfort." He gestured to the bargoers. "Everyone is welcome at my bar. I don't kick out anyone willy nilly."

"The way you let Karl throw me out says otherwise…" the crabrawler muttered.

"Sorry, what was that?"

The crabrawler rolled his eyes. "Nothing."

"Riiiight," the poliwrath said, then continued on his way toward the bar table and the back of the bar. Enkai trailed behind, fuming all the way.

"Soooo…" Esther began. "I guess now's a better time than ever to ask…what exactly do ye want from me?"

Amir's ear twitched, but his gaze lingered on the crustle soldier. The soldier was working methodically and was still asking questions to the first person he had turned to. He seems to be taking his time with whatever questions he is asking…it does seem like he is not asking for proof of identification, however…

Esther grunted, then clapped next to the pikachu's ear, causing him to jump and flatten his ears against his head. "Oi. I believe I asked ye a question just now?"

Amir looked lost. "Sorry," he signed. "I did not hear you. I was a bit…preoccupied. My apologies."

"Aye, I can see that." She said dryly.

"...what was it you asked again?"

"Our bet." The pirate leaned back in her chair. "Ye won."

Amir's eyes lit up. "Ah, that! Yes. I have a favor to ask of you…but I would rather not ask you right here…" His hands faltered and his eyes wandered toward the soldier.

Esther nodded slowly to show she understood. "Aye, of course. I guess in that case…it'd be best if we worked together here, eh?" She smirked. "To sneak past those soldiers, that is. Ye know. To be able to do our shady deals without gettin' shot up by a buncha stuck-ups in armor."

Amir snorted. "I am truly thrilled to be working with you."

"I ain't likin' that tone of yers."

"What tone? I am being completely genuine right now."

"...aye, matey." She shook her head and flashed a grin. "So…ready to do some ninja work?"

"...so you ARE a ninja!"

"Aye, I'm a-wait, what?! Who gave ye that bit of info?!"

"Is it true?"

"Are ye outta yer damn mind?! We pirates don't associate with ninjas! If anythin', I should be questioning whether or not YE are a ninja…"

"Unfortunately, no," Amir's shoulder sagged. "I have always wished to be one, however. What do you have against ninjas?"

Esther gave him a sour look. "Oh, it's a long story. Longer than-" She paused, then glanced over her shoulder. "Wait, where'd that soldier-"

She was interrupted by a piece of paper that was slapped on her forehead. She blinked rapidly for a few seconds, then pulled the paper off her forehead. "A…fine for thirty wards?" She glared at the crustle soldier who leered above her and Amir's table. "Who the hell do ye think ye are, stickin' a piece of scraped tree product on my face like that?"

The crustle raised an eyebrow. "You mean aside from being a high-ranking Stellian soldier stationed here at Oar's Rest?"

"Ye know what I meant…" She replied sourly.

Amir felt his frown deepen as he watched the interaction. He had gotten distracted, again… Well, there was nothing else to do about it, unfortunately.

I suppose I just need to be careful with how I respond to whatever questions this soldier has…

"What're ye even finin' me for?" Esther glared at the soldier. "Got a problem with the way I dress?"

"Where did you get that idea from…?" The crustle shook his head. "Your weapon."

Esther blinked. "Me weapon." She pulled out her cutlass. She had quickly picked it up from the floor after the soldiers had ordered everyone to sit down. "Ye mean me cutlass?"

"Is that not a weapon?" The crustle deadpanned. "Anyway, YES. It's illegal for minors to visibly carry any dangerous contraband in the kingdom of Stellia."

Amir looked at the soldier curiously. So, minors technically could carry "dangerous contraband" in Stellia as long as it wasn't visible. Interesting…

"Oh, I'll show ye what's illegal-"

"Now, as for you…" The crustle turned to Amir, who gave the soldier a beaming smile. "...well, there doesn't seem to be anything visibly wrong with you…"

Amir's smile faltered instantly. What in the world is THAT supposed to mean?

"Of course, I do have to ask you a few basic questions about this bar…unless you aren't regulars here?" He paused, then raised an eyebrow. "Well, I'd hope you aren't regulars here. You two look like kids-"

Esther huffed. "Unfortunately, no, we're not regulars."

Unfortunately…? Amir gave Esther a weird look. Granted, he should've expected such a response from her by that point. He sighed and sank into his seat. He was really starting to miss Cordell. Hopefully, the kunai was doing alright…

The crustle nodded. "Alright, well, that was all I needed to know…you kids stay safe. And make sure you pay that fine, young lady."

"I'll have ye know I am planning on ripping this paper to shreds." Esther said candidly.

The crustle chuckled to himself as he walked away to the next few pokemon to be "questioned". "Yeah, right."

Esther and Amir glanced at each other. The pikachu shrugged, which Esther took as a "go-ahead" and proceeded to rip the fine slip in half. "Well, there goes that problem!" She said cheerily. "What say ye on gettin' outta this bar, eh?"

"Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you," the krabby from earlier piped in, causing the duo to startle. The crab leaned forward from atop the table next to them and whispered. "The reason everyone here looks so darn exhausted-"

Because you are all drinking this early in the morning?

"-is because these kinds of inspections usually take hours. We'll be here til' noon!"

Oh. That makes much more sense. Amir thought, then amended himself. Wait, no it does not-

Esther groaned. "That's so stupid. What're we supposed to do?"

"...well, uh…I guess you two can come play cards with the rest of us who already got cleared by the soldier over there." He pointed toward the pokemon behind him, who all crowded around a single table. "...we'll keep it perfectly appropriate for you kiddies!"

Amir and Esther exchanged looks.

"...sounds good to me! C'mon, Amir, let's go play some good ol' poker!"

Amir resisted the urge to groan. Yeah, this was going to be a long couple of hours…
 
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